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by Brian Horner
Like virtually all of the 19th century, American cults of Christianity, Mormonism began as an attack on the historically orthodox, biblical faith that it claims to have “restored”. While individual Mormons and Mormon leaders hold some diverse views on this matter, the basic idea they all share is that at some time shortly after the death of the last apostle, the authority of the gospel, the church and the Word of God (the Bible) was lost due to a universal, general apostasy and corruptions introduced into the Bible. The predicate to Mormonism’s alleged, “restoration”, is what Mormons are taught to regard as the “great apostasy”. The disdain that Mormon “prophets” and other leaders held for the vast majority of Christians who populated the orthodox Body of Christ throughout the ages –actually for the roughly 95% of the history of Christianity between this “great apostasy” and the initiation of Joseph Smith’s prophetic career in 1830—is palpable and obvious in their own words.

Mormonism begins with Joseph Smith’s alleged “First Vision” – an event, which Smith described with contradictory variations. But the basic message lies in every version: Mr. Smith claimed to have received this revelation from God (or the Mormon Gods “Heavenly Father” and his son “Jesus Christ”):

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt.
(Joseph Smith – History 1:19)

Here Smith attributes an explicit condemnation of the Christian church as “corrupt” and “an abomination” to God himself (or by the Mormon Gods, including Jesus Christ).

Brigham Young, the second “prophet” of the LDS organization carried on this Mormon tradition teaching that, “The Christian world, so-called, are heathens as to their knowledge of the salvation of God” (Journal of Discourses 8:171). He continued, “With regard to true theology, a more ignorant people never lived than the present so-called Christian world.” (ibid, 8:199). According to this Mormon “prophet”, Christians are totally ignorant heathens.

Young’s successor, John Taylor, confirmed this in his preaching. “What does the Christian world know about God? Nothing; yet these very men assume the right and power to tell others what they shall and what they shall not believe in. Why, so far as the things of God are concerned, they are the veriest fools; they know neither God nor the things of God.” (Taylor, ibid, 13:225). Taylor taught the Mormon faithful, that Christians are fools.

Similar assaults against historically orthodox, biblical Christianity continued throughout several generations of Mormon “prophets”. Their message regarding this “great apostasy” was driven to the logical and common conclusion held by Mormons today as represented by B.H. Roberts, the most highly placed, official LDS historian within the organization. He said, “Nothing less than a complete apostasy from the Christian religion would warrant the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” (History of the Church, vol. 1, p.xlii).

Dug's Special Mission_EDITED

This is consistent with both the message of the Mormon “prophets”, on this matter as well as the natural, even the necessary logical extension of the original, alleged “revelation from God” experienced by Smith and his successors, ever since. If Christianity had survived and was still alive and well in any form, anywhere on earth in 1830, then it would have been impossible to “restore” it with Mormonism. It is impossible to “restore” anything, in the sense that Mormonism uses the term, which already exists. This message is nothing less than the condemnation of the entire Christian church, allegedly from God himself. It has been carried down through the history of Mormonism to the present day and it is one of the key, essential claims that Mormons use to justify the existence of their religion. If Christ had remained with and in His church as He promised and God had not condemned the Christian church, as Mormons claim, then there would be no need for the existence of the entire Mormon religion. Its existence would simply be redundant as well as contradictory to the historic orthodox faith.

So what does all of this have to do with the Mormon rhetorical tactic of deflection? It serves as a topic that provides an excellent example of the kind of argumentation I want to describe here. I have debated this particular topic (and many others) with Mormons for decades. I have found that This topic is highly useful in exposing the falsehood of Mormonism since like so many things taught and believed by Mormons. Their view on this matter cannot be reduced to a matter of “faith”. It is a purely historical topic and the truth of any such claims as this can be easily determined by simply examining the historical facts.

Keep that in mind as we proceed, using this issue as an example of this kind of problem. After all, we are simply discussing the historical assertion of what Jesus, his apostles, and their churches taught. The issue is not the truthfulness or the meaning of what they affirmed and taught; it is simply a matter of identifying the teaching itself. Did Jesus teach the distinctively Mormon doctrines and practice of not? One can agree or disagree with what these doctrines meant or how to interpret them. The issue here is this: Were they actually taught it in the first place?

When Christians question or challenge the claims of Mormonism you can count on one thing: Mormons will almost invariably try to change the subject when they perceive that they cannot answer or defend the claims of their organization. The above doctrine of this supposed, “great apostasy” is an excellent example. The dialog usually follows this basic pattern, exemplified by Mark (a Christian) and Larry (a Mormon):

Mark: So let me be sure of our claim here; Joseph Smith received revelations from God about how the whole Christian faith had been corrupted and had decayed into an abomination to God. Is that right?

Larry: Yes that’s basically it.

Mark: “And now, at this point in time, we have Mormonism, which is the restoration of what was lost in this ‘Great Apostasy’, right?”

Larry: Correct. Joseph Smith was appointed by God to bring people back to the true gospel and God used him as the prophet of the Restoration. As a result, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s one true church, which is the only church on the earth today that retains the authority of the prophets and apostles who are still the foundation of the church, according to Ephesians 2:20.

Mark: Well that is pretty difficult to believe.

Larry: Why? Don’t you think that God wants his authority and the true gospel to be represented by his church?

Mark: Yes. But, if Mormonism is the restoration of the Gospel of Christ then we should be able to see that Christ himself taught the distinctive doctrines and practices that Mormons claim to have “restored”. I mean, you guys cannot have ‘restored’ something that never existed. And if it exists today, there was no need to “restore” it. Mormonism includes a whole bunch of things, in fact even requires lots of things that neither Christ nor his 12 apostles ever taught, like polytheism, the Mormon temple rituals, God the Father is a man living in outer space, and so on. Can you show me some reasons to think that Jesus or his apostles ever taught such things? …

At this point, Larry (or any Mormon) will almost always evade that question, and then cover his retreat with any of a variety of “red herrings” – a named logical fallacy, aka “Ignoratio elenchi”. This fallacy is deployed to distract the exchange or an audience from a point or a question. If successful, the Mormon will derail the conversation away from the question that he or she knows they cannot answer without causing irreparable damage to their religion’s public image.

In this scenario, Larry might respond to Mark’s question by ignoring it and launching a counter-question such as, “Can you prove that Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount”? Or he might ask, “Can you prove that Jesus walked on water”? or “Can you show me some reasons to think that the Hebrews migrated out of Egypt?” etc.

It is important to notice that there is no answer to Mark’s question in Larry’s response. Instead, he is trying to evade the question (avoid answering it) and then misdirect the conversation off onto a different topic, usually in such a way as to illustrate that no one can “prove” anything in the Bible to be true as long as someone refuses to believe it, just as we Christians refuse to believe that Christ ever taught the distinctive Mormon doctrines that their organization supposedly “restored” such as, for example, that dogma God the Father is a man living in outer space.

But the red herring fallacy is not the only evasion they use. Frequently the Mormon will deflect a direct question by attempting to abstract the subject matter to a level where he can technically “answer” the question by answering a question about the broader context containing Mark’s question. For example, the Mormon might respond to a challenge to show that Jesus and his apostles ever taught Mormonism’s distinctive dogmas by trying to show that the Bible elsewhere mentions other “gods” and that the Jews were indeed polytheistic, thereby proving that Jesus taught polytheism – a central dogma of Mormonism that are absent from the New Testament and Christianity for it’s entire history. This effort to broaden the issue is just another trick. It’s a bit more clever since it can be shown that indeed the Bible at least mentions other ‘gods’. It also describes the Jews practicing polytheism. But this deflection falls flat on its face in light of two simple facts so easily observed in the text of the Bible.

First, this “answer” simply ignores the obvious fact so evident in the context where these gods are mentioned, that they are repeatedly identified as false gods (Ps 115 and 135 are good examples). It also ignores the many explicit declarations by God that He alone is the only God that is, was or ever will be. (There are numerous examples throughout the Bible. Isaiah 44-46 contain clear and explicit revelations on this matter). Finally, it ignores the horrific punishment that God meted out on His people for their sin of practicing and teaching polytheism. Thus, the mentions of polytheism in the Old Testament are purely descriptive and not proscriptive. God tells the truth that some of His chosen people did indeed slip into this worldview. But pointing out that they sinned is not God’s endorsement of their sin of polytheism.

Secondly, this answer does not answer the actual question that was asked, pertaining to Jesus Christ, his apostles, and their churches supposedly teaching polytheism. If Jesus understood the Old Testament to actually endorse polytheism, as Mormons infer he must have, then we rightly expect that he would have made that point. After all, the number of Gods in existence must obviously be a critically important element of ANY coherent theology and we expect Jesus to have come with the truth on this essential point. If Jesus understood that there really are MANY Gods (one of the alleged, teachings of Christ that Mormons claim to have “restored”), then surely we should see some evidence of that somewhere in his own words, the words of his apostles or even their churches. Yet, no such evidence exists. The state of the evidence argues that the Mormon claim that Jesus taught polytheism to his disciples is therefore rightly regarded as false, by virtue of the lack of any reason to think he did!

I do not want to get down in the weeds of these particular Mormon doctrines here in this post. This issue of the Mormons claiming to have “restored” the original, authentic teachings of Jesus Christ supposedly lost to the earth in the alleged, “great apostasy” is only here as an example of the point I want to make, which is an examination of the tactics used by Mormons when responding to Christian challenges to the claims of their religion.

The larger point here is to be on the lookout for the distractions, deflections, evasions, counter-challenges, etc. used by Mormons in ways that, by virtue of their highly predictable commonality, appear to have been somehow ingrained into their subconscious. If you have ever debated Mormons and have not seen this behavior, consider yourself to be extremely unique. I have debated Mormons for decades and cannot remember even a single encounter wherein my Mormon correspondent did not quickly try to change the subject when it was clear that he or she could not allow him/herself to answer me honestly.

When challenging or questioning the claims of Mormonism, you will find or have already found that the deceptive practice of deflecting questions and responding with red herrings is a real problem. My advice is twofold:

BYU Professor Robert L. Millet. Click on the above image to see a video of Mr. Millett instructing Mormon Young People on how to deflect and evade direct questions and challenges from outsiders and critics.

