Part 64: CES Letter Other Concerns/Questions [Section F]

by Sarah Allen

Picking up the next portion of the “ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM” topic heading, Jeremy begins with a quote from President Oaks:

Elder Dallin H. Oaks made the following disturbing comment in the PBS documentary, The Mormons:

“It is wrong to criticize the leaders of the Church, even if the criticism is true.”

Since Jeremy’s source is a private video that is unavailable to view, and it’s been a very long time since I watched that PBS special, so I had to hunt it down. It’s nearly four hours long divided into two parts, which you can view here and here. [Note: It definitely has a bias against the Church, so prepare for that if you’re going to watch it.] The time stamp of the quote in question is in part 2, at about 2 minutes, 8 seconds in (and thank you to Reddit user WooperSlim for helping to narrow that time down, as I didn’t have time to watch the entire documentary this week). I also found a transcript of President Oaks’s interview at the Newsroom.

For the context of this particular quote, he says the following:

HW: You used an interesting phrase, “Not everything that’s true is useful.” Could you develop that as someone who’s a scholar and trying to encourage deep searching? 

DHO: The talk where I gave that was a talk on “Reading Church History” — that was the title of the talk. And in the course of the talk I said many things about being skeptical in your reading and looking for bias and looking for context and a lot of things that were in that perspective. But I said two things in it and the newspapers and anybody who ever referred to the talk only referred to [those] two things: one is the one you cite, “Not everything that’s true is useful,” and that [meant] “was useful to say or to publish.” And you tell newspapers any time (media people) [that] they can’t publish something, they’ll strap on their armor and come out to slay you! [Laughs.] 

I also said something else that has excited people: that it’s wrong to criticize leaders of the Church, even if the criticism is true, because it diminishes their effectiveness as a servant of the Lord. One can work to correct them by some other means, but don’t go about saying that they misbehaved when they were a youngster or whatever. Well, of course, that sounds like religious censorship also.

But not everything that’s true is useful. I am a lawyer, and I hear something from a client. It’s true, but I’ll be disciplined professionally if I share it because it’s part of the attorney-client privilege. There’s a husband-wife privilege, there’s a priest-penitent privilege, and so on. That’s an illustration of the fact that not everything that’s true is useful to be shared. 

In relation to history, I was speaking in that talk for the benefit of those that write history. In the course of writing history, I said that people ought to be careful in what they publish because not everything that’s true is useful. See a person in context; don’t depreciate their effectiveness in one area because they have some misbehavior in another area — especially from their youth. I think that’s the spirit of that. I think I’m not talking necessarily just about writing Mormon history; I’m talking about George Washington or any other case. If he had an affair with a girl when he was a teenager, I don’t need to read that when I’m trying to read a biography of the Founding Father of our nation. 

Do any of you find that “disturbing,” as Jeremy claims? I don’t. I think President Oaks is right that criticism of others weakens discourse, especially when talking about Church leaders. It does undermine their Priesthood authority and lessens their ability to do their job effectively. If people don’t trust their leaders, that means they aren’t able to lead the way they need to be able to do. And when you focus on someone’s flaws, it also lessens your ability to see them as a divine child of God. Instead of zeroing in on the bad and highlighting it for everyone to see, why not try looking for the good in someone?

The kind of negativity that criticism breeds also tends to make people dig in their heels. If you go on the attack, people are far less likely to listen to you than if you simply disagree and seek to hold an honest conversation. Instead, they’ll recognize the attack for what it is and get defensive. That’s not the way to win over hearts and minds. It drives people away instead of drawing them in.

President Oaks also didn’t say you couldn’t express your disagreement in other ways. He said in the bolded portion that “one can work to correct them by some other means,” but that criticizing them publicly is not appropriate. He was also correct that sometimes, things are not appropriate to share with a wider audience, such as the details of temple ceremonies.

