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Criticism of Mormonism/Books/One Nation Under Gods/Chapter 18
FAIR Answers Wiki Table of Contents
Response to claims made in "Chapter 18: Cover-Ups, Conspiracies, and Controversies"
|Claims made in "Chapter 17: Is Mormonism Christian?"||
A FAIR Analysis of: One Nation Under Gods, a work by author: Richard Abanes
|Claims made in "Postscript" (paperback only)|
|One Nation Under Gods|
Response to claims made in One Nation Under Gods, "Chapter 18: Cover-Ups, Conspiracies, and Controversies"
Jump to Subtopic:
- Response to claim: 402 (PB) - Does the Mormon Tabernacle Choir "proselytize unsuspecting music lovers"?
- Response to claim: 403 - "The general public, especially outside America, still possesses little knowledge of the unsavory nature of Mormonism"
- Response to claim: 403, 605n9 (PB) - Baptisms for the dead were performed for Nazis, including Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun
- Response to claim: 403 - Baptisms for the dead are incompatible with Christianity
- Response to claim: 404 - "It is possible that many readers of this book have had their deceased relatives baptized by proxy into Mormonism"
- Response to claim: 404, 605n14 (PB) - Latter-day Saints performed vicarious baptisms for Jews who had died in the Holocaust
- Response to claim: 405, 605n18-19 (PB) - Do LDS leaders suppress access to Church archives?
- Response to claim: 405, 607n21 (HB) 605n21 (PB) - "LDS leaders re-write historical documents, deny that other documents exist, create fictitious historical data..."
- Response to claim: 406, 605n22 (PB) - The History of the Church was mostly written after his death, but reads as if he wrote it himself
- Response to claim: 406 - Was writing the History of the Church as if Joseph himself wrote it a "flagrant breach of standard protocol for persons producing historical works" as the book claims?
- Response to claim: 406, 608n23 (HB) 606n23 (PB) - Was a "forged prediction" added to the history that a "mighty people" that would dwell "in the midst of the Rocky Mountains"?
- Response to claim: 406, 606n23 (PB) - Was a "forged prediction" added to the history of the Church regarding the future political career of Senator Stephen A. Douglas?
- Response to claim: 407, 606n26 (PB) - LDS leaders claim that the "official history" is "the most accurate history in all the world"
- Response to claim: 407 - The minutes of a conference dealing with Sidney Rigdon discussed in Volume six of the History of the Church differs from the minutes originally printed in the Times and Seasons
- Response to claim: 412 - The book claims that there is "academic dishonesty foisted upon church members by LDS scholars"
- Response to claim: 412 - "Mormonism has been an emotion-based religion opposed to intellectual, rational thought"
- Response to claim: 412 - Latter-day Saints are supposed to only rely on the "burning in the bosom" even if they are "faced with irrefutable facts that undermine the LDS church"
- Response to claim: 412, 609n34 (HB) 607n34 (PB) - Latter-day Saints are instructed to "simply not think and obey church authorities"
- Response to claim: 413-414, 609-610n39 (HB) 607n39 (PB) - Did Ezra Taft Benson's talk about "Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet" speech eliminate the possibility of Latter-day Saints exercising independent thought?
- Response to claim: 414, 610n42 (HB) 608n42 (PB) - N. Eldon Tanner said, "When the prophet has spoken, the debate is over"
- Response to claim: 415, 608-609n43-57 (PB) - Did the Church excommunicate a number of "dissidents"?
- Response to claim: 418, 611n58 (HB) 609n58 (PB) - President Hinckley said that "dissidents" that were excommunicated got what they deserved "as cursed servants of Satan"
- Response to claim: 418, 611n59-60 (HB) 609n59-60 (PB) - Is the "Strengthening Church Members Committee" is a group used to spy on members of the Church?
- Response to claim: 419 - The 1997 Relief Society manual makes it sound as if Brigham Young only had one wife and six children
- Response to claim: 420, 611n63 (HB) 609n63 (PB) - Gordon B. Hinckley tried to cover up the Church's polygamous past when he appeared on Larry King Live and said that only two to five percent of the early LDS practiced it
- Response to claim: 420, 612n68-71 (HB) 610n68-71 (PB) - Does the Book of Mormon claim that Native Americans will miraculously turn "white-skinned" by accepting "Mormon beliefs"?
- Response to claim: 422, 612n75 (HB) 610n75 (PB) - Did the Church acquire the Hofmann documents (later discovered to be forgeries) in order to suppress them?
- Response to claim: 424 - "Mormon leaders also blocked efforts by police to see exactly what documents were in LDS church vaults"
- Response to claim: 424, 612n78 (HB) 610n78 (PB) - LDS leaders should have been capable of detecting the Hofmann deception
- Response to claim: 427 - "The Mormon habit of sometimes taking detours around truth to protect the church has not always led to murder"
- Response to claim: 428, n85 - Paul H. Dunn defended his embellishments in order to "illustrate his theological and moral points"
- Response to claim: 430-433 - Was the Salt Lake Olympic bribery scandal the fault of the Church?
- Response to claim: 434, 614n117-127 - Do Latter-day Saints believe they will rescue the Constitution from ruin, thus allowing "Mormonism" to take over the world?
Response to claim: 402 (PB) - Does the Mormon Tabernacle Choir "proselytize unsuspecting music lovers"?
Does the Mormon Tabernacle Choir "proselytize unsuspecting music lovers"?
- Author's opinion.
This is simply an absurd claim. How does one "proselytize unsuspecting music lovers?"
Response to claim: 403 - "The general public, especially outside America, still possesses little knowledge of the unsavory nature of Mormonism"
Author's quote: "The general public, especially outside America, still possesses little knowledge of the unsavory nature of Mormonism."
- Author's opinion.
This book's many errors and misrepresentations will not help anyone gain an accurate understanding of the Church.
Response to claim: 403, 605n9 (PB) - Baptisms for the dead were performed for Nazis, including Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun
Baptisms for the dead were performed for Nazis, including Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun. Was this done so that they could "thereby become gods?"
Members of the Church leave all judgment in God's hands. They are commanded to perform vicarious ordinances for all deceased persons for whom records exist. This is no way guarantees or implies Hitler's acceptance of Mormonism or forgiveness. Such matters are left to God. Does the author really wish to imply, though, that even the most wicked sinner might be beyond the reach of Christ's atoning grace? The Latter-day Saints do not.
Response to claim: 403 - Baptisms for the dead are incompatible with Christianity
Baptisms for the dead are incompatible with Christianity
- Author's opinion.
The Bible itself describes Christians carrying out this practice: 1 Corinthians 15:29. It may not be a practice found in the author's brand of Christianity, but it has ample precedent among early believers.
- Hugh W. Nibley, "Baptism for the Dead in Ancient Times," Improvement Era (1948, 1949), multiple. off-site
Question: What is baptism for the dead?
Proxy baptism is a way to provide redemption for those who died without hearing the Gospel
Explained Elder G. Todd Christopherson:
- Christian theologians have long wrestled with the question, What is the destiny of the countless billions who have lived and died with no knowledge of Jesus?  There are several theories concerning the “unevangelized” dead, ranging from an inexplicable denial of salvation, to dreams or other divine intervention at the moment of death, to salvation for all, even without faith in Christ. A few believe that souls hear of Jesus after death. None explain how to satisfy Jesus’ requirement that a man must be born of water and spirit to enter the kingdom of God (see John 3:3-5). Lacking the knowledge once had in the early Church, these earnest seekers have been “forced to choose between a weak law that [allows] the unbaptized to enter heaven, and a cruel God who [damns] the innocent.” 
- With the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ has come the understanding of how the unbaptized dead are redeemed and how God can be “a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.” 
- While yet in life, Jesus prophesied that He would also preach to the dead [see John 5:25]. Peter tells us this happened in the interval between the Savior’s Crucifixion and Resurrection [see 1 Peter 3:18-19]...
D. Todd Christofferson (1998): "The principle of vicarious service should not seem strange to any Christian"
D. Todd Christofferson:
The principle of vicarious service should not seem strange to any Christian. In the baptism of a living person, the officiator acts, by proxy, in place of the Savior. And is it not the central tenet of our faith that Christ’s sacrifice atones for our sins by vicariously satisfying the demands of justice for us? As President Gordon B. Hinckley has expressed: “I think that vicarious work for the dead more nearly approaches the vicarious sacrifice of the Savior Himself than any other work of which I know. It is given with love, without hope of compensation, or repayment or anything of the kind. What a glorious principle.
Question: Does the practice of baptism for the dead have ancient roots?
There is considerable evidence that some early Christians and some Jewish groups performed proxy ordinance work for the salvation of the dead
The most obvious of these is 1 Corinthians 15:29:
- Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?
There have been attempts to shrug this off as a reference by Paul to a practice he does not condone but only uses to support the doctrine of the resurrection. These claims are indefensible. Paul's statement makes no sense unless the practice was valid and the saints in Corinth knew it. This is easily demonstrated if we just imagine a young Protestant, who doubts the resurrection, who goes to his pastor with his problem. The pastor answers him, saying, "But what about the Mormons who baptize for the dead? If the dead rise not at all, why are they then baptized for the dead?" You know what the young doubter would say. He would say, "Pastor, they're Mormons! What's your point?"
In fact, we know that baptism for the dead was practiced for a long time in the early church. As John A. Tvedtnes has noted:
- ... historical records are clear on the matter. Baptism for the dead was performed by the dominant church until forbidden by the sixth canon of the Council of Carthage in A.D. 397. Some of the smaller sects, however, continued the practice. Of the [Cerinthians]> of the fourth century, Epiphanius wrote:
- “In this country—I mean Asia—and even in Galatia, their school flourished eminently and a traditional fact concerning them has reached us, that when any of them had died without baptism, they used to baptize others in their name, lest in the resurrection they should suffer punishment as unbaptized.” (Heresies, 8:7.) 
Thus, baptism for the dead was banned about four hundred years after Christ by the church councils. Latter-day Saints would see this as an excellent example of the apostasy—church councils altering doctrine and practice that was accepted at an earlier date.
- In early Judaism, too, there is an example of ordinances being performed in behalf of the dead. Following the battle of Marisa in 163 B.C., it was discovered that each of the Jewish soldiers killed in the fight had been guilty of concealing pagan idols beneath his clothing. In order to atone for their wrong, Judas Maccabaeus, the Jewish high priest and commander, collected money from the survivors to purchase sacrificial animals for their dead comrades:
- “And when he had made a gathering throughout the company to the sum of two thousand drachmas of silver, he sent it to Jerusalem to offer a sin offering, doing therein very well and honestly, in that he was mindful of the resurrection: for if he had not hoped that they that were slain should have risen again, it had been superfluous and vain to pray for the dead. And also in that he perceived that there was great favour laid up for those that died godly, it was an holy and good thought. Whereupon he made a reconciliation for the dead, that they might be delivered from sin.” (2 Maccabees 12:43–46.) 
Collection of Other Sources that Can Support the Latter-day Saint Position
Other sources can give credence to the Latter-day Saint position on this matter. Below we list a selective compilation of quotes from scholars that can demonstrate that:
- Vicarious baptism was practiced by the ancients
- The practice wasn't condemned by Paul (even though that would be a natural thing to do given the corrective purposes of the first letter to the church at Corinth).
- The best translation of the original Greek refers to a practice of vicarious baptism.
The passage in the Bible is, at the very least, very short and cryptic. We can't know much about the practice accept the preceeding three assertions. Thus the following scholars would not affirm that the practice of vicarious baptism matches the modern Latter-day Saint conception of it i.e. that it was done on such a massive scale, for salvific purposes, etc. Some argue on linguistic grounds that this only had to do with catechumens (prospective converts to Christianity who died without baptism) but that is not fully substantiated by the text nor the historical context of the passage. Furthermore, as is noted by several scholars (a couple of which are included below), it is complicated by the fact that Paul spoke approvingly of believing Christians becoming vicarious, sanctifying vessels for non-believing spouses. This could naturally be extrapolated to all kindred, non-believing dead.
There is much that we can't know from the text of the Bible itself following an exegetical approach. At some point, additional revelation is necessary to illuminate and expand on previous revelation. That would be the Latter-day Saint position. As Joseph Smith has said concerning the Restoration, it occured so that "a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time. And not only this, but those things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world, but have been kept hid from the wise and prudent, shall be revealed unto babes and sucklings in this, the dispensation of the fulness of times." Latter-day Saints need not feel compelled to defend every last element of their theology from antiquity. Some elements may appear in seed and then be expanded on later by those "things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world[.]" What 1 Corinthians 15:29 can tell us without a doubt is that the practice is ancient and that it wasn't rejected by Paul or others of the earliest Christians. The Greek of the passage is unequivocally said to support the notion that vicarious baptism was performed. Other revelation outside of the Bible can expand on it in the Restoration.
Following is our selective listing of sources. All bolded text has been added by the editor of this article:
- Søren Agersnap: "It cannot be denied that Paul is here [1 Cor 15:29] speaking of a vicarious baptism: one is baptised for the dead to ensure for them a share in the effect of baptism, and this must relate to a post-mortal life. It is also clear that Paul himself refers to this baptismal practice, and without distancing himself from it (This is the embarrassing perception which is the reason for some (comparatively few) interpreters making an imaginative attempt to ignore that this relates to a vicarious baptism).".
- Charles Kingsley Barrett: "The primary reference is to Christian baptism: certain people (οί βαπτιζόμενοι suggest a particular group, not all Christians) undergo the rite of Christian baptism—in what appear to be very strange circumstances. They are baptized on behalf of the dead. The second part of the verse follows clearly enough. If the dead are dead and are beyond recall, there is no point in taking this or any other action on their behalf. But what was the practice of baptism for the dead, and did Paul approve of it? An account of the history of the interpretation of this passage is given by M. Rissi, 'Die Taufe für die Toten (1962)'...It is very unlikely that with the adjective dead (νεκρός) a noun such as works (cf. Heb. vi. I) should be supplied. Throughout this chapter (and in Paul usually) ‘the dead’ are dead men. It is equally unlikely that on behalf of (ὺπέρ) is to be taken in a local sense, and that the reference is to baptism carried out over the dead, that is, over their graves. The most common view is that Paul is referring to some kind of vicarious baptism, in which a Christian received baptism on behalf of someone, perhaps a friend or relative, who had died without being baptized. There is evidence for some such rite among various heretics (among other quotations Lietzmann cites Chrysostom, on this passage: ‘When a catechumen among them [the Marcionites] dies, they hide a living man under the dead man’s bed, approach the dead man, speak with him, and ask if he wished to receive baptism; then when he makes no answer the man who is hidden underneath says instead of him that he wishes to be baptized, and so they baptize him instead of the departed), and there were precedents in Greek religious practices, though not close precedents (see Schweitzer, 'Mysticism', pp. 283 f.). Stauffer lays great stress on 2 Acc. xii. 40-5. Apart however from 1 Corinthians there is no evidence that a rite of this kind arose as early as the 50’s of the first century. This does not make it impossible; many strange things happened in Corinth. But would Paul have approved of it? It is true that in this verse he neither approves nor disapproves, and it may be held that he is simply using an argumenatum ad hominem: if the Corinthians have this practice they destroy their own case against the resurrection. This is the view held by some, and it is possible; but it is more likely that Paul would not have mentioned a practice he thought to be in error without condemning it. Of those who accept this position some draw the conclusion that vicarious baptism cannot be in Paul’s mind, others that, if he did not practice the custom himself, he at least saw no harm in it, since he too held an ex opere operato view of baptism that bordered on the magical…The idea of vicarious baptism (which is that most naturally suggested by the words used) is usually supposed to be bound up with what some would call a high sacramental, others a magical, view of baptism. Immersion in water is supposed to operate so effectively that it matters little (it seems) what body is immersed. The immersion of a living body can secure benefits to a dead man (at any rate, a dead catechumen). This however was not Paul’s view. He did not himself give close attention to baptism (i. 14-17), and though it is probable that most of the members of his churches were baptized it is quite possible that some of the Corinthian Christians had not been baptized, and by no means impossible (even if we do not, with Rissi, think of an epidemic or an accident) that a number of them may have died in this condition. There was no question of making these persons Christians; they were Christians, even though unbaptized. But baptism was was powerful proclamation of death and resurrection, and in this setting it is not impossible to conceive of a rite—practiced, it may be, only once—which Paul, though he evidently took no steps to establish it as normal Christian usage, need not actively have disapproved. And what would be the sense of it, if the dead are not raised?"
- Stephen C. Barton: "…Paul adds further ad hominem arguments against those who deny the resurrection of the dead (cf. 15:12). …the Corinthians’ own ritual practice (of surrogate baptism on behalf of the dead, a suggestive analogy for which appears in 2 Acc 12:43-45) testifies abasing denial of the resurrection of the dead and would be rendered meaningless apart from resurrection faith (15:29)."