1. Formulate your questions and challenges carefully and thoughtfully.
Another game Mormons seem to have been trained to play is to avoid answering your questions and challenges by parsing out words and/or quibbling with the form of the question rather than its intended content. They will frequently misrepresent your question (a straw man fallacy), in an effort to answer the question you “should have asked”, to quote Robert Millett, a popular BYU professor, and Mormon Apologist, instead of the question that you actually asked. There is nothing you can do to eliminate this evasion. But you can make it hard for them to use it effectively by carefully stating a well-thought-out challenge or question.

2. Do not be distracted by the tricks.
Pay careful attention to the Mormon’s response. Listen for a direct, honest answer to your question or challenge. This does not mean siphoning the response for only the answer you want. It means accepting an honest, truthful and valid answer to the question. As long as your question/challenge strikes at the heart of the Mormon claim in question, you are unlikely to get that answer. What you are far more likely to get is a deflection of some kind – perhaps very much like the ones illustrated above. In that case, your response should be to point out that you do not see how the deflection answers the specific question that you asked. Stay focused on your question or challenge. Repeat your question until you get an answer and always insist on an actual answer.

This is where forethought about your own question is important. You do not want to have to clarify the question after the Mormon evades it, because then you run the risk of being accused of “moving the goalposts” and your Mormon friend (or opponent) is not likely to let that slip and will use it constantly as an excuse to continue avoiding your questions. Also, see if you can get your Mormon friend to back up their answer, if it ever comes, by offering some supporting evidence and valid argumentation. (You will almost never get this far). When a direct answer, backed up by evidence and/or valid reasoning does not come, be careful in how you point out that failure. Expect it and don’t let it bug you. Just point out why the answer is invalid.

Unfortunately trying to lead someone who has been deceived –in some cases for an entire lifetime—to simply be honest with you and therefore with themselves will rarely end well. We human beings have a tendency to be defensive about the things we believe. A psychological condition called, “normalcy bias” will kick in and cause people to try whatever they can to get away from the facts that prove that they have been deceived. Moreover, a confrontation with factual reality that debunks closely held beliefs will frequently induce cognitive dissonance, causing many people serious intellectual and emotional distress. So be gentle if you can. Remember that 1st Peter 3:15 calls us to be prepared to have an answer (Greek: “apologia”) for the hope that is within us, but to do so with gentleness and respect:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
— Peter 3:15 NIV

About the Author
Brian Horner graduated with a Master’s Degree in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. He now sails around the Caribbean serving various ministries and teaching apologetics when he’s not writing articles like this one.

A Response to Greg Trimble’s “Why The Bible Needed to Be Rescued”

This Bible was damaged saving the life of a British Royal Army Medical Corps nurse when a German plane machine-gunned the makeshift hospital he was serving in during World War I. (click image to read full story)

by Michael Flournoy
Ask a Latter-day Saint about their faith, and they’ll proudly proclaim that God has given them new scripture. In addition to the Bible, they have The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Their modern-day prophets and apostles also speak scripture over the pulpit twice a year at General Conference.

In a recent article entitled, “Why the Bible Needed to be Rescued”, LDS blogger Greg Trimble argues that the Bible is not complete. He says, “So, when someone says the Bible is complete, my question is, where did they get that from? Who said that God was going to stop talking to us through prophets? Why would He? He’s been doing it since the day he dropped a garden in Eden… so why would He stop now when we need it the most?”

When I was a Latter-day Saint this was my trope as well. Why would a loving God stop talking to us? It didn’t make sense. However, if we turn the tables, we will see that an open canon is more problematic than a closed one.

Imagine that a book came out called, “Everything You Need to Know about Marriage.” Then, a year later volume 2 came out. A year later volume 3 made the New York Best Seller’s list. What would this do to the original title? Would it save it, like The Book of Mormon supposedly saves the Bible? No. These new volumes would undermine the original book because clearly, it does not teach us everything we need to know about marriage.

This is exactly what The Book of Mormon does to the Bible: it weakens it. By adding new revelation to the equation, the LDS church says the Bible is insufficient. The Book of Mormon is subsequently weakened by the Doctrine and Covenants, and it by the Pearl of Great Price. All these religious texts are weakened by modern Mormon prophets.

According to Wilford Woodruff, Brigham Young once took the stand, laid out the LDS scriptures, and said:

“There is the written word of God to us, concerning the work of God from the beginning of the world, almost to our day. And now, when compared with the living oracles those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet or a man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing in the books.”
(Conference Report, October 1897, p.22)

In Mormonism, the dead prophets are weakened by the living prophet. In October of 1990, President Hinkley gave a talk entitled, “Mormon Should Mean ‘More Good’” in which he quoted a missionary saying, “While I’m thankful for the privilege of being a follower of Jesus Christ and a member of the Church that bears His name, I am not ashamed of the nickname Mormon.” (Conference Report, October 1990

Hinkley and his successor President Monson both pushed for the famous “I’m a Mormon” campaign. But when Russell M. Nelson became the prophet, all that was hewn down. In October of 2018, he gave a talk entitled, “The Correct Name of the Church” wherein he said that using the nickname Mormon is “a major victory for Satan”. (Conference Report, October 2018)

As long as new scripture is able, not only to add to old scripture but to contradict it, an open canon is worthless because we never know what’s coming that might obliterate something we believe in now. With an open canon, there’s no guarantee that even the gospel basics won’t be changed somewhere down the road.

The Book of Mormon’s subtitle is “Another Testament of Christ.” It is championed as being a second witness to support the stories of the Old and New Testaments. The reality, though, is far different. It claims that many plain and precious things were taken out of the Bible, and because of that, “an exceeding great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.” (1 Nephi 13:29)

This statement only serves to weaken the Bible, to say that it has the story wrong and that it’s insufficient. To say The Book of Mormon came to its rescue is like saying a lifeguard jumped in the pool and rescued someone by drowning them.

Another verse I used to cite as a Latter-day Saint was John 21:25 which says:

“And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” (John 21:25 KJV) 

I was convinced that John 21:25 supported the need for more scripture, but here’s the dilemma. If all the books were written, and the world was filled, all those books could not be read. So, while it’s emotionally satisfying to think we deserve modern scripture, it isn’t very practical.

With a closed canon, God’s word is succinct. It is powerful. It can’t be altered by the whims of a false prophet. To say we need an endless quantity of God’s word is to say there’s no quality in God’s word, and that simply isn’t true. So no, The Book of Mormon did not rescue the Bible. On the contrary, the Bible rescues us from The Book of Mormon and anything else that corrupts the gospel of Christ.

The inside of British Private Leslie Friston’s bullet-scarred, life-saving Bible which he brought home after it rescued him in World War I. (click image to read full story)

Originally published on the “Water Into Wine” website on September 4, 2019, as “Defects of An Open Canon”. It has retitled and republished here with the kind permission of the author with only the lighest of editing.

The “three witnesses” to the Book of Mormon: Oliver Cowdrey, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris

compiled by Fred W. Anson
In a nutshell, the case of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon is as follows:

1. All of the 11 witnesses were related either by blood or by business interests. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were cousins. Joseph Smith, Sr. was Joseph Smith’s father. The Whitmers were former business associates of the Smith family. Hiram Page was married to the Whitmer’s sister, Catherine. And Martin Harris was financially invested in the success of the Book of Mormon in a way that it would ruin his estate if it failed.

2. The three witnesses were of questionable character – this assertion is based on what fellow Mormons said about them. For example, Joseph Smith said on Dec 16, 1838: “Such characters as [his former personal secretary William] McLellin, John Witmer, David Witmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris are too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them.” (see “History of the Church”, vol 3, p.232)

3. All three denied the Latter Day Saint faith at some point converting to other religions. This was confirmed by Brigham Young who, in 1859 said, “Some of the Witnesses of the Book of Mormon, who handled the plates and conversed with the angels of God, were afterward left to doubt and to disbelieve that they had ever seen an angel.” (Brigham Young, “Want of Governing Capacities Among Men—Elements of the Sacrament—Apostasy, Etc.”, Journal of Discourses, vol 7, p.164)

4. All of the three witnesses were eventually excommunicated from the Mormon church. (details below)

5. Two of the three excommunicated witnesses later returned after denying their testimony and joining other churches. This is roughly equivalent to Peter, James, and John denying their testimony that Jesus was the Messiah who rose from the dead, joining Samaritanism (or another middle eastern religion), then reversing themselves and returning to the Church that they had denied and denounced. (details below)

And when you consider the corpus of evidence for each individual, the case against them gets even stronger:

Martin Harris
1. Was known for being very unstable religiously. Over his lifetime he changed his religious affiliation over 13 times. (see Wikipedia, “Martin Harris”)

2. Before joining Mormonism, Martin Harris was first a Quaker, then a Universalist, next a Restorationist, then a Baptist, and then a Presbyterian. (E. D. Howe, “Mormonism Unvailed”, pp.260-261)

3. After Martin Harris’ excommunication from the Mormon Church in 1837, he changed his religion eight more times, going from the Shakers to one Mormon splinter group to the next, and back to the main group in 1842. (see “Improvement Era”, March 1969, p.63; also see Brigham Young, “Journal of Discourses”, vol.7, p.164)

4. In 1846, (after his excommunication in 1837) Martin Harris was preaching among the Saints in England for the Apostate James J. Strang. (see Andrew Jenson, “Church Chronology”, p.31; also see “Millennial Star”, vol.8, Nov. 15, pp.124-128)

5. He signed his name to the following statement: “Testimony of three witnesses: We Cheerfully certify… The Lord has made it known to me that David Witmer is the man. David was then called forward, and Joseph and his counselors laid hands upon him, and ordained him to his station, to succeed him… He will be prophet, seer, Revelator and Translator before God.” Signed Martin Harris, Leonard Rich, Calvin Beebe. As we know from history, this never came to pass as Brigham young became Joseph Smith’s successor. (“Saints’ Herald, Volume 17”, p.555)

