Blake Ostler and my good buddy Paul join us today on Mormon Matters. The topics for discussion are the LDS church’s position on financial non-disclosure and a recent LDS church press release entitled “Approaching Mormon History.”

It’s a fun one, so check it out if you get a moment.

Also, music for this episode has been graciously provided by Clayton Pixton and Skye Pixton. If you like their stuff, please consider supporting these young, talented LDS artists.


  1. evolving July 16, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    John – my thanks to you and your panel in your efforts to put these podcasts together. Monday mornings are something I usually look forward to. Today however I am so frustrated by Blake’s comment – “What don’t you people read, I knew these things in Junior High’ — referring to those of us who take offense once we read real, unwashed history at the age of 30. Or in my case 35…
    Blake take this for what it is – A CRITICISIM of your ability to process information that changes your view of the LDS church.
    You mention the sociological theory of moving from 1st to 2nd stage of naiveté and related the realization that Adam was not real as a progression in that theory. You also mention that the learning that Santa Clause is Mom and Dad is a similar progression –you also mention that some of the brethren hold onto this naive 1st stage view, but you seem to make excuses or allowances for their not knowing, or wanting to know history in any detail. Then 5 minutes later you are relating the story of teaching your son before he leaves for the MTC that Brigham Young taught Adam was God among other lesser known doctrine’s so he does not look like an idiot during his mission denying these teachings. Do you not see the ultimate irony in those opposing views? You claim teaching your son, more that the Prophet of God can teach him.
    1+1=274 – you claim this mysterious stage two knowledge that Adam was not real – he was not a real literal person that started mankind etc cetera.., you believe instead—-the Adam story is figurative, merely a myth — a similitude of the origination of all mankind and life —- simple logic leads me to believe that 2nd stage knowledge must include the belief that somehow Brigham Young was stuck as a 1st stager and when he taught that that Adam(God) was a real person, he was Michael in the Pre-existence, and he is the only God we as earthlings have to deal with.. therefore you believe that the God Brigham worshiped did not exist. I’M SURE THAT WOULD HAVE NEWS TO HIM. did you follow that logic? you propose that every prophet since Joseph Smith has believed and taught these 1st stage doctrines.. the creation, flood, tower of Babel, Moses, Enoch, Job, Solomon, David, and Christ are all myths in your 2nd stage or is that 3rd stage. Where do Faith Repentance and Baptism come in, tithing, fast offerings, building funds, mission funds, perpetual education funds..what about the temple ordinances, sealing’s, second endowments, laws of consecration is that the 4th stage.. you propose as an LDS apologist that the prophets seers and revelators are either naïve, or teaching naive doctrines to protect the saints from knowledge. Leaving us to find these stages of knowledge by ourselves.
    Or here is my take on it — are members of the church just better behaved when they are tithed mushrooms??

  2. Blake July 16, 2007 at 10:41 pm

    Evolving: I’m quite sure that you misunderstood me. I don’t believe that Adam and Eve are merely mythological figures. I do believe that the stories in Genesis 1 and 2 are a type of “everyman” story. Indeed, my point was that the Hebrews would have naturally read it that way given that Adam means also “mankind” and Eve also means “life”.

    I believe that the notion of continuing revelation logically entails that a prophet, any prophet, never has the full story and their views can be in error. In fact, it is simply LDS doctrine that prophets can err. I told my son that Brigham Young taught that Adam was God because that is what Brigham Young taught; however, I never said that what Brigham Young taught was simply false (I happen to believe that their are several gold nuggets in his teachings). So the conclusions you draw are not the conclusions I draw — nor do I believe that there is a good argument to suggest that I must draw the conclusions you mistakenly suggest i must adopt.

    I don’t suggest that I taught my son more than the prophet of God could teach him. I simply have expertise in areas that the prophet doesn’t and the prophet has expertise in areas I don’t. I don’t go to the prophet to learn about the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead for example. Being a prophet simply doesn’t make a man omniscient.

    So why did it take you until 35 to read “unwashed” history?

