A second Open Letter to the Europe Area Presidency

My dear friend Chris Ralph is determined to open a dialogue on our behalf with the European Area Leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

His first Open Letter to The Europe Area Presidency received an estimated 15,000 views in just over a month. Up to this point he has not received a response. They either cannot reply through lack of knowledge concerning our questions or they wish to maintain the deception of the members who remain mostly ignorant of these issues.

When I was interviewed by my Stake President in April 2011, just after resigning as Bishop of Helston Ward, Plymouth England Stake, I warned the Stake President that either the Church talked openly about these issues or the members would find out for themselves and would then blame the Church for hiding the truth and deceiving them.

We are hereby giving the Church an opportunity to become transparent and practice the honesty it demands of its membership.

*************************

4th October 2012

Dear Area Presidency,

A little over five weeks ago I addressed an online open letter to you, posing some important questions relating to the founding claims of the Church. These questions, I suggested, required clear public answers if the growing tide of disaffected members was to be stemmed. I also invited you to open up a dialogue with me and others to consider these important issues. My intentions in doing so were honourable, for I am weary, (as I am sure many others also are), of feeling isolated from my local LDS community because I value historical truth. I am confident this letter must by now have been brought to your attention, as it is estimated that it has been viewed more than 15,000 times. However, in case you had by some misfortune not seen it, I also took the precaution of posting you a hard copy, explaining that my reason for going public was that there seems to be no other way of making ordinary voices such as mine audible to you.

In the last five weeks I have received many comments, mostly very supportive of my initiative. Some have been as hopeful as I, that my proposal to discuss these matters openly and honestly, would herald a new dawn for the LDS Church in Europe. However, others expressed cynicism over whether I would be taken at all seriously. One person wrote, for example: “The (LDS) corporation is run by businessmen and lawyers in love with Mammon and will do all they can to have the richest church in Babylon! Because of this they love good PR more than the truth! They will ignore the big issues of historical truth…”  I sincerely hope that such views will be shown to be incorrect, but to date, as I have yet to receive any kind of response or acknowledgment from you, I admit to feeling growing concern.

Another observer warned me that I would probably be “jumped on” for asking searching questions publicly. However, my belief was that you would welcome an opportunity to set the record straight on the troublesome items which are currently causing disaffections. A recent statement on the official LDS newsroom blog, given in response to the David Twede issue, was reassuring, (see: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/mormonism-news-getting-it-right-september-25), as it made it clear that having, (and presumably therefore asking), questions is by no means considered anathema. The official statement announced: “It is patently false for someone to suggest they face Church discipline for having questions or for expressing a political view.”

That is exactly as it should be of course, and I trust the rest of the world will duly take note that asking questions is definitely allowed within the LDS Church community. This is indeed positive, as it infers that when questions are asked, answers will follow, thereby making the process of questioning a genuinely meaningful one. I do trust you will answer me therefore, as it would surely be preferable that a constructive open dialogue be seen to take place, than for my request to become as a voice in the wilderness, heard by many but answered by none.

In the spirit of the above-mentioned official statement, I will therefore adopt what I understand to be an acceptable formula of asking a series of questions by way of reviewing the key matters which arose in my first letter. I petition you with respect, apologizing in advance if some of the questions unavoidably appear to be accusatory, and trsut that it will be possible to move the situation forward positively by this means:

