Criticism of Mormonism/Video/Search for the Truth DVD/Summary


Jesus Christ/Joseph Smith or Search for the Truth DVD


Has the video's stated purpose been accomplished?

The producers undertook their task with a bold and noble purpose:

This video has been produced out of love for our Lord Jesus Christ and love for our Mormon and Christian friends. We pray that it will touch the hearts of all who watch through the grace and truth of Christ Jesus.

However, we find such declarations of love inconsistent with their disappointing behavior as they revile and demean what Latter-day Saint Christians hold dear and sacred. Perhaps we should be asking how the video's purpose was accomplished rather than if the video's purpose was accomplished. The viewer need only look to their abuse of scripture as we reinstate the apostle Paul's words (in brackets) that they removed in their video presentation.

"God’s word warns: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, [nor adulterers, nor homosexuals,] nor thieves, [nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers,] will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

The producers simply removed several words, including "revilers," to avoid implicating themselves in the same condemnation they pronounce on others. This will put the observant viewer on notice that they must carefully research each scripture and claim that this video makes.

Claim: "From his fabrication of the First Vision to his reconstruction of the Christian faith and his desire for women it is clear that Joseph centered his life around lust, wealth, and power. Joseph Smith joins a long list of those who have used the name of Christ to enrich themselves."

We have shown that these claims about the First vision and Joseph's reasons for practicing polygamy are false and rely upon a distorted, twisted, or incomplete reading of the historical record.

Joseph Smith's life demonstrated selflessness, humility, and a desire to serve God and his fellow man. He wasn't without sin, and he never claimed to be. But despite his weaknesses, he was a prophet of God.

Joseph published numerous revelations calling him personally to repent.(D&C 3:9-10, D&C 5:21 for example) He was quick to aid the poor, and the early Church had many poor. As members came, leaving homes and family and most of their worldly possessions behind, they were welcomed, fed, and clothed by the Church and by the Prophet Joseph Smith.

In the end, he gave his life for his testimony of Jesus Christ when he could have preserved it by recanting what he claimed to have witnessed.

To read more:

Claim: "It’s no coincidence that Joseph was murdered in the Carthage jail. Why was Joseph in jail? He destroyed a small paper press called the Nauvoo Expositor because he didn’t like what they had written about him in their one and only publication." – Patrick Powell

Joseph Smith was in jail because he went to answer manufactured charges of treason against the state. He voluntarily surrendered to a state official who had guaranteed him and his brother Hyrum protection.

The call for the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor was not taken by "Joseph Smith," but by the Nauvoo city council, of which Joseph was a member. The council—which included non-members of the Church—voted to suppress the Expositor as a public nuisance.

The video will not tell you that some scholars have argued that the city council's action was legal according to Nauvoo city charter. Nor will they tell you that the council's concern was that the paper was so inflammatory that it might stir up violence.

The viewer also won't be told that Joseph was released by the Nauvoo municipal court on 13 June 1844. Anti-Mormons claimed this court was biased, so Joseph and others again appeared before non-Mormon judge Daniel H. Wells on 17 June, who discharged them (he did not have power to acquit them, so this was deferred).

Governor Ford of Illinois then asked Joseph to appear before the Carthage judge to satisfy the anti-Mormons. Joseph did so, and was freed on bail. Joseph and Hyrum were then arrested again because of a writ issued by Robert F. Smith, a Methodist minister, justice of the peace, and captain of the Carthage Grays militia.

The DVD will not reveal that Joseph was twice released by legal courts. It will not reveal that he was out on bail awaiting trial in a third court when he was rearrested by a religious enemy. Governor Ford broke his promise to protect Joseph and Hyrum, and the Carthage Grays conspired to help murder Joseph.

It almost sounds as if the video is endorsing what happened to Joseph, or saying he "deserved it." Such an attitude shows contempt for the law and Christian ethics.

To read more:

  • Nauvoo Expositor
  • Nauvoo city charter
  • Murder of Joseph and Hyrum Smith
  • Dallin H. Oaks, “The Suppression of the Nauvoo Expositor,” Utah Law Review 9 (1965):874.
  • Dallin H. Oaks and Marvin S. Hill, Carthage Conspiracy, the Trial of the Accused Assassins of Joseph Smith (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1979), 1. ISBN 025200762X.

