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James F. Stoddard III and L. Hannah Stoddard

Read this first! Some have been confused regarding the position of LDS Answers and the Joseph Smith Foundation regarding the progressive historians quoted and their call for a “reconstructed narrative”. The Joseph Smith Foundation promotes the traditional teachings of ancient and Latter-day prophets. The purpose of this post is to raise awareness of where many LDS intellectuals would like to move the Church. Again, the Joseph Smith Foundation will be providing materials to counter the statements in this article. This is not a discussion of anyone “anti-Mormon”.  The scholars quoted are also active members of the Church, although we disagree with their positions.  Please see the end of the article for additional understanding.

As Latter-day Saint families gather this weekend to enjoy General Conference, many are unaware that there is a growing movement among members and scholars in the Church to change our history.  Though this progressive effort has been proceeding for decades, in the last few years we have seen an ever increasing number of prominent LDS historians and scholars calling for a “reconstructed narrative.”

“. . . A Reconstructed Narrative.”

 Richard Bushman addressing the John Whitmer Historical Association in 2011, photo by John Hamer
Richard Bushman addressing the John Whitmer Historical Association in 2011, photo by John Hamer

Richard Bushman is a prominent LDS historian and considered by some to be the “world’s foremost scholar on Joseph Smith and early Mormonism.” 1  During a recent fireside, Bushman responded to a participant’s question regarding whether the traditional understanding of Church history is accurate.

Question: In your view do you see room in Mormonism for several narratives of a religious experience or do you think that in order for the Church to remain strong they would have to hold to that dominant narrative?

Richard Bushman: I think that for the Church to remain strong it has to reconstruct its narrative. The dominant narrative is not true; it can’t be sustained. The Church has to absorb all this new information or it will be on very shaky grounds and that’s what it is trying to do and it will be a strain for a lot of people, older people especially. But I think it has to change. (Watch full video)

The following month, Bushman elaborated on his meaning with the following statement:

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Sic Et Non

I consider Rough Stone Rolling a reconstructed narrative.  It was shocking to some people.  They could not bear to have the old story disrupted in any way.  What I was getting at in the quoted passage is that we must be willing to modify the account according to newly authenticated facts.  If we don’t we will weaken our position.  Unfortunately, not everyone can adjust to this new material.  Many think they were deceived and the church was lying.  That is not a fair judgment in my opinion.  The whole church, from top to bottom, has had to adjust to the findings of our historians.  We are all having to reconstruct. 2

Bushman is not alone in calling for a new “Joseph Smith”, a new Church history and a new Mormon culture.  In this post, we will hear from historians who are encouraging a “new era.”  One scholar has even called for the “foundation” to be torn down and completely rebuilt.

51z7ku6pzdl-_sy344_bo1204203200_Who is this new “Joseph Smith” and what constitutes this “reconstructed narrative”?  For those who are unaware, Rough Stone Rolling presents a “Joseph Smith” that differs dramatically from the “Joseph Smith” taught by past Presidents of the Church.  According to Rough Stone Rolling,

  • Joseph Smith was “involved in magic” (page 53)
  • The Prophet’s involvement in “magic . . . was a preparatory gospel” (page 53) and “Remnants of the magical culture stayed with him to the end.” (page 51)
  • Joseph Smith suffered from “treasure-seeking greed.” (page 51)
  • The Smith family were drawn to “treasure-seeking folklore” and saw astrology and magical “formulas and rituals” as connected to their spiritual well-being. (page 50-51)
  • “Magic and religion melded in Smith family culture.” (page 51)
  • Joseph Smith Sr. was an “oft-defeated, unmoored father” (pg. 26-27) who “partially abdicated family leadership” (page 42).  His “life [was] blighted by shame” (page 42)
  • The Smiths were a “struggling family.” (page 106)

12347968_922851251103995_6838761062499154704_nThe proposed “reconstructed narrative” of LDS Church History as well as the life and character of the Prophet Joseph Smith is admittedly a departure from the traditional or “dominant narrative” given to us by past Church historians including Willard Richards (present at the Carthage martyrdom), George A. Smith (cousin to the Prophet Joseph Smith), Presidents Wilford Woodruff and Joseph Fielding Smith.  

What would the testimony of a member of the Church look like who holds to this new image of Joseph Smith and Church history?  Many tout Rough Stone Rolling and Richard Bushman’s new history as an aid to faith in crisis.  Could this new history lead to, rather than help, a crisis in faith?  When describing the faith crisis Bushman experienced at Harvard, he explained, “[I am] not someone who has a ‘simple faith’ where just everything is absolutely true beyond any doubt.” 3

Transcript:
Question: And so how did you, how did you become a believer again, or, or re find your “believingness”?
Answer: Well, ummm, I probably never recovered at all. Ummmm, I’m not someone who has a “simple faith” that where just everything is absolutely true beyond any doubt.”

“. . . we are in a new era.”

Is Bushman alone in his perspective?  Ronald S. Barney was the Executive Director of the Mormon History Association and has previously served as an Associate Editor of the Joseph Smith Papers.  He admires the work of Richard Bushman, including Rough Stone Rolling, and has likewise called for a “new era” in how we view Joseph Smith and Church history.

