Criticism of Mormonism/Online documents/Letter to a CES Director/Testimony & Spiritual Witness Concerns & Questions

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Response to "Letter to a CES Director: Testimony & Spiritual Witness Concerns & Questions"

A FairMormon Analysis of: Letter to a CES Director, a work by author: Jeremy Runnells
Chart CES Letter testimony.png

Response to section "Testimony/Spiritual Witness Concerns & Questions"

Summary: The author asks the question, "Why is this Spirit so unreliable and inconsistent? How can I trust such an inconsistent and contradictory Source for knowing that Mormonism is worth betting my life, time, money, heart, mind, and obedience to?" This section touches on themes of epistemology.

Jump to Subtopic:

Response to claim: "Every major religion has members who claim the same thing: God or God’s spirit bore witness to them"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Every major religion has members who claim the same thing: God or God’s spirit bore witness to them that their religion, prophet/pope/leaders, book(s), and teachings are true.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

This is not a characteristic of "every major religion". Latter-day Saints have a theology that can reconcile the reports of spiritual experiences of people among other religions. We've laid out that theology in a lot of detail and it can be accessed here. Latter-day Saints believe that truth can be found in every religion and that God can work through these religions to bring individuals unto him gradually.

Jump to Detail:

Logical Fallacy: Composition—The author assumes that something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some part of the whole.

In this case the author asserts that because Mormonism has members who claim that God or God's spirit bore witness to them, that all religions have members who claim that God or God's spirit bore witness to them.


Question: Do all other religions confirm their beliefs through spiritual witness?

Not all religions claim that the truth of their beliefs are confirmed through a spiritual witness

It should be noted that not all religions claim that the truth of their beliefs are confirmed through a spiritual witness. In fact, a fair number of Evangelical Christians have spent a great deal of time trying to prove to the Mormons that a spiritual witness should NOT be relied on to establish truth. Most major religions and sects rely on claims of authority alone (the Pope in Catholicism and the Bible in Protestantism) or simply tradition and majority and obviousness (Islam, Hinduism, etc.). Latter-day Saints establish truth by following the Law of Witnesses (see Matthew 18: 16; 2 Corinthians 13:1), claiming unique authority (Hebrews 5:6; Alma 13:14-19; D&C 1:30), and receiving the witness of the Holy Ghost which we believe can give us a testimony of anything related to the Gospel should we desire it. (see John 14:26; Moroni 10:3-5).

Latter-day Saints accept that God and God's Spirit will witness truth whatever its source. As a member of the Church we are encouraged to find truth in many places. Nowhere in our beliefs do we claim that there is no truth in other religions. In fact, our scriptures actively affirm that there is truth in other religions and that God has been the one to inspire them.

Most religions have differing understandings of the Spirit or a spirit which is why it plays lesser roles in other traditions (and which might affect their religious experiences). Religions differ primarily in understanding the spirit as dynamic (Playing active roles such as confirming truth through phenomenon. This occurs generally in only Christian traditions. Thus this would naturally exclude any religion that doesn’t accept the New Testament as scripture) or as animistic (something that lives in all things and gives them life). See Holy Spirit on Wikipedia for a discussion of the differences. [1] Mormonism stands as one of the only religions under Christianity that understand it and utilize it in any sort of dynamic way (the many people who convert and compliment the church for encouraging them to seek their own answers through prayer are evidence of this) and with a totally unique pneumatology.

Some Christ-based religions incorporate or have attempted to incorporate the Spirit into their theology in some form

Pope Gregory the Great (d. 604), according to Robert Markus, taught that:

The scriptures contain what the reader finds in them; and the reader’s mind is shaped by his inner disposition: ‘unless the readers’ minds extend to the heights, the divine words lie low, as it were, uncomprehended…. It often happens that a scriptural text is felt to be heavenly, if one is kindled by the grace of contemplation to rise to heavenly things. And then we recognize the wonderful and ineffable power of the sacred text, when the reader’s mind is permeated with heavenly love…. For according to the direction that the reader’s spirit takes, so the sacred text rises with him…’”

Pope John Paul II (d. 2005) stated the following, regarding the possibility of the Holy Spirit inspiring non-Catholics:

“Every quest of the human spirit for truth and goodness, and in the last analysis for God, is inspired by the Holy Spirit….. At their origins we often find founders who, with the help of God’s Spirit, achieved a deeper religious experience…. In every authentic religious experience, the most characteristic expression is prayer…. We can hold that ‘every authentic prayer is called forth by the Holy Spirit, who is mysteriously present in the heart of every person’”.

It may be worth noting that these statements from John Paul II and Gregory the Great would be official Catholic doctrine, but not binding per se. Mainstream Catholics by and large, as mentioned before, rely on tradition and a claim to authority and don't emphasize teaching akin to this.

John Calvin, founder of the protestant sect of Calvinism, wrote:

“’We must regard the authority of Scripture as higher than human reasons, factors or conjectures. This is because we base that authority on the inner witness borne by the Holy Spirit,’” Institutes, 1539 edition. The doctrine, particularly stressed by Calvinism, that the Holy Spirit provides an ‘internal witness’ to the authority of Scripture…..”

Westminster Confession of Faith 1.5, reads in part as follows:

“’our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority [of the scriptures], is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.’”

Many protestant theologians have abandoned such appeals for academic exegesis and hermeneutics. The larger issue here is that the theologians of the diverse protestant denominations (including Calvinism), have to believe that scripture is formally sufficient, self-authenticating, and self-attesting and this creates problems. LDS apologist and Biblical scholar Robert Boylan elaborates:

Often, in a desperate attempt to support the doctrine of sola scriptura some Protestant apologists will argue that all a Christian needs is the Holy Spirit, not an authoritative Church and/or additional Scripture such as those that Latter-day Saints accept (i.e., Book of Mormon; Doctrine and Covenants; Pearl of Great Price). Of course, this would mean that the Holy Spirit is schizophrenic, guiding Protestants who embrace sola scriptura to radically divergent views on central, not merely “minor” issues, such as baptismal regeneration which affects salvation itself(!)

See "A Self-Attesting, Self-Authenticating, Formally Sufficient Scripture?" in this article

This was one of the very reasons that the Book of Mormon came forth, to settle the discord. As taught in Preach My Gospel:

As you use the Book of Mormon and the Bible as companion volumes of scripture, they will overcome contention and correct false doctrine (see 2 Nephi 3:12). The Bible teaches the following about the law of witnesses: “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (2 Corinthians 13:). In harmony with this law, both the Book of Mormon and the Bible testify of Jesus Christ.[2]

Latter-day Saint Offshoots

For Latter-day Saint Offshoots we respond by giving the indications that Brigham Young was the true successor of Joseph Smith. See this article for our response to that.



Preach My Gospel: "many other nations and cultures have been blessed by those who were given that portion that God 'seeth fit that they should have'"

"Lesson 1: The Message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ," Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service:

Just as the Christian world was blessed by the courage and vision of the reformers, many other nations and cultures have been blessed by those who were given that portion that God "seeth fit that they should have” (Alma 29:8). Teachings of other religious leaders have helped many people become more civil and ethical.

Buddha (Gotama): Born in 563 B.C. of a Hindu chieftain in Nepal. Concerned with the suffering he saw around him. Fled from his father’s luxurious palace, renounced the world, and lived in poverty. Seeking enlightenment, he discovered what he called the “path of deliverance.” Claimed to reach Nirvana, a state of oblivion to care, pain, or external reality. Became a teacher for a community of monks.

Confucius: Born in 551 B.C. Orphaned as a child. China’s first professional teacher. China’s greatest moral and social thinker. Said little about spiritual beings or divine powers. Believed that heaven had entrusted him with a sacred mission as champion of the good and true.

Mohammed: Born in 570 A.D. in Mecca. Orphaned in childhood. Lived a life of poverty. Gained reputation as a trusted peacemaker. Married at age 25. In 610 prayed and meditated on Mount Hira. Said the angel Gabriel appeared to him and delivered a message from Allah (God). Claimed to receive communication from God through Gabriel from 620 to 632. These communications, which he recited to his disciples, were later written in the Koran, the sacred book of Islam.[3]


Response to claim: "Let's play a game! Try to match Atheism and these 8 religions to the following 21 quotes."

The author(s) of Debunking FAIR's Debunking, June 2014 make(s) the following claim:

Let’s play a game! Try to match Atheism and these 8 religions to the following 21 quotes. The answer key is below the last quote:
  • Atheist
  • Buddhist
  • Catholic
  • Hindu
  • Islam
  • Mormon
  • New Age
  • Protestant
  • Universal Unitarian

“I felt a burning in my heart, and a great burden seemed to have left me.”

“But what can I say? How can I describe an experience so profound and so beautiful? Shall I say that it was the most blessed experience of my life? Shall I say that [God] touched my heart and gave me a feeling of peace I had not known before? Shall I describe the tears that flowed freely from my eyes, affirming my...faith, as I...beg[ed] [God's] blessings for myself and for those I love?”

“The sense I had of divine things, would often of a sudden kindle up, as it were, a sweet burning in my heart; an ardor of soul, that I know not how to express.”

“As I read these books in a...bookstore,...I felt a burning in my heart that I should come and investigate.”

“[Even as a child], [w]ithout understanding much about the complex [doctrine]...he was attracted to [church]. There he often felt a strong feeling of peace flowing through his body.”

“I was praying...when I felt a burning shaft of...love come through my head and into my heart.”

“I truly [sic] wanted to know [the truth]. After a few weeks, I stumbled onto [texts] which… answered my questions in a way that I had not heard of before. I read everything...and I even tried the experiment of asking [God] for...his divine love. After about 6 weeks, I felt a burning in my chest and a sensation that was unlike anything I had ever felt. It was pure happiness and peace. I knew then that [God] had sent His love to me.”

“A feeling of peace and certitude would tell me when I had found the answers and often after people would help me by pointing in the right direction.”

“We gave up a lot of things. What did I get in return? I received a feeling of peace, hope and security. I no longer lay awake at night worrying. I stopped cussing. I became much more honest in all aspects of my life. [God] has changed my heart and my life. My husband’s heart is changing also. We pray all the time and really feel [God’s] presence in our marriage. My perspective has changed. My view of life has changed about what is truly important.”

“Many women described a feeling of euphoria after they committed to following [God]...One woman described a feeling of peace; she said: ‘It is like you are born again and you can start all over again, free from sin.’”

“A feeling of peace seemed to flow into me with a sense of togetherness...I felt very peaceful from inside and also felt [warmth]...”

“I felt a burning sensation in my heart.”

“That inner light, that we all have or had at some time in our existence, was nearly burnt out for me. But in the [church]...I found a feeling of peace, inner solitude and quietness that I’d also found in reading the [text] and pondering over its meaning and trying to practice what it tells us.”

“For the first time I not only felt accountable for my past sins but I had to fight back tears. I knew that I had let down [God] [and] my family...However, I also knew I was forgiven! [It] gave me a feeling of peace that I have never felt it in my whole life. I felt like I had a huge weight lifted off of me and that I was finally home and free...I felt like a new person.”

“Every time I am there [at the church building], a feeling of peace overcomes me.”

“Every time I was with the [church members], I felt this warm feeling, a feeling of peace and for the first time in my life since my church-going days, I wanted to follow [God]...”

“About 10 years ago, when Jenny and I decided to start a family, we began looking for a spiritual community for our kids. During my first service at [the church]...I was hooked. I recall the feeling of peace that I felt when I was attending [services].”

“The power of [God] came into me then. I had this warm and overwhelming feeling of peace and security. It’s hard to explain. I had to...stop myself from falling backward.”

“[The religious leader] looked into my eyes deeply for a moment, and I experienced a feeling of peace and love unlike anything I had ever experienced before.”

“[After praying,] [i]mmediately I was flooded with a deep feeling of peace, comfort, and hope.”

“I recently spent an afternoon on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, atop the mount where Jesus is believed to have preached his most famous sermon...As I sat and gazed upon the surrounding hills gently sloping to an inland sea, a feeling of peace came over me. It soon grew to a blissful stillness that silenced my thoughts. In an instant, the sense of being a separate self—an “I” or a “me”—vanished...The experience lasted just a few moments, but returned many times as I gazed out over the land where Jesus is believed to have walked, gathered his apostles, and worked many of his miracles.”



Author's sources: "How Can We Find Truth? Part 4" <http://www.theamateurthinker.com/2011/02/how-can-we-find-truth-part-4/>

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The author links to an article by "The Amateur Thinker" and the list of "spiritual experiences" that people have felt. At this moment[4] the sources for these experiences are missing. The video makes interesting claims. It focuses specifically on the argument from diversity (the one made just above by the author of the CES Letter) against the use of spiritual experiences in Latter-day Saint epistemology and argues for a "pragmatic approach" which includes evaluating empirical evidence first and then seeking spiritual experiences. It sounds awfully like D&C 9:7-9. Regarding the list of spiritual experiences in this claim specifically, it is interesting that none of these experiences deny God but help people to come unto him. The atheist was the one converting to religion (D&C 84:46-47). The video from Amateur Thinker also claims that people feel what is called the "elevation emotion" when claiming to feel the Spirit. We've already discussed experiences of those in other religions. The elevation emotion and other neuroscientific explanations for spiritual experience are discussed here for those that are interested in learning more.


Response to claim: "it would likewise be arrogant of a Latter-day Saint to deny their spiritual experiences and testimonies of the truthfulness of their own religion"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

it would likewise be arrogant of a Latter-day Saint to deny their spiritual experiences and testimonies of the truthfulness of their own religion... Only .2% of the world’s population are members of God’s true Church. This is God’s model and standard of efficiency?

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Latter-day Saints are not taught to deny the spiritual experiences of others. We are taught to understand them in certain ways as is demonstrated by the article above responding to claims of spiritual experiences of people in other religions. The Gospel teaches us that not everyone will be a member of the Church in this life but that is okay.

Jump to Detail:

Question: Why would the true church of Jesus Christ be comprised of only a small percentage of the population of the Earth?

Christ specifically mentioned to His followers that they were the "salt of the earth"

No matter how many member of the Church there may be at any time in history, it appears that being the smaller number among a larger population has long been the problem of the Gospel. This may be why Christ specifically mentioned to His followers that they were the "salt of the earth." To modern English speakers, that idiom is used to mean good, average people, but that wasn't what Christ meant. He was speaking to very few who believed him. Those who believed were to do for the earth what salt does to a pot of stew or soup. A little seasoning nevertheless plays an important part.

Luke 13:20-21:

And again he said, Wherefore unto shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.

Christ never answered the specific question of why there were so few believers, but he did tell those few believers that they played an important role and that few would find his true path to salvation (Matthew 7:14; 1 Nephi 8:20 (19-24); 3 Nephi 27: 33; D&C 22:4 (1-4); 43:7)

An angel showed Nephi a vision of the last days and the Church numbers were described as few in comparison to the rest of the world

In 1 Nephi 14:12, an angel shows Nephi a vision of the last days and the Church numbers were described as few in comparison to the rest of the world.There's no reason to believe that Latter-day Saints will ever outnumber the largest religions based on this vision. Remember that when the gospel is finally preached in all the world, the Second Coming will occur and the end of the current condition will follow. Latter-day Saints believe that all mankind will have an opportunity to hear the Gospel but that most of the population of the Earth will hear it in the Spirit World. Those who had no opportunity to hear it in mortality will have that opportunity then. When you consider the small minority of the earth's population throughout all of history that even knew about Jesus Christ, it should not surprise us that many in our day will not hear about Him either. Latter-day Saints believe that God is just and is concerned about all of His children. He will see to it that all mankind are taught and judged justly.

Many of the goals of the Plan of Salvation are achieved even without being a member of the Church

Among the most important "purposes of life" according to the Plan of Salvation are the following:

  • Receiving a physical body.
  • Experiencing trials, pain, and other challenges, and having the opportunity to try to overcome them.
  • Experiencing joy and happiness.
  • Developing Christlike attributes.

Developing Christ-like attributes is vital to our eternal happiness and development, and living a mortal life accelerates us along that path. All of these experiences are perfectly and regularly attainable without being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In fact, they are perfectly attainable without even being a Christian. For some, they are even attainable without believing in God.

That being said, there are tangible and extremely advantageous benefits to being a member of the LDS Church, and more specifically of knowing and understanding why we are here. Those advantages, though, are not necessary for a successful experience in mortality. The saving ordinances and covenants we make through proper priesthood authority accelerate and magnify our purposes for being here, and eventually they will be available to all people whether in mortality or post-mortality. In the meantime, billions of people are here living out the plan of salvation with a bit of ignorance about it, but happily and successfully nonetheless.