  • Is it true that those who actually witnessed Joseph Smith at work in the production of the Book of Mormon, stated that he recited the text while placing his face into a hat, in which was located a peep- or seer-stone, and that the gold plates were typically absent during that process?
  • Are the missionaries trained today to teach prospective members an accurate account of this important historical event, or do they, and present-day LDS church publications, still indicate that translation was effected in another way directly from the gold plates?
  • If there is a major disparity of this kind between historical reality and what is being taught to the youth and non-members, why does the Church continue to support and encourage it?
  • Can it be credibly denied that Joseph Smith took other men’s wives as his own in polyandrous marriage unions, apparently without Emma’s knowledge?
  • Is it true, commencing with Fanny Alger in c1833, that Joseph had approximately thirty plural wives, the youngest, Helen Mar Kimball, being just 14 when they married?
  • Are we to accept as accurate the multiple sources used by respected historians, which indicate that some at least of those plural marriages were secured on the basis of Joseph representing that his life would be taken by an angel if the prospective wife refused him?
  • Have we any reason to disbelieve that Helen Mar Kimball was promised by Joseph that her whole family would receive exaltation in return for her accepting his marriage proposal?
  • Are stories of Joseph’s extra-monogamous activities, (some of the accounts resulting from a church-sponsored affidavit-gathering exercise later conducted by his nephew Joseph F. Smith), insufficient reason to consider that Joseph fell from grace?
  • Alternatively, would we be on firm ground as far as the present LDS Church leadership is concerned, simply denying the veracity of any of those stories, (as some members of the Community of Christ attempt to do), or should we perhaps admit that such behaviour did occur, but was acceptable to God because Joseph was his chosen prophet?
  • How are we to respond intelligently to the charge that the Book of Abraham is dead, embalmed and in its canopic jars?
  • Are we to adopt and run with the dissembling arguments of LDS apologists?
  • Or are we to make up our own answers, or perhaps try to avoid the subject altogether?
  • Do we have to rely on obfuscating arguments which are diversionary, embarrassingly weak and often inappropriate?
  • Why are the apologists permitted, and seemingly encouraged to stand in the front line on such important issues as the Book of Abraham?
  • Do the Brethren not possess between them an authoritative voice capable of providing proper answers for those they routinely implore to support the LDS cause?
  • Is it not long overdue that the leaders, if they be the living oracles of revealed truth, provide the membership with clear, honest, inspired directions on addressing critical questions relating to LDS founding claims, and the provenance of the LDS canon?
  • Does Elder Kearon, (who I understand is now a member of your presidency), remember me with even a small degree of the fondness with which I remember him, and does he perhaps recollect from times when we served together that I am a fervent supporter of the cause of truth, and will try to follow wherever it will lead us, because I believe that truth is freedom?
  • Does he sense as I do that certain of our shared past experiences foreshadowed this more important all-encompassing one?
  • Does he recall the very sad example of one brother, (he will know to whom I refer), who, driven by his fears, repeatedly refused to confront truth, until it proved disastrously late?
  • Does he appreciate the parallel I am compelled to draw now between that brother’s misfortune and the current dilemma of the institutional LDS church?
  • Do any of you believe that any of us can ever afford to be driven by our fears in the face of truth?
  • Are there not moral concerns of the most serious kind to be carefully weighed and considered?
  • Until all the questions have been answered openly and guilelessly, how may it be claimed that truth has prevailed?
  • Until whole answers are given in response to every heartfelt question, how might an enquirer be able to judge the LDS message objectively and within an authentic context?
  • Is honesty not more precious than loyalty in the pursuit of spiritual fulfillment?
  • If honest answers would reflect the institutional LDS Church or the Brethren in a negative light, should lies ever be employed to conceal that reality?
  • Supposing a woman bought a motor vehicle, which the salesman assured her had been delivered new and in pristine condition straight from the factory, and she subsequently discovered it had a history of several former owners, hidden high mileage, and painted over rust, would she not be in her rights to question the salesman who had seemingly misrepresented the facts to her for the purpose of obtaining her custom?
  • After all, isn’t it deception to misrepresent, and isn’t that unacceptable?
  • Wouldn’t she have cause to feel upset because the vehicle had been, in a very real sense mis-sold to her?
  • Would she have even greater cause for upset if the salesman, instead of admitting his error, and seeking a way to obtain reconciliation, attempted to maintain the original deception, and further compounded his error by casting aspersions upon the woman’s character?
  • Are there not obvious disturbing parallels with this scenario, and should those parallels not be noted, confessed and acted upon without delay?
  • Is the LDS church not a parody of righteousness if it does not fully embrace the principle of truth?
  • And if so, then would the negative consequences of failing to address these issues not extend far into the future to the shame of those who are presently able to make the necessary changes?
  • What of those to come, who may be misled unless they are fairly warned in advance of the full nature of the brand they are being asked to commit to?
  • Where, in all of these unresolved, unaddressed, unanswered issues, (and these are really only the small tip of a huge iceberg), may the half-truths generally to be found, of which you, as an Area Presidency, spoke in your April 2012 letter to local leaders?
  • And who is ultimately responsible for promoting and sustaining those half-truths?
  • Brethren, is it not time that we spoke further about all of these concerns?
  • Do the declining numbers, and the fabricated statistics, not offer their own warning?
  • Does making peace with historical truth have to be only “the final resort”?
  • Can it not be done now rather than as part of a future post mortem which will be held upon European Mormonism?
  • Is it not plain that there is a willingness today to address the painful realities which isolate the LDS church from the thinking world?
  • Is it not also clear as each day passes in non-response that this present willingness will become an ever rarer and diminishing commodity?
  • When will the nettle be grasped?
  • When will the bullet be bitten?
  • When will it finally be understood that entering into dialogue with those of us whose hearts are yet with the Mormon community, but whose understanding of history has outgrown a milk-only diet of myth and dogma, would lead to a more open, honest, robust and authentic organization, which courageously would embrace truth, without constantly needing to spin and deceive, while looking in fear over its shoulder?