6. The Mormons stated of Martin Harris and a few other men within the pages of the church’s official newspaper at the time, “a lying deceptive spirit attend them…they are of their father, the devil…The very countenance of Harris will show to every spiritual-minded person who sees him, that the wrath of God is upon him.” (“Millennial Star”, vol 8, pp.124-128)

7. Phineas Young wrote to his older brother Brigham Young on December 31, 1841, from Kirtland, Ohio: “There are in this place all kinds of teaching; Martin Harris is a firm believer in Shakerism, says his testimony is greater than it was for the Book of Mormon” (see Wayne Cutler Gunnell, “Martin Harris – Witness and Benefactor of the Book of Mormon”, p.52)

8. Martin Harris testified that his testimony for Shakerism was greater than it was for Mormonism. The Shaker’s “Sacred Roll and Book” was also delivered by an angel. (see Jerald and Sandra Tanner, “The Case Against Mormonism”, vol.2, pp.50-58; also see Wayne Cutler Gunnell, “Martin Harris – Witness and Benefactor of the Book of Mormon”, p.52)

9. In the Elder’s Journal for August 1838, Joseph Smith denounced Martin Harris as “so far beneath contempt that to notice him would be too great a sacrifice for a gentleman to make. The Church exerted some restraint on him, but now he has given loose to all kinds of abominations, lying, cheating, swindling, and all kinds of debauchery.” (see J. A. Clark, “Gleanings by the Way”, pp.256-257)

10. Like David Whitmer, Martin Harris later testified that he did not see the plates literally with his physical eyes: He said he saw the plates with “the eyes of faith and not with the natural eyes”, that is, with spiritual eyes. (see E.L. Kelley and Clark Braden, “The Braden & Kelly Debate”, p.173)

David Whitmer
1. David Whitmer said in 1887: “If you believe my testimony to the Book of Mormon; if you believe that God spake to us three witnesses by his own voice, then I tell you that in June 1838, God spake to me again by his own voice from the heavens, and told me to ‘separate myself from among the Latter-day Saints…'” (see David Whitmer, “An Address to all believers in Christ”, p.27)

2. David Whitmer belonged to at least three Mormon splinter groups at different times, but he died in opposition to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – that is the original church started by Joseph Smith as well as what later became today’s Brighamite denomination of that church – and its priesthood doctrine and claims.  (see David Whitmer, “An Address to all believers in Christ”, also see John Farkas, “Fabricating The Mormon Priesthood: By God Or By Man?”, Beggar’s Bread website) 

3. Like Martin Harris, David Whitmer later testified that he did not see the plates literally with his physical eyes: Whitmer told Theodore Turley that the plates were shown to him by a “supernatural power”, “…all I know, you have published to the world that an angel did present those plates to Joseph Smith.” Whitmer replied “I now say I handled those plates. there was fine engravings on both sides. I handled them.” and he described how they were hung “and they were shown to me by a supernatural power.” he acknowledged all. Turley asked him why the translation is not now true, & he said “I cannot read it, and I do not know whether it is true or not.” (see “Theodore Turley’s Memorandums” LDS Church Archives, in the handwriting of Thomas Bullock, who began clerking for Turley in late 1843; also cited in Dan Vogel (editor), “Early Mormon Documents” vol.5, p.241.; also, with minor editing, Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, vol.3, pp. 307–308)

4. David Whitmer changed his story about seeing the plates and later told of finding them lying in a field and later still, told Orson Pratt that they were on a table with all sorts of brass plates, gold plates, the Sword of Laban, the ‘Director’ and the Urim and Thummim. (Millennial Star, vol.40, pp.771-772)

5. During the summer of 1837, while in Kirtland, David Whitmer pledged his new loyalty to a prophetess (as did Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdery) who used a black seer stone and danced herself into ‘trances.’ (Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches”, pp.211-213)

6. His association with the aforementioned prophetess was the beginning of the end for Whitmer in regard to the Mormon Church. It ended in 1847 in his declaration to Oliver that he (Whitmer) was to be the Prophet of the New Church of Christ and Oliver a Counselor. (Letter to Oliver Cowdery, by David Whitmer, Sept. 8, 1847, printed in the “Ensign of Liberty”, 5/1848, p.93; also see “Ensign of Liberty”, 8/1849, pp.101-104)

7. In the meantime, he was excommunicated and roughly put out. He and Oliver Cowdery’s families were driven into the streets and robbed by the Mormons while they were away trying to leave to make arrangements for a safe place to flee to. (see “John Whitmer’s History of the Church”)

8. Cursed by leaders such as Sidney Rigdon, David Whitmer was denounced by the Prophet Joseph Smith as a “dumb ass to ride ” and someone “prays out cursings instead of blessings. Poor ass!” (“History of the Church”, vol.3, p.228)

9. David Whitmer never returned to the LDS Church but joined splinter groups that denied and denounced the original Latter Day Saint church he helped found. (see Wikipedia, “David Whitmer”)

10. He went to his grave denying his testimony of Joseph Smith as a true prophet of God, while still affirming his testimony of the book of Mormon. (see Wikipedia, “David Whitmer”)

Oliver Cowdery
1. Oliver Cowdery was excommunicated from the Mormon church and joined the Methodist church. (see Wikipedia, “Oliver Cowdery”)

2. In 1841 the Mormons published a poem which stated: “Or Book of Mormon, not his word, because denied by Oliver”. (see “Times and Seasons”, vol.2, p.482)

3. The Mormon church accused Oliver Cowdery of Adultery and claimed he, David Whitmer, and Lyman E. Johnson (another Early Mormon Leader) had joined “a gang of counterfeiters, thieves, liars, and blacklegs”. (see Rollin J. Britton, “Early Days on Grand River and the Mormon War”, p.77)

4. Oliver Cowdery was the Church’s second Elder, often called the “Second President.” The early day companion of Joseph Smith, he was a scribe for the Book of Mormon, present at the “Restoration of the Priesthood,’ and as close to the real truth as any man. (see “Pearl of Great Price”, Joseph Smith – History 1:66–75; Joseph Smith History vol.2, pp. 72-76)

5. However, in 1838 in Kirtland, Oliver Cowdery confronted Joseph Smith with the charge of adultery with Fanny Alger, and with lying and teaching false doctrines. (see Private Letter to Brother, Warren Cowdery, by Oliver Cowdery, Jan. 21, 1838)

6. Joseph Smith denied this and charged Cowdery with being a liar. (see “History of the Church”, vol.3 pp.16-18; also see “Elder’s Journal”, Joseph Smith, July 1838, p.45)

7. Church records now show Miss Alger was Smith’s first “spiritual wife.” Cowdery was telling the truth. (see Andew Jenson, “Historical Record”, 1886, vol.6, p.233; also see Wikipedia, “Fanny Alger”)

8. Cowdery was excommunicated for this and other “crimes”. (see “History of the Church”, vol.3, pp.16-18)

9. Later, as a Methodist, he denied the Book of Mormon. (“Times and Seasons”, vol.2, p.482; also see “Improvement Era”, Jan. 1969, p.56; and Joseph Greehalgh, “Oliver Cowdery-The Man Outstanding”, p.28)

10. Cowdery publicly confessed his sorrow and shame for his connection with Mormonism. (Charles Shook, “The True Origin of The Book of Mormon”, pp.58-59)

11. While the Mormon church claims he rejoined them in the fall of 1848, ( see Andew Jenson, “Historical Record” vol.5, p.201) they also accused him later that year, with trying to “raise up the Kingdom again” with the Apostate, William E. McLellin. (see Juanita Brooks, “On The Mormon frontier, Diary of Hosea Stout”, vol.2, p.336)

12. Oliver Cowdery was publicly charged by Joseph Smith and leading Mormons with stealing, lying, perjury, counterfeiting, adultery, and being the leader of a gang of “scoundrels of the deepest degree!” (see “Senate Document 189”, Feb. 15, 1841, pp.6-9; also see B. H. Roberts, “Comprehensive History of the Church”, vol.1, pp.438-439)

13. Joseph Smith listed Oliver Cowdery as among those, “too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them.” (“History of the Church”, vol.3, p.232)

14. Oliver Cowdery died claiming that the book of Doctrines & Covenants must be discarded. This was a stance that he first publicly articulated in “An Address to All Believers in Christ” in 1887 and never wavered from until his death a year later. (see David Whitmer, “An Address to All Believers in Christ”)

Stated plainly, with witnesses like this, who needs enemies?

Compiled by Fred W. Anson from the author uncredited “The Case Against the Three Witnesses to The Book of Mormon”. Editing was required to eliminate or minimize the original’s polemic rhetoric, inconsistent formatting, and to improve overall clarity and the quality of the presentation. All that to say, with the greatest sense of appreciation to the unknown, original author who did the heavy lifting of original research for this piece: Thank you! 

Richmond, Missouri, is the location of the log cabin in which Joseph Smith and other Church leaders were imprisoned before being taken to Liberty Jail. David Whitmer and his family lived in Richmond for many years, and Oliver Cowdery lived here for a time before his death. Both David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery are buried in Richmond. A monument honoring Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris—the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon—was erected in Richmond under the direction of Junius F. Wells. On November 22, 1911, the monument was dedicated under the direction of Elder Heber J. Grant. In this photograph, taken during a light rain, prayer is being offered at the dedication ceremony. A metal box within the base of the monument contained copies of the Latter-day Saint scriptures, the History of the Church, and other documents. (photograph by George Anderson, 1911)

An excerpt from the song “I Believe” from the Book of Mormon the Musical that illustrates how fideism is often applied in Mormonism.

by Brian Horner
Fideism is the core of the Mormon experience.

The highly predictable rejoinder from the Mormon who cannot substantiate the falsifiable claims of his religion (such as matters of history or the translation of Egyptian hieroglyphics) almost invariably is to reduce the dialog to the puny dimensions of personal, subjective belief. A good example is easily found every time I ask Mormons why someone should believe the objectively testable claims of their religion pertaining to such mundane issues as the mere existence of a particular human civilization, the Book of Mormon’s “Nephites” or “Jaredites” or “Lamanites”, etc.