    Finally, the notion of first and second level naivte is not a sociological theory but a theory of hermeneutics proposed by Paul Ricoeur. Most importantly, I never suggested that “every prophet since Joseph Smith has believed and taught these 1st stage doctrines.” Just what a critical reading of “unwashed history” will require re-thinking, re-assessing or putting into a broader web of concepts is the job that we are all called to as we learn and grow in knowledge.

  3. paul f July 17, 2007 at 1:19 pm

    I loved this podcast. Thank you to all the panel members. And thank you for all your thoughts Blake.

    In one of John’s recent podcast on Mormon women’s history, the idea was set forth to hold off judgement and moral conclusions until the whole history is known. Placing moral blame or making moral conclusions too early in the process is detrimental to finding the truth and understanding the true history.

    Ann’s thoughts on President Hinckley referring to the first vision were welcome. This has been a continuing theme in many of his talks (ie. either Joseph saw God or he didn’t). As Blake said, there is much power in believing literally in Joseph’s vision.

    Blake’s comments about each person taking personal responsibility for researching church history is an interesting one. I certainly feel that the church should practice more inoculation earlier on. I sat through a Susan Easton Black class on early church history where I heard an unapologetic recounting of MMM and post-manifesto polygamy to name just two. An outstanding class…one that many church members would do well to take part in earlier in their spiritual progression.

    Blake’s mention on several occasions to be more charitable towards the general authorities was an interesting one. Most are certainly not trained in church history. In fact, any reading they do on the subject is to be commended as they have so many different responsibilities that drain their time and allow little time for pondering larger philosophical questions or for delving into church history dilemmas. More often than not they are not out to deceive–in fact they probably know less about the history than many commenting on this blog.

    Lastly, Blake’s thoughts about placing blame for not having read early on or searched out the question certainly shifts the blame off the church and onto the individual member. Being intellectually lazy for a good portion of church membership (or as Ann says–lacking the resources for research–which I feel the church could be better at directing to better historical sources) and then reading a few books and making the ‘intellectual’ decision to leave is ironic and points to possibly larger issues surrounding reasons for disaffection.

  4. paul f July 17, 2007 at 2:03 pm

    That last paragraph came off harsher than I planned.

  5. Equality July 18, 2007 at 6:58 am


    Reading the comments on this post, I can’t help but wonder who is disrespecting whom.

  6. Clay July 18, 2007 at 9:39 am

    Before this thread turns into another scuffle, hopefully Blake can give some insight into what sources he used during junior high that supplied him with “unwashed history”, and how did he find those sources?

  7. tithed mushroom July 18, 2007 at 9:54 am

    Yeah, just who is disrespecting whom around here? Huh? Huh?


  8. Blake July 18, 2007 at 11:43 am

    Clay: As I mentioned, I read the entire Book of Abraham debate fostered by Bishop Spaulding from the Improvement Era. I read the various versions of the First Vision in the Improvement Era and BYU Studies, No Man Knows My History and later the Ensign. I read a lot of what the Tanners published including The Changing World of Mormonism and Shadow or Reality. I researched BY’s statements about Adam-God on my own from the JD and Rodney Turner’s Thesis. I read widely about the Book of Mormon starting with Nibely’s stuff and branching from there. I read widely about evolution and the challenges it posed for religion in general and Mormonism in particular. I read about Joseph’s polygamy from Benjamin Johnson’s diary and Danel Bachman’s excellent mater’s thesis.

    I was just fascinated by this stuff. My interest followed a life-changing several months of spiritual experiences the summer before my Freshman year. I just always supspected that if a person were really interested and committed, he or she would find a way to find the resources. Perhaps I’m naive, but that’s how I did it.

  9. Non-Winter Meat Eater July 18, 2007 at 7:18 pm

    Hello friends, just a few thoughts to add:

    To me this discussion is another demonstration of how keeping or losing our faith depends greatly on our EXPECTATIONS. Here’s my personal take:

    1. My faith is not shaken when I find historical information that I expected might already be there. As I’ve been devouring John’s Mormon Stories podcasts, I too have been surprised when life-long Mormons have “discovered” difficult historical facts in their 30’s that I learned growing up. I think this shows how important it is to “innoculate” our kids and teach them to expect weirdness from the wacky people living in the 1800’s (you know, back when slavery existed and women couldn’t vote).

