My Initial Reactions to the Church’s History Essays

A reporter asked me to share with him my initial reactions to the church’s recent history essays (e.g., First Vision Accounts, Race and the Priesthood, Plural Marriage and Families in Utah, Book of Mormon TranslationBook of Mormon and DNA Studies)….and here’s what I wrote:

  • A positive step forward, even if forced: I think that the essays are definitely a positive step forward in terms of candor/openness/honesty for the church.  Of course I cannot help but wish that the church would have taken these steps a few decades ago (instead of punishing the scholars who first brought these issues to light), but courtesy requires an acknowledgment of this positive step forward — even if the church’s hand was ultimately forced by the Internet (which I believe it most certainly was).
  • Addressing the charge of hiding/fraud: Perhaps one of the most valuable aspects of these essays (from the church’s perspective) is that people will no longer be able to claim (quite as easily, at least) that the church is avoiding or hiding its more difficult historical/doctrinal issues.  Again, from the church’s perspective, I believe that this is the most valuable part of the initiative.
  • Diminishing the role of classic LDS apologetics: On a personal note, I am grateful that the church is stepping up to provide its own attempts at answers, instead of relying on LDS apologists to offer up speculative, rather unconvincing explanations for the problematic issues.  Our findings from the Why Mormons Question study were pretty clear (at least to me): LDS apologetics have traditionally been a vary large part of the problem, not the solution (at least for many of our respondents).
  • Still too hidden: My impression is that most active church members do not know about these essays, and that many will possibly never stumble upon them.  To date, these essays still seem very much buried, and I imagine that this is somewhat intentional.  My guess is that the church wants to be able to (a) deny the accusation of hiding/deception, (b) help those who are in urgent need, (c) while still avoiding the exposure of the general membership to the difficult issues (which I believe would spread the “infection”…to borrow on the inoculation metaphor).
  • Still must penetrate curriculum, Sundays, General Conference, and leadership training: I hear rumors that this content is starting to be incorporated into official church curriculum.  Until this happens, and until these issues are discussed openly in General Conference, at church on Sundays, and in seminary/institute…it will likely be missed by the vast majority of members.  Church leaders (e.g., bishoprics, stake presidents, relief society presidencies, quorum presidencies) also desperately need to be trained on these issues (in my view).  Otherwise struggling members will continue to not get the empathy/support they need….and instead will continue to be judged/ostracized.  (see here for a very poignant example of why leadership training is sorely needed)
  • High-end apologetics: As far as the content goes, these essays definitely have the feel to me of high-end apologetics — similar to the works of Richard Bushman, Terryl Givens, etc.  Where they fall short of Bushman/Givens is that (to me) they often seem to fall short of telling the “full story”….and they sometimes tend to downplay or dismiss the legitimate concerns that many have.
  • Sometimes lacking citations: There are times when I wish the church would have cited the actual historians/scholars/authors more.  That just feel respectful/classy/cool to me.  The Book of Mormon DNA essay seems to do better at this than the “First Vision” or the “Blacks/Priesthood” essays, for example.
  • Definitely lacking apologies: It would have been amazing to see some actual apologies within these essays — such as with the prior teachings that blacks were less valiant in the pre-existence (which as actually declared as doctrine by the First Presidency).  In the view of many, the church will lack credibility until it follows the steps of repentance that it asks of the general membership: 1) confess the sin, 2) forsake the sin, 3) ask for forgiveness, and 4) make restitution.
  • An example of egregious omissions: The recent DNA/Book of Mormon essay was particularly egregious in this regard to me.  After punishing/marginalizing scientists and dismissing/denouncing evolution for decades (via Bruce R. McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith), the church decides to rely on evolution to defend itself against Book of Mormon DNA problems.  This reminded me of Mitt Romney claiming to have the most conservative record of all the candidates in the Republican primaries, in spite of his prior support of gay marriage and abortion rights as a governor in Massachusetts.  Complete honesty would have acknowledged the church’s history re: evolution for what it was, accompanied by an apology (or at least some acknowledgment).  Instead the Book of Mormon/DNA essay acted like none of that history ever happened.  Nevermind the fact that evolution undermines the historical foundation of both the Bible and the Book of Mormon (e.g., no death before the fall, 7,000 year old earth, global flood — see D&C 77, 2 Nephi 2:22).
  • Joseph Smith’s polygamy: The “Plural Marriage and Families in Utah” essay was ok, but the real test is going to be how they deal with Joseph Smith’s polygamy and polyandry.  Many are very, very eager to see that essay.
  • Authors?  It would be sweet if the essays were actually signed by the first presidency and/or quorum of the 12, though I can guess why they don’t sign them.  I am guessing that they don’t want to paint themselves into any more corners.  Having revision dates, and keeping track of version changes would be nice as well.
  • Future Impact?  Regarding impact — I am not sure that the essays will likely make much of a positive difference in terms of helping people stay in the church (vs. disaffecting).  In my experience, for every one person that is helped by LDS apologetics, another two to three are either exposed to issues they would have otherwise never encountered (causing them to leave the church), or are wholly dissatisfied with the apologetic answers (also causing them to ultimately leave the church).  Overall, I do believe that an objective review of LDS history/evidence ultimately leads much more often to disbelief than to belief (in spite of what Elder Marlin Jensen used to say about studying history “too little”).  This has been my experience after speaking with literally thousands of people over the past 25 years, anyway….though I admit that more research needs to be conducted in this regard.
  • Overall I definitely applaud the efforts as a first (baby) step….but I also feel like the church has a long, long way to go to “come clean.”  Still….I’m grateful for the steps.

John Dehlin


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  1. Paul Anthony Belfiglio

    Well, well, I am quite impressed JD. It seems that notwithstanding the lengthy and personal dialectical processes with regard to your membership in the LDS church, which currently led you to a decision to remain a member, your comments are candid and forthright. My hat is off to you, sir.

  2. I really wish the essays were dated as well. I am sure the reason why they are not is to hide when the church actually started opening up this stuff instead of burying so they can appear as if they’ve been open all along.

  3. I have found the essays to be very insulting to my intellectual mind. They are full of half truths, avoidance, and bias. I believe this forced baby step towards truth will hurt the church in the end. The essays were the parting blow for me.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. If we’re looking for the Church to own its history and doctrine, don’t look to the new essays.

    2. Amelia, I had already concluded in the last two years that Mormonism is outside of biblical christianity and then what iced the cake for me and caused me to actually leave was the conclusion that it was also a total fabrication and imposition. I totally agree with you that these essays are being made out of necessity and are narrow in scope and misleading.

  4. I’m glad that the Church is coming out and saying something. When I told my parents (both with pioneer ancestors) that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon using a rock in a hat, they told me that this was an anti-Mormon lie. Actually South Park was more honest than seminary or Sunday School. There’s a problem there. John, I agree with your comments. I also felt like the essays are a good baby step, but a long way from actually being transparent with the vast majority of the membership.

  5. Great thoughts John. These essays and the drop in the missionary age have me pretty darn convinced we’re hemorrhaging. It remains to be seen if these indirect measures will really stop the bleeding in the end or merely slow it temporarily (or at least give it the appearance of slowing). A long, long way to go indeed.

    1. Perhaps its the actions of a seer to intensify the strengthening of our youth in lowering the missionary age. Pray to understand it better before you use terms like ‘hemorrhaging’.

      1. This response to a heartfelt comment is inappropriate and insulting Bob. I appreciate that you may believe that President Monson is a “seer” but consider for a moment that not everyone believes that. It is attitudes like yours who drive people like me right out of the church.

      2. hem·or·rhage
        [hem-er-ij, hem-rij]

        2. the loss of assets, especially in large amounts.

        3. any widespread or uncontrolled loss or diffusion.

        verb (used without object), hem·or·rhaged, hem·or·rhag·ing.

        5. to lose assets, especially in large amounts.

        It is a perfectly correct and appropriate use of the word.

      3. Bob, here is just one example that leads me to feel the way I do. From lesson 26 of the D&C Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s manual (I taught this lesson in GD last year), “In the latter part of the Kirtland period, a crisis arose within the Church. Some members, including some leaders, apostatized because they could not bear trials and persecutions and because they began to find fault with the Prophet Joseph and other Church leaders. The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that something new must be done for the salvation of his Church. That something was an infusion of converts into the Church from England.”

        In summary, it’s happened before. They even used the word “crisis.” We were losing members and the solution was to send out more missionaries.

    2. If the church is hemorrhaging, why am I not seeing it around me. I am desperate for someone to talk to (in real life), for family members to understand. But everyone is still oblivious. I’m still in the church, but have been achingly an almost non-believer for almost a year, and it is awful. I just want everyone to know and openly discuss. Where are the members leaving? Do they just fall off the face of the earth (at least symbolically in Mormonville? I can see that I guess). I have a sweet sister who is reading Rough Stone Rolling. I was able to talk to her which was nice. But in the end it drove me batty that she said the explanation that the Book of Abraham is funerary texts (“largely resembles funerary texts” she corrected me a few times) that JS just needed something physical to translate, but didn’t need the actual papyri, though he told the church they were the actual papyri…anyway that whole thing. She says it’s perfectly logical. And not logical on faith, but intellectually logical. And I cannot stand it! Baaaaaah! No, it’s not. How can anyone think that. At least say, “No, it doesn’t make sense. On this issue I am relying on faith.” Fine. But not logical. She is the only family member I feel I can confide.

      1. Pippy,

        I so feel for you. I hear you. I was there a few years ago. I’m now shocked at how many family members are considering things that they wouldn’t years ago. Give your sister time. The fact that she’s having the conversation is a good thing.

        You’re not crazy and you’re right, it doesn’t make sense.

        I feel like many of the changes in my family over the last few years were in large part because I had the courage to be authentic about my non-beliefs without being offensive.

        Create the room for everyone to believe as they wish (them too) and have an open conversation. Trust me things will likely change faster than you can conceive of today–at least they did for me.

      2. I’ve seen it first hand. The last ward I was in there were a dozen or more members who left the Church within 2 or 3 years apparently over these sorts of issues.

      3. I feel similarly situated. Along the Wasatch Front, I sometimes feel that there are presently many people who are struggling, in some aspect at least, with an historical or culturally-based aspect of their Mormon faith.
        Perhaps this has always been so, but the access to candid/controversial information via the internet does seem to have brought about not only an acceleration of disaffection, but a malaise in the average mormon’s cultural experience, imho.
        The “rub,” it seems, is that the mormon faith is heavily inculcated in cultural, financial, political and social aspects of mormon life (esp. Utah mormon life). Adherence to the faith and customs of mormonism are incentivized and rewarded with cultural financial, and political gains in many instances. Unfortunately, appearance has a funny way of becoming reality (in any culture, I suspect). This seems to mean, at times, that those most skilled at hypocrisy and manipulation rise to the top most successfully. However, I do believe there are still plenty of genuine people, even if they are hard to find.
        Many people do not talk because they are fundamentally, viscerally afraid to talk. Whether or not that fear is fostered consciously or unconsciously is another conversation for another day. I don’t feel like I have a solid answer to that, anyway.

  6. I think your response was comprehensive and, in general, I agree with your conclusions John. These essays, in my view, are very much like Givens’ “Letter to a Doubter”. Like the Givens piece they are not intended to address the concerns of the “doubter” (I actually prefer “seeker of evidence” to “doubter”). Rather, they are intended to provide minimal cover for the believer so that more nuanced discussions can be avoided. You’re correct that they are “forced” and given the lack of depth, the circular logic and the blatant omissions I believe that they’re more harmful than helpful if they’re carefully examined.

  7. After each essay that I read, I get that same thought that brings me back to my school days. Did you ever try to cover up for not actually finishing a homework assignment, and were willing to ‘twist’ the facts and omit other parts to make your actions look better than they actually were? “Of course I answered all the questions, Mr. Johnson, look.” (Showing that the first question is answered while covering the rest of the unfinished ones with a separate piece of paper). “I’m just surprised that you didn’t trust me that I would get it done. It’s like you don’t believe me, or something.”

  8. I listened to a couple of your podcasts and after reading this it confirmed my feelings about your actions here – they both leave me feeling empty. Its opposite of what I feel when I read the scriptures or listen to the words of the prophet.