Some in the church apparently flatter themselves into thinking they lead the many, not realising that God is still well capable of leading the one; and for some reason they don’t seem to understand that unless truth is embraced, fully, unrelentingly, “warts and all”, then in time those many ones will be led away.

In all candour Brethren, is that not already happening?

You clearly need the support of all those who understand and care. Please, therefore, let us reason together.

Christopher Ralph

***************

Chris’ reply to criticism of his Open Letters to the European Area Presidency by Jeff Walsh, which more fully explains his purpose & reasons for writing the Open Letters in the first place:

My response to Jeff Walsh on 7th October 2012 :

My apologies to you Jeff Walsh for not having commented earlier. As you will see, my username is journeyofloyaldissent, but I am Chris Ralph, the author of these two open letters. You have probably read my comments before without realizing it was me. However, I am not hiding, and that is why I signed the open letters in my own name. I keep my Stake President in the loop whenever I publish letters or other feature items here. I’m sure it would make his life easier if I didn’t post as I do, but he graciously acknowledges that I am an honest man seeking a resolution to my questions.

My “hidden agenda” is to facilitate openness concerning the history of the LDS church, and that is all. I lament the regrettable and potentially misleading remarks made by Elder Cook at the current General Conference, which do nothing to support this worthy aim. It is a concern I care about very much, because the LDS church was my life. My wife and I entrusted our five children to its teachings. We taught and I baptized my parents and my brother into it. We served and sacrificed to the best of our abilities for many years, and taught others the principles of the LDS gospel. We supported a son on a mission, and retained our faith through trials of health, loss, and other suffering. In short, our record in the church was positive, good enough at least for our family to be held up as an example in the New Era in April 1999.

I encountered the deeply conscience-troubling information about church history, not because I went looking for it in places which were considered “anti-Mormon”, as you apparently do Jeff, but because I was attempting to defend the church against its critics. However, incrementally I found, to my utter dismay, that the criticisms were more substantial than some of the LDS doctrinal teachings. It was painful, and eye-opening, and life-transforming, and because I am me I really had little choice other than to stand for truth and righteousness. A good friend eased my pain eventually by assuring me that it was not valid to defend the indefensible, even though truth might taste bitter. There are many who decide to pretend of course, but I cannot, for where is the joy in such pretense? Denial is not faith, although I do acknowledge that some dyed-in-the-wool LDS would have us believe that it is.

Even now, although I am prepared to stand up and be counted in this way, and if necessary be disciplined for asking questions about historical truth, I remain nominally LDS, having active family members in the church. I continue to admire many of the values and practices that the LDS church promotes. I genuinely wish that the official narrative were as true as I long believed it to be, when my “knowledge” of its founding was less well read and informed. It would make my life a whole lot easier if the LDS were all it claimed to be, but I am one who cannot find satisfaction in circular reasoning and make-believe. That is why I am asking these questions. I want there to be a coming of age for Mormonism in Europe, one which embraces diversity, positive spirituality, authentic history, and people who love truth more than they love mythology. And I very much want to be part of that coming of age.

I have some empathy with you Jeff. I can see that once upon a time, a long, long time ago, in a far-away land, I might have reacted just a little bit as you now do. And I know I would have thought I was right, just as you believe yourself to be right now.

Have I studied the proper sources? I have tried my darnedest. As I have looked at the available source materials and commentators I have tried to appreciate that there are all shades of value in them, not just black and white. That comes down to my training as an historian I suppose. My Masters dissertation was a prosopography of early LDS converts in England. So, I know for example, from the Millennial Star, the LDS church’s own newspaper, that Brigham Young actually did teach the so-called Adam-God theory. The Star says so, but oddly, some of the Mormon apologists try to spin another story altogether. Why would they do that when the facts are incontrovertible, and already owned by the church at the time? Might it be because they think they can pull a flanker on the modern membership which in the main doesn’t have any knowledge of the historical sources? If so, then to me, that is utterly disingenuous, and shameful.

I have looked at real life consequences arising out of such revelations. I have lamented over the misfortune of those who innocently lived and died under the life-wrecking influence of such tyrannical false teachings as the Adam-God, Blood Atonement, and polygamy doctrines, embracing them as inspired words of God because a prophet spoke them, and I have been grateful that neither I nor my ancestors were cursed to be numbered among that generation of LDS.