Transcript: 
I think new Mormon history will serve for a period of time but I personally believe we’ve passed that. Ummm, I think we are in a new era. And I think this book that uhhh, Laura uhhh, conceived is something that will be representative of a way to think about this period of time that, uhhh, that we are in. I’m working on a, a book that I’ve been working on for many, many years on uhhh Joseph Smith and one of the, the tail end of it is going to be about the historical legacy of Joseph Smith. As I try to look at that and how Joseph Smith has been represented over time there is such a clear point of departure in what has happened in, in the last few years than what, than all that happened previous to this. I think we will see that uhhh distinctly in the future as uhhh, we cast our eyes uhhh back toward this period of time. (Laura Hales & Contributors (A Reason for Faith)–Benchmark Books, 5/11/16)

“Humanistic Trends in Church History”

President Ezra Taft Benson when commenting on similar approaches to LDS Church history stated:

benson1Transcript:
This humanistic emphasis on history is not confined only to secular history; there has been and continues to be attempts being made to bring this philosophy into our own Church history. Again the emphasis is to underplay revelation and God’s intervention in significant events and to inordinately humanize the prophets of God so that their human frailties become more apparent than their spiritual qualities. It is a state of mind and spirit characterized by one history buff, who asked: “Do you believe the Church has arrived at a sufficient state of maturity where we can begin to tell our real story?”

Inferred in that question is the accusation that the Church has not been telling the truth.

Unfortunately, too many of those who have been intellectually gifted become so imbued with criticism that they become disaffected spiritually.

Some of these have attempted to reinterpret Joseph Smith and his revelations; they offer what they call a psychological interpretation of his motives and actions. 4

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Historicity of the Book of Mormon

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Gregory A. Prince (Source)

Another popular LDS author and historian, Gregory A. Prince, has called for those who still believe in the historicity of the Book of Mormon to “grow up”.  For those who are not familiar with the background on this issue, many LDS scholars including Greg Prince, believe that the Book of Mormon narrative is merely allegory.  Mormon, Moroni, Nephi, Captain Moroni and other famous Book of Mormon characters never physically lived.  They are likely figures of Joseph Smith’s imagination or perhaps the narrative should be considered a parable.  

Transcript:
Many people act as if the Book of Mormon is the cornerstone of our religion only because we have placed in that position precariously and all that keeps it from toppling is our constant fussing.  Quite to the contrary, it gained and maintains it’s position because over a period of nearly two centuries it has been the primary means by which people who have encountered Mormonism have converted to it.  Not to the book itself, but through it to a better place of living.  That position is independent of the book’s provenance and yet there are many who are willing to die on the hill of ancient historicity.  To them I say, “grow up!”  (laughter) Science has already informed greatly on the issue of historicity and will continue to inform many great and important things.  Relax and don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. (Greg Prince, “Pillars of My Faith” speech, Sunstone Symposium, August 2, 2013)

Past Statements from Leaders of the Church

Margaret Blair Young (Source)
Margaret Blair Young (Source)

Margaret Young, a part-time faculty member at BYU-Provo, has not been bashful to announce her desire to see a new LDS Church in the near future.  In a blog post entitled “The Future of Mormonism (the Next Five Years)”, she stated:

the future of Mormonism is bright. We are on a bridge. . . . Change comes slowly in the Church, but to those seeking to find miracles, the changes over the past fifty years have been monumental. . . . We will become a church known for exactly the opposite reasons it was known for in the nineteenth century. 5

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The Future of Mormonism (the Next Five Years)

What would this new Church, which is precisely the opposite of what it was 150 years ago, look like?  Has God changed or were the prophets of the past simply leading in the wrong direction?  The following are excerpts from an audio interview with Margaret Young.

Transcript:
We have some awful statements from all of the leaders of the Church.  So how can Darius and I do what we do and hold current temple recommends and know everything that was said in the past and still support The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?  And basically it’s because we don’t believe in the infallibility of prophets. . . .

I’ve had to just kind of pinch my nose as I read through the terrible things that have been said by past leaders of the Church.  Understanding the damage that they’ve done and the damage that they continue to do. . . .

The way I see it, it’s kind of like when the Salt Lake Temple was constructed on the foundation of sandstone that simply was not adequate to hold up.  And the instructions came down, “tear it down!  It’s got to come down.  Tear it down so that you can build it on something that will last.”  And so all of that work had to be completely torn apart and the temple started again. (Listen to full interview)

As we move into the 21st century, past positions of the Church and statements by our sustained leaders have come under heavy attack from within the Church.  We believe this new history has gone unchecked long enough.  FairMormon, in contrast, has the following statement published on their website:

We should be forgiving of past prophets who we today would perceive as being “racists,” or otherwise unsophisticated when compared to the present day. Lest we judge harshly, we ought to consider that even the Savior himself spoke of “outsiders” using language that we today would consider grossly offensive (Matthew 15:26). . . . Prophets in all dispensations have been “men of their times,” who were raised with certain beliefs and interacted all their lives with others who shared those beliefs. . . .

From our perspective as “enlightened” people of the early twenty-first century, virtually everyone in America up until the last few decades — prophets and other LDS leaders included — held beliefs that we could now consider racist. But that was the culture of the times, and we, like the rest of society, have progressed (line upon line, precept upon precept, see 2 Nephi 28:30) to become better people in this respect, more tolerant, more accepting.

Fifty years from now, people will probably look back at our time and say, “How could they have been so bigoted?” Or, “How could they have missed issue X, which seems so clear to us now, in retrospect?“

The key point here is that the Lord works with the people who are available. 6

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Was the Son of God racist?  Are we sure we wish to cast the statements of Presidents of the Church behind our backs and . . . under our feet?

Are there answers?