    I am left with the thought “mingling scripture with the philosophies of men”.

    Instead of trying expand, you and your followers here need to simplify – go back to basics. Instead of writing your essays, etc… you should spend the time on your knees.

    1. It is precisely going back to basics that lead one to the evidence that Joseph Smith Junior and the co-founders of this church mingled their own UNinspired philosophies with scripture. The temple rituals are borrowed from the Masons; Joseph Smith Jr. threatened women with damnation if they refused to enter plural marriage with him; Joseph Smith Jr. committed polyandry, married minor girls, and then persistenly lied about it; sections of the Book of Mormon are lifted directly or paraphrased from the bible (this was evident to me upon first reading it); the hieroglyphics which JS “translated” are proven to have absolutely nothing to do with anything he wrote, translated, prophesied, or included in the LDS scriptures–the very foundation of this doctrine was all a sham. That is as basic as one can get.

      Learning about all of this and much more indeed left me and others feeling empty–and betrayed. If you think anyone enjoys this process of having their hopes, dreams, and beliefs quashed by the facts, you are sorely mistaken.

      The church leaders who insist upon perpetuating the lies and collude in the cover ups are the ones who will end up on their knees.

      1. I have studied church history for 19 years, the more I learn the more I see a supernatural influence in it all, it is wonderful, messy and all so beautiful to me, to me it is testifying to me that God uses the simple things and people to do His work.

        I know most people that come to this site think that there are things in Mormonism’s history that are very weird and strange, all I can say is hold on, for it is my hope that this ride gets even more wild, the things of heaven will blow our mind.

        John did a interview a while ago that showed me a greater beauty of what Mormonism has to offer

        1. Thank you for posting that podcast.

          John Dehlin, it has been a couple years since that interview with Denver Snuffer, he was excommunicated for that book Passing the Heavenly Gift which just talks about church history and his understanding about. He seemed reluctant about a future interview but he seems like he can be persuaded. Would you like to do another interview with him? I would enjoy hearing more about his story now.

          Thank you John for your work, I have learn to have more love and understanding for my fellow brother and sisters as I hear their stories.

          I love your example of showing love.

        2. “Why—Why Should I be chosen from among thy daughters, Father, I am only a child in years and experience. No mother to council; no father near to tell me what to do, in this trying hour. Oh let this bitter cup pass. And thus I prayed in the agony of my soul.”

          Lucy Walker’s prayer when she was asked by Joseph to be her wife. She (like several others) had lived with the smiths and was an orphan.

          Hmm, Lucy refers to herself as a child not ready for this. Isn’t it beautiful, Joseph marrying children and other people’s wives?

    2. Yes Bob. Turn off your brain and go back to the basics of pray, pay and obey. That’s exactly what LDS, Inc wants you to do because it’s the best way to control your mind, by turning it off. These are not the droids you are looking for…

    3. But Bob. The feeling you and millions of others get when reading the scriptures or listening to the words of the prophets is why all the obfuscation ultimately makes no sense.

      The real “philosophy of men” is relying on worldly notions of “PR” and the need to “cover up” instead of on the witness of the Holy Ghost.

    4. Dear Bob,

      I listened to a couple of John’s podcasts and after reading this it confirmed my feelings about his actions here – they both leave me feeling satisfied. Its opposite of what I feel, empty, when I read the scriptures or listen to the words of the prophet.

      You should study church issues more honestly, so that you can have the same feelings that I do. Because me feelings give me objective truth about the universe that applies to you. Didn’t you know?

    5. Whoever is playing “Bob,” the caricature stereotype of the conservative, fundamentalist, white-bread, self-rightous, arrogant, Mormon priesthood wonk, please stop. You are giving the rest of us PTSD flashbacks of your doppelgangers we have suffered through in our past spiritual lives. Some of us are trying to have a serious discussion here.

    6. It’s interesting how quickly the people here resort to personal attacks (on someone they don’t even know) instead of focusing in what was said.

    7. Hey Bob. Which podcasts did you listen to? I’m genuinely curious. We can all attest that hearing things that are contrary to your core belief system will indeed leave you feeling empty, if not completely gutted. It’s the worst feeling ever … and yet … somehow fascinating and kind of liberating, once you begin to see the innocent error of your time-honoured beliefs. We have all been there and crossed the decision bridge of uncertainty and have had to decipher “Why am I feeling this way? The scriptures make me feel peaceful coz they confirm my beliefs, but the truth as it unfolds makes me feel empty.” It’s all too common.

      For you I would recommend listening to the podcasts by active members such as Terryl Givens, Richard Bushman, Greg Kearney, James McConkie etc. You will come to understand what is behind the emotions being expressed here. Good luck my friend.

  9. You have provided a good synopsis, John. I feel that the church has a long way to go. I recently asked my son (who is fairly well versed with church history and is preparing to go on a mission) if he thought that teaching the First Vision as found in Preach My Gospel would be ‘honest in his dealings with his fellow man’. His reply: “No”.

  10. Awesome remarks John. I appreciate you shedding some light on these hidden topics that the Church refuses to acknowledge until now.

  11. John, I respectfully submit that regarding style your responses would be more convincing without all the qualifiers, such as “to me”, “seem”, “somewhat”, “they often seem to”, “they somewhat tend to”,etc.

    This is your response, your essay, therefore each “to me” is redundant, and along with the other qualifiers comes of as submissive, wishy-washy, and unauthoritative. Perhaps that is your intention, so as not to offend. But as an advocate I would like to infer the courage of your convictions from your word usage and phrasing. Convictions are by definition not gray areas; either something is, or it isn’t; the essays are, or they aren’t.

    Compared to my own research, the church essays are far from transparent. They are still smoke screens, carefully worded to mollify and CYA. Insulting.

    Thanks for all you are doing.

    1. If there’s anything one can learn from thoughtfully observing various Mormon claims, I’d think it’d be to disconnect expressed conviction from the probability that a claim is well-established. Qualifiers don’t really have much to do with the quality of an underlying argument.

      (And to the extent they do, my impression is generally quite the opposite of yours — they introduce or indicate some processing of subtlety which is almost always present on a closer look. As Voltaire said: “Uncertainty is an uncomfortable position. But certainty is an absurd one.”)

      Additionally, it seems to me John’s piece here is more about personal reactions than line-by-line critical analysis of the essays, in which case, qualifiers are more than appropriate.

      If what you really wanted was something like your own research, maybe a link to that would be the best commentary?

  12. The essays, especially the DNA one, prove that the church is currently misleading the world about the cornerstone of the faith. They have dug their grave because they can longer say that it was mistakes and misunderstandings of the past leaders. This proves that the current leaders are liars and playing with people’s lives and livelihoods.

      1. If the church is now espousing multiple tens-of-thousands of years of evolution to answer the lack of “Lamanite” DNA then the church creates a much bigger question:

        Where does Adam & Eve fit? If Adam & Eve are just an old Hebrew allegory and not real then how could they have sinned and created the “fall” which needed a “savior”?

        The whole of Christianity falls with the validation of evolution. I say we should burn at the stake all the lame scientists who espouse evolution.

        All this “knowledge” is making my brainless, indoctrinated (since birth) belief system feel “empty” and not super-spiritual. Please, let’s just stick to the basics:

        1) An all-powerful God organized the entire universe, made every living thing, formed Adam & Eve, gave them dominion over everything he created, made a tree to tempt them (in hind-sight, he probably regrets making that tree), tells them to “multiple and replenish” the earth (but they can’t because they’re innocent…confusing, I know, but we just don’t know the mysteries of God).

        2) God’s neat-o plan gets confounded because Satan has more power than Him for some reason, since, after everything God just did for Adam & Eve, Satan simply dresses like a serpent and beguiles Eve who immediately disobeys God. God regains His title by cursing Satan but He doesn’t just kill Satan, He wants Satan to be able to poke-and-prod His kids (You know, kinda like how we love to see the bully at school beat up our own children, again, and again…and again…confusing, I know, but we just don’t know the mysteries of God).

        3) Then God throws His newly formed kids out of the ultra-kewl Garden of Eden where they get to be punished for the next 4,000 years (wait, don’t think about the evolution time-frame here). During this time God vehemently condones slavery, rape, murder, incest, etc. He actually seems to delight in it (confusing, I know, but we just don’t know the mysteries of God).

        4) Not to worry about Satan screwing up God’s eternal plan because God evidently had foresight. You see, this was God’s plan all along. All those spirit children (us) that God had been living with for zillions of years in the pre-existence had, evidently, never proven their (our) love to God during that time…zillions of years. We needed to take 70 years out of our eternal play-time to come to earth and be buffeted by that bully Satan so we could prove to God once and for all that we really do love Him. Because, somehow, He doesn’t know if we really love him or not…wait, isn’t he omniscient? (confusing, I know, but we just don’t know the mysteries of God)

        5) So, God came down and “spiritually” impregnated Mary with Yahwah, you know, the God of the Old Testament, Jehovah, Jesus. So Jesus is born and cannot sin (you may be thinking, “wasn’t it a sin to vandalize the personal possessions of the money-changers at the temple when He destroyed all their belongings?” A fair question, but remember, as we were taught with Joseph Smith, destroying the possessions of the Gentiles is not a sin. As long as you rape, murder and plunder in the name of God it’s A-OK! (confusing, I know, but we just don’t know the mysteries of God)

        6) Jesus tells us He has come to fulfill the law of Moses. Yes, please forget that Jesus was the God of the Old Testament telling everyone to rape, murder, and plunder in His name. Now it’s all peace and love baby. Except that He said He comes “with a sword” and introduces us to the concept of ETERNAL HELL for the first time. Then, He kills Himself to take away all our sins (again, please don’t think about evolution) so we can go live with Him again…as long as we SERVE Him. Yes, it’s slavery, but for a good cause (confusing, I know, but we just don’t know the mysteries of God).

        So, yes folks, let’s take “Bob’s” advice and stick to the basics. Forget about the church essays, forget and the changing doctrines, forget about the past false teachings and racism.

        I, for one, would love to go back to the time when God’s beautifully organized Earth was the center of the universe. I believe President Packer was absolutely prophesying when he prophetically announced, “The dangers I speak of come from the gay-lesbian movement, the feminist movement (both of which are relatively new), and the ever-present challenge from the so-called scholars or intellectuals.”

        Please, let’s all keep our head in the sand and simply PRAY, PAY AND OBEY!!

  13. Dropping a few confused and obfuscating articles deep in the web site means nothing and changes nothing. The members won’t see it, manuals aren’t changed, and teaching content is not being overhauled.
    You read to me like just another sad, confused apologist for the church, who gets enough out of the cultural aspect to tolerate the nonsense and lies that are church doctrine.
    Come on, the Lamanites essay comp letely contradicts the Book of Mormon. You’re doing a Bushman- you acknowledge some troubling stuff but don’t provide the context that gives it actual meaning.

    1. bOyd
      You expected the church to come clean with a few essays? They are in an impossible place to do that and save face. Why? Because of their past lies. So it’s a long process to lead them to repentance. This is just an early step, but the good news is that they took that baby step!

      1. Duwayne Anderson

        “Repentance” in this case would require (among other things) a public confession and apology; hiding a few confused/obfuscating articles on a website isn’t repentance.

        As far as I know, the LDS Church has never repented of anything. Certainly not in the way that they require *members* to repent of *their* sins.

        Can anyone else think of an instance in which the LDS Church repented?

        1. I generally agree. But BRM’s forget what we said we now have greater light and understanding was a step toward repentance. Never mind the “prophets” lagged the secular world in receiving that greater light and understanding.

          1. Duwayne Anderson

            Statements like

            “…we said we now have greater light and understanding…”

            look more like excuses than apologies. The last time I checked, excuses are not part of the repentance process.

          2. Duwayne Anderson

            Sorry, but I really don’t understand your point. Perhaps you could walk me through it. Here are the steps of repentance that the church publishes:

            1) Sorrow for committing the sin

            2) Confession

            3) Abandonment of sin

            4) Restitution

            Which of these steps has the institutional church taken?

          3. Duwayne Anderson

            Howard wrote: “Sure, BRM confessed for the church on the issue of banning blacks.”

            I’ve read Bruce’s talk. I can’t find that in there.

            Would you quote where Bruce confesses that the church did anything wrong?