Invariably, any claim that a particular human civilization existed is easily recognized as the kind of claim that is subject to rudimentary tests based on comparisons of such claims to the facts of history in and around the region where the civilization in question is said to have existed. In short, claims about the existence of historical civilizations are rightly subject to the normative methods of historical research. It is on this basis that all of the relevant fields of study (archaeology, history, historical anthropology, etc.) always proceed. No legitimate historical confirmations of historical claims can be produced apart from this very basic method. Even Mormons routinely apply this rudimentary and highly reliable historical method, at least when examining human civilizations, such as, for example, the Mayan or Yanomamo people of South America or the Tasady tribe in the Philippines. Everyone, even Mormons, will rightly seek out evidence of these peoples when dealing with the claim that they simply exist or existed. And it is perfectly reasonable to use the same methods to gain insight into the details of their existence.

The reason why is as simple as it is obvious: Real human civilizations invariably leave physical, documentary and linguistic evidence of their existence as a kind of “language” describing and explaining the existence of the peoples in question and even sometimes providing deep insights into their culture and their way of life. Again this is absolutely rudimentary and historians never question this method because it always leads to actual understanding and the verification of, at the minimum, the existence or non-existence of the civilization being investigated.

Wait… did I say, “never”? Okay, well there are, of course, the exceptions. There is always the lunatic fringe. The most obvious exception in the entire world is the Mormons when they are trying to provide an apologetic for their claims about the material world, such as historical claims found in their “scriptures.” Other examples include the claims of their “prophets”. As predictable as the sunrise, when the Mormon is pressed to answer for the falsifiable (i.e. objectively testable) claims about even something as simple as the mere existence of the human civilizations described in their Book of Mormon, he or she will quickly and with breathtaking predictability, retreat to pure fideism.

A valid definition of fideism is: “an epistemological theory which maintains that faith is independent of reason, or that reason and faith are hostile to each other and faith is superior at arriving at particular truths.” Indeed, in some things, fideism is the only means left for a person to claim to “know” the truth of some things. The belief that God will heal a sick child, for example, may easily slip into fideism, since no one can have any other means of “knowing” whether or not the child will indeed be healed. Faith may be all that is left to the praying mother or father. But it crosses into fideism when that faith isn’t backed up by anything.

Calvin and Hobbes illustrate fideism of another kind.

Fideism is to be distinguished from “faith” in the biblical sense. “Faith” in the Bible is synonymous with “trust”; it is not a claim to objective certainty or Cartesian knowledge. In the Bible, the word “faith” refers to an informed and rational trust. It is backed by valid reasons to trust. This is in contrast with fideism, which is rather a repudiation of reason and the assertion of blind faith as the means to obtain knowledge. Fideism is functionally indistinguishable from superstition. A person believes what he or she believes… because they feel that they should or they believe what they believe because they believe it.

This page is replete with numerous examples of Mormon fideism. When asked to provide valid reasons to think, for example, that the so-called, “Nephite” civilization simply existed, Mormons will, when their attempts to borrow evidence from the Mayans has failed to impress the informed questioner, retreat to fideism. Whatever words are chosen, it is clear that they will be something that communicates the idea that you cannot know the “truth” of the Book of Mormon apart from an appeal to the supernatural – a “faith” in “God”.

The problem is, this is both hypocritical and specious. It is hypocritical because claims about the mere existence of a civilization are not a matter of religious faith. As described above, all of us, including Mormons, will easily turn to the domain of objective facts to see if any other proposed human civilization ever simply existed. But when it comes to the claims of the Book of Mormon, suddenly the Mormon retreats to his or her fideism – a kind of uninformed superstition: one must “ask God” if the “Nephites” (or any other Book of Mormon people group) simply existed. This rhetorical maneuver is specious because while it may sound pious and pure, it is utter nonsense to try to downshift to appeals to belief simply because one believes their own belief.

Furthermore, there is a serious conundrum in this methodology. When facing questions normally about the mere existence of a Book of Mormon civilization, Mormons will routinely appeal to the “Moroni 10 challenge” (Moroni 10:5-4) and encourage someone to take the advice of this “Moroni” character and pray to God to see if the “Nephites” (or any other BoM people group) actually existed. The conundrum is that in following this advice, the person must first already believe the Book of Mormon’s claims. Otherwise, why would anyone follow the spiritual advice from a fictitious character? That just makes no sense.

Continuing with the example of the existence of the “Nephites”, it should be obvious that this is a historical question and historical questions are normally resolved by means of evaluating historical evidence and using a proper historical logic or reasoning. As anyone who has ever questioned the historicity of the Book of Mormon (not it’s alleged spiritual or religious doctrine) has found, the Mormon answer is always the exception to this otherwise universal rule of all forms of historiography. In Mormonism, historical claims (or any other kind of claim that is objectively testable) is moved over into the realm of the subjective. How do we know that the Book of Mormon is telling the truth about the Jaredite voyage to somewhere in the western hemisphere? Pray to the Mormon God (or …Gods). How can you tell if Joseph Smith was a true prophet? Pray to the Mormon God(s). How can you be sure that “Nephi” actually did build a ship in the Arabian desert and sail it to the Americas? You can’t know this, apart from a revelation from God. The problem is consistent: Mormons will move questions that are normally answered by objective means into the column of the purely subjective … if those questions are aimed at things claimed by their religion. Otherwise, Mormons will happily appeal to objective facts and valid reasoning to determine the truth of any and all claims that have nothing to do with their religion.

This double-mindedness is troubling. Few people want to relinquish their natural, God-given ability to reason properly. To do so is to tickle one’s toes in the pool of total insanity. But Mormons, when defending the claims of their religion, will give up their ability to reason or think clearly with almost instant and mechanically predictable regularity. They will even dive headlong into the deep pool of fideism. Behind the scenes, I think this is really just a way of dealing with their own recognition of their inability to substantiate even the most mundane and non-supernatural or spiritual claims upon which their religion was founded.

The song “I Believe” from the Book of Mormon the Musical performed on the 2011 Tony Awards

Perhaps if Joseph Smith had found a way to invent a religion that cannot be tested by comparing the real, observable world to his claims (as so many New Agers do today), his credibility would have been easier to establish, at least with some people. As it is, he made the mistake of making claims to supernatural revelations all of which, when compared to reality, has failed to win in the minds of anyone who is not prone to indulge themselves in pure fideism.

About The Author
Brian Horner graduated with a Master’s Degree in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. He now sails around the Caribbean serving various ministries and teaching apologetics when he isn’t writing articles like this one.

banksy_2_EDITED

Banksy, “Sweeping it Under the Carpet”, Mural, Chalk Farm, London England

“If history has shown us one thing, it’s that today’s Mormonism is tomorrow’s dustbin fodder”

compiled by Fred W. Anson
The Church of Jesus Christ claims, “The gospel has been known throughout eternity, and its principles have been preached among men and women from their beginnings on this earth.” (Robert L. Millet, “The Eternal Gospel”, Ensign, July 1996) and “The gospel of Jesus Christ is a divine and perfect plan. It is composed of eternal, unchanging principles, laws, and ordinances which are universally applicable to every individual regardless of time, place, or circumstance. Gospel principles never change.” (Ronald E. Poelman, “The Gospel and the Church”, Ensign, November 1984).

But history tells a different tale: The Mormon gospel is temporal and constantly changing. Here’s a partial list of Mormon Doctrine, scripture, and bits and various pieces that have been left on the dustbin of history. This is the fourth in this ongoing, intermittent series of articles.

 “It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God.”
(Joseph Smith, “Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith”, p.345)

17) Adam-God Doctrine
I’m still stunned at the number of Ex-Mormons who have never heard that Brigham Young taught that Adam was God. But I’m not nearly as stunned as they are when they find out that he did. The following summary is from Wikipedia:

The Adam–God doctrine (or Adam–God theory) was a theological doctrine taught in mid-19th century Mormonism by church president Brigham Young, and accepted by later presidents John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff, and by apostles who served under them in the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Although the doctrine is rejected by the LDS Church today, it is still an accepted part of the modern theology of some Mormon fundamentalists.

According to Young, he was taught by Joseph Smith that Adam is “our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do.”

According to the doctrine, Adam was once a mortal man who became resurrected and exalted. From another planet, he then came as Michael to form Earth. Adam brought Eve, one of his wives, with him to Earth, where they became mortal by eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. After bearing mortal children and establishing the human race, Adam and Eve returned to their heavenly thrones, where Adam serves as God and is the Heavenly Father of humankind. Later, Adam returned to the Earth to the ancient prophets and to become the literal father of Jesus.

During the 19th century and the early 20th century, the Adam–God doctrine was taught in some LDS Church meetings, sung in church hymns, and featured as part of the church’s endowment ceremony. However, the doctrine was startling to Mormons when it was introduced and remained controversial. Other Mormons and some breakoff groups, the most notable being apostle Orson Pratt, rejected the doctrine in favor of other theological ideas. Eventually, the Adam–God doctrine fell out of favor within the LDS Church and was replaced by a theology more similar to Pratt’s, as codified by turn-of-the-century Mormon theologians James E. Talmage, B. H. Roberts, and John A. Widtsoe. In 1976, LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball stated the LDS Church does not support the doctrine. Most Mormons accept Adam as “the Ancient of Days,” “father of all,” and “Michael the Archangel” but do not recognize him as being “God the Father.”
(“Adam-God Doctrine”, Wikipedia website)

722px-God_judging_adam_blake_1795_EDITED

William Blake, “God Judging Adam” (1795)

18) The original (pre-Adam-God) Elohim/Jehovah/Adam naming distinctions
It surprises many Mormon to learn that in Early Mormonism, Elohim was identified as Jesus Christ and Jehovah as Heavenly Father – the exact opposite of today’s Mormon teachings. The following is from Boyd Kirkland’s, watershed, “Jehovah As Father: The Development of the Mormon Jehovah Doctrine”, Sunstone Magazine essay on this subject:

Today in Mormon theology, Jesus Christ is considered to be Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets.