I disagree somewhat in that, when reading a biography of someone, I like to learn about their teenage years. I think that helps inform their decisions as adults. It gives context, and you guys probably know by now that I’m a big fan of putting things in context. I’m also nosy and I like reading people’s stories, so I appreciate the smaller details even if President Oaks only wants the relevant information. And you’ll note that I was able to make that disagreement known without criticizing President Oaks or his opinion. His views on historical biographies are just as valid as mine are. We both clearly have different tastes, but we’re each entitled to state our own preferences and we can do that without attacking one another.

Let’s all remember President Uchtdorf’s very wise words from 2012:

I imagine that every person on earth has been affected in some way by the destructive spirit of contention, resentment, and revenge. Perhaps there are even times when we recognize this spirit in ourselves. When we feel hurt, angry, or envious, it is quite easy to judge other people, often assigning dark motives to their actions in order to justify our own feelings of resentment.

Of course, we know this is wrong. The doctrine is clear. We all depend on the Savior; none of us can be saved without Him. Christ’s Atonement is infinite and eternal. Forgiveness for our sins comes with conditions. We must repent, and we must be willing to forgive others. Jesus taught: “Forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not … [stands] condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin” and “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.”

Of course, these words seem perfectly reasonable—when applied to someone else. We can so clearly and easily see the harmful results that come when others judge and hold grudges. And we certainly don’t like it when people judge us.

But when it comes to our own prejudices and grievances, we too often justify our anger as righteous and our judgment as reliable and only appropriate. Though we cannot look into another’s heart, we assume that we know a bad motive or even a bad person when we see one. We make exceptions when it comes to our own bitterness because we feel that, in our case, we have all the information we need to hold someone else in contempt.

… This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following:

Stop it!

It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children. God is our Father. We are His children. We are all brothers and sisters. I don’t know exactly how to articulate this point of not judging others with sufficient eloquence, passion, and persuasion to make it stick. I can quote scripture, I can try to expound doctrine, and I will even quote a bumper sticker I recently saw. It was attached to the back of a car whose driver appeared to be a little rough around the edges, but the words on the sticker taught an insightful lesson. It read, “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.”

We must recognize that we are all imperfect—that we are beggars before God. Haven’t we all, at one time or another, meekly approached the mercy seat and pleaded for grace? Haven’t we wished with all the energy of our souls for mercy—to be forgiven for the mistakes we have made and the sins we have committed?

Because we all depend on the mercy of God, how can we deny to others any measure of the grace we so desperately desire for ourselves? My beloved brothers and sisters, should we not forgive as we wish to be forgiven?

That goes not only for each of us in our personal lives, but in regard to our Church leaders as well. We can disagree with them and with each other, but we have to stop judging and criticizing one another. Remember, the Savior pled with us to “be one.” We can’t do that if we’re focusing on each other’s faults.

Jeremy continues:

Elder Quentin L. Cook made the following comment in the October 2012 General Conference:

Some have immersed themselves in internet materials that magnify, exaggerate, and in some cases invent shortcomings of early Church leaders. Then they draw incorrect conclusions that can affect testimony. Any who have made these choices can repent and be spiritually renewed.”

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said the following in his CES talk “What is Truth?”:

“… Remember that in this age of information there are many who create doubt about anything and everything at any time and every place. You will find even those who still claim that they have evidence that the earth is flat. That the moon is a hologram. It looks like it a little bit. And that certain movie stars are really aliens from another planet. And it is always good to keep in mind just because something is printed on paper, appears on the internet, is frequently repeated or has a powerful group of followers doesn’t make it true.”

I think these are excellent pieces of advice. We shouldn’t believe everything we read, and just because a lot of people believe it doesn’t mean it’s true. If we constantly read material that criticizes Church leaders, especially when we can’t confirm its veracity, we can damage our testimony—and if we then share that information with others, we can damage their testimonies, too.

Elder Cook’s comment about repenting is part of a larger discussion:

In one of the most profound verses in all of scripture, Alma proclaims, “If ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?”

Local leaders across the world report that when viewed as a whole, Church members, especially our youth, have never been stronger. But they almost always raise two concerns: first, the challenge of increased unrighteousness in the world and, second, the apathy and lack of commitment of some members. They seek counsel about how to help members to follow the Savior and achieve a deep and lasting conversion.

