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Consequences of not being forthcoming with history


John Corrill

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(Moderator. I have made some edits. I hope this is better and acceptable.)

Whether or not the church hides Joseph Smith's behavior has been debated on this board numerous times. Regardless, I regularly become aware of people who are surprised when they find out about it.

The following email exchange was between an aquaintance's wife and someone at FAIR. I have asked for his permission to post it. His wife recently discovered Joseph Smith's polygamy. I think her comments give important insights into why we as a church should be more forthcoming

FAIR Guy,

Hello there! It's been a while since I first wrote you. Thanks for the info you sent. The other day I was looking to buy garments on line and I accidentally came across some information about the temple and garments. It talked about the oath of vengeance that Brigham Young added to the temple ceremony. What's your take on that? ....I'm wondering if and when the Church is ever going to openly address the issues that I've asked you about. Had I learned about these these from the Church, my testimony wouldn't have been so damaged. I shouldn't have to learn them from sources outside the Church.

- Wife

Wife,

I hope things are going well for you and your family.

I don't know much about the "oath of vengeance," so I've taken the liberty of copying this message to others at FAIR; they may be able to address your question directly.

As to the Church addressing items directly, I don't know that such a thing will ever happen. Most of the items that you brought up (and the things brought up by other people that you haven't brought up) deal with history. The Church doesn't teach history--even its own; that is not the purpose of the Church. The Church's purpose is to invite all to come unto Christ, through the three-fold mission of the Church: proclaim the gospel, perfect the Saints, and redeem the dead. That mission doesn't leave much room for addressing historical issues that, quite frankly, would divert resources away from what God has commanded the Church to do.

For instance, where would you like the issues to be addressed in Church? Which meeting, exactly, should address them? If it is done in one of our existing meetings, what should be left out so that those historical issues can be taught?

I'll give you an example. I just taught the Gospel Doctrine class in Sunday School yesterday. The lesson being taught was about the sealing power restored in Nauvoo, and specifically about D&C 132. There are all sorts of things that could have been addressed in the lesson--how the endowment was introduced, how the presentation of the endowment changed over time, how plural marriage was introduced, how some within the Church (including Emma Smith) resisted the introduction of plural marriage, the genesis of D&C 132, Levirate marriage, etc. While all this would have been fascinating from a historical perspective, there is no way that I could teach it all within the available 45 minutes. Besides, even if I could have taught those topics, it wouldn't have helped class members understand why the sealing power is important to them and how it can bless their lives.

Does this mean that the Church is purposely hiding material about these historical matters? No; it simply means that the Church focuses on what will be of the most value to class members in their lives now, today, as they leave Church. I did spend about 10 minutes in the less on some of the tangential matters, and invited class members to come talk to me after class, if they were interested in these other items. In a class of about 40 people, I had one person come see me after class, and we spent about 10 minutes discussing the one particular item in which he was interested. The rest of the class seemed satisfied with the material presented.

In fact, the Church doesn't hide any of this information. Of all the topics I mentioned above (for the class presentation yesterday), the information is readily available through any Deseret Book store (Church owned) through any number of resources. Some of the books or CD-ROMs on which the information is available are even published by the Church or directly by Deseret Book.

In addition, there is a vast amount of information available through other sources, including diaries, journals, and old publications. The Church doesn't hide any of them, nor does it discourage members from reading them to find out more information. I can tell you, though, that it takes a LOT of work to do it. The topics I mentioned above can easily consume about six months worth of study time for a person like me, and I study quite a bit.

Most people don't want to make that time committment to learn the information--and that includes Church leaders (bishops included) who already have their plates full with fulfiling the mission of the Church.

If you have a better idea for how the information should be addressed within Church, while still allowing the Church to push ahead on its primary mission, I would definitely be interested in hearing it. I've been thinking about this issue for years, and still haven't seen a plan that doesn't either require huge amounts of time from members (to learn the information)or dilute the mission of the Church.

Again, it was good to hear from you. I trust that you may hear from others at FAIR in regards to your question about the oath.

My best to you and your family.