    2. I do not expect to find certainty in any historical inquiry, so my faith is not shaken when I come upon evidence that is susceptible to multiple interpretations, or that leaves unanswered questions. As a lawyer I deal with conflicting evidence every day, and I am convinced that even when a trial is over, nobody really “knows” what the “facts” of the case were (which is why we don’t require juries to reach “absolute certainty” in their verdicts). So I am really amazed when someone on either side of the debate can feel there is no room for doubting their own conclusion, and that anyone who disagrees with them must therefore be a fool.

    3. I do not expect my Church leaders to explain to me all the mysteries of the universe, the history of the earth, etc., so I am not surprised when they fail to do so or are just plain wrong when they give their speculative opinions about those matters. I think those of us who are interested in history and “deep doctrine” can mistakenly assume that the purpose of a “prophet” is to unerringly explain all of the mysteries of the universe, Earth’s history, etc. In fact, their job is to lead an organization whose purpose is to help people become more Christlike. I wish some of the past brethren would have kept that key purpose in mind before giving their speculative opinions about the mysteries of the universe and Earth’s history. Ultimately, even Brigham Young recognized that a doctrine that cannot be reduced to daily living is not worth debating. It seems our current leaders understand that because it’s been a long time since I’ve heard them “hie to Kolob” in General Conference.

    4. I do not expect prophets to be 100% certain about whether they are speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, as opposed to providing their “personal, but well informed, opinion” (see recent press release about LDS doctrine). I sometimes struggle to determine whether the thoughts in my head are coming from the Holy Spirit, or are just coming from myself. So I expect that even prophets have the same difficulty, and at times they may mistakenly think they are speaking by the Holy Spirit when they are not. So it doesn’t surprise me when a church leader makes a statement that later turns out to have been a “personal, but well formed, opinion”, as opposed to being inspiration from the Holy Spirit. Prophet does not equal perfect; they do not claim omniscience.

    So like stock prices, keeping or losing one’s faith depends heavily on one’s expectations.

    And he who expects all things to be difficult is never overcome by difficulty. -Tao Te Ching.

  10. Aaron July 19, 2007 at 6:59 am

    It was another great podcast. Thanks John.

    Non-Winter-Meat Eater – I agree with you that our experiences in the church are in large part determined by our expectations. I would argue, however, that our standard “corn fed” (for lack of a better description) youth growing up through the standard church program are largely seared with expectations that leave little room for ambiguity, or alternate evidence. The ambiguity you seem to advocate is a realist approach – and I like it – but the party line in the church is idealist in this regard (“follow the prophet”). So as expectations ingrained in youth meet the sometimes harsh, largely undiscussed reality of our history, a huge chasm is created in what was expected and what was real. My assertion (as I’ll try to discuss below) is that this chasm is largely created by the institutional pattern of not teaching things that are “not useful.” I completely reject the argument that someone who has done everything the church has asked (gone to seminary, church every week, served a mission, married in the temple, served in various callings and avoided “non-church approved material”) and who has based their spirituality and testimony on the restorational facts learned through the church programme, is somehow responsible for “not picking up a book.”

    Blake, I was really impressed with your thoughts faith develepment, disclosure of church finances, etc. However, I almost threw a fork through the ceiling (I was doing the dishes:)) when I heard you reveal that you thought people like me (those of us who didn’t discover some of the “left out” points of history until they hit 30) just didn’t read.

    I’ve heard people argue that teaching tough points of history is not the job of the church. I’ve heard people argue that this type of tough teaching should be done by the parents. And, occasionally I’ve heard Blake’s argument. But it continues to baffle me that someone could honestly argue that those of us who followed every instruction that came from the pulpit as wide eyed youth are somehow responsible for not disobeying counsel to seek things in non-church approved books, sources, etc. That was explicit instruction many of us received (Blake may have heard it taught living in Sandy, Utah – like I did growing up) – and like everything else church related, I for one took it very seriously. That’s why I didn’t know these things until I was 30, it wasn’t that I couldn’t or didn’t read. Based on your list above, either you didn’t receive the same counsel (reading Brodie is still VERY taboo to many mormons – and the Tanners, don’t even mention it) or you chose to ignore leaders in this regard to avoid anti-mormon literature. Perhaps we just had very different experiences, but I think it’s very harsh to say that those of us who followed specific counsel just “didn’t read.”