Response to claim: "If God’s method to revealing truth is through feelings, it’s a pretty ineffective method"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

If God’s method to revealing truth is through feelings, it’s a pretty ineffective method.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The Gospel does not teach that one should make decisions regarding the truth of something simply through "feelings". Moroni tells us to ponder (Moroni 10:3-5). Oliver Cowdery gave us studying it out in our mind and then asking (D&C 9:7-9)


Response to claim: "Even prophets are often wrong."

The author(s) of Debunking FAIR's Debunking (June 2014) make(s) the following claim:

Even prophets are often wrong. Brigham Young, for example, taught now-repudiated doctrines of racism, Adam-God, and Blood-Atonement. Moreover, prophets and scriptures sometimes conflict with one another. Not only do Prophets sometimes conflict with scripture, they conflict with each other. Yesterday’s doctrine is today’s false doctrine and yesterday’s prophet is today’s heretic, remember? Pointing to prophets and scriptures as a standard of “confirming” your feelings again not only does not answer the question, it creates more questions than answers.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Yes, prophets are fallible. There are times when they have taught now repudiated concepts, but it doesn't follow that it therefore makes revelation an unreliable source of knowledge. What would bring it more into question would be if the prophet claimed direct revelation for some concept but then physical evidence didn't support such a concept.

The reason we have scriptures is so we can test the prophet's word since they are the "standard works". The author makes a broad claim about the scriptures without supporting evidence. The best way to test such an assertion is to read the scriptures contextually and holistically which we have tools for.

Jump to Detail:

Question: If prophets are fallible, does this make spiritual epistemology unreliable?

Only when the prophet specifically claims revelation do we need to humble ourselves to it.

Some critics have claimed that, if prophets can be lead awry with their own biases and prejudices, then spiritual epistemology is unreliable.

The argument is useless when recognized that Latter-day Saints only need to bow to a prophet's revelation when he specifically claims that he has received revelation. We can also tell if a revelation is truly from God if it is canonized. Bruce R. McConkie taught:

With all their inspiration and greatness, prophets are yet mortal men with imperfections common to mankind in general. They have their opinions and prejudices and are left to work out their own problems without inspiration in many instances. Joseph Smith recorded that he “visited with a brother and sister from Michigan, who thought that ‘a prophet is always a prophet’; but I told them that a prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such.” (Teachings, p. 278.) Thus the opinions and views even of prophets may contain error unless those opinions and views are inspired by the Spirit. Inspired statements are scripture and should be accepted as such. (D. & C. 68:4.) Since “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (1 Cor. 14:32), whatever is announced by the presiding brethren as counsel for the Church will be the voice of inspiration. But the truth or error of any uninspired utterance of an individual will have to be judged by the standard works and the spirit of discernment and inspiration that is in those who actually enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost.[5] Whether that happened or not, it illustrates a principle: that the Lord can move upon His people but they may speak on occasions their own opinions.[6]

Harold B. Lee was equally emphatic:

It is not to be thought that every word spoken by the General Authorities is inspired, or that they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost in everything they speak and write. Now you keep that in mind. I don’t care what his position is, if he writes something or speaks something that goes beyond anything that you can find in the standard works, unless that one be the prophet, seer, and revelator––please note that one exception––you may immediately say, “Well, that is his own idea!” And if he says something that contradicts what is found in the standard works (I think that is why we call them “standard”––it is the standard measure of all that men teach), you may know by that same token that it is false; regardless of the position of the man who says it.[7]

See here for more quotes regarding revelation.

Where the Critics Focus when Making this Argument

Some critics have applied this argument to different parts of Latter-day Saint discourse which we might need to address.

Adam-God Theory

Regarding Adam-God one of the most important things to know about is it’s actual status in Brigham’s mind and how he viewed his “revelation”. Matthew Brown wrote:

First of all, the question will be posed: ‘How did Brother Brigham compare himself, as a revelator, with his predecessor?’ There are two quotations that are of interest here. The second President of the LDS Church said, “I wish to ask every member of this whole community if they ever heard [me] profess to be a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator as Joseph Smith was. [I] professed to be an apostle of Jesus Christ.”[8] In the second quote Brigham Young says that he “did not receive [revelations] through the Urim and Thummim as Joseph [Smith] did.”[9] Hence, it can be ascertained that, at least in one sense, Brigham Young did not receive communications from heaven in the same direct manner that Joseph Smith did. And it is relevant to mention here that Brigham Young did, in fact, own a seerstone that was once utilized by Joseph Smith. Next, there is this lengthy quote from President Young which is well worth considering in its entirety. He rhetorically asked himself,
"Well, Brother Brigham, . . . . have you had revelations?” Yes, I have them all the time. I live constantly by the principle of revelation. . . . I have never received one particle of intelligence [except] by revelation, no matter whether [my] father or mother revealed it, or my sister, or [my] neighbor. No person receives knowledge [except] upon the principle of revelation, that is, by having something revealed to them. “Do you [Brother Brigham] have the revelations of the Lord Jesus Christ?” I will leave that for others to judge. If the Lord requires anything of this people, and speaks through me, I will tell them of it; but if He does not, still we all live by the principle of revelation. Who reveals? Everybody around us; we learn [from] each other. I have something which you have not, and you have something which I have not. I reveal what I have to you, and you reveal what you have to me. I believe that we are revelators to each other.[10]
Interestingly, there is some evidence that the ‘revelation’ claims for Adam–God ideology did not originate with Brigham Young, but rather with his close friend and associate Heber C. Kimball. There is one well-documented instance where Brother Kimball claimed that some of the concepts connected with the Adam–God Theory were revealed to him.[11] There are also two other statements that need to be taken into careful consideration. The first comes from Thomas Stenhouse’s book. It reads: “Brother Heber had considerable pride in relating to his intimate friends that he was the source of Brigham’s revelation on the ‘Adam deity.’”[12] Since Mr. Stenhouse was an apostate from Mormonism at the time he wrote this, some people might tend to discount his assertion. But the second statement seems to lend credence to it. This one comes from Elder Orson Pratt. He said that the notion of “Adam being our Father and our God . . .[was] advanced by Bro[ther] Kimball in the stand [or at the pulpit], and afterwards approved by Bro[ther] Brigham.”[13][14]

Brown then elaborates on the other most crucial point of the Adam-God History:

The records of the past indicate that Brigham Young’s teachings on Adam were met with steady opposition throughout the 1850s, 60s, and 70s; they were not automatically accepted by the general Church populace. Brother Young even complained on occasion about the amount of non-acceptance that was taking place. But the negative reaction seems to have caused the Church President to have a reaction of his own; one which, in the end, was beneficial to historians: he got more precise in describing the character of his Adam–God teachings. This is probably the most important point that can be made with regard to this intriguing, complex, and somewhat perplexing subject. When Brigham Young first introduced the public to his Adam–God teachings in April of 1852 he claimed that they would prove a person’s “salvation or damnation.”[15]Just two and a half years later his rhetoric changed dramatically. In General Conference, once again, he gave an Adam–God talk but this time he said, “I propose to speak upon a subject that does not immediately concern yours or my welfare. . . . I do not pretend to say that the items of doctrine and ideas I shall advance are necessary for the people to know, or that they should give themselves any trouble about them whatever.” After specifying that “these are my views with regard to the gods, and eternities” and saying, “I will tell you what I think about it” he used a very significant term—thirteen times. He said, “I will tell you what I reckon.” His exact words were: “I will tell you what I think about it, and as the [Southerners] say, ‘I reckon.’ And as the Yankees say, ‘I guess’; but I will tell you what I reckon.”[16] It should be pointed out here that Brigham Young was a northern Yankee from New York state—not a Southerner. He may have deliberately chosen to employ the term ‘reckon’ instead of ‘guess.’ And what did Brigham Young admit that he was guessing about in this sermon? The very elements of the Adam–God Theory that are the most problematic. Here is what he said: ● “I reckon that Father Adam was a resurrected being, with his wives.”[17] ● “I reckon our spirits and all the spirits of the human family were begotten by Adam, and born of Eve.”[18] ● “I reckon that Adam . . . himself planted [the Garden of Eden].”[19].

The bottom line is that the core principles of the Adam–God Theory were simply Brigham Young guessing or reckoning.[20][21]

Pre-1978 Racial Theories

Regarding racial teachings, there are several statements from the Brethren regarding their views on race and the restrictions. After a review of documents [22], there are none that claim an explicit revelatory origin for ideas. The strongest statements come from Brigham Young, the 1947 First Presidency, and the Lowry Nelson Letters[23]. It seems as though the teaching became more entrenched with the passage of time and authorities simply followed tradition. Nothing in the Latter-day Saint canon suggests that the theories were officially binding on the Saints.

Mark Hofmann Episode

Blood Atonement

Some charge that Blood Atonement was claimed to have come from revelation. The statement in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism is perhaps the most instructive on the subject:

The doctrines of the Church affirm that the Atonement wrought by the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is efficacious for the sins of all who believe, repent, are baptized by one having authority, and receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. However, if a person thereafter commits a grievous sin such as the shedding of innocent blood, the Savior's sacrifice alone will not absolve the person of the consequences of the sin. Only by voluntarily submitting to whatever penalty the Lord may require can that person benefit from the Atonement of Christ.

Several early Church leaders, most notably Brigham Young, taught that in a complete theocracy the Lord could require the voluntary shedding of a murderer's blood-presumably by capital punishment-as part of the process of Atonement for such grievous sin. This was referred to as "blood Atonement." Since such a theocracy has not been operative in modern times, the practical effect of the idea was its use as a rhetorical device to heighten the awareness of Latter-day Saints of the seriousness of murder and other major sins. This view is not a doctrine of the Church and has never been practiced by the Church at any time.

Early anti-Mormon writers charged that under Brigham Young the Church practiced "blood Atonement," by which they meant Church-instigated violence directed at dissenters, enemies, and strangers. This claim distorted the whole idea of blood atonement-which was based on voluntary submission by an offender-into a supposed justification of involuntary punishment. Occasional isolated acts of violence that occurred in areas where Latter-day Saints lived were typical of that period in the history of the American West, but they were not instances of Church-sanctioned blood Atonement.[24]

Evolution

Some critics charge that the Church has claimed to denounce evolution officially and have claimed to have done that by revelation. There are two places that they are usually attracted to when making this claim. The first is a 1910 statement about the subject from the First Presidency. The pertinent part of the statement reads thus:

It is held by some that Adam was not the first man upon this earth, and that the original human being was a development from lower orders of the animal creation. These, however, are the theories of men. The word of the Lord declares that Adam was "the first man of all men" (Moses 1:34), and we are therefore in duty bound to regard him as the primal parent of our race.[25]

This statement is generally correct. Evolution is a theory of man. Adam was also the first spirit child of our Heavenly Father making him the "first man" he is therefore the primal parent of our race. But some charge that this is an official pronouncement against evolution. The statement can be read as such. But take a look at a statement released by the same presidency only a year later.

Diversity of opinion does not necessitate intolerance of spirit, nor should it embitter or set rational beings against each other. The Christ taught kindness, patience, and charity.

Our religion is not hostile to real science. That which is demonstrated, we accept with joy; but vain philosophy, human theory and mere speculations of men, we do not accept nor do we adopt anything contrary to divine revelation or to good common sense. But everything that tends to right conduct, that harmonizes with sound morality and increases faith in Deity, finds favor with us no matter where it may be found.[26]

They are correct. Our religion embraces real science (D&C 88:77-79) and we shouldn't accept anything that goes against divine revelation. The Church is neutral in regards to evolution and has been officially for sometime while some have been staunchly against it and others in favor of it. For those looking for a way to reconcile evolution with Latter-day Saint scripture, see here for an off-hand disquisition and reconciliation of the most pertinent texts.


Question: How do Mormons understand prophetic revelation?

Among the most pressing questions a Latter-day Saint can answer is that of the nature of divine revelation. Critical attacks on revelation demand that we develop a robust understanding of the nature of the Divine Disclosure and how it has come to us. Without a solid understanding of the nature of revelation, criticism will appear to threat or even undermine virtually everything we believe in given the centrality of the doctrine of revelation in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This article answers that question. To reduce circularity, it is always wisest to start with what the prophets actually say about revelation. Thus, this article will be centered on the scriptures and the statements of living prophets and apostles.

First, who is God?

It is important to first answer the question of who Latter-day Saints believe God to be since the nature of God influences all understanding of revelation. Revelation is the tool that he has given us to describe him best, his nature, and his law, even though at times his purposes and ways of working with his children can be inscrutable. To Latter-day Saints, he is also literally our Father in Heaven with a body of flesh and bone. He is of the same species that we are and because of this is able to communicate with us in a way that we understand through our own human processes. Since he is a man he knows how to communicate with humans. If we weren't of the same species, would it be possible to communicate with us? We understand him to work with us like a father—catering to our needs as he teaches us how to come closer to him. He works beyond "the veil". In other words, he is separated from us for a time and a purpose. He must now communicate his will to us, through agents known as "prophets", to the end of accomplishing that purpose. Latter-day Saints generally understand God to be maximally powerful, knows all that is able to be known, omnipresent but only by means of the Light of Christ (since he is limited in space by virtue of having a body), benevolent, all-loving, all-good, capable of sin but without it, with a fixed past knowledge, immutable in character, passible since he is our father and has a body (though most wouldn't be sure how this is made manifest), and sovereign. This knowledge of who God is frames the way we understand all revelation.

Purpose of Revelation

Revelation for Latter-day Saint is given for the purpose of drawing all mankind into a community of believers, united by special promises made between them and God called covenants, and guided into one heart and mind to becoming like God. All scriptures, from the Holy Bible to the Book of Mormon, from the Doctrine and Covenants to the Pearl of Great Price, have testified that all mankind may be gathered together into Zion, the community of believers as said before, and unite them in a common purpose to make themselves become more like God by emulating his attributes and inviting others to do the same. God knew that not all people would be able to fulfill these demands. Latter-day Saints believe that the Atonement of Jesus Christ effectuated the means by which a person could repent of their sins and be brought back to the covenant people in full fellowship. All revelation is given to show people what God's attributes are, invite them to live according to who God is, to invite those people to invite others to live by who God is, to bring people into that group, and to thus stand in one heart and mind in indwelling love and unity one with another by virtue of having one purpose and means of bringing about that purpose.

Since Latter-day Saints believe that the ultimate end to which God has called all humankind is to become like him, orthopraxy is more important than orthodoxy; holiness over accuracy; person-truth over idea-truth. Revelation teaches Latter-day Saints much more how to act rather than what to believe. Those are obviously not mutually exclusive, and Latter-day Saints do have doctrines that teach them about their divine ontology and how that leads them to live the Law of Love more fully, but revelation for Latter-day Saints is more about getting people to act morally and to seek the holiness that God enjoys rather than getting them to believe in all the same things.

Revelation comes through a variety of means or methods.

As expressed in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:

TYPES OF REVELATION. A dispensation of the gospel of Jesus Christ is a series of personal revelations from God. These revelations may be direct manifestations from God, as in the following typical cases:

1. theophanies (seeing God face-to-face), as in the first vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith, which came at the beginning of the present dispensation (JS-H 1:15-20)

2. revealed knowledge from the Father that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:13-17; see also Spirit of Prophecy)

3. visitations of angelic persons, such as the appearance of the angel Moroni to Joseph Smith (JS-H 1:30-32)

4. revelations through the Urim and Thummim, by which means Joseph Smith translated the book of mormon

5. open visions, as when Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were shown the kingdoms of the hereafter (see Doctrine and Covenants: Section 76)

6. physically hearing the voice of God, as is recorded in 3 Nephi 11

7. receiving the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit, as in the experience of Elijah (1 Kgs. 19);

8. receiving the gifts of the spirit (D&C 46)

9. having a burning in the bosom as an indication of the will of God, as in the explanation given to Oliver Cowdery (D&C 9:8)

10. dreams (1 Ne. 8:2-32)

11. manifestations of the Light of Christ, by which all men know good from evil (Alma 12:31-32; D&C 84:46-48).

Such direct manifestations of the mind and will of God are known as gifts and are contrasted with signs. Gifts always have a spiritual component, even when they have a physical aspect. Signs are physical manifestations of the power of God and are a form of revelation from God, though they may be counterfeited and misinterpreted. Signs may show that God is at work, but spiritual gifts are required to know how one should respond.[27]

Revelation is received, interpreted, transmitted, and recalled through human systems and processes

Revelation is inextricably tied to the human processes we all possess as children of God— most especially our aural, visual ( these perhaps more in the case of visions), sensory (in the case of peace, burning in the bosom, etc.), and cognitive systems and processes (perhaps more in the case of spiritual promptings, dreams, etc.). Since God, angels, and man are of the same species (3 Nephi 28:10; Moses 6:9), the Spirit of Revelation is given by the power of the Holy Ghost (Alma 5:46; Moroni 10:8, 13-14, 17-18), the Holy Ghost works through the Light of Christ (Doctrine and Covenants 84:45-53), the Light of Christ gives light and life to all things (Alma 28:14; Doctrine and Covenants 88:7-12), and our souls are composed of our spirit and our physical body intimately intertwined (D&C 88:15), it seems theologically unavoidable to say that revelation will come through these systems and processes. Thus, revelation will be received, interpreted, transmitted, and even recalled (e.g. The First Vision) through those systems and processes.