Elohim is considered to be God the Father, the father of Jehovah (or Jesus Christ) and of the human race. The Church promotes this point of view in all of its current lesson manuals, periodicals and literature.1 While there is a natural tendency to assume that this current theology has been the position of Mormonism from 1830 to the present, actually several divergent views have been held…

Other Mormon writers during the 1830s followed this same pattern. They most often used Jehovah as the name of God the Father, and only occasionally used the name Elohim. They evidently also considered the Father to be the god who appeared in the Old Testament. For example, the following was published in the Times and Seasons as the Mormon belief in 1841: “We believe in God the Father, who is the Great Jehovah and head of all things, and that Christ is the Son of God, co-eternal with the Father.” [Times and Seasons 3 (15 November 1841): 578.]

During the Nauvoo period of Church history (1839-44), Joseph Smith’s theology of the Godhead once again changed dramatically. He began to denounce and reject the notion of the trinity. He emphasized that God the Father, as well as the Son, both had tangible bodies of flesh and bone (D&C 130:22). He also began to teach the plurality of gods and the related concept that men could become gods. God himself had a father upon whom he depended for his existence and authority. The Father had acted under the direction of a “head god” and a “council of gods in the creation of the worlds.” The plurality of creation gods is dramatically depicted in the Book of Abraham, chapters 2-5, which Joseph translated in 1842. All of these ideas were summed up by Joseph in April, 1844, in perhaps his most famous sermon: The King Follett Discourse.

In connection with these ideas, the Prophet began to use the title Elohim as the proper name for the head god who presided at the creation of the world. He also taught that Elohim in the creation accounts of Genesis should be understood in a plural sense as referring to the council of the gods, who, under the direction of the head god, organized the heaven and the earth. Once the earth had been organized, “the heads of the Gods appointed one God for us.” From the context of Joseph’s discussions of this head god, it is apparent that the Prophet considered this being to be a patriarchal superior to the father of Jesus.

The gods involved in the creation were designated in Joseph’s temple endowment ceremony as Elohim, Jehovah, and Michael. Joseph had previously identified Michael as “Adam the ancient of days” (D&C 27:11). Whether he identified either this Elohim or Jehovah to be God the Father as he had previously used these titles is unclear. We have seen that he used the title Elohim in various modes, none of which included Jesus, and he also used the name Jehovah to refer to the Father. Given all of these possibilities, to Joseph’s endowment ceremony, then, did not seem to include Jesus among the creation gods. This is a curious situation, since many scriptural passages previously produced through Joseph, as well as the Bible, attribute a major role in the creation to Jesus. Unfortunately, Joseph Smith was killed before he was able to elaborate further on these newer, more esoteric ideas…

The theological problems concerning the Book of Mormon’s identification of Jesus as the Father, the identity of Jehovah, the God of Israel, and the roles and identities of the temple creation gods as connected with the Adam-God doctrine were all finally “resolved” in a carefully worked out statement written by James E. Talmage. This statement was submitted to the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve for their approval on 29 June 1916. It was corrected and then issued the following day as “A Doctrinal Exposition by the First Presidency and the is Twelve” on “The Father and the Son.” This exposition minimized the sense in which Jesus is called the Father in the Book of Mormon through harmonizing techniques. These same techniques were used to support the position that Jesus Christ was Jehovah, the God of Israel, and that Elohim was his father. Little biblical support for these ideas could be given, as the exposition was mainly dealing with problems inherent in the early LDS scriptures and the theology of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Achieving harmony was the chief goal of the 1916 doctrinal exposition. It therefore contains no historical, critical analysis and understanding of the problems it addresses. Its definitions of Elohim and Jehovah still remain the official position of Mormonism.

Today, Mormons who are aware of the various teachings of LDS scriptures and prophets are faced with a number of doctrinal possibilities. They can choose to accept the Book of Mormon theology, which varies from biblical theology, as well as from Joseph Smith’s later plurality-of-gods theology. Adding to this confusion is Brigham Young’s Adam-God theology with its various divine gods using the names Elohim and Jehovah interchangeably. Finally, they are left to resolve the teachings of current General Authorities who identify Jesus as Jehovah with former-day General Authorities who spoke of Jehovah as the Father. While most are blithely unaware of the diversity that abounds in the history of Mormon doctrine, many Latter-day Saints since 1916 have, despite the risk of heresy, continued to believe privately or promote publicly many of the alternative Godhead theologies from Mormonism’s past.
(Boyd Kirkland, “Jehovah As Father: The Development of the Mormon Jehovah Doctrine”, Sunstone Magazine, Vol.9, No.2, Autumn 1984

Jesus-takes-the-scroll_JWs_EDITED

“Jesus Takes the Scroll”, an image from The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society Online Library. Unlike Mormonism, the Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that Jesus Christ is God – be it Jehovah, Elohim, or otherwise.

19) The First President’s 1916 doctrinal statement “The Father and The Son,” as authored and defined by James E. Talmage
Yes, the doctrinal content of this watershed statement is most certainly taught, but without ever referencing its origin – this doctrinal statement. Thus, Mormons wrongly assume that the teaching of that relationship is given by revelation, when it was, in fact, authored by Talmage, then approved by the First Presidency. This treatise had to be written to remediate the confusion and infighting that Brigham Young’s aforementioned disastrous Adam-God doctrine had wrought, as well as other problematic theologies that had crept into Mormonism over the years. This exposition was published as a “Gospel Classic” in the official LdS Church periodical Ensign in 2002. Here is the link.

The Father and the Son (Ensign, April 2002)

While this watershed doctrinal exposition itself is rarely discussed today, at the time it represented a seismic shift in Mormon Theology, this as one commentator on a Mormon Studies board explained, using the Third Century Council of Nicaea as a point of comparison:

One way the 1916 [vote to sustain the “The Father and the Son” as official LdS Church doctrine] event was all the more worse than the actual Council of Nicaea is that soon after it the Mormon Church removed a part of its own scripture, the Lectures on/of Faith.

So they reversed prior Mormon theology, they rejected the teaching of their founding prophet, they voted on their own Mormon theology, and then they subsequently removed some of their own Mormon scripture. And it wasn’t ~292 years after the death of Christ. It was 1,883+ years after the death of Christ. And members or representatives from wards or stakes didn’t even get to practically participate in any meaningful public debate with higher leaders at their Conference. Like other Conferences members voted to accept the statement largely out of submission to and trust of the leadership, not through any helpful, serious member-driven scrutiny or vetting.

All that within a theological framework that traditionally teaches we sinners can become Almighty Eternal Everlasting Most High Gods of our own 40 billion spirit children expecting our own prayer and worship.

That makes the Council of Nicaea look relatively angelic. Even more so once you learn that many of the LDS assumptions about Nicaea are false.
(Aaron Shafovaloff, “2009 Gospel Principles criticizes the “pagan beliefs” of those “called Christians” in “false Christianity”’, comments section February 15, 2019, Mormon Coffee, blog site)

1899 Edition of The Articles of Faith by Talmage_EDITED

An 1899 First Edition of Talmage’s, “The Articles of Faith”.

20)  The original 1899 version of James E. Talmage’s “The Articles of Faith”
The reach and scope of Mormon Apostle James E. Talmage’s book, “The Articles of Faith”, is hard to overstate. As the Encyclopedia of Mormon explains:

The canonization of the Wentworth Letter as part of the Pearl of Great Price in 1880 reflected and assured its undisputed priority. And when James E. Talmage was asked by the First Presidency in 1891 to prepare a work on theology for use as a textbook in Church schools, it was to these Articles of Faith that he turned for the outline of his volume. First published in 1899 and still in use today, Talmage’s Articles of Faith greatly elaborate on the themes of Joseph Smith’s Wentworth list. In twenty-four chapters, Talmage provides extensive commentary and scriptural references regarding each of the concepts mentioned in the thirteen articles, plus sections on the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and resurrection (as in Flanigan’s listing), and finally a section on practical religion (benevolence, tithes and offerings, consecration, social order within the Church, eternal marriage, sanctity of the body, and keeping the Sabbath day holy).
(David J. Whittaker, “Articles of Faith”, The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1992) 

But today if you went down to Deseret Book or onto the official LdS Church website and started reading Mormon Apostle, Jame E. Talmage’s classic book, “The Articles of Faith” you would no longer be reading the same book that Mr. Talmage wrote and published in 1899. The current edition was heavily edited and abridged by unknown parties (the correlation committee at work perhaps?) in 2009. And earlier editions were modified by Talmage during his lifetime and unknown parties afterward. Here is one of many examples that one with find if you take the time to look:

1899 Original Edition
It is reasonable to believe, in the absence of direct revelation by which alone absolute knowledge of the matter could be acquired, that, in accordance with God’s plan of eternal progression, advancement from grade to grade within any kingdom, and from kingdom to kingdom, will be provided for. But if the recipients of a lower glory be enabled to advance, surely the intelligences of higher rank will not be stopped in their progress; and thus we may conclude, that degrees and grades will ever characterize the kingdoms of our God. Eternity is progressive; perfection is relative; the essential feature of God’s living purpose is its associated power of eternal increase.
(pp.420-421)

1919 Edition
It is reasonable to believe, in the absence of direct revelation, by which alone absolute knowledge of the matter could be acquired, that, in accordance with God’s plan of eternal progression, advancement within each of the three specified kingdoms will be provided for. But if the recipients of a lower glory be enabled to advance, surely the intelligences of higher rank will not be stopped in their progress; and thus we may conclude that degrees and grades will ever characterize the kingdoms of our God. Eternity is progressive; perfection is relative; the essential feature of God’s living purpose is its associated power of eternal increase.
(pp.420-421)

1990 Edition
It is reasonable to believe, in the absence of direct revelation, by which alone absolute knowledge of the matter could be acquired, that, in accordance with God’s plan of eternal progression, advancement within each of the three specified kingdoms will be provided for; though as to possible progress from one kingdom to another the scriptures make no positive affirmation. Eternal advancement along different lines is conceivable. We may conclude that degrees and grades will ever characterize the kingdoms of our God. Eternity is progressive; perfection is relative; the essential feature of God’s living purpose is its associated power of eternal increase.
(p.371)

By the way, special thanks to Latter-day Saint Scholar, Scott Woodward, for the above example, which the reader can find here in its original form and format on Mr. Woodward’s website.  That said, please notice how not only have Talmage’s words changed here, the doctrine has changed too. We’ve gone from being able to progress within and between the three posthumous Mormon Kingdoms of Glory in the original edition, to only limited progression within the Kingdoms in later editions. No doubt, the 1919 change was done by Talmage himself for the 1919 edition as near the end of his life his position was aligned with that view:

The Lord has told us of places prepared for those entitled to salvation. He has told us that those who will keep all the laws and commandments of God can come where he is and shall be heirs of celestial glory and power. And he has told us of lesser degrees unto which others who have failed to rise to the occasion of laying hold on the blessing of eternal life, in its fulness, shall come; and concerning the last of these kingdoms of glories, known to us as the Telestial, the Lord has said that it excels all that the human mind can conceive in glory, and yet the one in the Telestial Kingdom is condemned so far as his actions have rendered him incapable of attaining to the higher glories and blessings which mean power and advancement.
(Elder James E. Talmage, “Conference Report, April 1930″, p.96, underlining added for emphasis)

However, the author of the change in the 1990 edition is unknown.