    I always assumed that there is such an emphasis on teaching in the church (Sunday School, Priesthood, Sac Mtg, Seminary, etc), that I didn’t really need to look at stuff outside of what was standard issue (or stuff that was written by the “propehts”). I think that is a reasonable approach – especially since that was the general counsel. I was once told by a bishop that people who sought after deep history (like Brodie, etc) were “looking beyond the mark.”

    On the flip side, why is it okay to justify elemental historical fact left out because it wasn’t useful? How can such dissimulation (I use that term gingerly) then be blamed on the ones being taught? Doesn’t the responsibility fall on a teacher (or instruction program) who just doesn’t mention x, y, or z, and then expects the student to be ready for a final exam on x, y or z? Why is this any different? Again, it seems a little strange to me that some seem to hold the church completely blameless when we place such an emphasis on historical instruction in church settings. The church has already taken tacit responsibility for what is taught, based on the fact that they’re teaching anything at all – how can those coming through our programs never hearing of some of these things….sometimes never even thinking that there is more to the story out there (besides the anti-mormon stuff we’re warned about) be blamed for not thinking to ask critical questions. I could go on and on, but in summary, I think Blake’s and Non-Winter Meat Eater’s experiences are the absolute exception….not the rule (look at John’s experience and web site as evidence of that – or check out many of the posts thoughout the DAMU, or look at the rate we continue to lose people as a result of these issues).

    Blake, I heard what you said about the conscious decision that some of the brethren made years ago to go this route – that people who wanted to find out about tough history could do so outside the church – and it’s hard….therefore, let’s not teach it. But I find it at least in very poor taste to teach people a version of the BOM, first vision, BOA, polygamy (via celestial marriage) that really isn’t all true – because the context and other directly relevant detail has been stripped to make the story more faith promoting. That, to me, is just not honest – and it’s not right.

    Again, I appreciated the discussion. I hope I’m not leaving the wrong impression that I hate the church or that I’m finding fault – I’m not. I just don’t see this getting better until there’s concensus that improvement is needed – and it’s not personal improvement – it’s institutional improvement. John, maybe one of your upcoming podcasts could discuss the arguments for why some believe that not knowing these things until they are 30 is the individual’s fault – I’ll make a modest donation :)

    As a final note….I just want to clarify what I’m referring to when I say left out points or tough points of history – I mean specific factual detail specifically relating to our foundational story – from which we derive most of our restorational doctrine i.e. BOM origins, first vision, D&C sections P of GP. – thanks….

  11. Non-Winter Meat Eater July 19, 2007 at 11:41 am

    Aaron, great post, you’ve sparked a few thoughts for me:

    1. I think you do a great job of articulating the reasons why you and many others feel disillusioned when they learn about tough historic details. I agree with you that those tough details are not widely taught by the Church. I also agree with Blake that those details are available in several sources for those who are curious. But I think you’re right about Church leaders wanting Church members to confine their studies to approved Church sources, or at least “Church-friendly” sources. They have said so in General Conference (see Dallin H. Oaks’ talk on “Alternate Voices”.) So I think your experience is a perfect example of the “collateral damage” that results from the apparent Church policy of NOT teaching the tough historic details to the general Church membership and asking the members NOT to consult “alternate voices” where those tough historic details are often discussed. This policy might have made sense before the Internet age, but now that those tough historic details are all just a mouse click away, we in the Church certainly need to be inoculating our children (and adults!).