Claim: "But this was not the first time Joseph was arrested. He had been arrested many times throughout his adult life for things like defrauding people while he was using his glass-looking techniques and creating an illegal bank in Kirtland, Ohio, and fleeing with its monies." – Patrick Powell

Joseph was arrested many times. John the Baptist was arrested. Peter and the apostles were arrested. The apostle Paul was arrested many times. Even Jesus was arrested. (Ironically, two of this video's contributors have been arrested.) Does this mean that John, Peter, Paul, and Jesus are to be condemned? Did they "deserve" what happened to them? Should the producers of this video repudiate the ministries of two of their contributors (Joel Kramer and Chip Thompson) because they have been arrested for exercising what they viewed as their religious rights?

The video carefully avoids mentioning that Joseph was never found guilty by any court of the charges for which he was arrested. But, for the DVD producers, the mere fact of being arrested and charged with a crime is adequate—Joseph Smith is "guilty until proven innocent."

As previously discussed, Joseph was not found guilty in the matter of the "glass-looking," and the person he had supposedly "defrauded" testified in his behalf and joined the Church. (Review treatment of this issue here.)

The Kirtland Safety Society is not an example of Joseph "defrauding" people. Joseph put more of his own money into the bank than any other person, save one. He paid more for his stock than 85% of the other owners. The bank failed, as did hundreds of other banks, because of a nation-wide banking panic.

Joseph did not "flee...with its monies"—he went further into debt trying to save the bank, and owed over $100,000 when it finally failed. Joseph had enough goods and lands to meet that debt, but converting these into cash was difficult in the early 19th-century economy following the collapse.

Joseph continued to pay his creditors after fleeing for his life. In 1843 he was far away, safe in Nauvoo, and yet continued to settle his debts from the Kirtland period. These are not the actions of a man trying to "get rich quick" or swindle others.

Once again, the DVD has distorted historical facts and omitted all information that conflicts with their conclusions.

To read more:

Claim: "So why do so many people follow this man? Because they don’t know the truth about the character of Joseph Smith." – Pamela Robertson

The DVD producers would profit by asking members of the Church why they follow Joseph Smith. They would learn that they follow Joseph's teachings because:

  • Joseph's teachings are consistent with the Holy Bible.
  • Joseph's teachings bring them closer to their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
  • The power of the Holy Spirit has witnessed to their minds and hearts that Joseph is a Prophet and disciple of Jesus Christ, and the Book of Mormon stands with the Bible as a witness to the word of God.

The Saints accept that Joseph was imperfect—all men have weaknesses. But it is the doctrine of Christ which Joseph taught, and the influence of the Holy Spirit which Joseph brought, which members cherish and follow.

Brigham Young described an encounter with the 19th-century version of the Search for the Truth DVD:

I recollect a conversation I had with a priest who was an old friend of ours, before I was personally acquainted with the Prophet Joseph. I clipped every argument he advanced, until at last he came out and began to rail against "Joe Smith," saying, "that he was a mean man, a liar, moneydigger, gambler, and a whore-master;" and he charged him with everything bad, that he could find language to utter.
I said, hold on, Brother Gillmore, here is the doctrine, here is the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the revelations that have come through Joseph Smith the Prophet. I have never seen him, and do not know his private character. The doctrine he teaches is all I know about the matter, bring anything against that if you can.
As to anything else I do not care. If he acts like a devil, he has brought forth a doctrine that will save us, if we will abide it. He may get drunk every day of his life, sleep with his neighbor's wife every night, run horses and gamble, I do not care anything about that, for I never embrace any man in my faith.
But the doctrine he has produced will save you and me, and the whole world; and if you can find fault with that, find it.
—Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 4:77-78. (paragraph breaks added) (emphasis added)

To read more:

Claim: "As a Mormon, you cannot question the Church on issues such as these because you run the risk of excommunication." – Pamela Robertson

This is complete nonsense.

The DVD wants its viewers to trust only its sources—they know that if viewers ask knowledgeable LDS members or leaders about these issues, they will receive information that shows the DVD to be dishonest and inaccurate.

The Church has a lay clergy—this means that its leaders do not spend time in seminaries and degree programs. They come from many occupations and social backgrounds. Many leaders—like many members—are not experts in matters of early Mormon history.

