General Conference is an important semi-annual event in the lives of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is a time that we hope our revered church leaders will provide us with edifying messages that will uplift and sustain us in the coming months. I went into last weekends conference really needing the nourishment that I have felt in conferences past.
I felt truly inspired by portions of the conference. I grieved with Elder Holland as he emotionally described the financial and spiritual privilege unavailable to so many in this world through no fault of their own. I marveled with Elder Uchtdorf at the light and truth we humans have come to know in the recent past and pondered with awe what discoveries, currently unfathomable, may soon be be brought forth.
Unfortunately, there were portions of the conference that were less than inspiring and, to me, were quite painful. Elder Neil L Andersen’s talk during the Saturday afternoon session was one of those times.
Why was this talk so difficult for me? Well, like many latter-day saints I have been traversing a difficult faith transition over the last year. In many ways it has been a good thing. I have emerged with much more realistic expectations of the LDS church and it’s leaders. After reading enough books to fill a small library I have begun to make peace with the fact that prophets are people just like us. Like us they make mistakes – sometimes serious mistakes. That does not mean they are not prophets. That means they are human.
Coming to grips with the humanity of latter-day prophets can be a traumatic experience for LDS church members who have grown up with an ivory tower view of those called to the highest leadership positions in the church. Quite often this realization results in the church member being thrown into what has been described as a “crisis of faith”. Discovering, for instance, that Joseph Smith was not always truthful to his wife Emma and church members, or that he sometimes used his authority as prophet to place undue influence on vulnerable people can have tragic affects ones simple faith.
Many who successfully navigate this tumultuous sea of information and remain in the church obligatorily become comfortable with the fact that prophets are less than perfect. That they, in fact, sometimes display stunning weakness.
Some find it difficult to accept the notion that modern day prophets could have made major mistakes. It is one thing to admit that Jonah sinned in his refusal to preach in Nineveh but much harder to make peace that an entire race was denied priesthood and temple ordinances due to Brigham’s racial prejudice. Millennia separate us from Jesus’ apostles dispute over who would be greatest in the kingdom of heaven, but we feel much less removed from the speech in which Joseph Smith claimed that, “I have more to boast of than ever any man had…The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.” (History of the Church, Volume 6, Chapter 19, Pages 408-411)
I have come to believe, that while painful, understanding the humanity of our leaders can be a step that results in a deeper, more complex faith. When thought about in certain lights the humanity of our leaders can even lead us to inspiring conclusions.
That is why I was saddened to hear Elder Andersen describe sincere seekers who experience doubt after discovering uncomfortable truths about the prophet Joseph Smith as being misled by “half truths and subtle deceptions.” He implied that those whose doubts have led them out of the church are the worst of traitors saying that, “Studying the church through the eyes of its defectors is like interviewing Judas to understand Jesus.” What stronger message could he send to members than comparing their doubting loved ones to the man who betrayed the Savior himself?
Elder Andersen failed to address the fact that there are legitimate unexplainable events, and even identifiable serious mistakes in the prophet’s past. He implied that only two types of negative information about Joseph Smith exist – out of context and patently false. He testified that Joseph was “an honest and virtuous man.” He left no room for a more nuanced view of of the prophet and his actions.
To Elder Andersen, having a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith is a simple matter. To nurture your testimony of Joseph he suggests that you, “Read the testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith in this pamphlet, now in 158 languages….This is Joseph’s own testimony of what actually occurred. Read it often.” If your testimony still needs a boost, “Consider recording the testimony of Joseph Smith in your own voice, listening to it regularly and sharing it with friends. Listening to the prophet’s testimony in your own voice will help bring the witness you seek.” So, in order to know if Joseph Smith was God’s true prophet who restored his one truth to the earth I should assume any negative information about Joseph is false, frequently read a pamphlet provided by the church, (which contains no explanations of the issues that have led members to question) then record Joseph Smith’s testimony contained in the pamphlet in my own voice and repeat it over and over until I believe it’s true?
I find Elder Andersen’s suggestion that we can know Joseph Smith was a prophet through repeatedly reading, recording, and listening to his testimony rather disturbing. One of the unfortunate foibles of humanity is that we can be convinced that pretty much anything is true through repetition. As Joseph Goebbels, one of Hitler’s closest aids and the Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany stated:
If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes truth.
If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.
I am not saying that Elder Andersen is lying. Repeat, I am not saying that Elder Andersen is lying. I am also not comparing anyone to Hitler or his propaganda. However, I am saying that convincing members to agree with an opinion through repetition is not an ethical practice. Testimony by repetition seems contrary to the method described by the Lord in Doctrine and Covenants 9:8 that “you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right…”
Elder Andersen told of an experience speaking with a recently returned missionary whose friend harbored doubts about the church. “Although I hoped he could strengthen his friend, I felt concerned for his own testimony.” Elder Andersen proceeded to compare members in the church to passengers on an airplane in an emergency. Capable people, he said, should be sure to have their oxygen masks in place before assisting those who are struggling. The message – Do not engage those who doubt the prophet Joseph until you have listened to his testimony enough times that you are sufficiently convinced that he was a true prophet.
Elder Andersen, I take exception with you advising my family and friends that my pointing out Joseph Smith’s humanity should make them fear conversing with me. Why should sincere seekers of truth fear accurate information? In the January 2014 Ensign James E Talmage was quoted as saying, “The man who cannot listen to an argument which opposes his views either has a weak position or is a weak defender of it. No opinion that cannot stand discussion or criticism is worth holding. And it has been wisely said that the man who knows only half of any question is worse off than the man who knows nothing of it. He is not only one sided, but his partisanship soon turns him into an intolerant and a fanatic. In general it is true that nothing which cannot stand up under discussion and criticism is worth defending.”
Concerning obtaining true information about Joseph Smith, Elder Andersen said, “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.” He fails to enlighten members by pointing out any controversial information that falls into this category of convincing, yet untrue information.
Elder Andersen then proceeds to tell those who doubt where to place their trust in obtaining answers to difficult questions. “…you need never doubt the testimony of God’s prophets.” We are to, apparently, assume all negative information about Joseph is false and trust that the utterances of our church leaders will always be accurate, perpetuating the myth of prophetic infallibility.
Why do we continue to put Joseph Smith on a pedestal as a “holy man, a righteous man…” when he himself denied ever being such? In fact quite to the contrary Joseph Smith said, “I don’t want you to think I am very righteous, for I am not very righteous.” (Manuscript History of the Church D-1, p. 1555-57) In Doctrine and Covenants 124:1 the Lord says, “…for unto this end have I raised you up, that I might show forth my wisdom through the weak things of the earth.”
With all due respect Elder Andersen, you are setting up many in the church membership for an epic crisis of faith when they discover that Joseph was not the infallible man you imply that he was. Joseph was a man first and, like other scriptural prophets, occasionally made serious mistakes. To quote Terryl Givens’ Letter to a Doubter, “Air brushing our prophets, past or present, is a wrenching of the scriptural record and a form of idolatry.”
If I were going to pick a hill to die on, Joseph Smith’s infallibility would not be it. You know the great thing for believing members? Your faith in the LDS church does not have to live or die on the concept of prophetic perfection! Members can revere Joseph as an inspired prophet, imperfections and all. As information becomes more available to members it is really the only way forward.
Can we not trust Joseph when he said he was “not a very righteous man”? Can we not take the Lord at his word that Joseph was one of the “weak things of the earth”?
Ponder this: If God could restore His church through a man as weak and imperfect as Joseph Smith just think what he could do with you or I?! To again quote Terryl Givens, “God specifically said he called weak vessels, so we wouldn’t place our faith in their strength or power, but in God’s.”
