How to Discredit Your Own Religion Without Even Trying

Posted: February 13, 2021 in Mormon Studies
How the D&C 10:37 Apologetic For the Hofmann Case Destroys Mormonism

The original Book of Commandments and Revelations and the corresponding section of the Doctrine and Covenants are shown. (credit: Jason Olson, Deseret News)

A common, recurring, Mormon apologetic for why if Mormon Leaders were true prophets of God, they couldn’t discern the real nature of the Hofmann forgeries goes like this:

“The Lord made it clear to Joseph Smith that a prophet is not granted to know all the designs of those who seek to destroy the Church:

‘But as you cannot always judge the righteous, or as you cannot always tell the wicked from the righteous, therefore I say unto you, hold your peace until I shall see fit to make all things known unto the world concerning the matter.’ (DC 10:37)

The LDS doctrine of agency requires that those who plot evil be allowed a certain latitude, though (as President Hinckley prophetically noted) permanent harm to the Lord’s work will not be permitted.”
(FAIRMormon website, “Forgeries Related to Mormonism/Mark Hofmann”)

Here is my response to this argument:
1) In the Hofmann case, Mormon Leaders (up and including the LdS First Presidency) did NOT “hold your peace until I shall see fit to make all things known unto the world concerning the matter”.
Putting out Press Releases so the news of Hofmann’s “finds” can be blasted out around the world and publishing articles about Mark Hofmann manuscripts in the Church produced, “The Church News” (see the “Week Ending May 3, 1980” edition, for example) is anything but “holding your peace”, isn’t it? So this premise is simply false, they not only didn’t hold their peace, they shouted it from the rooftops, didn’t they?

The article regarding the Mark Hofmann “Anthon Transcript” find in the Week Ending May 3, 1980 edition of The Church New insert to the Deseret News, the Church-owned newspaper.

2) The folks who have claimed that Mormon Prophets have extraordinary powers of discernment and who have set the bar, high, higher, even highest, aren’t Mormon Critics it’s the Mormon Leaders themselves.
The expectation that a prophet has the type of unique type of discernment required to know all the designs of those who seek to destroy the Church so that it can’t be lead astray HAS been set by Mormon Leaders in general, and Mormon Prophets in particular. It has not, been set by Mormon Critics. Consider the words of these official, correlated LdS Church manuals and publications:

“The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place.”
(“Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff”, p.199, “Gospel Principles”, p.41, and “Teachings of the Living Prophets Student Manual”, p.20)

“President Wilford Woodruff (1807–98) declared that we can have full confidence in the direction the prophet is leading the Church:

“The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty” (Official Declaration 1, “Excerpts from Three Addresses by President Wilford Woodruff Regarding the Manifesto”; emphasis added).

President Harold B. Lee (1899–1973) taught this same principle:

“You keep your eye upon him whom the Lord called, and I say to you now, knowing that I stand in this position, you don’t need to worry about the President of the Church ever leading people astray, because the Lord would remove him out of his place before He would ever allow that to happen” (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, ed. Clyde J. Williams [1996], 533).

President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) gave similar assurance to Church members:

“The Church is true. Those who lead it have only one desire, and that is to do the will of the Lord. They seek his direction in all things. There is not a decision of significance affecting the Church and its people that is made without prayerful consideration, going to the fount of all wisdom for direction. Follow the leadership of the Church. God will not let his work be led astray” (“Be Not Deceived,” Ensign, Nov. 1983, 46; emphasis added).”
(LdS Church, “Teachings of the Living Prophets Student Manual”, Chapter 2: The Living Prophet: The President of the Church)

Friends, these aren’t the claims of Mormon Critics, are they? They are the word of Mormon Prophets in official, LdS Church publications aren’t they? So tell me, who is setting this extremely high “we have the highest level of spiritual discernment that’s so unique and special that we can never lead you astray” expectation? Is it Mormon Critics or is it the Mormon Prophets themselves?

3) As a result of #2, the unstated, implied argument that D&C 10:37 is arguing against (again, “a prophet IS granted to know all the designs of those who seek to destroy the Church”) is, in reality, a Strawman Argument, isn’t it? Thus, Mormon Apologist’s REAL debate opponent when they use the D&C 10:37 apologetic is their own Church’s Prophets, isn’t it?
Again, and in actual fact, Mormon Critics are simply holding Mormon Prophets to the standard that THEY have set for THEMSELVES, nothing more. Mormons Leaders, you have met the enemy and he is you, not your critics! Once again, the critics are only holding you to YOUR own publicly (and repeatedly) stated standard, aren’t they?

This is REALLY the biggest enemy of the LdS Church, isn’t it?

4) D&C 10:37 is in direct contradiction with the oft-cited Latter-day Saint application of the bible proof text that, “The Lord will do nothing without revealing His secret to the prophets” (Amos 3:7).
The practical, real-world, application that Mormonism gives this text is that the current living Mormon Prophet possesses some kind of special discernment that the rest of us lack. Thus, if they truly possess the type of highly tuned and refined Amos 3:7 spiritual discernment that they claim they do, then the Lord should have revealed to the prophet the secret that Hofmann and his manuscripts were fraudulent and about to lead the LdS Church astray, correct?

After all, “The Lord will do nothing without revealing His secret to the prophets”, right? Again, this isn’t the Amos 3:7 application standard established by Mormon Critics, is it? However, it IS the standard that Mormon Prophets have set for themselves, isn’t it? So if it ain’t true, then why are Mormon Prophets saying it?