My research has opened up the life stories of many who were misled in the early days of the church, and not just the famous ones like the first English convert George D. Watt, who, under the direction of Brigham Young, married and had children with his own half-sister. There are others whose names are all but forgotten now, but whose stories are equally dismal examples of the same spiritual abuse; people such as Alston Marsden, Mary Ann Dallan, Alice Hodgson, Job Salter, Sarah Sweetland, William Ould, Thomas Cartwright, and Julia Restell. These people lived lives immersed in real “history from below”, and represented the ultimate tragedy of false teachings. It is doubly tragic that their futile and fruitless experiences are masked by the twisted, half-baked, top-down histories so much loved by faithful LDS today. For every faith-promoting story you may produce of pioneer sacrifice in crossing the plains, there will be two or three of these other real life stories which cast shame upon LDS history, or would do, if that history were not so misrepresented and skewed. Indeed, a chapter might be written about each of the above, and, in order to set the record straight, I am currently working on such a volume.

And so you will see Jeff from the foregoing, I have no time for Mormon apologetics or “faithful history”, when self-styled apologists and historians discredit themselves in this way. Unless you are either an official spokesperson for the LDS church, or have a mind at least half open to the possibility that Joseph Smith made some horribly, dangerously, misleading errors in his teachings and translations, we really have nothing further to discuss. It appears you fall into neither category, and so I will not be entering a dialogue with you online or privately by email. I’m sorry, but my energies will be better spent elsewhere.

If my open letter offends you, then it’s very simple: don’t read it, and by all means advise everyone else not to read it. I would not wish anyone to be offended or “tainted” by my honest quest for truth. But you see, I have little option really. My High Priest Group Leader, a respected friend now retired from C.E.S., offered at first to help me with my questions. I waited and waited for him to make an appointment, and then heard on the grapevine that his wife had advised him against it. My bishop specifically requested that I not share any questions with him for fear that it might affect his testimony. My Stake President has shown kindness and understanding, but has decided he would not open a file I sent to him which detailed my concerns. I blame none of them for being afraid and intimidated. They all know I was a devout LDS until I encountered real history. They also all know, I hope, that I am an honest man. So how can I ask my questions of the upper hierarchy if my questions are not even known by those who stand between them and me? I cannot reach the Area Presidency other than by this means. It is unfair of anyone to suggest otherwise.

Although, as I have explained Jeff, there is no purpose in you and I having an ongoing dialogue over these matters, I do not want to prevent you from adding some value to the discussion, and so may I suggest that you apply yourself to answering one question which may demonstrate to the readers of this page, and also the church hierarchy, the potential value of your claimed expertise. The question I would like to pose is this: In Facsimile 3 of the Book of Abraham, there are various hieroglyphs in panels above the five persons represented. Please explain why Joseph Smith’s translations of these panels is completely at variance with translations made by modern Egyptologist. For example, between the first figure on the left and the seated figure, is a single panel, which Joseph Smith rendered as: “King Pharaoh, whose name is given in the characters above his head”, whereas the accurate translation is “Isis the great, the god’s mother.” How come Joseph wrongly identified this Egyptian goddess as “King Pharaoh”? How come every single translation Joseph made from that facsimile is completely incorrect?

Well, I trust that I have answered you. If I have not, then I am sorry, I shall not be doing so after this time. However, I will just call into question, as a parting thought, whether it really is moral to suggest I should repent and return to the “faithful” fold, and continue as though nothing had occurred, without my questions being answered by those who supposedly represent “the living oracles”. Referring back to my analogy about the salesman and the customer, are you not actually suggesting by this advice that the salesman should keep selling the product despite having misgivings about it? If so then surely that is less than honest and moral advice for you to be giving. If I were that salesman, I would wish to have every doubt assuaged before embarking upon another single sale.

And so it is also with the LDS church and me. When I am satisfied that all is well at last, and that an authentic non-toxic message, (i.e. one which resonates with reality), is being sent out to benefit mankind, you will find me again in its active ranks… but not before.

And let the Lord judge between us.
Chris Ralph

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36 Responses to A second Open Letter to the Europe Area Presidency

  1. Valerie Hoyle says:

    I think the church will ignore this like they ignored the first letter. They have far too much to loose.

    • Jay says:

      Nothing in the letter is damaging for the church. In fact, the letter only serves to show the author’s limited knowledge concerning the church and its history. These questions are old and they’ve been answered many times in the past.

      • SteveBloor says:

        Dear Jay,

        I’m replying to you, whilst in my own mind remembering I was once of similar opinion to you.

        I do not wish to give offence, but sometimes it is better to be Smacked by the Truth than Kissed with a Lie!