Elder Andersen, I plead with you to stop making statements that drive families apart with fear. Instead, help us remove unnecessary wedges between sincere truth seekers and their loved ones. As an organization that claims ultimate truth, the church needs to move beyond it’s fear of accurate historical information and shunning of those who doubt the claims of Mormonism as a result. Please, use your influence to encourage the church to be a place where families can be accepting and loving of all, regardless of ones faith or doubt.
Joseph Smith started this church in a sincere search for truth. Those who continue that search through asking hard questions are just like Joseph. Let’s make room for them in the church.
I have friends and family members who are scared to talk about the gospel with me now because I am openly not a TBM although I love the gospel with all of my heart. It is sad that messages like Anderson’s are followed and accepted when those with open eyes can see it is fearmongering and actually slander and defamation against anyone who leaves the church for any reason. This is why ex-mormons often get bitter. Good test of patience and love on both sides though.
Thanks for the comment.
This talk was a no win for everyone.
Those struggling with belief after coming across difficult information will find less acceptance from loved ones.
Believing members only familiar with correlated history will be primed for a crisis of trust with church leadership when they discover uncomfortable truths.
Hi! Along with Elder Andersen, I have received a testimony of Joseph Smith on many levels, including that of his virtue. This is important to me. I have been fooled before in my life. These days, there is enough published documentation to support virtue and the Lord’s admonition in all of Joseph’s difficult decisions, if you have faith. Like Mary, mother of Jesus, Joseph was put in a difficult position by the Lord. As someone with legal training and experience, with life experiences that include rebellious years outside of the Church, I know that it is possible to be or become a person of virtue with God’s assistance, and recognize it in others. Most historians who condemn Joseph’s actions either have lost their faith or never had it. Trust God that He would not have chosen a person without virtue to restore the Church and that, like Mary of old, Joseph did what he did by commandment, in spite of how it may appear to those who do not understand the context of God’s thinking. I think I have read it all – the evidence used to condemn Joseph’s character, many times. When the Choir sang “Praise to the Man” at the beginning of Sunday’s session, I was almost raised off of my feet, the Spirit was so strong for me. Greg in China
My concern was primarily for my teenage children and their peers listening. I was shocked by some of his suggestions for gaining a testimony, particularly the one to record yourself reading the JS testimony and listen to it repeatedly. It sounded like a recipe for psychological manipulation to me, and at some point in their lives, at least some of those who take his advice are likely to realise that and react accordingly. Really setting them up for future difficulties I thought.
I also wondered how on earth he could not be aware of how this sounded – really cult-like.
I was appalled.
There are two types of Mormons out there. Some who see things in a very black and white context/paradigm and others who see it in a more nuanced, grey context/paradigm. I feel that for the more black and white members, Elder Andersen’s talk was very well worded (I think he falls into this category). For those who see things differently and still have a strong testimony (like myself) these types of things do cause distress because we think of all the other Mormons out there who think like this and know their testimonies could be affected negatively.
There isn’t a quick easy answer to deal with the history of the church. I decided several years ago if I knew the gospel was true in my heart, what do I have to lose digging deeper into the church’s history and gospel? My testimony has been strengthened as a result and I love seeing the leaders of our church past and present (Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and Neil Andersen) in a context of good, righteous and flawed people trying their best like me. Joseph Smith isn’t a tall tale figure, and we shouldn’t treat his life as such.
It’s easy to criticize past leaders with 2014 social glasses in front of our eyes and pass judgment based on our own paradigm, which is why many end up leaving the church, but it’s also just as bad to intentionally ignore all facets of these human beings because they don’t look good enough in the court of public opinion.
“I am … afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security. … Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates.”
My favorite Brigham Young quote, and it’s not because I don’t sustain our leaders, but because sustaining doesn’t mean blindly go along with everything they say and never find out for yourself.
Your testimony is YOUR responsibility and no one else’s.
I love your comment. I believe if the church is going to keep members from leaving there will need to be more people like you – People willing to confront difficult truths and put them in context while maintaining a belief.
Jim, I really like your reply.
Excellent post and good points. I do wonder if my paradigm and your paradigm of reality is so different when compared to Elder Andersen’s that all of his talk makes sense to him. The LDS leadership obviously reviews and works on their addresses for a long time, so the cause of these apparent logical fallacies are probably deeply tied to the way he sees the world.
A negative way of looking at the talk would be to think that Elder Andersen knew he was spreading deception, but went ahead with it (referring here to your Nazi quote). I don’t believe this is the case, but I could see others that do.
This issue of paradigms is referenced in The Crucible of Doubt, by Terryl and Fiona Givens. They stated the following in while discussing the bad paradigms/preconceptions causing us to ask the wrong questions. (FYI – The Seventy referred to in the quote was B.H. Roberts)
My favorite part of your post:
Thanks for the comment Matt.
Having had no personal interaction with Elder Andersen, I have no idea how deep into uncorrected material his study has taken him. A lot of what he said would be easier for me to forgive if I could assume he is simply naive to some of the more difficult to understand details of Joseph Smith’s past. Given his level in the church that seems like a pretty big assumption to make.
Loved the Givens’book. Thank you for sharing that quote. Good points.
I don’t know how you were able to write this piece without blowing your lid and losing control. Anderson’s talk here encapsulates the worst in our culture and gives fuel to the “fear-based control” stereotype.
Nice articulating without losing it.
Thanks Greg. It took me a few drafts to come up with something that didn’t come across as me “blowing my lid”. Appreciate the feedback.
Completely agree with Greg. This was the second consecutive talk of Andersen’s that evoked a four-letter word from me while watching. The underlying messages here are downright destructive betray a complete blindedness of so many important issues.
Thanks for this. I try to find the best in each talk, but I must admit I found very little to recommend about this talk. He seemed more concerned with teaching members to try to convince themselves that something is true rather than to actually learn if something is true. I’m not sure if the part about recording your own voice giving a testimony and listening to it over and over was the most disturbing part, or the subtle attempts to demonize those with legitimate doubts over legitimate historical issues. In any case I don’t think this talk could do anything but cause harm to anyone listening to it.
With the church beginning to be more open with the JPP and the Gospel Topics essays I had hoped for a kinder more understanding towards doubters at general conference. This talk was a huge disappointment for me.
If you believe that Joseph Smith translated the plates, as I do, then all the ‘chat’ about prophets being human and infallible or not doesn’t really keep me awake at night…people however, that have extraordinary time on their hands to die-sect a talk only to make ‘comparisons’ to nazis…. Then to say “I’m not comparing” is a joke! at that point I stopped reading.
The comparison made was to demonstrate the concept that most people can be convinced of anything if it is repeated enough times. Do we want to encourage testimony through repetition?
I did not intend offense but understand it can be a sensitive subject. Thank you for the feedback.
This is just a response to the ongoing debate on FB, and a personal experience that sharpens the focus on ‘life’ and ‘death’
As I sit in mine and my husbands bedroom……my husband struggling with the end stages of brain cancer – me praying that my Heavenly Father might intervene, my husband doesn’t even believe in God…….and on FB some are faffing about a GA’s talk….. If you have faith then hang on to it! and if you do not-or-are in ‘crisis’ ,,,, one thing is for sure and that is death!! and as I watch my husband of 27yrs fade away I’d rather have faith in what is to come, (and not so much what has been said, or not said in a talk at conference) than be in ‘crisis’ as my husband is without faith. I guess what I am saying is get on with life!
By the way in answer to your question….there is nothing wrong with ‘repetition’ almost everything learned or gained is through repetition!