This question, “Can ye feel so now?” rings across the centuries. With all that we have received in this dispensation—including the Restoration of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the outpouring of spiritual gifts, and the indisputable blessings of heaven—Alma’s challenge has never been more important.

… Today moral deterioration has escalated. … The constant portrayal of violence and immorality in music, entertainment, art, and other media in our day-to-day culture is unprecedented. … It is not surprising that some in the Church believe they can’t answer Alma’s question with a resounding yes. They do not “feel so now.” They feel they are in a spiritual drought. Others are angry, hurt, or disillusioned. If these descriptions apply to you, it is important to evaluate why you cannot “feel so now.”

Many who are in a spiritual drought and lack commitment have not necessarily been involved in major sins or transgressions, but they have made unwise choices. Some are casual in their observance of sacred covenants. Others spend most of their time giving first-class devotion to lesser causes. Some allow intense cultural or political views to weaken their allegiance to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some have immersed themselves in Internet materials that magnify, exaggerate, and, in some cases, invent shortcomings of early Church leaders. Then they draw incorrect conclusions that can affect testimony. Any who have made these choices can repent and be spiritually renewed.

It’s an excellent talk, and Elder Cook is right: there are a lot of things in this world that can draw us away from the Spirit, and part of that is indeed wallowing in the criticism of Church leaders. When we immerse ourselves in that kind of negativity, it has an effect. That effect is to make your doubts grow and your faith decrease. It destroys testimonies when left unchecked, and there’s no way to avoid that when that’s the kind of thing you constantly surround yourself with. It’s why President Nelson recently advised us to stop rehearsing our doubts with other doubters instead of relying on God.

So, what are Jeremy’s objections to these quotes? Well, there are a lot of them. He goes on for another two pages, and that’s not even the end of this topic header. It’s just the rest of this “Researching ‘Unapproved’ Materials on the Internet” subheading we’re under. There’s so much of it, we probably won’t get through this entire subheading today, but we’ll do as much as we can fit. The Letter picks up here:

Why does it matter whether information was received from a stranger, television, book, magazine, comic book, napkin, and yes, the internet? They are all mediums or conduits of information. It’s the information itself, its accuracy, and its relevance that matters.

Nobody but Jeremy said it matters where the information was received. President Uchtdorf was simply saying that a lot of information on the internet is unvetted, so you need to be wary. Don’t trust everything you read, but research it for yourself. Ironically, he agreed with Jeremy on this point: it’s the truth that matters.

Unfortunately, it can be hard sometimes to find the truth. Not every source is equal. Learn how to vet those sources, and learn how to study with the Lord’s help. Learn how to recognize source bias, and ask yourself what the intention of the author is. Is it trying to help your testimony or hurt it? It is trying to teach the truth or spread gossip? Can the information shared be backed up by documentation or is it just opinion masquerading as fact?

These things matter, especially when talking about the Church. Remember the talk we discussed last week from President Packer? When you leave the Spirit out of Church history, you’re only telling part of the story. It’s an inaccurate, incomplete history. And as President Nelson said, we need to choose to believe. He taught, “Study with the desire to believe rather than with the hope that you can find a flaw in the fabric of a prophet’s life or a discrepancy in the scriptures.”

If you’re looking to find fault, that’s what you’re going to find. If you’re looking for reasons not to believe, you’ll find those, too. But the reverse is also true: if you’re looking for reasons to believe, you will find them as well. Our faith in the Gospel can and does play a role in what we get when we study Church history. And when we listen to the Holy Spirit, He will guide us to the truth we’re seeking.

And if the Church leaders thought that information on the internet could never be trusted, why would they put up every talk, manual, and scripture verse on the internet? Why would thousands and thousands of documents, journals, letters, pictures, and biographies be online through the Church History Catalog and the Joseph Smith Papers Project, among other repositories? Why would General Conference be broadcast online? Why would the Church have an official YouTube channel? Why would the Church and all of the apostles have social media accounts?