Now Talmage’s 1899 original is still available if you look for it, but the only one being published by the LdS Church today in paper and its website is the “annotated” version with the abridgments and changes. But not to worry, here’s a link to the eBook edition of the original 1899 edition back from the dustbin (click here). And here’s where you can buy a paper edition of the same (click here). And you really, really, really want to read the paper edition of the most current edited and abridged “annotated” version you can buy a copy here (click here).

And with that, Mr. Talmage’s classic is now dustbin fodder, along with all the other items listed in this article, the ones that preceded it, and the ones that will soon follow. Happy sweeping LdS Church – if you keep sweeping, we’ll just keep growing the list!

sweep

Yeah . . . it’s kinda like that, ain’t it?

 

“Darkness to Light” Unknown Artist

by Michael Flournoy
In my book, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, I wrote a chapter called, “Is Revelation an Achilles Heel?” After comparing the church to a game of chess, I nominated the king to symbolize the LDS testimony. I wrote,

In every chess game, there is one piece so important, that its capture ends the game: the king. The king is what enables the game to continue, is the point of the enemy’s attack, and the piece that must be defended at all costs. If the king is misplayed and put in a predicament, he becomes a hindrance or an Achilles heel. For every Latter-day Saint, there is something personal behind the doctrines, the key principles, the scriptures, and the atonement, which is the equivalent to the king in our game of chess: our testimonies. It is our testimonies that give life and utility to everything Mormonism has to offer, and our testimonies are also the most logical points of attack for our enemies.
(Michael Flournoy, “A Biblical Defense of Mormonism”, p.193)

Even then, I knew full well that every Mormon’s strength was also their greatest weakness. Latter-day Saints are subconsciously aware that they would be sunk without their spiritual conversion. They typically shield their weak spot and talk about the doctrinal and social aspects of their faith instead, in exactly the way a chess player shields their king with less important pieces.

What is Spiritual Conversion?
I classify spiritual conversion as anything that convinces a Latter-day Saint that Mormonism is true. This is usually a specific event or a series of events. It may be a spiritual experience, or it may just be an occurrence that they interpret as a sign of Mormonism’s validity. Almost all the Latter-day Saints I have spoken with admit to having had an indisputable spiritual conversion.

The most popular spiritual conversion comes from reading The Book of Mormon and praying about it. Many members claim to receive a confirmation from the Holy Ghost that it’s the word of God through a burning in the bosom or some other subjective feeling.

But spiritual conversion is not limited to that experience. As I sat in an LDS class one day, a classmate explained that he was mowing the lawn one day, when an audible voice told him to stop. He immediately stopped what he was doing and discovered that he almost ran over a hollow den inhabited by baby rabbits. I’ve heard countless stories from LDS parents where they had an impression that their child was in danger, only to find their toddler wading into the street or near a swimming pool.

No matter the experience, whether it be a dream, an experience, or a strong feeling, it strengthens a Mormon’s spiritual conversion. Even if the experience doesn’t relate to the restoration at all, Latter-day Saints immediately jump to the conclusion that the church is true.

In reality, several explanations could be given for any of these events. Satan could be in the business of saving baby bunnies in order to deceive LDS people. Or God might mercifully intervene in their lives, despite them being Mormon. Or sensing a child in the street could be good old-fashioned mother’s intuition. Yet for Latter-day Saints, all signs point to yes. Mormonism takes all the credit, and it is glorified in their eyes.

These experiences are considered extremely sacred to Latter-day Saints, and in their eyes revealing them openly is casting their pearls before swine. It’s also their last line of defense, so if their spiritual conversion is overcome they will have nothing left. The LDS usually keep these experiences securely hidden under lock and key.

In fact, when I first departed from Mormonism my uncle told me he’d had experiences and knew without a doubt that the church was true. He did not tell me what the experiences were. Even if it meant bringing a family member back into the fold, putting his spiritual conversion out there was too much of a risk.

Apostates
If there is one group the LDS feel threatened by, it’s Ex-Mormons. I think I know why that is. Mormons are fully aware that many Ex-Mormons possessed spiritual conversions, and they left anyway.

Latter-day Saints cannot comprehend why someone would reject what they consider an unshakable witness. They sometimes feel like they have to minimize Ex-Mormons’ reasons for leaving. They’ll try to say the spiritual conversion either faded away or was overpowered by sin. They desperately want to believe that their spiritual conversions can’t falter.

As a Mormon, I believed the same thing. Apostates of the faith were blinded by mists of darkness and the enticing of sin and could not remember their own spiritual experiences. I believed my testimony would never falter. Even if the whole church dwindled and only one congregation remained on earth, my resolve was to remain faithful.

Knocking out the Leg of Spiritual Conversion
In theory, an Ex-Mormon has a much higher chance of disrupting spiritual conversion than someone who has never experienced it. However, because of trust issues between Latter-day Saints and former members, never Mormons can have an equal or an even greater opportunity.

It’s important to speak the spiritual language of Latter-day Saints. As a Mormon, I thought Evangelicals were overly objective, especially for their constant emphasis on relationship over religion. A relationship without some subjectivity is an alien concept to Latter-day Saints.

Sometimes when a Latter-day Saint pulls out their shiny apple, the one they claim exclusive rights to, your best move is to pull out their own shiny apple and eat it in front of them. Saying something like, “the Spirit told me [insert what He said here]” is sure to knock Mormons off balance a little, and an apostate doing it is especially worrisome! A similar tactic could be to share an experience that bolstered your testimony of Christianity.

I do not recommend sharing anything like this unless it is legitimately, and utterly true. We are not helping anyone, nor are we glorifying God if these stories are fabricated. If you are unable to speak the Mormon’s spiritual language, you might be better off attacking their social and doctrinal conversions instead.

If an Ex-Mormon has the opportunity to have an open conversation with an active Mormon, he or she should make it a point to use the broken pieces of their spiritual conversion if at all possible.

I had a family member tell me once that he always suspected I would intellectualize my way out of the faith. I replied that the reasons for my departure were just as much spiritual as they were intellectual, thwarting his attempt to distance my apostasy from my spiritual conversion.

Another relative asked how I could leave after all the spiritual experiences I’d had. I replied that I had indeed had spiritual experiences, but upon closer examination, they pointed to Christ’s divinity and not to Mormonism being true. She began sputtering off the plethora of experiences her testimony was built from in an attempt to shield herself from the threat my words posed. Ironically, she was in the same boat as me. Not one of them proved the church was true.

Using a Mormon’s spiritual language is key to undermining their conversion. Statements like, “I read and prayed over The Book of Mormon. I received a witness that it’s not true” are difficult for Mormons to deal with. God wouldn’t tell some people that Mormonism is true and others that it’s false. Latter-day Saints are faced with the fact that one testimony cannot overpower another, and it becomes a stalemate. However, on this front, a stalemate is actually a checkmate.

About the Author
Michael Flournoy served a two-year mission for the LDS Church where he helped organize three Mormon/Evangelical dialogues and has participated in debate at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Born into Mormonism, Mr. Flournoy converted to Evangelical Christianity in 2016.

Also Recommended: “The Three LDS Conversions: A Primer for the Befuddled”
by Michael Flournoy

A painting by C.C.A. Christensen of the original Nauvoo Temple burning after being set to flame by an unknown arsonist on October 9, 1848.

“If history has shown us one thing, it’s that today’s Mormonism is tomorrow’s dustbin fodder”

compiled by Fred W. Anson
The Church of Jesus Christ claims, “The gospel has been known throughout eternity, and its principles have been preached among men and women from their beginnings on this earth.” (Robert L. Millet, “The Eternal Gospel”, Ensign, July 1996) and “The gospel of Jesus Christ is a divine and perfect plan. It is composed of eternal, unchanging Mormon Doctrine on the Dustbin (Part Three)principles, laws, and ordinances which are universally applicable to every individual regardless of time, place, or circumstance. Gospel principles never change.” (Ronald E. Poelman, “The Gospel and the Church”, Ensign, November 1984).

But history tells a different tale: The Mormon gospel is temporal and constantly changing. Here’s a partial list of Mormon Doctrine, scripture, and bits and various pieces that have been left on the dustbin of history. This is the third in this ongoing, intermittent series of articles.

10) The original 1835 D&C 101
The following is an excerpt from the LDS periodical, Times and Seasons dated Saturday, October 1, 1842 (3:939). This edition included section 101 (CI) from the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, plus an addendum denouncing John C. Bennett’s “secret wife system.” The date is significant because by October 1, 1842, Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, was already “married” secretly to several women.