Jacob–to quote a Nazi in context of your point, and then to try and recuse yourself from making the comparison by explicitly saying you’re not comparing an Apostle with a Nazi is disingenuous.
It is shocking to see a Nazi in an article about an Apostle’s remarks. The point here is the methodology of helping others “believe”/”know” something through repetition is powerful and effective, but not the most rational and is blinding. It can lead to the acceptance of falsehood, because instead of studying out a subject fully and seeking spiritual confirmation, one is repeating a single way of thinking until they accept it.
Elder Andersen was not without some good points, take the following quote that I agree wholeheartedly with
Hasn’t anyone ever written your testimony down to be read and re-read at a later time? What about a Patriarchal Blessing? Have you introduced repetition there? Scriptures? What about the principal of repetition being applied during angelic ministrations (i.e. Moroni in Joseph’s room)? My two cents: I don’t think the method Anderson refers to is as strange as you make it out to be.
Something to consider for sure. Thanks for the comment.
How to tell if something is true.
Step 1: Tell yourself your doubt is you being mislead/misguided by half truths at best.
Step 2: a. Repeatedly tell yourself it is true, because those that rely on it being true tell you it is.
b. Those that rely on in it being true, and in authority positions can always be trusted.
c. Ignore any time said authority has made a mistake. Refer to step 1, you are probably misguided by a “half truth”
Step 3: Repeatedly tell other people it is also true.
Step 4: Enjoy the warm spirit feeling, and your shiny new testimony.
I just don’t see how anybody could receive this message very well. Granted, I sarcastically put it in a pretty negative light, but I am having trouble seeing any kind of positive light to the message. That message also doesn’t do any favors to trying to dismiss the “cult” tag that sometimes comes along with Mormonism.
I think your points have a lot of merit, however, I didn’t have the same take aways. Perhaps because I have different assumptions. First of all, there are many compelling lies about Joseph Smith out there, many inspiring testimonies he’s shared, and many things that are in between. What I mean by the in between is this: we have historical accounts of these affairs, etc. but frankly they could be historical lies. We just don’t know. As a result, I think some of Elder A’s cautions have value. If you go out looking for every little thing it can be highly discouraging. I don’t think he is saying to read the first vision over and over. I’m sorry to hear that his talk was so frustrating to so many. I hope you won’t judge him too harshly.
I still do not understand how his talk was approved. I am going through a faith crisis after reading all the essays, and hearing what he said in GC made it worse. Now those that see me struggling and question things about the church compare me to Judas. Such a slap in the face. There is not room for all when we have leaders who send out those kind of messages. Feeling even more discouraged.
"Why do we continue to put Joseph Smith on a pedestal as a “holy man, a righteous man…” when he himself denied ever being such?"
Yeah, because calling Joseph Smith a "righteous man" is the same thing as calling him infallible. Nothing in Elder Anderson's talk was untrue. People DO tell untruths about Joseph Smith online. Not everything you read IS true. Including this article, because nowhere did Elder Anderson state that Joseph Smith was infallible or that he didn't make mistakes.
People do tell untruths about Joseph Smith. They also tell truths about him. Not everything we were told and taught growing up in the LDS church is true, or was true, but here we are told that we can always trust the testimony of those running the day to day business of the organization that taught such untruths, and inaccurate representations (the biggest, and easiest example being the treatment of Black people with the priesthood, and skin color curse teachings.) Then those with doubts are compared to betrayers, or incompetents if they in any way seek answers or truths that aren’t 100% completely church headquarters approved, and no matter what anything they find (no matter the truth or evidence to support it) or learn that doesn’t lead them back to complete agreement with the church is automatically branded a “half truth” that is misleading them.
But Joseph Smith went out of his way to make sure people knew he did not claim to be a righteous man.
No, Elder Andersen did not say the words, “Joseph Smith was infallible” but I think that is the message most members (who see themselves as very educated about Joseph Smith yet have only had access to correlated materials) receive.
There is an insignificant gap between what Elder Anderson is describing and the hero-worship/airbrushing culture that commonly surrounds prophets.
Saying, “Well, sometimes even a prophet makes a mistake” is nigh indistinguishable from infallibility.
Disappointing. I find your words Mr Ricks at best uninspiring, at worst treacherous. I have the same blood of the man’s character you disparage, and I can hardly listen to your frivolous diatribe. I was once talking to two men who were not members of the church. After discovering that I was a Mormon, they began to throw out insults against the prophet, calling him a “horsethief” and other accusations in the tone of mockery. I did not challenge them with a history lesson. It would have been a moot point. No one can prove conclusively the complexities and details of history. What I did do was state that Joseph Smith was one of the most noble men that has ever walked this earth. They ceased their affront, and were stunned silent because they felt the truth of what I said. Interesting that one of the men said, “I like that girl”. Men like Elder Anderson do good things. They do not aspire to be leaders, they are called. They sacrifice worldly praise, are villified, become the target of scurrility, especially when they speak the truth because many do not take the truth well. I hope that if you continue to publicize criticism of our leaders, you at least should have indisputable evidence. I assure you though, you are not in a place to hold up the yardstick to these great men. No good will come of it.
I have no doubt that Elder Anderson is a good man doing the very best he can in sometimes very difficult circumstances.
No one is perfect. Even good people with the best of intentions sometimes make major mistakes.
One point I try to make is that I do not believe admitting prophets are capable of making mistakes should prevent anyone from sustaining them as men called of God.
According to D&C 124:1 God called Joseph BECAUSE of his weakness.
Melanie, as an active member of the Church, I have to say that this comment is amongst the worst I have ever heard. So, just repeating, over and over again, that Joseph was a good man or stating that he was one of the “most noble men on the face of the Earth” is sufficient? If we just repeat how good he was, over and over, than there is never a need to study it out in your mind?
Are you saying that unless you can provide “indisputable evidence” that Joseph Smith was a flawed man, than you must do nothing other than idolize him? People can buy multiple books from Deseret Book that discuss his many flaws and frankly, I would be more apt to embrace a patriarch, temple sealer, Harvard historian’s factual findings about Joseph Smith than listening to you repeat how noble he was over and over until it is true. Have you never heard the Elder Talmadge quote cited in this article before?
Listen, Joseph Smith didn’t purport to even be righteous himself. Time and time again he apologized for mistakes. There is “indisputable evidence” of serious flaws he had that are not lies. That doesn’t mean he was a false prophet. It doesn’t mean we need to dismiss him. Also, not every conversation about Joseph or Elder Andersen needs to be about how wonderful or amazing they are. We can appreciate their teachings but still discuss it. We ought not idolize these men. There is no need for offense any time someone says something other than “Joseph was a righteous man.”
I have heard of many people gaining a stronger testimony after understanding Joseph’s weaknesses. We can choose to marvel at how great The Lord is to bring about such a great work with such weak things. We can praise God for it, not Joseph Smith. The author has made no covenants to not discuss things or to only say nothing but positive, whitewashed, things about the men that lead this Church. We do not swear allegiance to Joseph Smith or to Elder Andersen and your suggestion that this discussion is “treacherous” is the most ignorant, fanatical, and disgusting thing I have heard in quite some time.
If you stopped reading before the end then you missed my favorite part, “Ponder this: If God could restore His church through a man as weak and imperfect as Joseph Smith just think what he could do with you or I?! To again quote Terryl Givens, “God specifically said he called weak vessels, so we wouldn’t place our faith in their strength or power, but in God’s.”
Joseph continued to lie (a LIAR) about his plural wives up to the day he died! Apostles are just following the example of Joseph ——- Lie here, lie there and let the tithing continue to buy malls and Florida land.