The historians mentioned above are a small sampling of this new movement within the Church but they are prominent and well-respected.  Bushman and Barney, for example, were two of the recent authors of the new book, A Reason for Faith.  According to the editor, Laura Hales, A Reason for Faith was published as a companion to the recent Gospel Topic essays on LDS.org and features scholarship from some of the best experts within the Church on these topics.  

Transcript:
Let people know, we don’t have definitive answers.  We had a really hard time finding a title for this book.  We had to have some help, but one thing that every single author was insistent on was that the words “truth” and “answers” did not appear in the title, because these chapters are open ended.  They’re meant to summarize the best scholarship.  It doesn’t, I mean, there’s countering scholarship and that’s sometimes listed in the extra resources.  But it’s a good solid basis for someone like me who had nothing, not a drop of oil in their lamp.  (Laura Hales & Contributors (A Reason for Faith)–Benchmark Books, 5/11/16)

We appreciate Laura Hales’ commentary because it is an honest statement regarding this new scholarship.  The “reconstructed narrative” does not provide answers.  The research and conclusions change dramatically over time.  This will be the case with any committee of scholars defining history and doctrine.  Contrast this new perspective with the Son of God’s declaration to Nicodemus.

Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. (John 3:11)

People who “do know” and “have seen” have answers.  If we do not have answers today, have we really progressed? (2 Timothy 3:7)  These are questions each person must answer for his or her self.

LDS Answers

When held against primary sources, credible history and the scriptures, does the “reconstructed narrative” promoted by Bushman, Barney, Young, Prince and many other LDS scholars hold up?  LDS Answers is determined to tackle the “tough questions” regarding LDS Church history and doctrine.  However, our approach will differ from many of these historians.  We will stand by the traditional perspective taught and advocated by the Prophet Joseph Smith, Presidents Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow, Joseph F. Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, Ezra Taft Benson and many others.  

LDS Answers logoIn the upcoming months, we will release articles, papers, videos and podcasts delving into the most troublesome issues in Church history and the difficult questions regarding Church doctrine.  We do not believe the “reconstructed narrative”, promoted in books like Rough Stone Rollingis the solution to instill faith and we’ll talk about why!  We will not shy away from anything including the following questions:

  • Did Joseph Smith marry a 14-year-old girl?  
  • Was Joseph Smith involved in the occult?
  • Why did Joseph Smith engage in polyandry?
  • Has the history of some of the most renowned miracles in Church history been exaggerated or even subject to fabrication?
  • Does DNA prove the Book of Mormon is false?
  • What about the Book of Abraham?
  • Why was Joseph Smith a Freemason?
  • What did President Brigham Young think about women?
  • And so much more!

The exciting news is, there are REAL answers to all of the tough questions!  

LDS AnswersWhile LDS Answers is committed to the traditional perspective of LDS doctrine and history, we are also dedicated to discussing these issues in a civil, constructive manner.  We are insistent that on this website, no one will be denounced or censured for holding an alternative viewpoint.  Our desire is to engage in thoughtful dialogue with the focus of strengthening faith and building the Kingdom of God.  These questions should be discussed!  No one should be belittled or criticized for asking hard questions.  Our desire is that LDS Answers will be a safe environment to discuss controversial issues.  We believe the answers taught by the Presidents of the Church and the Revelations can withstand the test of time, but this does not mean that all sides should not be presented.  We encourage anyone to comment as long as the discussion remains civil and considerate.  We are excited to begin dialogue on these ideas in a respectful, constructive manner.  Perhaps we can even set a precedent for it!   

Are you willing to help us?  

There are many thousands of men and women, returned missionaries, teens and even ecclesiastical leaders who are questioning. 7 8  They are confused and looking for answers.  Do you have a child who is struggling with his or her faith?  Do you have a friend, a neighbor, a relative or co-worker who is abandoning the Church?  We can reach them but we need your help.  If you are willing to assist with research, verifying sources, engaging on social media, etc. please contact us.  We want to flood the earth with the message of hope contained in the Gospel of Jesus Christ!  Our desire is to strengthen faith and build the Kingdom of God.

Will you join us in this cause?

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Notes:

  1. “Richard Bushman Part 3 – Joseph Smith and the Translation of the Book of Mormon.” Mormon Stories. N.p., 06 June 2013. Web. 01 Oct. 2016. <http://www.mormonstories.org/richard-bushman-part-3-joseph-smith-and-the-translation-of-the-book-of-mormon-pt-1/>.
  2. “Richard Bushman and the Fundamental Claims of Mormonism.” Sic Et Non. N.p., 16 July 2016. Web. 30 Sept. 2016. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/2016/07/richard-bushman-and-the-fundamental-claims-of-mormonism.html>.
  3. “047: Richard Bushman Part 1 — Experiences as a Mormon Historian.” Mormon Stories. N.p., 06 June 2013. Web. 30 Sept. 2016. <http://www.mormonstories.org/richard-bushman-and-rough-stone-rolling-part-1-experiences-as-a-mormon-historian/>.
  4. Benson, Ezra Taft. “God’s Hand in Our Nation’s History.” BYU Speeches. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2016. <https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/ezra-taft-benson_gods-hand-nations-history/>.
  5. Young, Margaret. “The Future of Mormonism (the Next Five Years).” The Welcome Table. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2016. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/welcometable/2015/07/the-future-of-mormonism-the-next-five-years/>.
  6. “Mormonism and Racial Issues/Racial Statements by Church Leaders.” FairMormon. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2016. <http://en.fairmormon.org/Mormonism_and_racial_issues/Racial_statements_by_Church_leaders>.
  7. Stack, Peggy Fletcher. “High-ranking Mormon Leader Goes from Disciple to Doubter.” The Salt Lake Tribune. N.p., 22 July 2013. Web. 1 Oct. 2016. <http://archive.sltrib.com/story.php?ref=/sltrib/blogsfaithblog/56627129-180/mormon-church-faith-lds.html.csp>.
  8. Dehlin, John. “Understanding Mormon Disbelief Survey – Results and Analysis.” Mormon Stories. N.p., 12 June 2014. Web. 01 Oct. 2016. <http://www.mormonstories.org/understanding-mormon-disbelief-survey-results-and-analysis/>.