5) Since D&C 10:37 absolves Mormon Prophets of, in reality, possessing the type of special and unique, highly tuned spiritual discernment that they so often claim they do elsewhere, then in reality Mormon Prophets are simply nothing special.
They are, in fact, just as common and ordinary as you and I, aren’t they?
That’s because ANYONE “can hold your peace until I shall see fit to make all things known unto the world concerning the matter”, can’t they? Stated plainly “holding your peace” and saying nothing until after all the facts about the matter are known, doesn’t require any kind of special gifting at all, does it? In fact, it’s just good old common sense, isn’t it? Anyone can do it, it doesn’t require any type of special divine anointing or gifting at all, does it?

6) Due to #5, D&C 10:37 is really saying that there is really nothing special about Mormon Prophets at all. They are, in reality, no different than any other Religious Leader on the planet, are they?
Latter-day Saint, Protestant, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, LDS Prophet of some other Mormon Denomination, or that independent Pentecostal guy running the church downtown out of the converted movie theatre, they are that they are what they: Just ordinary men running churches, aren’t they? And the LdS Church leaders are just one of the boys, aren’t they? They have absolutely no special or unique spiritual discernment that the other guys in this scrum, do, do they? Yes, they have said they do since the inception of Mormonism, but no, in reality, they clearly don’t. The Hofmann case proved it.

7) The LdS Prophet was clearly leading the LdS Church astray by starting to change doctrine based on being deceived by Hofmann.
I mention this one because this is an apologetic argument that Mormons like to use regarding the Hofmann case which is another false premise when it’s examined against the evidence. Specifically, in addition to leading the Church astray in regard to the authenticity of the forgeries (see above, #1 in particular), the LdS Church leaders WERE also changing Church origin doctrine (see above) based on Hofmann’s deceit. This is an easily documented fact.

The most blatant example of this is Dallin H. Oaks’, “Reading Church History” 16 August 1985, CES Symposium on the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History, which was given at BYU and is now being suppressed by the LdS Church on its official Church website, in which he said this:

“Another source of differences in the accounts of different witnesses is the different meanings that different persons attach to words. We have a vivid illustration of this in the recent media excitement about the word salamander in a letter Martin Harris is supposed to have sent to W. W. Phelps over 150 years ago. All of the scores of media stories on that subject apparently assume that the author of that letter used the word salamander in the modern sense of a “tailed amphibian.”

One wonders why so many writers neglected to reveal to their readers that there is another meaning of salamander, which may even have been the primary meaning in this context in the 1820s. That meaning, which is listed second in a current edition of Webster’s New World Dictionary, is “a spirit supposed to live in fire” (2d College ed. 1982, s.v. “salamander”). Modern and ancient literature contain many examples of this usage.

A spirit that is able to live in fire is a good approximation of the description Joseph Smith gave of the angel Moroni: a personage in the midst of a light, whose countenance was “truly like lightning” and whose overall appearance “was glorious beyond description” (Joseph Smith-History 1:32). As Joseph Smith wrote later, “The first sight [of this personage] was as though the house was filled with consuming fire” (History of the Church, 4:536). Since the letter purports only to be Martin Harris’s interpretation of what he had heard about Joseph’s experience, the use of the words white salamander and old spirit seem understandable.

In view of all this, and as a matter of intellectual evaluation, why all the excitement in the media, and why the apparent hand-wringing among those who profess friendship with or membership in the Church? The media should make more complete disclosures, but Latter-day Saint readers should also be more sophisticated in their evaluation of what they read.

For Latter-day Saints, evaluation also has a spiritual dimension. This is because of our belief in Moroni’s declaration that “by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5). That promise assures spiritually sensitive readers a power of discernment that will help them evaluate the meaning of what they learn.”
(Dallin H. Oaks, “Reading Church History”, 16 August 1985, CES Symposium on the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History, BYU also click here to access a restricted link on official LdS Church website to this address)

And as the Ostlings said so well in Mormon America in regard to the Mormon Church origin story, if you change Mormon History then Mormon Theology must shifts too in order to accommodate it.

“History, for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is more than pageants, parades, trail markers, monuments, and restored homesteads. There is a very real sense in which the church’s history is its theology, and that not merely the supernatural events surrounding the church’s beginnings with the Angel Moroni and the golden plates at Hill Cumorah. In a body that believes itself the recipient and expression of continuing revelation, it is everything that has happened to the church ever since. And just as creedal churches have official statements of faith, the Mormon Church tends to have official versions of sacred history.”
(Richard & Joan Ostling, “Mormon American (Rev. Ed.)”; Nook Edition position 638.8-640.0/1200)

8) Therefore, and as a result of all of the above, D&C 10:37 is REALLY the complete undoing of Mormonism, isn’t it?
Isn’t it, in fact, telling us that at the end of the day, the LdS Church in general and its Prophets in particular, have nothing special or unique to offer that you can’t get from any other human institution when it comes to special insight, spiritual discernment, or revelation? D&C 10:37 is REALLY telling us that Mormon Leaders CAN lead the LdS Church astray, isn’t it? Further, and that said, the Hofmann case also shows us that they HAVE led the Church astray in the past, haven’t they?

So, once you fully analyze and deconstruct this Mormon Apologist D&C 10:37 argument it not only doesn’t vindicate or absolve Latter-day Saint Prophets from performing to the extremely high standards and expectations that they have set for themself, does it? Rather, it exposes, indicts, and condemns them and their religion, doesn’t it? Neither are what they claim to be, are they?

Spencer W. Kimball, the LdS President at the time, examines the Mark Hofmann forgery known as “The Anthon Transcript” with a magnifying glass. Surrounding him (left to right) are Mark Hofmann, Eldon Tanner, Marion Romney, Boyd Packer, and Gordon Hinckley.

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