- Richard E. Demaris: "The isolated character of 1 Corinthians 15:29 in its literary context and the lack of indicators in the verse as to the nature of the rite make it all too easy to propose a range of grammatically possible translations. But the highly speculative interpretations that result only underscore the need to place the text (and practice described therein) in the fullest possible context. Behind all attempts to remove vicarious action from baptism for the dead, one senses uneasiness about Paul or the early church’s association with a rite that appears to be 'superstitious' or 'magical' (Raeder 1955: 258–9; Rissi 1962: 89–92). (Understood vicariously, the practice would affirm that the living can ritually affect the dead.) But who is feeling the discomfort? Paul himself maintained that family members could act vicariously for each other (1 Cor 7:14), and he recognized an efficacy in eucharist that certainly appears to be 'magical' (Sellin 1986: 278; M. Smith 1980: 248): 'Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.' (1 Cor 11:28–30)...[The culture of Greco-Roman society was one] in which aiding the dead was all-important and which assumed that the world of the living could affect the world of the dead. In such a culture baptism undertaken by the living for the dead would have made perfect sense…At the very least, the adaptability of funerals to non-funerary situations opens the door to finding baptism other than where we might expect to find it, at the threshold of the church. Furthermore, two extraordinary types of funeral are noteworthy for how they elucidate baptism on behalf of the dead: (1) a replacement or substitute rite performed vicariously for the dead; and (2) funerals for the living. Both applications are imaginary rites, whose context indicates whether we further qualify them as honorary or mock. This, then, is the language for baptism on behalf of the dead that is both contextually and ritually sensitive: it was an imaginary rite of the honorary type...Isolating baptism for the dead, as Meeks did, made it mystifying to him (Meeks 1983: 162), but placing it in context has the opposite effect. Set alongside funerals for the living – those of Turannius and Pacuvius – baptism for the dead does not appear mysterious. In terms of who undergoes them, both rites reverse ordinary practice. Likewise, in light of surrogate or replacement funerals in which a person or community carried out a rite for someone in absentia – for Pertinax and the Lanuvium burial club member whose body could not be recovered – baptism on behalf of the dead falls within the typical range of ritual variation in the Greco-Roman world. In the context of other rites, therefore, baptism for the dead is, contrary to what New Testament scholars claim, not obscure."
- James D.G. Dunn: "Similarly he accepts a diversity of belief about baptism (1.10-16; 15.29). He does not insist on the sole legitimacy of his own view or of a particular view of baptism. Instead he plays down the role of baptism; it is kerygma that matters not baptism (1.17). And though in 10.1-12 he is probably arguing against a magical view of baptism, in 15.29 he shows no disapproval of the belief in vicarious baptism, baptism for the dead; on the contrary he uses the practice as an argument for the belief in resurrection...I Cor. 15.29 probably refers to a practice of vicarious baptism whereby the baptism of one was thought to secure the salvation of another already dead. Here then is indication of influences shaping the theology of baptism and developing views of baptism which are far removed from anything we have already examined. And yet Paul addresses those who held such views as members of the Christian community in Corinth – these views were held also by Christians. In other words, as soon as we move outside that sphere of Christianity most influenced by the Baptist’s inheritance the diversity of Christian thinking about baptism broadens appreciably."
- Gordon D. Fee: "First, as already noted (n. 15), this unusual use of the third person plural, when elsewhere Paul always turns such references into a word to the community as a whole (e.g., vv. 12-13, 35-36), suggests that it is not the action of the whole community. On the other hand, there is no reason to deny that it was happening with the full knowledge of the community and probably with their approval. Second, Paul’s apparently noncommittal attitude toward it, while not implying approval, would seem to suggest that he did not consider it to be as serious a fault as most interpreters do. On the other hand, it is difficult to imagine any circumstances under which Paul would think it permissible for living Christians to be baptized for the sake of unbelievers in general. Such a view, adopted in part by the Mormons, lies totally outside the NT understanding both of salvation and of baptism.[Fee is an evagelical scholar and thus is less open to scholarship that would support Latter-day Saints. There actually isn't evidence to support this view. See how he hedges in suggestion "(b) below.] Therefore, the most likely options are (a) that it reflects some believers’ being baptized for others who either were or were on their way to becoming believers when they died (e.g., as in 11:30), but had never been baptized; or (b) that it reflects the concern of members of households for some of their own number who had died before becoming believers. What they may have expected to gain from it is not quite clear, but one may guess that at least they believed baptism to be necessary for entering the final eschatological kingdom. In any case, and everything must be understood as tentative, this probably reflects the Corinthian attitude toward baptism in general, since 1:13-17 and 10:1-22 imply a rather strongly sacramental stance toward baptism on their part, with some apparently magical implications. Perhaps they believed that along with the gift of the Spirit baptism was their 'magical' point of entrance into the new pneumatism that seems to have characterized them at every turn. If so, then perhaps some of them were being baptized for others because they saw it as a way of offering similar spirituality to the departed. But finally we must admit that we simply do not know.[Interesting thing to conclude with considering his assertion before about Latter-day Saints.]
- Rolf Furuli: "There can be no question that the most natural rendering of 'baptizomenoi huper tōn nekrōn' would be 'being baptized for the dead' or 'being baptized in behalf of the dead.' In almost every other context, such a rendering would have been chosen."
- David Bentley Hart: "The practice of Christians receiving baptism on behalf of other persons who died unbaptized was evidently a common enough practice in the apostolic church that Paul can use it as a support of his argument without qualification. And the form of the Greek (ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν [hyper tōn nekrōn]) leaves no doubt that it is to just such a posthumous proxy baptism that he is referring."
- Scott M. Lewis: "Verse 29 is one of the most vigorously disputed passages in the NT. On the surface, it seems rather simple. Using the statement of the opposition as a springboard—there is no resurrection—Paul points to the inconsistency and futility of a practice of the Corinthians, i.e., being baptized on behalf of the dead. Despite the numerous attempts to explain this passage away, or get out of the difficulties and discomfort it causes, it seems better to accept the obvious surface meaning of the passage: Some Corinthians practiced a form of vicarious baptism. What is meant exactly by that, and when and under what circumstances it was practiced is impossible to answer…"
- Andrew T. Lincoln: "With regard to the problematic verse 29 it is likely that the Corinthians’ confusion is at the root of the practice which has produced an even greater confusion among later commentators. One could guess that with their bewilderment about the fate of those who had died and their strong faith in the efficacy of baptism, some Corinthians were practising a baptism for the dead which they believed might still somehow ensure a place in the kingdom for deceased believers. An ad hominem argument by the apostle points out the futility of such a practice if the dead are not raised."
- Steve Mason and Tom Robinson: "The only reference among 1st-century Christian writings to proxy baptism on behalf of those who have died without having been baptized. Myriad alternative explanations that have been proposed reflect more the interpreters’ discomfort with the plain meaning of the words than any linguistic ambiguity. Paul simply uses this example without explanation and quickly discards it (see the angels of 11:10). We have no opportunity to determine what he thinks of the custom."
- Leon Morris: "This reference to baptism for (hyper) the dead is a notorious difficulty. The most natural meaning of the expression is that some early believers got themselves baptized on behalf of friends of theirs who had died without receiving that sacrament. Thus Parry says: 'The plain and necessary sense of the words implies the existence of a practice of vicarious baptism at Corinth, presumably on behalf of believers who died before they were baptized.' He stigmatizes all other interpretations as 'evasions . . . wholly due to the unwillingness to admit such a practice, and still more to a reference to it by S. Paul without condemnation.'
- John J. O'Rourke: "Nevertheless many ancient and most modern writers understand this as a vicarious baptism received by baptized Christians on belief of deceased catechumens. The obvious difficulty is that Paul does not appear to offer any objection to this practice, so prevalent later among heretics."
- William F. Orr and James A. Walther: "The allusion to the idea and/or practice of baptism on behalf of the dead is unique in the New Testament in this passage. . . . Close inspection of the language of the reference makes all attempts to soften or eliminate its literal meaning unsuccessful. An endeavor to understand the dead as persons who are 'dead in sin' does not really help; for the condition offered, if the dead are not being raised at all, makes it clear that the apostle is writing about persons who are physically dead. It appears that under the pressure of concern for the eternal destiny of dead relatives or friends[,] some people in the church were undergoing baptism on their behalf in the belief that this would enable the dead to receive the benefits of Christ’s salvation. Paul remarks about the practice without specifying who or how many are involved and without identifying himself with them. He attaches neither praise nor blame to the custom. He does take it as an illustration of faith in a future destiny of the dead."
- Stephen E. Potthoff: "Cult of the ancestral dead in classical Greece has been thoroughly documented, and scholars have also identified the early Christian ritual of baptism for the dead mentioned by the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 15.29) as an outgrowth of the longstanding cult of the departed in Corinth (Garland 1985: 107–120; Johnston 1999: 36–81; DeMaris 1995: 663–671)."
- Thomas R. Schreiner and Shawn D. Wright: "One of the most controversial and difficult texts in all of Pauline literature is the reference to baptism for the dead. It is not my purpose to canvas the various interpretations proposed, nor does the view argued for in this essay depend in any way upon the interpretation proposed here. What the verse suggests, however, is that baptism was considered to be indispensable for believers. The plethora of interpretations indicates that the original meaning of the verse is not easily accessible to modern readers. The difficulty of the verse is not entirely surprising, for Paul does not explain the meaning of baptism here, but instead appeals to the baptism of the dead in support his theology of the resurrection. Any baptism performed for the sake of the dead is superfluous, Paul argues, if the dead are not raised. Strictly speaking, Paul does not praise or condemn the practice of baptism for the dead, and hence a theology of baptism for the dead can scarcely be established from this verse. It seems most likely, in my judgment, that baptism for the dead was practiced when someone became a believer and died very quickly thereafter—before baptism was possible. What this verse suggests, despite its obscurity, is the importance of baptism. Baptism was considered to be the standard initiation rite for early Christians, and hence some believers at Corinth thought that baptism should be done for the sake of the dead."
- John Short: "The point is that there would be no sense in the procedure if there were no resurrection. Whatever doubts some members of the church had concerning it, there were others who were such firm believers in the Resurrection that they submitted to this rite of vicarious baptism on behalf of certain of the brethren, probably catechumens, who had passed away before they had been baptized and received into the full membership of the church. Perhaps also they had a feeling, natural enough at that stage of Christian understanding among those who had so recently been pagans, that unbaptized believers at the resurrection would not be so near to their Lord as those who had undergone the rite. Or they may have done it to ensure as far as possible that nothing would be lacking in respect of the eternal bliss of the redeemed. At its best, the vicarious ceremony was a tribute to the spirit of fellowship, of unity, and of solidarity in the community, and as such it would be sure to commend itself to Paul. There are still some survivals of this ancient Christian practice, though in the main it has fallen into disuse. In a sense it might be compared with prayers offered for the dead. They too may for some signify the deep spiritual solidarity of the Christian fellowship in heaven and on earth, in which all are one in Christ Jesus. Whatever the effect of such practices on the joy of the saints in heaven, they do reflect a kindly, generous, and Christian spirit on the part of those on earth in the desire for the continued and increasing wellbeing of those who have passed beyond the veil. Perhaps it is well to leave the matter there. Paul is content to do so, merely pointing to this ancient rite, and incidentally giving us another glimpse into the customary procedures of the early Christian fellowship as they illustrated the truth of the Resurrection. If Christ is not raised, and if therefore no resurrection of the dead, what could such baptism mean?"
- William Tabbernee: "In mainstream Christian circles, 'vicarious baptism' may have been practiced as early as the time of St. Paul (1 Cor 15:29). It was almost certainly practiced, from the second century C.E. onwards, by the Cerinthians.
- James D. Tabor: "For Paul baptism is not a symbolic ritual but a powerful spiritual activity that effected real change in the cosmos. Paul, for example, refers to some who 'baptized in behalf of the dead,' evidently referring to a practice of proxy baptism for loved ones who had died before experiencing their own baptism (1 Corinthians 15:29). Whether Paul endorsed the practice or not we cannot be sure, but it would be unlike Paul to refrain from condemning a practice he did not at least tolerate. After all, there is a sense in which all baptism is 'for the dead' since it represents a 'burial' of the dying mortal flesh in preparation for receiving the life-giving Spirit. Whatever the case, this practice of 'baptism for the dead' shows just how efficacious the activity was understood to be as a means of invoking the Christ-Spirit—even for those who had died!"
- Jeffrey A. Trumbower: "Paul alludes to a practice of some Corinthian Christians in 1 Cor. 15:29, 'Then what are they doing, those who are baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised, why are they baptized on their behalf?' Paul does not here object to this practice, whatever it is, and he uses it to convince the Corinthians that if they are baptized on behalf of the dead, they must also believe in the resurrection as Paul understands it. Enormous vats of ink have been emptied in both pre-critical and critical scholarship speculating on precisely what those Corinthian Christians were doing, why they were doing it, and Paul’s attitude toward it. A thorough 51-page survey of opinion from the second century down to 1962 was assembled by Mathis Rissi; there is no need to rehearse that entire history here. I agree with Rissi and Hans Conzelmann (and, for that matter, with Mormon prophet Joseph Smith), that the grammar and logic of the passage point to a practice of vicarious baptism of a living person for the benefit of a dead person."
Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, "Baptized for the Dead"Kevin L. Barney, Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, (August 31, 2020)
This thorough treatment of the mention of baptism for the dead in 1 Corinthians 15:29 gives a meticulous analysis of Paul’s Greek argument, and lays out the dozens (or perhaps hundreds) of theories that have been put forth with respect to its interpretation. Barney concludes that “the most natural reading” and the “majority contemporary scholarly reading” is that of “vicarious baptism.” Therefore, “the Prophet Joseph Smith’s reading of the passage to refer to such a practice was indeed correct.”
Click here to view the complete article
Response to claim: 404 - "It is possible that many readers of this book have had their deceased relatives baptized by proxy into Mormonism"
Author's quote: "It is possible that many readers of this book have had their deceased relatives baptized by proxy into Mormonism, even though such persons might not have wanted anything to do with Mormonism during their lives."
- Author's opinion.
Certainly, it is possible. LDS proxy baptisms only give the dead the opportunity to accept it if they wish. They have no power on any who decline them. If one believes the LDS Church is false, then LDS proxy baptisms can have no power whatever, and the dead are completely unaffected thereby.
Question: Are the dead being "baptized into the Mormon faith?"
The ordinance is provided but is only contingent upon the dead accepting it
- Some have misunderstood and suppose that deceased souls “are being baptised into the Mormon faith without their knowledge”  or that “people who once belonged to other faiths can have the Mormon faith retroactively imposed on them.”  They assume that we somehow have power to force a soul in matters of faith. Of course, we do not. God gave man his agency from the beginning. (See fn11) “The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God,”  but only if they accept those ordinances. The Church does not list them on its rolls or count them in its membership.
- Our anxiety to redeem the dead, and the time and resources we put behind that commitment, are, above all, an expression of our witness concerning Jesus Christ. It constitutes as powerful a statement as we can make concerning His divine character and mission. It testifies, first, of Christ’s Resurrection; second, of the infinite reach of His Atonement; third, that He is the sole source of salvation; fourth, that He has established the conditions for salvation; and, fifth, that He will come again. 
Response to claim: 404, 605n14 (PB) - Latter-day Saints performed vicarious baptisms for Jews who had died in the Holocaust
Latter-day Saints performed vicarious baptisms for Jews who had died in the Holocaust.
Those who did so violated the Church's stated policies.
Question: Is temple work being performed for victims of the Jewish Holocaust?
While work toward the complete removal of all Holocaust victims' names from the Church's database continues, controversy and frustration may well continue to surface
It is claimed that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has done and continues to perform proxy baptisms (baptisms for the dead) in behalf of victims of the Shoah, the Jewish Holocaust. It is claimed that these baptisms continue to be performed despite repeated requests from the Jewish community to end the practice and remove all Jewish Holocaust names from the Church's genealogical records used for posthumous baptisms.
While work toward the complete removal of all Holocaust victims' names from the Church's database continues, controversy and frustration may well continue to surface. It is important to remember that progress has been made, and that as temple approval safeguards become more sophisticated, one can hope that misguided individuals will be much less able to violate the agreement.
Furthermore, now that it is clear that some few members are not respecting the agreement, the databases will doubtless be monitored by interested parties, who can bring violations to the Church’s attention.
Those of the Jewish faith are to be commended for the spirit of dialogue and cooperation in which they have approached this matter, and their willingness to work with the Church to solve it.
There have also been some moving expressions of friendship between Mormons and Jews; some Jewish authors have pointed out that belief and theology matter much less than behavior and brotherhood, and on this score Mormon-Jewish relations have always been excellent.
History of the practice
In 1995—after it was learned that a substantial number of Holocaust victims were listed in the Church's temple records as having been baptized—an agreement was signed between the Church and leading Jewish authorities which officially ended baptizing Jewish Holocaust victims posthumously.
Controversy over the matter flared again in 2002 when it was found that there was still thousands of Holocaust victims’ names in the Church's records. The Church responded by re-enforcing its policy for temple work, which requires that members only perform proxy baptisms for ancestors to whom they can demonstrate a familial link. Furthermore, the Church established a committee with Jewish leaders to investigate why the names of Holocaust victims remained in the database.
More concern was expressed in 2006, when it was discovered that there were still many Holocaust victims' names in the database.
Mistakes in the database
Despite critics' claims, fingers should not be pointed at the institutional Church in this instance. Instead, the fault lies with a few misguided members, who took active steps to circumvent the Church’s policies:
Gary Mokotoff [...] who will head the Jewish side of the joint commission, said that individual church members had managed to circumvent the current monitoring process by misspelling names. "There's guaranteed to be a trickle going through the screen," he said, "but it's been very embarrassing for the Mormons." Mike Otterson, director of media relations for the church, told the Post that the church was working on creating a mechanism to prevent "overzealous members" from violating the agreement.
