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Elder Paul H. Dunn

Born in Provo, Dunn was a seminary teacher for the Church Educational System for 12 years before being called as a General Authority and member of the First Council of the Seventy in 1964. He became a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy when it was formed and served as a President of the Seventy. As a General Authority, he was a prolific author, writing more than 50 books in the space of his 17 years as a Seventy.

Elder Dunn became famous in the church for telling incredible faith-promoting stories. His books sold extremely well in and out of church bookstores. A BYU professor by the name of Lynn Packer, coincidentally Apostle Boyd K. Packer’s nephew, conducted research for four years and discovered that Elder Dunn’s stories were fabrications. The church made threats to Lynn Packer and quickly placed Elder Dunn on ’emeritus’ status for “health reasons.” Packer decided to ignore the threats and publish his findings, though he was quickly fired from BYU for doing so.

Elder Dunn admitted his stories were false, but attempted to justify them:

“I haven’t purposely tried to embellish or rewrite history. I’ve tried to illustrate points that would create interest. [I was] simply putting history in little finer packages.”

Some of Elder Dunn’s “little finer packages”:

  • Claiming his best friend had died in his arms in World War II (the friend didn’t die at all)
  • Claiming that he was one of only six in his 1000-man combat group who survived World War II, and was the only one of the six survivors who wasn’t wounded (very false)
  • Claiming that he had on the St. Louis Cardinals in Major League Baseball (he had a very brief stint on the Pocatello Cardinals, an obscure farm team)

I don’t really know what to say about this incredibly sad story. He fooled members and other church leaders for 17 years while being funded by faithful tithepayers and selling tens of thousands books. The church attempted to mostly sweep it under the rug afterwards. It’s just depressing.

What about the current prophet?

President Monson, who is widely known to have a photographic memory, gave these details about his friend Arthur:

“My thoughts turned to the events of that fateful eighth day of May in 1942 when the mammoth aircraft carrier Lexington slipped to its final resting place on the ocean floor. Twenty-seven hundred and thirty-five sailors scrambled to safety. Others were not so fortunate. One who went down with his ship was my boyhood friend, Arthur Patton.”

However, he later gave these details, after identifying the friend as the same Arthur Patton and reminding the audience of his previous talk:

“In March 1944, with the war now raging, Arthur was transferred from the USS Dorsey, a destroyer, to the USS White Plains, an aircraft carrier. While at Saipan in the South Pacific, the ship was attacked. Arthur was one of those on board who was lost at sea.”

The inconsistencies:

  • 1942 vs 1944
  • Lexington vs. USS White Plains
  • USS White Plains never actually came under attack or sank
  • The Lexington sank in the Coral Sea, which is quite far from Saipan

From just about anyone else, I might excuse it as memory from a long time ago. But Monson’s memory is legendary and this was his special boyhood friend’s death.

Next Step: Tithing

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