          4. Duwayne,
            Do you personally remember that time or is it just a history lesson for you? The talk must be understood in the context of the time it was given. Prior “prophets” had spoken with great authority and certitude words that are now considered by the church to be folklore! BRM was one of the proudest (read biggest egotist) people alive and served as if he were the appointed authority on doctrine. He stood and confessed the he and others spoke with limited light and understanding, in other words they had been talking trash! It was quite an admission and so was the about face on blacks.

          5. Howard wrote: “Do you personally remember that time or is it just a history lesson for you?”

            I remember it personally.

            Howard wrote: “He (BRM) stood and confessed the he and others spoke with limited light and understanding…”

            What? That’s not a “confession;” nobody speaks with unlimited understanding.

            Furthermore, I don’t see anywhere in Bruce’s speech where he says the priesthood ban was wrong — only allusions to Bruce being wrong about his statements that Blacks wouldn’t receive the priesthood until after the start of the millennium.

            That was Mormon doctrine back in 60s and 70s — that Blacks would get the priesthood only after the start of the millennium (the doctrine originated with Brigham Young). When I was on my mission we had a dark joke in which one missionary says “How do you know when the millennium is here?” and the other missionary says “Hi der — E’m yo new home teacher.”

            So … still waiting for that quote from Mormon “prophet, seer, and revelator where he says the *church* was wrong about the priesthood band.

  14. DC 121:
    41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

    42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the
    soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—

  15. These essays help me to defend myself why I say that our church is A church of Christ instead of THE church of Christ. I hope that my children and grand children will not lose there believe in Christ. This can only happen when the church becomes more open and stops lying.

  16. The lack of names, signatures, and even dates is inherently dishonest as it pretends to make a statement in its own behalf but without really doing so. It knows that while many will assuredly will make assumptions about its authorship and authority, it also can easily deny such, plausibly, at any time, if the going were to get rough. It makes one wonder who is running the Church: the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve? Or the Public Affairs Department and Kirton-McConkie?

  17. Duwayne Anderson

    J.D. wrote: “Perhaps one of the most valuable aspects of these essays (from the church’s perspective) is that people will no longer be able to claim (quite as easily, at least) that the church is avoiding or hiding its more difficult historical/doctrinal issues.”

    Yep. That’s the Mormon Church for you — always looking out for the mother corporation. The essays are in out-of-the-way places, so investigators and members are unlikely to come across them, but they give the church the needed legal defense that they didn’t legally “hide” anything (even though obscurity is what hiding is all about).

    It’s a brilliant legal strategy.

    But I’m afraid it won’t help much with the feeling of betrayal Mormons will feel upon learning the truth; folks have this sense of when they’ve been lied to — and legal disclaimers about obscure references are a poor salve for that wound.

  18. These articles will do absolutely nothing to help, and just shows the moral and intellectual schitzophrenia that is introduced when trying to prove Mormonism correct. As you see with respect to the DNA article, the mere fact that they try to use evolutionary biology to support argument goes against what nearly every scientist has ever said about the plausibility of a link between Jews and Native Americans, and also goes against what every general authority has ever said about evolution.

    The problem with these articles is that they are not seeking truth. They are seeking to prove Mormonism right. In your dissertation, did you write the conclusion first, and then selectively gather data, and make sure to neglect to cite any studies that conflicted with your forgone conclusion? Of course not. They would never give you a PhD if you did. But, this is exactly the type of pseudo-scholarship that these articles represent.

    1. Stephen wrote: “In your dissertation, did you write the conclusion first, and then selectively gather data, and make sure to neglect to cite any studies that conflicted with your forgone conclusion? Of course not. They would never give you a PhD if you did.”

      Excellent comment, Stephen. Broadly speaking, you have just encapsulated the fundamental schism between religion and science.

  19. > Overall I definitely applaud the efforts as a first (baby) step….but I also feel like the church has a long, long way to go to “come clean.” Still….I’m grateful for the steps.

    This sentiment seems to be based on the assumption is the church has the truth, and they are benevolently handing it out and we should be grateful for the little crumbs of it that they distribute to those of us who want it. In truth, the church is a struggling business that is losing its customer base. They really need to acknowledge the difficulty of believing in Mormonism.

    It would be amazing if the First Presidency said something like the following, “To believe in the Book of Mormon, one must disregard the vast majority of currently accepted scientific research regarding DNA and population genetics. We have very few answers regarding the historicity of the Book of Mormon, but we feel like the lessons contained in it are the word of God and help people come to Christ. We acknowledge that believing in the Book of Mormon is difficult, yet after devoting our lives to it we feel it is a worthwhile pursuit.”

    However, they would never do this. Instead, they revert to emotional manipulation by instilling fear into those who would follow their brains and “break their covenants.” My personal feeling is that they do this because it is the easier, more effective option. It is really sad and disingenuous.

    1. Just a passing comment.

      A “covenant” is a two-way promise, and in Mormonism there is an implied promise in every “covenant” that the church is being truthful.

      However, if the LDS Church is being deceitful in any way, the members who leave are not breaking a covenant because the covenant was never valid in the first place. Valid covenants cannot exist if one party is lying or being deceitful when they enter into it.

      While the Mormon Church and its apologists glory in calling ex-Mormons “covenant breakers,” in truth, it is the LDS Church that is the covenant breaker — and many Mormons are left heart broke, with destroyed families when they find out about the deception.

      1. Duwayne, thank you so much for that perspective. I have felt that sentiment but did not know how to phrase it. The church lost me. They broke their covenants with me. Thank you!

  20. “Overall, I do believe that an objective review of LDS history/evidence ultimately leads much more often to disbelief than to belief …”

    John, what do you mean by this? Do you mean: (1) that LDS truth claims are demonstrably false? Or do you mean: (2) that on average when people come in contact with historical evidence that they are lead to disbelief?

    Regarding (1):

    What do you mean by “objective review” of the facts? Any good Bayesian knows that only a subjective approach to uncertainty is rational. As I study the issues (I’ll grant there are some tough ones) I am quite confident that the balance of probability is on the side of belief. In other words, I don’t think you can make a Dutch Book against me. While I am quite confident that I can against you if this is your belief.

    Mind you, I’m not saying that it is – I’m just trying to establish your meaning here.

    Regarding (2):

    What evidence do you have for this? Other than a data set that is fraught with sampling bias? You have nowhere near the data that you would need to make this claim.

    Just engaging your ideas here. Hope you answer.

    1. Tyler wrote: “I am quite confident that the balance of probability is on the side of belief.”

      I’d love to see that calculation!

      1. Duwayne,

        Let’s do it! It is going to be a lot of hard work so let’s roll up our sleeves. First we should start by enumerating the core list of things that can serve as evidence in our calculation.

        Would you like to start? What things do you think serve as evidence for and against the truthfulness of the gospel? Let’s all pledge to be honest and straightforward. Let’s list things both favoring and not favoring the hypothesis.

        Others should feel free to jump in as well with their own suggests.

        1. Tyler wrote: “Let’s do it.”

          There’s no “Lets,” Tyler. It was your assertion, you make the calculations.

          Tyler wrote: “What things do you think serve as evidence…”

          Verifiable and objective evidence, of course.

          Tyler wrote: “Let’s list things both favoring and not favoring the hypothesis.”

          Actually, to perform the calculation properly, you need to list all the competing hypotheses, and calculate the probabilities for them as well.

          1. Duwayne,

            > There’s no “Lets,” Tyler. It was your assertion, you make the calculations. <

            Fair enough. I am happy to do this, but in this case I am assuming you are waiving your right to edit my list of things used as evidence later on. In other words, don't come back criticizing the things I use or don't use as evidence once I have made my calculation. I was giving you a chance to influence the process, but if you waive your right to do so far be it from me to prevent you.

          2. Duwayne Anderson

            Tyler wrote: “..waiving your right to edit my list of things used as evidence later on…”

            I can’t “edit” your posts, Tyler.

            Tyler wrote: “In other words, don’t come back criticizing the things I use or don’t use as evidence..”

            Why not? You made an assertion about probability; nobody forced you to make it. I’m just asking you to show your calculations.

            Why would you refuse to explain yourself unless I first promise to not criticize your explanation?

            Tyler wrote: “I was giving you a chance to influence the process,”

            What “process?” You made an assertion. I’m asking you to back it up. Where’s the “process” in that?

            Are you suggesting that you haven’t actually *done* the calculations and that you’re only now getting started?

            If you have already done the calculations, why are you stalling about posting them?

            Tyler wrote: “… if you waive your right…”

            Why do you think it’s your right to demand that I waive anything before you’ll post the calculations to backup your own assertions?

          3. Duwayne,

            > I can’t “edit” your posts, Tyler. You made an assertion about probability; nobody forced you to make it. I’m just asking you to show your calculations. Are you suggesting that you haven’t actually *done* the calculations and that you’re only now getting started? <

            I haven't actually done calculations yet, although I have been thinking about it for years. I was making a statement about my prior belief, namely that I am confident that the balance of probability will favor belief (re-read my original post to check this. While I don't explicitly call it a prior, I think it is pretty clear that that is what I meant). There is nothing incoherent or irrational in that. So far I am being a good Bayesian.

            Stay tuned. I'll be working on the calculations. It will probably take a good long while to do properly.

          4. Duwayne Anderson

            Tyler wrote: “I haven’t actually done calculations yet,..”

            That’s what I suspected. Why not?

            Tyler wrote: “..although I have been thinking about it for years. I was making a statement about my prior belief,…”

            Okay … so you believe that the calculation will support your belief, but you haven’t actually done the calculation. That’s also what I suspected.

            Tyler wrote: “Stay tuned. I’ll be working on the calculations. It will probably take a good long while to do properly.”

            By “properly,” I assume you mean it’ll take a long time to get the calculations to agree with your prior beliefs.

          5. Duwayne,

            You wrote: “By ‘properly,’ I assume you mean it’ll take a long time to get the calculations to agree with your prior beliefs.”


            At this point I am done engaging with you. It is becoming pretty pointless. I have posted in good faith and not acted honestly. You have demonstrated that you are not interested in the truth. You may reply with other comments to me, but this is the last thing I will write to you.

            Just remember how Cromwell’s rule got its name. Lord Cromwell wrote to Parliament:

            “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken!”

          6. Duwayne Anderson

            Tyler wrote: “At this point I am done engaging with you.”

            Too bad.

            Tyler wrote: “It is becoming pretty pointless.”

            I agree.

            Tyler wrote: “I have posted in good faith …”

            Sorry, Tyler, but it really doesn’t look that way to me.

            Tyler wrote: “You have demonstrated that you are not interested in the truth..”

            That’s a rude statement. Just because you can’t prove your point, does it mean you have to make insults?

          7. Duwayne Anderson

            Tyler wrote: “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken!”

            I’m perfectly willing to describe the verifiable/objective evidence that, if it existed, would change my mind. If you want, I’ll happily give you a list of evidences and you can try and find them.

            How about you? Unless you are willing to describe the verifiable and objective evidence that (if it existed) would cause you to leave Mormonism, then Cromwell’s comment applies more to you than to me.

          8. Duwayne,

            Somehow my last post got garbled. Sorry. That is not all of what I meant to post, but it is close enough.

          9. Okay, okay.

            I meant to write: “and not acted dishonestly.”

            The joke is on me. That was a pretty funny mistake. :-)

    2. Any good Bayesian also knows that your results can be largely affected by your prior. It is this fact that apologetics count on. You need to read their articles coming from a desire to believe. Objectively, their arguments simply are not sound.

      1. Stephen,

        Of course I’m aware of priors, and being raised in a faithful home mine was strongly oriented towards belief. But what then? Of greater importance is updating beliefs with Bayes’ Theorem and acting rationally in the face of evidence. Are you claiming that I haven’t? If so, what is your basis for claiming this?

        You claim: “Objectively, their arguments simply are not sound.” Again, you use that word “objectively.” Like Inigo Montoya I feel like saying: “you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

        You seem to be suggesting that the arguments of apologists (generically?) are logically impossible (i.e. that there is no need of the probability calculus because we are dealing with a situation of absolute deductive certainty). In other words, that it would not violate Cromwell’s rule to place a prior of zero on the event of them being correct.