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66 Comments on "“The dominant [Church history] narrative is not true . . .” LDS scholars encourage new history, new policy, new Church"

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Aaron
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One is prompted to ask these historians, what makes the the dominant “orthodox narrative” recounted by numberless primary and firsthand sources, compiled by the above-mentioned prominent and devout Latter-Day Saints authorities (Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Willard Richards, etc), men who were not only reporting from a research paper but who actually lived the history, false? Why are their accounts held suspect? Why is it in need of a reconstruction? Could it be that it does not line up with an alternate but preferred orthodox narrative? Namely, the orthodox anti-Mormon literature? It’s not my intention to be critical, only to be… Read more »
Chuck David
Guest
I aslo demand that God re-write the 10 commandments. Thou shalt disrespect your Father and Mother if you want. Thou shalt go to church if you aren’t watching football or camping. Thou shalt Worship money if you want. A graven image is alright especially if it is in your skin. Thou can kill as long as it is a unborn baby. You can steal if it is from someone who has more than you and you are entitled to it. You can commit adultry especially if it is within your same gender (special rule here) and pattern your life after… Read more »
Heber Frank
Guest

The problem is that the church no longer REALLY has revelation at the head. And now it has been that way for a long time. So it is starting to act like all the other churches that do not have revelation.

In my faith the foreordained prophet for our time was simply cast from the church in 1972 or the promise for further revelation would have returned to the church.

Kani Salanoa
Guest
“[I am] not someone who has a ‘simple faith’ where just everything is absolutely true beyond any doubt.” Well I’m kinda left wondering about this statement. Is he saying that as far as over all truth their is none and sometimes we are wrong, or theirs no truth at all. If he goes with the latter that would be a total contradiction because he would be stating that as a truth, and if he be able to make that statement as a truth is their no chance or possibility for their to be more? “foundation” to be torn down and… Read more »
Ann Clark
Guest
I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea of Joseph being less than or just another man. It makes it sound like God just grabbed whomever he could and worked with that man clean or not clean. We learn by studying the principles in the Constituion and Declaration, and even more simplified in the 28 principles of sound government found in the 5000 Year Leap, that God works with righteousness, in being moral and virtuous and he expects his leaders likewise to be. Our Supreme Judge over this land is a God of order and this principles… Read more »
Randy Claywell
Guest

Joseph wasn’t just another man. He had been prepared from the preexistance. Yet he was a man with all of the foibles. There has only been, and there will only be one perfect person on this earth: Jesus Christ.

Richard A Smith
Guest
This “new narrative” idea bothers me because of the extremism in the other direction. They are so motivated to reconstruct our history that they seem all too eager to discard what we have already. There is no need for that. New discoveries and interpretations needn’t supersede the old, but can add to it. I didn’t mind reading Rough Stone Rolling because it gave new insights into Joseph Smith and his family, culture, society, attitudes, and personality. It’s like getting to know him as a real person. Like living next door to President Monson. I have no problem with the fact… Read more »
Jack of Hearts
Guest

Who’s discarding what? The only thing I see these scholars discarding is incorrect assumptions about Mormon history.

Randy Claywell
Guest
Telling those of us who believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God to “grow up” is discarding everthing. If it isn’t the word of God and the truth then the Church has no foundation no legitimate reason to exist. It is no better than the other made up religions. If the Book of Mormon is not truth but allegory the only premise left is that Joseph Mith made everything up. That would be the Book of Mormon, the revelations, John the Baptist restoring the Aaronic Priesthood, Even, and especially, the First Vision. If these things are… Read more »
Jack of Hearts
Guest
“Telling those of us who believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God to ‘grow up’ is discarding ever[y]thing.” It’s not though. It’s unquestionably arrogant and not a view that I subscribe to, but let’s not be hyperbolic. “If the Book of Mormon is not truth but allegory the only premise left is that Joseph [made] made everything up.” But that’s not the only premise left. The Good Samaritan didn’t “actually happen,” but that doesn’t change its power. And there are so many assumptions in your statement. Why does allegorical mean it has to be a fraud?… Read more »
Hugh McKail
Guest
Your analogy to comparing the historicity of the Book of Mormon with the parable of the Good Samaritan just doesn’t work. The Lord never said there was a “good Samaritan”, everyone there knew it was a parable. The Lord didn’t go on and on about how he had seen the Good Samaritan in vision, and he had the Good Samaritan appearing to him and this was the land where the Good Samaritan lived, and etc. etc. etc. Your position accuses Joseph Smith of perjury, falsification and deceitfulness. I’ve never read anyone, after reading the Book of Mormon, who came away… Read more »
Jack of Hearts
Guest
“The Lord never said there was a ‘good Samaritan,’ everyone there knew it was a parable.” Alright, how about Job and Jonah? “Your position accuses Joseph Smith of perjury, falsification and deceitfulness.” It’s not my position. Did you read this thread? If you want an answer as to how someone fits an allegorical Book of Mormon with Joseph’s claims, you’ll have to ask someone who believes in an allegorical Book of Mormon. “I’ve never read anyone, after reading the Book of Mormon, who came away with the initial perception that it was meant as a parable. Have you?” Not to… Read more »
Jack of Hearts
Guest

Emendation to my previous comment. You wrote, “Telling those of us who believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God to ‘grow up’ is discarding ever[y]thing.” Prince isn’t telling anybody that the Book of Mormon isn’t the word of God, he’s saying that historicity isn’t, in his opinion, a hill worth dying on. That’s his prerogative. As I said, it’s arrogant to talk the way he did and I don’t agree with his position, but to equate his position with somehow insisting the Book of Mormon is not the word of God is disingenuous.