Really? My comment deleted? Thin skin Ricks.
Challenges to my point of view are welcome, character attacks are not. I’m happy to have a conversation with anyone who can remain civil.
I believe faith is a choice. In order to choose to believe in the restored church, there needs to be sufficient evidence for and against it. I empathize with people who doubt. I do, however, feel like their doubt stems from spending the majority of their time listening only to the prosecution, and little time listening to the defense. If people gave adequate time studying the words of Christ, I believe faith would prevail. Ultimately, the Holy Ghost is the strongest evidence of truth that surpasses all because it comes straight from God. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Thank you for your comment.
I agree that once one delves into negative information it can be overwhelming.
But wouldn’t it be less so if members were taught from the beginning that the very good men who lead the church sometimes make serious errors? For many, I think the biggest shock is more a “crisis of trust” with the church leadership than a “crisis of faith”.
Is it possible to believe that men can be simultaneously called of God and capable of errors in carrying out that calling? I think that’s the question many members are asking themselves right now.
Jesus is King… end of Story.
So, you’re coming to terms with Joseph being an imperfect man, but you’re getting hung up on Elder Andersen’s talk because you think it’s imperfect?
And, since Section 3 of the Doctrine and Covenants teaches pretty clearly that Joseph made a serious mistake, anybody who thinks that the Church teaches that he was perfect hasn’t been paying attention.
I really enjoyed your post, thanks for sharing.
I just read Elder Anderson’s talk, and I must say that in my opinion, it is not as bad as everyone is making it out to be (he did say to “consider” recording our testimony. Done and done sir).
Anyway, I think his talk is deserving of the nuance that you advocate for a mature understanding of the character of JS. He never said that all negative or uncomfortable or challenging information about JS is false. He said that “some” information is not true. This statement is absolutely correct.
Thank you for your comment.
It is possible that myself and others are — shall we say — a little oversensitive about leaders treatment of doubters. I’m sure Elder Andersen gave this address with every intention of it being positive for all. But I had hoped with the recent progress made with the release of the Gospel Topics essays and JPP we had moved beyond comparing those who leave the church to Judas and making people fearful of conversations with their loved ones.
Appreciate the comment.
Asking God too many times to let Martin Harris borrow the 116 pages isn’t the kind of “serious mistake” that is causing people to question.
But to me this demonstrates the thinking of most members of the church. When they hear “Joseph was not perfect” they think of this type of thing. For those who have delved deeper into history it is much more complicated.
Thanks for your comment.
I was raised Catholic and led to believe the Pope is infallible. My perspective may be different from yours since I converted to the LDS faith as a young adult. I believe the most important thing first is to gain a testimony by study, faith and spiritual confirmation. Then, change the way you interpret what Christ will allow in his church. The idea that his church is perfect is wrong. It could be perfect if it was led by perfect people, but that is impossible. So he can and must ALWAYS allow for imperfections in his church. Once people understand this, it is easier to cope with difficult historical errors and character flaws of past or current leaders. Dwelling on these things and forgetting the admonition to study an pray always is where most people become vulnerable to losing their faith.
Great comment. Thank you.
Naman going to Elisha the prophet. Go and wash seven times. He thought it was ridiculous, ludicrous……..Hitler propaganda-like……He was convinced to do it and was healed.
The whole point of this article is to say that the prophets aren't perfect. Neither is elder Andersen. It is our responsibility to listen to the spirit to understand the truths being taught. It's true Joseph Smith wasn't perfect. He made mistakes. But he was still Gods prophet. And it is important to have a testimony of the truth. Joseph Smith really did see Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I know this because the spirit has testified it to me. I feel for those who are going through a faith crisis. I have been through them too! I have been through multiple, the first being as a missionary, I began to question the things I was teaching. But each of those experiences have made my testimony stronger. It's important to use times like this, where you don't necessarily agree with what a leader says to struggle with the topic yourself. Go to the scriptures, read through it again, put yourself in the speakers shoes, but most importantly, pray and ask for the revelation to strengthen your testimony and understand the intentions of the message.
Explicitly, no…. Implicitly it was the message
Elder Andersen is a prophet, seer and revelator. Perfect no, but if he suggested something more palatable would you do it?? Yes it struck me as slightly odd, but I will tell you I know he is a witness of Jesus Christ and reading this article just makes me know more that I would rather be Naman and be healed.
A friend referred me to this site. I’ve been confused as to the authority of the authors, and disappointed in the nature of the comments sections of multiple articles. So much strife and contention.
I would that more peace and civility existed among writers and readers on this site.
As for now, though, I’m not returning.
Not that anyone cares.
Isnt the whole point of this essay/response that we should expect transparency? When did history or fact latch itself to ego? Is the pursuit of historical fact so dangerous to perceived knowledge such a challenge?
When many of us grew older and went to college we learned that Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner and like Benjamin Franklin, and they slept with them as well. Do you now consider these men non-relevant? Or are there good acts now mired for you?
It seems to me that when we become so resolute in our defense we often suffer in our ignorance.
When I was listening to the talk I was also disturbed by the advice to record yourself reading the first vision. The first thought that came to my mind was “which version of the first vision should I record”? Joseph’s first account of the first vision which doesn’t mention anything about seeing God the father and his son Jesus Christ – but mentions seeing an angel….or the next version….or the next one? I’m not sure that repeating that over and over would strengthen my testimony.
He was pretty specific — He wanted people to use the official 1838 version in the church’s pamphlet or the Pearl of Great Price. But I get your point.
"Nothing in Elder Anderson's talk was untrue."
If I recall correctly, he stated in the talk that Joseph's private and public character was "unimpeachable." A big part of my job is to impeach (show that they lack credibility) witnesses. Common ways to impeach people include (1) prior inconsistent statements (see, among many things, Joseph's incongruous First Vision accounts) and (2) prior bad acts (see any number of things referenced in the above article).
I don't see how even a believer could deny that Joseph made inconsistent statements and committed bad acts. You admit yourself that he is not infallible. Even if everything else Anderson said is true, his statement about the unimpeachability of Joseph Smith is absolutely untrue.
Those are ridiculously impossibly high standards of conduct, particularly for a rough unschooled frontiersman.
Yes he did quote John Taylor as saying, “that [Joseph] was a good, honorable, [and] virtuous man— … [and] that his private and public character was unimpeachable…”
Sam Weeks So credibility requires infallibility? I'm not buying that. You could find something inconsistent in what ANYONE has said, and you can find things that everyone has done wrong. Yes, I also believe that Joseph Smith's character was unimpeachable, in the sense that nothing can be found that seriously damages his credibility as a prophet (even if things can be found wrong). Also, I've read through the differing accounts of the First Vision, and find nothing to be amiss between them. They emphasize different details, as you would expect any eyewitness account would across many years and different audiences.
So, I’m a member and a return missionary, graduate if BYU and I live in Utah county. But with all that said I try and keep an open mind in all things. I have known of several false professions of JS. here is a quick count of 53 of them, they appear to be fairly accurate but granted it’s really fro you to decide it they are correct, not. http://hismin.com/content/53-false-prophecies-joseph-smith Looking and researching in certain things can seem to many folks a disobedient act rather than an inquiry.
Yes, he did have over 50 false prophecies. For some reason, LDS people don’t follow the advice of the Bible which explicitly states that if even ONE prophecy doesn’t come to pass, then the prophet is a FALSE prophet.
I have recently discovered the church I was raised in, LDS, is NOT true.
I know it (lol) with all my being. History and fact and reason cannot be cast aside for an emotional reaction.