        If that is indeed what you think, then you must explain your logic. If that is not what you meant then I can make no sense of it. Your statements seem to me like mere gobbledygook.

    3. Tyler – I respect you, but do not feel like our engagements in the past have been very constructive. At whatever point we can reconcile, I’d be happy to re-engage. Until then, I worry that our engagement would only generate more heat than light.

      1. John,

        Let’s reconcile on this point right here. You made a post here on your podcast page. I find the quoted statement above rather ambiguous. I’m simply asking you to elucidate your post.

        If you truly are after generating more heat than light please explain to me and your other readers what you meant. I’m not seeking a nasty debate – I just want to understand why you would make such a claim, and what indeed did you mean by it?

        1. I meant to say:

          “If you truly are after generating more light than heat please explain …”

          Sorry for the typo!

        2. Tyler – My interactions with you previously have all ended on a sour note. I’d prefer to just keep things neighborly at this point. I sincerely wish you and your family well.


          1. John,

            I wish you are your family well too. Still I fail to see how you honestly answering a question about what you meant in your original post would put any of that in jeopardy.

            You made a very strong claim. I am simply asking you what you meant by it and to explain your logic a bit? Why are dodging the question?

            Come on, I promise to be polite and civil. Help me to understand what you are trying to say.

    4. Tyler wrote: “I am quite confident that the balance of probability is on the side of belief.”

      I’m still interested in seeing your calculation, Tyler. Do you plan on posting it?

    5. Duwayne Anderson

      Tyler wrote: “As I study the issues (I’ll grant there are some tough ones)..”

      Would you mind listing the “issues” you have studied, and identifying the “tough ones?”

      1. Duwayne,

        > Would you mind listing the “issues” you have studied, and identifying the “tough ones?” <

        Of course not, as they will have to be a part of my probability calculation. Generally, I would list them in a few categories, like:

        – Historical weirdness

        – Lack of external evidence for the Book of Mormon

        Though I'm hardly an expert on either. Again, stay tuned.

        While we are at it, would you care to list some of the issues that you think strongly favor the hypothesis (h = Mormonism is true)? There are of course, many!

        1. Duwayne Anderson

          Tyler wrote: “Of course not, as they will have to be a part of my probability calculation.”

          You said you have the list of issues. What have your “calculations” got to do with showing the list?

          Tyler wrote: “Historical weirdness..”

          Weirdness? Like what? Examples?

          Tyler wrote: “Lack of external evidence for the Book of Mormon.”

          That’s it? Just two vague items on your list of difficult issues?

          How about contradictions between what the Book of Mormon says and the scientific consensus regarding certain aspects about ancient Americans? Did that make your list of “difficult issues?”

          Do you think there are any difficult issues surrounding prophetic behavior?

          How about the Book of Abraham — any difficult issues there?

          How about the doctrine of a literal Adam/Eve — any difficult issues there?

          1. Duwayne,

            > You said you have the list of issues. What have your “calculations” got to do with showing the list? Weirdness? Like what? Examples? How about contradictions between what the Book of Mormon says and the scientific consensus regarding certain aspects about ancient Americans? Did that make your list of “difficult issues?” Do you think there are any difficult issues surrounding prophetic behavior? How about the Book of Abraham — any difficult issues there? How about the doctrine of a literal Adam/Eve — any difficult issues there? <

            Nope. But this is not an issue to hang your hat on.

        2. Duwayne Anderson

          Tyler wrote: “While we are at it, would you care to list some of the issues that you think strongly favor the hypothesis (h = Mormonism is true)? There are of course, many!”

          No, I can’t think of any.

          1. Duwayne,

            > Tyler wrote: “While we are at it, would you care to list some of the issues that you think strongly favor the hypothesis (h = Mormonism is true)? There are of course, many!”

            No, I can’t think of any. <

            Well, I have tried to have an honest discussion with you, but I'm afraid that if this is your position then you have signaled to me that you are not interested in an honest discussion. I am afraid that you might be guilty of violating Cromwell's rule.

            There are many things that strongly favor the hypothesis (h = Mormonism is true):

            – The existence of God (the balance of probability favoring it)

            – The revelation of God to the earth in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ (the balance of probability favoring it)

            – The mere existence of the Book of Mormon. No explanation but the official one given makes any sense at all

            – The internal consistency of the Book of Mormon

            – Genuine hebraisms in the Book of Mormon

            – The religious experience of millions of people

            – My own very powerful religious experiences (which are conclusive for me)

          2. Duwayne Anderson

            Tyler wrote: “… you are not interested in an honest discussion.”

            That’s a rude thing to say, Tyler.

            Tyler wrote: “- The existence of God (the balance of probability favoring it)”

            Show the calculations, Tyler. Talk is cheap.

            Tytler wrote: “The revelation of God to the earth in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ (the balance of probability favoring it)”

            Prove it happened — otherwise it’s not evidence. And prove it was god and not some alien playing a joke on Smith.

            Tyler wrote: “The mere existence of the Book of Mormon. No explanation but the official one given makes any sense at all”

            Why couldn’t an 18th century writer produce the Book of Mormon?

            Tyler wrote: “The internal consistency of the Book of Mormon”

            Lord of the Rings and Alice in Wonderland have internal consistency. Were they also translated by the gift and power of god?

            Tyler wrote: “Genuine hebraisms in the Book of Mormon”

            But not in ancient American texts. So “hebraisms” in the Book of Mormon are actually evidence *against* the Book of Mormon’s ancient American origin.

            Tyler wrote: “The religious experience of millions of people”

            What does that prove? There are more people who believe in UFOs than Mormonism. Does that prove UFOs are real?

            Tyler wrote: “My own very powerful religious experiences (which are conclusive for me)”

            How do you know you were not having delusions?

    6. Since this conversation has become so focused on Tyler, I wanted to contribute my two cents.

      Tyler keeps asking, “All I am asking is what exactly do you mean by this?” I think everyone found John’s original quote very clear. He simply said “I do believe…” It is apparent that this quote means he believes that a review of LDS history leads more often to disbelief that belief. He didn’t say the evidence shows this is true, or that this is in fact true. He simply said that is what he believes. Nothing wrong with that. And perfectly understandable and clear in its meaning. Of course, it appears that Tyler actually understands this is what the comment most likely meant from his option 2) in his original question (and option 1 is very hard to get from that one sentence).

      Strangely, Tyler said at 5:13, “If JD were only stating his prior belief then I am fine with that, and I would let it lie. All he has to do is say so and we would be done with this discussion. Why hasn’t he?”

      Tyler, why do you think the original quote is doing anything other than exactly that? What is it about his statement, “I do believe,” that makes you think it is anything more? According to your own statement then, why aren’t you fine with that?

      I think part of your problem was a poor original question. Perhaps a better question that you could have asked was, “Why do you believe that?” The answer probably would have been that it is based on his own experiences, which are larger than most. And you would be fair to criticize the sampling of his experience. But would any of that actually provide you with any insight you couldn’t have figured out on your own?

      If you were asking in good faith, perhaps John would explain that he realizes his own experiences with people are skewed in one direction, but that he still believes a study of LDS history will cause more doubt than belief for other, non-quantifiable reasons. Nothing that earth-shattering there.

      1. Duwayne Anderson

        Mike wrote: “Since this conversation has become so focused on Tyler,..”

        That’s a shame. Can’t we get back to the original subject?

        Take the essays, for example. Who wrote them? Are they official doctrine?

        Some of the essays contain blatant lies, half-truths, and misrepresentations. Who owns those? The Church? Should they be held responsible for the content of the essays?

  21. John: I largely agree with your comments, although I might be slightly more optimistic about this small step forward. I could write a comment as long as your post, but I’ll make just three points.

    1. You said: “To date, these essays still seem very much buried, and I imagine that this is somewhat intentional.” You might be right; it doesn’t appear that as member browsing through would readily come upon them. I think the main purpose of these essays is to ensure that people seeking information on the specific topics using Google or Bing or whatever find a result on the first page that doesn’t comes from the church. If that’s the goal, my tests with Google show that they largely succeeded.

    2. You said: “I hear rumors that this content is starting to be incorporated into official church curriculum.” Some of it appears to be incorporated in the new seminary manual. It refers to differing First Vision accounts and Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy, for example, and even has a lesson on the Mountain Meadows Massacre. It’s a step, albeit a tiny one and long overdue.

    3. You said: “Overall, I do believe that an objective review of LDS history/evidence ultimately leads much more often to disbelief than to belief …” I’m not in a position to know how true that is. But if it is true, I think that a big part of the problem is that the church culture, curriculum and many authorities encourage a type of black-and-white thinking that fails to recognize the fallibility of church leadership. We also miss out on much of the beauty of the Gospel when we reduce it to a few key items of behavior (pray, pay your tithing, go to church, etc.) rather than view it as a call to love our fellow beings and have a dynamic relationship with our Creator. If we would just recognize that church leaders, even Joseph Smith and the current Prophet, make mistakes, the fallout of many of the historical issues would be diminished.

    1. Eric wrote: “…fails to recognize the fallibility of church leadership.”

      The problem is that there’s no rules test for validating when the leaders are being fallible.

      Actually, that’s not quite true; there *is* a rules test — but it’s not accepted by the apologists.

      The rules test set down by Mormon prophets is that the prophet is infallible with regard to doctrine (see OD 1). The real problem is that the apologists reject the rules test that the prophets have given, yet the apologists fail to give any other objective rules test to replace it (that I know of, anyway).

      For their part, Mormon prophets speak/spoke authoritatively on all sorts of doctrine, and routinely disagree with each other. So, clearly, they *are* fallible with regard to doctrine. It’s just that the apologists think there’s a reasonable explanation for all the fallibility.

      For example, the prophet today teaches that black skin is not a curse, and that Blacks were not “not valiant” in the preexistence.

      But a generation ago the Mormon prophets were teaching the exact opposite — specifically and authoritatively teaching that black skin *is* a curse/mark of a curse, and was put upon the bodies of those spirits who were not valiant in the preexistence, and thus unworthy to hold the priesthood.

      Both groups of prophets (then and now) spoke/speak authoritatively by the “spirit” yet the prophets contradict each other.

      So the basic problem seems to be this: the *spirit* is unreliable. The “spirit” tells one prophet/person one thing, and another prophet/person the opposite thing. And the reason that the leaders of the church are fallible (critics would say extremely fallible) in the first place is that they proceed from a false assumption that a supernatural “spirit” is guiding them.

      For the unbeliever this all makes perfect sense. For the unbeliever, the “spirit” is just a person’s emotive reasoning — their “feelings” — misunderstood as some supernatural phenomenon. But when one realizes that it’s not supernatural at all, just part of the normal (and very fallible) human existence, then of *course* the spirit is going to be wrong a lot of the time, and of *course* Mormon prophets are going to say all sorts of things that are not true.

      1. Just because someone claims he is lead by the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean he really believes it. People use organized religion as a ladder to power and control all the time, and those people are disingenuous about their true beliefs–or lack thereof. They prey upon people’s emotions and vulnerabilities, and manipulate them into dependency and idol worship.

  22. It’s a corporation, run by corporate men, men who are well trained in worldly ways and that includes deception and slick fairy tale marketing for gain. This corporation is the best The Lord has to offer us if you are looking for proper priesthood keys to perform His saving ordinances, where else shall we go?

    The truth is now available where it was once hidden but you still need to do some of your own homework to find it. I would manage your expectations about truth coming from a corporation that has mission other than to spread its own true history. People can search it out if they chose to. Spreading the true history of the corporation is not the way the corporation is going to about retaining membership and gaining membership, it’s goals are elsewhere. They have an their agenda which has little to do with church history. Church history does not exalt people to the highest degree in celestial kingdom if you even believe in that.

  23. > High-end apologetics: As far as the content goes, these essays definitely have the feel to me of high-end apologetics

    The phrase “High-end apologetics” has about as much credence as “High-end astrology.” The very concept of apologetics is dishonest, in that, as I said in an earlier comment, they write the conclusion of their argument first and then try to fill in the details through any means possible. At least astrologers tend to not take themselves too seriously, compared to Mormon apologetics, who want you to put your entire life on the line based on a set of poor, logically inconsistent, factually incomplete arguments.