Revelation is given in a particular historical context.

No revelation occurs in a vacuum. That is, no revelation is given to a prophet without a historical context, and by the same token a particular set of needs, concerns, and pressing events on the prophet leading his people at any given time. This context is either described by the text (as with the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Pearl of Great Price) or by historical research (as it is generally in the Doctrine and Covenants). This historical context is crucial to understand since the authority of a particular revelation may have only been necessary during the historical context in question. Perhaps this is what is the Lord meant in D&C 46:15 when he states that he "[suits] his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men." This is why we can have doctrines that are revealed yet not ideal (i.e. something to be updated later) such as the legal systems of the Old Testament.

Since every revelation has a historical context and a particular language with which it is expressed , it becomes expedient for us to familiarize ourselves with the culture and language in which that revelation was produced (a specific injunction for which is found in D&C 88:77-79).

Revelation is also accommodated to the particular needs and immediate concerns of the agent receiving it as discussed before. As such the Lord has worked through diverse means to bring about particular outcomes. This means that some things that have been revealed have only been provisional or implemented in case of contingency (see below under "What can change through revelation?" for a fuller discussion of this). This does not mean that prophets cannot overcome their historical circumstances through revelation in at least some regards. They logically have to in order to provide us soteriological or eschatological knowledge. But the point is that even that revelation comes in a historical context.

As the Lord states in Doctrine and Covenants 56:4 —

"Wherefore I, the Lord, command and revoke, as it seemeth me good...".

Latter-day Saint doctrine states that it is a spiritual gift to understand the "diversity of operations" of the Lord D&C 46:16

Revelation is couched in the language and expression of the agent receiving it.

Every revelation is couched within the language of the agent receiving it which is why we have Hebrew influence in the Old Testament, Hebrew and Egyptian influence in the Book of Mormon, and Jacobean, 19th century English in the Doctrine and Covenants (2 Nephi 31:3).

Revelation is also accommodated to language and the cultural context of the agent receiving it.

Because revelation is trying to describe a perfect being with fallen language, revelation is also accommodated to the languagof the agent receiving it as well as that agent's current understanding of God. For instance, we learn that God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5), yet how can he be jealous and perfect? The Doctrine and Covenants tells us to strip ourselves from jealousies (D&C 67:10).

This isn't to say that either scripture is "more correct" in how they portray God—only that they are expressing the character, will, and acts of a perfect being through imperfect language so that we can approach an understanding of him.

Another example is the Battle of Gideon in the tenth chapter of the Book of Joshua, Joshua asks God to stop the sun so that the day was lengthened and Israelites won the battle. Read literally, this story implies that the sun was moving and God made it stop moving. Today, we know that the earth orbits around the sun rather than the other way around. So what's going on? God is accommodating the Israelites geocentric view of our solar system to communicate a divine message/miracle. This is important: culture indeed is embedded into all revelation; but it does not fundamentally override the divine origin of that revelation nor the ability that revelation has to communicate accurate truths about God and the world around us.

A final example might be how Scripture consistently uses the word "man" to refer to "male and female"— typical of ordinary conversation then and now. This has understandably drawn some discomfort from female readers of the scriptures—feeling that this might be an example of soft sexism in Scripture. Of course, the scriptures do mean to include both males and females in their messages when saying "man" or "mankind", but typical linguistic conventions were used to communicate that divine message.

The Doctrine and Covenants itself announces that:

Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.DC 1:24

So since people can't learn all that there is to know about God in one revelation, God simply seeks to bring knowledge about himself to that person seeking revelation while not revealing all at once. He reveals himself "line upon line." Just as a teacher teaching 101 students cannot teach them 405 concepts without the 101 students being confused, so God must accommodate learning about him to the cultural context of the agent seeking knowledge about him through revelation.

There is no one perfect way to express revelation

Brigham Young (who authored one of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants—DC 136:) described the process in similar terms:

I do not even believe that there is a single revelation, among the many God has given to the Church, that is perfect in its fullness. The revelations of God contain correct doctrine and principle, so far as they go; but it is impossible for the poor, weak, low, grovelling, sinful inhabitants of the earth to receive a revelation from the Almighty in all its perfections. He has to speak to us in a manner to meet the extent of our capacities...

The laws that the Lord has given are not fully perfect, because the people could not receive them in their perfect fullness; but they can receive a little here and a little there, a little today and a little to-morrow, a little more next week, and a little more in advance of that next year, if they make a wise improvement upon every little they receive... [28]

And, there were even times when others besides Joseph were assigned to collaborate in writing the revelations—clear evidence that there was not "only one true" way of expressing a revelation. (See DC 124:12-16.)

Revelation is sometimes given "from the top, down."

Revelation is sometimes given "from the top, down." God reveals things suddenly, out of the blue, indepedent of our own cognition. These things generally overcome our present knowledge to give us knowledge about the future, eschatology, soteriology, or knowledge about individuals that we wouldn’t otherwise have. He gives us gifts, he reveals sacred information through prayers or blessings, he gives miracles. This may properly be referred to as "top-down revelation" where the Lord is placing the agent receiving the revelation in the mental state that he/or she needs to be to accomplish a particular task. This type of revelation is most sacred to Latter-day Saints. It increases our confidence that revelation is not "all in our heads" so to speak.

If revelation like this didn't exist, nothing would be "revealed" in any traditional sense and could easily be construed as self-delusion or deception. It would make it so that no law could be given that could then be subsequently subverted with claims that revelation is simply men following the dictates of their own bias. It would undermine any type of authority from revelation which we need for crucial practices and doctrines such as commandments, obedience, and repentance.

Revelation is sometimes a matter of going "from the bottom, up".

Often revelation does require that we first study something out in our mind (D&C 9:8). As President Russell M. Nelson has recently stated

. . .I know that good inspiration is based upon good information. . .[29]

Once we have studied an issue out in our mind, it is then up to the spirit to decide which will be the best for the future. Sometimes it will confirm what we have studied out and sometimes it will cause a "stupor of thought" (D&C 9:9)

Some more "progressive members" of the Church and other critics take "bottom-up revelation" to be something different. Usually it is thought that if one places enough public pressure on the Church that it will change it's doctrines. This should not be expected or practiced (see below under "common necessity, not common demand").

All revelation is wisdom that is largely independent of the agent receiving it.

All revelation, whether more "bottom, up" or "top, down" is wisdom that is largely independent of the agent receiving it. This simply means that God is primarily the one who chooses the symbols that revelation attaches itself to not the prophet. Were it not so, nothing would be "revealed" in any coherent sense and rather be closer to a concoction of bias and self-delusion that can change with any wind of opposition. We have prophets for the opposite reason — to not be swayed with every wind of doctrine and to come to a unity of faith (Ephesians 4:11-15). This does not mean that revelation doesn't have a human component to it — that it isn't couched in human language and expression, that it can't have tensions, updates, etc. Only that, in the moment of revelation, if that revelation is faithfully received, interpreted, and recorded, that it should be authoritative for our lives.

The authority/success of recorded revelation differs between books of scripture

How successful revelation is depends entirely on the agent who receives it and how willing they are to receive, interpret, and record/transmit that revelation as faithfully as possible. Such is why the Book of Mormon so strongly emphasizes the need to keep good records of God's dealings with his children. Joseph Smith wrote to the Saints that:

9 It may seem to some to be a very bold doctrine that we talk of—a power which records or binds on earth and binds in heaven. Nevertheless, in all ages of the world, whenever the Lord has given a dispensation of the priesthood to any man by actual revelation, or any set of men, this power has always been given. Hence, whatsoever those men did in authority, in the name of the Lord, and did it truly and faithfully, and kept a proper and faithful record of the same, it became a law on earth and in heaven, and could not be annulled, according to the decrees of the great Jehovah. This is a faithful saying. Who can hear it?

Thus, how authoritatively the Bible reads may be read differently than how, say, the Doctrine and Covenants reads — where the former relies primarily on oral tradition, memory, and preserved written records to do history that approaches the original revelation and the latter relies primarily on Joseph Smith simply dictating the words that he feels impressed to dictate and having a scribe record it in real-time. This does not mean that the Doctrine and Covenants constitutes "fax-from-God" revelation (i.e. infallibilism), but simply that it is read more authoritatively than the Bible. One will readily see, however, that the emendations to the Doctrine and Covenants do not change the core integrity/idea of the first revelation. If they do, then they remove knowledge that wouldn't be relevant to future Latter-day Saints.

Revelation is given to prophets "line upon line; precept upon precept"

"Line upon line" has two features:

  1. It reveals core truths over time directly to the prophet.
  2. It makes small addenda to a few previous revelations without threatening the core integrity of the first revelation—immediately suggesting its sometimes corrective nature—and the original revelation being an accommodation to the first people receiving it. This is perhaps what the Lord meant to express in D&C 46:15 when he states that he "[suits] his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men."

An example of this is found in Doctrine and Covenants 19. It states:

6 Nevertheless, it is not written that there shall be no end to this torment, but it is written endless torment.


7 Again, it is written eternal damnation; wherefore it is more express than other scriptures, that it might work upon the hearts of the children of men, altogether for my glory.

[. . .]

10 For, behold, the mystery of godliness, how great is it! For, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name. Wherefore

11 Eternal punishment is God's punishment.

12 Endless punishment is God's punishment.

What can change through revelation?

It becomes the question of some from time to time how we can know what is subject to change and what is not subject to change. To answer this question we should look at it theologically. We should ask ourselves and think logically about what God might want to reveal line upon line and "change" in our theology.

Things that Can Change Day to Day

As it regards hamartiological matters (theology dealing with sin and the nature of sin), these things can change from day to day. The things that God sees as pleasing and not pleasing can change how they like. The Lord tells us this in Doctrine and Covenants 56:4:

4 Wherefore I, the Lord, command and revoke, as it seemeth me good; and all this to be answered upon the heads of the rebellious, saith the Lord.

Things That Could Change From Day to Day But Don't for a Reason

Ecclesiological matters (pertaining to Church organization) would logically be subject to change only when there is a particular need to change Church government. In Old Testament times there was a prophet and the immigrating people-nation of Israel. Under Christ, 12 apostles (or "disciples" depending on which Gospel you read) carried authority to preach the Gospel and administer the ordinances pertaining to that Gospel and 70 men were called to fulfill a similar call. In modern times, the early restored Church under Joseph Smith started from something slightly different from that and progressed to what was present in the ancient Church quickly. Today, having a First Presidency, Quorum of Twelve Apostles, Seventies, Teachers, Priests, Deacons, Bishops, and so forth acts as an identifier for those seeking the Lord's Church. Additionally, having a wide variety of offices ensures that the needs of a global church are met. Thus, it is unlikely that such offices will change. With a growing populace of members, it is more likely that more men and women will need to be called to provide leadership in those positions without the types of positions changing.

Ordinances necessary for salvation could also change dramatically in amount necessary, type performed, presentation of such ordinances, and so forth. These don't change as they act as effective identifiers for people to find the Lord's Church.

Things That Are (or should be) Revealed in a Linear, Upward Process and Become More Static with Time.

Soteriological matters (that relating to doctrine of afterlife and salvation) come line upon line, precept upon precept, and are crystallized with each subsequent revelation regarding them. The Lord has revealed one reason why we might not know everything about the afterlife right now. As Doctrine and Covenants 19:7 tells us, somethings are revealed as they are to "work upon the hearts of the children of men". Thus, the degree to which we understand the afterlife is contingent upon what will motivate us to repent and what we are prepared to receive. Here we don't have room for contradiction but much more room for adding to a proposition and developing it gradually to a crystallized view of the afterlife. Soteriology as it stands today in the Restored Church is fairly developed with only a few more questions such as progression between kingdoms of glory.

Eschatological matters (relating to understanding of the end of times) really don't have room for contradictory understandings. The Lord has motivation to reveal more relating to eschatology as we progress closer and closer to eschatological times so that we are prepared for them. This is the general pattern followed by the scriptures and will likely continue.

Theogony (or the doctrine of the origin of God) may develop slightly. The only real question remaining is that of the infinite regress of Gods.

Things That have No Reason to be Revealed More than Once or to Have an Ongoing, Crystallizing Understanding

Matters pertaining to cosmology, mariology (theology relating to the character and nature of Mary, mother of Jesus), anthropology (the nature of man in relation to God), angelology (theology regarding angels), christology (theology relating to the character and nature of Jesus Christ), demonology (theology relating to the character and nature of demons), pneumatology (theology relating to the character and nature of the Holy Ghost), the nature of the Godhead and so forth have little room for changing in understanding since they all pertain to the study of essential characteristics or behavior that is independent of all other individuals.

Along with the above, missiology (theology relating to the purpose and manner of performing missionary work) and epistemology (the study of knowledge, its limits, and how it is characterized) in the Latter-day Saint tradition have no reason to change in understanding.

Generally speaking, we should be approaching a static ideal as we get closer to judgement day.

A lot of revelation comes simply by treasuring up the words of God in our minds and having the spirit witness to us in the moment of need what to do or say

We are commanded to treasure up the words of God in our minds. He promises us that they will tell us all things we might do or say in the moment of need (see 2 Nephi 32:3 and D&C 84:85). He promises also that as we study issues out in our mind and ask for confirmation that he will give it (D&C 9:7-9)

Sometimes we are required to actively seek a revelation to receive it

As taught in the Doctrine and Covenants "And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed." (D&C 1:26) We must all be active in our search for revelation on any given matter. God does intervene frequently however. The best way to understand under what circumstances is to read the scriptures and the words of the prophets themselves and judge the matter for ourselves. It does seem that God is revealing new knowledge on a very frequent basis from reading their words.

Many times, we do not need the Lord to command us in action— especially when what we are going to do or are doing is a good thing

Doctrine and Covenants 58:27

27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

Some things weren't meant to be made known in this life

States the Apostle Paul: "For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (1 Cor 13:12).

Elder David A. Bednar compares this pattern of light to walking through fog on a sunny day (and also reveals other patterns of light), where we have just enough light to press into the darkness but not so much as to know exactly where we are going. Eventually, as the Doctrine of Covenants teaches, all will be revealed at the second coming (Doctrine and Covenants 101:32-34)--the light will grow brighter and brighter until the perfect day (Doctrine and Covenants 50:24).

Revelation comes because of common necessity and not common demand.

Revelation always comes at a time of common necessity and not common demand. We may demand that a particular thing bend to our political view or whim, however that is not how the Lord operates. As Alma teaches:

21 And if there was no law given, if men sinned what could justice do, or mercy either, for they would have no claim upon the creature?

Some believe that if they put enough pressure on the Church that it will change its doctrines regarding things which do not conform to their particular political agenda. If such people actually wanted to build a Zion of "one heart and one mind" (Moses 7:18; Doctrine and Covenants 38:27) they would not seek to build strife in the kingdom and seek more compromise, more patience, and deeper study. They would not seek to subvert authority to follow the God of their own image (Doctrine and Covenants 1:16).

There are good examples of such "bottom-up revelation". However, they usually take the form of new policies and practices that come without any revelation. Such is easily fit into the definition of "being anxiously engaged in a good cause and doing things of our own free will" (Doctrine and Covenants 58:27-28).

We act in doctrine (D&C 101:78). We accept the light we have received now and receive whatever additional future light is given with gladness. If one does not act in accordance to the commandments of God, such is sin.


Question: How can one best read and understand the scriptures?

Introduction to Question

The proper interpretation and understanding of scripture is essential to the continued health and vitality of every Latter-day Saint's faith for a number of reasons.

This article aims to outline principles and procedures one can follow to properly understand the scriptures and gain accurate doctrinal understanding.

Response to Question

1. Understand the Nature of Revelation

The scriptures won't be understood if we don't understand the nature of revelation. This is addressed on this page.

2. Read Them Holistically

As the Lord says four times in the Doctrine and Covenants, "what [he says] unto one [he says] unto all."[30] Scripture must be read holistically. If we are to understand it, then it must be understood as a whole.

