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Did I Visit “Anti-Mormon” Sites?

George Albert Smith:

“If a faith will not bear to be investigated, if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined; their foundation must be very weak.”

Let’s take religion out of it for a minute. If you don’t know for certain whether an organization is right or wrong about something, wouldn’t you want to listen not only to that organization, but also to outside sources? There is a ridiculous feeling within the church that everything not originating from the church is “anti-Mormon”. Are there people out there who want to defame, slander and destroy the Mormon church? Absolutely! Are there people out there who, in a scholarly pursuit, want to take an objective view of church history and policies? Absolutely!

The ironic thing is that Mormons often bring up that “anti-Mormon” sites are biased. Yet how could any greater bias exist than from modern church sources. As you will see in other posts, the church has consistently attempted to lie about and hide much of its embarrassing history.

In my opinion, the key is to do the whole thing in balance. I wasn’t 100% sure the church was completely true, so I decided to:

  • study LDS teachings
  • pray
  • continue in faith promoting activities
  • study outside sources that keep to facts, history, and scholarly research

That was the plan until I became more sure of my beliefs. Even if I had been 100% sure of the truth of the church, I don’t know how it could possibly be a bad thing to intensely study one’s own religious history and practices, even from outside sources.

Hiding the truth

Of course, all that wouldn’t be as necessary if the modern church would address many important things and was completely open and honest about its history and policies. Take, for example, President Gordon B. Hinckley’s various public relations visits during his term as president of the church.

Australian show Compass, April 8, 2005:

Interviewer: So in retrospect was the Church wrong in that [denying blacks the priesthood]?

Hinckley: No I don’t think it was wrong. It, things, various things happened in different periods. There’s a reason for them.

Interviewer: What was the reason for that?

Hinckley: I don’t know what the reason was.

60 Minutes interview with Mike Wallace, 1996:

Mike Wallace: From 1830 to 1978, blacks could not become priests in the Mormon church. Right?

Gordon B. Hinckley: That’s correct.

Mike Wallace: Why?

Gordon B. Hinckley: Because the leaders of the church at that time interpreted that doctrine that way. [cut]

Mike Wallace: Church policy had it that blacks had the mark of Cain. Brigham Young said, “Cain slew his brother, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin.”

Gordon B. Hinckley: It’s behind us. Look, that’s behind us. Don’t worry about those little flecks of history.

But Hinckley in an April 2006 General Conference address:

“How can any man holding the Melchizedek Priesthood arrogantly assume that he is eligible for the priesthood whereas another who lives a righteous life but whose skin is of a different color is ineligible?”

Did you catch the irony while reading that?

Interview with reporter, Jan 29, 2002:

HN: Until 1978 no person of color attained the priesthood in your church. Why did it take so long to overcome the racism?

GBH: I don’t know. I don’t know. I can only say that. (long pause) But it’s here now.

In a Time Magazine interview, Aug 4, 1997:

“On whether his church still holds that God the Father was once a man, [Hinckley] sounded uncertain, ‘I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it… I understand the philosophical background behind it, but I don’t know a lot about it, and I don’t think others know a lot about it.'”

Of course, from Joseph Smith’s King Follet Discourse onwards, it has commonly been taught in the church by leaders that God was once a man. The most famous quote is probably by President Lorenzo Snow, The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow:

“As man now is, God once was; as God is now man may be.”

Or perhaps we could go to Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 345-346:

“God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret…. It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know… that he was once a man like us…. Here, then, is eternal life – to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves… the same as all Gods have done before you…”

President Hinckley, as president of the church, certainly knew his own church’s doctrine about it. Especially since he has taught it himself before:

“On the other hand, the whole design of the gospel is to lead us onward and upward to greater achievement, even, eventually, to godhood. This great possibility was enunciated by the Prophet Joseph Smith in the King Follet sermon and emphasized by President Lorenzo Snow. It is this grand and incomparable concept: As God now is, man may become! Our enemies have criticized us for believing in this.”

Interview with Larry King, 1998:

King: First tell me about the church and polygamy.  When it started it allowed it?

Hinckley: When our people came west they permitted it on a restricted scale.

Of course, that’s essentially a lie.  Larry King asked about the origin of the church and polygamy.  Hinckley implied that polygamy started when the church came west.  That’s of course not true, as Joseph Smith had 33+ wives as well as many other early church leaders.  The first plural marriage was as early as 1833, with Brigham Young claiming that Joseph Smith taught the doctrine in 1831.  I’ll write more on that later, but suffice it to say that Hinckley was well aware of church polygamy before the church came west and was also well aware that most people, in or out of the church, did not know that.  So he got away with a fib.

So what’s wrong with just following the prophet?

In the 1996 General Conference, President Hinckley stated:

“One of the purposes of a prophet is to seek the wisdom and the will of the Lord and to teach his people accordingly. It was the case with Moses when he led the children of Israel out of Egypt. It was the case for the Old Testament prophets when people were faced with oppression and trouble and difficulty. That is the purpose of a prophet, to give answers to people for the dilemmas in which they find themselves.”

My dilemma that I find myself in is that the church has been dishonest and deceitful with some of its key historical events. It has drastically changed significant doctrine throughout its history. And the prophets give no answers to that dilemma of mine.

There are numerous cases of church leaders encouraging members to ask questions and search out truth. That’s my purpose.

Truth, under heavy scrutiny, should win out.

Dane Laverty put it this way:

“I believe that exposure to a variety of information and experiences (including those that are disagreeable, challenging, or foreign) is the foundation of discovering truth. It is our responsibility to seek out and understand positions that conflict with our own so that we can obtain perspective.”

Next step: The Book of Abraham

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