        The Church was set up under false pretenses as a means to feed itself on the finances, & time & efforts of its gullible, deluded members.

        Any attempt to free their minds is attacked as satanic & triggers a persecution complex.

        The undue influence, or mind-control is built into the belief system to its core.

        I once hoped things could change, but I now believe that the Church leadership cannot ever begin to imagine how to change. Their own minds are so heavily invested in the mind-control that their own cognitive biases have blinded them to any alternative, but to keep blaming any questioners as apostates & anti-Mormons!

        It’s time to wake up your rational mind Jay & leave ‘Plato’s Cave’ to come & enjoy the reality of life, with all its wonderful colours & joy, instead of wasting it on black & white thinking whilst addicted to a fantasy belief system which is sucking the best out of you to serve its corporate greed.

        Like you I couldn’t believe it at first, but many of us are realising the hoax & moving on to better things.

        Wishing you well,
        Steve

      • SteveBloor says:

        Dear Jay,

        If the Church has answered all the questions already why do we need FAIR & FARMS to do so? Particularly in such obfuscating & confusing ways!

        If FAIR & FARMS have all the answers, why doesn’t the Church come out & say so?

        The Church leadership is frightened to admit it doesn’t know the answers.

        Sadly, even though original documents & even Journal of Discourses are available, including the original Papyrus scrolls which Joseph Smith claimed to translate, rational & reasonable evidence is discredited by the FAIR & FARMS in order to continue to promote the myth.

        Our beliefs can blind us to reality.

        Steven Covey used to say, “Believing is Seeing”, but that’s not entirely true. It’s probably more true to say, what we believe is what we see, and what we see is not always reality or truth.

        What we see with our eyes is only what our attention is drawn to.

        Our attention is focused on those things we believe based on our fears, guilt, phobias, biases, prejudices & assumptions.

        So we only see what we want to see. What our subconscious minds will allow us to see.

        What we think is true is not always of the same value as other truths.

        For instance there are three categories of thought; personal opinion, socially accepted truths and scientifically validated objective facts.

        ‘Attention’ is a powerful principle.

        It’s how stage magicians, con-men & religious tricksters are able to fool their victims.

        It’s what makes us blind to those things are subconscious minds want us to avoid because it would be too painful to contemplate, even though in the long-run it would be to our benefit.

        If only more people realised this they’d be less susceptible to the “deceptions of evil & conspiring men!”

        The eye only sees what the mind is willing to accept.

        Gladly more & more people are beginning to use their rational minds to overcome the gullibility of man & enjoy life without fear & irrational superstitious belief systems.

  2. Jeff Walsh says:

    Hi Brother Ralph, I do not speak for the Church but let you and I reason together for a moment, as I see it you intimate with your critical questions that you are in possesion of “truths” that you claim has been hidden from the rank and file of the Church.

    Let me ask you a few questions:-

    Have you done your own research into the history of the Church or are you relying on information put out by web sites such as mormonthink.com, staylds.com. mormonisminvestigated.co.uk, or by disidents such as Jim Whitefield, Fawn Brodie, Philastus Hulbert or other excommunicated members of the Church.

    Are you aware that most of the books which are cited by the above are published by Signature Books, the founder of which is an avowed anti-mormon, of whom one critic has said, “Korihor is back and he now has a printing press”. The avowed aim of George D Smith, D Michael Quinn, Grant Palmer, Todd Compton, Dan Vogel etc, is not to bring to the minds of faithful members of the Church information for their own good, it is to sow “discord among brethren” to quote Proverbs 6:16-19. These disaffected once -members of the Church who have lost the spirit and who are leaving the Church, but cannot leave it alone.

    Are you content to place your eternal salvation on the “evidence” presented by such men?.

    There are answers to all the questions which you pose to the Brethren, but the problem is that you would need to have the humility to accept that maybe you and others like you are maybe on the slippery slope of being decieved by the father of lies, just as Korihor was.

    The Prophet Joseph Smith was told by Moroni that his “name would be for good and evil among all nations”, I am afraid that you Brother Ralph are in danger of casting your lot with the evil minded mentioned by Moroni.

    My advise to you and anyone who has been ensnared by these evil and designing men is to humbly ask the Lord for enlightenment to clear your mind of these devilish enticements and to return to the true fold of God.

    I look forward to your response. Jeff Walsh, (you can contact me privately if you want at jeffwalshgen@uwclub.net )

    • GoshIFeelStupid says:

      Dear Sir – not normally rude but I have to say – what a load of bollocks ! When something doesn’t agree with our narrow mormon mindset, one of our programmed responses is to drag good ‘ol lucifer into the equation. Hmmmm.