To read scripture holistically, one should first have very clear in mind what topic they want to explore or question that they want answered. For instance, they could want to study the topic of charity in the scriptures. Next, they should try and imagine the constellation of terms that touch on that topic. For instance, the scriptures contain over 600 occurrences of the words “charity,” “charitable,” “love,” “loved,” “loves,” “lovest,” “loving,” “loving kindness,” and “loving kindnesses.” Finally, they should read every occurence of those words contextually (following the steps laid out below).

There may be topics that don't fall so easily under identifiable word clusters. For instance, to learn about the Creation we need to read/see the four creation accounts in Genesis, Moses, Abraham, and the Temple. We should understand that the Lord has not revealed all things pertaining to creation but will reveal them at his second coming.[31] In cases such as these, one might consult good doctrinal resources such as scriptural dictionaries. For the Bible, one might consult Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible; for the Book of Mormon, the Book of Mormon Reference Companion; for the Doctrine and Covenants, the Doctrine and Covenants Reference Companion; and for the Pearl of Great Price, the Pearl of Great Price Reference Companion. These are great resources for reading scripture contextually and holistically.

For other great resources on reading scripture holistically, see the Topical Guide, Index to the Triple Combination, the Guide to the Scriptures, the search function on the Gospel Library app, the search function on churchofjesuschrist.org, Eldin Ricks's Thorough Concordance of the LDS Standard Works (or Gary Shapiro's concordance), and Strong's Exhaustive Concordance for the King James Version of the Bible.

One should also strongly consider what top Latter-day Saint leaders have said about the passages of scripture that they're going to exegete. The Scripture Citation Index is a fantastic resource for this.

Finally, one should review what else top Latter-day Saint leaders have said about the topic in places like General Conference. The LDS General Conference Corpus is an excellent resource to consult in order to accomplish that.

3. Read Them Contextually

Exegesis is an interpretation or explanation of scripture. Usually, when we’re speaking of exegesis, we are referring to a historical-grammatical method of exegesis. That is, trying to understand how the first hearers/readers of those scriptures understood the text. When we perform historical-grammatical exegesis, we are looking for the correct interpretation of scripture by assuming that something about the historical background of that scripture can tell us about how to interpret it.

The interpretation of a text is subject to the constraints added on by the three stages of a text's transmission:

  1. The author’s intent or purpose in what he or she wrote. The text exists in the author's mind at some point and they had something that they intended to communicate to us.
  2. What the author actually wrote separate from that purpose/intent.
  3. How we, as readers, interpret or react to that text today.

The historical-grammatical method of exegesis helps us to try and get a more accurate understanding of the first two stages of transmission so that the interpretation made at the last stage of transmission can be best informed.

Latter-day Saints are admonished to seek to understand scripture in its original context. Scripture contains several admonitions to not wrest it.[32]

President Brigham Young stated:

Do you read the Scriptures, my brethren and sisters, as though you were writing them a thousand, two thousand, or five thousand years ago? Do you read them as though you stood in the place of the men who wrote them? If you do not feel thus, it is your privilege to do so, that you may be as familiar with the spirit and meaning of the written word of God as you are with your daily walk and conversation, or as you are with your workmen or with your households. You may understand what the Prophets understood and thought—what they designed and planned to bring forth to their brethren for their good.” Journal of Discourses 7: 333

To perform historical-grammatical exegesis, one should seek to establish four types of context for scripture: generical, historical, textual, and linguistic.

  1. Generical: Scripture has many genres of writing. There is legal code, historical texts, narratives, poetry, and more. Understanding the genre of scripture can help us in interpreting that scripture.
  2. Historical: Scripture was written at a particular time and in a particular culture. We often need a lot of tools to help us understand when scripture was written and under what cultural filters. Scholars for many years have used study bibles in order to help them establish this context. This author recommends The New Oxford Annotated Study Bible and the Jewish Study Bible to gain a better understanding of Scripture's historical context.
  3. Textual: Any verse is going to be embedded in a series of other verses where the author is talking about a particular topic. We should read the verses preceding and succeeding our verse in question in order to understand what the author is talking about.
  4. Linguistic: words obviously have meaning. They can have different meanings to different people at different times. Since the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic and the New Testament in Koine Greek, we will need to understand these languages somehow in order to understand what the translated English word might be getting at. Even English words as contained in the King James Bible (the Church’s officially preferred translation for English readers) are going to be hard to understand because they either aren’t in common use anymore or because they are diachronic. That is: they can change in meaning over time. What an English word meant to the King James translators; what it meant to Joseph Smith when he gave us the revelations/translations/narrations recorded in the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price; and what it means to us today in our common parlance can be different--even starkly different.

An example of this is the word “virtue” in the Bible. In Ruth 3:11, we read “And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requires: for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.” And in Proverbs 31:10 we read "Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies." With these verses we might easily conclude that the King James translators were referring to virtue as we sometimes use it today which would be "to be chaste." However, a confusing case arises in the New Testament. Luke 6:19 reads “And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.” So, chastity left Jesus’ body after a woman touched him? Or is our definition of virtue perhaps different than that of the King James translators? The definition of "virtue" for the King James translators was closer to "power" than "chastity."

As we understand both the underlying Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek term and the English term translated into our King James Version—as well as the definition of an English word in Joseph Smith's time— the better we will be able to understand the scriptures as the first people who heard those revelations understood them and how we, today, are commanded to understand them (as observed above).

For understanding the underlying Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, the author recommends either making an effort to learning those languages or using the features at netbible.org that allow readers to click on the tab that gives the original Greek or Hebrew text, hover over the text to see the word that was translated, and then use the pop-up dictionaries. For understanding confusing King Jamesian English, the author recommends using the resources found at kingjamesbibledictionary.com. For understanding the meaning of a word in Joseph Smith's time, one should probably consult the King James Bible Dictionary (link above), 1828 Webster's Dictionary, and the Oxford English Dictionary. The reason that one should consult all three including the OED is because, as Stanford Carmack has persuasively argued, the 1828 Webster's Dictionary lacks important possibilities for how Joseph Smith might have defined a word in his mind when giving us all his scriptural productions.[33]

The goal of all this work is to establish that one has the superior interpretation of scripture or, in other words, the one that is most likely the correct one. Thus, one should seek for and document as much support for their interpretation of scripture as possible.

To aid in doing exegesis, members might simply consult any one of the literally hundreds of scholarly commentaries that have been produced to interpret different books of the New and Old Testament as well as the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. Many Latter-day Saints have been benefitted in using scriptural commentaries and study bibles such as the Harper Collins Study Bible, the New Oxford Annotated Bible, and the Jewish Study Bible. These study bibles contain essays at the beginning of each book to help explain authorship, historical place in canon, and historical context in which a particular book of scripture was written before allowing the reader to move forward with their study. The bibles also contain explanatory footnotes which allow the reader to see how an author is alluding to other passages of scripture as well as understand how to interpret certain verses. For Latter-day Saint scripture, members have enjoyed reading similar analytical commentaries such as Brant Gardner's Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon for the Book of Mormon; Steven Harper's Making Sense of the Doctrine and Covenants: A Guided Tour Through Modern Revelations for the Doctrine and Covenants; and the resources at Pearl of Great Price Central for the Pearl of Great Price. One might find the resources at Book of Mormon Central and Doctrine and Covenants Central very useful.

4. If Scripture is Making a Scientific Claim, Weigh it with Science

Our theology is not threatened by science. It welcomes it. If we have properly contextualized and interpreted scripture and if the scripture is making a scientific claim, we should weigh that with science to be more perfectly instructed in that doctrine, principle, or theory. D&C 88:77-79 reads

77 And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.

78 Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;

79 Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are. Things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms

Science can, should, and does support revelation on many particulars. We should welcome its voice to our spiritual reasoning when determining what God is trying to reveal to us or what he may reveal to us. This isn’t to say that current science will always agree with revelation nor that revelation will eventually change to fit the demands of the scientific community, but that revelation and science should not fight against each other nor be compartmentalized in our understanding of truth. Science will generally reveal the physical laws of God, while revelation will generally reveal God’s spiritual laws.

Conclusion

The foregoing framework for understanding scripture should help all of us in guarding against temptation and deception, as well as unifying the Saints: making us more "of one heart and one mind."[34]

Continued practice of this method may reveal other important insights about reading and understanding scripture. It is the author’s prayer that those searching for those insights will do so with a patient, humble, soft, and diligent heart engaged in prayer always.


Question: How can one view contradictions in Scripture in a faithful way?

Introduction to Question

It has been alleged that the Holy Bible and other scriptures in the standard works of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints contain contradictions. In some cases, the essential argument being made by critics may have merit and, in others, may not. It may become the responsibility of Latter-day Saints from time to time to defend the high authority of scripture.

There Seems to be Historical Contradictions in Scripture

Some of the seeming contradictions in scripture may be termed historical contradictions.

  • The Death of Judas: Did he die by hanging (Matthew 27:5)? Or did he fall headlong and have his bowels gush out (Acts 1:18)? Academic attempts to harmonize these two passages ceased at least as early as the late nineteenth century. Scholars today generally see both accounts as irreconcilably contradictory.[35]
  • Jesus Calming The Sea: The Gospels differ in the succession of events when Jesus calms the storm at sea. In the Matthean account, the Lord chastises his apostles for not having enough faith and then calms the storm whereas in the Markan and Lucan accounts he calms the storm and then chastises his apostles. The Johannine account lacks the story.[36]
  • The Timing of the Savior's Crucifixion: The Gospels differ in their timing of the crucifixion of the Savior. Was it during Passover? Before Passover? Or after Passover? Scholars believe that the difference is ultimately irreconcilable, and one simply must choose which account to believe.[37] Generally, Mark is favored since it is considered the earliest to be authored.[38]

There Seems to Be Theological Tensions/Contradictions in Scripture

Some of the seeming contradictions in scripture may be termed theological tensions/contradictions.

  • High Christology and Low Christology: It has long been observed by scholars that the Markan account of the Savior portrays Jesus as more human—lowly, and mortal—than the Johannine account which portrays Jesus as godlike from the antemortal realm to the end of his life. Scholars generally believe that the Markan account holds what they term a “low Christology” and the Johannine account a “high Christology.”[39]
  • Performing Alms: How can we not perform our alms in public (Matthew 6:1) but also let our light shine before the world (Matthew 5:16)?
  • Becoming and Not Becoming A Child: How can we set childish things aside (1 Corinthians 13:11) and become as a child (Matthew 18:3)?

Response to Question

Now let's lay out some principles and procedures to consider/follow when evaluating any contradiction.

1. Latter-day Saints do Not Believe in Scriptural Inerrancy

Latter-day Saints do not believe in the doctrine of Scriptural Inerrancy where the scriptures must be completely historically accurate, contain no theological tensions, and have no contradictions. That said, Latter-day Saints tend to hold the scriptures with a high degree of authority. How can this be the case? We don’t believe that scripture is inerrant, yet we also don’t want others to believe that we seek to create a God after our own image (Doctrine and Covenants 1:16) or that we believe that truth cannot be found in scripture.

Using the principles below will reveal how we can believe in the reliability of scripture.

2. You need to have an intelligent way to study the scriptures

As several Church leaders have cautioned, the scriptures must be read intelligently. You must have a method for getting the proper interpretation and understanding of scripture. We've outlined a method here.

Having this method in line will help you to recognize when two, seemingly contradictory accounts can either not be contradictory at all or both be equally right even if mentioning two different things.

For example, two friends, David and Michael, go the store. David can report this event to his parents as if only he went to the store: "Oh, this afternoon I went to Wal-Mart." Michael can report the same event as if only he went to the store. Both boys are equally right.

It should be remembered that the presence of contradiction in the relation of a historical event does not negate the occurrence of the event. One should focus on the essential reality of the event itself rather being described rather than the presence of contradictions in the relation of the event or the ahistoricity of one account of that event. The broad outlies of the Bible, Book of Mormon, Book of Abraham, and Book of Moses can generally be trusted as historically plausible.[40]

3. Line upon line and its two features

Citing scripture, Latter-day Saints frequently talk about how revelation comes through the prophets "line upon line, precept upon precept."[41] "Line upon line" has two features or functions:

  1. It reveals core truths over time directly to the prophet.
  2. It makes small addenda to previous revelations without threatening the core integrity of the first revelation. It's like reporting to one's parents that they went to the grocery store after school and then, getting futher into the conversation, reporting that one's friend also came with them.

4. God commands and revokes as seems good to him

In Section 56 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord states:

3 Behold, I, the Lord, command; and he that will not obey shall be cut off in mine own due time, after I have commanded and the commandment is broken.
4 Wherefore I, the Lord, command and revoke, as it seemeth me good; and all this to be answered upon the heads of the rebellious, saith the Lord.[42]

This scripture does not condone moral relativism. The Lord is indeed bound by a moral law that is factual. All this means is that there are sometimes multiple, equally good ways to bring about the same end, and that the Lord will choose between these ways as adaptions to the conditions of the world and his covenant people. Readers should keep this in mind when evaluating "contradictions" in the commandments and covenants God has given us throughout time.

5. What we know about the afterlife is likely contingent upon what will motivate us to repent.

Doctrine and Covenants 19:6-7, 10-12 states:

6 Nevertheless, it is not written that there shall be no end to this torment, but it is written endless torment.
7 Again, it is written eternal damnation; wherefore it is more express than other scriptures, that it might work upon the hearts of the children of men, altogether for my glory.
10 For, behold, the mystery of godliness, how great is it! For, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name. Wherefore
11 Eternal punishment is God's punishment.
12 Endless punishment is God's punishment.

Prior to this time, Joseph Smith's revelations seem to indicate that "endless punishment" might refer to something like eternal torment in a burning hell. This revelation shows us that what we know about the afterlife though is likely contingent upon what will motivate us to repent and to turn to God.

Readers should keep this in mind when evaluating what sort of "contradictions" exist about the afterlife in the scriptural record.

6. Apostasies and restorations can bring losses of knowledge. That knowledge may need to be restored gradually

Latter-day Saints believe in the concept of dispensations: periods of time in which God reveals his will through a prophet. A dispensation is inaugurated when God calls a prophet to receive revelation on behalf of the human family. A dispensation is ended when the general populace apostatizes or rebels against God. After the period of apostasy, God has called prophets anew.

With apostasies, knowledge about God can be lost from others. In ancient times, scriptural records were preserved on rolls of papyrus, clay tablets, and "writing-boards—flat boards of wood or ivory cut out in such a way that an inlay of wax could be written upon. The boards were hinged together to become a folding book."[43] These might not have been accessible to the next person that God deemed worthy to be called as prophet. Knowledge to that prophet would then have to be restored "line upon line" just as it was before.

7. The Scriptures in Question May Be Focusing on a Specific Question Rather than Historical Accuracy

The narratives of ancient scripture (especially the Old Testament, Book of Mormon, Book of Moses, and Book of Abraham) are often composed to tell one overriding message. The revelation to tell that message may have been short. "Hey, prophet, I need you to write about the importance of charity." The prophet/author(s) of the different books of scripture may then be composing their narratives around that message and historical consistency may not be their focus when writing. This may explain why some books in the Pentateuch say Horeb and others, Sinai as mentioned above/

This may be one of the reasons that the Book of Mormon so strongly emphasizes the importance of preserving records to accurately record how God has dealt with his children.

8. Scripture May Preserve Fallibility So That We Can Learn From It

As an example of this, consider the words of Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf regarding a scripture from Solomon:

The ancient King Solomon was one of the most outwardly successful human beings in history[44] He seemed to have everything—money, power, adoration, honor. But after decades of self-indulgence and luxury, how did King Solomon sum up his life?

“All is vanity,” he said.[45]

This man, who had it all, ended up disillusioned, pessimistic, and unhappy, despite everything he had going for him.[46]

[. . .]

Solomon was wrong, my dear brothers and sisters—life is not “vanity.” To the contrary, it can be full of purpose, meaning, and peace.

The healing hands of Jesus Christ reach out to all who seek Him. I have come to know without a doubt that believing and loving God and striving to follow Christ can change our hearts,[47] soften our pain, and fill our souls with “exceedingly great joy.”[48][49]

One will notice that Elder Uchtdorf 1) declared Solomon wrong; and 2) use scriptures to establish what he believed was the correct view. Indeed, Elder Uchtdorf uses many scriptures that contradict Solomon's view. But another important element of this is that Elder Uchtdorf didn't state that Solomon was wrong for expressing the view or that the scripture wasn't inspired for having a "wrong" view. Rather, he used Solomon's downtrodden state to illustrate an important principle of life.

This may be one option to consider when evaluating the contradictions of scripture.

Conclusion

Using the principles and procedures laid out above, it is the author's belief that virtually all contradictions/tensions are reconciable and lead to a clear picture about God that we can use to become like him and adopt his nature.