Some leaders, like some members, may be unaware of the historical details which are so regularly distorted by the DVD. If a leader is unable to provide an answer to a sincere question, this does not mean that an answer does not exist. No one knows everything.

FAIR exists to fill any such "knowledge gaps" by providing accurate, well-researched information about LDS history and doctrine. Anti-Mormon attacks are repetitive; most were asked and answered decades ago.

No one will be excommunicated for asking questions. Excommunication occurs only for cases of severe unrepentant sin, or in cases where a member is guilty of apostasy. Apostasy is the public teaching of doctrines believed to be false by the Church, even after being corrected by Church leaders.

If one were to repeatedly preach the nonsense taught by the Search for the Truth DVD, one could conceivably be excommunicated for apostasy. But despite anti-Mormon claims to the contrary, Latter-day Saints are not disciplined merely for not believing Church doctrine nor for believing things contrary to Church teachings.

To read more:

  • Do Mormons Believe in Blind Obedience? FAIR link
  • Click here to ask questions of FAIR. You will receive one or more e-mail replies, with additional references shortly, usually within less than 24 hours.

Claim: "This video has been sent to Mormon leaders knowing that they will try to destroy and discredit its message but this will not change the fact that the content within is true." – Pamela Robertson

This statement presents a clear problem for the producers of this video. Contrast the statement with another statement made in the letter that accompanied the DVD, sent to recipients before the video was released:

CAUTION: This video is to be viewed by CHRISTIANS ONLY until AFTER the nation-wide distribution which is scheduled for March 25, 2007. In-other-words, DO NOT ALLOW ANY MORMON PEOPLE to view the video or learn of our intended evangelistic outreach until after March 25, 2007.
Why such extreme caution? If the leadership of the Mormon cult learns of our plans, they will publicly instruct their people not to watch the video and many Mormons will blindly obey.

The clear problem? Either it is true that the DVD was sent to LDS leaders, or it is true that it was kept from LDS leadership for fear they would instruct members not to watch the video. It would seem that both statements cannot be true. Rather than accuse the producers of the DVD of lying—which would be assigning intent to these incompatible statements—it seems more prudent to say that this is a clear case of them misleading either one their hosts (Pam Robertson) or their recipients (of the pre-release letter).

Fortunately, the DVD's message discredits itself rather well, and all members need do is to continue doing what we've always done: share the truth.

And the only ones being asked to "blindly obey" are those asked to distribute the DVD on doorknobs across the country and those being asked to believe the DVD's version of LDS doctrine and history.

Note: FAIR is not owned, affiliated with, or controlled by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These replies were not prepared at the behest of the Church, and do not represent official statements. They are the opinions only of the authors, who are believing and committed members of the Church.

To read more:

  • Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks, Offenders for a Word: How Anti-Mormons Play Word Games to Attack the Latter-day Saints (Provo, Utah: FARMS (reprint edition), 1992), 1. ISBN 0934893357. off-site

Claim: "Do not trust your eternity to a burning in the bosom which can be felt by simply watching a Hollywood movie. Even terrorists believe and are willing to die for something which is not of the Lord."– Patrick Powell

Comparing Latter-day Saint convictions to those of "terrorists" is inflammatory and absurd. Terrorists lie to achieve their goals; does that mean that the DVD producers should be compared to terrorists?

It is strange that sectarian critics fault appeals to a "burning in the bosom."

Would they reject a witness of Jesus?

Following Jesus' resurrection, He walked with two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They did not recognize Jesus, but listened to Him as "he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:27).

After breaking bread with them, Jesus was revealed to the disciples, and vanished.

Interestingly, the disciples did not say to each other, "We should have known it was Jesus because of his scriptural teaching." Rather, they said:

Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? (Luke 24:32, emphasis added)

Would the critics likewise dismiss Jesus' disciples' witness because it was a "burning in the bosom"? Would they characterize this experience as merely the emotional rush of a Hollywood film?

The experience on the road to Emmaus illustrates another important point: a witness of the Holy Ghost is not "just a feeling." The Holy Ghost is both a "feeling" or "experiencing" process, but it is not empty emotion. Rather, information is always transmitted with it. Thus, Jesus did not just give the disciples a "feeling," but taught them information from the scriptures which gave intellectual or mental insight and satisfaction.