It comes down to this- how do you decide “truth”?
You pray and interpret an emotional response you get as an answer, right? The “holy ghost”? The burning in the bosom?
Funny thing is, the bible cautions us to NOT trust our hearts, as they are deceitful above all else (Jeremiah something). Satan can deceive our hearts, and our feelings.
If he can appear as an angel of light, then why be so quick to believe your “good feelings” as coming anywhere than from God?
If you want to know truth, the Bible directs us to STUDY GOD’S WORD, not pray and see if we feel good about something.
Truth is NOT as subjective as a feeling you get. I believe most LDS are just feeling conditioned- responses to very prolific mind control. Being born in the church means you’ve been under it from the start.
Start with the New Testament, and see how much the gospel of Christ stands in contrast to the heresy of LDS doctrine. Eternal Progression? God as Adam (Brigham Young), Blood Atonement, Blacks and the Curse, Marriage in heaven, the nature of our existence.
Combine a study of the bible with an unabashed study of church history. You can even just stick to Journal of Discourses, History of the church, etc. THere are enough glaring inconsistencies in official documents that there is now no question in my mind that these so-called prophets were not inspired in the slightest, and the first few were actively deceiving and taking advantage of their followers. Joseph Smith was, according to history, a liar, con man, adulterer, false prophet,, and a pretty disgusting sleazeball.
And while I first was reading about this it made me feel sick to my stomach (it must be of the devil! it can’t be true! Joseph is a prophet!)eventually you have to resign yourself to the fact that it’s NOT true- that Jo and others made it all up for personal gain.
I did not start my studies to prove the church false. I assumed the church was infallible and when I learned of so many dark secrets and lies, I was devastated. I wanted SO bad the church to be true. For my whole life to not have been invested in false religion.
I’m here to testify to you, that I know the LDS church is NOT the one true church, that Joseph Smith and all his predecessors are FALSE prophets, and that your salvation is in peril if you choose to follow the LDS faith.
The bible says it is by Grace that we are saved, not of works.
Mormonism says That “grace alone” is one of the pernicious lies of the devil.
Please study and research, and use your MIND to know truth, and don’t rely on subjective feelings.
(which by the way, I’d never gotten a real super strong answer to my questions to God about the BOM or truthfulness of the church…I just thought I might feel good after reading the BOM, or at church, and figured that was the “still small voice”….funny thing is, when I switched my question, I experienced what a TRUE answer from the Holy Spirit is like. I finally stopped asking “is the church/BOM true?” and then asked “can I trust the Bible, and is the BOM/LDS church False?”
As soon as I asked that question, I heard a voice in my mind telling me to LET IT GO. It’s not true. I felt an overwhelming sensation that I can trust the bible and Christ, and they’re all I need. That i’d been led astray with Mormonism and i needed to let the lies go.
My experience, for what it’s worth. Sorry it’s a novel.
There is a lot to be said here…but first, in regards to recording yourself reading the account of the first vision and/or reading it over and over again…that is not crazy or meant to encourage you to believe something is true merely through repetition. How many church members had one experience with the holy ghost that convinced them, without a doubt, that the church was true? I would bet the answer is not many. That testimony usually comes through many experiences with the spirit. Anyone who served a mission, was worthy to have the spirit with them, and is being honest with themselves can say that they felt the spirit testify to them that Joseph Smiths' account of the first vision is indeed true. I know that I felt it…and not just after having done it a dozen times. When I was teaching about the first vision for the first time in the MTC, I was immediately brought to tears because the spirit testified to me that what I was saying was true. After that first experience, I taught about the first vision many, many times on my mission…and each time, the spirit again testified to me that that message was indeed true. That repeated testimony from the spirit is what has made my testimony of that event unshakable. And believe it or not, it didn't have to be in my own voice…i felt it when I watched the movie, or when my companion taught that portion. But my feelings were most intense when I was the one speaking and testifying. Haven't we understood that those who won't share their testimony will lose it. Like in 2 Nephi 28:30, we read: for behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts. And lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth i will give more; and from them that shall say, we have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have." I think that is pretty clear…but lets keep in mind that it is talking specifically about the guidance and precepts that god gives us…not guidance, precepts, and opinions of man. So the testimony that you are given through the spirit is something you can lose if you dont continue building on it. That has been my own experience with my own testimony throughout my life…if I get slacking and don't follow the guidance I have been given, and I don't share my testimony and give the spirit the chance to testify to me that what I am saying is true, then He leaves and I start to lose all that knowledge and conviction because it leaves a huge space for Satan to get his foot in the door and lead me to trust in the precepts of men. But when I do those things, I don't get lost or distracted by the precepts of men and my testimony is strengthened day by day. Like in 1 nephi 16: 28-29, where we learn about the liahona. The liahona, or the compass that was guiding lehi and his family to the promised land. It "did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which (they) did give unto (it). And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the lord: and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it. And thus we can see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things." My understanding of elder Andersons suggestion of recording you reading josephs account to yourself is to give you the opportunity to have the spirit testify to you, over and over again, giving you that testimony line upon line. The suggestion is to help those that need it, to have the same experience. For those of you who don't understand how his talk was approved, I don't think you need to worry about it. God himself said that he would not let any one man lead his people astray. If this talk was put into general conference then it must have been the answer to someone's prayers. That specific talk may not have been meant for you but I bet it was meant to help someone. If you went into conference with questions in your mind and seeking answers from God rather than just seeking answers from the men he chose to lead his church, then I am sure you were able to find some answers, though they might not have even been through the words of the prophets…they may have come through the music, or just a feeling from the spirit you had. But god wanted those words to be spoken at His general conference. End of story.
Maybe some of the negative things about Joseph Smith are true, but that does change the fact that God chose him. His life might not have been perfect, but that doesn't give us wiggle room to deny the revelation he was given by God to lead His church. As was said, God chose imperfect men. Elder Anderson is also an imperfect man, but that does not give us that same wiggle room to deny the revelation he was given by God. God revealed that information to us through one of His chosen servants, and now it is our responsibility to seek out the spirit and understanding from God of how he wants us individually to apply that guidance in our lives. Elder Andersons words were not his…they were Gods…and if God is raising a voice of warning to us to not go seeking answers from the precepts of men, but to instead seek out answers from His chosen servants, but ultimately from Him, then we should probably listen. He may be raising a voice of warning to those who might "fall away into forbidden paths and (be) lost" if they go looking for answers from men and then feel "ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them." If you actually take the time to find out for yourself if what Elder Anderson said in conference is from God, then I am sure you would find the answer is yes. Again, "and from them that shall say, we have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have." Hopefully you don't feel that you have had enough and hopefully you are willing to go to God and find out if that message was true and how He wants you to apply it in your life. What was the point of Elder Andersons talk? Well I for one wouldn't be trusting my own or any other persons opinion of it. If you actually care enough to discuss it with such passion, why dont you go and ask your Heavenly Father…the source of all truth.
Jacob 5:48 As a church, we must be careful to avoid the mistakes of the ancient Jews who took “strength unto themselves” and let their “loftiness” overcome “their roots.”
Isaiah 29:18-24. It can be difficult to be taught by our volunteer mortal leaders (even when they’re Harvard MBAs) without “watching for iniquity,” making them an “offender for a word,” and ultimately exchanging their “just” counsel for a “thing of naught” (usually our egos). Regardless of how we choose to react to their counsel, however, the children of the covenant “shall not now be ashamed” (or the work shall move forward). Fortunately for us, there is hope that we “that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and [we] that murmured shall learn doctrine.”