Response to claim: "Joseph Smith received a revelation, through the peep stone in his hat, to send Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery to Toronto, Canada for the sole purpose of selling the copyright of the Book of Mormon"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith received a revelation, through the peep stone in his hat, to send Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery to Toronto, Canada for the sole purpose of selling the copyright of the Book of Mormon. . . . The mission failed and the prophet was asked why his revelation was wrong.Joseph decided to inquire of the Lord regarding the question. The following is a quote from Book of Mormon witness David Whitmer’s testimony:“…and behold the following revelation came through the stone: ‘Some revelations are of God; and some revelations are of man: and some revelations are of the devil.’ So we see that the revelation to go to Toronto and sell the copy-right was not of God, but was of the devil or of the heart of man.” – David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, p.3. How are we supposed to know what revelations are from God, from the devil, or from the heart of man if even the Prophet Joseph Smith couldn’t tell? What kind of a god and method is this if Heavenly Father allows Satan to interfere with our direct line of communication to Him?

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The account by Whitmer (who did not go on the trip) does not correlate with the accounts by those who actually went. The question of revelation from God or Satan has been answered here

Jump to Detail:

Question: After receiving the revelation to attempt to sell the Book of Mormon copyright in Canada, did Joseph Smith later claim that the revelation was false?

David Whitmer, years after he left the Church, claimed that Joseph said that the revelation did not come from God

David Whitmer claimed that Joseph Smith received a revelation and prophesied that Oliver Cowdery and Hiram Page should go to Canada where they would find a man willing to buy the copyright to the Book of Mormon. When they failed to sell the copyright, Whitmer states that Joseph admitted that the revelation had not come from God.

David Whitmer was not a participant in the trip to Canada

The primary evidence supporting the negative aspects of the Canadian Mission story comes from David Whitmer, who was not a participant in the event, and who had left the church many years before. With the discovery of the Hiram Page letter of 1848 showing that the actual participants involved in the trip felt that Joseph Smith delivered an accurate revelation of what would transpire on the Mission, and in fact even found the event uplifting rather than negative, it is evident that no individual contemporary to the event felt that this represented a false prophecy by Joseph Smith. What we do see is excellent evidence in fulfillment of the teachings of Deuteronomy 12 and 18 that Joseph Smith was perceived as a true prophet of God by those involved in the Mission to Canada in early 1830.


Question: Are there any eyewitness accounts of the events that resulted in the trip to Canada to sell the Book of Mormon copyright?

Joseph Smith decided this could be an opportunity to relieve some of the financial pressure associated with publishing the Book of Mormon

Joseph Smith had been told there were people in Canada willing to buy the copyrights to useful books. Due to the dire financial position of the Church, he decided this could be an opportunity to relieve some of the financial pressure associated with publishing the Book of Mormon. Four men went to Canada.

Joseph Smith received a revelation directing them to go to Kingston, Canada, with some conditions placed upon their success

Before leaving, Joseph Smith received a revelation directing them to go to Kingston, Canada, with some conditions placed upon their success.

...it Pleaseth me that Oliver Cowderey Joseph Knight Hyram Pagee & Josiah Stowel shall do my work in this thing yea even in securing the Copyright & they shall do it with an eye single to my Glory that it may be the means of bringing souls unto me Salvation through mine only Be{t\gotten} Behold I am God I have spoken it & it is expedient in me Wherefor I say unto you that ye shall go to Kingston seeking me continually through mine only Be{t\gotten} & if ye do this ye shall have my spirit to go with you & ye shall have an addition of all things which is expedient in me. amen & I grant unto my servent a privelige that he may sell a copyright through you speaking after the manner of men for the four Provinces if the People harden not their hearts against the enticeings of my spirit & my word for Behold it lieth in themselves to their condemnation &{\or} th{er\eir} salvation.

Revelation book 1 p. 15 1.jpg

The text of the actual revelation was recently discovered and published in The Joseph Smith Papers

The text of the revelation was published in the The Joseph Smith Papers: The Revelations and Translations Series. According to Marlin K. Jensen, Church Historian and Recorder,

Another interesting development from work on the Revelations and Translations Series has been the identification of a previously unpublished revelation on securing a copyright for the Book of Mormon in Canada. David Whitmer, after he left the Church, recalled that the revelation promised success in selling the copyright, but upon return of the men charged with the duty, Joseph Smith and others were disappointed by what seemed like failure. Historians have relied upon statements of David Whitmer, Hiram Page, and William McLellin for decades but have not had the actual text of the revelation. Revelation Book 1 will provide that.

Although we still do not know the whole story, particularly Joseph Smith’s own view of the situation, we do know that calling the divine communication a “failed revelation” is not warranted. The Lord’s directive clearly conditions the successful sale of the copyright on the worthiness of those seeking to make the sale as well as on the spiritual receptivity of the potential purchasers. [50]

Hiram Page, one of the participants, stated he for the first time understood how some revelations given to people were not necessarily for their direct benefit

Hiram Page, who was one of the individuals sent to Canada, laid out the event in a letter in 1848.[51] Page wrote that the revelation Joseph Smith received conditioned success upon whether those individuals in Canada capable of buying the Book of Mormon copyright would have their hearts softened. When unable to sell the copyright, the four men returned to Palmyra. Hiram Page stated he for the first time understood how some revelations given to people were not necessarily for their direct benefit—in fact, Hiram Page believed that the revelation was actually fulfilled.


Question: How did the erroneous story of the attempt to sell the Book of Mormon copyright develop over time?

Hiram Page’s 1848 account of the Canadian Mission trip was sent to William McLellin

Hiram Page’s 1848 account of the Canadian Mission trip was sent to William McLellin. Because it was private correspondence, its existence and details were unknown until the 1930’s, when the letter was donated to the RLDS Church’s archives as part of a larger collection of McLellin materials.[52] The content of the letter was not broadly known until after the document was stolen in 1985, but a copy of the original was donated by a private collector around the year 2000 who had made a copy prior to the theft of the original.

In 1872 William McLellin wrote about the journey to Canada

In 1872 William McLellin wrote about the journey to Canada.[53] He had no first hand knowledge of the event, as he did not join the Church until 1831. He apparently got the description of the event from Martin Harris, who was likewise not there and had no first hand knowledge. From the published account, McLellin ignores Hiram Page’s 1848 letter, and asserts that all involved in the Canadian Mission viewed it as a complete failure. Since all involved were dead, and the only known account by one of the participants, who obviously viewed it as a success, was in McLellin's possession, he apparently did not worry about being corrected.

In about 1881 J.L. Traughber wrote a letter to a German correspondent, who published it in 1886, retelling McLellin’s second or third hand knowledge of the event

In 1881 or shortly thereafter a man by the name of J.L. Traughber wrote a letter to a German correspondent, who published it in 1886, retelling McLellin’s second or third hand knowledge of the event.[54]

In 1886, David Whitmer mentions the trip to sell the copyright for the first time

Beginning in 1886, David Whitmer reports for the first time of the Canadian Mission.[55] Initially Whitmer reports the event in the third person, but by the time of his 1887 pamphlet An Address to All Believers in Christ, 57 years after the event occurred, he reports to having been a first hand witness, and Joseph Smith having given a false prophecy. Whitmer states,

Joseph looked into the hat in which he placed the stone, and received a revelation that some of the brethren should go to Toronto, Canada, and that they would sell the copyright of the Book of Mormon. Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery went to Toronto on this mission, but they failed entirely to sell the copyright, returning without any money. Joseph was at my father's house when they returned. I was there also, and am an eye witness to these facts. Jacob Whitmer and John Whitmer were also present when Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery returned from Canada.

Well, we were all in great trouble; and we asked Joseph how it was that he had received a revelation from the Lord for some brethren to go to Toronto and sell the copyright, and the brethren had utterly failed in their undertaking. Joseph did not know how it was, so he enquired of the Lord about it, and behold the following revelation came through the stone: "Some revelations are of God: some revelations are of men: and some revelations are of the devil." So we see that the revelation to go to Toronto and sell the copyright was not of God, but was of the devil or of the heart of man.[56]

Whitmer was looking for evidence to support his conclusion that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet

One must remember that not only was Whitmer looking for evidence to support his conclusion that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet, but he also wrote with no fear of contradiction, as all the witnesses to the event were dead.


Question: How does David Whitmer's account of the attempt to sell the Book of Mormon copyright compare to those of the eyewitnesses?

Whitmer's account is at variance in several ways with Hiram Page’s account

Whitmer's account is at variance in several ways with Hiram Page’s account. Whitmer gets the destination city in Canada wrong (he says Toronto, the other accounts, and the revelation itself, say Kingston) and he did not correctly identify all of the participants (he identified Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery, while Page noted Joseph Knight and Josiah Stowell). Note that the text of the revelation itself finally clears up the issue of exactly who the revelation was directed to,

...it Pleaseth me that Oliver Cowderey Joseph Knight Hyram Pagee & Josiah Stowel shall do my work in this thing...

Page, an eyewitness, makes no mention at disappointment in Joseph Smith, nor is there any mention of a "false prophecy"

Page also makes no mention or even a hint at disappointment in Joseph Smith, nor is there an accusation that the trip was based upon a "false prophecy," so naturally no subsequent "revelation" is noted by Page explaining the mission’s failure.

In Whitmer’s 1887 account we learn for the first time of the supposed post-mission revelation where Joseph Smith is told that some revelations are from God, some from devils, some from men. This account is in all likelihood a fabrication. Unlike his consistent, life-long statements concerning the witness of the Gold Plates, this account, which is probably a second-hand retelling of events 57 years after their occurrence, suddenly appears and is wrong on several of the documentable facts, as well as being inconsistent with the first-hand testimony of Hiram Page, given 40 years earlier than Whitmer and by comparison much closer to the actual event.


Question: How did Latter-day Saint scholars respond to the attempt to sell the Book of Mormon copyright prior to Page's letter coming to light?

B.H. Roberts expressed doubt as to the accuracy of the story, and suggested that David Whitmer may not have recalled all of the details correctly

The letter from 1848 by Hiram Page was not publically available until the 20th Century. As a result, various LDS responses to the accounts by Whitmer and McLellin of necessity must explain why the apparent anomalous revelation does not make Joseph Smith a fallen prophet. Such was the case when B.H. Roberts expressed doubt as to the accuracy of the story, and suggested that David Whitmer may not have recalled all of the details correctly, yet went on to address the claim anyway. Roberts concluded:

Does that circumstance vitiate his claim as a prophet? No; the fact remains that despite this circumstance there exists a long list of events to be dealt with which will establish the fact of divine inspiration operating upon the mind of this man Joseph Smith. The wisdom frequently displayed, the knowledge revealed, the predicted events and the fulfilment thereof, are explicable upon no other theory than of divine inspiration giving guidance to him. [57]

As it happens, the passage of time and the uncovering of additional information has vindicated that confidence.


Response to claim: "I saw a testimony as more than just spiritual experiences and feelings. I saw that we had evidence and logic on our side based on the correlated narrative I was fed by the Church about its origins."

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

I saw a testimony as more than just spiritual experiences and feelings. I saw that we had evidence and logic on our side based on the correlated narrative I was fed by the Church about its origins.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The mention of the "correlated narrative" is a reference to popular ex-Mormon complaints about the correlated curriculum. A testimony is more than just spiritual experiences and feelings - the author neglects to mention other important elements in Latter-day Saint epistemology. Logic and reason are important elements along with a spiritual witness.


Response to claim: "What about the members who felt the Spirit from Dunn’s fabricated and false stories?"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

[Paul H.] Dunn was a General Authority of the Church for many years. He was a very popular speaker who told incredible faith-promoting war and baseball stories. Many times Dunn shared these stories in the presence of the prophet, apostles, and seventies. Stories like how God protected him as enemy machine-gun bullets ripped away his clothing, gear, and helmet without ever touching his skin and how he was preserved by the Lord. Members of the Church shared how they really felt the Spirit as they listened to Dunn’s testimony and stories. Unfortunately, Dunn was later caught lying about all his war and baseball stories and was forced to apologize to the members. He became the first General Authority to gain “emeritus” status and was removed from public Church life. What about the members who felt the Spirit from Dunn’s fabricated and false stories? What does this say about the Spirit and what the Spirit really is?"

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Simply receiving a warm feeling about a speech or article is not enough to call it revelation or a confirmation of the spirit. There are perfectly sound ways to make sense of the Spirit's presence while watching, reading, or listening to fictional material.

Jump to Detail:

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.[58]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 [59], 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:

Busstop
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.[60]

So, did anyone receive a spiritual confirmation that this fabricated story was true? We might say the following:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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".[61] 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: "a testimony is to be found in the bearing of it"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

[Boyd K. Packer said] "How can I bear testimony until I get one? How can I testify that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that the gospel is true? If I do not have such a testimony, would that not be dishonest?’ Oh, if I could teach you this one principle: a testimony is to be found in the bearing of it!" – Boyd K. Packer, The Quest for Spiritual Knowledge.

How is this honest? How is this ethical? What kind of advice are these Apostles giving when they’re telling you that if you don’t have a testimony, bear one anyway? How is this not lying? There’s a difference between saying you know something and you believe something. What about members and investigators who are on the other side listening to your 'testimony'? How are they supposed to know whether you actually do have a testimony of Mormonism or if you’re just following Packer and Oaks’ advice and you’re lying your way into one?

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Elder Packer is talking about having faith, not about "lying your way" into having a testimony.

Jump to Detail:

Question: Did Elder Boyd K. Packer suggest that we should "lie our way" into obtaining a testimony?

Introduction to Criticism

Critics of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have pointed to to certain statements from General Authorities and criticized them for the manner in which they suggest a testimony might be obtained.

For instance, the now late Elder Boyd K. Packer, an apostle, once wrote:

It is not unusual to have a missionary say, “How can I bear testimony until I get one? How can I testify that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that the gospel is true? If I do not have such a testimony, would that not be dishonest?” Oh, if I could teach you this one principle. A testimony is to be found in the bearing of it! Somewhere in your quest for spiritual knowledge, there is that “leap of faith,” as the philosophers call it. It is the moment when you have gone to the edge of the light and stepped into the darkness to discover that the way is lighted ahead for just a footstep or two. “The spirit of man,” is as the scripture says, indeed “is the candle of the Lord.” (Prov. 20:27) [62]

Another apostle, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, has expressed similar sentiments about the obtainment of a testimony before.[63] Elder Gary E. Stevenson, another apostle, has reiterated those sentiments in print.[64]

Critics have also taken issue with a statement by Elder Neil L. Andersen, another apostle, who has counseled those seeking conviction of the truthfulness of Joseph Smith's claims to "[c]onsider recording the testimony of Joseph Smith in your own voice, listening to it regularly, and sharing it with friends. Listening to the Prophet’s testimony in your own voice will help bring the witness you seek."[65]

In the critics' point of view, these General Authorities are encouraging people to simply think and pray about the Church being true until they finally believe that it is i.e. "lie their way to faith."

Elder Packer is talking about having faith, which one must exercise before receiving a witness

Elder Packer and the other general authorities are not suggesting that a person must "lie their way" into having a testimony. Elder Packer is talking about having faith.

For instance, we read in Hebrews 11:1:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

One exercises faith before one has the evidence to prove it. Elder Packer and the other authorities are simply restating the scriptural definition of "faith" in terms of "testimony."

When one exercises faith, results follow which strengthen that faith

When one exercises faith, results follow which strengthen that faith, but one has to take that first "leap of faith." One does not take a "leap of faith," unless they already have a seed of faith to begin with. Elder Packer and the other authorities are not suggesting that you should be "lying your way into" having a testimony. Attempting to "lie" your way into having a testimony would be ineffective: your testimony would not grow, and you would become increasingly frustrated.

Elder Packer makes this clear by addressing this particular concern:

It is not unusual to have a missionary say, “How can I bear testimony until I get one? How can I testify that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that the gospel is true? If I do not have such a testimony, would that not be dishonest?”

Oh, if I could teach you this one principle: a testimony is to be found in the bearing of it!

Somewhere in your quest for spiritual knowledge, there is that “leap of faith,” as the philosophers call it. It is the moment when you have gone to the edge of the light and stepped into the darkness to discover that the way is lighted ahead for just a footstep or two. “The spirit of man is,” as the scripture says, indeed “the candle of the Lord” (Proverbs 20:27).

It is one thing to receive a witness from what you have read or what another has said; and that is a necessary beginning. It is quite another to have the Spirit confirm to you in your bosom that what you have testified is true. Can you not see that it will be supplied as you share it? As you give that which you have, there is a replacement, with increase!

To speak out is the test of your faith.