- FAIR Guy

FAIR Guy,

true, there isn't a whole lot of time to devote to learning this extra information. however, it could at least be mentioned. the majority of your class was satisfied with learning the "sugar-coated" (sorry) version on the sealing power because they don't know any better. they hear a 45 minute lesson that's uplifting and inspiring--but only touches the surface of what really transpired....i used to not know any better and i was fine with it, as well. then i learned that there is a heck of a lot out there that we are not told. is time an issue? is it that we shouldn't take away from what really needs to be taught? or is it that the Church knows that its true history is damaging to testimonies and many people would leave the Church if they knew the truth? ....harmful as it might be, it's not even close to as damaging as discovering it through an outside source. it would be like going to the grocery store and having the cashier telll me I was adopted. Did my parents not have time to tell me the truth? Or were they just too afraid...so I had to learn it from a total stranger. (sorry for the silly analogy.)

you mention that we are not discouraged to study up on these things....if that's true, then why do all of my friends, my bishop, and institute director warn me against doing so? they think i've been overcome by Satan's evil influence and that I'm reading anti-mormon lit. (I'm not.) .... i have spoken with a lot of members about many of these issues. not one of them knows the uncensored history. and you know what? they are scared to know the whole truth. i have had people tell me they are afraid to learn what really happened because they worry it would test their faith too much.....so they go to church and learn a nice little lesson about the sealing ordinance, and they can feel good that they are sealed to their sweatheart. of course they are satisfied; it makes them feel good!..but what happens when they accidentally or purposely come across this stuff on the internet? what then? they are immediately thrown into disbelief, shock, horror...why didn't they learn this stuff before? what is the Church trying to hide? if it's not hiding anything, then why did I never learn this? How come nobody at Church knows this stuff if it's not hidden? ...i was taught at a very young age that not telling my parents what happened is the same thing as lying. when the Church neglects to tell its members what really happened, they might as well be lying.

...you see, we need to find the time to teach these things at church, even if there isn't enough time. we spend more time in church than any other religious people and we don't even know our own history. maybe the answer is to add more time to our meetings. if 3 hours isn't sufficient, then add another 30 minutes. at least mention that these things happened and refer them to a book that explains it better....or refer them to FAIR (which 9 out of 10 members don't know about, by the way.) I don't care how it gets done, it just needs to get done...or you will see people like me dissilusioned, shattered, distrought...and leaving the Church.

- Wife

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Very well said.  I couldn't agree more!

Well, here's a vote for the other side. I never heard it from the Church, either, and it didn't damage anything on my side of the fence. And for those who say "oh I would have understood so much better if somebody had spent 95 hours on polygamy with me in Church, I wouldn't have ever questioned any of it" -- well, I'm sorry, but I seriously doubt you can know what your response would have been. It is, and will remain, an unknown.

HiJolly

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Hi John, I have often wondered how much investigators should be taught about Joseph Smith for instance, when they are researching the church.

It's a tricky one, because I think the foundation issue is ..Did Joseph Smith (and Brigham Young and any other leader) have to be perfect in order to be what they claimed to be.

I think Joseph Smith would have told people not to rely on him or his personality, or expect perfection of him. In that context just how imperfect does Joseph's character have to be (along with all the good characteristics that he no doubt had) before the warning signs start going off.

I think that's the delemna. Didn't someone say, some things that are true (particularly as it pertains to history) just are not faith promoting.

I don't have an answer, but it is becoming immaterial really with the availability of information on the internet. Some of the 'anti' stuff out there is downright ludicrous, but some information with documented sources is reliable.

No easy answers on that one. But I agree that I have come across a lot of very angry and bitter people who feel that they have been decieved or at least not been given a full picture. (Which is actually probably a lot more interesting, and colourful than any white-wash).

I am sure that if the leaders withheld stuff, they did it with good intentions. Put yourself in their shoes. I don't see any conspiracy here, but I do see a difficult situation that is a tricky one to deal with.

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What do you think about the mistakes and chastizement that Joseph Smith received in the Doctrine and Covenants? Do we have to list all the struggles someone has?

Here's some questions:

What was his name? Joseph Smith

What was his quest? To restore the gospel fo Jesus Christ

What was his favorite color?

I'll give you one thing though, some of the information effects people in different ways. I wonder what people have thought about the "cannibalistic" ritual of drinking blood and eating flesh, even if only symbolically.

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John,

Fair guy's reply was excellent and right on target.

Honestly, I wonder how many of these saints who get blindsided by some tidbit of church history really have even bothered to study about the church on their own, doctrinally or historically. In my experience in depth doctrinal study on ones one initiative invariably leads to historical context.

