Criticism of Mormonism/Books/One Nation Under Gods/Use of sources/Most accurate history in all the world

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Church History: The most accurate history in all the world?

A FAIR Analysis of: One Nation Under Gods, a work by author: Richard Abanes

Author's Claims

One Nation under Gods, page 407 (hardback and paperback)

The endnote states that "Mormon leaders additionally claim that their official history is not only 'an unusually accurate historical document,' but is 'the most accurate history in all the world'"

Author's Sources

Endnote 26, page 608 (hardback); page 606 (paperback)

  • John Widtsoe, Joseph Smith-Seeker After Truth, 297.
  • Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 2, 199.

Detailed Analysis

John A. Widtsoe

Widtose wrote, in fact, that

The history is really a compilation. It is the journal of the Prophet, interlarded with available, original documents including the revelations to the Prophet. His own comments generally serve to tie the documents together in historical form. The wealth of original documents makes the volumes of double interest and importance.....The History of Joseph Smith, published by the Church, as to events and dates, may be accepted as an unusually accurate historical document....It recounts intimate family affairs and sometimes apparently trifling Church matters. It sets forth boldly the documents of the day and the faith and opinions of the author.(italics added)

Thus, Widtsoe argues that the dates and events recorded are accurate and true, because of its reliance on primary documents where possible. He does not hide that it also includes opinions.

Joseph Fielding Smith

The misrepresentation of Joseph Fielding Smith's remarks is more marked (emphasis added). He first notes that histories of the secular world may well have problems:

I could take you in the library of the Historian's Office in Salt Lake City and show you whole rows of books written by enemies of the Latter-day Saints, with scarcely a true statement in one of them. When you read of Rome, Greece, or any of these old countries, do you know if you are reading actually the events that took place? Well, you do not. You are reading what was reported by this historian and some of it may be false. This should not be the case with the Latter-day Saints, and it is not the case with the records written by inspiration of the Lord.

He then says:

The most important history in the world is the history of our Church, and it is the most accurate history in all the world. It must be so. It is the most important to us because that history contains the hand dealings of God direct to us through revelation as it has come in the Doctrine and Covenants, in the Book of Mormon, and in any revelation that comes to us through the servants of the Lord for our guidance.

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 " the Doctrine and Covenants, in the Book of Mormon" as well as other "revelation that comes to us through the servants of the Lord."

(This is akin to Joseph Smith, Jr.'s claim that the Book of Mormon was the most correct book on earth.

President Smith's meaning is further clarified in the remaining paragraphs:

Do you know that the time is coming when we are going to be judged out of the books that are written? Therefore we should make these records accurate; we should be sure of the steps we take. We are going to be judged out of the things written in books, out of the revelations of God, out of the temple records, out of those things which the Lord has commanded us to keep and have on file concerning the records of the people.

The "history" to which he is referring is records which members keep, revelations from God, and temple records. He is not referring to any particular work of history, or the History of the Church volumes in particular.

There will be other records, of course, because if we happen to make mistakes, there will be the record in heaven which is a perfect record. In our history, if there are mistakes, we can say as did Moroni in the Book of Mormon, "They are the mistakes of men."

President Smith does not claim any inerrancy for the History of the Church, or any Church records or revelation.