Counsel of LDS leaders
Church general authorities have asked members to concentrate on completing the work for their own ancestors. Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve taught:
Here, on this side of the veil, there are limitations of available time and temples. This means that choosing to identify and perform ordinances for our own kindred should receive our highest priority. The Spirit of Elijah will inspire individual members of the Church to link their generations, rather than submit lists of people or popular personalities to whom they are unrelated. Now, we are mindful of those not of our faith who are concerned about or even offended by the practice of temple ordinances for the dead. To them we say, our Heavenly Father directed the restoration of keys of priesthood authority and surely intended no offense to any of His children. Quite to the contrary. He intended to bless them. This doctrine and its ordinances are laden with love and are intended to perpetuate the sweetest of all relationships — in families forever.
Nevertheless, the Church is sensitive to these concerns. The First Presidency has asked that, as far as possible, individual rights of privacy be protected. In 1972, they wrote, "Persons submitting names for other than direct ancestors [should] have obtained approval from the closest living relative of the deceased before submitting records of persons born within the last ninety-five years." In addition, reminders of rights of precedence and privacy appear each time our computer programs are used.
Response to claim: 405, 605n18-19 (PB) - Do LDS leaders suppress access to Church archives?
*Do LDS leaders suppress access to Church archives?
The author fails to note that Fawn Brodie worked in the 1940s, when the archives were less well-organized—her experience is irrelevant to the present-day.
- Steven L. Olsen, "Is the Church Archives Closed?" (FAIR Conference, 2007). FairMormon link
Response to claim: 405, 607n21 (HB) 605n21 (PB) - "LDS leaders re-write historical documents, deny that other documents exist, create fictitious historical data..."
Author's quote: "LDS leaders re-write historical documents, deny that other documents exist, create fictitious historical data, add words to update old revelations so that they conform to current events/knowledge, and delete various sections of divine pronouncements said to have been transcribe perfectly when originally delivered."
- Richard N. and Joan K. Ostling, Mormon America: The Power and the Promise, (New York:HarperCollins Publishers, 2000), 249. ( Index of claims ), summarizing the views of Mark P. Leone, Roots of Modern Mormonism, 204, 211.
This claim is nonsense. Critics routinely accuse the Church of suppressing and hiding uncomfortable facts from its own history, yet they quote Church sources in order to provide proof of their claims.
Question: Has the Church "whitewashed" some of the information about its origins to appear more palatable to members and investigators?
Response to claim: 406, 605n22 (PB) - The History of the Church was mostly written after his death, but reads as if he wrote it himself
The History of the Church was mostly written after his death, but reads as if he wrote it himself.
- Dean C. Jessee, "The Writing of Joseph Smith's History," Brigham Young University Studies [Summer 1971], vol. 11, 469, 470, 472.
- Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Mormonism—Shadow or Reality?, 5th edition, (Salt Lake City: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1987), 126-162D.
- Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Changing World of Mormonism (Moody Press, 1979), 398-416.( Index of claims )
- Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Major Problems of Mormonism.
This is no secret; using Joseph's authorial voice was standard practice for the day. The history was completed up to 5 August 1838 under Joseph's direction (See Jesse, 466).
Dean C. Jessee wrote of this question :
The History of the Church, which bears Joseph Smith’s name, was begun under his dictation and direction and completed after his death according to his instructions. The original sources used to compile the History were the Prophet’s own diaries, correspondence, and other documents. Those who may feel that the work is not a fundamental historical source because the Prophet did not personally write much of it are in error. The History, with its priceless collection of primary documents, remains the most important source of historical information on the life of Joseph Smith and early Latter-day Saint history.
The work presents the teachings and activities of the Prophet with a remarkable degree of accuracy. A look at how it was produced, and at the concepts that governed historical writing at that time, helps tell us the nature of the history.
Production of the history
Among the difficulties encountered by Joseph Smith was his own lack of formal literary education. He wrote that it took the exertions of all his father’s family to sustain themselves, “therefore we were deprived of the benefit of an education. … I was merely instructed in reading, writing and the ground rules of arithmetic, which constituted my whole literary acquirements.”  Throughout his life the Prophet seemed to be concerned with his lack of literary training. In his extant correspondence he refers to his “lack of fluency in address,” his limited “ability in conveying my ideas in writing,” and “the imperfections of my writing.” 
The Prophet thus relied on others to write for him. More than two dozen clerks are known to have assisted him in a secretarial capacity. Of these, nine left the Church (typical of the challenges of those years), and four others died while engaged in important writing assignments.
A major inhibition of efforts to keep a record was the persecution the Prophet and the Church experienced. During the years in which the history was being written, the Latter-day Saints moved or were driven across two-thirds of the North American continent. Such unstable conditions resulted in the loss of some records and affected the accuracy of many of those that were preserved. In addition, the Prophet endured lawsuits and repeated arrests that took his attention from the history.
When Willard Richards took over the duties of Church historian in December 1842, a mere 157 pages of a work that eventually numbered 2,000 pages had been written.
On 1 March 1842, publication of the history in serial form commenced in the Nauvoo newspaper Times and Seasons. By 27 June 1844, the date of Joseph Smith’s death, the manuscript had been completed only to 5 August 1838 and published to December 1831. However, important source material had been preserved for completing the history. Shortly before his death, the Prophet wrote: “For the last three years I have a record of all my acts and proceedings, for I have kept several good, faithful, and efficient clerks in constant employ: they have accompanied me everywhere, and carefully kept my history, and they have written down what I have done, where I have been, and what I have said.”  Some have indicated that, prior to his death, the Prophet reviewed most of what his clerks had written.
While in Carthage Jail shortly before his death, Joseph Smith instructed the Church historian, Willard Richards, who was there with him, to continue the history.  This Elder Richards did, and for the next decade he was the custodian of the records and the architect of the history. After Joseph Smith’s death, work on the history continued, even as the Saints prepared to leave Nauvoo for the Rocky Mountains. With the addition of 674 pages to the manuscript, nearly as much work was done on the history in the period between the Prophet’s death and the departure of the Saints from Nauvoo as had been done in the preceding years.
At the time the records of the Church were packed at Nauvoo for the journey west in February 1846, Willard Richards had compiled the history to 1 March 1843. But in the disruptive years that followed, he was never able to complete that work. After Brother Richards’s death in 1854, George A. Smith and Wilford Woodruff continued work on the history. To assure accuracy, every effort was made to collect information. Late in 1845, for instance, an epistle to the Saints urged all who knew of “any fact, circumstance, incident, event, or transaction” that should be in the history to please report it. 
Finally, in August 1856, eighteen years after the history was begun, the work was completed to the death of Joseph Smith. The entire manuscript had been read in the hearing of the First Presidency and other witnesses for a general appraisal.
Response to claim: 406 - Was writing the History of the Church as if Joseph himself wrote it a "flagrant breach of standard protocol for persons producing historical works" as the book claims?
Was writing the History of the Church as if Joseph himself wrote it a "flagrant breach of standard protocol for persons producing historical works" as the book claims?
- No citation provided.
Fact checking results: This claim is falseUsing Joseph's authorial voice was standard practice for the day. The Jesse article cited above by the author demonstrates that no effort was made to hide who had written the history.
Question: Why is History of the Church written in first-person, as if Joseph Smith himself wrote it?
The common nineteenth-century format of writing was chosen by Joseph Smith, who directed his clerks to write a first person
Jessee described the differences between historical writing as practiced by a modern writer, and those practices in place in Joseph Smith's day:
Since none of the manuscript of the history is in Joseph Smith’s handwriting, and apparently not much of the text was actually dictated by him, why did those employed on the work write in first person, as though the Prophet himself were writing? That common nineteenth-century format was chosen by Joseph Smith, who directed his clerks to write a first person, daily narrative based upon diaries kept by himself and his clerks. In addition, since Joseph Smith’s diary did not provide an unbroken narrative of his life, the compilers of the history were to bridge gaps by using other sources (diaries, Church periodicals, minute and record books of Church and civic organizations, letters and documents kept on file, and news of current world happenings), changing indirect discourse to direct as if Joseph Smith had done the writing himself. Not uncommon according to the editorial practices of the day, this method of supplying missing detail had the effect of providing a smooth-flowing, connected narrative of events.
Many examples from other works of the period show that this was the historical standard of the time. Nineteenth-century American methods of historical writing and editing were very different from those of today. In 1837, for example, Jared Sparks—regarded as “the first great compiler of national records”—edited in twelve volumes the Writings of George Washington. When his work was later compared with original manuscripts, it was found that he had rewritten portions of letters, deleted or altered offensive passages, and changed irregularities in style and awkward modes of expression.
In his review of historical editing in the United States, Lyman E. Butterfield has noted that changing text and creating text faithful to the ideas of the writer were not uncommon in early years, and that seldom were original texts left to speak for themselves.  The History of the Church was written in the general literary and historical climate of its time.
New Testament parallels
Dean Jessee noted that this 19th century approach to historiography matches more ancient practices, such as those used by some Biblical authors:
New Testament writers apparently used a similar method in writing the Gospels. One Bible commentary records that Matthew and Luke borrowed from Mark (Interpreter’s Bible, 7:235–36) and omitted or altered what seemed to be critical of the Apostles. For example, Mark records that James and John came to the Savior and asked that he give them whatsoever they desired; whereupon, the Savior heard their plea that each might sit by his side when he came in glory. (Mark 10:35–37.) When Matthew recorded the event, he said that it was the mother of James and John who desired this privilege for her sons (Matt. 20:20–21.) This difference in recording the circumstances, presumably to place the Apostles in a better light, does not destroy the credibility of the Savior’s mission, nor may we believe that there was dishonesty in making the change.
Challenges with direct citation
One of the challenges facing those who compiled the history was that of presenting the Prophet’s sermons and teachings. Since none of Joseph’s clerks had mastered shorthand during his lifetime, reports of what he said were made longhand. Many of these were smooth-flowing, well-connected summaries and were copied into the history almost as recorded. In some instances, however, it was necessary to reconstruct an address from brief notes and disconnected ideas. George A. Smith’s editorial work was careful, and when he was finished, each discourse was read to members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, some of whom had also heard the original address. Their input proved invaluable. These measures no doubt guaranteed the doctrinal accuracy of such reporting of Joseph Smith’s discourses, but the result obviously would not reflect his personality and speaking style as accurately as a verbatim report would have done.
An analysis of the History reveals those portions obtained from material written personally by Joseph Smith. These clearly reflect his loving and warm spirit. For example, the following is an entry from the History stemming from a portion of Joseph Smith’s 1835 diary written by himself:
“September 23. I was at home writing blessings for my most beloved brethren, but was hindered by a multitude of visitors. The Lord has blessed our souls this day, and may God grant to continue His mercies unto my house this night, for Christ’s sake. This day my soul has desired the salvation of Brother Ezra Thayer. Also Brother Noah Packard came to my house and loaned the committee one thousand dollars to assist building the house of the Lord. Oh! may God bless him a hundred fold, even of the things of the earth, for this righteous act. My heart is full of desire today, to be blessed of the God of Abraham with prosperity, until I shall be able to pay all my debts, for it is the delight of my soul to be honest. O Lord, that thou knowest right well. Help me, and I will give to the poor.” 
Response to claim: 406, 608n23 (HB) 606n23 (PB) - Was a "forged prediction" added to the history that a "mighty people" that would dwell "in the midst of the Rocky Mountains"?
Was a "forged prediction" added to the history that a "mighty people" that would dwell "in the midst of the Rocky Mountains"?
- History of the Church, vol. 5, 85, 393-394, 398.
- No other citation is given to support this claim, but the argument is found in Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Changing World of Mormonism (Moody Press, 1979), 404-408.( Index of claims )
Fact checking results: This claim is falseTo accept a "forgery" theory, we must accept that all of the people listed who remembered Joseph speaking about the Rocky Mountains were lying or fabricating their experience
FAIR Answers Wiki Table of Contents
Life and Character
Revelations and the Church
Plural marriage (polygamy)
Criticism of Mormonism/Books/One Nation Under Gods/Chapter 18
Question: Did Joseph Smith make "forged predictions" and add them retroactively to the history of the Church that a "mighty people" that would dwell "in the midst of the Rocky Mountains"?
To accept a "forgery" theory, we must accept that all of the people listed who remembered Joseph speaking about the Rocky Mountains were lying or fabricating their experience
Furthermore, we must also accept that Joseph was sending explorers to the west with no real expectation of moving, and the discussion of heading west by both members and enemies was all idle talk.
Furthermore, the mention of moving to the west is often incidental—Church leaders mention the matter as if many of their hearers from Nauvoo would recall it. No great effort is made to establish the truth of the matter; it is presumed to be too obvious to require much demonstration.
The source of the prophecy account
The prophecy source is the biography of Anson Call, in August 1842. The relevant section reads as follows:
"A block schoolhouse had been prepared with shade in front, under which was a barrel of ice water. Judge Adams, the highest Masonic authority in the State of Illinois, had been sent there to organize this lodge. He, Hyrum Smith and J. C. Bennett, being high Masons, went into the house to perform some ceremonies which the others were not entitled to witness. These, including Joseph Smith, remained under the bowery. Joseph as he was tasting the cold water, warned the brethren not to be too free with it. With the tumbler still in his hand, he prophesied that the Saints would yet go to the Rocky Mountains, and said he, 'This water tastes much like that of the crystal streams that are running from the snow-capped mountains. I had before seen him in a vision, and now saw, while he was talking, his countenance change to white, not the deadly white of a bloodless face, but a living, brilliant white. He seemed absorbed in gazing upon something at a great distance and said, "I am gazing upon the valleys of those mountains."
I had before seen him [Joseph Smith] in a vision [i.e., while seeing or reporting a divine vision or revelation], and now saw while he was talking his countenance change to white; not the deadly white of a bloodless face, but a living brilliant white. He seemed absorbed in gazing at something at a great distance, and said: "I am gazing upon the valleys of those mountains." This was followed by a vivid description of the scenery of these mountains, as I have since become acquainted with it. Pointing to Shadrach Roundy and others, he said: "There are some men here who shall do a great work in that land." Pointing to me, he said, "There is Anson, he shall go and shall assist in building up cities from one end of the country to the other, and you, rather extending the idea to all those he had spoken of, shall perform as great a work as has been done by man, so that the nations of the earth shall be astonished, and many of them will be gathered in that land and assist in building cities and temples, and Israel shall be made to rejoice."
It is impossible to represent in words this scene which is still vivid in my mind, of the grandeur of Joseph's appearance, his beautiful descriptions of this land, and his wonderful prophetic utterances as they emanated from the glorious inspirations that overshadowed him. There was a force and power in his exclamations of which the following is but a faint echo: "Oh the beauty of those snow-capped mountains! The cool refreshing streams that are running down through those mountain gorges!" Then gazing in another direction, as if there was a change in locality: "Oh the scenes that this people will pass through! The dead that will lay between here and there." Then turning in another direction as if the scene had again changed: "Oh the apostasy that will take place before my brethren reach that land! But," he continued, "The priesthood shall prevail over its enemies, triumph over the devil and be established upon the earth, never more to be thrown down!" He then charged us with great force and power, to be faithful to those things that had been and should be committed to our charge, with the promise of all the blessings that the Priesthood could bestow. "Remember these things and treasure them up. Amen." 
Thus, the accusation must be not only that the Church decided to "forge" a prophecy by Joseph, but that Anson Call did as well. Can we assess how likely these claims are?
It could be, of course, that Anson Call forged his account, and all the Church leaders and members lied about remembering Joseph speak about the matter. But why then appeal to "many of you" remembering Joseph speaking about it? Why not claim it was a private, secret teaching given to the apostles—for, they certainly also reported these. If the claim was fraudulent, why risk exposure?
Or, the story could have started after the Saints reached the valley, and simply grown in the telling with members "remembering" the story as it was retold to them. But, the contemporary evidence would seem to argue against this, and witnesses often mentioned how struck they were by Joseph's remarks. They also described him discussing this idea in a variety of setting, which argues against an accumulated "folklore."
It is strange to see critics argue that Joseph would not prophesy about this—in their view, Joseph was always larding his ideas with prophetic pronouncement. And, is it any stretch to think that he would say that the people would grow "mighty" there. Would even a false prophet or charlatan tell his beleaguered followers that they were going into the wilderness to become weak and oppressed?
The simplest explanation seems to be that Joseph discussed moving to the west several times, and likely prophesied about it. Too many witnesses would have to collude or self-deceive for it to have no basis in fact. Whether the story grew in the telling, of course, is difficult to determine.
None of this, to be sure, proves that Joseph Smith was a true prophet. But, to claim that the account of him discussing and even prophesying a move to the west rests on nothing but "forgery" is to distort and ignore too many sources, from too broad a time period, over what is essentially a peripheral issue.
How have less friendly historians treated this prophecy?
We have seen that believing historians such as B. H. Roberts or Orson F. Whitney would be likely to accept this claim. How have less friendly historians treated it?
Hubert Howe Bancroft opined that "In 1842 an expedition had been planned to explore the country toward or beyond the Rocky Mountains; but when Joseph Smith put himself forward as a candidate for the presidency of the United States, all other matters were for the time forgotten."  Thus, Bancroft saw the move west as one long contemplated.