Clearly, our leaders do not have a problem with the internet. They have a problem with misinformation on the internet. And anybody who is being honest with themselves knows full well that this is a problem that plagues our society today.

Jeremy moves to another quote here:

Elder Neil L. Andersen made the following statement in the October 2014 General Conference specifically targeting the medium of the internet in a bizarre attempt to discredit the internet as a reliable source for getting factual and truthful information:

“We might remind the sincere inquirer that Internet information does not have a ‘truth’ filter. Some information, no matter how convincing, is simply not true.”

How is that “bizarre”? How is it “discrediting the internet as a reliable source for getting factual and truthful information”? He simply said that not everything on the internet is true. Is Jeremy claiming Elder Andersen incorrect? Because I can find a lot of things on the internet that are demonstrably untrue. Here are 15 of them right here, including one rumor that the FDA approved a tranquilizer dart gun for parents to use to drug their kids at night. President Uchtdorf spoke above about flat-earthers and people who deny the moon landing, both of which are prominent communities on the internet. Is Jeremy claiming they’re correct in their beliefs? Because if it’s on the internet, it must be true, right?

No, that’s not how things work. There are a lot of things on the internet that are true, but there are also a lot of things online that are not true. That’s all Elder Andersen said, and pointing that out is not a “bizarre attempt” at anything other than stating a simple fact.

There’s a reason I tell you guys not to take my word for it, but to read my sources and verify that I’m citing them correctly. I could be lying or mistaken, and you wouldn’t know that unless you checked for yourself. You need to make sure that you’re trusting your own research and not just relying on mine or anyone else’s. We saw just a few weeks ago why that can be an issue—that Zina Huntington biography we discussed got a lot of things right, but it had an incorrect piece of information attributed to a source that didn’t say what the authors claimed it did, which numerous other sources subsequently cited without verifying. Don’t just blindly trust everything you read, guys.

He continues:

UPDATE: Ironically, the only way for members to directly read the Church’s admissions and validations of yesterday’s “anti-Mormon lies” is by going on the internet to the Gospel Topics Essays section of the Church’s website. The essays and their presence on have disturbed and shocked many members—some to the point of even believing that the Church’s website has been hacked.

First, this is not ironic, since nobody said not to research things online.

Second, no, that’s not the only way for members to read those “admissions and validations.” It’s just the easiest way. They’ve been published for decades in books and magazines. Very, very little in the essays was new information to me, because I like to read Church history. I’d come across nearly all of that information before in other sources. We went through several of those admissions in other sections, like the ones about plural marriage, the Book of Abraham, the different accounts of the First Vision, the fact that Joseph used his personal seer stone during the Book of Mormon translation process, etc. None of that information was published for the first time in the Gospel Topics Essays. It’s just the first time some members found it.

Third, Jeremy has not backed up his claim that the essays have “disturbed and shocked” many members to the point of their thinking the website was hacked. I know some people were upset by the content of the essays, including one of my own close family members who has since left the Church. But I’m not aware of anyone claiming that the website was hacked or that the Church didn’t really publish them, and I know many more members who were not bothered by them at all. If Jeremy’s going to make claims like that, he needs to back it up with evidence.

With all this talk from General Authorities against the internet and daring to be balanced by looking at what both defenders and critics are saying about the Church, it is as if questioning and researching and doubting is now the new pornography.

Except that nobody spoke out against using the internet, questioning, researching, having doubts, or even about looking at both sides of the discussion. The internet is the world’s primary mode of communication today. It’s where we do the bulk of our research on any given topic. It’s where we spend a great deal of our time. And its information—more information at our fingertips than any society has ever had in the entire history of the world—is not vetted for truthfulness before it’s put online. Some of that information is true, but some is not, and we need to learn how to tell the difference. Jeremy has not quoted anyone saying never to go online or trust anything the internet says.

Jeremy has also not quoted anyone saying not to look at what both defenders and critics of the Church have to say. I pointed out just last week that I look at things from a wide variety of sources, both pro- and anti-LDS, while researching these posts. I have cited documents critical of the Church as sources on more than one occasion. Sometimes, I post sources with conflicting views to give different perspectives. I have explained at length how I evaluate and rank sources. I have praised Dan Vogel’s Early Mormon Documents series, even though I don’t think his conclusions about the Book of Abraham or the Church’s truth claims are correct.