    2. That said, I can see another reason why the Church would not put a lot of the tough historic details in print in an official Church publication: they’re not sure whether those tough details are “facts” to begin with. We cannot assume that Church leaders have a perfectly clear understanding about what actually happened in Mormon history (see my comment above about conflicting historic evidence). For example, there is much ambiguity about how the translation of the BOM was accomplished. The Church-published CES manual for Church History acknowledges that ambiguity in the historic record. So we cannot reasonably expect the Church to provide a detailed declaration about JS’s specific method of translating the BOM when JS himself refused to give such a detailed explanation even when Hyrum explicitly asked him to do so at a Church conference (see CES manual referenced above). So maybe Church leaders aren’t including various tough details in official sources because they aren’t sure whether they are really “facts” to begin with.

    3. Building on that comment above, I think we need to keep in mind the important difference between “documents” and “facts”. We obviously cannot conclude that something happened simply because someone wrote it down in a document. In my profession I often see people fabricating the past by writing false, misleading, or at best, mistaken accounts of certain events. Witnesses of the same event will give conflicting accounts, and even the same witnesses will give varying accounts. So I imagine Church leaders have come upon documents that contain tough statements or claims, but that there may be many good reasons to question whether those statements and claims are “fact”. And if the Church were to publish such statements in an official Church source, then that would: (a) be viewed as an admission by the Church of their truthfulness; and (b) actually mislead Church members about what really happened and create stumbling blocks for them.

    4. We who would like the Church to tone down the absolutist rhetoric should likewise not have an absolutist view of history. If we ourselves cannot be certain about what happened in the past, how can we expect the Church to have absolute clarity about our history? Because there is uncertainty about the past, any historian or author of a history book has inherent editorial discretion in deciding which historic documents to trust, and which ones to discount. I don’t doubt that the Church has exercised that discretion in what it views as the most “faith promoting” way. Whether that exercise of editorial discretion has been faith promoting or faith damaging is left open for the jury to decide. I personally prefer Bushman’s approach of getting all of the conflicting statements out there in public, and then letting the readers decide. But again, I can understand that the Church would not want to be viewed as admitting the truthfulness of a claim or statement when it’s unsure about its truthfulness.

  12. Aaron July 19, 2007 at 11:59 am

    Blake – just as a quick reference to what we teach our youth if they come accross “anti-mormon literature” (which where I grew up included Brodie, the Tanners, etc:

    I found some of the comments similar to my mindset when I was in my mid 20’s – “avoid it”, “read the scritpures or church publications”, ….”don’t take it at face value”, “if it makes you uncomfortable, it’s probably not of god”, etc. Do you think the kids who made these comments just haven’t bothered to read?

  13. Blake July 19, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    Aaron: Thanks for your comments. Let me make a few observations.

    A lot of what we now take for granted in Church history is the result of intense work by historians both in and out of the church. The various versions of the first vision, Joseph’s polygamy, the Book of Abraham issues and so forth have all been the subject of intense scholarly study in the 70s and 80s. One would expect that new information would be forthcoming and assessed. The mere fact that historical records exist doesn’t mean that we know about them or have digested their import. So a lot of information is just being made available. It hasn’t been repressed; it has just hadn’t been studied as intensely before that time.

    The Church archives are not closed. I have done extensive research there and I have never been denied a source (except records directly related to ordinances in the temple for reasons that I agree with). There are still documents there waiting for someone to pay attention.

    Historical study and especially philosophy of religion and scriptural exegesis are time consumming enterprises. It takes devotion and commitment to become familiar with what is out there. Those who pick up 15 minutes of research on the internet are the beneficiaries of untold hours of research and assessing evidence.

    I get very frustrated when folks buy hook, line and sinker (I’m a fisherman) into the persepctive of some historical document or some assessment of what historical documents entail. The mere fact that an already disaffected ex-Mormon claims to have heard Martin Harris tell a story about seeing the angel doesn’t entail that such a source reliable.

    I never once heard anyone say to me “don’t read anti-Mormon literature” or “we have an approved reading list” (except on my mission). To the contrary, my faithful parents urged me to read widely and from all points of view. My seminary teachers encouraged me and were thrilled that I was reading a lot of different sources. Almost all of the anti-Mormon stuff I saw (esepecially from evangelicals) was worse than tripe.