D. Michael Quinn, whose work has been repeatedly cited by the author of the critical work One Nation Under Gods, includes this in his Church timeline without comment or qualification, even using the date traditionally ascribed it in the History of the Church :
6 Aug . While attending a Masonic ceremony Smith prophesies that Mormons would settle in the Rocky Mountains. 
Historian Dale Morgan, certainly not an LDS apologist or propagandist, wrote to a private correspondent who seemed to share the author's views of this account:
it is my understanding from reading controversial works involving the Reorganized Church that you have combatted the idea that Joseph Smith ever intended leading the Mormons out of the Mississippi Valley to the West, and that you tend to regard proofs advanced by the L.D.S. church as being revisions of original history to serve the propagandic purposes of this church. This is a matter to which I have given especial attention, and in the work on the Mormons that I have conceived, I believe I shall be able to demolish once and for all any argument that Joseph Smith did not entertain this purpose.
My materials have been drawn in some part, though by no means wholly, from the L.D.S. archives here, but I do not think historians of the Reorganized Church will seriously question my findings when I am enabled to publish them. I cannot speak so authoritatively about the authenticity of the Rocky Mountains prophecy, but I am by no means disposed to doubt it, in view of what I have learned about Smith's purposes in the winter of 1844. I cannot undertake to discuss the whole subject at length here, so for the present I must content myself with assuring you that the statements in the Utah Guide about the proposal to migrate to the Rocky Mountains have a firm factual foundation, and I will publish the proofs in due course. 
Thus, Morgan thought it clear that Joseph Smith had intended to go to the Rockies with the Saints, and felt it plausible that Joseph had made a prophecy to that effect. Thus, whatever the facts, it seems unlikely that a crude "forgery" is at work.
Many other Church members later wrote about Joseph's discussion of the Rocky Mountains area
Before the Nauvoo Expositor incident, Benjamin F. Johnson said,
...the Prophet had foreshadowed the close of his own earthly mission, and the near approach of the time when the Saints in tribulation would find a place of refuge in the far-off vales of the Rocky Mountains, which has already taken place; and also relating still to the future, when a path will be opened for the Saints through Mexico, South America, and to the center Stake of Zion.
These, and many more great things were given by him, some of which, as with the ancient disciples, we could not comprehend until fulfilled....It was now revealed to the Prophet that his only safety was in flight to the Rocky Mountains, and he crossed the river with a few faithful friends with a full purpose not to return. 
"These things did not come upon us unexpectedly," observed Wandle Mace,
--at least to those who were watching the signs of the times--the Prophet Joseph had told us that many of us would live to go the "Rocky Mountains', and there become a mighty people, therefore we were looking forward to this time. Some of us was afraid we would not have time to finish the [Nauvoo] temple before these things came upon us, they were coming so fast. 
Samuel W. Richards remembered being assigned by Joseph to "explore the Rocky Mountains with 23 other men to find a place where the Church could be established." 
In 1864, Brigham Young remembered:
In the days of Joseph we have sat many hours at a time conversing about this very country. Joseph has often said, "If I were only in the Rocky Mountains with a hundred faithful men, I would then be happy, and ask no odds of mobocrats." And neither do I. 
In 1880, Orson Pratt asked:
Was it upon our own natural judgment [that we came to the valley]? No; we founded our expectation upon that which God had spoken in the modern revelations which He had given to us as a people. He told us, by revelation, before our prophet was martyred, that we would have to leave the United States: go beyond the Rocky Mountains, and seek our home in the wilderness, and that we would have a great people gather with us. 
John Taylor spoke of Joseph's frequent mention of this idea:
Many a time have I listened to the voice of our beloved Prophet, while in council, dwell on this subject [the removal of the Saints to the Rocky Mountains] with delight; his eyes sparkling with animation, and his soul fired with the inspiration of the Spirit of the living God. It was a theme that caused the bosoms of all who were privileged to listen, to thrill with delight; intimately connected with this, were themes upon which prophets, patriarchs, priests and kings dwelt with pleasure and delight: of them they prophesied, sung, wrote, spoke and desired to see, but died without the sight. My spirit glows with sacred fire while I reflect upon these scenes, and I say, O Lord, hasten the day! 
As is often the case, Mosiah Hancock confirmed Joseph's Rocky Mountain destination in an off-hand manner:
Before the Prophet spoke from the frame [in his last speech before Carthage], he had started to go to the rocky mountains, and went as far a Montrose; but through the interference of some pretended friends, he returned. I was a witness to these things--and when the Prophet spoke from the frame, he spoke with power, and the people loved him. 
Some of these later witnesses discussed the matter under different circumstances, which strongly suggests that this was no "secret" teaching of the prophet's, but well noised about. For example, Bathsheba W. Smith remembered:
Joseph, the Prophet, said we would come to the Rocky Mountains, and he had a company of young men selected to hunt a location for a home for the Saints. Samuel Richards was one of that company. I heard of it when we were in Illinois, and I remember an old lady coming in and talking to mother about what Joseph, the Prophet, had said that we would be in the Rocky Mountains sometime. I said I would like the time to come soon, I would like to get away from our enemies. She gave me a right good scolding, saying it was terrible to think of going to the Rocky Mountains. 
Rachel Grant remembered that "It tried a great many people when the Prophet gave out the word that there was to be no more gathering at Nauvoo, as the people thought that was the place. He first told them to gather there, but later told them the Rocky Mountains would be the gathering place. It was his thought that they would come to the Rocky Mountains." 
Rudger Clawson's diary described a talk he heard:
Patriarch Jas. H. Leathead bore an interesting testimony. Said that he was a resident of [p.613] Nauvoo in the early days of the church and filled the position of drummer boy in the Nauvoo band. Said that he was present and heard the Prophet Joseph Smith predict that the saints would move to the Rocky Mountains. 
Wilford Woodruff reported the earliest account of Joseph's teaching on the west. He recorded one of his own addresses on 5 October 1884:
spok 10 M, & gave an Account of the first testimony of the Prophet Joseph in kirtland Aprail 1834 of filling the Rocky Mountains with the Saints of God. 
Woodruff would also copy Philo Dibble's record of Joseph's last address to the Nauvoo legion, noting that "Broth J Jaques this Book is W Woodruffs private Historical Book. I wish you to take special care of it yourself until I call for it. I wish you to copy last pages in red ink & file in the office as it is the Last Address of Joseph Smith before his death [from Philo Dibble] and I think we have no Copy of it in the office. The Book itself I wish locked up." 
Other members also mentioned their own spiritual experiences about the west. Wilford Woodruff recalled that
When in the western country, many years ago, before we came to the Rocky Mountains, I had a dream. I dreamed of being in these mountains, and of seeing a large fine looking temple erected in one of these valleys which was built of cut granite stone, I saw that temple dedicated, and I attended the dedicatory services, and I saw a good many men that are living today in the midst of this people. 
The same or a similar account was also noted by L. John Nuttall on 7 October 1891 at a meeting
Over fifty years ago, while in Boston, he [Woodruff]...dreamed that the Saints migrated to the Rocky Mountains, built a Temple and dedicated it; that at the dedicatory services Elders were set apart to go among the Gentile nations to bind the law and seal the testimony. 
Other evidence from Joseph's lifetime
There is other evidence recorded during Joseph's lifetime that lends plausibility to the account given by Call and others.
For example, Elder Jonathan Dunham was sent to explore the western countries, and was "most probably prospecting a possible trail and locating resting places for the Saints when engaged in a great westward movement."  Why else would Joseph send Dunham—whom he later trusted to head the Nauvoo Legion during his final days before being taken to Carthage—on such a long and difficult journey, given all the pressing difficulties which remained in Nauvoo? As one author noted, "During the Council of Fifty's first meetings in March and April 1844, the Mormon prophet urged the exploration of the American West. In this region the Saints would make a settlement and raise "a standard and ensign of truth for the nations of the earth." 
Members of the Council of Fifty believed, in "a retrospective statement on Smith's purposes" according to William Clayton, that when Joseph
crossed the Mississippi River intending to go to the Rocky Mountains. Several hours before his departure, he asked his followers to make a sixteen-foot emblematic flag "for the nations," apparently hoping to take a Mormon, scripture-fulfilling banner with him on his journey. However after less than a day on the Iowa side of the river, he returned to Nauvoo and began his fateful journey to Carthage. The day prior to Smith's death, not fully understanding his danger, Nauvoo citizens responded to his earlier wish and began preparation of a flag of white cloth. The flag, said one of the Saints later, was not intended for Nauvoo. Smith undoubtedly meant the banner to be a tangible symbol of a restored latter-day Kingdom in the mountainous West. 
In a related vein, Lorenzo Snow later remembered that
On the 20th of February, 1844, the Prophet Joseph Smith instructed the Twelve Apostles to send a delegation and make explorations in Oregon and California, and seek a good location to which we can remove after the Temple is completed, and "where we can build a city in a day, and have a government of our own....Previous to this, the Prophet had remarked to me that he anticipated moving to the Rocky Mountains with all his family, where he could live in peace and worship God unmolested. But other scenes and prospects awaited us. 
There is also a Times and Seasons newspaper account of a conference held on November 1, 1842 in Kirtland, Ohio by LDS missionaries. Reporting on their success, one wrote:
One woman, who at the commencement of the conference declared herself good enough without re baptism, has now come forward before the close and says that she would go to the Rocky Mountains if Joseph said so.... 
This might be a mere figure of speech, i.e., such as "to the moon and back if Joseph said so." On the other hand, it may be that Joseph's thoughts about the west were beginning to percolate among the Saints and even their enemies, so it can hardly have been much of a secret. Oliver Olney, an apostate member who was supporting John C. Bennett, wrote a letter to Joseph Smith on the matter on 20 July 1842:
"They say with your numerous wifes and maidens you are about to start west as far as the Rocky Mountains where you will raise up a Righteous Branch without being molested by the Laws of the Land." Olney later noted that the Saints "are fast a fixing to go West where they can live in peace without being molested By the laws of the land. They say soon to start If what I hear is correct as far West as Origen Territory and establish a stake of Zion." 
As we have seen above, there are accounts of Joseph discussing the matter at least as early as 1834. </onlyinclude>
- ↑ John Sanders, introduction to What about Those Who Have Never Heard? Three Views on the Destiny of the Unevangelized, by Gabriel Fackre, Ronald H. Nash, and John Sanders (1995), 9.
- ↑ Mormonism and Early Christianity (Vol. 4 of Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by Todd Compton and Stephen D. Ricks, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1987), 101.
- ↑ Alma 42:15
- ↑ D. Todd Christofferson, "The Redemption of the Dead and the Testimony of Jesus," Ensign (January 1998).
- ↑ John A. Tvedtnes, "Proxy Baptism," Ensign 7 (February 1977): 86. The source erroneously refers to the "Marcionites" instead of the "Cerinthians".
- ↑ Ibid.
- ↑ 1 Corinthians 7:14.
- ↑ Doctrine and Covenants 128:18
- ↑ This obviously requires a rejection of the doctrine of sola scriptura and the affirmation of continuing revelation outside the Bible. For the best treatments of those from a Latter-day Saint perspective, see Robert S. Boylan, Not By Scripture Alone: A Latter-day Saint Refutation of Sola Scriptura (Charleston, SC: CreativeSpace, 2017). See also Robert S. Boylan, After the Order of the Son of God: The Biblical and Historical Evidence for Latter-day Saint Theology of the Priesthood (Charleston, SC: CreativeSpace, 2018).
- ↑ FairMormon thanks Jaxon Washburn for his compilation of these sources.
- ↑ Søren Agersnap, Baptism and the New Life: A Study of Romans 6:1-14 (Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus University Press, 1999), 175–76.
- ↑ Charles Kingsley Barrett, A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Harper & Row Publishers Inc, 1987), 362–364.
- ↑ Stephen C. Barton, “1 Corinthians,” Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible, James D.G. Dunn, ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003), 1348.
- ↑ Richard E. DeMaris, The New Testament in its Ritual World (London: Routledge, 2008), 59, 63–64.
- ↑ James D.G. Dunn, Unity and Diversity in the New Testament: An Inquiry into the Nature of Earliest Christianity (London: SCM Canterbury Press, 2006), 25, 172.
- ↑ Gordon D. Fee, "The First Epistle to the Corinthians,” The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 766–767.
- ↑ Rolf Furuli, The Role of Theology and Bias in Bible Translation With a Special Look at the New World Translation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Murrieta, CA: Elihu Books, 1999), 289.
- ↑ David Bentley Hart, The New Testament: A Translation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017), 297.
- ↑ Scott M. Lewis, So That God May Be All in All: The Apocalyptic Message of 1 Corinthians 15:12-34 (Rome, Italy: Editrice Pontificia Universitá Gregoriana, 1998), 70–71.
- ↑ Andrew T. Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet: Studies in the Role of the Heavenly Dimension in Paul’s Thought with Special Reference to His Eschatology (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 36.
- ↑ Steve Mason and Tom Robinson, Early Christian Reader: Christian Texts from the First and Second Centuries in Contemporary English Translations Including the New Revised Standard Version of the New Testament (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2013), 70.
- ↑ Leon Morris, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1960), 218.
- ↑ John J. O'Rourke, "1 Corinthians,” A New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, Reginald C. Fuller, Leonard Johnston, and Conleth Kearns, eds. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd., 1969), 1159.
- ↑ William F. Orr and James A. Walter, 1 Corinthians: A New Translation (New York: Doubleday, 1976), 337.
- ↑ Stephen E. Potthoff, The Afterlife in Early Christian Carthage: Near-Death Experience, Ancestor Cult, and the Archeology of Paradise (London: Routledge, 2017), 3.
- ↑ Thomas R. Schreiner and Shawn D. Wright, Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2006), 130–131.
- ↑ John Short, "Exposition of First Corinthians," The Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 10, 12 vols., George Arthur, ed. (Abingdon, UK: Pierce and Washabaugh, 1953), 240.
- ↑ William Tabbernee, “Initiation/Baptism in the Montanist Movement,” Ablution, Initiation, and Baptism: Late Antiquity, Early Judaism, and Early Christianity, David Hellholm, ed. (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2011), 941.
- ↑ James D. Tabor, Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010), 277–278.
- ↑ Jeffrey A. Trumbower, Rescue for the Dead: The Posthumous Salvation of Non-Christians in Early Christianity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 35.
- ↑ See Ben Fenton, “Mormons Use Secret British War Files ‘to Save Souls,’ ” The Telegraph (London), 15 Feb. 1999.
- ↑ Greg Stott, “Ancestral Passion,” Equinox (April/May 1998): 45.
- ↑ D&C 138:58
- ↑ D. Todd Christofferson, "The Redemption of the Dead and the Testimony of Jesus," Ensign (November 2000), 9. off-site (Footnotes have in places been integrated into the main text; citation for has been slightly modified.
- ↑ Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, "The Mormons are Jews' brothers," Deseret Morning News (30 December 2003).
- ↑ Jerusalem Post, "Jews and Mormons tackle 'proxy baptism' controversy," jpost.com (accessed 2 June 2006).
- ↑ Russell M. Nelson, "The Spirit Of Elijah," Ensign (November 1994), 84.
- ↑ Text is from Dean C. Jessee, "I have heard that Joseph Smith didn't actually write his history—that it was prepared by clerks under his direction. If so, how reliable is it?," Ensign (July 1985), 15. off-site; headings and additional material have been added as noted.
- ↑ Joseph Smith (“Autobiography,” 1832), Kirtland Letter Book, p. 1, manuscript.
- ↑ Letters to Moses Nickerson, 19 November 1833; to Emma Smith, 6 June 1832, original in the Chicago Historical Society, Chicago, Ill.; and to Emma Smith, 21 March 1839.
- ↑ Joseph Smith address, 26 May 1844, reported by Thomas Bullock; published in Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 6:409. Volume 6 link
- ↑ George A. Smith to Wilford Woodruff, 21 April 1856.
- ↑ Manuscript History of the Church, 16 November 1845.
- ↑ L. H. Butterfield and Julian Boyd, Historical Editing in the United States (Worcester, Mass.: American Antiquarian Society, 1963), 19, 24–25.
- ↑ History of the Church, 2:281. Volume 2 link
- ↑ Tullidge's Histories, Vol I. History of Northern Utah, and Southern Idaho.--Biographical Supplement, p. 271. See History of the Church, 5:85, note. note Volume 5 link; Orson F. Whitney, Conference Report (April 1916), 66-67.
- ↑ Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of Utah, 1540-1886, 198.
- ↑ The History of the Church note by B.H. Roberts says of this matter: "While in Tullidge's biography of Call the date is given as the 14th of July, 1843, evidently an error. There is no entry in the Prophet's journal for the 8th of August, 1842, and the entries for the 8th of August, 1843, and the 14th of July, 1843, relate to matters of quite a different character. Tullidge, in relating Anson Call's recollection of the incident also says that J. C. Bennett was present on the occasion, which must also be an error, as the rupture between Bennett and the Church and its authorities occurred and he had left Nauvoo previous to the 6th of August, 1842. In the Call statement as published by Tullidge, the name of Mr. Adams, the Deputy Grand Master Mason in charge of the ceremonies, is given as George, it should be James."
- ↑ D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Signature Books, 1994), 635.