    1. Indeed! But still I’ll take high end apologetics over the low end stuff that recently preceeded it! It isn’t ideal or completely truthful but it’s existence acknowledges the failure of the low end stuff and distances itself a bit more from the darkness of the church’s past.

      1. I agree that higher end is better than lower end, but it is extremely liberating to realize that we don’t need to “take” any of it. The burden is on the leaders of the LDS church to produce a believable religion. I have wasted enough useful years of my life and cycles of my brain trying to piece together all of this mess into something that I can believe in, including serving a mission, and, for me, it no longer adds up.

      1. Duwayne Anderson

        How do you know that BRM wasn’t just speaking his opinion? After all, according to the apologists, that’s pretty much all the guy did!

        1. Well I’m not sure that distinction is important since the body of the church at that time accepted him as an authority. It was an outright admission that LDS “prophets” were wrong.

          Of course that roughly equates to an admission that the progressive secular prophets were right many years ahead of SWK’s course correcting OD2 revelation.

          1. Duwayne Anderson

            Howard wrote: “…the body of the church at that time accepted him as an authority….”

            Yep. An authority who was saying he was wrong. But when an authority says he was wrong, how do you know he was wrong then, and not now?

          2. Duwayne Anderson

            In an earlier time (call it “then”) Bruce said that Blacks had been not valiant, and were cursed with regard to the priesthood. Their black skin, Bruce said, was a mark to aid in making sure the priesthood wasn’t given to the Sons of Cain.

            In a later time (call it “now”) Bruce said he was wrong “then.”

            In time “now” Bruce said he was wrong in time “then.” But when an authority says he was wrong, how do you know he was wrong “then,” and not “now?”

            To help clarify, allow me to use an example. Suppose a professor gives a lecture in quantum physics and he writes on the blackboard that bosons have integer spin. The next day you come to his lecture and he says “I made a mistake yesterday — I forgot that bosons have half-integer spin.”

            How do you know if the professor was wrong today or yesterday? Well, you could easily go to the great Google and type in “spin bosons” and find out that the professor was *right* on day one, and *wrong* on day two. You could verify this with a large literature search, and even reproduce the actual experiments, if you didn’t trust any of that.

            The point is, there’s an independent verifiable and objective way to check the professor.

            So, how do you know that Bruce was right “now” and not “then?” What’s the rules-based test for deciding if a prophet is wrong or right when he speaks?

          3. So, how do you know that Bruce was right “now” and not “then?” How did I become responsible for this?

          4. Howard wrote: “How did I become responsible for this?”

            I’m sorry. I may have misunderstood you. I thought you were agreeing with Bruce.

  24. These essays are really challenging for me. No matter what the topic is the cat has to land on its feet. So do we accept evolutionary phylogenetics, and everything that goes with it now (death, reproduction, and sin before the Judeo/Christian/Islamic Adam)? Ugo Perego said Adam was the first to receive a soul, yet self-organization exists – I recommend the book by T. Deacon on the evolutionary development of consciousness. On the seer stone and a hat activity – we are studying Joseph Fielding Smith this year, yet he wrote an article in the early 1970’s in the church news refuting a quote by David Whitmer about the stone in a hat. After serving for decades as church historian, he had some clout and authority on the matter, and he was serving as prophet at the time when he wrote the article in the church news. Oops.

      1. I thought reading the source material was a requirement before commenting on this article. Perhaps I was mistaken. Ugo worked at SMGF and discovered that JS was an Irish descendant of Niall of the Nine, and that 4 of the suspected offspring of JS polygamy were in fact not his. Ugo worked on the Josephine case for awhile but he couldn’t get a conclusive answer. I was just referencing his talk at the transhumanist conference.

        1. Duwayne Anderson

          Scott wrote: “I thought reading the source material…”

          I did read the source material, Scott. Thanks.

          Would you please read my question again? Note that the question is a couplet; it’s not just a question of “who is Ugo Perego,” but also “why does his opinion about Adam matter with regard to Mormon doctrine?”

          Was Ugo a General Authority? Was he a Mormon “prophet, seer, and revelator? If so, was he speaking by the power of the “spirit?” Did he say “thus saith the Lord?”

          If not, why would his opinion about when Adam got his “soul” matter anymore than, for example, my opinion (or yours) — at least so far as it relates to Mormon doctrine?

          The reason I ask, obviously, is that one of the favorite retorts when any critic quotes any Mormon prophet is “oh, that’s just his opinion.”


          So if public and authoritative statements by Mormon prophets can be dismissed with the assertion that they were just speaking their “opinion,” then who the heck is Ugo Perego, and why does *his* opinion about Adam matter with regard to Mormon doctrine?

          With that background, does the nature of my question become a little clearer?

          1. The historical overview paper in Dialogue by Lester Bush in 1973, really mattered. It brought into historical context the racism, thereby weakening significantly the folklore supporting it – opening up opportunity for change. The healthy discussions between the lds scientist Henry Eyring and Joseph Fielding Smith on the topics of the age of the earth, the fall, evolution were good, and many latter-day saints found truth when they could not find much in Smith’s book. These essays have this air of “outsource this to India”. Is it that they have more important managerial matters to attend to like reviewing the color of the drapes and chairs in the new temple rendering? But hey – it’s a start towards a Vatican II era. As Holland said in the interview on the BBC concerning Egyptian “the vehicle for that, I do not understand, and don’t claim to know, and know no egyptian” [ask Brother Gee but stay clear of Ritner] For the DNA book of mormon and implied statements on american humans before historical adam, I could see a similar statement “as for the vehicle for how adam’s body was created, I do not understand, and don’t claim to know, and know no evolutionary genetics of any kind”- [ask Brother Perego]. When faced with such a vacuum, people ask for new prophets who can speak both languages science and faith, and not abscond the truth.

          2. Duwayne Anderson

            Scott wrote: “The historical overview paper in Dialogue by Lester Bush in 1973, really mattered.”

            To whom? The “intellectuals” in the church? The Church leadership? Most members have probably never heard of Bush — did it matter to them?

            Scott wrote: ” It brought into historical context the racism, thereby weakening significantly the folklore supporting it..”

            Can you give examples of this “folklore” you speak of?

            Scott wrote: “opening up opportunity for change.”

            Interesting. Are you suggesting that god was unable to get through to Mormon prophets for a century, so he choose an intellectual with no significant ecclesiastical standing in the church?

            Would the typical Mormon believe such a thing?

            Scott wrote: “When faced with such a vacuum, people ask for new prophets who can speak both languages science and faith, and not abscond the truth.”

            I agree. There’s a vacuum when it comes to Mormon prophets.

  25. After watching the movie called Soroya, the execution of a muslim woman, I have come to appreciate the logic behind the dead woman’s aunt where she exposed the conspiracy to kill her niece. Paraphrasing: “If you were so sure you were right in doing what you did, then why be afraid for the world to know?”

  26. To be perfectly honest, these essays had no impact on my current understanding/lack of trust in the Church. I’ve read all of these essays hoping for a better understanding of the more difficult issues that crop up while researching church history, but I feel sorely disappointed. I believe that some issues just can’t be rationalized in a positive light. These issues go beyond church leaders “making mistakes” and transform into something much more complicated. I am honestly seeking truth, but feel that the Church is not meeting me half-way.

    1. Eric,

      Sorry I meant to hit reply. Instead I made a new post below. Please see that post if you would like to respond.

  27. Like John D. I grew up in a town near Houston, I was born in Houston. The anti Mormons who actually did their research in Mormon history brought most of these points to my attention from an early age, my dad was convert and study tons and he built a huge library of books on sorts of LDS history and doctrine. It is all so fascinating to me and I love it all, even the dirt. From a young age I knew Brigham Young was a racist and had blood on his hands. I knew Joseph Smith experimented and did some tremendously stupid things with girls and other people marriages. It wasn’t until I came to Utah 14 years ago that I found out how ignorant most of the LDS people were about their own church history. I was truly surprised. When I grew up there was not a Deseret Book by our home, but about an hour away the was a LDS themed book store that had a lot of the kinds of books you can find at Benchmark Books or Confetti Books in Utah. I guess we can blame a lot this white wash correlation mess on Harold B. Lee. Whatever, really, man ( even so called prophets) ALWAYS makes a mess of things, that is the lesson of history. If a man tells you he speaks for God, laugh at him. If something stands out in his message then ask God directly about it and see what you should do. Really though don’t take the men in the LDS institution too seriously because they are not worth your attention. It is a complete waste of your time and energy. Only God is worth your attention, your time and energy. God will direct you if you truly submit yourself to Him. Knowledge saves, not men, not institutions. By the way some of the things Joseph Smith gave us was truly from God, that is my belief. Good luck in your journey.

  28. Eric,

    You wrote, “I believe that some issues just can’t be rationalized in a positive light. These issues go beyond church leaders ‘making mistakes’ and transform into something much more complicated.”

    Please elaborate.

    1. Tyler,

      The issues I was referring to are sprinkled throughout church history. Joseph Smith’s polygamous relationships with young girls, confusion and contradictory concerning the word of wisdom, Brigham Young’s passionate racist views…just to name a few. We all make mistakes, but when leaders of the church – “the one true church” – show such great and unmistakable signs of inconsistency it’s hard to look away. It is because of these inconsistencies that I have a hard time trusting the church at all. Hopefully this answers your question.

  29. I’m grateful for your responses!

    I disagree that the polygamy essay was okay, and the ultimate test will be to see how the Church handles Joseph Smith. I posit the ultimate test will be to see how the CHurch handles the temple going forward. Sexism in the temple cannot be addressed until polygamy is satisfactorily explained, and pointing at God saying “He made me do it” is unsatisfying in many, many ways, not the least of which is the Mormon theology of female salvation. Polygamy-era teachings of the afterlife still remain our religion’s most comprehensive account of the female destiny, and the only explanation of Heavenly Mother’s identity. This all comes to a head in the temple. Despite recent leanings toward a “heroic Eve” narrative and language of female equality, the temple contradicts those narratives in almost every way…so I believe the temple, not the history of Joseph Smith, is where the question of polygamy, and even the question of Mormon womanhood, will be theologically determined.

    Loved your insights on the evolution evidence and DNA!

  30. I generally agree with John’s comments, with the exception of “Still Too Hidden”. My experience is that the majority of LDS people simply don’t care about reconciling literal\historical vs. figurative\metaphor. They are quite happy believing (or “knowing”) and go about their lives with the peace and fulfillment that comes from their church service. Both inside and outside of the LDS faith, most religious people do not aspire to be theologian or scientist and can’t or don’t have the capacity or interest to wrestle with these difficult issues. While the church has not done a good job nurturing critical-thinking truth-seekers (sometimes even punishing them), I don’t believe greater transparency became a priority until.. 1) the Internet enabled these thorny issues to be much more visible to the masses and 2) the LDS people became a large enough political and cultural factor that we became subject to serious-minded social criticism.

    I believe the church is correct in moving slowly to greater transparency. In my own faith journey, it took about 10 years to learn about these challenging issues and another 10 years to reconstruct my juvenile childhood faith into a healthy adult LDS belief system. I would not want to see the church try to accelerate people through that transition because I think the body count would be enormous and the opportunity for those casualties to have a rich experience growing and transforming their faith would be lost.

  31. John,

    I have to say that I cannot understand why you are being silent regarding my question. The issue of remaining neighborly seems like a dodge to me.

    You wrote, “Overall, I do believe that an objective review of LDS history/evidence ultimately leads much more often to disbelief than to belief.”

    While it may be obvious to everyone else what you meant by this, to me it is very ambiguous. This is your forum where you have expressed some ideas. I cannot imagine you would be unwilling to explain what you meant by what you wrote.

    1. Tyler – It is because I no longer trust you as someone who discusses things in good faith….or at least that you and I are capable of having an edifying discussion with a healthy outcome.

      And I have learned through very sad experience that mixing my home ward with discussions like this leads only to heartbreak and sadness. The last time I trusted you and Stanton it led to very sad things for me personally, and for my family.

      Please respect my feelings on this, if you are able to muster respect for me. If not, please re-read this next time you feel the continued urge to engage with me. My position won’t be changing until you and Stanton find a way to earn back my trust.

      Thank you.