There is nothing wrong with reading sources critical of the Church provided you also do two other things: A) balance out your research with equal time viewing material that defends the Church; and B) know how to course-correct if you find the negative material is starting to damage your testimony.

Prepare yourself before you dive in head first. Make sure you’re properly defended before you go into enemy territory. Shore up your defenses before you go into battle. Make sure you know First Aid before you allow your faith to take a hit. Give yourself a strong foundation before the storm comes. If you take precautions, critical material might make you roll your eyes, but it’s not going to make you lose your testimony.

And just remember what we discussed above: what we surround ourselves with has an effect on us. If all you’re reading is negative, then your testimony is going to start reflecting that. If you notice that your faith is starting to waver, get on your knees and ask Heavenly Father to direct you back onto the right path. Go back to shoring up your defenses and building that foundation until you’re ready for more.

Don’t dive in before you’re ready, but don’t allow fear to keep you from learning more about the Church or the Gospel, either. You do not need to fear Church history or critical sources if you know how to evaluate them. Just be careful. That’s all these General Authorities are trying to say.

Jeremy continues:

Truth has no fear of the light. President George A. Smith said:

“If a faith will not bear to be investigated; if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak.” — Journal of Discourses 14:216

The full quote, as given in the Journal of Discourses, is:

If a faith will not bear to be investigated; if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak. Those who come into the Church of Latter-day Saints, if they are faithful, learn in a short time, and know for themselves. The Holy Spirit and the light of eternal truth rest down upon them, and you will hear them, here and there, testify that they know of the doctrine, that they are acquainted with and understand it for themselves.

We do not have the original shorthand transcript of this sermon so we can’t be entirely sure this is fully accurate, but it’s still a pretty good quote. I think he’s absolutely right: if people investigate this church and pray over its truthfulness, the Holy Ghost will testify to them that it’s true.

Again, because Jeremy is implying that our leaders are telling us not to investigate for ourselves, it’s important to point out that this quote does not say that. Nor do any of the prior quotes he listed. Jeremy is, in fact, leaving out the very most important part of this quote, which says to rely on the Holy Spirit and the light of eternal truth to testify of the truth. If you’re not relying on the Spirit while you study, you’re going to have a much harder time deciphering fact from fiction when it comes to the Church and its leaders.

A church that is afraid to let its people determine for themselves truth and falsehood in an open market is a church that is insecure and afraid of its own truth claims.

Agreed, but our church is not one of them and none of these quotes say otherwise.

Under Elder Cook’s counsel, FairMormon and unofficial LDS apologetic websites are anti-Mormon sources that should be avoided.

Nope. Elder Cook’s counsel said nothing of the kind. To requote the paragraph in question, he said, “Many who are in a spiritual drought and lack commitment have not necessarily been involved in major sins or transgressions, but they have made unwise choices. Some are casual in their observance of sacred covenants. Others spend most of their time giving first-class devotion to lesser causes. Some allow intense cultural or political views to weaken their allegiance to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some have immersed themselves in Internet materials that magnify, exaggerate, and, in some cases, invent shortcomings of early Church leaders. Then they draw incorrect conclusions that can affect testimony. Any who have made these choices can repent and be spiritually renewed.”

His counsel was not to avoid researching the Church, its history, its leaders, or its doctrine. His counsel was simply not to wallow in negative materials that exaggerate, lie, or heavily focus on the flaws of early Church leaders. Balance it out with materials that highlight these same leaders’ strengths, positive actions, and powerful words. Don’t go out of your way to look for flaws, and instead, focus on things that will help improve your faith. FAIR and other “unofficial LDS apologetic websites” can give you the quotes and history in context, which helps you determine for yourself, with the Spirit’s help, what is true and what is not.