Hugh McKail
Guest
Saying there never was a Nephi, there never was a Moroni, there never was a Mormon, there never was a Hill Cumorah, there never was a Zarahemla, is not an attack on the Book of Mormon being the word of God to you? In other words, the following statements from the Title Page of the Book of Mormon are essentially, a misrepresentation? “Wherefore, it is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites . . .” “a record of the people of Jared, who were scattered at the time the Lord confounded the… Read more »
Randy Claywell
Guest
So, per your statement when Bushman tells those who believe that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and was translated by the inspiration and authority of Go, to “groe up”. He says that Moroni, Mormon, Nephi et al are allegories. That means that 5 they are made up out of Joseph Smith’s imagination. In other words he lied. If Joseph Smith lied about the Book of Mormon then he lied. He lied about the First Vision, the restoration of both priesthoods, anout the revelations. If you state that the Book of Mormon is an allegory then you… Read more »
Jack of Hearts
Guest

Bushman hasn’t said what you’re accusing him of saying about the book of Mormon. Did you read the article?

shawn russell
Guest
NEVER FORGET THAT WHICH IN THE BEGINING YOU KNEW TO BE TRUE. A word of advice True followers of Christ will one day come to a crossroad where following the letter of the LAW will violate the SPIRIT of the law. and you will have a choice to make should I be perfectly obedient to the LETTER. or should I TRUST the SPIRIT of the law which tells me to do otherwise (this is the HOLY GHOST aka your compass aka your Urim and thumim aka the right choice every time) TRUST ME the commandments are designed this way on… Read more »
Margaret
Guest
This is such an important subject. Interesting that Pres. Benson mentioned this happening many years ago, and hit the nail on the head about our present “scholars” in the church. It is well to review what Pres. Benson stated: “This humanistic emphasis on history is not confined only to secular history; there has been and continues to be attempts being made to bring this philosophy into our own Church history. Again the emphasis is to underplay revelation and God’s intervention in significant events and to inordinately humanize the prophets of God so that their human frailties become more apparent than… Read more »
James G
Guest

Amen and Amen to Margaret’s words.

Jack of Hearts
Guest

“It is my ‘simple faith’ that the scriptures are the infallible word of God, as are the words of our Prophets when they speak for the Lord.” But that’s not what Mormons believe. Neither the scriptures nor the prophets are infallible. It’s not fair to accuse Mormon scholars of not being faithful when the standard you are holding them to doesn’t exist.

Randy Claywell
Guest

I agree that the prophets are fallible men. As to the scriptures: are you saying that when God gives scripture He is fallible? Any waffling about the scriptures is acvusing God of not knowing what he is talking about.

Jack of Hearts
Guest

“As to the scriptures: are you saying that when God gives scripture He is fallible?” Absolutely not. But the prophets He reveals scripture through certainly are, and any who interpret scripture are as well. Hence, the scriptures are not infallible.

Hugh McKail
Guest

So for you, some of the statements by Presidents of the Church in regard to scripture are essentially in error? If so, please give a specific example. Two or three examples would be even better.

Jack of Hearts
Guest
For example, the question of April 6th, 1 B.C., being Christ’s birth date. We now know that the first few verses in Section 20 was not part of the original revelation and was added later by John Whitmer, and that the verse’s expression of the date was a poetic phrasing common at the time (Whitmer used it in his journal, for example). This is further born out by a lack of identification of April 6th as Christ’s birth by the first two generation of Church leaders, as the first reference to the idea doesn’t appear until the very end of… Read more »
Kimberly Smith
Guest
One of my favorite talks in General Conference was by Elder Ballard. He gave us great counsel to follow. He asks us “To whom shall we go”? Who are we going to seek to learn the doctrine of Christ? Who are we going to seek to understand the restoration better? Are we going to seek the doctrine through the scriptures, through the words of the prophets of the restoration and through the Gift of the Holy Ghost? Are we going to read first hand accounts like Joseph Smith’s own mother? Will we seek to understand Church History through the first… Read more »
Peter Knecht
Guest
Many would say I am of the majority of Latter-day Saints who believe blindly. I’ve never had a real desire to understand the “real narrative” of the LDS church. I’m comfortable relying on the many witnesses I’ve received from many sources that I trust as the foundation of my testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel, especially those of the Holy Ghost. With that said, it seems evident, listening to and reading from our current church leaders, that it may be important to understand the questions, concerns, and opposition, too. I’ve always believed that our prophets and apostles speak more… Read more »
Randy Claywell
Guest
Did you read and pray about the Book of Mormon and gotten an answer? Have you ever read and studied scripture prayerfully and felt the still small voice as confirmation? Have you ever taken any concern to God and received an answer of any kind? These are afgirmations from God that He exists, that he loves you, that you are important to Him. These are proofs of God. If he gives you proof in some things and then asks you to take his word in others that is not blind faith. That is reasoned faith in our God who has… Read more »
Mel
Guest
I read Rough Stone Rolling and didn’t see much new history I wasn’t already familiar with, just knew interpretations of history according to one’s cultural viewpoint. Often, I feel scholars draw their own conclusions based off their own experience. Perhaps Bushman makes the statements he does because he is still looking at Joseph Smith’s history from a Harvard viewpoint. I already knew the facts he presented about Joseph Smith Sr. and never felt to believe he had anything that would be a cause for ‘a life of shame’. With so much research, I conclude we can only know by testimony… Read more »
David
Guest
I’ve shared this article on Facebook, and seen several of my family members comment there and re-share it. We read it and then discuss how often we see the same sort of, I’ll call it “arrogance”, among many of our LDS friends and family. One the one hand, it shouldn’t surprise us–it follows perfectly the pattern laid out in the Book of Mormon (which is truly a parallel for our own latter-day Promised Land), and it has been prophesied repeatedly. But on the other hand, we are baffled at the audacity of so many who are learned and “think they… Read more »
Mary Wilder
Guest