Dismissing the carefully prepared public remarks of a prophet, seer, and revelator is a mistake – no less of a mistake than when the ancient Jews dismissed the ancient prophets’ offensive counsels. Publicly airing our dismissal, and then receiving praise and validation for our dismissal, doesn’t make it any less of a mistake.
I think the question that should honestly be asked and thought upon— is where does your testimony lie? Does it lie in the character of a man? Is it easily swayed because a human prophet was/is exactly that…human? The mark is being missed. Of course Joseph Smith made mistakes. As did Brigham Young. John Taylor. Wilford Woodruff…all the way up to President Monson….and because history tends to repeat itself, and humans tend to be imperfect…it will continues with each prophet after him. But why would that be something that we focus on? Consider this: You are a father. As father of your household— you have responsibility and jurisdiction over your children. What you want for your children (what I assume all parents want for their children)–is for them to grow up to be intelligent, confident, self-motivated, kind, selfless, charitable, hard-working, contributing members of society. You want them to succeed in all that they do, school, careers, passions, love, marriage, families. You want what's best for them, knowing that what's best, is what will make them happy. Now in order for this to occur— there is a lot of teaching and learning that will take place. There are a lot of rules that need to be followed…and a lot of sacrifices that will be made, from you and your children. There are also going to be mistakes. The ones you make. The ones your children make. Why? Because we are human. Because we are imperfect. Because we learn when we make mistakes. I know how the parenting thing goes— because I am a parent, and because I have parents. I know the phases of loving and hating them. I know they go from knowing everything, to knowing nothing, and I know that phase repeats itself often. Your bio also states that you are married–and your wife stays at home and home schools your children. So she, in essence, is where most of their information source comes from. She helps to shape their little minds. She informs them of probably the majority of the things they are aware of. What if one day, she decided, that instead of talking to your children about how hard you work for your family, how you have dedicated your life to caring for them and providing for them, or how you are a great father– she decided to talk to them about all of the not so good qualities you have. What if she told them about a,b, and c that you did before you became a father, or x,y, or z that you did after you became a father. What if she started telling them about the things that you regretted doing, or the things that you did, and if given the chance to do again, you would do differently, but not knowing then what you know now— did the best you could regardless. What would be the point. I could go on to make it more poignant- but I feel the concept is conveyed. There is no point. So again— I think the question that should be asked — is where does your testimony lie? Mine lies in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Of the doctrines of His gospel, taught by very imperfect people.
Once you brought Hitler into the conversation you lost a lot of credibility.
1. Assumptions- you are making a lot of assumptions and stretching his comments to how you reacted not the points he was making. For example, he says there are many ways to gain a testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith. He lists two ways. There are other ways, and he references Pres. Hinckleys experience.
2. Weak doesn’t imply unrighteous. You are taking that scripture out of context. Weak means unlearned, of little significant in the world. Ether 12:27 is not talking about sin, but our struggles. Weakness and sin are 2 very different things. Let’s not imply that he was unrighteous because he was unlearned!
3. No where does E. Anderson say not to talk with people that struggle with their testimony of JS. He is teaching how important it is to strengthen our own first and not let others doubts hurt our testimony.
4. Memorizing- individuals think and ponder more the words they are memorizing. They think about the meaning. I’ve memorized scriptures and that to this day I learn new meaning about it. D&C 9 refers to study it. A form of study is to memorize, to ponder those words. That is what I believe he is teaching, memorize the account of the first vision, memorize the words, ponder the words. He is not saying brain wash yourself, which is what you’re implying.
5. D&C 132:48-50, The Lord forgives Joseph Smith, seals his exaltation upon him and then says “I have seen your sacrifices in Obedience”. One can’t be exalted with out being righteous can they?? Those verses like several others teach of righteousness.
I didn’t hear the talk in question, so I’ll reserve any kind of serious judgement. But I’m certainly familiar with the prophet hero-worship that Givens and others lament. Whether it becomes a major problem or not depends on how seriously latter-day saints take their history.
With the advent of the Internet and the corresponding availability of information (good or bad), though, I don’t think pat answers are going to suffice for many people.
Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. He did see God the Father and Jesus Christ, translated the Book of Mormon, restored the priesthood and Christ's Church and failed to redeem Zion and live the commandments and was punished for it.
The scriptures, both ancient and modern foretold that this would be the case.
For those who are earnestly seeking to know the truth about Joseph's rise and fall and ultimate return to power and greatness read this and the accompanying references with your scriptures open.
This isn't a simple read a few passages and you got it. It'll take weeks or even months to get through it all and ponder it all.
Once you do you'll know that Joseph Smith is a man of God and God's prophet called to do what he did and then left to fall.
Here's the link:
Thank you for your righteous endeavours to seek the will of the Lord. Unfortunately I must warn you that you are gravely mistaken, and that your eternal salvation may be in jeopardy. Every word spoken by the Lord’s chosen mouthpieces is utterly true. Why would our beloved prophets, seers, and revelators ever lead anyone astray? The answer: they would not. The Lord would never allow it.
Several years ago, I became acquainted with a young missionary at the Missionary Training Center who claimed he did not have a testimony. He was able to obtain one by continuously repeating the devout expression: “I know the Church is true.” Over time, this sacred and recurrent idea became firmly implanted in his young mind and reinforced through each repetition. At last, right before the conclusion of his mission, he gladly reported to me that he had successfully gained confidence in this repeated statement and had thus acquired an unfaltering testimony of the Lord’s true Church. Yes, my brothers and sisters, a testimony truly is to be found in the bearing of it!
I describe this holy habit of testimony repetition in my Regional Conference address which you can read here: http://generalauthority.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/come-listen-to-a-prophets-voice/ I suggest you read this discourse, that your mind may be opened to further light and knowledge from the Lord.
May the blessings of heaven ever shower upon you.
Why would a prophet, seer or revelator ever lead anybody astray? Simple. They don’t realize that they are. They view things based on their own perceptions, and present them that way. And, they already have in the past lead astray with now disavowed teachings (Adam/God theory, blood atonement, skin color curse for premortal unrighteousness etc.) And to my knowledge, the Lord didn’t strike them down for doing so, and also provided the method and means by which a prophet/seer/revelator can be removed in the D&C.
Missteps don’t automatically make all the work for naught though they do happen, and I really think it is about time we acknowledge that from top to bottom in this church.
Jacob Ricks thank you for that very thoughtful and well written article. You have expressed my current struggle so well with members as live around them and helped me without measure. I know many of the comments here are critical of it, but I support your thoughts and the reasoning you put forth to support them 100%! I spent far too long being fooled and mislead, over 50 years. My therapst said few members ever find their way out, the Church teachings and family, social and business iconnections are so strong. No one expects the Prophets to be perfect. But an affair with a teen, then hiding it and beginning others with multiple marriages, then hiding them, and all the money issues from gold digging to Kirkland bank to telling the Danites it was okay to steal things from Missouri residents, does not a true Prophet make. Those were not little indisgrescians of a "weak vessal" but major red flags of a con man that cannot be reasonably denighed if one is not blinded by a history of blind faith. If any of us knew such a person today, we would hardly follow them would we?
I think this open letter to Elder Andersen is quite relevant to this discussion.
Dear Elder Anderson,
You spoke a lot in your talk about people speaking evil about Joseph Smith. What about those of us who simply don’t understand how a just God would allow or require a prophet to do some of the things that Joseph and other prophets did in their lives?