      “There are answers to all the questions which you pose to the Brethren” – are there ?? Fantastic ! How do I get my hands on them ? I have been searching for a long time now and so have a lot of others – but Im still coming up with nix. Please share.

      Most of the evidence that is causing many devout TBMs ( and I include myself ) to question many things comes from official church documentation and documentation that is verified by a number of other sources in the public domain.

      A number of what I consider ‘show- stopper’ questions not raised in this letter arise from the wonderful world of science. Sure science is by its definition on a continual, critical quest for truth – but there are many core theories out there, un-resolvable with our standard works , which have a tonne of evidence to support them.

  3. They take a corporate position on things. They are more like a multi-national Corporation than anything. They are certainly not a Church, but more like the Borg!
    Keep me on this list, I want to recieve these e mails!

    Don, Las Vegas

    • Jeff Walsh says:

      I ask again Steve, why are you reluctent to have adverse comments on your blog. Jeff Walsh

      • SteveBloor says:

        Hi Jeff,

        I am the God of my Blog!

        But, unlike the Church, which refuses to enter into a discussion about these difficult issues, I do often approve comments which run counter to my thinking, but only if I deem them to offer an added dimension or new perspective.

        Jeff, as much as I appreciate your desires to ‘save us’ from what you perceive are lies & deceptions of the devil, I don’t think your arguments have changed enough from several months ago to warrant approval for discussion, unless you are authorised by the Church to debate these issues, or have had a change of heart & are now willing to listen to reason.

        With regret, I bid you adieu, and wish you well,

        Steve

  4. Jeff Walsh says:

    Hi Steve. Are the advocate now for Chris Ralph? Is this the reason that you decided to immediatly delete my response last night. It does not seem that he has the courage of his convictions.

    Please if you are not protecting him is there a post that I can speak to him direct. Jeff Walsh

    • SteveBloor says:

      Chris Ralph’s response to Jeff Walsh on 7th October 2012 on another blog, and repeated here:

      My apologies to you Jeff Walsh for not having commented earlier. As you will see, my username is journeyofloyaldissent, but I am Chris Ralph, the author of these two open letters. You have probably read my comments before without realizing it was me. However, I am not hiding, and that is why I signed the open letters in my own name. I keep my Stake President in the loop whenever I publish letters or other feature items here. I’m sure it would make his life easier if I didn’t post as I do, but he graciously acknowledges that I am an honest man seeking a resolution to my questions.

      My “hidden agenda” is to facilitate openness concerning the history of the LDS church, and that is all. I lament the regrettable and potentially misleading remarks made by Elder Cook at the current General Conference, which do nothing to support this worthy aim. It is a concern I care about very much, because the LDS church was my life. My wife and I entrusted our five children to its teachings. We taught and I baptized my parents and my brother into it. We served and sacrificed to the best of our abilities for many years, and taught others the principles of the LDS gospel. We supported a son on a mission, and retained our faith through trials of health, loss, and other suffering. In short, our record in the church was positive, good enough at least for our family to be held up as an example in the New Era in April 1999.

      I encountered the deeply conscience-troubling information about church history, not because I went looking for it in places which were considered “anti-Mormon”, as you apparently do Jeff, but because I was attempting to defend the church against its critics. However, incrementally I found, to my utter dismay, that the criticisms were more substantial than some of the LDS doctrinal teachings. It was painful, and eye-opening, and life-transforming, and because I am me I really had little choice other than to stand for truth and righteousness. A good friend eased my pain eventually by assuring me that it was not valid to defend the indefensible, even though truth might taste bitter. There are many who decide to pretend of course, but I cannot, for where is the joy in such pretense? Denial is not faith, although I do acknowledge that some dyed-in-the-wool LDS would have us believe that it is.

      Even now, although I am prepared to stand up and be counted in this way, and if necessary be disciplined for asking questions about historical truth, I remain nominally LDS, having active family members in the church. I continue to admire many of the values and practices that the LDS church promotes. I genuinely wish that the official narrative were as true as I long believed it to be, when my “knowledge” of its founding was less well read and informed. It would make my life a whole lot easier if the LDS were all it claimed to be, but I am one who cannot find satisfaction in circular reasoning and make-believe. That is why I am asking these questions. I want there to be a coming of age for Mormonism in Europe, one which embraces diversity, positive spirituality, authentic history, and people who love truth more than they love mythology. And I very much want to be part of that coming of age.

      I have some empathy with you Jeff. I can see that once upon a time, a long, long time ago, in a far-away land, I might have reacted just a little bit as you now do. And I know I would have thought I was right, just as you believe yourself to be right now.