As David just pointed out, “We are baffled at the audacity of so many who are learned and ‘think they are wise” –that these intellectuals would want to re-write the inspired words of our prophets or the history of the Church, it would take real arrogance, in my way of thinking, to try to do either of these two things.

Jack of Hearts
Guest

I must have missed something. No historian is “re-writ[ing] the inspired words of our prophets or the history of the Church.” No one has produced new scripture outside of the Church or corrected its current scripture. Assimilating the new documents and sources that have come in recent decades about early Church history is not an anti-Mormon scheme, though it certainly has been adopted by some anti-Mormons. Good thing we have faithful LDS scholars who can defend the Church if the need arises.

Hugh McKail
Guest
Yes, you did miss something. Please see my comment below to see what you missed in regard to the rewriting of history. Just sift through the comments across the Internet. Any time, a prophet statement or a scripture is quoted on any controversial subject the reply consists of a logic chain. 1) We can dismiss that statement by that prophet because anything prophets say are merely their opinions and even more, have historically been found lacking. In other words, they were all just products of their time. 2) We know they are merely opinions and products of the time because… Read more »
Jack of Hearts
Guest

This is a logic chain I have seen employed, though your description is a caricature. And note that Bushman does not employ this logic. His work is limited to a cultural biography of Joseph Smith; I am unaware of his position on the other subjects you list. Furthermore, nothing in this logic train, however faulty, consists of “rewriting history.” Most of the time it’s knowledge of history that drives such concerns.

Aaron
Guest
Bushman has actually elaborated on some of his positions. Question: As a side note: since we as a church dismiss nearly every major doctrinal insight Brigham Young provided (Adam-God, blood atonement, institutional racism, misogyny, etc) isn’t it reasonable to conclude that he was not Joseph Smith’s proper successor? Answer(Richard Bushman): The problem with Brigham Young has come to a head recently with the publication of the race and priesthood statement. The statement comes very close to saying that Brigham Young erred in enunciating the priesthood ban, and by implication all the other prophets who sustained it down to 1978 erred… Read more »
Jack of Hearts
Guest

All important questions, and one’s I don’t have answers to, at least on an institutional level (though I think priority should be given to the witness of the Spirit, obviously). However, it seems clear that the answer is not to resort to prophetic infallibility, whether called as such or functionally. After all, as the questioner asked, what do you do with things that Brigham Young taught that the Church has discarded? Someone can be honorable and still make mistakes. Someone can be righteous and still make mistakes.

Aaron
Guest
I fall in with President Joseph Fielding Smith when he said, “President Brigham Young was thoroughly acquainted with the doctrine of the Church.” We should be cautious about what we dismiss outright as a mistake. Are we certain we really understand the whole picture here? The broad vista of eternity is yet to be opened to our understanding. As Hugh McKail has noted, we shouldn’t judge rashly, there is to much room to step back and say, “well since the Prophets were wrong on all the above, they were wrong about the Constitution or the consequences of adultery or perhaps… Read more »
Jack of Hearts
Guest
“We should be cautious about what we dismiss outright as a mistake.” Agreed. But that doesn’t mean we don’t dismiss mistakes. President Kimball and Elder McConkie were crystal clear on the status of Brigham Young’s Adam-God teachings. “We shouldn’t judge rashly, there is to[o] much room to step back and say, ‘well since the Prophets were wrong on all the above, they were wrong about the Constitution or the consequences of adultery or perhaps abortion.’ Where do we draw the line?” As I said, I don’t have an answer for this question, at least not on an institutional level. This… Read more »
Aaron
Guest

Contrast such a perception with Joseph’s words on the matter, “Any man may believe Jesus Christ is good & be happy in it & yet not obey his commands & at last be cut down by his righteous commandmends A man of God should be endowed with all wisdom knowledge & understanding in order to teach & lead people, The blind may lead the blind & both fall into the deatch together; (Joseph Smith)”

Rachel
Guest
If I am understanding correctly, these scholars desire to tear down the foundation of the Church and rebuild it on a different foundation. But why seek to destroy, or change something that has brought so much truth, strength and peace to so many people? I have been blessed through my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. There are blessings that we have all received through the truths that were given to us through Joseph Smith. God chose him to do this work. And our scriptures illustrate that God never chooses wicked men to do His work.… Read more »
Randy Claywell
Guest

My curiosity is that if these people wanr to completely change the LDS Church why havent they removed their names from the rolls and started a different church. Wouldn’t it be more honest to establish the type of church that they want instead of trying to destroy and remake, in their own image, the church that I believe in and love. Can you spell “wolves in sheep’s clothing?”