          1. So, when John talks about having a discussion in good faith, is he suggesting that you broke confidence somehow?

      1. John,

        You wrote, “I no longer trust you as someone who discusses things in good faith….or at least that you and I are capable of having an edifying discussion with a healthy outcome.”

        I’m very sorry to hear you say this. I find it rather confusing as well. It is hard to believe that any discussion you have had with me could bring any “sad things” into your life. As far as an honest and edifying discussion I am willing to follow the principles outlined in the following paper for how to disagree honestly:

        The other readers here can help to keep me honest. I promise not to hold you to any standard for evidence that I am not willing to submit to myself. What could be more fair?! I am demonstrating “good faith,” as it were.

        I have read the Mission Statement for MS. It used words and phrases like “truth-seeking”, “intellectual and spiritual integrity”, etc. That is all I am after as well. I should think your readers would like you answer my questions as well. Your unwillingness to simply explain what you meant by a phrase in your original post should be a red flag to your readers and listeners.

        This is your forum, not mine. You made the original post not me. If you do not want people engaging the issues you put forth here in this forum then I suggest that you write them in a personal notebook and not on the internet. It is called the world-wide web for a reason.

        I’m sorry if my tone seems harsh. At the same time you must feel no compunction whatsoever in publicly questioning my good faith. I am asking you to demonstrate some good faith of your own to your audience. You made a statement:

        “Overall, I do believe that an objective review of LDS history/evidence ultimately leads much more often to disbelief than to belief.”

        All I am asking is what exactly do you mean by this? Does anyone else want to hear John’s answer to this question?

        1. Tyler – You and/or Stanton have betrayed my trust in very serious ways, and I am not interested in engaging with you _at all_ until that is resolved. I still sincerely wish you and your family neighborly good wishes.

          1. John,

            I really have no idea what you mean by “betrayed my trust in very serious ways.” I’m honestly very befuddled by this. No one even knows of any discussion that you and I have ever had.

            Of course, I genuinely wish you and your family well too. Nothing has changed that. But that is not what this is about.

            This is about the ideas that you have expressed in your own words on your own podcast/blog and forum. If Mormon Stories really is about getting to the truth of things – then let’s get to the truth of this: what did you mean by the statement from your original post that I have now quoted several times? It isn’t a trick question or anything untoward. It is a simple question. I can’t imagine why you refuse to answer it!

        2. @ Tyler. “Overall, I do believe that an objective review of LDS history/evidence ultimately leads much more often to disbelief than to belief.” the quote you give is rather clear to me.

          1. J,

            Wassup with only giving an initial anyway?

            > the quote you give is rather clear to me <

            Well then please explain it to us. Because to me it is rather ambiguous. In an earlier reply I suggested at least two things JD might mean by this statement:

            1) That LDS truth claims are demonstrably false. In other words, that they are logically impossible and that he can prove it.

            If this is the case, I am asking him to explain that logic (and furthermore, why he would remain in the Church). This will be big news indeed.

            – OR –

            2) That on average when people become aware of the historical evidence regarding Mormonism they are led by that evidence to disbelief rather than to belief.

            If this is the case, I am asking him to produce data to convince us that this is true. Of course, there is no way on earth he has the data that could lead to this conclusion. He might have a survey from Mormon Stories listeners, but we can clearly see that such data are characterized by (a rather strong!) sampling bias. JD would need to have a _representative_ sample of all people who have become aware of this evidence. He does not have this data. He has data from MS listeners and such. One doesn't have to read very many of the comments in this forum to understand what their common belief is regarding this evidence. I think that only some guy named "Bob" and I would be classified as traditional believers here. This is rather like trying to estimate the average height of students on a college campus by sampling from the men's basketball team. In other words, there is sampling bias.

            So J and JD, which is it? I have listed two possibilities. Feel free to offer others. But I would like to understand what he meant. Of course, also if he wants to back away from the statement and edit the original post to remove those words – I'm fine with that too, but he should let us know.

          2. I don’t want to speak for JD. I can only give you my interpretation. The reporter asked for Johns opinion. It would be a 3rd option you did not give. John gave his opinion. The reporter did not ask for a scientific dissertation. People can give there opinion based on a hunch, a feeling, data, or even the truth they find from the Holy Ghost. So I take it just as the quote reads. “Overall, I do believe that an objective review of LDS history/evidence ultimately leads much more often to disbelief than to belief.” I don’t know how to make that any more clear to you than that. But ill try. When a person studies church history it leads to more people not believing than believing.
            Why did I just use the initial J? Are you really that petty? I am starting to see why John doesn’t want to interact with you.

          3. J,

            If JD were only stating his prior belief then I am fine with that, and I would let it lie. All he has to do is say so and we would be done with this discussion. Why hasn’t he?

            You wrote: “When a person studies church history it leads to more people not believing than believing.”

            You have no evidence of this. Nor does JD.

            > Why did I just use the initial J? Are you really that petty? I am starting to see why John doesn’t want to interact with you. <

            Call names if you will, but I respect a person more who has the courage to use his real name.

        3. Tyler you actually start to sound like the bully in the lunch room who asks the loner kid at the table to give you his lunch money. When he refuses a second time you still persist. He doesn’t care to talk to you. Give it a rest.

          1. Dean,

            > Tyler you actually start to sound like the bully in the lunch room who asks the loner kid at the table to give you his lunch money. When he refuses a second time you still persist. <

            Except I didn't come up to his lunch table and ask for his lunch money. It's more like he got on the loud speaker and made an announcement. I just didn't hear part of what he said and am curious to know.

            I mean, really? I'm not asking anything really tough here. It's a really simple question. I don't think there is anything controversial about it. His unwillingness to answer is bizarre.

            And again, these are his words. His podcast. His forum. It doesn't bother you that he is unwilling to back up his statement? What was the purpose of the post in first place if not about ideas?! As soon as someone asks a simple question about what he meant he backs away? What is he afraid of?

          2. Dean,

            I rather like the internet, and podcasts, blogs, etc.

            No, I have no problem with the loud speaker, but rather the loud message. And that when asked to clarify he won’t.

          3. Tyler. I did not say you did not like the loud speaker (the internet). I said you do not like John on it. That is what you have confirmed.

  32. Tyler,

    In all respect, I think John made it clear to you why he does not wish to discuss this matter with you. Please understand this. Like you pointed out, this is his forum and I belive that he wants to keep it constructive and positive without going into personal issues. All the best to you and everyone who is an avid reader of MS.

    1. Juha,

      How is explaining what he meant in his original post a personal issue? Things are getting really weird around here!

      I feel like I stepped into the twilight zone.

      I appreciate your civility, though. All the best to you too!

      1. Tyler,

        Not knowing your and John’s previous interactions but by merely reading both your comments, It is apparent that you do not enjoy Joh’s trust and therefore, he prefers not to discuss this particular question with you. Your question itself is valid and does not need to be personal, but due to your ‘unsolved’ issue(s) with John, it can become a personal question. In any case, I feel this forum can be uplifting, educational and even faith-promoting when we are considerate and respectful of others despite their personal views.

  33. I have read the comments – not a lot of dialogue here to me. Very few true believing Mormons post here?

    I will say:

    1. Many believing Mormons are very familiar with these issues. As to which approach the Church should take – I have my opinions – it doesn’t mean my opinions are correct. (I wish John Dehlin were a little more transparent about his beliefs (USU TedX?) My view is that John is an agnostic, largely social LDS member who has a lot of integrity, defaults to a secular view over the religious and would like to see the Church largely reshaped to fit people like him better)

    2. There is absolutely nothing irrational about a leap of faith toward something you believe is good while meanwhile reconciling the seemingly contradictory parts. (Going back to John Dehlin – John does exactly what I describe with his leap of faith to stay associated with the Church – just to a different degree than people who believe more strongly)

    (I’m sorry secular humanism is woefully inadequate for me even though on the surface it’s the “easy” conclusion for a “rationalist”)

    1. I would prefer to discuss the points (which I find valid and true) that JD shared rather than speculating anyone’s personal faith and/or motives. I would feel uneasy if someone attempted to discuss and evaluate my ‘journey’ without initiating it myself first. In other words, this is a forum for open discussion on various topics and not to evaluate others’ way of believing/disbelieving. Just my personal opinion and no offense intended.

  34. John has asked that I not post here anymore, and so I will not. I regret not being able to finish this discussion though. I think I ask a simple and fair question.

    My best to all of you!

    1. For the record, Tyler is lying here. I never asked him to stop posting here. I’ve only asked him to stop attempting to communicate with me (here or privately), due to his proven track record (with me at least) of being untrustworthy.

      I was actually genuinely excited to see how Tyler’s arguments would hold up with Duwayne….but am not at all surprised to see Tyler back out, and to lie about his reasons. He’s illustrated here very clearly why I’ve needed to stop trusting him as a friend.

      1. John,

        I’m happy to rephrase. John has asked me in no uncertain terms to cease to have any contact with him whatsoever. In very strong and unmistakable language he asked me to honor that request. I assumed that that meant here on MS too. Perhaps I was wrong about that.

        At any rate, John has refused to answer my question about his original post. Still! For no apparent reason. He says that he doesn’t trust me and won’t engage with me on this issue. Fair enough. Don’t engage.

        Does this make me a liar? All I can say is read the posts and decide for yourself. I am comfortable with my position.

        And I’m still happy to discuss the balance of probability favoring the hypothesis that Mormonism is true (is JD saying implicitly that he doesn’t?). But which is it? Does he want me to engage or not?! I’m confused.

          1. There is really something seriously wrong with that man. I mean very, very seriously. This is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. When someone asks or tells you to stop, and you dont, over and over and over again, ad nauseum, there is just something fundamentally wrong with you. No sense whatsoever of limits or boundaries. This is stalking behavior. John Dehlin, please stop telling Tyler to stop, and both stop using the word respect. There is no respect going on here, only harrassment. Tyler is a psychologically disturbed, predatory, abusive, negative-attention seeker, and ANY response you give him is food to him. NO MEANS NO.

        1. No, Tyler, you are not confused. You are obsessed. I have studied personality disorders long enough to recognize a narcissistic personality disorder/sociopath when I read one. Your only concern is yourself, your only objective is being right and self-agrandizement; you have no boundaries, no self-regulation or self-control. You are incessantly harrassing a person who has repeatedly asked you to leave him alone, and it is only a shame that he cannot obtain a virtual restraining order against you. If I were John Dehlin, and you were in my ward, I would be at the courthouse right now drawing up a legal injunction against you. And now I am telling you, for myself, whether it is my place or not, you toxic, toxic person, GO AWAY. NOW.

          1. I am not on Tyler’s side but that is a pretty quick and broad conclusion based upon a bit of nutty behavior. Reminds me a bit like Dr. Laura or Dr. Phil…5 seconds of history is all they need to come up with a diagnosis and treatment plan.

          2. I’ll take his side because I think some one should. I feel kind of sad when ever I see a person like this come into a forum and then get rebuffed as badly as he did. I wish ever one could contribute productively to the conversation. Something that was pushed in the MTC when I went on a mission was a technique called building a relationship of trust. Before a missionary could come in to some ones home and share their message they had to build a relationship of trust with who ever they where wanting to share it with. If a missionary came off abrasive or arrogant their message usually fell on deaf ears. Tyler may be a very intelligent person. I don’t know. But I could see his emotional and relational IQ in a forum could use some help. It is obvious that these are areas Tyler can work on in his life. He clearly has not fostered a trusting relationship with John D. for what ever reason. He came in here throwing the proverbial furniture around. When I engaged with him he called me a coward. He repeatedly ignored the suggestions and clues people where giving him. For that reason I will feel for him and hope for him the best in his life as he tries to correct some of his tendencies.

      2. Maybe you aren’t asking Tyler to stop posting here, but I am. This kind of petty back and forth is not productive. John, you are WAY TOO PATIENT with Tyler. I doubt I am the only one that wishes Tyler would just let it go…

  35. Tyler,

    You come off as mildly obsessed with JD. Although you do not state it, i doubt i am alone in perceiving you have some anger toward him. To help readers understand your motives, might you share whether my perception is accurate and maybe get some of that anger out? Do yoh think JD is a wolf in sheeps clothing? A wolf in wolf’s clothing? Do you feel personally threatened by him in some way? Just curious.