Response to claim: "how can they be sure of the reliability of this same exact process in telling them that Mormonism is true?"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

There are many members who share their testimonies that the Spirit told them that they were to marry this person or go to this school or move to this location or start up this business or invest in this investment. They rely on this Spirit in making critical life decisions. When the decision turns out to be not only incorrect but disastrous, the fault lies on the individual and never on the Spirit. The individual didn’t have the discernment or it was the individual’s hormones talking or it was the individual’s greed that was talking or the individual wasn’t worthy at the time. This poses a profound flaw and dilemma: if individuals can be so convinced that they’re being led by the Spirit but yet be so wrong about what the Spirit tells them, how can they be sure of the reliability of this same exact process in telling them that Mormonism is true?

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

There are a number of things to consider when faced with the type of situation that the author describes besides those claimed. Confirmation of the spirit requires sincere questioning and study before receiving a witness. The most important thing to remember is how this process has provided blessings and even miracles in our lives. We shouldn't discount the process when we're meant to be tested and when we've already seen blessings of this same process in our lives. Our testimony of the Book of Mormon and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not something that is casually obtained. It requires sincere study, prayer, and nourishing our testimony through both intellectual and spiritual means throughout our entire lives.

Jump to Detail:

Question: Why might someone not be able to see their spiritual impressions come to successful, obvious, and/or beautiful fruition?

There are a variety of ways to view these situations

It is sometimes wondered how one might respond to a situation in which an impression to do or believe something doesn’t come to fruition—whether that be in an immediate, obvious, or good way. This article will offer a number of things to consider when in this type of a situation. They are not things we have to constantly be worrying about when trying to receive inspiration nor are they set possibilities. These are simply a number of things to consider when faced with this type of a situation.

Consider that the impression is brought to fruition without you immediately recognizing the benefit

  • The first thing we can always consider is that the impression has brought fruit but that it won’t be immediately obvious to us how those experiences benefit us or the life of someone else right now or in the future.
  • Many faithful members have reconciled such situations by seeing that the Lord may have simply wanted them to follow the impression so that he knows that you are faithful enough to at the very least follow through with the impressions he wants them to have.
  • Just as the Lord has given his will for the entire human family "line upon line", could it be that the Lord accommodates revelation to our particular understanding until a later time when he's ready to give us further knowledge about something? Could it be that we are not ready for some knowledge in particular but that the Lord intends to reveal something to us later when we are more mature and able to receive it?

These things should be considered.

Dallin H. Oaks: "[A person may have] a strong desire to be led by the Spirit of the Lord but . . . unwisely extends that desire to the point of wanting to be led in all things."

Dallin H. Oaks teaches that we can be led by false revelation if we extend our desire to pray about unnecessary things:

[A person may have] a strong desire to be led by the Spirit of the Lord but . . . unwisely extends that desire to the point of wanting to be led in all things. A desire to be led by the Lord is a strength, but it needs to be accompanied by an understanding that our Heavenly Father leaves many decisions for our personal choices. Personal decision making is one of the sources of the growth we are meant to experience in mortality. Persons who try to shift all decision making to the Lord and plead for revelation in every choice will soon find circumstances in which they pray for guidance and don't receive it. For example, this is likely to occur in those numerous circumstances in which the choices are trivial or either choice is acceptable. We should study things out in our minds, using the reasoning powers our Creator has placed within us. Then we should pray for guidance and act upon it if we receive it. If we do not receive guidance, we should act upon our best judgment. Persons who persist in seeking revelatory guidance on subjects on which the Lord has not chosen to direct us may concoct an answer out of their own fantasy or bias, or they may even receive an answer through the medium of "false revelation"[66]

One might want to consider how Mormon theology views “bad things” happening to good people

It may be useful to see how Mormon theology views bad things happening to good people. Perhaps these situations might be viewed as “bad things” since we don’t see the fruit of our effort. In Latter-day Saint theology, a bad thing may happen because:

  1. It brings about a greater good as when Joseph was sold into Egypt. Sometimes the greater good is not immediately forthcoming or obvious to us. Sometimes the effect that we have on people or on ourselves after following an impression can be enough to help strengthen their relationship with God or come closer to finding meaning through the restored Gospel.
  2. To chasten the disobedient because of his love for them as taught in Helaman 15. We have to be faithful to receive blessings. When we are humble we are more likely to turn to him.
  3. An Abrahamic test of faith. The prophet Joseph Smith is canonized saying “ But nevertheless, deep water is what I am wont to swim in. It all has become second nature to me, and I feel like Paul, to glory in tribulation;” (D&C 127:2) Obviously the Lord isn’t going to spare us any test of faith in life (D&C 136.31). He will actively test it to prepare us for greater things. Trying to learn how to receive and follow inspiration and trust in God is not an exception.

Sometimes people receive impressions, but aren’t able to interpret them correctly

It is important to know that:

  1. It is possible to confuse emotion for a spiritual impression. Given that we believe that the body and spirit are intimately and intricately connected (D&C 88:15), it is not suprising how a warm feeling or heart murmur may be over-interpreted as coming from a spiritual stimulus. We should take time when trying to receive inspiration to ponder what we are feeling and seek to counsel long with the Lord if wanting to receive an answer to prayer.
  2. Some people do receive an impression, but don’t interpret them correctly. Oftentimes we are receiving inspiration from the Spirit to confirm a thought but perhaps we aren’t still enough to capture its still small voice and we may get distracted from what it is trying to communicate to us.
  3. Some revelation requires conscious thought to interpret correctly. The Doctrine and Covenants records Joseph Smith having to be left to wonder as to the proper meaning of revelation that he received relative to the Second Coming of the Savior (Doctrine and Covenants 130: 12-17). We may have to do the same at different points of our lives. As a word of caution: it may be only while looking back on that revelation in retrospect that we’ll recognize exactly why we were inspired to do, say, and or/believe something.

It is important to be still and focus so that we can carefully discern what exactly the spirit is prompting us to do and/or believe. Oftentimes we haven’t studied an issue out in our minds thoroughly as is often required of us when trying to seek inspiration. When we don’t, we may not get what we’re looking for (D&C 9:7-9).

Revelation takes time to master. We should understand how the Spirit functions and continue to test our knowledge. Eventually we are promised to see fruits for our efforts—even miracles

Revelation takes time to master. The best we can do is understand how the Spirit works by reading the scriptures and following the impression we receive as best as we can discern them. We are promised that as we are humble, the Lord will lead us by the hand and give us answers to our prayers (D&C 112:10) and that signs will follow the believers (D&C 63.9)

A key to understanding when something is authentic is its effect on you. It should feel like it didn’t come from you or was willed by you or as Joseph Smith says, like “pure intelligence" flowing into you:

A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.


However, as Boyd K. Packer points out, revelation does not "flow without effort" on the part of the person desiring it:

To one who thought that revelation would always flow without effort (although sometimes the revelation is spontaneous), the Lord said:

“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.” This burning in the bosom is not purely a physical sensation. It is more like a warm light shining within your being.

Describing the promptings from the Holy Ghost to one who has not had them is very difficult. Such promptings are personal and strictly private!

D&C 50:24

The fruit of our impressions will become clearer to us as we continue in God. As expressed in D&C 50:24:

24 That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.

As we remain humble, patient, and allow things to play out, God will allow us to understand what he means to teach us. As we grow into the principle of revelation, we will be better prepared to understand the Lord’s design and method for shaping our lives.


Question: Is prayer the only element required in the determination of truth?

Prayer is one element in determining truth

Non-Mormons often claim that the Bible is the only true "yardstick" for determining truth. Ironically, the Bible refutes this, and clearly shows that the Holy Spirit, or the Spirit of Truth will lead us to all truth (John 14:26, John 15:26, 1 Jn 5:6). By claiming the Bible as the only source of truth, non-LDS are in fact minimizing the power of prayer and the role of the Holy Ghost.

The LDS believe that the most significant verse of scripture, the scripture which has had the greatest impact on the history of the world is found in James 1:5–6:

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. (James 1:5-6)

This verse led a young man, Joseph Smith to follow that counsel–to offer a humble prayer of faith, being willing to accept the answer, no matter how difficult to accept that answer might be. That prayer led to the beginning of the restoration of the gospel.

There are elements in addition to prayer that are required in order to determine truth

Through Joseph Smith, the Lord has revealed other keys to prayer. One is that we are to "study it out" in our minds, then go before the Lord and ask for confirmation that our decision is correct. We are then instructed that if our decision is correct, we will feel the fruits of the Spirit, and if incorrect, we will have a "stupor of thought". Thus, serious seekers of truth cannot fully claim they have studied the Book of Mormon until they have read it in its entirety. The LDS encourage critical analysis of the Book of Mormon, specifically by prayerfully asking if anyone could have fabricated the book. Everyone who asks himself that question with every page will find, somewhere between the first page and the last, that the answer is 'no'–that the Book of Mormon is true. The Book of Mormon is convincing evidence of the restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith.


Response to claim: "I felt the Spirit watching 'Saving Private Ryan' and the 'Schindler’s List'. Both R-rated and horribly violent movies. I also felt the Spirit watching 'Forrest Gump' and the 'Lion King'."

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

I felt the Spirit watching 'Saving Private Ryan' and the 'Schindler’s List'. Both R-rated and horribly violent movies. I also felt the Spirit watching 'Forrest Gump' and the 'Lion King'.

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

There are perfectly sound ways to make sense of the Spirit's presence while watching, reading, or listening to fictional material.

Jump to Detail:

Question: Can a person "feel the spirit" while watching movies?

The Spirit testifies of all true principles, regardless of the source

Why would I "feel the spirit" when watching fictional movies? Some of these movies are even violent and R-rated, such as Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List.

The Spirit testifies of all truth. The Spirit can testify of true principles taught or portrayed in fiction as well as in real life such as the importance of sacrifice, the importance of family, or of humility. For example, why would one feel so compelled by the story of Les Miserables? After all, the movie portrays prostitutes, thieves, and blasphemers. However, the message is of the importance of mercy over justice, of self-sacrifice, and of forgiveness. Why wouldn't the Holy Ghost tell us these are true principles? The same can be said of many movies, including animated films such as The Lion King.

The movies Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List are very accurate and profound dramas that depict certain important historical events: In this case, the D-day invasion and the Holocaust. They are, out of necessity, R-rated and violent movies, nevertheless they are still deeply moving and, at their most beautiful moments, can move our hearts and minds to God as they teach simple but profound truths. We are moved by these portrayals because we empathize with the sacrifice and suffering of those depicted. Just because we seek "confirmation of the spirit" in religious matters in order to receive confirmation of their truthfulness does not require us to be "dead in feeling" to the rest of life.

Simply receiving a warm feeling about a movie or other fictional work 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 on feel-good movies. 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 (usually in the form of peace) while in the presence of good things. This is how the vast majority of Latter-day Saints view (or would view) feelings towards movies. 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 works. 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 coming from a spiritual stimulus. 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).


Response to claim: "Why did I feel the Spirit as I listened to the stories of apostates sharing how they discovered for themselves that Mormonism is not true?"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Why did I feel the Spirit as I listened to the stories of apostates sharing how they discovered for themselves that Mormonism is not true?

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

There are plenty of ways to make sense of feeling the spirit during this time.

Jump to Detail:

Question: Can someone feel the spirit when listening to stories of apostasy?

The Spirit only testifies of things that come from God, and should not be confused with emotion

One critic of the Church, who believes that the "spirit" is simply an emotional manifestation, poses the question: "Why did I feel the Spirit as I listened to the stories of apostates sharing how they discovered for themselves that Mormonism is not true?" [67]

The Spirit does not confirm apostasy. This is simply an attempt to diminish the experience of those who have truly had the Spirit testify of Christ.

A more accurate way to phrase this would be: "Why did I feel good as I listened to the stories of apostates sharing how they discovered for themselves that Mormonism is not true?" After all, ex-Mormons have already concluded that the "Spirit" is unreliable and inconsistent. The likely answer, of course, is that the stories that the ex-Mormon is hearing support for the conclusion that they have already formed.

Alternative Interpretations

Moroni tells us that we have the ability to discern what comes from God and what doesn't even after receiving certain impressions (Moroni 7:14; See also D&C 8:2). Let's look at alternative interpretations of the experience:

  • The experience may be one of feeling the love of Christ for the members. Isn't such possible? Feeling the love of God for people who have gone through a loss of faith 2 Ne. 26:30? Such is possible and even desirable. The only objection then to the author of this criticism would be the deliberate reinterpretation and use of that experience to hurt member testimonies and cause confusion.
  • There may not have been a true spiritual experience "confirming truth". Since we believe that the body and spirit are intricately connected (D&C 88:15) it is not surprising that a thought, warm feeling or heart tremor can be over-interpreted as coming from a spiritual stimulus. This is what the scriptures might call having "foolish imaginations of the heart" (Hel. 16:22; 3 Ne. 2:2; Moses 8:22).
Concerning conflating emotion and thoughts with the spirit, President Howard W. Hunter said:
Let me offer a word of caution. . . . I think if we are not careful . . . , we may begin to try to counterfeit the true influence of the Spirit of the Lord by unworthy and manipulative means. I get concerned when it appears that strong emotion or free-flowing tears are equated with the presence of the Spirit. Certainly the Spirit of the Lord can bring strong emotional feelings, including tears, but that outward manifestation ought not to be confused with the presence of the Spirit itself.[68]
  • There may have been no spiritual impression or anything resembling it at all and this may be an intentional lie to try and hurt member's testimonies. This might be an example of "perverting" the Gospel (Alma 30:60).
  • The experience may be caused by the devil, see for example (Alma 30:53). Anything that entices us to worship him or to do evil is of him (Moroni 7:17)
  • The experience may have been caused by false spirits. D&C 50 was revealed for discerning spirits with D&C 50: 31-33 being the way to (following the counsel given in 1 John 4:1-2) test the spirits (See also D&C 52:15-19)
Consider what Joseph Smith told Brigham Young:
Tell the brethren to be humble and faithful and be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord, that it will lead them aright. Be careful and not turn away the still, small voice; it will teach them what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their heart open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them their hearts will be ready to receive it. They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits—it will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife and all evil from their hearts, and their whole desire will be to do good.[69]


"Recognizing the Voice of the Spirit" (Podcast): "How can I come to know that spiritual experience is not just a product of chemical processes in the brain?"

"FAIR Questions 2: Recognizing the Voice of the Spirit":

How do I find a way to not only discern the Spirit from emotion, but how can I become convinced that the Spirit is actually real? How can I come to know that spiritual experience is not just a product of chemical processes in the brain? I mean, I’ve prayed about the truth of the Book of Mormon and the gospel and I have gotten answers to my prayers, but how can I come to know whether or not this is from God, and not just either a part of my subconscious or a delusion.[70] —(Click here to continue)


Response to claim: "This thought-provoking video raises some profound questions and challenges to the Latter-day Saint concept of "testimony" and receiving a witness from the Holy Ghost..."

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (March 2015 revision) make(s) the following claim:

This thought-provoking video raises some profound questions and challenges to the Latter-day Saint concept of "testimony" and receiving a witness from the Holy Ghost or Spirit as being a unique, reliable, and trustworthy source to discerning truth and reality:

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The author uses a video that basically summarizes his claims regarding the Spirit. The video includes several clips of people describing spiritual experiences. One includes a young man's brother who prayed about The Book of Hagoth from the Mentinah Archives and claims to have received a confirmatory witness of its truth. The video also includes an unverified recording--supposedly from a member of the FLDS church who claims she received a witness from the Holy Ghost that polygamy was a true principle and that that church was true. Since the recording is only vocal and not visual, the provenance remains slightly dubious. It includes members of Islam who state their confidence in Islam and one woman in particular of her impactful witness from God. It also includes a woman from the Heaven's Gate cult who expresses deep feelings about her being a part of it. There are ways for Latter-day Saints to make sense of this.

Jump to Detail:

Question: Can a person receive a spiritual witness about any book?

The scriptures are clear that there is a choice involved as to which power we bring ourselves under during this life.

Primarily secularist critics of The Church of Jesus Chist posit that a person can receive a witness about anything if they pray hard enough to receive the answer they want. Prayer is, as they posit, an entirely deterministic epistemic practice and spiritual epistemology is simply based in confirmation bias. It is sad to hear of cases like this since the person doing this is abandoning a unique proposition in order to squander the precious gift of spiritual witness. When we have received a testimony or when we have become aware of the proposition of receiving a spiritual witness, it is our choice to accept that testimony/proposition and to move forward with it. Heavenly Father isn’t going to stop us if we are really trying to disprove ourselves of the validity of the experience. As the dying Lehi taught his sons:

2 Nephi 2: 27-28

27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

28 And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit;

According to this scripture, there is a choice involved even after we have received the Holy Spirit and had it testified to us of the truthfulness of something. We have our agency, now is our time to continue in light until the perfect day (D&C 50:24).