ON MARRIAGE.
According to the custom of all civilized nations, marriage is regulated by laws and ceremonies: therefore we believe, that all marriages in this church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, should be solemnized in a public meeting, or feast, prepared for that purpose: and that the solemnization should be performed by a presiding high priest, high priest, bishop, elder, or priest, not even prohibiting those persons who are desirous to get married, of being married by other authority.-We believe that it is not right to prohibit members of this church from marrying out of the church, if it be their determination so to do, but such persons will be considered weak in the faith of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Marriage should be celebrated with prayer and thanksgiving; and at the solemnization, the persons to be married, standing together, the man on the right, and the woman on the left, shall be addressed, by the person officiating, as he shall be directed by the holy Spirit; and if there be no legal objections, he shall say, calling each by their names: “You both mutually agree to be each other’s companion, husband and wife, observing the legal rights belonging to this condition; that is, keeping yourselves wholly for each other, and from all others, during your lives.” And when they have answered “Yes,” he shall pronounce them “husband and wife” in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by virtue of the laws of the country and authority vested in him: “may God add his blessings and keep you to fulfil [fulfill] your covenants from henceforth and forever. Amen.”

The clerk of every church should keep a record of all marriages, solemnized in his branch.

All legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized into this church, should be held sacred and fulfilled. Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again. It is not right to persuade a woman to be baptized contrary to the will of her husband, neither is it lawful to influence her to leave her husband. All children are bound by law to obey their parents; and to influence them to embrace any religious faith, or be baptized, or leave their parents without their consent, is unlawful and unjust. We believe that husbands, parents and masters who exercise control over their wives, children, and servants and prevent them from embracing the truth, will have to answer for that sin.

[This is where D&C 101 ends]

We have given the above rule of marriage as the only one practiced in this church, to show that Dr. J. C. Bennett’s “secret wife system” is a matter of his own manufacture; and further to disabuse the public ear, and shew [show] that the said Bennett and his misanthropic friend Origen Bachelor, are perpetrating a foul and infamous slander upon an innocent people, and need but be known to be hated and despise. In support of this position, we present the following certificates:-

We the undersigned members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and residents of the city of Nauvoo, persons of families do hereby certify and declare that we know of no other rule or system of marriage than the one published from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and we give this certificate to show that Dr. J. C. Bennett’s “secret wife system” is a creature of his own make as we know of no such society in this place nor never did.

S. Bennett, N. K. Whitney,
George Miller, Albert Pettey,
Alpheus Cutler, Elias Higbee,
Reynolds Cahoon, John Taylor,
Wilson Law, E. Robinson,
W. Woodruff, Aaron Johnson.

We the undersigned members of the ladies’ relief society, and married females do certify and declare that we know of no system of marriage being practised [practiced] in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints save the one contained in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and we give this certificate to the public to show that J. C. Bennett’s “secret wife system” is a disclosure of his own make.

Emma Smith, President,
Elizabeth Ann Whitney, Counsellor [Counselor],
Sarah M. Cleveland, Counsellor [Counselor],
Eliza R. Snow, Secretary,
Mary C. Miller, Catharine Pettey,
Lois Cutler, Sarah Higbee,
Thirza Cahoon, Phebe Woodruff
Ann Hunter, Leonora Taylor,
Jane Law, Sarah Hillman,
Sophia R. Marks, Rosannah Marks

(the above write up and analysis is courtesy of our friends at Mormonism Research Ministry)

11) Pre-1990 Temple Endowment Blood Oaths
On May 4, 1842, Joseph Smith instituted the endowment ritual in Nauvoo, Illinois. At three different stages of the endowment, participants were asked to take an oath of secrecy regarding the gestures of the ceremony (Kearns 1906, p. 8). The participants promised that if they were ever to reveal the gestures of the ceremony, would be subject to the following:

  • Stage 1: “my throat … be cut from ear to ear, and my tongue torn out by its roots;”
  • Stage 2: “our breasts … be torn open, our hearts and vitals torn out and given to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field;”
  • Stage 3: “our body … be cut asunder and all your bowels gush out.”

Each of the penalties was accompanied by gestures known as the “execution of the penalty” which simulated the actions described in the oath (Kearns 1906, p. 8).

  • Stage 1: The participant placed his or her right hand palm-down with the thumb extended and the tip of the thumb just under the left ear. The execution of the gesture was made by drawing the tip of the thumb swiftly across the throat until the thumb was just under the right ear, then dropping the hand and arm quickly to the side of the participant’s body.
  • Stage 2: The participant placed his or her hand in a cup form over the left breast. The execution of the gesture was made by pulling the hand-cup swiftly across the breast, then quickly dropping the hand and arm to the side of the participant’s body.
  • Stage 3: The participant placed his or her right hand palm-down with the thumb extended and the tip of the thumb on the left of the torso, just above the left hip. The execution of the gesture was made by drawing the thumb swiftly across the stomach until the thumb was just above the right hip, and the hand and arm were quickly dropped to the side of the participant’s body.
    (source: “Penalty (Mormonism)”, Wikipedia website)

A side-by-side comparison of the pre and post-1990 ceremonies can be found by clicking here.

12) Pre-1927’s Temple Endowment Oath of Vengeance
The Oath of Vengeance that was used in the in the Temple Endowment Ceremony until 1927 went as follows:

You and each of you do covenant and promise that you will pray and never cease to pray to Almighty God to avenge the blood of the prophets upon this nation, and that you will teach the same to your children and to your children’s children unto the third and fourth generation.

The Oath of Vengeance against the American people and the Government for the death of Joseph Smith was a very important part of the temple ceremony for many years. Because of this temple ceremony vow of vengeance upon this nation, a protest was filed in 1903 in the United States Senate to have Reed Smoot, a Mormon Apostle who had been elected a Senator from Utah, removed from office on the grounds that he had taken this treasonous oath in the endowment ritual. It became the subject of a United States Senate Investigation.

The complete record of this episode was published in U.S. Senate Document 486 (59th Congress, 1st Session) Proceedings Before the Committee on Privileges and Elections of the United States Senate in the Matter of the Protests Against the Right of Reed Smoot, a Senator from the State of Utah, to hold his Seat. 4 vols. [1 vol. index] Washington: Government Printing Office, 1906).

John Hawley, a former Mormon, made these statements in his Congressional testimony concerning the Smoot investigation:

I went to Salt Lake City in 1856. They gave the endowments of washing and anointing, and then there was an oath taken in Utah to avenge the blood of the prophet… In taking the endowments at Salt Lake there was the oath required, and the oath that was required was to ‘avenge the death or blood of the prophet.’ We were made to swear to avenge the death of Joseph Smith the Martyr, together with that of his brother Hyrum, on this American nation, and that we should teach our children and children’s children to do so. ‘The penalty for this grip and oath was disembowelment,’ I would not have discussed the method of these endowments when I was a member of the Utah Church. The penalty for revealing or disclosing these secrets was disembowelment. The grips and tokens of the priesthood were what we were not to disclose… I kept the obligation while living in Salt Lake City.

The complete record of this episode was published in U.S. Senate Document 486 (59th Congress, 1st Session) Proceedings Before the Committee on Privileges and Elections of the United States Senate in the Matter of the Protests Against the Right of Reed Smoot, a Senator from the State of Utah, to hold his Seat. 4 vols. [1 vol. index] Washington: Government Printing Office, 1906)

However, and bizarrely, despite this seditious oath being publicly exposed during the Reed Smoot hearing the LdS Church still continued to use the vow of vengeance in the Temple Endowment Ceremony until 1927 after which it was dropped.

13)  Blood Atonement
In Mormonism, blood atonement is a controversial doctrine that taught that some crimes are so heinous that the atonement of Jesus does not apply. Instead, to atone for these sins the perpetrators should be killed in a way that would allow their blood to be shed upon the ground as a sacrificial offering.

The doctrine is no longer accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), but it was significantly promoted during the Mormon Reformation, when Brigham Young governed the Utah Territory as a near-theocracy. Sins that Young and other members of his First Presidency mentioned as meriting blood atonement included miscegenation [the mixing of different racial groups through marriage], apostasy, theft, murder, fornication, and adultery.

Young taught that the doctrine was to be a voluntary choice by the sinner, and only to be practiced under a complete theocracy (which has not existed in modern times). Young considered it more charitable to sacrifice a life than to see them endure eternal torment in the afterlife. In a full Mormon theocracy, the practice would be implemented by the state as a penal measure.

The blood atonement doctrine was the impetus behind laws in the territory and state of Utah allowing capital punishment by firing squad or decapitation. Though people in Utah were executed by firing squad for capital crimes under the assumption that this would aid their salvation, there is no clear evidence that Young or other top theocratic Mormon leaders enforced blood atonement for apostasy or non-capital crimes like miscegenation. There is, however, some evidence that the doctrine was enforced a few times at the local church level without regard to secular judicial procedure. The rhetoric of blood atonement may have contributed to a culture of violence leading to the Mountain Meadows massacre.
(source: “Blood Atonement”, Wikipedia website, bracketed text added for clarity.) 

14) Pre-1978 OD-2 Black Priesthood Ban
Beginning in the late 1840s, individuals of black African descent were prohibited from ordination to the LDS Church’s priesthood—normally held by all male members who meet church standards of spiritual “worthiness”—and from receiving temple ordinances such as the endowment and celestial marriage (sealing). The origins of the policy are still unclear: during the 20th century, most church members and leaders believed the policy had originated during founding prophet Joseph Smith’s time, but church research in the 1960s and 1970s found no evidence of the prohibition before the presidency of Brigham Young

On September 30, 1978, during the church’s 148th Semiannual General Conference, the following was presented by N. Eldon Tanner, First Counselor in the First Presidency:

In early June of this year, the First Presidency announced that a revelation had been received by President Spencer W. Kimball extending priesthood and temple blessings to all worthy male members of the Church. President Kimball has asked that I advise the conference that after he had received this revelation, which came to him after extended meditation and prayer in the sacred rooms of the holy temple, he presented it to his counselors, who accepted it and approved it. It was then presented to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who unanimously approved it, and was subsequently presented to all other General Authorities, who likewise approved it unanimously. [Official Declaration 2Doctrine and Covenants, a standard work of the LDS Church]

On that day, the general conference unanimously voted to accept the revelation “as the word and will of the Lord.”