  36. In regard to Mr. Dehlin’s comments concerning the future impact of the essays that are the subject of his post, I venture a hypothesis concerning the reasons that apologetics, in general, sometimes exhibit a damaging effect upon faith. While my hypothesis may be nothing but a statement of the obvious, I am unaware of it having been previously explicitly stated in the context of the current LDS upheaval of the past two decades, and I believe that it bears explicit stating, at least once, somewhere. The hypothesis is that, when apologetics damages faith, it does so because it increases the certaintly that the best evidence to be had in favor of faith is inferior to the available evidence against faith.

    If a person who found themselves in possession of evidence against faith were to find no advocates laboring in favor of faith, that person could reasonably wonder whether strong, or at least mitigating, evidence and arguments could be offered in favor of faith. But, when apologetic advocates for faith present themselves, who appear to diligently and passionately labor to bring forward the best evidence and arguments that can be brought forward in favor of faith, there remains that much less room for such wonder.

    Thus, if the evidence and arguments proffered by such apologetics is found wanting, there may be, rationally speaking, little else to do but to concede that both sides of the issue have been vetted and the weight of the available evidence is against faith. Once this becomes clear, the nature of a person’s faith cannot, normally, remain that of simple, pure, undiluted belief, whether or not that person is emotionally and psychologically constituted to prefer or favor faith. Most people cannot simultaneously possess both a strong belief in a proposition and a belief that the weight of the vetted evidence is against that proposition. To do so would require an act of will against reason, an act of conscious irrationality. (This is not to say that some kind of diminished hope might not reasonably remain.)

    And, when the object of such faith is associated with a wealthy church having millions of members, universities, seminaries and institutes, funded foundations, and a quorum of purported prophets, seers and revelators, all with a vested interest in bringing forward the best arguments and evidence that can be found on the side of faith, little doubt, indeed, will exist that the side in favor of faith has been as fully vetted as can be expected. In such circumstances, the perceived failure or inferiority of the apologetics will be seen (not unreasonably) as a serious crisis.

  37. The problem with the Race and the Priesthood essay is that the KJV makes no reference to skin color, nor to skin color being a sign of a curse. While many in the 19th C. may have believed this notion, it is only enshrined as scripture in Mormon scripture, both the Book of Moses and the Book of Mormon. My question is why, if the church is now disavowing this falsehood, why it still shows up in latter-day scripture.

    1. Duwayne Anderson

      indeed. That essay says this:

      “the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse..”

      But the Book of Mormon still says this:

      “And he [the Mormon god] had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.” [Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 5:21]

      Time to change the Book of Mormon. In the past, the Mormon Church has never asked the membership for a vote on changes to its scriptures (does that mean the scriptures are no longer “official”?). I wonder, if they change/omit 2 Nephi 5:21, if it’ll come up for a vote, or if it’ll be done by committee, as in the past.

        1. John dwire wrote: “You honestly can’t come up with a nuanced reconciliation?”

          Are you suggesting that an honest person has some sort of obligation to “reconcile” things for the sake of “reconciliation?” That seems to me the polar opposite of what an honest person should do.

          It seems to me that an honest person should try to observe things the way they are, as objectively as possible, and let the chips fall where they may.

          It seems to me that the dishonest folks are the ones who try to “reconcile” things for the sake of reconciliation. After all, some things really are at odds, and forced “reconciliation” in such cases is usually accomplished through some form of intellectual dishonesty.

          But if you believe that the comments in the essay and the statements in the Book of Mormon are honestly reconcilable, then don’t keep me in suspense. If you can make an honest argument for reconciliation, I’m all ears.

          1. Because of the absence of a perfect, cohesive philosophical basis for existence (for me anyway) I find reconciliation necessary.

          2. John Dwyer wrote: “Because of the absence of a perfect, cohesive philosophical basis for existence (for me anyway) I find reconciliation necessary.”

            Really? How do you reconcile cannibalism with Mormonism?

            Better yet, I’d like to see a rational explanation for your assertion. Why would a lack of “perfect, cohesive philosophical basis for existence” make reconciliation necessary?

        2. Maybe you and I John come from totally different backgrounds but I was raised in this religion and I attend this religion every week. Just last week I attended Gospel Doctrines class where nobody batted an eye when the lesson was taught assuming a literal Noah, flood, and ark. Yes, I attend every week and know what this religion teaches, to the 95%, every week. This religion does not make room for a nuanced reconciliation. It does not make room for a nuanced approach to authoritative texts, nor the authoritative proclamations of prophets, seers and revelators. The difference between you and I John is that I actually take the truth claims of the church seriously. I see the lay membership that actually do some of their own thinking, like you, as the ones that have to ultimately have to disregard bulwark theology and throw to the winds of irrelevancy, longstanding teachings that have forged the traditions and identity of the Church of Joseph Smith. Where’s your courage? At least we had the courage to respect what was a call of faith and reject it as we see it and leave it, if at least mentally, and chose not to be luke warm, a luke warm that deserves to be spewed out of everyone’s mouth for the unsatisfactory taste it leaves with its so called nuanced reconcile.

          1. If you ask a small child if stealing to feed a hungry child is wrong they generally will it is wrong to steal. If you ask an older child or an adult they will say that “it depends”

            Dealing with messiness, complexity and discomfort are signs of maturity (inside and outside of the “Church”)

          2. John Dwyer wrote: “Dealing with messiness, complexity and discomfort are signs of maturity (inside and outside of the “Church”)”

            Not when such dealings include cognitive dissonance and/or intellectual dishonesty.

            In the case of Mormonism and Mormon doctrine, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Book of Mormon, and the Pearl of Great Price all frame Noah’s flood in literal terms. Furthermore, Mormon prophets, seers, and revelators have used those scriptures to state categorically that the flood was literal. Consider the following article in the Ensign:

            “Not everyone throughout the modern world .. accepts the story of Noah and the Flood. Many totally disbelieve the story… …those who totally deny the historicity of Noah and the Flood and those who accept parts of the story—are persuaded in their disbelief by the way they interpret modern science. …There is a third group of people—those who accept the literal message of the Bible regarding Noah, the ark, and the Deluge. Latter-day Saints belong to this group. In spite of the world’s arguments against the historicity of the Flood, and despite the supposed lack of geologic evidence, we Latter-day Saints believe that Noah was an actual man, a prophet of God, who preached repentance and raised a voice of warning, built an ark, gathered his family and a host of animals onto the ark, and floated safely away as waters covered the entire earth. We are assured that these events actually occurred by the multiple testimonies of God’s prophets.” [Ensign, January 1988, “The Flood and the Tower of Babel”]


            Children are born atheists who don’t know how to lie. They grow up to become adults who worship all sorts of gods, and learn to become expert liars. It does come with maturity, but it’s hardly a *sign* of maturity.

        3. Nuanced reconciliation works sometimes. Sometimes it just pushes the problem further into the future. We can reconcile the Race statement and the BoM by saying the Race statement only refers to black skin, not red skin. But this doesn’t solve the underlying problem of racial attitudes in the Church. It just pushes it aside somewhere that is safe for the moment. It weakens us even more for that very fact, because in an attempt to honestly confront the racism, we have used language and semantics to cleverly conceal racism at the same time, simply because we don’t want to have to also deal with the fact that our latter-day scripture contains the same kind of language we want to move away from. There is no reconciliation in this case. Only open and honest confession. And frankly, I don’t see anyone who has the authority to do that wanting to do that.

  38. It is good the actual church is involved. Sure they spin it their way but it would be silly and naive to think they would not. I am delighted the church is distancing itself from it’s racist past. I just wish Mormons, Christians, Jews and Muslims could all join in condemning many of the wicked, evil, and psychotic actions and beliefs of the Old Testament god Yaweh.

    1. Duwayne Anderson

      Ryan wrote: “It is good the actual church is involved.”

      But are they official? Whenever a critic quotes something from church history, Mormon apologists will typically respond by saying one (or both) of the following:

      1) That was just the opinion of the person speaking.
      2) It wasn’t doctrine because the church didn’t vote on it.

      The apologists will say these things even if it was a prophet of the church speaking in General Conference.

      But who wrote the essays? There’s no names that I can find. Have the essays been voted upon by the church? How does an unsigned document count as official doctrine? And if the essays are not official, how can they supplant/contradict earlier statements made by the First Presidency?

      Ryan wrote: “I just wish Mormons, Christians, Jews and Muslims could all join in condemning many of the wicked, evil, and psychotic actions and beliefs of the Old Testament god Yaweh.”

      I totally agree with you, Ryan. The stories of the O.T. were the genesis for my departure from Mormonism because I refused to believe that the true God could do all the things attributed to Yaweh. At first, I assumed that those parts had not been “translated correctly.” But my Mormon leaders assured me that they were. Furthermore, Mormonism (at least) uses many of the atrocities in the OT as teaching material for illustrating lessons in obedience. It’s horrible. It’s immoral. And for me it was the crack that let in the first rays of light that shown on the fraud of Mormonism.

      1. I presume these essays will be left ambiguous as far as “official” goes to give leeway for apologists to play the very games you speak of if they need to. I had to chuckle at your two examples of what apologists say because of how often they really do play those cards. But I do think it is time for the church itself to address those. They are nameless (I assume some BYU professors or someone in church historical department actually wrote them with approval from high authorities) and left ambiguous if they are “official”, but still a good starting point at least.

        1. Duwayne Anderson

          I agreed with you until your closing comment. This doesn’t look like a starting point so much as just the same old game.

  39. You could be right for sure Duwayne, in fact I it is a game I agree (I think that is what religion is). But I agree with John in the one point that the church has for a while now depended on apologists to play the game on their behalf but are at least getting involved to some degree now. But your criticisms about it being official and who wrote them is spot on.

  40. There are many ways for church members to react when they become aware of the difficulties with LDS church history and the reality that church leaders are more fallible than was supposed.

    As a young returned missionary my worldview was that the church was lead by apostles and prophets who were in contact with Heavenly Father. This meant that the decisions, teachings, and directions of church leaders were the mind and will of the Lord.

    In the early 1970’s, I persuaded an in depth study of church history and doctrine. I was interested in becoming a religion teacher and even dreamed of the time I might teach at BYU.

    I can remember the heartache and disappointment I felt each time my studies revealed something new about church history and doctrine that raised questions with my worldview.

    I was compelled to rethink my worldview. As I pondered and prayed about what the new information meant for me, I realized it would take time to sort things out.

    Though my worldview of the church was challenged, my spiritual view was intact and wasn’t affected. Before my mission, I was a solider having been drafted during the Viet Nam conflict. Prior to being drafted I hadn’t gone to church since the 8th grade. I took up the ways of the world in the 1960’s.

    In army basic training I realized I was going to be put in harm’s way. This sobered me up and I decided to find out if there was anything to the Book of Mormon and the Joseph Smith stories I had heard growing up. I decided to pray for the first time in many years. Within a few hours I had my answer. My answer to prayer came in a way like Alma the younger experienced, different, but as powerful in that there was no way to rationalize it away.

    With my spiritual view as my bedrock foundation the challenge of my worldview of the church wasn’t a crisis for me.

    As time went on, I applied the Book of Mormon and other scriptures to form a new worldview of the church and church leaders. I saw that church leaders are like the prophets in the Book of Mormon. They are human, make mistakes, and have to deal with issues and circumstances as best they can. Take Lehi as an example, he is a prophet with a dysfunctional family on the Lord’s errand, but ultimately the work of the Lord gets done.

    Our day is no different than Lehi and the other prophets. We live in a fallen telestial world. The scripture paint the picture, this is a place of difficulty and trial (Mosiah 23:21). The laws of a fallen world don’t allow for the worldview some leaders and members have. The laws of a fallen telestial world requires that there be “opposition in all things”.

    If every decision, everything ever written, everything ever said by the apostles and prophets from Joseph Smith to the present day were exactly what the Savior would have decided, written, and said it would be contrary to the laws of a fallen telestial world.

    Church leaders and members need to establish a worldview that is in harmony with the scriptures—there is opposition in all things—the Lord is leading His prophets based on the laws of a fallen world, yet church members can have confidence the Lord’s work will eventually get done as we’ve been promised.

    Would Nephi have been as great a prophet if he hadn’t had Laman and Lemuel for brothers? Likewise, opposition in all its forms allows church members a leg-up spiritually if they will abide the day faithfully and learn to draw near unto the Lord and rely on Him for help as Nephi did.