- ↑ Dale Morgan to S.A. Burgess, "Dear Mr. Burgess" (1 July 1842); citing in John Phillip Walker, editor, Dale Morgan on Early Mormonism: Correspondence and a New History (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 1986), 38. (emphasis added)
- ↑ Autobiography of Benjamin F. Johnson, from My Life's Review (Independence, MO: Zion's Printing and Publishing Co., 1947), 101.
- ↑ Autobiography of Wandle Mace, 188–189.
- ↑ Samuel W. Richards, cited in Autobiography and Diary Excerpts of Anthony W. Ivins (8 October 1905); compare similar story recorded by Diary Excerpts of Thomas A. Clawson, 1904-1906 Bk, p. 350 (Aug 6, 1906).
- ↑ Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11:16.
- ↑ Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses 21:274.
- ↑ B.H. Roberts, The Life of John Taylor, 179–180.
- ↑ Autobiography of Mosiah Lyman Hancock, 28.
- ↑ Bathsheba W. Smith, Young Woman's Journal 16 (1905): 549-58
- ↑ Rachel Ridgeway Grant, Young Woman's Journal 16 (1905): 549-58
- ↑ Larson, Diaries of Rudger Clawson, 612–613.
- ↑ Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 8:279. ISBN 0941214133.
- ↑ Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 8:appendix (journal entry dated 24 November 1878). ISBN 0941214133.
- ↑ Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses 21:299.
- ↑ L. John Nuttall Papers, Letter Press Book #4, 285.
- ↑ History of the Church, 5:xxviii. Volume 5 link
- ↑ Ronald W. Walker, "'A Banner is Unfurled': Mormonism's Ensign Peak," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26 no. 4, 72.
- ↑ Walker, 72-73; citing Council Meeting, 26 Feb. 1847, Thomas Bullock minutes, LDS Archives.
- ↑ Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow, 76.
- ↑ John P. Green, "Kirtland, October 28, 1842," Times and Seasons 4 no. 3 (15 December 1842), 39. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
- ↑ Marvin S. Hill, Quest for Refuge, 120; citing Olney papers, #15 and #30.
Response to claim: 406, 606n23 (PB) - Was a "forged prediction" added to the history of the Church regarding the future political career of Senator Stephen A. Douglas?
- Was a "forged prediction" added to the history of the Church regarding the future political career of Steven (sic) A. Douglas?
- (Note: Should be "Stephen" A. Douglas)
History of the Church, vol. 5, 85, 393-394, 398. No other citation is given to support this claim.
Fact checking results: This claim is falseIn fact, the prediction was published more than a year before Douglas' attack on the Church; this was well-before his aspirations to the U.S. presidency or fall in political fortunes.
Question: Was a "forged" prophecy about Stephen A. Douglas added to the History of the Church?
Joseph Smith prophesied that Stephen A. Douglas would run for the presidency four years before he actually did
Joseph Smith told Judge Stephen A. Douglas four years before he was nominated for the Presidency of the United States:
I prophesy in the name of the Lord God of Israel, that unless the United States redress the wrongs committed upon the Saints in the State of Missouri and punish the crimes committed by her officers, that in a few years the government will be utterly overthrown and wasted, and there will not be so much as a potsherd left, for their wickedness in permitting the murder of men, women and children, and the wholesale plunder and extermination of thousands of her citizens to go unpunished; thereby perpetrating a foul and corroding blot upon the fair fame of this great republic, the very thought of which would have caused the high minded and patriotic framers of the Constitution of the United States to hide their faces with shame. Judge, you will aspire to the presidency of the United States; and if ever you turn your hand against me or the Latter-day Saints, you will feel the weight of the hand of Almighty upon you; and you will live to see and know that I have testified the truth to you; for the conversation of this day will stick to you through life.” (History of the Church, 5:394
The claim that this prophecy was added after the fact is frankly false
As B.H. Roberts' editorial remark in the History of the Church noted:
There is, and can be no question about the prophecy preceding the event. The prophecy was first published in the Deseret News of September 24, 1856. It was afterwards published in England in the Millennial Star, February, 1859. The publication in the Deseret News preceding Douglas' Springfield speech, mentioned above, (June, 1857) by about one year, and about four years before Douglas was nominated for the presidency by the Charleston Democratic convention.
This paper is available in digital form on-line. Screenshots are included in this article.
Response to claim: 407, 606n26 (PB) - LDS leaders claim that the "official history" is "the most accurate history in all the world"
Were over 62,000 words were added or deleted from the history of the Church? The endnote adds that LDS leaders claim that the "official history" is "the most accurate history in all the world."
- John Widtsoe, Joseph Smith-Seeker After Truth, 297.
- Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 2, 199.
President Smith does not claim that the multi-volume set of the History of the Church is "the most accurate history." He merely argues that "the history" of the LDS Church is most accurate, because it contains "revelation...in the Doctrine and Covenants, in the Book of Mormon" as well as other "revelation that comes to us through the servants of the Lord."
Response to claim: 407 - The minutes of a conference dealing with Sidney Rigdon discussed in Volume six of the History of the Church differs from the minutes originally printed in the Times and Seasons
The minutes of a conference dealing with Sidney Rigdon discussed in Volume six of the History of the Church differs from the minutes originally printed in the Times and Seasons.
- History of the Church, vol. 6, 47-48.
- Times and Seasons, vol. 4, 330.
The basic story is essentially unchanged—Joseph wanted to get rid of Sidney, and did not fully trust him or have much confidence in him even when he continued in his role as counselor. Joseph held out some hope that Sidney would rise to his calling, and it is this that is omitted in the History of the Church's version.
Question: Why does the account of Sidney Rigdon's 'trial' recorded in the Times and Seasons differs markedly from the version available in the History of the Church?
The history may have been modified by Joseph's successors for noble or base reasons, and they may have served or harmed historical accuracy in doing so
The basic story is essentially unchanged—Joseph wanted to get rid of Sidney, and did not fully trust him or have much confidence in him even when he continued in his role as counselor. Joseph held out some hope that Sidney would rise to his calling, and it is this that is omitted in the History of the Church's version.
The history may have been modified by Joseph's successors for noble or base reasons, and they may have served or harmed historical accuracy in doing so. It is difficult to determine which at this remove.
If those compiling the history did wrong, this simply demonstrates that fallible leaders are not without faults, flaws, or improper jealousies. Most members, however, would probably conclude that the History of the Church version removed the ambiguity in Joseph's initial response simply because Sidney had clearly failed to measure up—for the compilers, there was ambiguity no longer.
Needless to say, such a procedure does not meet modern historical standards, and ought not be undertaken today.
The two accounts are compared in the table below
The two accounts are compared in the table below (paragraphing has been slightly altered so the accounts will align better for comparison). Red italics have been added, the green text is italicized in the original History of the Church:
|Times and Seasons version||History of the Church version|
Friday, October 6th, 10 o'clock A. M.
The weather proving unfavorable, the organization of the conference was postponed until the next day at 10 o'clock, A. M.
Saturday, 10 'clock A. M. Conference assembled and proceeded to business.
President Joseph Smith was called to the chair, and Gustavus Hills chosen clerk.
Opened with singing by the choir, and prayer by elder Almon Babbitt. The president stated the items of business to be brought before the Conference, to be,
1st. The case and standing of elder Sidney Rigdon, counsellor to the First Presidency.
2d. The further progress of the Temple; after which, any miscellaneous business.
Elder Sidney Rigdon addressed the conference on the subject of his situation and circumstances among the saints.
President Joseph Smith addressed the conference, inviting an expression of any charges or complaints which the Conference had to make. He sated his dissatisfaction with elder Sidney Rigdon as a counsellor, not having received any material benefit from his labors or counsels since their escape from Missouri. Several complaints were then brought forward in reference to his management in the Post Office; a supposed correspondence in connection with John C. Bennett, with Ex-Governor Carlin, and with the Missourians, of a treacherous character: also his leaguing with dishonest persons in endeavoring to defraud the innocent.
President Joseph Smith related to the Conference the detention of documents from J. Butterfield, Esq., which were designed for the benefit of himself, (President Smith,) but was not handed over for some three or four weeks, greatly to his disadvantage. Also, an indirect testimony from Missouri, through the mother of Orin P. Rockwell, that said Rigdon and others had given information, by letter, of President Smiths' visit to Dixon, advising them to proceed to that place and arrest him there. He stated that in consequence of those, and other circumstances, and his unprofitableness to him as a counsellor, he did not wish to retain him in that station, unless those difficulties could be removed; but desired his salvation, and expressed his willingness that he should retain a place among the saints.
Elder Almon Babbitt suggested the propriety of limiting the complaints and proofs to circumstances that had transpired since the last Conference.
President Joseph Smith replied, and showed the legality and propriety of a thorough investigation, without such limitation.
Elder Sidney Rigdon plead, concerning the documents from J. Butterfield, Esq., that he received it in answer to some inquiries which he had transmitted to him that he received it at a time when he was sick, and unable to examine it -- did not know that it was designed for the perusal and benefit of President Joseph Smith -- that he had, consequently, ordered it to be laid aside, where it remained until inquired for by Joseph Smith. He had never written to Missouri concerning the visit of Joseph Smith to Dixon, and knew of no other person having done so. That, concerning certain rumors of belligerent operations under Governor Carlin's administration, he had related them, not to alarm or disturb any one, but that he had the rumors form good authorities, and supposed them well founded. That he had never received but one communication from John C. Bennett, and that of a business character, except one addressed to him conjointly with Elder Orson Pratt, which he handed over to President Smith -- that he had never written any letters to John C. Bennett.
The weather becoming inclement, Conference adjourned until Sunday 10 o'clock A. M.
Sunday, 8th inst., 10 o'clock, A. M.
Conference assembled agreeably to the adjournment and opened with singing by the choir, and prayer by Elder William W. Phelps.
Elder Sidney Rigdon resumed his plea of defence. He related the circumstances of his reception in the city of Quincy, after his escape from Missouri the cause of his delay in not going to the city of Washington, on an express to which he had been appointed -- and closed with a moving appeal to President Joseph Smith concerning their former friendship, associations and sufferings, and expressed his willingness to resign his place, though with sorrowful and indescribable feelings. During this address, the sympathies of the congregation were highly excited.
Elder Almon Babbitt related a conversation he had had with Esq. Johnson, in which he exonerated elder Sidney Rigdon from the charge or suspicion of having had treacherous correspondence with Ex-Governor Carlin.
President Joseph Smith arose and satisfactorily explained to the congregation the supposed treacherous correspondence with Ex-Governor Carlin, which wholly removed suspicion from elder Sidney Rigdon, and from every other person. He expressed entire willingness to have elder Sidney Rigdon retain his station, provided he would magnify his office, and walk and conduct himself in all honesty, righteousness, and integrity; but signified his lack of confidence in his integrity and steadfastness, judging from their past intercourse.
President Hyrum Smith followed with appropriate and expressive remarks on the attribute of mercy in God, as that by which He influences, controls, and conquers -- and the propriety and importance of the saint's exercising the same attribute towards their fellows; and especially towards their aged companion and fellow servant in the cause of truth and righteousness.
Elder Almon Babbitt and pres't. Wm. Law followed with remarks in defence of elder Sidney Rigdon.
On motion by President William Marks, and seconded by President Hyrum Smith, Conference voted that elder Sidney Rigdon be permitted to retain his station as Counsellor to the First Presidency.
Singing by the choir prayer by pres't. Wm. Law.
Conference adjourned for one hour.
|MINUTES OF A SPECIAL CONFERENCE. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Special Conference, held in the City of Nauvoo, commencing on the 6th of October, 1843.
Friday, October 6, ten o'clock, a.m.
The weather proving unfavorable, the organization of the Conference was postponed until the next day at ten o'clock, a.m.
Saturday, ten o'clock, a.m. Conference assembled and proceeded to business.
President Joseph Smith was called to the chair, and Gustavus Hills was chosen clerk.
Singing by the choir, and prayer by Elder Almon W. Babbitt. The president stated the items of business to be brought before the conference to be—
1st. The case and standing of Elder Sidney Rigdon, Counselor in the First Presidency.
2nd. The further progress of the Temple; after which, any miscellaneous business.
Elder Sidney Rigdon addressed the conference on the subject of his situation and circumstances among the Saints.
President Joseph Smith addressed the conference, inviting an expression of any charges or complaints which the conference had to make. He stated his dissatisfaction with Elder Sidney Rigdon as a Counselor, not having received any material benefit from his labors or counsels since their escape from Missouri. Several complaints were then brought forward in reference to his management in the post office; a supposed corespondence and connection with John C. Bennett, with Ex-Governor Carlin, and with the Missourians, of a treacherous character; also his leaguing with dishonest persons in endeavoring to defraud the innocent.
President Joseph Smith related to the conference the detention of a document from Justin Butterfield, Esq., which was designed for the benefit of himself, (President Smith,) but was not handed over for some three or four weeks, greatly to his disadvantage; also, an indirect testimony from Missouri, through the mother of Orrin P. Rockwell, that said Rigdon and others had given information, by letter, of President Smith's visit to Dixon, advising them to proceed to that place [p.48] and arrest him there. He stated that, in consequence of these and other circumstances, and Elder Rigdon's unprofitableness to him as a Counselor, he did not wish to retain him in that station, unless those difficulties could be removed; but desired his salvation, and expressed his willingness that he should retain a place among the Saints.
President Joseph Smith replied, and showed the legality and propriety of a thorough investigation, without such limitation.
Elder Sidney Rigdon pleaded, concerning the document from Justin Butterfield, Esq., that he received it in answer to some inquiries which he [Rigdon] had transmitted to him [Butterfield]; that he [Rigdon] received it at a time when he was sick, and unable to examine it; did not know that it was designed for the perusal and benefit of President Joseph Smith; that he had, consequently, ordered it to be laid aside, where it remained until inquired for by Joseph Smith. He had never written to Missouri concerning the visit of Joseph Smith to Dixon, and knew of no other person having done so. That, concerning certain rumors of belligerent operations under Governor Carlin's administration, he had related them, not to alarm or disturb any one; but that he had the rumors from good authorities, and supposed them well founded. That he had never received but one communication from John C. Bennett, and that of a business character, except one addressed to him conjointly with Elder Orson Pratt, which he handed over to President Smith. That he had never written any letters to John C. Bennett. The weather becoming inclement, conference adjourned until Sunday, ten o'clock, a.m.
Sunday, 8th, ten o'clock, a.m. Conference assembled agreeably to adjournment.
Elder Sidney Rigdon resumed his plea of defense. He related the circumstances of his reception in the city of Quincy, after his escape from Missouri,—the cause of his delay in not going to the city of Washington, on an express to which he had been appointed: and closed with a moving appeal to President Joseph Smith, concerning their former friendship, associations, and sufferings; and expressed his willingness to resign his place, though with sorrowful and indescribable feelings. During this address, the sympathies of the congregation were highly excited.
Elder Almon W. Babbitt related a conversation he had had with Esquire Johnson, in which he exonerated Elder Sidney Rigdon from the [p.49] charge or suspicion of having had a treacherous correspondence with ex-Governor Carlin.
President Joseph Smith arose and explained to the congregation the supposed treacherous correspondence with ex-Governor Carlin, and expressed entire lack of confidence in his integrity and steadfastness, judging from their past intercourse.
Patriarch Hyrum Smith followed with appropriate and impressive remarks on the attributes of mercy in God, as that by which He influences. controls and conquers; and the propriety and importance of the Saints exercising the same attribute towards their fellows, and especially towards their aged companion and fellow-servant in the cause of truth and righteousness.
Elder Almon W. Babbitt and President William Law followed with remarks in defense of Elder Sidney Rigdon.
On motion by President William Marks, and seconded by Patriarch Hyrum Smith, conference voted that Elder Sidney Rigdon be permitted to retain his station as Counselor in the First Presidency.
President Joseph Smith arose and said, "I have thrown him off my shoulders, and you have again put him on me. "You may carry him, but I will not." [Fn 2:This paragraph in Italics appears as footnote in the Ms. History.]
Singing. Prayer by Elder William Law.
Conference adjourned for one hour.
There are only two significant differences between the accounts
Thus, there are only two significant differences:
|Times and Seasons version||History of the Church version|
President Joseph Smith arose and satisfactorily explained to the congregation the supposed treacherous correspondence with Ex-Governor Carlin, which wholly removed suspicion from elder Sidney Rigdon, and from every other person. He expressed entire willingness to have elder Sidney Rigdon retain his station, provided he would magnify his office, and walk and conduct himself in all honesty, righteousness, and integrity; but signified his lack of confidence in his integrity and steadfastness, judging from their past intercourse.
(Material in bold was removed from the History of the Church account.)
President Joseph Smith arose and explained to the congregation the supposed treacherous correspondence with ex-Governor Carlin, and expressed entire lack of confidence in his integrity and steadfastness, judging from their past intercourse.
(Material in bold was added to the History of the Church account.)
No corresponding text
President Joseph Smith arose and said, "I have thrown him off my shoulders, and you have again put him on me. "You may carry him, but I will not." [Fn 2:This paragraph in Italics appears as footnote in the Ms. History.]
A modern historian, of course, cringes at this modification of the original text
In both cases, it is clear that Joseph still does not trust Sidney, even after he has been cleared of the issue with Gov. Carlin's letters. In the contemporaneous text, however, Joseph does express willingness to keep Sidney as councilor if he will conduct himself properly (though he still expresses doubt that he will).
