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The Greatest Talk the Church Has Never Given

In 1984, Elder Ronald E. Poelman of the First Quorum of the Seventy, gave a fantastic talk in General Conference.  However, the church afterwards saw fit to not only edit his words extensively, but actually film him giving the talk over again in the conference center the next day to empty seats so they could completely wipe clean the heresy spoken.  That’s right: the church censored itself in the modern era.  If you look at any official church source, there is no mention of the version that Elder Poelman actually gave in conference.

The interesting thing though is that because it happened in 1984 instead of during Joseph Smith or Brigham Young’s time, we have actual evidence.  The wonders of the VCR (someone recorded it at the time and kept it for so many years) and internet have even now given us the opportunity to easily watch the original talk on YouTube (Part 1 and Part 2).  If you compare and contrast it with the now official version in the Ensign, the differences are startling.  The video in the official church archives is now the one shot in front of empty seats with the new text.  The church even added in a “cough track” to make it seem like the newly filmed talk was in front of a live audience.  The differences between the two texts give a lot of insight into what kind of thought processes the church is trying to suppress.

Poelman’s original talk praises free agency and makes the church less important than individual choices based on their moral fabric.  The new, edited text puts the church much higher in importance and puts obedience above free agency.  At one point, Elder Poelman declared, “…It is not enough that we obey the commandments and counsel of Church leaders.”  But that was changed to, “We should obey the commandments and counsel of Church leaders.”

The original text: “…The orthodoxy upon which we insist must be founded in fundamental principles and eternal law, including free agency and the divine uniqueness of the individual…”  The new text: “…The orthodoxy upon which we insist must be founded in fundamental principles, eternal law, and direction given by those authorized in the Church.”

Perhaps most importantly, Elder Poelman’s talk discussed how the Gospel and the Church are distinct and separate.  He originally stated in regards to them:

“However, there is a distinction between them which is significant and it is very important that this distinction be understood.  Of equal importance is understanding the essential relationship between the gospel and the Church.  Failure to distinguish between the two and to comprehend their proper relationship may lead to confusion and misplaced priorities with unrealistic and therefore failed expectations.”

The church’s later, official wording became:

“…And there is an essential relationship between them that is significant and very important.  Understanding the proper relationship between the gospel and the Church will prevent confusion, misplaced priorities, and failed expectations and will lead to the realization of gospel goals through happy, fulfilling participation in the Church.”

That’s a pretty big difference.  You can see all the differences here.

The church not only covered up his talk with deceit, it alienated itself from people like me.  Much of what bothers me about the modern church is evident in their edits of Elder Poelman’s sermon.  The gospel and church he originally talked about is one I can understand, respect, and follow much more than the controlling, secretive, deceitful entity it is today.  I’ll end the post with one more comparison of the old and new texts.  Poelman originally stated:

“As individually and collectively we increase our knowledge, acceptance, and application of gospel principles, we become less dependent on Church programs. Our lives become gospel centered.  Sometimes traditions, customs, social practices and personal preferences of individual Church members may, through repeated or common usage be misconstrued as Church procedures and policies.  Occasionally, such traditions, customs and practices may even be regarded by some as eternal gospel principle.  Under such circumstances those who do not conform to those cultural standards may mistakenly be regarded as unorthodox or even unworthy.  In fact, the eternal principles of the gospel and the divinely inspired Church do not accommodate a broad spectrum of individual uniqueness and cultural diversity.  The conformity we require should be according to God’s standards.”

Unfortunately, the church changed his words to:

“As individually and collectively we increase our knowledge, acceptance, and application of gospel principles, we can more effectively utilize the Church to make our lives more gospel centered.  The eternal principles of the gospel implemented through the divinely inspired Church apply to a wide variety of individuals in diverse cultures. Therefore, as we live the gospel and participate in the Church, the conformity we require of ourselves and of others should be according to God’s standards.”

Next Step: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

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