No one should blame the church for not telling them something. The fact is the church makes it all available. In fact, the anti-mo's favorite source is church publications.

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I am sorry people, to be a broken record here. But sometimes things get said that set my teeth on edge.

When this topic comes up "why didn't any one ever tell me about Joseph Smith and polygamy" a frequently seen reply even from believing LDS is always, "Well whoever said a prophet had to be perfect?"

I wish there was a smilie which could indicate righteous indignation. I would put in a whole row of them! I do not believe Joseph had to be perfect. He said he wasn't. But he was not a libidinous adulterer, either, who coveted other men's wives and tried to cover numerous affairs with a made up revelation about plural marriage, as is frequently claimed by anti's.

I will repeat: First, no one, even those most arrogant anti's who have marshalled all kinds of non-credible evidence can prove that Joseph was doing anything other than keeping the commandments of God with regard to plural marriage in the best way he knew how. They hope they can insinuate and create doubt in the minds of others.

Second, when we know everything, which will not come in this life, I am confident that Joseph will be proven to have been what Brigham Young described him as being, the most honest, moral man he had ever known. And I think many of those who impugn his character, even though they are willing to "forgive" him of his faults, will have to eat their words.

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A beautiful woman must [H]is mother have been, that this Most High G[-]d should want to have intercourse with her!

Celsus, On the True Doctrine, transl. by Hoffmann (New York: Oxford University Press 1987) at 57.

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I see the problem as some people developing the erroneous ideas that prophets are perfect and that they know all that God knows and that nothing ever is supposed to change. I have been reading the new biography on David O McKay, in which it is said that he was asked a whole bunch of questions that one of the GA's said he'd been getting as he traveled around, 60% of the with "I don't know" or "I'm unaware that the Lord has spoken on that."

In addition to those false ideas, some of us think that if we don't understand a Heavenly command or it doesn't fit with our sensibilities, it rather than us is the problem. I am always touched by the efforts of righteous men and women everywhere who strive to be as obedient as they can to the commandments as they understand them, which isn't to say that either their knowledge or their actions are complete and right. Their hearts surely are, and that counts for a lot with the Lord.

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I wonder if she was distrought and Shattered when she found out that David commited adultury?

If Joseph Smith would have prayed with all his heart and strength to be forgiven of his sex crimes and if he would have canonized his psalms begging for the Lord's mercy for the horrible things he had done, you might be able to compare David with Joseph Smith.

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The Bible is not very forthcomming with history. It's chok full of faith promoting stories and we have only very few of all the words the prophets and apostles ever spoke from the veritable pulpit. Especially lacking are their opinions on various and sundry matters of the time.

Thus, according to 'wife's' logic, I declare the Bible to be nothing more than a whitewash.

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I wonder if she was distrought and Shattered when she found out that David commited adultury?

If Joseph Smith would have prayed with all his heart and strength to be forgiven of his sex crimes and if he would have canonized his psalms begging for the Lord's mercy for the horrible things he had done, you might be able to compare David with Joseph Smith.

Joseph didn't commit adultery, as far as reliable evidence shows...

HiJolly

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John Corrill said: The following email exchange was between an aquaintance's wife and someone at FAIR. I have asked for his permission to post it. His wife recently discovered Joseph Smith's polygamy. I think her comments give important insights into why we as a church should be more forthcoming.

Oh, my. What to say, how to say it. :P

Let me start by stating the facts, right up front:

1. I am the the "FAIR guy" who conversed with the wife of John's acquaintance.

2. The e-mail exchange was taken entirely out of context. There were messages that preceded these and messages that followed.

3. John's "acquaintance" is a buddy at RfM, where the exchange was posted yesterday, at this location.

4. The "acquaintance" never asked permission of his wife to post the exchange, and she doesn't even like RfM. (I have the e-mail from the wife where she indicates that her husband posted it without her permission.)

5. John cut out the part of the original post where the "acquaintance" referred to me as a "FAIR employee." This, despite the fact that (1) FAIR has no employees, and (2) I indicated in the message to the "acquaintance's" wife that I was a volunteer. (The husband deemed it appropriate to edit that part out, as part of his context editing, and include his own wording.)