And again, there is no such thing as an “official” or “unofficial” apologist, just like there are no “Church-approved” or “unapproved” sources. There are just apologists, and there are just sources. The Church does not forbid you from studying any sources you want to study.

Not only do they introduce to Mormons “internet materials that magnify, exaggerate, and in some cases invent shortcoming of early Church leaders” but they provide asinine “faithful answers” with logical fallacies and omissions while leaving members confused and hanging with a bizarre version of Mormonism.

If Jeremy wants to claim that FAIR, the Interpreter Foundation, Book of Mormon Central, and other similar websites spend their time and bandwidth on heavily criticizing and lying about early Church leaders, he’s going to have to provide some evidence of that. But he doesn’t even attempt to do so. There is not even a smidgen of proof to back up this claim.

Whether their faithful answers to serious questions are “asinine” or not is a matter of interpretation, not fact, and it’s one I happen to strongly disagree with. Not only do they cite to official documents and scholarship, but they have many volunteers who use the Spirit to help teach those with questions.

And again, Jeremy does not offer any support of his claim that “they use logical fallacies and omissions to leave members confused and hanging with a bizarre version of Mormonism.” In fact, as I’ve pointed out repeatedly throughout this series, Jeremy routinely engages in logical fallacies, including the straw man argument today that our leaders supposedly told us not to use the internet. He also frequently omits portions of quotes and considerable context from them and other historical events in order to back up his claims. His version of the Gospel is twisted into nearly unrecognizable pretzels on numerous occasions, such as his description of the Spirit. If his description applies to anyone at all in this conversation, it is Jeremy himself, not FAIR, or the Interpreter, or BMC, or anyone else.

What about the disturbing information about early Church leaders and the Church which are not magnified, or exaggerated, or invented? What about the disturbing facts that didn’t come from the flat-earthers or moon-hologramers but instead from the Church itself?

Such as? We’ve covered a lot of controversial things in this series, and there are a lot of other controversial things out there. Some of it is a little disturbing, such as Mountain Meadows or some of the racist comments from those early Church leaders we’re talking about. But if you don’t expect your leaders to be perfect, and you recognize that even good people can and do make mistakes, it’s not faith-damaging to recognize that we all need the Atonement in our lives.

Are those facts invalid when someone discovers them on the internet?

Of course not. No one ever said anything of the kind. That’s just Jeremy’s twisted take on the advice not to believe everything you read. Once again, he’s relying on logical fallacies to try to score some points.

What happens when a member comes across the Church’s Book of Mormon Translation essay where they learn—for the first time in their lives—that the Book of Mormon was not translated with gold plates as depicted in Sunday Schools, Ensigns, MTC, General Conference addresses, or Visitor Centers?

I assume, if it was new information to them, they’d click on a few of the footnotes and read the source material. I also assume they’d recognize that art and history aren’t the same thing, and sometimes art that is based on history is not fully accurate. I also assume that if they’re upset by this information, they’d pray about it.

And, yet again, Joseph used the gold plates during the translation process. He just didn’t read from them the way Jeremy apparently believed he did.

Or the Church’s Race and the Priesthood essay where yesterday’s prophets, seers, and revelators are thrown under the bus over their now disavowed “theories”?

I hope they’d be able to recognize that isn’t what the essay does. People living in a different day and age had different information available to them than we do, and in the absence of direct revelation clarifying the matter, they came up with reasons why the Priesthood restriction was put in place. Those reasons turned out not to be correct, but nowhere in the essay do our current leaders throw any of those old leaders under the bus. The essay merely explains that those theories—and yes, they were theories, not doctrine—were incorrect. The language is not disparaging or casting blame. It is simply clarifying.

Or the Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham essay and that the Book of Abraham and its facsimiles do not match what Joseph Smith translated?

Hopefully, they’d realize something was off in their interpretation and read it a second time, because that isn’t at all what the essay says. The papyri scraps we have today do not match the contents of the Book of Abraham, but the Church has never claimed otherwise. Moreover, the scraps are not the long scroll that all of the eyewitnesses and Joseph himself claimed was the source material of the Book of Abraham. In fact, Joseph said that he did not translate the writing on the papyri beside facsimile 1. Additionally, many points of the facsimile translations align very well with names and concepts from ancient Egypt.