Since Sidney was kept on as councilor, for him to have any chance of success or influence, Joseph could not simply "cut him off at the knees"—that would guarantee Sidney's failure. Thus, the contemporary account allowed for the possibility of Sidney's proper functioning, though Joseph remained publicly dubious, and privately even more so.
By the time the History of the Church was printed, Sidney had nearly torn the Church apart. He had challenged the right of Brigham Young and the Twelve to lead after Joseph's death. Thus, those compiling the history were firmly convinced that Sidney had failed his chance. Those who compiled it may also have not wanted to portray Joseph as at all 'wrong' about Sidney—they may have known (or believed) that Joseph considered his conciliatory remarks to be of little hope. Or, on a more cynical interpretation, they may have wished to undermine Sidney's claims to leadership after Joseph's death.
It should be noted too that this account is not a verbatim transcript—it is an author's summary of what they heard. Some who compiled the history were doubtless present at the same meeting. They may have remembered the matter quite differently, especially with the passage of time and subsequent events which made them more hostile to Sidney. They may well have seen the Times and Seasons report as too biased in Sidney's favor, or (as discussed above) bending over backward to soft-peddle what Joseph had actually said. They may, then, have seen themselves as restoring accuracy which had been compromised.
The note about the Manuscript History is clearly marked as an addition, and was not included in the original account. It may represent:
- (a) a properly-remembered public remark of Joseph's that was not inserted into the record at that time to spare Sidney's effectiveness;
- (b) a properly-remembered remark of Joseph's to the Twelve or others; or
- (c) a mis-remembered or deliberately fabricated remark inserted after Joseph's death to weaken Sidney's claims to the succession.
One's attitude to Joseph, Sidney, the Twelve, and the Church's truth claims will probably determine which explanation seems most plausible to each reader.
Response to claim: 412 - The book claims that there is "academic dishonesty foisted upon church members by LDS scholars"
The book claims that there is "academic dishonesty foisted upon church members by LDS scholars"
This is simply the author's opinion.
Response to claim: 412 - "Mormonism has been an emotion-based religion opposed to intellectual, rational thought"
* Author's quote: "Mormonism has been an emotion-based religion opposed to intellectual, rational thought."
Many Mormons seem to have been able to use "intellectual, rational thought" to demonstrate the many errors, distortions, and misstatements in this work attacking their faith. LDS testimonies involve both mind and heart. Members of the Church become more active and committed to their faith as their degree of education increases: Education and belief. This does not prove the Church true, but it does put the lie to claims that members are ill-informed, uneducated, or ignorant.
Response to claim: 412 - Latter-day Saints are supposed to only rely on the "burning in the bosom" even if they are "faced with irrefutable facts that undermine the LDS church"
Latter-day Saints are supposed to only rely on the "burning in the bosom" even if they are "faced with irrefutable facts that undermine the LDS church"
- Author's opinion.
This is simply the author's opinion.
Question: Is a "burning in the bosom" simply a subjective, emotion-based, unreliable way to practice self-deception?
It is a fundamental misunderstanding or misstatement to say that the Latter-day Saint revelatory experience is exclusively or primarily “emotional”
It is claimed by some that the Latter-day Saint appeal to "revelation" or a "burning in the bosom" is subjective, emotion-based, and thus ineffective, unreliable and susceptible to self-deception.
It is a fundamental misunderstanding or misstatement to say that the LDS revelatory experience is exclusively or primarily “emotional.” The united witness of mind and heart is key in LDS doctrine. Even the body is involved in many instances, hence the use of language exactly like “burning in the bosom.” The LDS concept of human experience is not one where we are carved up into separate, rigid compartments labeled emotional, intellectual, and physical. The LDS approach to human experience is holistic and involves all of our faculties operating simultaneously and inextricably. According to LDS scripture, “the spirit and the body are the soul of man.” (D&C 88:15) We are greater than the mere sum of our inner and outer parts. Ordinarily, it’s not possible, nor is it desirable, to reject and shut down any one of our faculties . All of them combine to provide useful and valid ways of coming to know ourselves, the world, and God. All are involved in true spiritual experience.
A Latter-day Saint “spiritual” experience has intellectual content as well as emotional elements of peace or joy
Accordingly, a Latter-day Saint “spiritual” experience has intellectual content as well as physical phenomena which can include elements of peace or joy. In the early days of the Church, Oliver Cowdery received the following revelation through Joseph Smith:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things. Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God? (D&C 6:22–23).
Notice the information is spoken to the “mind,” and the feeling of peace accompanies the intellectual gift. Further, the solution for later doubts or concerns is not reliance on “a feeling” alone but an admonition to recall specific information communicated earlier.
This matches the revelatory pattern later explained to Oliver Cowdery when he attempted to participate in the translation process of the Book of Mormon:
Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong… (D&C 9:7–9).
Again, the united witness of intellect and heart are essential. If either does not agree, then revelation has not yet confirmed the matter under consideration. Anyone who relies exclusively on any one faculty – either feeling or reasoning or physical sensation – does not properly understand the LDS approach to spiritual witness.
Talk of “feelings” does not mean simply experiencing an “emotion”
To be sure, many Church members will talk about how they “felt” when they prayed or had other experiences with God. However, it is to fundamentally misunderstand these experiences to assume (as critics often do) that talk of “feeling” means simply—or only, or primarily— experiencing an “emotion.” What's lacking from these descriptions is vocabulary. The problem with them is more semantic than it is substantial. The LDS member is stymied, in a sense, because there is no good, available word for what happens during a spiritual experience. These experiences are ineffable. By definition, they defy description. Since few of us have the poetic and metaphorical powers of prophets like Isaiah and John, we are left to try our best to convey what we've experienced in words laden with secular connotations which critics can misinterpret if they so choose.
LDS scholar,Hugh Nibley, hazarded a guess at what this process of willful misinterpretation might look like:
He cannot conceive how anyone could possibly acquire knowledge by any method other than his. He cannot believe that any man has experienced anything which he has not experienced. . . . ‘I have never seen a vision,' says the [skeptic], ‘therefore, Joseph Smith never had one. I have seen dreams [or had emotionally moving experiences], therefore, I will allow him that.'”
Early Christians experienced similar feelings to a "burning in the bosom"
Justin Martyr wrote in his book Dialogue with Trypho, of his conversion that he was a philosopher until he met an old man who introduced him to the Hebrew Prophets when “a flame enkindled his heart” and he found “this philosophy (Christianity) alone to be sure and profitable.” 
The Shepard of Hermas, which was once considered scripture, reads “There are two angels with a man-one of righteousness, and the other of iniquity...The angel of righteousness is gentle and modest, meek and peaceful. When he ascends into your heart, he speaks to you of righteousness, purity, chastity, contentment, and every other righteous deed and glorious virtue. When all of these things come into your heart, know that the angel of righteousness is with you” 
Latter-day Saints are instructed to "simply not think and obey church authorities." The endnote states that this message was never officially rescinded by the Church.
Fact checking results: This claim is falseActually, President George Albert Smith immediately repudiated this message:
Even to imply that members of the Church are not to do their own thinking is grossly to misrepresent the true ideal of the Church, which is that every individual must obtain for himself a testimony of the truth of the Gospel, must, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, work out his own salvation, and is personally responsible to His Maker for his individual acts.
- See President G.A. Smith's response here: Letter from President George Albert Smith to Dr. J. Raymond Cope, Dec. 7, 1945.
Question: In Mormonism, when our leaders speak, has the thinking been done?
Response to claim: 413-414, 609-610n39 (HB) 607n39 (PB) - Did Ezra Taft Benson's talk about "Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet" speech eliminate the possibility of Latter-day Saints exercising independent thought?
Did Ezra Taft Benson's talk about "Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet" speech eliminate the possibility of Latter-day Saints exercising independent thought?
- Ezra Taft Benson, "Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet," February 26, 1980.
Actually, the 14th point implies a choice: "The prophet and the presidency — the living prophet and the First Presidency — follow them and be blessed; reject them and suffer."
Response to claim: 414, 610n42 (HB) 608n42 (PB) - N. Eldon Tanner said, "When the prophet has spoken, the debate is over"
N. Eldon Tanner said, "When the prophet has spoken, the debate is over"
- Steve Benson, 60 Minutes, April 7, 1996.
The original claim that "the thinking is done" was made once in a church magazine, and the president of the Church immediately declared it to be false. Anti-Mormons continue to invoke it. N. Eldon Tanner did say the following in 1979 regarding moral issues:
Why should there be any debate over the moral issues which are confounding the world today? When the prophet speaks the debate is over. ("The Debate is Over", Ensign, August 1979} (emphasis added)
Question: Why did President Tanner say: "When the prophet speaks the debate is over"?
Response to claim: 415, 608-609n43-57 (PB) - Did the Church excommunicate a number of "dissidents"?
Did the Church excommunicate a number of "dissidents"?
The Church did excommunicate several people for a variety of reasons, however, the label "dissidents" was not used.
Response to claim: 418, 611n58 (HB) 609n58 (PB) - President Hinckley said that "dissidents" that were excommunicated got what they deserved "as cursed servants of Satan"
President Hinckley said that "dissidents" that were excommunicated got what they deserved "as cursed servants of Satan." President Hinckley said:
"I think the Lord had them in mind when he declared: 'Cursed are all those that shall life up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord.'...[T]hey are the servants of sin, and are the children of disobedience themselves."
The author has distorted President Hinckley's words. He never referred to anyone as "cursed servants of Satan."
Response to claim: 418, 611n59-60 (HB) 609n59-60 (PB) - Is the "Strengthening Church Members Committee" is a group used to spy on members of the Church?
Is the "Strengthening Church Members Committee" is a group used to spy on members of the Church?
The committee used publicly accessible documents, such as newspapers - it did not "spy" on members of the Church.
Question: What is the Strengthening Church Members Committee?
The SCMC was originally created as a "clipping service"
The Strengthening Church Members Committee has been described as a "clipping service" which kept track of public statements by Church members who openly criticized the Church in the media. Some have accused the committee of hunting down and exposing historians and intellectuals in order to subject them to Church discipline.
Although a "clipping service" probably made sense back in 1985, in the internet-rich world of the present, it seems somewhat anachronistic. Anyone with Internet access can likely find any information more quickly than it could have been "clipped" from newspapers in 1985.
The following is from the Church News, August 22, 1992 off-site
First Presidency statement cites scriptural mandate for Church committee
Generally, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not respond to criticism levied against its work. But in light of extensive publicity recently given to false accusations of so-called secret Church committees and files, the First Presidency has issued the following statement:
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was established in 1830 following the appearance of God the Father and Jesus Christ to the Prophet Joseph Smith in upstate New York. This sacred event heralded the onset of the promised `restitution of all things.' Many instructions were subsequently given to the Prophet including Section 123 of the Doctrine and Covenants:" `And again, we would suggest for your consideration the propriety of all the saints gathering up a knowledge of all the facts, and sufferings and abuses put upon them. . . .
" `And also of all the property and amount of damages which they have sustained, both of character and personal injuries. . . .
" `And also the names of all persons that have had a hand in their oppressions, as far as they can get hold of them and find them out.
" `And perhaps a committee can be appointed to find out these things, and to take statements and affidavits; and also to gather up the libelous publications that are afloat;
" `And all that are in the magazines, and in the encyclopedias, and all the libelous histories that are published. . . . (Verses 1-5.)'
"Leaders and members of the Church strive to implement commandments of the Lord including this direction received in 1839. Because the Church has a non-professional clergy, its stake presidents and bishops have varied backgrounds and training. In order to assist their members who have questions, these local leaders often request information from General Authorities of the Church.
"The Strengthening Church Members Committee was appointed by the First Presidency to help fulfill this need and to comply with the cited section of the Doctrine and Covenants. This committee serves as a resource to priesthood leaders throughout the world who may desire assistance on a wide variety of topics. It is a General Authority committee, currently comprised of Elder James E. Faust and Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. They work through established priesthood channels, and neither impose nor direct Church disciplinary action.
"Members who have questions concerning Church doctrine, policies, or procedures have been counseled to discuss those concerns confidentially with their local leaders. These leaders are deeply aware of their obligation to counsel members wisely in the spirit of love, in order to strengthen their faith in the Lord and in His great latter-day work."
- The First Presidency
Question: Does the Strengthening Church Members Committee still exist?
The Committee apparently still exists
The Committee apparently still exists, as noted in the Jeffery R. Holland BBC interview in March 2012. We do not know what function the committee performs, if any.
John Sweeney: What is the Strengthening Church Members Committee?
Elder Holland: The Strengthening Church Members Committee was born some years ago to protect against predatory practices of polygamists.
Sweeney: I asked what it is, not was
Holland: That is what it is…
Sweeney: So it does still exist?
Holland: It does still exist...it does still exist…
Sweeney: And it....looks at....it’s there to defend the church against polygamists?
Holland: Principally, that is still its principal task.
Sweeney: So what is its subsidiary task?
Holland: I just....suppose to....to be protective generally, just to watch and to care for any insidious influence. But for all intents and purposes, that’s all that I know about it....is that it’s primarily there to guard against polygamy. That would be the substantial part of the work. I’m not on that committee so I don’t know much about it.
Response to claim: 419 - The 1997 Relief Society manual makes it sound as if Brigham Young only had one wife and six children
The 1997 Relief Society manual makes it sound as if Brigham Young only had one wife and six children
- 1997 Relief Society manual.
It is fairly common knowledge, both inside and outside of the Church, that Brigham Young was not a monogomist.
Question: Does Church manual, The Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, attempt to "hide history" by portraying Brigham Young (a well-known polygamist) as having only one wife?
It is fairly common knowledge, both inside and outside of the Church, that Brigham Young was not a monogomist
Some would like to suggest that the Church has been attempting to "fool" its membership into thinking Brigham was a monogamist, when it is fairly common knowledge, both inside and outside of the Church, that he was not. Many US history textbooks used in public high schools mention Brigham's polygamy, for example, and most news stories and other mentions of the Church in modern media will mention polygamy, so it would seem odd (and a bit futile) for the Church to attempt to rewrite this aspect of its history by means of a single lesson in a single manual.
Furthermore, the use of square brackets is an accepted editorial convention when a later author wants to use an earlier author's words but change them slightly to fit a different purpose without changing the overall message of the quote. In the case of the quote in question, Brigham Young is giving counsel to a group of men on how they can be good leaders in their families, which for many of them at the time would have included polygamous marriages. In the modern church, members would only have one spouse, yet the counsel on how to be good leaders of families is still relevant, though it would require an editorial change (clearly marked in square brackets) to change "wives" to "wife".
Response to claim: 420, 611n63 (HB) 609n63 (PB) - Gordon B. Hinckley tried to cover up the Church's polygamous past when he appeared on Larry King Live and said that only two to five percent of the early LDS practiced it
Gordon B. Hinckley tried to cover up the Church's polygamous past when he appeared on Larry King Live and said that only two to five percent of the early LDS practiced it.
- Larry King Live
It would take a lot more than a single statement from President Hinckley to hide the Church's involvement with polygamy. The author is assuming motive, and presuming that President Hinckley knew that his figure was wrong. The calculated incidence of polygamy varies depending on one's assumptions. The 2-5% figure is true if all polygamous males are divided by total members, but this is probably not the best measure to use.
Question: Did Gordon B. Hinckley claim that polygamy was "not doctrinal" on Larry King Live?
Hinckley said that he condemned polygamy as a practice because he thought that it was not doctrinal
Gordon B. Hinckley made the following statement on Larry King Live on September 8, 1998 with regard to the practice of polygamy:
I condemn it [polygamy], 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. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, magistrates in honoring, obeying and sustaining the law.
Question: How can President Hinckley claim that polygamy is "not doctrinal" if it was a required practice in the 19th-Century Church?
The Church no longer teaches polygamy as doctrine, despite the fact that it was doctrine in the 19th-Century Church
Despite the fact that rules regarding polygamy are outlined in D&C 132, the Church no longer teaches it as doctrine. It was taught as doctrine in the 1800's, it is not taught as doctrine today. There is no doctrine that allows the present practice of plural marriage in the Church. Its practice is "not doctrinal."
Polygamy is illegal today, and Church policy is to respect the law on the matter
Polygamy is illegal today, and Church policy is to respect the law on the matter. For most of the practice of plural marriage, the Church fought the anti-polygamy laws, and regarded them as violations of the Constitution. Any decision to disobey secular law for conscience sake must be specifically commanded by the Church's leaders. At present, that has not happened.
Many constitutional law scholars--LDS and non-LDS--regard the Supreme Court decisions on the legality of plural marriage as clearly biased and motivated by religious prejudice. The nineteenth century Saints had good grounds for believing that the law was unjust and would eventually be overturned. 
Response to claim: 420, 612n68-71 (HB) 610n68-71 (PB) - Does the Book of Mormon claim that Native Americans will miraculously turn "white-skinned" by accepting "Mormon beliefs"?
Does the Book of Mormon claim that Native Americans will miraculously turn "white-skinned" by accepting "Mormon beliefs"? Didn't Brigham Young and Spencer W. Kimball say that they would become "white and delightsome?"
- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 7:336.
- Spencer W. Kimball, Improvement Era, December 1960, 922-923. Qjuoted in Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, "Pure and Delightsome," Mormonism Researched, Spring 1994, 5.
Brigham Young and Spencer W. Kimball were unaware of a clarification on this issue which Joseph Smith had made to the Book of Mormon text. In any case, the LDS do not believe in prophetic infallibility.