The exhange of information back and forth between this person and myself has been ongoing, consisting of three or four messages back and forth, each way. The husband who posted this on RfM (the "acquaintance" of John who was asked for permission to post it here) had no permission to do so, so it seems that John has assumed he had permission when he did not really have it. If the RfM poster was really John's "acquaintance," it is a shame that John didn't feel the necessity of asking permission of the person who really has the power to grant that permission, prior to posting.

It seems odd to me that in a post about how "things have been left out" (the original unauthorized post on RfM and John's edited post here) that things are actually left out. In other words, those who want to show the "mental gymnastics" to which those in the Morg will go (a paraphrase of the husband's original wording, which John edited out) seem to feel it is all right to pull conversations out of context, take action without permission, and edit conversations in order to make their points. This, while they blithely accuse the Church of not telling the whole truth. (Pot, meet kettle.)

If anyone wants to discuss the topic, I will be glad to. Unlike the RfM husband in this case (and John, by extension), I won't post a private correspondence without permission.

-Allen

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Anyone been following the Joseph Smith Ancestry DNA tests thread over on the Z?

If we are having this much difficulty in our technologically advanced day and age at even finding one "ancestor" of Joseph Smith from his supposed "wifes" with signed affidavits...

Then they expect us to beleive we are going to find DNA marks from 600BC.

:P

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The Bible is not very forthcomming with history.  It's chok full of faith promoting stories and we have only very few of all the words the prophets and apostles ever spoke from the veritable pulpit.  Especially lacking are their opinions on various and sundry matters of the time.

Thus, according to 'wife's' logic, I declare the Bible to be nothing more than a whitewash.

BC Space, I always found the bible to be pretty colourful, particularly the Old Testament!!!!! I don't think there is too much of a white wash there. How much of it is God and how much is a group of men writing out their recollections and opinions I don't know. It's an imperfect document.

Moses was a murderer, Abraham a potential child killer, Noah - incest, God - a merciless killer of men, women and children, and so forth.

It is a pretty amoral document really. Does it mean that 'anything goes' as long as someone says God commanded it. Tricky one huh... I (we!) had just better be sure it really is God speaking...

It all gets a bit too mind-boggling for me, and I just go back to 'God is love'.

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I no longer have any sympathy whatsoever for people who expect the Church to teach them every little detail of Church history, to explore every controversy that every prophet and apostle has ever undergone. Church is long enough and we don't get to cover enough material as it is!

Go home, read a book. As was said before, the antis derive most of their material from the Church's own dusty records. Read them for yourself, in the proper context, easily available from such bastions of anti-Church activity as BYU or LDS Infobase. Unless you're a paraplegic imprisoned in solitary confinement within a hole in the Burmese jungle, you can with just a little effort, perform this task.

Stop being so "shocked." It is getting annoying.

The. Church. Is. Hiding. Nothing.

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You know, many of the objections and issues I have ever heard from critics of the Church over the years I have read about in the Ensign, in Church manuals, and in various publications from Deseret Book. For example, how many critics whine about all the supposed problems and versions of the first vision or changes in the Book of Mormon or the Kinderhook plates? How many times do we hear about how the Church has been hiding this information from its membership? Truth be told, if even half the members of the Church would read their scriptures and the magazines of the Church, as the leaders of the Church always have asked them to do, they would have been aware of it and the Church and membership would be doing better. Several of the issues of the Improvement Era and Ensign over a period of decades discussed the differences and similarities of various accounts of the First Vision, variations in editions of the Book of Mormon, and, yes, even at least one or more articles on the subject of the Kinderhook plates! That being so, how has the Church been hiding anything on that subject? And yet, we still hear the cry! :P

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I wonder how quickly the church would grow if we restructured the Discussions to talk about all the skeletons in the Closet rather than Christ and his Modern Restoration efforts?

:P

It is nice to know your goal is growth, not truth.

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We watched million Dollar Baby last night.

This mentality that the church is hiding history and the constant crying because people aren't being spoon feed fast enough reminds me of "ma gushla's"(sp) trailor trash family. Too lazy to do anything for themselves and to ungrateful for what IS done for them.

:P

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I wonder how quickly the church would grow if we restructured the Discussions to talk about all the skeletons in the Closet rather than Christ and his Modern Restoration efforts?

:P

It is nice to know your goal is growth, not truth.

Hardly worthy of you, Scott.

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