After all, being bothered by a religious founder having sex with dozens of his female followers is not a moral deficiency. Being bothered by a religious leader marrying other men’s wives (and testing people by demanding their wives) is not a moral deficiency. Being bothered when the founder of your religion practices polygamy and lies about it to the public and to his own wife is not a moral deficiency. Being bothered that God would even want men to have dozens of wives is not a moral deficiency. Being bothered when John Taylor, a practicing polygamist, lies and prints denials of polygamy for use in proselyting materials in England is not a moral deficiency. Being bothered when God sends an angel threatening to kill Joseph Smith if he doesn’t marry multiple women is not a moral deficiency. Being bothered when Joseph Smith uses coercive marriage proposals to marry his foster daughters is not a moral deficiency. Being bothered when Apostles of Jesus Christ call women who declined polygamous proposals whores is not a moral deficiency. Being bothered when God threatens in canonized scripture to “destroy” Emma Smith if she does not consent to Joseph marrying dozens of women is not a moral deficiency. Being bothered that church leaders don’t attempt to address these issues of fact is not a sign of moral deficiency. The Spirit, or my own internal moral compass, or whatever you want to call it tells me that these things are wrong. In fact, it screams that these things are wrong and that they should not have happened, no matter what the historical context.
This does not come from information I learned from the internet. Please stop mischaracterizing it as such. I learned it through the internet from the church’s own publications and statements from faithful leaders and members. All of the above concerns are corroborated by such sources, their own words and the words of their friends. These are not the words of some Judas as you implied in your talk. Sure, the internet with such projects as arcive.org and the Joseph Smith Papers project makes it easy to browse historical documents, but the internet isn’t responsible for the facts of Joseph Smith’s life, and it is the facts that concern me. Not some random person on the internet’s interpretation of the facts, but my interpretation of the facts.
Elder Anderson, instead of making it seem as if nothing Joseph ever did could ever be questioned morally, why don’t we just have a frank discussion of the issues? Why don’t we address the elephant in the room directly? It would be really nice to have an adult conversation with you church leaders about things like Joseph’s practice of polyandry, the general lack of honesty in Nauvoo polygamy, or Brigham Young’s endorsement of slavery to the Utah Territorial Legislature, etc. etc.
The truth is that I am dying to talk to people about this stuff. Currently, I can’t stand going to class at church because I have to hold all of my deepest concerns inside. If I voice them, everyone looks at me like I have carrots sticking out of my ears. My choice is between deep discomfort(holding it in) and deep discomfort(discussing what bothers me with people who think I’ve been deceived by lies), all because we can’t seem to handle discussing the real moral issues of church history in General Conference.
To be frank, all of this talking around the issues without confronting them head-on makes it appear that you and your colleagues are too afraid to do so. I understand your fear and your predicament. When the church finally does muster the courage to directly confront these issues, it will probably hemorrhage members for a while. That is okay because these are the members who are not participating with informed consent. It isn’t fair to keep them there by avoiding exposing them to the truth anyway.
I was once in this category, and I am deeply resentful of the church to this day for how long I worked and how hard I tried in a church that I would have left at a young age if I had been acquainted with some simple facts. You need to stop taking people’s agency away from them by casting doubt on the inconvenient facts about Joseph Smith. He did some things that don’t make much moral sense to some of us. People need to be able to weigh that and decide if they are okay with it. Protecting people from easily obtained truth is not a viable strategy in the modern world.
You can do better. It will be hard in the short term but it is necessary to stop the pain that families are feeling when someone leaves the church. We all need to be able to have an adult conversation about these issues, and that will start when the Apostles/First Presidency lead the way.
P.S. If you have questions as to my sources in the list of moral concerns above, please see my blog posts here where I cite my sources in detail:
http://untanglingmybrain.blogspot.com/2 … nesty.html
http://untanglingmybrain.blogspot.com/2 … rcion.html
http://untanglingmybrain.blogspot.com/2 … ygamy.html
There are so many examples debunking this statement I’m not sure if/where to start. Maybe another essay.
Joseph Smith himself said that he was “not very righteous”.
I chose not to include in this article specific issues that challenge members belief in Joseph’s morality. If you prefer to read only LDS sources there should be an article coming out on LDS.org soon that will discuss Joseph’s involvement in polygamy and polyandry. You can’t expect the church to give a completely unbiased view but it will give you an idea of why people struggle with this.
So, Elder Andersen gives an example of a returned missionary whose friend has doubts, then expressing concern about the returned missionary being negatively affected. He then gives the airplane analogy — seems to me he is implying not to engage people with doubts on the subject of Joseph Smith.
If you have not experienced a crisis of faith it may be difficult to understand why this presents a problem. Often, people feel alone, abandoned, and betrayed once they discover many things they were taught were inaccurate. Elder Andersen’s advice will make life harder for sincere members who find difficult to understand information about Joseph since his advice discourages members from interacting with their doubting loved ones in a time they need support the most.
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.
Jacob, you seem very much like a thoughtful man seeking truth and doing your best to remain a member of a religion that you love. That is commendable and admirable and I am right there with you.
I offer my response to your article not as an attempt to "poke holes" or even to debate, but rather, as an apologetic explanation of what Elder Andersen said.
You wrote the following, first quoting Elder Andersen: "Studying the church through the eyes of its defectors is like interviewing Judas to understand Jesus.” What stronger message could he send to members than comparing their doubting loved ones to the man who betrayed the Savior himself?
He is comparing present-day apostates to Judas. He is not comparing "doubters" to Judas. A doubter might be an inactive member, or an active member struggling with their testimony. A "defector" is an apostate, someone who blatantly leaves the church and holds great disregard for the church within them. A defector, in my opinion, is someone who actively makes comment against the church with the hopes of pulling others away.
However, Elder Andersen was being a little harsh in comparing those apostates to Judas. I like to believe that some anti-Mormons can be good Christians still. Then again, if an anti-Mormon is a good Christian, then they wouldn't actively try to demean another's religion, but I digress.
Another comment you made was about having a testimony of Joseph Smith. I believe that no one is actually meant to "have a testimony" of any other human, except for the existence and deity of Jesus Christ. That said, we would definitely need a testimony of Joseph's 1st vision, which is how the pamphlet would come in handy. We also need a testimony of the Book of Mormon. Perhaps additional testimony should be gained of Joseph's revelations, including the Pearl of Great Price and the D&C. But a "testimony of Joseph Smith"? I don't believe Elder Andersen was suggesting that we gain a testimony that Joseph was perfect, that he never told a lie, or that he was always guided by the Spirit. Such a suggestion would be pure mockery to the human element of Earth-life that we've all endured, and I do not believe Elder Andersen was making that suggestion at all. Instead, he was encouraging us to gain a testimony of some of Joseph's holy experiences and revelations.
Of course, much of what I said is very similar with what you said in closing your article. I agree, Elder Andersen probably overused hyperbole. Perhaps a change of a few words would've changed the implications of the talk. Like you, I find it very, VERY annoying when my fellow members go on and on about Joseph Smith and say nothing of our true hero, the man that we owe our lives to, Jesus Christ.
Hello Mr. Ricks,
I was with you for awhile. Here is where you lost me:
“As Joseph Goebbels, one of Hitler’s closest aids and the Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany stated: If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes truth. If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. I am not saying that Elder Andersen is lying. Repeat, I am not saying that Elder Andersen is lying. I am also not comparing anyone to Hitler or his propaganda. However, I am saying that convincing members to agree with an opinion through repetition is not an ethical practice. ”
You lost me here because you are inconsistent. How about if I use your own language from above to describe my reaction to this comparison?