      Have I studied the proper sources? I have tried my darnedest. As I have looked at the available source materials and commentators I have tried to appreciate that there are all shades of value in them, not just black and white. That comes down to my training as an historian I suppose. My Masters dissertation was a prosopography of early LDS converts in England. So, I know for example, from the Millennial Star, the LDS church’s own newspaper, that Brigham Young actually did teach the so-called Adam-God theory. The Star says so, but oddly, some of the Mormon apologists try to spin another story altogether. Why would they do that when the facts are incontrovertible, and already owned by the church at the time? Might it be because they think they can pull a flanker on the modern membership which in the main doesn’t have any knowledge of the historical sources? If so, then to me, that is utterly disingenuous, and shameful.

      I have looked at real life consequences arising out of such revelations. I have lamented over the misfortune of those who innocently lived and died under the life-wrecking influence of such tyrannical false teachings as the Adam-God, Blood Atonement, and polygamy doctrines, embracing them as inspired words of God because a prophet spoke them, and I have been grateful that neither I nor my ancestors were cursed to be numbered among that generation of LDS.

      My research has opened up the life stories of many who were misled in the early days of the church, and not just the famous ones like the first English convert George D. Watt, who, under the direction of Brigham Young, married and had children with his own half-sister. There are others whose names are all but forgotten now, but whose stories are equally dismal examples of the same spiritual abuse; people such as Alston Marsden, Mary Ann Dallan, Alice Hodgson, Job Salter, Sarah Sweetland, William Ould, Thomas Cartwright, and Julia Restell. These people lived lives immersed in real “history from below”, and represented the ultimate tragedy of false teachings. It is doubly tragic that their futile and fruitless experiences are masked by the twisted, half-baked, top-down histories so much loved by faithful LDS today. For every faith-promoting story you may produce of pioneer sacrifice in crossing the plains, there will be two or three of these other real life stories which cast shame upon LDS history, or would do, if that history were not so misrepresented and skewed. Indeed, a chapter might be written about each of the above, and, in order to set the record straight, I am currently working on such a volume.

      And so you will see Jeff from the foregoing, I have no time for Mormon apologetics or “faithful history”, when self-styled apologists and historians discredit themselves in this way. Unless you are either an official spokesperson for the LDS church, or have a mind at least half open to the possibility that Joseph Smith made some horribly, dangerously, misleading errors in his teachings and translations, we really have nothing further to discuss. It appears you fall into neither category, and so I will not be entering a dialogue with you online or privately by email. I’m sorry, but my energies will be better spent elsewhere.

      If my open letter offends you, then it’s very simple: don’t read it, and by all means advise everyone else not to read it. I would not wish anyone to be offended or “tainted” by my honest quest for truth. But you see, I have little option really. My High Priest Group Leader, a respected friend now retired from C.E.S., offered at first to help me with my questions. I waited and waited for him to make an appointment, and then heard on the grapevine that his wife had advised him against it. My bishop specifically requested that I not share any questions with him for fear that it might affect his testimony. My Stake President has shown kindness and understanding, but has decided he would not open a file I sent to him which detailed my concerns. I blame none of them for being afraid and intimidated. They all know I was a devout LDS until I encountered real history. They also all know, I hope, that I am an honest man. So how can I ask my questions of the upper hierarchy if my questions are not even known by those who stand between them and me? I cannot reach the Area Presidency other than by this means. It is unfair of anyone to suggest otherwise.

      Although, as I have explained Jeff, there is no purpose in you and I having an ongoing dialogue over these matters, I do not want to prevent you from adding some value to the discussion, and so may I suggest that you apply yourself to answering one question which may demonstrate to the readers of this page, and also the church hierarchy, the potential value of your claimed expertise. The question I would like to pose is this: In Facsimile 3 of the Book of Abraham, there are various hieroglyphs in panels above the five persons represented. Please explain why Joseph Smith’s translations of these panels is completely at variance with translations made by modern Egyptologist. For example, between the first figure on the left and the seated figure, is a single panel, which Joseph Smith rendered as: “King Pharaoh, whose name is given in the characters above his head”, whereas the accurate translation is “Isis the great, the god’s mother.” How come Joseph wrongly identified this Egyptian goddess as “King Pharaoh”? How come every single translation Joseph made from that facsimile is completely incorrect?