    Moreover, almost all of the information that is now claimed to not be available from the Church I read in offical Church publications. It’s like my colleague who argued that the Church has hidden Joseph’s polygamy. The particular facts are hard to assess and hard to come by because those who practiced were reticent to discuss it (for understandable reasons). I guess that the best thing the Church can do to hide the truth is to put it in the scriptures, say D&C 132, and then tell everyone to read the scriptures. Then no one will know about it for sure.

    I learned early on that if my search was to be honest and my questions to be answered I had to follow the same method as when I received answers from God. I don’t remember anyone telling me to pray to knwo the truth, it just came naturally to me. No one told me to rely on their intellect or ability to read scriptures — they told to me go to source to know for myself. I also discovered that virtually no one I spoke with had any answers about evolution and its relation to the gospel, so I knew I was on my own.

    It is imperative that we take accountability for our own knowledge and failures to know. Blaming the church because someone was surprised by something they didn’t know, but the information was available, is a pretty weak excuse as far as I’m concerned. Like Non-Winter-Meat-Eater I never expected church members or leaders to spoon feed me the answers (particularly because I was pretty sure they didn’t know the answers).

    Finally, I don’t regard the versions of the founding stories printed by the Church to be wrong or erroneous. There are numerous views and always have been about the Book of Abraham, the translation process of the Book of Mormon and so forth. Joseph used the interpreters fixed in a breastplate at the very first, used the stone in the hat while at David Whitmer’s, but the vast majority of the translation didn’t occur at the Whitmer farm but in Harmony where Joseph was less reliant on the seer stone as I read the sources. But just how it occurred is a matter for some speculation. It is understandable that we are cautious about teaching it.

    I don’t regard any of the accounts of the First Vision from Joseph Smith to be misleading or the differences to be of a sort that calls into questions its basic validity. I’m an attorney. I get to take depositions and have people tell me the about the same events. Every time an individual tells the story it is different even in crucial facts. I am still stunned at how different people experience the same event in vastly different ways. Further, I believe that the Book of Mormon is what it claims to be (and I believe it claims to be a revelatory translation through an unlearned man).

    Anyway, thanks for your thoughts.

  14. Blake July 19, 2007 at 12:06 pm

    Thanks for the source Aaron. Here is some of the advice from the Church about anti-Mormon literature:

    • If you run across it, discuss it with someone who is knowledgeable about the gospel.

    • Never take anti-Mormon literature at face value.

    • Honest inquiry is good, but everything needs a proper perspective and context.

    That doesn’t sound like “you are forbidden from reading it.” It sounds like good advice to me. In fact, if you’re going to discuss it with someone who is knowledgeable, it sounds to me like you have to read it first.

  15. Aaron July 19, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    The first two bullet points are:

    • Say you would rather read something you trust, like the scriptures.

    • Spending a lot of time and energy reading anti-Mormon literature would be a waste.

    The message clearly sent to me as a youth, and I believe to most youth in the church is do not read things other than church approved material. I just think it’s unfair to send that message, then ask when someone hits the age of 25-30 why they haven’t been reading this stuff all along.

  16. Equality July 19, 2007 at 12:35 pm


    Thanks for sharing those points. I missed the reference to the church publication that contains the advice you have shared here. But I am gratified that this is the church’s position. I especially like the first bullet point: “discuss it with someone who is knowledgeable about the gospel.” That eliminates a lot of Bishops and Stake Presidents, but includes a whole lot of people I have met in the DAMU.


    It is nice to know we see eye to eye on something: the value of discussing Mormonism with those who are knowledgeable about it.

  17. Blake July 19, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    Aaron: I don’t think that bullet points are inaccurate. Reading the scriptures is much more valuable to me than anti-Mormon literature and trapsing thru the DAMU.

    Equality: Those are the last places I’d send someone interested.

  18. Aaron July 19, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    I’d agree Blake, but your ignoring the issue.

    Is it true that we (as a church) discourage youth from reading things that aren’t “church approved”? I think the link above establishes that we do. That being the case, how can you fault someone who hit 30 and never heard of some of the difficult issues in our foundational story?

    The way you seem to have found out about these things was by reading “anti-mormon literature.” Seems to me that your readings as a youth were against counsel, no?