Mind and heart

LDS scripture understands a spiritual witness as always consisting of these two things: mind and heart unified:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things.
Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God? (D&C 6:22–23).

Notice the information spoken to the “mind,” and the peace then follows. And, the solution for later doubts or concerns is not reliance on “a feeling,” but an admonition to recall specific information communicated earlier.

This matches a later description:

Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong... (D&C 9:7–9).

Following Jesus' command to ask

Because the video's producers haven't experienced the testimony of the Spirit, they want you to ignore it. But what did Christ say?

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever....
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:16,26)

So, we are to heed the whisperings of the Holy Ghost, not ignore them. Instead, the video's producers want you to believe that God would give us a stone when we ask for bread (see Matthew 7:9).

And then we have the admonition of James:

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. (James 1:5)

Are we to believe then that God will not answer when we knock at the door? That he who asketh will not receive? Latter-day Saints believe in these Biblical admonitions to seek God, to commune with the Spirit, and to trust in Him.

To read more:

Claim: "Jesus alone is without sin, as we read in 1 John 3:5—'And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.' Only Jesus could live a sinless life."

The DVD wants you to believe that this description of Christ is different from LDS beliefs of Christ. Once again, this is false—hardly an act of love. Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus Christ was the only sinless person to ever live and that his sinlessness was one of the attributes that allowed him to make an atonement for all mankind.

To read more:

The Book of Mormon

  • Click here for free copy of the Book of Mormon:Another Testament of Jesus Christ, with no obligation
  • Click here to listen to or download Book of Mormon in audio format (no charge)
  • Click here for an on-line searchable Book of Mormon (no charge)

Other resources

Claim: "If someone today would model their life after Joseph Smith they would have to be an adulterer, a thief, a fraud and a liar.... You must choose to follow Joseph or follow Jesus but you cannot follow both."

More verbal tar and feathers for the prophet Joseph.

Of course, Latter-day Saints do not strive to "model their lives" on Joseph Smith, but on the sinless, perfect life of the Lord Jesus Christ. They imitate Joseph only to the extent that Joseph was a faithful disciple of Christ.

Throughout his life, Joseph had to endure the slurs and allegations of creedal religionists—things certainly haven't changed after more than 150 years.

Was Joseph dragged into jail many times on religiously-motivated charges? Yes, and so was Peter, so was Paul, and so even was Christ Himself.

Christ was murdered by those who hated Him, and Joseph Smith—like others persecuted for their beliefs about Christ—eventually followed the Master into violent death at the hands of those who hated his message.

Those who attack the faith of others, especially through dishonesty and misrepresentation, should remember Christ's denunciation of those who fought His message in His day:

Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,
And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.
Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.
Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.
Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city. (Matthew 23:28-34)

If one wants to Search for the Truth about Joseph Smith, one will need to look much further than the superficial slogans, distortions, and untruths presented in this DVD.

As President Boyd K. Packer remarked:

There has been no end to opposition. There are misinterpretations and misrepresentations of us and of our history, some of it mean-spirited and certainly contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ and His gospel. Sometimes clergy, even ministerial organizations, oppose us. They do what we would never do. We do not attack or criticize or oppose others as they do us.... Strangest of all, otherwise intelligent people claim we are not Christian. This shows that they know little or nothing about us. It is a true principle that you cannot lift yourself by putting others down.
—Boyd K. Packer, "A Defense and a Refuge," Ensign (November 2006), 85–88. off-site

Claim: "Jesus Christ...Joseph Smith...Choose!"

It should be clear by now that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not have to choose between Jesus and Joseph.

"If you don’t believe the things stated in this program look them up for yourself." – Pamela Robertson

At last, something with which we can agree. If you have questions, you should get the facts—all the facts.

But, you won't get them from this DVD or the ministries that support anti-Mormon propaganda.

Jump to...

Special Features

Other Materials

Other Protestant attacks on the Church of Jesus Christ:

Do You Have Questions?
If you have questions about anything you read on this page, we encourage you to ask. FairMormon is a volunteer organization, and our members are glad to answer questions. You can ask by using our handy contact page. You will get one or more answers, via e-mail, usually within a short time after asking.

Click here to receive our free monthly e-mail newsletter for defenders of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. You can unsubscribe at any time.