Or the Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo essay where they learn the real origins of polygamy and the disturbing details of how Joseph practiced it? That Joseph was married to other living men’s wives and girls as long as 14-years-old behind Emma’s back? That God sent an angel with a drawn sword threatening Joseph?

The origins of plural marriage discussed in the essay are exactly the same origins of plural marriage we’ve always been taught: that Joseph received revelation he had to practice it, that he resisted for several years, that an angel with a drawn sword threatened him until he gave in, and that plural marriage began in earnest in Nauvoo. None of that is information that wasn’t included in our manuals for years. I’m not aware of the angel with the drawn sword being brand new information to anyone. It has always been a central feature of the story.

And I don’t personally find any of the details we covered in the polygamy section to be disturbing. Joseph was not married to other men’s wives or 14-year-old girls, he was sealed to them, which is very different. He was not sealed or married to anyone who was not of legal marrying age, and there is no evidence whatsoever that Joseph engaged in sexual relations with any woman who was civilly married to anyone else, or with anyone under the age of 18.

We also don’t know whether any of it was behind Emma’s back, because we don’t know when she first learned about plural marriage. There are guesses, but they are just that: guesses. We do not know what Joseph told her or when he told her it. We know that she did know of plural marriage in Nauvoo, but we do not know the details of how or when she found out. We also don’t know how many times Joseph tried to tell her in the past, or whether she was aware of it prior to the Fanny Alger incident, or anything like that. Making declarative statements of fact about things that are unknown is dishonest.

Or any of the other troubling essays, for that matter?

Which essays are troubling, and what’s troubling about them? This is impossible to respond to without actual claims being made.

Is this member in need of repentance for discovering and being troubled by all the inconsistencies and deceptions?

What inconsistencies and deceptions? We’ve gone over everything Jeremy has, and while there are some minor differences in the First Vision accounts, perhaps, those are the only things that could even be considered inconsistencies. We have yet to uncover any deceptions. I’ve linked to multiple times and places where the Church published this very material in the past. So, unless Jeremy is going to get specific and lay out his evidence, and unless that evidence is better than what he’s come up with before, he has nothing.

And of course nobody is in need of repenting for reading Church history. Elder Cook never said that, as I showed in the context of his quote twice.

Why is the member required to repent for discovering verifiable facts and for coming to the same logical conclusion about the LDS Church’s dominant narrative

No one is required to repent for that, and Elder Cook never said they were.

that Mormon historian, scholar, and patriarch Richard Bushman did?

The dominant narrative is not true. It can’t be sustained.”

We’ve been over this. Brother Bushman phrased things poorly and was misunderstood. He tried to clarify his words repeatedly. He did not mean the Church was not true; he just meant there was more to the story than the basic outline we cover in Sunday School.

Most of the main information and facts that I discovered and confirmed online about the Church is now found from Church sources, Church-friendly sources, and neutral sources.

Same. The only difference is, the main information Jeremy supposedly learned about the Church bears little to no resemblance to the religion I and millions of other Saints have learned about. It’s a twisted caricature of the real thing.

“And it is always good to keep in mind just because something is printed on paper, appears on the Internet, is frequently repeated or has a powerful group of followers doesn’t make it true.”

Very wise advice from President Uchtdorf.

Exactly – the exact same can be said of Mormonism and

The beautiful thing about this claim is that it’s so very easy to vet for yourself. All you have to do is get on your knees and ask God if this His true Church. You just have to ask Him whether the material on the Church’s website is true or not. He’ll tell you. It’s that simple.


Sources in this entry:


Sarah Allen is brand new in her affiliation with FAIR. By profession, she works in mortgage compliance and is a freelance copyeditor. A voracious reader, she loves studying the Gospel and the history of the restored Church. After watching some of her lose their testimonies, she became interested in helping others through their faith crises and began sharing what she learned through her studies. She’s grateful to those at FAIR who have given her the opportunity to share her testimony with a wider audience.

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