Jack of Hearts
Guest

“My curiosity is that if these people wan[t] to completely change the LDS Church why haven[‘]t they removed their names from the rolls and started a different church[?]” Because they don’t want to “completely change the LDS Church.” Disagreeing with historically inaccurate aspects of a narrative is not apostasy.

Aaron
Guest

It’s important to note, by posting this link my intent is to not say any more than I’m saying. My intentions are not to accuse any of these scholars or historians or anyone on these discussions. I just think it is important that we all have a correct understanding of apostasy is and what it really means. If a different interpretation of history encourages a new interpretation of doctrine all I’m saying is we should be extremely careful.
http://www.josephsmithacademy.org/wiki/apostasy/

Jack of Hearts
Guest

“If a different interpretation of history encourages a new interpretation of doctrine all I’m saying is we should be extremely careful.” Where is this happening, though? And if it is happening, what if the original interpretation of doctrine was incorrect because it was based on faulty historical knowledge? What then?

Hugh McKail
Guest
The progressives would like to see the view of Darwinism changed from what the Presidents of the Church and scriptures teach to what they now conceive of as “facts.” Progressives would also like to see the noble character of Joseph Smith taught by all the former leaders, which included the Prophet as next to Jesus Christ in station, honor and virtue changed to a Richard Bushman treasure seeking, magic dabbling, temper driven character effaced common Joe. Progressives aim to change the position of the Church on Socialism as well. Marxism was once considered anti-Gospel and now flaunted. Additionally, progressives question… Read more »
Jack of Hearts
Guest

You talk about “the progressives,” but not with any specificity. I’m sure there are those out there who fit your characterization, but this conversation concerns the LDS scholars named in the article, not anyone you can find on the internet who has a bone to pick with the Church and its teachings.

Jack of Hearts
Guest
“If I am understanding correctly, these scholars desire to tear down the foundation of the Church and rebuild it on a different foundation.” You’re not understanding correctly. That is not the intent of most LDS scholars. I’m sure you can find some, certainly, but brothers like Richard Bushman are not them. “f I am understanding correctly, these scholars desire to tear down the foundation of the Church and rebuild it on a different foundation.” I’m not sure where this idea is in the scriptures. The Lord uses all kinds of people in His work. Cyrus, the Assyrians, Christopher Columbus, the… Read more »
Elizabeth Sadowski
Guest

“We know the Apostasy occurred in part because the philosophies of men were elevated over Christ’s basic, essential doctrine. Instead of the simplicity of the Savior’s message being taught, many plain and precious truths were changed or lost. In fact, Christianity adopted some Greek philosophical traditions to reconcile people’s beliefs with their existing culture.”-Valiant in the Testimony of Jesus, By Elder Quentin L. Cook, October 2016 General Conference
This is what it sounds like is happening here with these LDS scholars. His (Christ’s) church cannot be changing according to whichever world view is happening at the time or place.

Jack of Hearts
Guest

I must admit that I am at a loss as to what you are referencing when you say that these LDS scholars are “elevat[ing the philosophies of men] over Christ’s basic, essential doctrine.” None of the scholars in this post are disagreeing with faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, or enduring to the end. That accusation is a wildly unfair assessment of their spiritual state with no provided evidence.

Aaron
Guest
I believe one of Christ’s essential doctrines Elizabeth is referring to includes what Christ called the first and great commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” (Luke 10:27) Therefore it follows, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21) So what does this have to… Read more »
Paul
Guest

The book “Early Mormonism and the Magic World View” has the actual references and information about the early uses of magic and the treasure quest. It was written by a believing LDS scholar who was then excommunicated but still believes. Talk about a Galileo moment for the church. If a historian is wrong, show him where he’s wrong by pulling out actual sources to compete with his sources. Don’t ex him!

Phil Fletcher
Guest
Actually, the grounds of apostasy Michael Quinn was excommunicated on was described as “very sensitive and highly confidential” but not so much anymore though, since he is now openly living as a homosexual. If we wanted to show where he was wrong we could merely pull out his own sources. Both Latter-Day Saint and non-Mormon scholars alike have criticized his book as relying too heavily on environmental folklore without a proven connection to the Prophet; the work accepts without question the contents of Philastus Hurlbut’s highly anti-Mormon affidavits published in Mormonism Unvailed by Eber D. Howe. You can read about… Read more »
Elsie B.
Guest
Defending the Prophet Joseph Smith is a huge battle-line in our day. One that we need to fight. The Savior said, “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matt. 7:20) So what are some of the fruits that we see from Richard Bushmans’s book, Rough Stone Rolling? Here is one example. This man read Bushman’s book and shares in his own words what he gathered from it: “Rough Stone Rolling” is the culmination of almost forty years of what has been called “the new Mormon history.” It’s impossible for LDS writers to be objective about Joseph given his place… Read more »
Jack of Hearts
Guest
“If so, why would God choose him to bring to pass His Work?” Because, in the words of Elder Holland, “Imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we.” Jonah turned his back on the Lord. David committed adultery and murder. Lehi murmured. Both Almas lived riotously as youths. Judas betrayed the Savior, and the other apostles abandoned Him for a time. Peter and Paul disagreed sharply on church matters. Many of the first apostles and members of the First Presidency of this… Read more »
Elsie B.
Guest
Jack of Hearts, you bring up a good argument. Let’s go through it and see what conclusions we come to. Jonah- When he was righteous, had the power of God with him; when he fell, it left.Only repentance and strict obedience got it back. David- When he was righteous, the power of God was with him; when he fell, it left. Lehi- When he was righteous, the power of God was with him; when he murmured, it left. Only repentance and obedience got it back. Alma- Was living a wicked life-style in the courts of King Noah. Because of Abinadi’s… Read more »
Jack of Hearts
Guest