    1. It is great you have such a strong opinion of the Book of Mormon and the church. I actually envy you. I love the Book of Mormon but its origin is rather problematic, as is the sociology, psychology, and theology of the church. Did Nephi really exist? I no longer believe he did. I don’t think the B of M is historical. Inspired? Maybe. It is about 20 percent plagiarized New Testament. How wrong can a prophet be and still be one? I am pretty sure JS fell if he ever was one and I don’t think Brigham Young ever was one. What a wicked, wicked man. So I have a hard time sitting in church on Sunday listening to sanitized, whitewashed narratives and all the good quotes from prophets. I just want to talk about Christ. It seems we are worshiping the church, more than our Lord and Savior.
      In studying church history extensively, it seems it was far more about committees of men coming up with ideas than inspiration. The latest essays hidden on are such a low blow to anyone intellectually inclined that it is shocking.
      I see a lot of people zealously following programs in the church, but mostly I feel like I am yoking myself with unbelievers who actually have little faith, tons of fear and don’t really rejoice over their God and his goodness and wonder. I am on my knees often and feel very validated to walk away. It is amazing how we all have such different experiences.

      1. Amelia,

        I can understand your position. Without the intervention of spiritual manifestations I’ve been given I don’t think I would be active in the church.

        The only thing I can say is to look to God for answers. I did and for whatever reason I was answered in a way that doesn’t leave room for doubt.

        I see church leaders as fallible men who are called of God and will ultimately accomplish his will. Church history is a provides a twofold perspective: miracles juxtaposed with human judgment.

        LDS church history is rife with miracles along side of men of their times doing the best they could.

        When you look at their motives for doing those things that today we question you come away with the perspective that Richard Bushman sees in his book Rough Stone Rolling.

        1. Duwayne Anderson

          Amelia wrote: “I was answered in a way that doesn’t leave room for doubt.”

          When someone says they have no room for doubt, doubt them all the more.

          1. Duwayne–

            Think about the logic in your comment. No one in their right mind would be successful in any endeavor following your reasoning.

            For example, apply that kind of thinking as a student in college and see where it would take you.

            You can say you don’t believe something and leave it at that.

          2. Duwayne Anderson

            Jared wrote: “For example, apply that kind of thinking as a student in college and see where it would take you.”

            I think it would serve students very well. You apparently think it wouldn’t. Care to explain why?

          3. Jared, I think you are confusing two different things. There is no doubt in my mind that you are sure that you had an experience that you value. When you say “I was answered in a way that doesn’t leave room for doubt” I believe that that is a very real thing to you, and very valuable to you. However when you imply that an external source, external to your brain manipulated some sort of physical experience that had to have happened in order to register a biological/chemical awareness inside the chemistry of your brain, then that is a different thing altogether.

            I have no doubt that you think you have had a transcendent (spiritual in Mormon parlance) experience but think about it, if you say it comes from an external source, now you are making a claim about the natural world, and you are now in the purview of things we can measure, observe, and test, and your claim to be the recipient of external communications from sentient beings can be judged and critiqued and evaluated. Inside the Book of Mormon are physical claims of the natural world that can be evaluated by physical means. The Book of Abraham can be evaluated by physical means as again,these are claims about the natural world. Polygamy is not a claim about the natural world but we can measure its effects and health upon those who adhere to its practice. The best and only method that objectively evaluates these claims and the only method so far that has proven time over for helping us understand the physical nature of reality is the scientific method. I realize that Moroni 10 has given us another epidemiological method of knowing reality, but because it has not shown to be repeatable, reliable, nor real world testable, it shows itself an illegitimate data gathering method. One of the greatest aspects of the scientific philosophy is the room, no the absolute need for doubt, for not knowing, for gaps of knowledge. It is these things that keeps science fresh, dynamic, alive. Our church values its “already knowing truth”, not wanting to test nor criticize conclusions, even eschewing study outside of approved sources. Science welcomes challenge, and does not try to do an “end around” all of the hard work of establishing hypothesis’ testing, experimenting and tenacious attempts at falsification to eventually establishing theory, realizing at the end of the day when the best work is presented, it still realized that the best it will ever do is tentative, and can be modified when the data demands it. Doubt is important to the expanding of human knowledge, and is the driver of discovery, and it is science that has really done the heavy lifting to the alleviation of human suffering, whereas ideology that has no room for doubt is exactly that, ideology. As a side note and don’t be confused, it is ideology that drops bombs, pursues eugenics, racial purity, not science, although it (ideology) will employ science to achieve its means.

            So when somebody says no room for doubt, you can see the yellow flags go up with anyone who understands how we truly expand human knowledge. There is no doubt that you had an experience. There’s no “doubt” you value it. However there is plenty to doubt when you assume it came from an external source as much evidence and repeatable experiment can reproduce in the brain what you’re talking about. You think that a devout Muslim hasn’t said your exact words? Is he less sincere? Deceived? You’d be much more interesting, at least to most of the world outside of orthodox religion and the once a month Mormon fast and sanctimony meeting if you’d use less hubristic terms of “I know” and “without doubt”, and more words like “believe” and “hope”, lest you actually want to be the ideologue.

          4. John, when/if my comment comes out of moderation will you change “epidemiological” to “epistemological”.

            Thanks Dawg,

            woof woof

          5. FYI, I’m not participating anymore. John said I’m dominating the conversation. Just saying — didn’t want you to think I was dropping out of the conversation on purpose, or ignoring your comments.



  41. Duwayne-

    I searched your name on this thread and found 42 hits. Your a busy man. However, I will have to pass on the exchange. I think we understand one another. Isn’t the ultimate objective of communication–silence.

    1. Jared wrote: “I searched your name on this thread and found 42 hits.”

      Interesting — you have time for that, but not for productive conversation.

      Jared wrote: “Isn’t the ultimate objective of communication–silence.”

      Nope. I don’t think so.

  42. “ultimate objective of communication–silence”

    Carrying on the persistence of doubt may no longer be productive.
    The Tribals bicker but the Saints Know it will all be sorted out in the end.

    it is concluded,
    Thant’s a wrap.

    “I have spoken.”
    Ephima Morphew

  43. I am no accomplished theologian and yet I have to wonder. I do not expect apostles and prophets to be perfect men. We all are fallible and live in an imperfect world. Yet to speak for God is quite the issue for me. To speak “as prophet” in the name of the Lord and have it be only yourself is quite an issue for me. We want to rationalize that God works with imperfect and fallible men to eventually accomplish his will; then we justify the church restored based on a great and evil apostasy. Why did the idea of God accomplishing his will with imperfect and fallible people not work with the original church and the generation and those immediately following Christ in the flesh were not good enough; but now God will see it through no matter what fallible “prophets” say and do. It seems like a double standard that we are judging ourselves and our generation by a different standard than so many who lived far greater dangers by their faith. I am just not sure anymore the restoration was what I was brought up to believe it was.

  44. To John Dehlin,
    A great assessment. If we want to “hasten the work” from our angle by proclaiming the truth and nothing but the truth so God help us, we would need to collaborate more to be noticed. Would you be the one that has the most supporters ? Can you release how many have filled in the online survey at the current date ?

  45. Prophets and apostles who claim they are speaking for the lord and are only relaying their opinions is a gross sin. This is what I would like the church and this discussion to address. To claim your thoughts and opinions are revelatory because of your title is conceptual revelation. The RLDS (Community of Christ) made this leap some years ago and they are dwindling into non-existence. If we now are claiming that our apostles and prophets are giving us conceptual revelation, we are traveling down the same road and likely have been for some time. I cannot see that John the Baptist, Moses, etc. were conceptual revelators. Councils of church leaders have done the best they could for centuries and attributed their decisions to the holy ghost. How are the LDS leaders any different than the many ecumenical councils that have met over the centuries and governed by unanimous decisions? The heart of the matter to me is that if the LDS church claims true priesthood authority and revelation; why are there so many historical disasters in non-truth being given in the name of God. I converted to the LDS church on a claim of authority and revelation and frankly I am furious to find this is not the case and I was duped.

    1. John said, “The heart of the matter to me is that if the LDS church claims true priesthood authority and revelation; why are there so many historical disasters in non-truth being given in the name of God.”

      I can understand the frustration John relates here. Many church members are dealing with the same concerns. In response, I hope they will buckle down and really apply themselves to study, prayer, and fasting and prayer instead of becoming “furious”.

      When a crisis comes into our lives, be what it may, I’ve learned in my own life and by observing others the best way to deal with a crisis is to diligently seek God’s help.

      Alma taught his son, “…I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions…” (Alma 36:3).

      My experience is that God will respond. I have found the following verse fulfilled in my life:

      Ask the Father in my name, in faith believing that you shall receive, and you shall have the Holy Ghost, which manifesteth all things which are expedient unto the children of men (D&C 18:18).

      I’m reevaluating my thoughts on the fallibility of prophets. I have no doubt they are prophets, called of God, but I’m beginning to realize they may be more fallible than I have hitherto supposed.

      I don’t find any “historical disasters” in LDS church history that are any greater than what the scriptures reveal about churches and prophets in the passed.

      Consider Alma the older. He started a church and led his church members away from king Noah only to be brought in slavery. Imagine how they must have felt. Try likening their situation to ours.

      Heavenly Father has given us the scriptures for a reason. Those who have diligently searched them understand our current situation and know where to put their trust. Mosiah, chapters 23-24, provides today’s church members with all they need to know to deal with the current difficulties we’re experiencing. Pay particular attention to Mosiah 23:21.

    2. “The heart of the matter to me is that if the LDS church claims true priesthood authority and revelation; why are there so many historical disasters in non-truth being given in the name of God.”

      I totally agree John…where is the divine behind the PR disasters of polyandry, denying Blacks the Priesthood, Book of Abraham…?

      My wife and I are just trying to focus on what we believe…which is a bit uncertain. There are beautiful aspects of Mormonism, but the one and only true church stuff, we threw overboard. What a horrible, painful process. I wish you way more than luck on your journey.

  46. Is there anyone here who thinks the Church would have willingly come forward to talk about any of this? Their whole history is shrouded in secrecy, misrepresenting the facts, secret police and “strengthening the membership” committees.

    These essays as most of us can tell are just barely telling the truth so they can say they did something. But notice, half truths and not saying who it is that has written these articles, no one wants to be responsible.

    People who have the truth don’t need to lie or whitewash anything. I just watched a youtube video about Dwight Eisenhower. On D-day, he was fully prepared to accept total responsibility if the landings had failed. He was a man of integrity and conviction.

    As for “repenting” of any of this, knowingly committing callous fraud while pretending to be men of character would take years of prison in my mind. This isn’t a religion. It’s a corporation masquerading as a spiritual institution. These guys would steal candy from babies and justify it.

  47. I have decided to return. I never thought they would admit mistakes or do these essays. I’d like to see more, but I feel it’s a good time to go back. They need to speak of Smith’s infidelities.

  48. AnnMarie Blodgett

    Hey John,
    I’m following you on FB, but because of your settings I can’t respond to your posts. I greatly enjoy reading your things and I’d like to respond. I sent you a friend request but it’s still pending and I can’t email you as it’s not listed on your profile. Thank you for your amazing writings and courage. I can’t say I’m 100% with you on everything, but I totally see where you’re coming from.

    AnnMarie Blodgett

  49. When I was taught about the Church in 1974, I was taught by the missionaries that “the Church was a restoration of the original Church” and what differentiated it from other Churches was “apostles and a prophet”.The Church was led and guided by Jesus Christ. I remember a scripture about “what else will the Lord do but through his prophet.”
    I remember another scripture, “whether by mine own voice or the voice of my servants, it is the same.”
    Then I was taught that the important thing was “continuous revelation” which I thought would be profound and important.
    So if the LDS Church was the answer to Joseph Smith’s original question to the Father and Son as to which Church he should join and since the Lord replied “they’re all wrong”, “what’s so different?” is my question and why would the “true Church” want to become a part of the Christian community? Since 1974, 40 years later, I have yet to see even one meaningful revelation or was having the members clean the Church buildings an example of on going revelation? I don’t want my tithing back, (though I sure could use it now), I want my life back.

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