If we are to pray about other books, we may be opening ourselves up to the influence of false spirits.

1 John 4:1 gives us this council

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye that the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God

Additionally, Doctrine and Covenants 50:31 states the following:

31 Wherefore, it shall come to pass, that if you behold a spirit manifested that you cannot understand and you receive not that spirit, ye shall ask of the Father in the name of Jesus; and if he give not unto you that spirit, then you may know that it is not of God.

It is therefore dangerous to do this to ourselves as we may simply allow ourselves to be deceived. This information from the scriptures should hopefully inform our decision making process and allow us to broaden our understanding of how the Spirit works. We should be careful to simply understand how LDS pneumatology works and then trust in what the Lord has given us in faith.

Personal revelation may come while reading a book.

The dynamic influence of the holy ghost, as where we are receiving revelation, is both a revelation or inspiration brought to the mind combined with a discernible outside influence on the soul (D&C 8:2). Why can’t we receive revelation confirming a true principle while reading a book? To pray about a book to “confirm its truthfulness” is to meddle with what shouldn’t be meddled with. It is demanding signs and wasting the sacred gift of agency. To gain inspiration and encouragement from one to continue a long the path of discipleship and find renewed meaning through them is part of a normal spiritual interaction with all things that are good in the world. We are encouraged to seek after all good things (A of F 1: 13) because as Moroni 7 tells us, all good things come from God.

We also do believe that other books will be inspired by a god and will come from all quarters of the earth (2 Nephi 29:11; Alma 29:8). But one should wait for prophetic guidance as to what these books might be and who the inspiration of the Lord might have touched in order to bring these prophesied books to our understanding. There is no one else besides the prophet who can determine what this prophesy from Nephi might mean for the Church as a whole.

There are evidences against the deterministic claim

Latter-day Saints and other individuals wrestling with the question should remember the evidences against this posited determinism from critics by remembering “top-down” revelation. This is distinguished from “bottom-up” revelation. “Bottom-up”revelation is where the individual has to bring him or herself in tune with the will of God before receiving revelation by making themselves worthy, studying something out in their mind, and then asking God for inspiration with real intent. Top-down revelation is where God brings us in tune. This happens with promptings of eminent danger, “no” answers to prayer when we want a yes, other miraculous knowledge we would not otherwise have were it not for the Spirit’s influence.


Question: What do the Mentinah Papers or the Nemenhah People have to do with the Mormons?

To put it simply, absolutely nothing. Any connections are only in the minds of the people responsible for publishing these papers

What do the Mentinah Papers or the Nemenhah People have to do with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

As genuine records from a people connected to the Nephites, the papers cannot be taken seriously. In addition to the numerous points in which they are not consistent with the Book of Mormon, there are theological or procedural problems. If there were to be such scripture revealed at this time, it would come through the proper channels of priesthood authority. It would come from the current Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, not from obscure individuals who claim support from unnamed apostles.

The Mentinah Papers claim to be a history of a people called the Nemenhah. They claim to be translations of papers found in the mountains around Manti, Utah (Sanpete County) in the 1800s. They claim that they have been translated by wise men speaking languages descended from the languages at the time of the Book of Mormon. The papers have never been made publicly available, but the translations have been published both on the internet and in book form.

They claim to have taken the papers to Brigham Young who indicated that he would be unable to help them translate the papers into modern English. Since that time, their proponents claim that they have spoken to other apostles of the Church (whom they decline to name) who have encouraged them.

There has been a development in the story of those that have the papers in their possession. They initially did not identify the location of the people and their story, but now say that the main location of the Nemenhah people was in the area of Sanpete County, Utah. They have organized an American Indian church based on the teachings of the Mentihah papers.

The story purports to tell of the descendants of Hagoth, and others who traveled north from the Nephite lands, from the Book of Mormon. The story seems to take some of the "loose ends" found in the Book of Mormon and tell what is not present in the Book of Mormon. For example, Moroni is described as joining the Nemenhah after the great battles that destroyed his people in about AD 400. He joins with the body of believers and becomes a great leader among them. It tells of Corianton, son of Alma, who left the Nephite lands with his wife, Isabel, and established a great and righteous city in the northeastern part of the land. Although the narration contains much original ideas and stories they all seem to be off shoots of the Book of Mormon story. It describes great conferences held among the people of the north and the people of the Pacific Islands.

There are doctrinal issues that are presented in the Mentinah narrative. For example, the Everlasting Covenant is described as the Gods trying to organize the world for the benefit of their spiritual children. But they cannot seem to get it quite right. Then some beings representing what we think of as the Holy Ghost come and give the Gods corrections to what they were doing. Hence the “New” and everlasting covenant. If it were not for this multitude of beings coming and making this correction, all of creation would have failed in its purposes.

The narrative describes a form of temple worship that is to be practiced in sweat lodges. It then prophesies that when the people once again turn to sweat lodges for their temple worship it will be a sign that the Church is in apostasy. Naturally, this sort of worship is now taking place among the newly established church that they are promoting.

There are other doctrinal issues as well.

There are some good things written in the narrative, such as good counsel about the relationship between a husband and wife. The Mentinah Papers promote a cooperative life, but do it in a manner that is not consistent with proper principles as understood by the Church.


Question: Did Brigham promise that Joseph Smith III would eventually take over the Church?

Brigham was referring to being "ready to receive" any of Joseph's children into the Church

The Wikipedia article "Joseph Smith, Jr." makes this rather interesting assertion:

Indeed, as late as 1860, Brigham Young assured the bulk of Smith's followers that young Joseph would eventually take his father's place. (Journal of Discourses, 8:69.)

The source provided does not support the assertion that Brigham stated that "young Joseph would eventually take his father's place." Brigham said,

What of Joseph Smith's family? What of his boys? I have prayed from the beginning for sister Emma and for the whole family. There is not a man in this Church that has entertained better feelings towards them. Joseph said to me, "God will take care of my children when I am taken." They are in the hands of God, and when they make their appearance before this people, full of his power, there are none but what will say—"Amen! we are ready to receive you."

The brethren testify that brother Brigham is brother Joseph's legal successor. You never heard me say so. I say that I am a good hand to keep the dogs and wolves out of the flock. I do not care a groat who rises up. I do not think anything about being Joseph's successor. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 8:69.)

Brigham's comment "we are ready to receive you" applied to all of Joseph's children, not just Joseph Smith III.

Mark Hofmann forged a document known as the The Joseph Smith III blessing, which falsely represented itself as a father’s blessing given by the Prophet Joseph Smith on 17 January 1844 to his son, Joseph Smith III, to the effect that this son was his appointed successor. (See Ensign, May 1981.) off-site


Question: What indications were there that Brigham Young would be Joseph Smith's successor?

Statements indicating that Brigham would be Joseph's successor

Below are statements from contemporaries that indicate Brigham's place as rightful successor to Joseph Smith. In addition to these, one should see the 100+ statements that John Welch has compiled in Opening the Heavens that indicate Brigham's rightful place as successor to Joseph Smith.

Receiving All Ordinances as Member of the Quorum of the Anointed

From Church History Topics, “Anointed Quorum (‘Holy Order’)”:

On May 4, 1842, Joseph Smith introduced the temple endowment to a group of nine close associates in an upper room of his Nauvoo store. Over the next two years, Joseph administered this ordinance to more than 50 additional men and women. This group received a ceremonial washing and anointing as part of the endowment, and were later called the “anointed Quorum,” “the Quorum,” the “council,” or the “Holy Order.”

An 1841 revelation to Joseph Smith taught that the endowment was to be given to Church members in the completed Nauvoo Temple. But according to Orson Hyde, Joseph explained, “I don’t know what it is, but the Lord bids me to hasten and give you your endowment before the temple is finished.” He selected men and women whom he trusted would treat the sacred ordinances of the temple with reverence and confidentiality. Heber C. Kimball, one of the original members of the Anointed Quorum, explained that Joseph “got a small company” that “he can open his bosom to and feel himself safe.”

[. . .]

After Joseph Smith’s martyrdom, participation in the Anointed Quorum figured prominently in the debate over who would succeed the Prophet. One powerful aspect of the case made by the Quorum of the Twelve in the weeks following Joseph’s death was that they, unlike rival claimant Sidney Rigdon, had received all the temple ordinances and had been authorized by Joseph Smith to give them to others.[71]

Rocky Mountain Prophecy

Shortly before his death, Joseph Smith prophesied that the Saints would move west. This prophecy has become known as the Rocky Mountain Prophecy. This validates the claim of Brigham Young to be the true successor of Joseph.

Benjamin Franklin Johnson

“Of Brigham Young as President of the Church, I will again bear this as a faithful testimony that I do know and bear record that upon the head of Brigham Young as chief, with the Apostleship in full, was by the voice of the Prophet Joseph in my hearing, laid the full responsibility of bearing of[f] the kingdom of God to all the world . . . . [When Brigham Young first met Joseph Smith and spoke in tongues in the Adamic languaue the Prophet] at that time, made the prediction upon the head of Brigham Young that ‘at some period he would become the leader of the Church, and that there would be one danger to beset him, and that would be his love of wealth.’ These things were told to me by [Lyman R.] Sherman [i.e., Johnson’s brother-in-law] at near the time of their occurrence” (E. Dale LeBaron, Benjamin Franklin Johnson: Friend to the Prophets [Provo, Utah: Grandin Book Co., 1997], 232, 233).

Brigham Young

“I can say of a truth that Joseph told me not three months before he was killed, and I did not seek the information he gave me—we were talking upon counseling, governing and controlling—that ‘if I am moved out of the way, you are the only man living on this earth who can counsel and direct the affairs of the kingdom of God on the earth’” ("Remarks by President Brigham Young at the Semi Annual Conference, Great Salt Lake City, Oct. 8, 1866," LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah. Spelling, punctuation, and grammar modernized).

William Nelson

“I have heard the Prophet speak in public on many occasions. In one meeting I heard him say, ‘I will give you a key that will never rust. If you will stay with the majority of the Twelve Apostles, and the records of the Church, you will never be led astray’” (Young Woman’s Journal, December 1906, 542–43).

Oliver Cowdery

“There was no salvation but in the valley and through the priesthood there.” (Letter, Phineas Young to Brigham Young, April 25, 1850, Brigham Young Collection, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Martin Harris

"Brigham is governor" (----------).

Mosiah Hancock

"When the Prophet had his hand upon my father's head, I said to myself, 'I trust that I will be as true to young Joseph, the Prophet's son, as my father is to his father.' Afterwards at home, I told my father of my thoughts, and he said, 'No, Mosiah, for God has shown to Brother Joseph that his son, Joseph, will be the means of drawing many people away from this Church after him. Brother Joseph gave us to understand that it was our duty to follow the Twelve. The majority of this people will be right" (Amy E. Baird, Victoria H. Jackson, and Laura L. Wassell, comp., "Autobiography of Mosiah Hancock (1834-1865)," typescript copy, BYU Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Provo, Utah, 27-29.

Joseph Smith

“where I am not, there is no First Presidency over the Twelve” [TPJS, 106]. (ftnt. #23): Some recent historians have asserted that this statement is not found in the original minutes of the 1836 meeting. Even so, the insertion in the Joseph Smith history in the 1850s can still be accepted as valid, for the compilers of that history, Wilford Woodruff and George A. Smith, were contemporaries of the Prophet and “were eye and ear witnesses of nearly all the transactions recorded . . . , and, where they were not personally present, they have had access to those who were” (quoted in Dean C. Jessee, “The Writing of Joseph Smith’s History,” BYU Studies 11 (Summer 1971): 473). President Brigham Young understood this concept, as have all other Church Presidents who have authoritatively used this statement as a key principle in succession to the presidency. (Brent L. Top and Lawrence R. Flake, Ensign, August 1996)

Further Reading

  • D. Michael Quinn has done excellent work on the succession Crisis through BYU Studies which can be found here.
  • Also see this video from LDS Truth Claims that explains all criticisms in detail and points to additional sources for learning.
  • Video from Brian Jensen of the Church History Department



Question: What are the standards for prophetic succession in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

Introduction to Question

Many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other interested parties have wondered what the standards for presidential succession are in the Church and how they were set up under the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith. These standards are important to document as the perceived legitimacy of the Church as God's "only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth" (Doctrine and Covenants 1:30) can be threatened by offshoot sects of Mormonism or other Mormon Gnostics if the standards are misunderstood.

This article will seek to do just that.

Response to Question

There are two scenarios when the seat of President of the Church must be filled. The first of these is when the President of the Church dies and the other is when the President of the Church becomes a fallen prophet or is excommunicated from the Church. We will review requirements for both scenarios.

The Scope and Origin of the Authority of the President of the Church

First, it might be helpful to review the scriptures that touch on what scope of authority the President of the Church has and where that authority comes from.[72] The Doctrine and Covenants declares that:

  1. No one receives commandments or revelations on behalf of the entire Church except the prophet (Doctrine and Covenants 28:2).
  2. Others can have the authority to declare the commandments and revelations (from the Prophet) with power, and to speak and teach by way of commandment, but when writing should couch it as wisdom instead of commandment (Doctrine and Covenants 28:3-5).
  3. Authority to preach and organize the church comes through ordination by someone with authority. Additionally, that ordination must be known by the church to have been ordained in the Church through those priesthood channels (Doctrine and Covenants 42:11).
  4. Anyone ordained of the Lord will “come in at the gate’’–that is, will be easily recognizable as an authorized messenger, and not have to gain influence by courting popularity and gradual coalition-building etc. There’s a reason we keep pictures of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve in church buildings, so that there’s no confusion about who our leaders are. We can’t be deceived by pretenders (Doctrine and Covenants 43:2-7). Coming in at the gate entails that one will receive all ordinances pertaining to salvation including baptism, confirmation/reception of Holy Spirit, initiatory, endowment, and sealing. As worthy men are ordained to apostleship, they will receive keys including:

Regarding the organization of the First Presidency specifically, the Doctrine and Covenants declares:

22 Of the Melchizedek Priesthood, three Presiding High Priests, chosen by the body, appointed and ordained to that office, and upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church, form a quorum of the Presidency of the Church.
23 The twelve traveling councilors are called to be the Twelve Apostles, or special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world—thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling.
24 And they form a quorum, equal in authority and power to the three presidents previously mentioned.

We learn a couple of important things about succession:

  • Three high priests of the Melchizedek Priesthood form the First Presidency. With the death of one, it logically follows that the Quorum is unorganized.
  • With the dissolution of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve is to take over since they are "equal in power and authority" to the First Presidency.

Principles of Succession if the Prophet Merely Loses Authority Without Dying

Now we review the different standards laid out by the Doctrine and Covenants for succession. The first scenario for when the seat of President of the Church must be filled is when the Prophet loses his authority upon being excommunicated for the Church. There is a procedure for trying the President of the Church for excommunication in the Doctrine and Covenants (Doctrine and Covenants 107:82-84).

The Doctrine and Covenants then makes clear that if the prophet goes astray, to the extent of losing his authority to receive revelations and commandments for the Church, he would still have the ability to appoint his successor (Doctrine and Coveanants 43:2-7). This invalidates claims such as those of James Strang and Denver Snuffer to an angel being the one to have to ordain someone to the presidency in order to continue the prophetic line of authority.

Principles of Succession if the Prophet Dies

With the death of the President of the Church, the First Presidency is then dissolved since it contains three high priests per Doctrine and Covenants 107:22-24 above. Authority to guide the Church then falls to the Twelve since they are equal in authority to the First Presidency. One of the high priests of the Church must be appointed to receive revelations on behalf of the whole Church (Doctrine and Covenants 28:2, 7). The Twelve can govern as a body administratively, but they cannot guide the Church spiritually. Thus, the Twelve almost always choose to reorganize the First Presidency. By tradition, the person chosen as the President of the Church out of the body of High Priests has almost always been the most senior apostle of the Quorum of the Twelve: the one that has served the longest.

Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained more:

The period of time between the death of a prophet and the reorganization of the First Presidency is referred to as an “apostolic interregnum.” During this period, the Quorum of the Twelve, under the leadership of the quorum president, jointly holds the keys to administer the leadership of the Church. President Joseph F. Smith taught, “There is always a head in the Church, and if the Presidency of the Church are removed by death or other cause, then the next head of the Church is the Twelve Apostles, until a presidency is again organized.”[73]


The most recent interregnum period began when President Monson passed away on January 2 and ended 12 days later on Sunday, January 14. On that Sabbath morning, the Quorum of the Twelve met in the upper room of the Salt Lake Temple in a spirit of fasting and prayer, under the presiding direction of President Russell M. Nelson, the senior Apostle and President of the Quorum of the Twelve.