Question: Did some Church leaders believe that the skin of the Lamanites would turn white?
Some Church leaders, most notably Spencer W. Kimball, made statements indicating that they believed that the Indians were becoming "white and delightsome"
Once such statement made by Elder Kimball in the October 1960 General Conference, 15 years before he became president of the Church:
I saw a striking contrast in the progress of the Indian people today ... they are fast becoming a white and delightsome people.... For years they have been growing delightsome, and they are now becoming white and delightsome, as they were promised.... The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation. 
President Kimball felt that the Indians were becoming a “white and delightsome” people through the power of God as a result their acceptance of the Gospel. This was not an uncommon belief at the time. At the time that this statement was made by Elder Kimball, the Book of Mormon did indeed say "white and delightsome." This passage is often quoted relative to the lifting of the curse since the phrase "white and delightsome" was changed to "pure and delightsome" in the 1840 (and again in the 1981) editions of the Book of Mormon. The edit made by Joseph Smith in 1840 in which this phrase was changed to "pure and delightsome" had been omitted from subsequent editions, which were actually based upon the 1837 edition rather than the 1840 edition. The modification was not restored again until the 1981 edition with the following explanation:
Some minor errors in the text have been perpetuated in past editions of the Book of Mormon. This edition contains corrections that seem appropriate to bring the material into conformity with prepublication manuscripts and early editions edited by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Is the lifting of the curse associated with a change in skin color?
The Lamanites are promised that if they return to Christ, that "the scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes:"
And the gospel of Jesus Christ shall be declared among them; wherefore, they shall be restored unto the knowledge of their fathers, and also to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, which was had among their fathers.
And then shall they rejoice; for they shall know that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God; and 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 pure and a delightsome people.2 Nephi 30:5-6
The Book of Mormon indicates that the lifting of the curse of the Lamanites was the removal of the "scales of darkness" from their eyes
It seems evident from the passage in 2 Nephi that the lifting of the curse of the Lamanites was the removal of the "scales of darkness" from their eyes. It is sometimes indicated that Lamanites who had converted to the Gospel and thus had the curse lifted also had the mark removed. If the mark was more in the eyes of the Nephites than in a physical thing like actual skin color, its removal is even more easily understood.
And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites; And their young men and their daughters became exceedingly fair, and they were numbered among the Nephites, and were called Nephites. And thus ended the thirteenth year. 3 Nephi 2:15-16
As with the invocation of the curse followed by the application of the mark, this passage indicates that the curse was revoked and the mark was removed when the Lamanites' skin "became white like unto the Nephites." The Book of Mormon makes no mention of any change in skin color as the result of the conversion of Helaman's 2000 warriors, yet these Lamanites and their parents had committed themselves to the Lord, and were often more righteous than the Nephites were.
Thus, although a change in skin color is sometimes mentioned in conjunction with the lifting of the curse, it does not appear to always have been the case. And, as discussed above, it may well be that Nephite ideas about skin were more symbolic or rhetorical than literal/racial. This perspective harmonizes all the textual data, and explains some things (like the native Lamanite and his band of Nephite troops deceiving the Lamanites) that a literal view of the skin color mark does not.
Leaders were probably unaware of a change made by Joseph Smith to the first edition text
Joseph Smith altered the phrase "white and delightsome" (in 2 Nephi 30:6) to "pure and delightsome" in the second edition of the Book of Mormon. This change was lost to LDS readers until the 1981 edition of the scriptures. It may, however, demonstrate that Joseph Smith intended the translation to refer to spiritual state, not literal skin color per se.
Response to claim: 422, 612n75 (HB) 610n75 (PB) - Did the Church acquire the Hofmann documents (later discovered to be forgeries) in order to suppress them?
Did the Church acquire the Hofmann documents (later discovered to be forgeries) in order to suppress them?
- Jerald and Sandra Tanner, "Hofmann Talks," Salt Lake City Messenger (#64), January 1987, 7.
Fact checking results: This claim is falseThe Church never suppressed these documents. They talked about them publicly.
Question: Did the Church purchase documents such as Mark Hofmann's "Salamander letter" with the intent of hiding and suppressing them?
The historical record is clear that the Church did nothing to hide the Hofmann "Salamander Letter," even though to some it appeared to pose problems for the Church's story of its origins
One critic claims that the Church acquired Mark Hofmann's "Salamander letter" with the intent of suppressing it, or "hiding history." 
3 January 1984: Hofmann tried to persuade both President Hinckley and the Church Historical Department to purchase the "Salamander Letter." Both declined:
Lyn Jacobs [an associate of Hofmann's] visited the Historical Department to talk to don Schmidt. He showed Schmidt [the salamander letter]....Jacobs suggested it might be one the church would like to own. Jacobs said he wanted a ten-dollar Mormon gold piece for it. The most coveted item among collectors of Mormon money, the rare coin was extremely valuable. Schmidt thought Jacobs had an inflated idea of the letter's worth and told him he would never get what he was asking....Knowing that the price he was asking exceeded what Schmidt and [supervising general authority Elder G. Homer] Durham were authorized to spend for acquisitions, Jacobs had already made an appointment with Gordon Hinckley...
Jacobs again offered to give the letter to the church in exchange for a ten-dollar Mormon gold piece, whose value Jacobs would later approximate at from sixty to over one hundred thousand dollars. Like Schmidt and Durham, Hinckley said he felt the asking price was too high. Jacobs then offered to trade the letter for a copy of A Book of Commandments, valued by Jacobs at thirty to forty thousand dollars. Hinckley considered the offer briefly, then said of the letter, 'I don't know if we really want it.'
...After Jacobs failed to persuade Hinckley to buy the letter, he went back to see Schmidt [in the Historical Department]. Schmidt tried to convince Jacobs that he was asking too much for the document, explaining that only if he dropped his price to a reasonable figure would the church consider buying it.
'What's that?" Schmidt recalled Jacobs saying when he mentioned a 'reasonable figure.'
'Well,' Schmidt responded, 'you get down there, and I'll tell you when it's reasonable.'
'You have to have it,' Jacobs insisted of the letter.
'No, I don't have to have it,' Schmidt replied. 'No such thing.'
Later, Hofmann tried his own hand at offering it to the Historical Department through Schmidt. Hofmann left the document with Schmidt, who took it in to his supervisor, Earl Olson. 'He and I read it carefully,' Olson recalled. 'Remarked that it did not ring true, and that it bore too much resemblance to the story in Howe's 'Mormonism Unveiled' [sic; the actual title is Mormonism Unvailed]. We invited Elder Durham to sit down with us and read it, then brought out Howe's book and compared the stories. This was reported to Pres. Hinckley. It was decided that we should not purchase the letter....
This is a strange series of events if the Church or its leaders were determined to suppress or hide the letter, or somehow impair its study.
President Hinckley at first refused to purchase the Salamander Letter
Note that President Gordon B. Hinckley first saw the Salamander Letter on this date, but refused its purchase. He wrote soon thereafter:
We have nothing to hide. Our enemies will try to make much of this letter, but any fair-minded individual who will read it in terms of the time it was written and the language of the day will not see it as detrimental to the history of those events connected with the restoration of the gospel.
Thus, President Hinckley was aware that the letter could be used as a weapon against the Church, but he did not move to buy it, and did nothing to prevent it passing into other hands.
January - April 1984: Steven F. Christensen purchases the Salamander Letter and donates it to the Church
6 January 1984: Steven F. Christensen purchases Salamander Letter from Hofmann for $40,000.
7 March 1984: Christensen issues a press release:
It is true that I am the owner of a letter written by Martin Harris to William W. Phelps, dated October 23, 1830. "While it is hoped that the letter is authentic, professional tests have not yet been performed on the document. Before I will release transcripts or photographs of the document to the public, I wish to first determine the document's historicity as much as possible. I have therefore sought the help and advice of competent historians to assist me in determining the reliability of the contents of the letter.
Until the above referenced research and tests have further progressed, I do not feel at liberty to share the full contents of the letter. It is unfortunate that publicity of the document has preceded its historical authentication. This has lead to some cases of misstatement as well as numerous phrases being taken out of context.
12 April 1985: Steven F. Christensen, who had purchased the Salamander Letter from Hofmann on 6 January 1984, donated it to the Church. President Hinckley accepted the donation.
28 April 1985: The Church News published the full text of the Salamander Letter
The First Presidency included a statement, quoting President Hinckley:
No one, of course, can be certain that Martin Harris wrote the document. However, at this point we accept the judgment of the examiner that there is no indication that it is a forgery. This does not preclude the possibility that it may have been forged at a time when the Church had many enemies. It is, however, an interesting document of the times.
23 June 1985: President Hinckley, at a Young Adult fireside broadcast from Temple Square: "I knew there would be a great fuss...They are interesting documents of whose authenticity we are not certain and may never be"
Gordon B. Hinckley:
As most of you know, recently there have been great stirrings over two old letters. One was purportedly written in 1825 by Joseph Smith to Josiah Stowell. If it is genuine, it is the oldest known product of Joseph Smith’s handwriting. It concerns the employment of Joseph by Mr. Stowell, who was engaged in a mining operation looking for old coins and precious metals. The other carries the date of October 23, 1830, and was purportedly written by Martin Harris to W. W. Phelps.
I acquired for the Church both of these letters, the first by purchase. The second was given to the Church by its generous owner. I am, of course, familiar with both letters, having held them in my hands and having read them in their original form. It was I, also, who made the decision to make them public. Copies were issued to the media, and both have received wide publicity.
I knew there would be a great fuss. Scholars have pored over them, discussed them, written about them, differed in their opinions, and even argued about them.
I am glad we have them. They are interesting documents of whose authenticity we are not certain and may never be. However, assuming that they are authentic, they are valuable writings of the period out of which they have come. But they have no real relevancy to the question of the authenticity of the Church or of the divine origin of the Book of Mormon.
Much has been said about the Martin Harris/W. W. Phelps letter. I ask: Shall two men, their character, their faith, their lives, the testimonies to which they gave voice to the end of their days, be judged by a few words on a sheet of paper that may or may not have been written by the one and received by the other?
If you have been troubled in any way by press reports concerning this letter, I ask only that you look closer at the man who presumably wrote it and at the man who presumably received it Martin Harris and W. W. Phelps.
The letter is dated subsequent to the declaration of the Testimony of the Three Witnesses, one of whom was Martin Harris. In language unequivocal and certain he and his associates had declared to the world: "Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record,...And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true.... And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon."
Would Martin Harris have mortgaged his farm, eventually losing it, to pay for the printing of the Book of Mormon if he had thought of that book as a fraud? He endured ridicule, persecution, and poverty. He lived to the age of ninety-two and died in full faith, voicing his testimony of the truth of the Book of Mormon to the end of his life.
What about W. W. Phelps? Five years subsequent to the date of the letter, he wrote: "Now, notwithstanding my body was not baptized into this Church till Thursday, the 10th of June 1831, yet my heart was there from the time I became acquainted with the Book of Mormon; and my hope, steadfast like an anchor, and my faith increased like the grass after a refreshing shower, when I for the first time, held a conversation with our beloved Brother Joseph whom I was willing to acknowledge as the prophet of the Lord, and to whom, and to whose godly account of himself and the work he was engaged in, I owe my first determination to quit the folly of my way, and the fancy and fame of this world, and seek the Lord and His righteousness."
This is the same man who wrote that majestic and marvelous hymn of tribute to the Prophet Joseph — "Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah! Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer. Blessed to open the last dispensation, Kings shall extol him, and nations revere."
He had no doubt concerning the divine origin of the Book of Mormon or the divine calling of him who was the instrument in the hands of the Almighty in bringing it forth. William W. Phelps died as a high priest in Salt Lake City in full faith.
Marvelous and enduring love and loyalty of the kind shown by these two men do not come from an experience with a "salamander" as we generally interpret that word.
Would these two men have so endured, so declared their testimonies, and so lived out their lives in faith had there been any doubt about the way in which the Book of Mormon plates were received from the hands of Moroni and translated by the gift and power of God?
16 August 1985: Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke to the issues raised by the documents (as yet unknown as forgeries): "Readers should be skeptical about the authenticity of such documents"
Dallin H. Oaks:
Some recent news stories about developments in Church history rest on scientific assumptions or assertions, such as the authenticity of a letter. Whether experts or amateurs, most of us have a tendency to be quite dogmatic about so-called scientific facts. Since news writers are not immune from this tendency, news stories based on scientific assumptions should be read or viewed with some skepticism...
The contents of most media stories are dictated not by what is necessary to a full understanding of the subject but by what information is currently available and can be communicated within the limitations of time and space.
As a result, the news media are particularly susceptible to conveying erroneous information about facts, including historical developments that are based on what I have called scientific uncertainties. This susceptibility obviously applies to newly discovered documents whose authenticity turns on an evaluation of handwriting, paper, ink, and so on. Readers should be skeptical about the authenticity of such documents, especially when there is uncertainty where they were found or who had custody of them for 150 years. Newly found historically important documents can be extremely valuable, so there is a powerful incentive for those who own them to advocate and support their authenticity. The recent spectacular fraud involving the so-called Hitler diaries reminds us of this, and should convince us to be cautious.
October 1985 - August 1987: The forgery is exposed and the Church comments on it
15 October 1985: Two Hofmann bombs murder Steven Christensen and Kathy Sheets.
16 October 1985: Hofmann injures himself with one of his own bombs.
16 October 1986: After an exhaustive search of its holdings and archives, the Church denies possessing an "Oliver Cowdery history." (It would be learned the next day that Hofmann was the source of the rumor that such a history existed.)
31 July 1987: The Church released a statement to the media after Hofmann's confession and interview with prosecutors.
6 August 1987: Elder Dallin H. Oaks gives an address at BYU on the Hofmann episode and the media and scholarly community's behavior.
October 1987: The Church publishes a list of forged documents that had been referenced in the Ensign so that readers would not refer to them in error
18 October 1995: President Hinckley states "I frankly admit that Hofmann tricked us"
After Hofmann's lies and murders were revealed, President Hinckley said:
I frankly admit that Hofmann tricked us. He also tricked experts from New York to Utah, however. We bought those documents only after the assurance that they were genuine. And when we released documents to the press, we stated that we had no way of knowing for sure if they were authentic. I am not ashamed to admit that we were victimized. It is not the first time the Church has found itself in such a position. Joseph Smith was victimized again and again. The Savior was victimized. I am sorry to say that sometimes it happens.
It is clear that the Church did not seek to hide the potentially damaging letter or its text.
Response to claim: 424 - "Mormon leaders also blocked efforts by police to see exactly what documents were in LDS church vaults"
* Author's quote: "Mormon leaders also blocked efforts by police to see exactly what documents were in LDS church vaults, apparently knowing that some of their authentic documents not yet released to the public might further damage the church's reputation if the contents of them were to be revealed."
This claim is nonsense. This is pure conjecture on the part of the author.
Response to claim: 424, 612n78 (HB) 610n78 (PB) - LDS leaders should have been capable of detecting the Hofmann deception
LDS leaders should have been capable of detecting the Hofmann deception.
Fact checking results: This claim is falseLDS doctrine is very clear that prophets will not always know deception when they see it. For it to be otherwise would be to threaten moral agency. Said the Lord to Joseph Smith: "as you cannot always judge the righteous, or as you cannot always tell the wicked from the righteous, therefore I say unto you, hold your peace until I shall see fit to make all things known unto the world concerning the matter" (DC 10:37).
Response to claim: 427 - "The Mormon habit of sometimes taking detours around truth to protect the church has not always led to murder"
Author's quote: "The Mormon habit of sometimes taking detours around truth to protect the church has not always led to murder."
- Author's statement.
The author seems to be implying that the Hofmann murders were the fault of the Church.
Response to claim: 428, n85 - Paul H. Dunn defended his embellishments in order to "illustrate his theological and moral points"
Paul H. Dunn defended his embellishments in order to "illustrate his theological and moral points."
- Richard Robertson, Arizona Republic, February 16, 1991, B9.
Paul H. Dunn was disciplined by the Church, and required to apologize for his actions. This demonstrates that the Church does not endorse or support Dunn's choices. His decision to justify himself is immaterial. Ought we to judge Jesus and his teachings by the choices of one of his apostles, Judas?
Question: Who was Paul H. Dunn and what happened to him?
Elder Paul H. Dunn was a very popular speaker who told many faith-promoting stories about his days playing baseball and his service in World War II
Elder Paul H. Dunn was a very popular speaker during the 1970's and 1980's who told many faith-promoting stories about his days playing baseball and his service in World War II. Many people were inspired by his stories, and he was in much demand as a speaker. It was eventually discovered that Elder Dunn had exaggerated and conflated elements of his stories. He was given emeritus status as a General Authority on October 1, 1989.
Question: Many who listened to Elder Dunn's stories felt the spirit. Why would one feel the spirit upon hearing a story that was fabricated? Doesn't this confirm a lie?
No documented evidence has appeared that faithful members received some sort of spiritual confirmation that the stories taught were true.
Many critics have argued that the Spirit was confirming a lie during these times. Similar criticism is applied to a situation with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in 2017.The first point that should be made is that no documented evidence has appeared of a faithful member receiving some spiritual confirmation that these stories from Dunn were true. There are several testimonies from former members of such that they say happened while they were faithful members , but nothing from members of the Church today or faithful members of the time.