That is why I was saddened to hear Mr. Ricks describe sincere church leaders who are concerned about doubt that can be potentially fostered by misleading information about the prophet Joseph Smith as encouraging blind obedience through vain repetition. He implied that church leaders who encourage the development of a testimony of Joseph Smith by studying his own testimony as it relates to the work he was called to do are like the Nazis who duped many Germans through clever propaganda. “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes truth.If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” What stronger message could he send than by comparing this method of sincere study to the people who were singlehandedly responsible for one of the most abhorrent and blatant mass genocides in recent human history?
I would recommend not criticizing the use of dramatic examples or choosing to them them literally if you then intend to use them yourself while expecting others to do you the favor of not taking them literally.
You just shot holes in your own credibility by repeating the behavior you claim to be criticizing.
I appreciate you helping me reevaluate my own arguments. You make some good points.
Thanks for the comment.
Reading through these comments reveals just how drastically my view of Mormonism and the world in general has shifted since departing from the LDS faith. It is strange to see inspired beacons of light and wisdom become no more than old men in suits who convey no more spiritual wisdom than Joel Olsteen.
I got a completely different message from Elder Andersen's talk than Mr. Ricks did.
My witness of the whether Joseph Smith was a prophet or not had nothing to do with academia … but rather was a very personal experience. That said, I was exposed to everything that is currently found on the internet at a young age.
Interesting reading: http://www.josephsmithpapers.org / http://www.lds.org/topics#media
I bet is is more than you'd think.
Thanks for the reply!
1. If someone picked up a Book of Mormon and only referenced 2nd Nephi 4:17 to explain the type of man Nephi was, when he refers to himself as a wretched man because of his iniquities, it would paint an inaccurate picture of Nephi. This is what you are doing when you are only willing to use 1 statement to defend you POV about Joseph being unrighteous. The Lord said he was obedient and He accepted his sacrifice.
When you take all of D&C into context from the Lords rebukes to Joseph in D&C 3, to his forgiveness and the transition of The Lord tutoring Joseph Smith through out his life. The Lord then declaring that he has been obedient to his commandments, you see a more accurate picture of the prophet. Joseph also said “Although I do wrong, I do not the wrongs that I am charged with doing: the wrong that I do is through the frailty of human nature, like other men. No man lives without fault. Do you think that even Jesus, if He were here, would be without fault in your eyes? His enemies said all manner of evil against Him—they all watched for iniquity in Him.”
2. About Pologamy and Plyandry Joseph said “I never told you I was perfect; but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught”. There are facts we know about Pluarl Marriage and others that don’t add up. Just because we don’t have all details and every answer doesn’t mean it wasn’t a commandment. When is the last time you read the OT? If people have a lot of issues with church history then they need to read the OT!!! There are a lot more gaps:) but please don’t say that we can’t use the OT to learn from prior prophets and what The Lord approved! Jacob, Abraham, Moses, possibly Noah all had many wives. It’s very clear that was not a sin but a commandment and approved by The Lord. D&C 132 explains this and backs it up, as well as Jacob 2 :25- Heber C Kimball said Joseph was told 3 different times, Joseph wasn’t jumping the gun to do this. Bushman talks about this in Rough Stone Rolling. I’m just glad we aren’t commanded to live the law today:)
3. Faith Crisis- I know close friends who have or are growing thru difficult times with challenges of their faith. I feel for them and hope I can help. Faith crises is nothing new. In Kirtland, there were many people who had faith crisis after the Kirtland Bank failed. The saints had to leave Missouri while the Prophet and Hyrum were in Libetry jail for 4 months. This caused a faith crises for members, going to the Rocky Mountains was a faith crises for many and many left the faith. But also many went and the church continue to flourish. Faith crises is nothing new, our challenges are different but difficult also.’i think when we talk about faith crises we act like it’s a new thing, our questions about church history are unique. I disagree, they have always been there, and our testimony of the Prophet JS is not an intellectual one but a spiritual. And all generations need one.
I don't think it's too far g
Fetch to compare the LDS propaganda machine to the Nazi propaganda machine.
To the several commenters who have shared concerns about Joseph Smith’s personal actions, it is clear that you have been reading sources that take the absolute paucity of actual evidence and spin tales of debauchery and sexual libido. Writers like Mike Quinn, who I respect, have done a masterful job “filling in the blanks” with a libido-based bias. Before you finish your reading, I ask that you read Brian Hales. He has found records that were not available to Quinn or Compton. He leads us through this paucity of history to conclude that there is not enough historical record to come to the conclusions reached by the libido-based authors. Alternatively he shows where an understanding of the religious doctrines taught by Joseph Smith and a reading of the records left by the actual Nauvoo polygamists themselves allow us to see a Prophet of God struggling with an angel having a drawn sword commanding the practice of polygyny, or plural wives. Further you will hear that Joseph never used his position to force himself on a woman, and rather taught that the woman would always have her choice, and was to seek her own revelation and confirmation that the principle was of God.
I believe this was what Elder Anderson was saying about trying to learn about Jesus from Judas Iscariot.
Deuteronomy 18 20-22.
Thank you for your comments. I wish I were as eloquent, and could express myself as well as you have. You have said the things I would like to say to Jacob. Another comment I would like to make that I have not seen discussed yet is that as we listen to the prophets speak, my focus is to remember that they DO KNOW BOTH SIDES, but in speaking, they are choosing to speak and guide us (their children, in a way) on the one side that is most going to assist us to find our way back to our Father in Heaven. If we think of a parent, guiding a child, giving words of guidance in a world of sin and great turmoil, what would a parent do….give all the options? Give the child all the possibilities? Most likely NO!!! A parent would guide a child, and give them the most safe, and best way to travel in this difficult world. This is the role of the prophets and apostles. They are speaking, guiding, directing…..not debating, conversing, and arguing points of argument!!! As we listened to conference, and listened to the theme of "Listening to our prophet", I think we were to learn, that "our paths need to meet up with their paths", and all of this argument and debate can go to the wayside. It takes our energy away from our being humble servants of Jesus Christ. Thank you for your insight
Thank you Serenity, Beautiful Testimony!!!! I wish I could have said things the way you did!!! I agree with everything you said, and wanted to say the same thing about Elder Anderson's talk, that it was inspired and chosen for General Conference, which was a revelation for someone. We need to remember that our prophets and apostles are like loving parents to all of us, and as they prepare their talks, they take that into consideration in how to best guide and direct us. Thank you.
It is Kirtland. Not Kirkland. My credibility with your comment and facts were lowered significantly by me realizing you haven't researched that one fact alone. How many other researched/non-researched facts are just assertions, opinions, and interpretations in the wild web of this thing we call history and life? We must be careful in all our own personal assertions to not be quick to just assume. And in this case, maybe you did know that it was with a "t" not a "k"… in the which place, I would have been wrong in my judgment of your awareness/knowledge of the LDS church history.
Rebecca Cory McFadden Easy to focus on a mispelling of a word, instead of looking at the content, and checking the facts about it, especially when the information is so very difficult to accept. I was mislead about the history of the Church for decades, then when I found out I became in denile about the facts of Joseph Smith and the Church for a few years, until I was ready to accept it. It takes time to overcome all those years of indoctrination and belief reinforcement and a life devoted to it. Like I mentioned, few people make their way out. I hope you find your way to the truth.
I wish more members and leaders in the church read articles like this. I think that it is extremely important (and will only become increasingly more important) to understand the alienating effect that our responses can have on those who have questions/doubts in the church. Too often well meaning members end up further isolating those who have questions, which leads those questioning to feel as if they do not have a place in the church. I hope that the church as individuals and as a whole can learn to be more open and compassionate in our dialogue with each other. The only way we can help each other on this journey back to God is when our responses come from a place of true understanding, humility, and charity.