In this sacred and memorable meeting, following a well-established precedent in unity and unanimity, the Brethren were seated by seniority in a semicircle of 13 chairs and raised their hands first to sustain the organization of a First Presidency and then to sustain President Russell Marion Nelson as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This sustaining was followed by the Quorum of the Twelve gathering in a circle and placing hands upon the head of President Nelson to ordain and set him apart, with the next most-senior Apostle acting as voice.

President Nelson then named his counselors, President Dallin Harris Oaks, President Henry Bennion Eyring, with President Oaks as the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and President Melvin Russell Ballard as the Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Following similar sustaining votes, each of these Brethren was set apart to his respective office by President Nelson. This was a deeply sacred experience, with an outpouring of the Spirit. I offer to you my absolute witness that the will of the Lord, for which we fervently prayed, was powerfully manifest in the activities and events of that day.

With the ordination of President Nelson and the reorganization of the First Presidency, the apostolic interregnum ended, and the newly constituted First Presidency began to operate without, remarkably, even one second of interruption in governing the Lord’s kingdom on the earth.

This morning, this divine process is culminated in accordance with scriptural mandate outlined in the Doctrine and Covenants: “For all things must be done in order, and by common consent in the church, by the prayer of faith,”[74] and “three Presiding High Priests, … upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church, form a quorum of the Presidency of the Church.”[75][76]

These requirements have been met and this pattern kept in an uninterrupted chain from the Prophet Joseph Smith to the current President of the Church, President Russell M. Nelson.

Conclusion

It is the hope of the author that this article will serve as a helpful tool for clearing doubts about who the legitimate succesor of Joseph Smith is and thus the rightful custodian of all keys pertaining to the direction of God's Kingdom on Earth: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Notes

  1. See “Holy Spirit” https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Spirit
  2. Preach My Gospel, Chapter 5 "The Book of Mormon and the Bible Support Each Other"
  3. "Lesson 1: The Message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ," Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service (2004) 46
  4. This response was written 25 February 2019
  5. Bruce R. McConkie, “Prophets,” in Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, Inc., 1966), 608.
  6. Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 542.
  7. Harold B. Lee, “The Place of the Living Prophet, Seer, and Revelator,” Address to Seminary and Institute of Religion Faculty, BYU, 8 July 1964; see Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 541.
  8. JD, 6:319, President Brigham Young, 7 April 1852, general conference address, Salt Lake City, Utah, Tabernacle.
  9. Salt Lake School of the Prophets Minute Book, 9 June 1873, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah.
  10. JD, 3:209, President Brigham Young, 17 February 1856, discourse delivered in the Salt Lake City, Utah, Tabernacle.
  11. “The Lord told me that Adam was my father and that he was the God and father of all the inhabitants of this earth” (Memorandum, 30 April 1862, cited in Stanley B. Kimball, ed., On the Potter’s Wheel: The Diaries of Heber C. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Signature Books and Smith Research Associates, 1987], 176, n. 3). There is a reported instance of Heber C. Kimball supposedly writing something similar in another manuscript but since this information was relayed by J. Golden Kimball (Heber’s son) to another person it is a third-hand account.
  12. Thomas B. H. Stenhouse, The Rocky Mountain Saints (London: Ward, Lock, and Tyler, 1874), 561 n. 2. If Heber C. Kimball was indeed the person who introduced the Adam–God idea to President Brigham Young and (as evidenced in the previous endnote) claimed divine revelation for that knowledge then there was, at the very least, a violation of the order whereby revelation is ordained to be received for the Church. Institutional revelations are never vouchsafed to a counselor in the First Presidency when the President has the capacity to receive them. Only the President of the LDS Church receives revelation for the entire institution. As Joseph Fielding Smith taught, “There is but one [person] at a time who holds the keys and the right to receive revelation for the Church, and that man is the President of the Church. . . .[W]henever [the Lord] has a revelation or commandment to give to His people . . . it will come through the presiding officer of the Church” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1999], 1:283–84).
  13. 5 April 1860, meeting of the Twelve at the Church Historian’s Office, Salt Lake City, Utah, cited in Gary J. Bergera, Conflict in the Quorum: Orson Pratt, Brigham Young, Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002), 194. There does not appear to be any rebuttal of this statement from Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, or anyone else. On 23 September 1860 Orson Pratt stated with reference to ideas about godhood, “I do not believe as Brother Brigham and Brother Kimball do in some points of doctrine and they do not wish me to acknowledge to a thing that I do not believe” (Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 5:507, Salt Lake City, Utah, Historian’s Office).
  14. Matthew Brown "Brigham Young's Teachings on Adam" <https://www.fairmormon.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/2009_Brigham_Youngs_Teachings_On_Adam.pdf> (accessed 13 March 2019)
  15. The “salvation or damnation” statement may simply be Brigham Young’s rephrased expression of the ideology found in John 17:3 (a scripture he often connected with his Adam– God teachings)—“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God.”
  16. Campbell, The Essential Brigham Young, 86, 87, 97.
  17. Ibid., 97. As a member of the First Presidency Charles W. Penrose responded in print, in a Church periodical, to the following question: “Do you believe that Adam had more wives than one, either in this world or in the spiritual world?” His answer was, “We do not know of any wife of Adam excepting Mother Eve” (Improvement Era, vol. 15, no. 11, September 1912, 1042).
  18. 75. Campbell, The Essential Brigham Young, 97.
  19. Ibid. This statement matches another one found in the same discourse: “Adam planted the Garden of Eden” (ibid., 98). This is in conflict with information found in the Bible (see Gen. 2:8), the Book of Moses (see Moses 3:8), and the Book of Abraham (see Abraham 5:8) which state that it was God(s)—not specifically ‘Adam’—who “planted” the garden.
  20. 77. Statements by Brigham Young indicating that certain Adam–God Theory principles only represented his personal opinion: 24 July 1853 – “I believe the Father came down from heaven, as the apostles said He did, and begat the Savior of the world, for He is the only-begotten of the Father, which could not be if the Father did not actually beget Him in person. . . . I believe the Father came down in His 24 tabernacle and begat Jesus Christ. . . . I believe He has a tabernacle, and begat Jesus Christ . . . because the Bible expressly declares it. . . . I believe the Father begat the Son” (JD, 1:238, emphasis added, President Brigham Young, 24 July 1853, Salt Lake City, Utah, Tabernacle). 23 October 1853 – “You believe Adam was made of the dust of this earth. This I do not believe, though it is supposed that it is so written in the Bible; but it is not, to my understanding” (JD, 2:6, emphasis added, President Brigham Young, 23 October 1853, Salt Lake City, Utah, Tabernacle). 8 October 1854 – “I propose to speak upon a subject that does not immediately concern yours or my welfare. . . . I will tell you what I believe . . . I do not pretend to say that the items of doctrine, and ideas I shall advance are necessary for the people to know, or that they should give themselves any trouble about them whatever . . . . These are my views with regard to the gods, and eternities . . . . I will tell you what I think about it, and as the [Southerners] say, ‘I reckon,’ and as the Yankees say, ‘I guess’; but I will tell you what I reckon. I reckon . . . . I reckon . . . . I reckon it. And I reckon . . . . and I reckon . . . . I reckon . . . . I reckon . . . . I reckon . . . . I reckon . . . . I reckon . . . . tell you what I reckon” (Campbell, The Essential Brigham Young, 86, 87, 90, 97, 98, 99, 100). 25 April 1855 – “apparently I understand . . . . It appears to me I understand . . . who [Jesus Christ] came from . . . . this is for you to believe or disbelieve as you please, for if I were to [express my thoughts] I have no doubt but there would be many that would say, ‘Perhaps it is so and perhaps it is not’ . . . . If I should undertake to tell the people what I believe in my heart and what seemeth to me (I do not say it is so) but what seemeth to me to be eternal truth, how would they know unless they had the spirit of revelation to say to them whether it was a truth or an untruth? . . . . I do not design to go into any mysteries or to take up worldly sciences [such as the ‘science of theology’ – see p. 3] to any great extent but suppose I were to take up a few of them, I should be like the rest of you: tell what I know according to what I understand and believe. And then if I am wrong I should be glad if God or some man upon the earth would correct me and set me right and tell me what it is and how it is. . . . communicate to you my ideas upon the subject. . . . as I understand pertaining to Him with whom we have to do . . . . I will tell you what I think . . . . It is a subject I am aware that does not appear so clear to our understandings at present as we could wish it . . . it is [a subject] that should not trouble us at all. . . . I tell you this as my belief about that personage who is called the Ancient of Days . . . . I do not tell it because that I wish it to be established in the minds of others . . . . To my mind and to my feelings those matters are all plain” (Elden J. Watson, comp., Brigham Young Addresses, unpublished collection, vol. 3, 1855– 1859, volume compiled in 1980, sermons individually paginated, information found on pp. 3, 4, 5 – this was an address to the Deseret Theological Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah). 8 February 1857 – “I understand in part, see in part, and know and am acquainted with [my Father] in part . . . . That is my opinion about it, and my opinion to me is just as good as yours is to you” (JD, 4:218, President Brigham Young, 8 February 1857, Salt Lake City, Utah, Tabernacle). 7 October 1857 – “I believe our God to be so near to us as Father Adam . . . . those are ideas which do not concern us at present” (JD, 5:331–32, President Brigham Young, 7 October 1857, Salt Lake City, Utah, Bowery). 25 9 October 1859 – “Adam and Eve are the parents of all pertaining to the flesh, and I would not say that they are not also the parents of our spirits” (JD, 7:290, President Brigham Young, 9 October 1859, Salt Lake City, Utah, Tabernacle).
  21. Ibid.
  22. Found in Russell Stevenson, "For the Cause of Rightousness" (Salt Lake City, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2014)
  23. Transcripts will be posted at a later time. This line written 19 March 2019. The Lowry Nelson letters do contain strongly affirmative language regarding the restrictions yet these were simply relying on statements from Brigham Young and others that weren't official pronouncements and did not claim to come from direct revelation or scripture.
  24. Lowell M. Snow "Blood Atonement" in Encyclopedia of Mormonism (New York, NY: MacMillan Publishing, 1992) off-site
  25. Improvement Era 13 (Nov 1909) :75–81
  26. "Words in Season from the First Presidency," Deseret Evening News (17 December 1910), part 1: 3.
  27. Chauncey R. Riddle, "Revelation," Encyclopedia of Mormonism (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992 and 2007).
  28. Brigham Young, "The Kingdom Of God," (8 July 1855) Journal of Discourses 2:314.
  29. Russell M. Nelson, "Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives," General Conference (April 2018).
  30. Doctrine and Covenants 61:18, 36; 82:5; 92:1; 93:49.
  31. Doctrine and Covenants 101:32–34.
  32. 2 Peter 3:16; Alma 13:20; 41:1; Doctrine and Covenants 10:63; 88:77-79
  33. Stanford Carmack, "Why the Oxford English Dictionary (and not Webster’s 1828)," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 15 (2015): 65–77.
  34. Philippians 2:2; 1 Peter 3:15; Moses 7:18.
  35. Kevin Barney, “The Joseph Smith Translation and Ancient Texts of the Bible,” in Dan Vogel, ed. The Word of God: Essays on Mormon Scripture (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1990), 152–53.
  36. Thomas M. Mumford, Horizontal Harmony of the Four Gospels in Parallel Columns (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 48.
  37. Frank Daniels, "When was the Passover? When was the Resurrection?" Friktech, accessed August 10, 2021, https://www.friktech.com/rel/passover.htm.
  38. James Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2002), 1–3.
  39. Julie M. Smith, The Gospel According to Mark (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2018), 17–20.
  40. Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the New Testament: Countering Challenges to Evangelical Christian Belief (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2016); K.H. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 2006); Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (Grand Rapids: Eerdman’s Publishing, 2006); Crossway, ESV Archaeology Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Crossway, 2018); Craig S. Keener, Christobiography: Memory, History, and the Reliability of the Gospels (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2019). John Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex (Provo and Salt Lake: Deseret Book and BYU Religious Studies Center, 2013); Brant Gardner, Traditions of the Fathers: The Book of Mormon as History (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2015); Brant Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon 6 vols. (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2007). John Welch et al., Knowing Why: 137 Evidences that the Book of Mormon is True (American Fork, UT: Covenant Communications, 2017); Noel B. Reynolds, ed., Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1997). For an overview of evidence for the Book of Abraham, see here. For evidence for the Book of Moses see Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, In God's Image and Likeness (Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Books, 2009); Jeffrey M. Bradshaw and David Larson, In God's Image and Likeness 2: Enoch, Noah, and the Tower of Babel (Provo, UT: Interpreter Foundation, 2014).
  41. Isaiah 28:10, 13; 2 Nephi 28:30; Doctrine and Covenants 98:12; Doctrine and Covenants 128:21
  42. Doctrine and Covenants 56:3–4. Emphasis added.
  43. Lenet H. Read, "How the Bible Came to Be: Part 2, The Word Is Preserved," Ensign 12, no. 2 (February 1982).
  44. An msn.com poll listed Solomon as the fifth richest person to ever live. “According to the Bible, King Solomon ruled from 970 BC to 931 BC, and during this time he is said to have received 25 tons of gold for each of the 39 years of his reign, which would be worth billions of dollars in 2016. Along with impossible riches amassed from taxation and trade, the biblical ruler’s personal fortune could have surpassed $2 trillion in today’s money” (“The 20 Richest People of All Time,” Apr. 25, 2017, msn.com).
  45. See Ecclesiastes 1:1–2
  46. See Ecclesiastes 2:17
  47. See Ezekiel 36:26; Jeremiah 24:7
  48. 1 Nephi 8:12
  49. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Believe, Love, Do," Ensign 48, no. 11 (November 2018): 46–49.
  50. Marlin K. Jensen, “The Joseph Smith Papers: The Manuscript Revelation Books,” Ensign (July 2009) off-site
  51. Letter to William McLellin, February 2, 1848, as cited in Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, Vol. 5, pages 257-9.
  52. Ibid., page 257
  53. William McLellin to Joseph Smith III, September 8, 1872. See Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, Vol. 5, page 328.
  54. John L. Traughber correspondence, which appears to date from 1881. Dan Vogel’s editor comments in “Early Mormon Documents”, Vol. 5, page 333, explain his assumption this was written to James T. Cobb. See page 334 for relevant statements concerning the Mission to Canada.
  55. David Whitmer Interview with Omaha (NE) Herald, Oct. 10, 1886, as quoted by Dan Vogel in Early Mormon Documents, Vol. 5, pages 174-181. See page 180 for relevant material.
  56. David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ by a Witness to the Divine Authenticity of The Book of Mormon (David Whitmer: Richmond, Virginia, 1887).
  57. Brigham H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1965), 1:165. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  58. 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.
  59. 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.
  60. Lynn Packer, “Paul H. Dunn Fields of Dreams,” Sunstone Magazine (September 1991).
  61. 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).
  62. Boyd K. Packer, "The Candle of the Lord," Ensign 13 (January 1983); Boyd K. Packer, "The Quest for Spiritual Knowledge," New Era 36 (January 2007). The latter source cited is a reprinting of a talk given at a seminar for new mission presidents on June 25, 1982. This was quoted in Jeremy T. Runnells, CES Letter: My Search for Answers to my Mormon Doubts (American Fork, UT: CES Letter Foundation, 2017), 78. <https://cesletter.org/CES-Letter.pdf>.
  63. Dallin H. Oaks, “Testimony,” General Conference (April 2008). “We gain or strengthen a testimony by bearing it. Someone even suggested that some testimonies are better gained on the feet bearing them than on the knees praying for them.”
  64. Gary E. Stevenson, "Testimony: Sharing in Word and Deed," New Era 48 (March 2019).
  65. Neil L. Andersen, "Joseph Smith," General Conference (October 2014). Quoted in Runnells, CES Letter, 78.
  66. Dallin H. Oaks, “Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” Ensign 24 (October 1994): 13–14.
  67. Jeremy Runnells, Letter to a CES Director (2013)
  68. Clyde J. Williams, ed., The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 184.
  69. (quoted in Juvenile Instructor, 19 July 1873, 114)
  70. "FAIR Questions 2: Recognizing the Voice of the Spirit," FairMormon Blog (28 August 2011).
  71. Anointed Quorum (‘Holy Order’),” Church History Topics.
  72. Much of this material is gathered and adapted from Cassandra Hedelius, "A house of order, a house of God: Recycled challenges to the legitimacy of the church," (presentation, FAIR Conference 2015, Provo, UT).
  73. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith (1998), 223.
  74. Doctrine and Covenants 28:13
  75. Doctrine and Covenants 107:22
  76. Gary E. Stevenson, "The Heart of the Prophet" Ensign 48, no. 5 (May 2018): 18–19.