We do have one case that has been claimed as an example of faithful members receiving a spiritual witness of one of Elder Dunn's claimed false/exaggerated stories. Elder Dunn gave a talk at the October 1976 General Conference of the Church entitled "Follow It!". In the talk, Elder Dunn, as a means of illustrating a point of being an upstanding Latter-day Saint and for standing what's right, shared a story of a young man named Jimmy Daniels who, before a baseball playoff game for the state championship at Dunn's high school, was caught with a nicotine stain on his finger and Elder Dunn was made his replacement. At the conclusion of the Conference, Elder Kimball stated that:
- Beloved brothers and sisters, I will say just a brief word at the conclusion of this marvelous conference.
- There has been a generous outpouring from the Lord to all of the speakers who have addressed us. We have been greatly stirred by our famous and beloved Tabernacle Choir as they, too, have used their rich talents to bless us with heavenly symphonies. And we are deeply grateful to the other groups of singers: they have enriched our services and made them pleasing to us and to the Lord. And to all others who have contributed we are deeply grateful.
- [. . .]
- The sermons from the Brethren have developed almost every theme and subject, and they have been rich and full of meat. We have been greatly pleased with all of their contributions.
The New Era published an adaptation of the talk given by Elder Dunn called "The Game of Life". A missionary serving in the England Leeds Mission wrote:
- I just finished reading the October New Era, and I especially liked “The Game of Life” by Elder Paul H. Dunn. Whenever my companion and I finish reading a New Era, we leave it on a bus, hoping that someone will pick it up and read it and someday join the Church.
- Elder Harold Beckstead
- England Leeds Mission
However, as author Lynn Packer pointed out in Sunstone Magazine:
There is no Jimmy Daniels listed on the baseball roster [at Dunn’s HS]. Perhaps Dunn was using a pseudonym for Daniels without disclosing it. That hardly matters, because no one on the team was in a playoff game: Hollywood High finished next to last in 1941 and third in 1942.
So, did anyone receive a spiritual confirmation that this fabricated story was true? We might say the following:
- Elder Dunn, along with providing a pseudonym for the young man, may have misremembered the exact game in the playoffs they were playing for. Recall from the quote from Lynn Packer that Hollywood High (Dunn's high school) finished third in 1942, Elder Dunn's senior year. Also recall that Dunn is remembering this story 34 years after it supposedly took place. This story may have more truth to it than we realize.
- President Kimball does not specifically mention Elder Dunn's talk in his remarks. His talk came at the conclusion of a conference with 30+ talks to summarize and with the task of closing the conference in a reverent, dignified, and cordial manner. The outpouring may have indeed been great, but there's virtually nothing that can tell us more about Elder Dunn's stories and the Church's overall reaction to them.
- The missionary does not mention feeling the Spirit saying that the story that Elder Dunn shared was true. He only says that he liked "The Game of Life" from that issue of the New Era in particular. He further says that whenever he and his companion finish reading a New Era (thus referring to multiple issues), they leave it on the bus for someone to find, read, and hopefully convert to the Church. Additionally, there is a lot of other material in the adaptation of the talk, given in the New Era, that the missionary may have felt inspired by and which he felt other people could be inspired by as well.
Thus this example doesn't work for establishing the validity of the criticism. There's nothing substantial to move forward the discussion with.
Simply receiving a warm feeling about a speech or article is not enough to call it revelation or a confirmation of the spirit
Latter-day Saints understand that a testimony of the Gospel is not based, as one reviewer humorously put it, on "grandpa stories". Latter-day Saints base their testimony on a dynamic influence of the Holy Ghost as sought for by revelation. This revelatory experience that is sought out comes from study and prayer (D&C 9:7-9) through the use of all our faculties (D&C 88:15; Alma 32:27).
This dynamic influence is contrasted with a more passive influence, where one feels the Spirit while in the presence of good things. This is how the vast majority of Latter-day Saints view (or would view) such feelings towards Elder Dunn today. We are to seek after all virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy things (Articles of Faith 1:13) because all good things come from God (Moroni 7:12) and they can inspire us to serve him (Moroni 7:13).
We may also simply be feeling the Spirit that is promised to always be with us as we live up to our baptismal covenants (Moroni 4:3; 5:2). That doesn't mean, however, that we have received some sort of dynamic, revelatory witness of the truthfulness of these "grandpa stories".
Since our bodies and spirits are connected (D&C 88:15), it is easy to see why a warm feeling or a heart murmur may be over-interpreted as spiritual stimuli.
Moroni tells us that we have the ability to judge that which is of God and that which is not of God (Moroni 7:14; See also D&C 8:2). The key to discernment is simply to pay close attention to both our mind and heart (D&C 8:2) and "prove all things and hold fast to that which is good" (1 Thess 5:21; See also JS-Matthew 1:37; Moroni 7:20-25) by studying something out in our mind sincerely and meaningfully and seeking revelation through the dynamic influence of the Holy Ghost for confirmation of the validity of any given proposition (D&C 9:7-9).
Let's even grant the premise that people did feel the Spirit "confirm" the truth of Elder Dunn's stories and that they turned out to be false. It doesn't necessarily follow from there that receiving knowledge from the Spirit is an inherently unreliable way of receiving spiritual knowledge. It may only mean that there is something more that we need to learn about how the Spirit works. For example, we learn from the Doctrine and Covenants that
- 31 My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory of Zion; and he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom.
Why couldn't it be that the Lord is trying our faith with this type of thing? If the Lord must try our faith in all things, that would logically extend to receiving personal revelation and being able to work with the Spirit.
For additional potential explanations for why this might be happening see the following page:
Question: Why did Elder Dunn exaggerate elements of these stories?
Elder Dunn responded to this issue himself
Regarding Elder Dunn's stories: he was human, just like the rest of us. He can speak for himself on this issue: "Elder Dunn Offers Apology for Errors, Admits Censure", Deseret News, Oct. 27 1991.
In an open letter to LDS Church members, Elder Paul H. Dunn apologized Saturday for not having "always been accurate" in telling his popular war and baseball stories, and he acknowledged being disciplined for it by church authorities.
Elder Dunn, an emeritus member of the First Quorum of Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, asked the church's First Presidency and Council of the Twelve for the opportunity to send an open letter to church members. The letter was published in Saturday's issue of the Church News."I confess that I have not always been accurate in my public talks and writings," Elder Dunn wrote. "Furthermore, I have indulged in other activities inconsistent with the high and sacred office which I have held.
"For all of these I feel a deep sense of remorse, and ask forgiveness of any whom I may have offended."
A former Army private and minor-league baseball player, Elder Dunn told riveting accounts of his war and baseball experiences that made him one of the most popular speakers in the church. According to the Associated Press, he was author or co-author of 28 books and is featured on 23 inspirational tapes. He served in the presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy from 1976 to 1980.
In 1989, Elder Dunn was placed on emeritus status for "reasons of age and health," the church said. In February 1991, the Arizona Republic reported that Elder Dunn had made up or combined elements of many of his war and baseball stories.
In his open letter, Elder Dunn, 67, said general authorities of the church have conducted in-depth investigations of charges that he had engaged in activities unbecoming of a church member.
"They have weighed the evidence," he said. "They have censured me and placed a heavy penalty upon me.
"I accept their censure and the imposed penalty, and pledge to conduct my life in such a way as to merit their confidence and full fellowship."
Church spokesman Don LeFevre said Saturday that the nature of the penalty is "an internal matter, and we don't discuss such matters" publicly.
Elder Dunn has an unlisted phone number and could not be reached for comment. He concluded his letter by pleading for the understanding of church members and assured them of his "determination so to live as to bring added respect to the cause I deeply love, and honor to the Lord who is my Redeemer."
Response to claim: 430-433 - Was the Salt Lake Olympic bribery scandal the fault of the Church?
Was the Salt Lake Olympic bribery scandal the fault of the Church?
- Various citations regarding the scandal.
It is not clear what the actions of these individuals, despite the fact that some were LDS, has to do with the Church itself. Do we condemn other Christian faiths simply because their ministers may be found guilty of sex scandals, financial impropriety, or child abuse? Or, do we conclude that not all members of a faith live up to its precepts? The author ignores that a Church member, Mitt Romney, was hired to "clean up" the games and eventually stage a successful Olympics.
Response to claim: 434, 614n117-127 - Do Latter-day Saints believe they will rescue the Constitution from ruin, thus allowing "Mormonism" to take over the world?
Do Latter-day Saints believe they will rescue the Constitution from ruin, thus allowing "Mormonism" to take over the world?
- Joseph F. Smith, conference Report, October 1912, 11.
- Melvin J. Ballard, Conference Report, October 1928, 108.
- Mark E. Petersen, Conference Report, April 1946, 171.
- Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference REport, April 1950, 159.
- Harold B. Lee, Conference Report, October 1952, 18.
- Senator Wallace F. Bennett, BYU Speeches, February 15, 1961, 13.
- Dr. Ernest L. Wilinson, BYU speeches, April 21, 1966, 7.
- Ezra Taft Benson, "Jesus Christ-Gifts and Expectations," New Era, May 1975, 19.
- Ezra Taft Benson, Teaching of Ezra Taft Benson, 619.
- Daniel H. Ludlow, ed. Selections from Encyclopedia of Mormonism, "The Church and Society," 122.
- "Weatherman's politics cloud his role on TV," Seattle Times, November 24, 2000, 2.
Fact checking results: This claim is falseNo, actually this isn't a LDS belief at all—it isn't even discussed in Church.
Question: What is the "White Horse Prophecy"?
Joseph Smith is alleged to have uttered a prophecy in 1843 alluding to the four horses in the Book of Revelation
Joseph Smith is alleged to have uttered a prophecy in 1843 alluding to the four horses in the Book of Revelation. This was recorded by two Church members, Edwin Rushton and Theodore Turley approximately ten years after Joseph's death. There is no contemporary account that was recorded during the Prophet's lifetime. According to the Book of Revelation:
1 And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. 2 And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer. 3 And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. 4 And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword. 5 And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. 6 And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine. 7 And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. 8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth. Revelation 6:1-8
Alleged text of the prophecy
The following is an excerpt of the journal of Elder John J. Roberts. Roberts apparently entered it into his diary on Sunday, March 2, 1902 after returning, on February 4, 1902, from a mission to Samoa. He reported receiving it from Robert Pierce (sometimes incorrectly noted as Pace) on Friday, February 28, 1902. Thus, this account is at least second or third-hand:
...While this conversation was going on we stood by his south wicket gate in a triangle. Turning to me, [Joseph] said, “I want to tell you something of the future. I will speak in a parable like unto John the Revelator. You will go to the Rocky Mountains and you will be a great and mighty people established there, which I will call the White Horse of peace and safety.” When the Prophet said, “You will see it,” I said, “Where will you be at that time?” He said, “I shall never go there. Your enemies will continue to follow you with persecutions and they will make obnoxious laws against you in Congress to destroy the White Horse, but you will have a friend or two to defend you and throw out the worst parts of the law so they will not hurt you so much. You must continue to petition Congress all the time, but they will treat you like strangers and aliens and they will not give you your rights, but will govern you with strangers and commissioners. You will see the Constitution of the United States almost destroyed. It will hang like a thread as fine as a silk fiber.” At that time the Prophet’s countenance became sad, because as he said, “I love the Constitution; it was made by the inspiration of God; and it will be preserved and saved by the efforts of the White Horse, and by the Red Horse who will combine in its defense. The White Horse will find the mountains full of minerals and they will become rich (at this time, it must be remembered, the precious metals were not known to exist in either the Rocky Mountains or California). You will see silver piled up in the streets. You will see the gold shoveled up like sand. Gold will be of little value then, even in a mercantile capacity; for the people of the world will have something else to do in seeking for salvation. The time will come when the banks of every nation will fall and only two places will be safe where people can deposit their gold and treasure. This place will be the White Horse and England’s vaults. A terrible revolution will take place in the land of America, such as has never been seen before; for the land will be left without a Supreme Government, and every specie of wickedness will be practiced rampantly in the land. Father will be against son and son against father; mother against daughter and daughter against mother. The most terrible scenes of bloodshed, murder and rape that have ever been imagined or looked upon will take place. People will be taken from the earth and there will be peace and love only in the Rocky Mountains. This will cause many hundreds of thousands of the honest in heart of the world to gather there, not because they would be Saints, but for safety and because they will be so numerous that you will be in danger of famine, but not for want of seed, time and harvest, but because of so many to be fed. Many will come with bundles under their arms to escape the calamities for there will be no escape except only by escaping and fleeing to Zion... 
- ↑ History of the Church, 5:393. Volume 5 link The History of the Church notes that the original source was taken "from the journal of William Clayton, who was present," though the prophecy against Douglas is in not the published portions of Clayton's journals (See Cecelia Warner, “The Tanners On Trial,” Sunstone: Review 4:4/6 (April 1984); Lawrence Foster, “Career Apostates: Reflections on the Works of Jerald and Sandra Tanner,” Dialogue 17/2 (Summer 1984): 48 and n. 28; James B. Allen, review of An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton, by George D. Smith, ed., BYU Studies 35/2 (1995): 165–75). It is not known if more material is in the Clayton journals that served as a basis for the complete History of the Church entry. At any rate, the publication of the prophecy before June 1857 makes the point moot—the Church was claiming this as a prophecy well before it was fulfilled, and had no reasons before then to attack Douglas if the prophecy was unauthentic.
- ↑ Times and Seasons 4:330.
- ↑ History of the Church, 6:47–48. Volume 6 link
- ↑ This is essentially the view that biblical scholars recognize as being advocated in the Bible. Donald R. Potts, "Body" in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible ed., David Noel Freedman (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000) 194; Henry L. Carrigan, Jr., "Soul" Ibid., 1245; Alice Ogden Bellisb, "Spirit" Ibid., 1248.
- ↑ Hugh W. Nibley, The World and the Prophets, 3rd edition, (Vol. 3 of Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, Gary P. Gillum, and Don E. Norton (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company; Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1987), 31.
- ↑ Dialogue with Trypho 8, Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:198
- ↑ Shepard of Hermas, Ante-Nicene Fathers 2:24
- ↑ Gregory L. Smith, "Polygamy, Prophets, and Prevarication: Frequently and Rarely Asked Questions about the Initiation, Practice, and Cessation of Plural Marriage in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," FAIR, 2005. describes these issues in detail.
- ↑ Spencer W. Kimball, General Conference Report, October, 1960
- ↑ Jon Krakauer, Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith (Anchor, 2004), xx.
- ↑ Richard E. Turley, Jr. Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hofmann Case (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992), 81, 83. ISBN 0252018850 Google books
- ↑ Gordon B. Hinckley Journal, 10 February 1984.
- ↑ Turley, Victims, 83.
- ↑ Cecelia Warner, "The "Martin Harris Letter": Fact, Fiction. . . Fate," Sunstone no. (Issue #50) (January 1985). off-site
- ↑ Church News, 28 April 1985.
- ↑ Gordon B. Hinckley, "First Presidency Message: Keep the Faith," Ensign (September 1985), 3.
- ↑ Dallin H. Oaks, Address to CES teachers, 16 August 1985.
- ↑ Dawn Tracy, “Hofmann Told Others He Was Shown Secret LDS History,” Salt Lake Tribune (17 Oct. 1986): C-13; see the belated admission of this connection, despite repeatedly using the claims about the Cowdery history without revealing its source in “Tried to Kill Self, Mormon Artifacts Dealer Says,” Los Angeles Times (1 Aug. 1987): 29.
- ↑ Interview with Gordon B. Hinckley, 18 October 1995.
- ↑ Critic Grant Palmer applied very similar criticism to the World War II stories of Utah Congressman Dogulas R. Stringfellow. Palmer writes: "As one example, many people, including myself, felt this confirming spirit when we heard the World War II stories of Utah Congressman Douglas R. Stringfellow. Stringfellow's experiences were later revealed to be a complete hoax [Frank H. Jonas, "The Story of a Political Hoax," in Institute of Government, vol. 8 (Salt Lake City: University of Utah, 1966): 1-97.] I was about fourteen years old when I heard him speak, and it was a truly inspiring experience. After Stringfellow concluded, I remember that the leader conducting the meeting said, "If you have never felt the Spirit before, it was here today in abundance." He was right. I felt it strongly, as did many others." See Grant H. Palmer, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002), 131-2. Similar responses could be given to that argument in this article. It is possible that Palmer could be deliberately reinterpreting a true experience or fabricating one out of wholecloth from real stories of hoaxes.
- ↑ One former member of the Church gathered several of these claims that can be found online at https://github.com/faenrandir/a_careful_examination/tree/master/documents/spiritual_experiences-testimony-holy_ghost/paul_h_dunn_felt_spirit if one truly wishes to see a few.
- ↑ Lynn Packer, “Paul H. Dunn Fields of Dreams,” Sunstone Magazine (September 1991).
- ↑ Conflict of Justice, "Why Did Mormons ‘Feel The Spirit’ From Paul H. Dunn’s Made-Up Stories?" <http://www.conflictofjustice.com/mormons-feel-spirit-paul-h-dunns-stories/> (Accessed 5 October 2019).
- ↑ John J. Roberts, "Reminiscences and Diaries 1898-1902", Microfilm Manuscript, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah. For the complete text, see Cobabe, below.