Following the revelation, black male members were allowed to be ordained to the priesthood. Black members and their spouses regardless of race were allowed to enter the temple and undergo the temple rituals, including celestial marriages. Black members could be adopted into a tribe of Israel through a patriarchal blessing. Black members were also allowed to serve missions and hold leadership positions. Proselytization restrictions were removed, so missionaries no longer needed special permission to teach black people, converts were no longer asked about African heritage, and marks were no longer made on membership records indicating African heritage.
(source: “1978 Revelation on Priesthood”, Wikipedia website) 

The 1978 Official Declaration 2 revelation also sent the 1949 and 1969 First President’s statements on race to the dustbin. Here they are in full:

First Presidency statement (President George Albert Smith)
August 17, 1949

The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time. The prophets of the Lord have made several statements as to the operation of the principle. President Brigham Young said: “Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the holy priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to.”

President Wilford Woodruff made the following statement: “The day will come when all that race will be redeemed and possess all the blessings which we now have.”

The position of the Church regarding the Negro may be understood when another doctrine of the Church is kept in mind, namely, that the conduct of spirits in the premortal existence has some determining effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which these spirits take on mortality and that while the details of this principle have not been made known, the mortality is a privilege that is given to those who maintain their first estate; and that the worth of the privilege is so great that spirits are willing to come to earth and take on bodies no matter what the handicap may be as to the kind of bodies they are to secure; and that among the handicaps, failure of the right to enjoy in mortality the blessings of the priesthood is a handicap which spirits are willing to assume in order that they might come to earth. Under this principle there is no injustice whatsoever involved in this deprivation as to the holding of the priesthood by the Negroes.

The First Presidency

(Statement of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, August 17, 1949, Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City)

First Presidency statement (President David O. McKay)
December 15, 1969

To General Authorities, Regional Representatives of the Twelve, Stake Presidents, Mission Presidents, and Bishops.

Dear Brethren:

In view of confusion that has arisen, it was decided at a meeting of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve to restate the position of the Church with regard to the Negro both in society and in the Church.

First, may we say that we know something of the sufferings of those who are discriminated against in a denial of their civil rights and Constitutional privileges. Our early history as a church is a tragic story of persecution and oppression. Our people repeatedly were denied the protection of the law. They were driven and plundered, robbed and murdered by mobs, who in many instances were aided and abetted by those sworn to uphold the law. We as a people have experienced the bitter fruits of civil discrimination and mob violence.

We believe that the Constitution of the United States was divinely inspired, that it was produced by “wise men” whom God raised up for this “very purpose,” and that the principles embodied in the Constitution are so fundamental and important that, if possible, they should be extended “for the rights and protection” of all mankind.

In revelations received by the first prophet of the Church in this dispensation, Joseph Smith (1805-1844), the Lord made it clear that it is “not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.” These words were spoken prior to the Civil War. From these and other revelations have sprung the Church’s deep and historic concern with man’s free agency and our commitment to the sacred principles of the Constitution.

It follows, therefore, that we believe the Negro, as well as those of other races, should have his full Constitutional privileges as a member of society, and we hope that members of the Church everywhere will do their part as citizens to see that these rights are held inviolate. Each citizen must have equal opportunities and protection under the law with reference to civil rights.

However, matters of faith, conscience, and theology are not within the purview of the civil law. The first amendment to the Constitution specifically provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

The position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affecting those of the Negro race who choose to join the Church falls wholly within the category of religion. It has no bearing upon matters of civil rights. In no case or degree does it deny to the Negro his full privileges as a citizen of the nation.

This position has no relevancy whatever to those who do not wish to [p.223] join the Church. Those individuals, we suppose, do not believe in the divine origin and nature of the church, nor that we have the priesthood of God. Therefore, if they feel we have no priesthood, they should have no concern with any aspect of our theology on priesthood so long as that theology does not deny any man his Constitutional privileges.

A word of explanation concerning the position of the Church.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owes its origin, its existence, and its hope for the future to the principle of continuous revelation. “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”

From the beginning of this dispensation, Joseph Smith and all succeeding presidents of the Church have taught that Negroes, while spirit children of a common Father, and the progeny of our earthly parents Adam and Eve, were not yet to receive the priesthood, for reasons which we believe are known to God, but which He has not made fully known to man.

Our living prophet, President David O. McKay, has said, “The seeming discrimination by the Church toward the Negro is not something which originated with man; but goes back into the beginning with God….

“Revelation assures us that this plan antedates man’s mortal existence, extending back to man’s pre-existent state.”

President McKay has also said, “Sometime in God’s eternal plan, the Negro will be given the right to hold the priesthood.”

Until God reveals His will in this matter, to him whom we sustain as a prophet, we are bound by that same will. Priesthood, when it is conferred on any man comes as a blessing from God, not of men.

We feel nothing but love, compassion, and the deepest appreciation for the rich talents, endowments, and the earnest strivings of our Negro brothers and sisters. We are eager to share with men of all races the blessings of the Gospel. We have no racially-segregated congregations.

Were we the leaders of an enterprise created by ourselves and operated only according to our own earthly wisdom, it would be a simple thing to act according to popular will. But we believe that this work is directed by God and that the conferring of the priesthood must await His revelation. To do otherwise would be to deny the very premise on which the Church is established.

We recognize that those who do not accept the principle of modern revelation may oppose our point of view. We repeat that such would not wish for membership in the Church, and therefore the question of priesthood should hold no interest for them. Without prejudice they should grant us the privilege afforded under the Constitution to exercise our [p.224] chosen form of religion just as we must grant all others a similar privilege. They must recognize that the question of bestowing or withholding priesthood in the Church is a matter of religion and not a matter of Constitutional right.

We extend the hand of friendship to men everywhere and the hand of fellowship to all who wish to join the Church and partake of the many rewarding opportunities to be found therein.

We join with those throughout the world who pray that all of the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ may in due time of the Lord become available to men of faith everywhere. Until that time comes we must trust in God, in His wisdom and in His tender mercy.

Meanwhile we must strive harder to emulate His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, whose new commandment it was that we should love one another. In developing that love and concern for one another, while awaiting revelations yet to come, let us hope that with respect to these religious differences, we may gain reinforcement for understanding and appreciation for such differences. They challenge our common similarities, as children of one Father, to enlarge the out-reachings of our divine souls.

Faithfully your brethren,
The First Presidency

By Hugh B. Brown
N. Eldon Tanner

(source: FAIRMormon website)

15) Male-to-Male Adoptive Sealings per “The Law of Adoption
The law of adoption was a ritual practiced in Latter Day Saint temples between 1846 and 1894 in which men who held the priesthood were sealed in a father–son relationship to other men who were not part of nor even distantly related to their immediate nuclear family…

Brigham Young had been sealed by the law of adoption to Joseph Smith, and in January and early February 1846 (before leaving for the Rocky Mountains on 15 February 1846), Young was sealed to 38 young men by the law of adoption in the Nauvoo Temple.[Brooks, Juanita (1992) [1961], John Doyle Lee: Zealot, Pioneer Builder, Scapegoat, Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, p. 73, ISBN 0-87421-162-XOCLC 42329435] On 23 February 1847, Young “went to see Joseph” in a dream and Young said that he spoke with Smith about the law of adoption.[Manuscript History of Brigham Young, February 23, 1847]

On April 6, 1862, Young said of the law of adoption: “By this power men will be sealed to men back to Adam, completing and making perfect the priesthood from this day to the winding up scene.”[ Journal of Discourses, volume 9, page 269.] It is reported by Young’s grandson, Kimball Young (chairman of the Department of Sociology at Northwestern University) that Brigham Young stated in a letter that there will be a future time “when men would be sealed to men in the priesthood in a more solemn ordinance than that by which women were sealed to men, and in a room over that in which women were sealed to man.”[Young, Kimball (1954), Isn’t One Wife Enough?, New York: Holt, pp. 278–280, OCLC837920]…

In a church general conference address on 8 April 1894, Wilford Woodruff stated that “I have not felt satisfied, nor has any man since the Prophet Joseph Smith who has attended to the ordinance of adoption in the temples of our God. We have felt there was more to be revealed on this subject than we have received … and the duty that I want every man who presides over a Temple to see performed from this day henceforth, unless the Lord Almighty commands otherwise, is let every man be adopted to his father.”[Irving, Gordon (Spring 1974), “The Law of Adoption: One Phase of the Development of the Mormon Concept of Salvation”, BYU Studies, 14 (3), p.312]

Thus, as of 1894, the practice of the law of adoption ceased in the LDS Church.
(source: “Law of Adoption (Mormonism)”, Wikipedia website) 

(click to view full image)

16) Polyandry: The Practice of One Woman Being Married to More Than One Husband
The gospel/church sealing ordinance of polyandry created and practiced by Joseph Smith was discontinued after the Nauvoo Illinois period according to Mormon apostle John Widstoe (“Evidences And Reconciliations”, p. 343).

Mormon researcher and apologist Brian Hales claims that fourteen of Joseph Smith’s known polygamous wives were still married to living husbands:

My research supports that fourteen of Joseph Smith’s plural wives had legal husbands. It could be that in Joseph Smith’s history, polygamy is the most difficult thing to understand. Within polygamy, Joseph Smith’s sealings to legally married women, is the most difficult. So we’re talking about a pretty tough subject today. And I can tell you already, that if it were easy, someone would have already explained it decades ago. But I think we’ve got it figured out.

Now there are two questions: “Why did he do it”, and “Did the women really have two husbands?” Answering the question of why he did it requires us to introduce some new topics. Joseph taught that marriage can be eternal and that everyone must be sealed to be exalted. These are not new to us, we’ve all heard these. But outside of Mormondom, these are kind of new ideas. Emmanuel Swedenborg had talked about eternal marriage and he died in 1772. But really, nobody talked about eternal marriage. The idea that you had to be married to get the highest salvation, that’s still a really new and somewhat different teaching.
(Brian C. Hales, “Joseph Smith’s Sexual Polyandry and the Emperor’s New Clothes: On Closer Inspection, What Do We Find?”, Proceedings of the 2012 FAIR Conference”, August 2012)

Why polyandry was practiced in Nauvoo is a mystery just as much as to why it was discontinued after the Saints left Illinois. It is an odd and unusual anomaly that now lays in the dustbin.

The charred remains of the Provo Tabernacle after it was gutted by a fire on December 17, 2010.