  19. Blake July 19, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    Aaron: I don’t remember anyone ever telling me to not read anti-Mormon literature. Was my experience idiosyncratic? Perhaps, but I’m not convinced. Let me repeat again — I was able to find virtually all of the issues raised, explored, discussed and analyzed at some length in Church sources as well (much like I could now with FARMS and FAIR stuff)– admittedly from a different perspective. It is true that I had to read more than the scriptures, Sunday School manual and Ensign. Yet suggesting that the Church even so much as suggests we should so limit our reading is just not accurate.

    You cannot blame anyone else for not have discharged your epistemic duty to know about what you believed and dedicated your life to. You want to blame the Church for essentially saying “put it into perspective and spend time focusing on what is important.” The Church’s website cannot be interpreted, by any stretch, to say that you sin or break commandments if you read stuff not published by the Church. It gives wise counsel; not commandments. Further, it doesn’t say “don’t read and avoid at all costs anti-Mormon literature.” It says that if you do, keep it in perspective. I’m all about personal accountability and refusing to blame others. If I could read about these issues in Church publications growing up in Sandy, Utah in the 1970s, then I don’t see how you can complain that the information wasn’t available. I suggest that you interpreted “caution in reading anti-Mormon literature” with “it is verbotten to read anti-Mormon literature.” But you are accountable for that interpretation it seems to me.

    The Church’s stance of allowing members access to more complex issues of history and theology as they mature and become more cognitively capable of grasping the issues is a wise one in my view. Are you suggesting that we should publish intricate discussions of whether Joseph had sexual relations or merely dynastic marriages in the Friend or New Era? (btw the New Era is still my favorite).

  20. Lunar Quaker July 19, 2007 at 3:53 pm

    Here is a link to the New Era article that Blake is referring to:

  21. Aaron July 19, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    Blake – I think I can safely say that we’re not going to agree on this issue. I too, have done many interviews and depositions and have decent experience at using those things to get at a reasonable version of the “truth.” I take exception when people fail to tell the whole truth (details that are relevant to the story) just as I do when they tell me something that is completely not true. For someone to argue that “you could have found that elsewhere” or “we would have told you that when you were ready” would never fly in a deposition – at least not the kind I do.

    I struggle with this notion generally – how can we tell adult new converts a version of the founding story that is not complete? Isn’t there an ethical problem there? I congratulate you on your aparent ability to reconcille this type of thing….I won’t be there until there is change.

    And no, I don’t suggest we teach the primary kids about Fanny Alger. But we need to teach it at some point because it’s directly relevant to the concept of eternal marriage (our restorational doctrine). It provides a false sense of confidence in kids we send on missions when they don’t understand the complexity – and remember, we’re asking those kids to say that they “know Joseph Smith was a prophet”. I think they should have all of the relevant facts sometime before that’s a requirement.

    And Blake, I understand personal accountibility – I also understand institutional responsibility. From what I got out of your response on my interpretation of “don’t read anti-mormon lit” I guess we all need to quit taking things so literally…..we need to be more selective with following our leaders’ counsel (i.e. “don’t read anti-mormon lit”). That’s a sad, sad declaration and one that has huge impact on the church.

  22. Non-Winter Meat Eater July 19, 2007 at 4:19 pm


    I’ve enjoyed this discussion and I really enjoyed this podcast. Personally, I thought this was by far the best podcast to date for Mormon Matters. I think I enjoyed this one more than the others because most of the podcast was spent getting multiple views on a single subject, which allowed for deeper analysis than some of the previous podcasts, which maybe attempted to cover too many issues in one podcast.

    Although I have enjoyed all the guests, I particularly enjoyed hearing Blake’s views because I regard him as a faithful and open-minded Mormon. I appreciate how he gives Church leaders the benefit of the doubt, and does not fault them for failing to meet expectations that I consider to be unreasonable and unrealistic.

    I honestly think this topic deserves another podcast, and I would propose that the panel continue to address the following questions:

    1. To what extent should we rely on the Church to teach us about Church history? There seems to be disagreement about the degree to which we can reasonably expect the Church to educate us about Church history.