Alright then, but the quotation you highlighted isn’t about sin, it’s about personal flaws. We all have them. “Trust[ing] the wrong people at times” doesn’t make one unworthy of the Spirit or unrighteous. It’s just a mistake. I fail to see how someone can rationalize their adultery with the excuse that “Joseph Smith was a lousy businessman!” The foibles of the prophets are not comparable to intentional sinning, and discussing them doesn’t make that any less true.

Elsie B.
Guest

Jack of Hearts,
If personal flaws are not sins, what are they? Isn’t this is life (& Plan of Salvation) all about overcoming “personal flaws” through the “Blood of the Lamb”? How can we become perfect as we are commanded to be (see 3 Nephi 12:48, Matthew 5:48) and still have “personal flaws”?

Caleb Young
Guest
Yes Elsie! The purpose of the plan of salvation is to become perfect. To quote Ether 12:27: “if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” To say that Joseph’s “foibles” (or anyone’s foibles) should be accepted and condoned is to contradict the purpose of the plan: making our weak things strong. I find it difficult to believe that a man like Joseph Smith failed to follow the plan he himself restored knowledge of: humbling himself before the Lord and allowing the Lord to make his “weak things… Read more »
Jack of Hearts
Guest
“If personal flaws are not sins, what are they?” Um, personal flaws? The Church defines sin as “to willfully disobey God’s commandments or to fail to act righteously despite a knowledge of the truth.” Trusting someone too much or being bad at business are thus not sins, they’re just, well, personal flaws. Or mistakes, I guess. I’m not really particular about the word used, so long as it’s not sin. “Isn’t this life (& Plan of Salvation) all about overcoming personal flaws through the blood of the Lamb? How can we become perfect as we are commanded to be (see… Read more »
Elsie B.
Guest

Some are attracted to writings that point out some perceived character flaw in the Prophet Joseph Smith because they think it will make them feel better about their own flaws or sins. Brothers and sisters, it is Satan who wants us to feel at ease about our sins; God, on the other hand, wants us to repent of them. Dwelling on the faults of anyone—especially assumed faults of the Lord’s anointed—only leads to destruction.

Caleb Young
Guest
Elsie has pointed out the heart of the issue. I would like to add the testimony of Neil L. Anderson: “To questions about Joseph’s character, we might share the words of thousands who knew him personally and who gave their lives for the work he helped establish. John Taylor, who was shot four times by the mob that killed Joseph, would later declare: “I testify before God, angels, and men, that [Joseph] was a good, honorable, [and] virtuous man— … [and] that his private and public character was unimpeachable—and that he lived and died as a man of God.” Such… Read more »
Margaret
Guest
As this article explains: “Many tout Rough Stone Rolling and Richard Bushman’s new history as an aid to faith in crisis. Could this new history lead to, rather than help, a crisis in faith?” I had an experience recently that verifies this is happening. I was visiting a cousin when I noticed she had Richard Bushman’s book, Rough Stone Rolling, on her bookshelf. She explained that her returned missionary son, who has left the Church, gave her the book and wanted her to read it, so she would understand why he had left the Church. I wonder how many individuals… Read more »
A Happy Hubby
Guest
One of the big issues I have is with the top church leaders. For one they keep saying, “there are not a lot of people leaving” and maybe if you look at the church as a whole with lots of African and Brazilian converts still coming in. But on the ground here in the US it is undeniable. Not all are resigning, but I see it all over the place. From some statements of top church leaders here and their they do hint that this is an issue and always say their are answers and they even have them, but… Read more »
Hugh McKail
Guest

In the days when Goliath defied Israel it was a simple, young, shepherd boy who stood up and defended the God of Israel in front of the nation. I believe it is the responsibility of each and every member of the Church to defend the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is what we have all covenanted to do. In the past few decades, we have bred almost a welfare dependency model where we rely upon the Church instead of God for our faith. We may be seeing the fruits of this and they are not good.

Bradley and Caleb Young
Guest
Bradley and Caleb Young
Happy Hubby, If we understand right you have a “[issue] with the top church leaders” because they’re ignoring present issues and not answering questions regarding Joseph Smith’s life and character. Here’s what we understand about this: On people leaving the church: These are the last days. Times are starting to get tough for the righteous and it will only go downhill from here. The question for each of us is: will we stand with the Savior, His church, and His prophets, and be valiant for the testimony of Christ, or will we be deceived by the world. On church leadership:… Read more »
LdsMarco
Guest

Nothing here is new to me. Many of the issues here I already knew before I joined the Church. There’s answers to all these questions. The question is if you have a firm testimony of the Book of Mormon. If you do – you won’t fall!

Eric
Guest
As a life long member of the church I was brought up with the dominant narrative. Imagine my surprise when I realized through the new church essays and that the narrative was not true. One only needs to review the essays and they can judge for themselves that what the church has put forth is not the way many things were in its own history. It is one thing to say that Richard Bushman editorialized a bit, but it is quite another to deny the history he has uncovered in light of the essays acknowledging many of those truths. Church… Read more »
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