    2. If we expect the Church to teach us Church history, in what fora is that appropriate? Sacrament meeting? Sunday School? General Conference? There seems to be disagreement about whether it is more appropriate to learn and study Church history outside of Church meetings.

    3. Does the Church discourage members from consulting unofficial sources to learn Church history? There seems to be disagreement about what the Church does and doesn’t say about consulting unofficial sources.

    4. What do official Church sources actually say about the controversial issues–is it accurate to allege that “whitewashing” has occured? There seems to be disagreement among the discussion participants about what the official Church sources actually do and don’t say.

    I’d enjoy another podcast addressing these questions.

    P.S., excuse my ignorance, but what is DAMU?

  23. Mayan Elephant July 19, 2007 at 6:24 pm


    get real mate. seriously. come back down to reality here. if you havent seen the church discourage members from reading anti-mormon material you must have been living on a near-kolobian planet that does not include the stuff most of us have read and heard up to and including the july 2007 issue of the new era. sheeyeesh dude. heeeeelllooooooo? earth to blake. are you there blake?

    perhaps you dont recall the reaction to the godmakers?

    perhaps you dont recall the hofmann debacle, where the church was actually buying documents that didnt match correlated history. gimme a big huge giant land mammal break, dubage.

    go back and read the big huge thread on here with daniel peterson where all 20 something references to peepstones, since 1978, are discussed. in that thread those that are not aware of peepstones are considered slothful. bwahahahahahaha. good one eh?

    then, compare that to the reaction to the faceinhat pictures from the pbs documentary, the mormons, where the real presentation was described as anti-mormon.

    again, YOUR ability to read or know or see something such as fanny algar or peepstones and put it in perspective, does not diminish the betrayal that others may feel after years of having seen other explanations. your dismissal of others reactions, and their sense of betrayal, is consistent with apologists and lacks dignity, in my opinion. but what do i know, i post in the damu, right?

    damu = disaffected mormon underground.

    a term slapped onto people that discuss mormonism and sometimes use naughty words, goshdarnit.

  24. Blake July 19, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    Well Mayan, I was working with Ron Walker (a Church historian) and Steven Christensen (God rest his soul) on the provenance of the documents and how they could fit into 19th century lore during the Hoffman issues, so I have a bit of personal knowledge about that. In fact, long before Hoffman blew himself up I had come to the conclusion (and given firesides on those conclusions) that the Hoffman Salamander letter was not written by Joseph Smith. I was roundly criticized by nay-sayers who argued that I just had to save my faith and couldn’t face the truth. (I don’t expect to get much credit since Jerald Tanner, to his credit, came to the same conclusion). I also have a vastly different perspective on that than you do. I also don’t give much ground to those who think they know all about it but really don’t.

    I acknowledge that my experience is inevitably different than many who may feel betrayed when they realize that there is more to the story than they gained by passively sitting in Sunday School week after week. My experience is only my own.

    DAMU = Disaffected Angry Mormon Underground. And yes, your anger and sheer lack of respect sometimes come thru. But goshdarnit, I’m willing to forgive and move on if you will.

  25. Aaron July 19, 2007 at 6:54 pm

    Blake –

    Just some final thoughts in response to your assertion that I (and others like me who didn’t learn of tough points of mormon doctrine/history early) misunderstood “caution in reading anti-Mormon literature” with “it is verbotten to read anti-Mormon literature.” I’d challenge you to get a substantively different answer in the meaning of “caution” vs. “verbotten” from anyone who was/is sincerely trying to follow the counsel of leaders as a youth or young adult. I’d also challenge you to consider your position that the ability and acceptability of a youth or young adult making such a distinction, whether it pertains to tatoos, piercings, clothing or reading “anti-mormon” literature is altogether welcome or wholly desirable in lds culture. Your expectation of distinction, in my view, is generally unrealistic. As you said in the podcast, charity isn’t a bad thing…..and like the everything else…it goes both ways.

    Have a good one.

  26. John Dehlin July 19, 2007 at 8:26 pm

    Once again….time to close the thread.

    I really do wish we could move beyond the same old tired flame throwing — and on to respectful understanding.

    Oh that everyone could be as wise, knowledgeable, respectful and mature as John Hamer. :)

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