      Well, I trust that I have answered you. If I have not, then I am sorry, I shall not be doing so after this time. However, I will just call into question, as a parting thought, whether it really is moral to suggest I should repent and return to the “faithful” fold, and continue as though nothing had occurred, without my questions being answered by those who supposedly represent “the living oracles”. Referring back to my analogy about the salesman and the customer, are you not actually suggesting by this advice that the salesman should keep selling the product despite having misgivings about it? If so then surely that is less than honest and moral advice for you to be giving. If I were that salesman, I would wish to have every doubt assuaged before embarking upon another single sale.

      And so it is also with the LDS church and me. When I am satisfied that all is well at last, and that an authentic non-toxic message, (i.e. one which resonates with reality), is being sent out to benefit mankind, you will find me again in its active ranks… but not before.

      And let the Lord judge between us.

  5. Jeff Walsh says:

    Steve I was not addressing my remarks to you the post was trying to speak converse with Chris Ralph, and I am still puzzled why he seems to be hiding behind you and other blogs.

    I have the same regrets. Jeff

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  7. Jay says:

    My response would read something like:

    Dear brother Ralph

    The information you seek is, and has been available for some time through various church publications, websites etc. Since you seem uninterested in official church publications, please allow me to recommend http://www.fairlds.org. This site, although not affiliated with the LDS church, will easily answer your questions. These LDS scholars, historians etc have refuted all accusations
    made against the church and have proven to be a great external resource for those within the LDS community.

    Further, the questions you have submitted are neither new or troublesome for the church.

    Due to the faith and obedience to God’s laws and ordinances, we have been blessed. We continue to grow and expand, and as such continue to bless and influence the world for good. Unfortunately, as with many who experience success, there are those who would attack, criticise and attempt to mislead others. There are also those who have been influenced and have turned away from the light. We need to be strong for our lost brethren, we need to witness, support, love and nurture them back to full fellowship. Sadly, there are those who will refuse, who are stubborn and have closed their hearts and minds. We can only pray for these dear lost brothers and sisters.

    In future, please follow correct church procedures in dealing with matters of this nature.

    • For clarity, please would you share with us all where in official church publications there is a coherent explanation about Joseph Smith’s complete inability to translate the Book of Abraham? I would very much like to see it, and assess whether it adequately addresses the problem. I’m sure my priesthood leaders would also like this information, as they clearly had never heard of the problem let alone been instructed where they might find definitive answers. The bitter reality is that there has yet to be an honest attempt by the church to address the matter.

      If, however, the apologists at FAIR really do have these answers as you claim, (and many of us would beg to differ about your assertion, having failed to be convinced by the dissembling tactics used there), then surely all the General Authorities have to do is to exercise said “General Authority” over the church, (and the rest of mankind), and endorse them openly. Otherwise it seems you may be suggesting that the title of “living oracles” has been transferred to FAIR without us being officially notified. Have we really already arrived at such a state of anarchy?

      This is what is actually needed: we need to hear it from the horse’s mouth, not from every lad who claims to sweep the stable floor.

      And until the horse speaks it will be condemned by its own silence.

    • Petunia says:

      “In future, please follow correct church procedures in dealing with matters of this nature.”

      Jay, are you some kind of spokesperson for the church? I was just wondering why you felt to make such a comment – you speak as if you have been given authority by the brethren.

      Regarding the issue of finding the answers to our questions being found on FAIR: I’m afraid I have never found any substantial or satisfactory answers to many of my concerns.

      These include why are there several different versions of the first vision; why the Book of Abraham appears to be a work of fiction; why there is no reliable evidence to support the Book of Mormon.

      There is no answer, that I can discover on FAIR or any of the church websites, that can answer why God would require a man to approach a young woman and tell her that he was being threatened by an angel if she did not marry him – when he already had multiple wives, some of them already married to other men.

      The list goes on. FAIR’s layout at best is jumbled and badly arranged. It appears to me to be the result of a desperate bid to prove the unprovable.

      I have been a member of the church for nearly 40 years and I have served in nearly every capacity.

      When I discovered the truth I felt betrayed and shocked. I spent four years praying and studying and finally came to the conclusion that I had been deceived by the church and its leaders. It was not a decision that I came to lightly.

      I know that I speak for many people like myself. I wish I could convey to you how well-meaning members’ comments like yours are demeaning and hurtful when they attempt to brush off our concerns and say we have closed minds and hearts! Please rest assured that many of us have painstakingly referred to source materials that include official church history documents to verify our information.

      All I can say is if I come to the end of my life on earth and the Saviour faces me and asks me why I didn’t stay faithful to his church, I will ask him – why didn’t you answer my prayers. I studied and prayed every day for nearly four years to find out the truth, you know I did, I wanted to follow you and please you, so why didn’t you answer?

      The evidence is so stacked against Joseph Smith and many of the prophets after him. Lies have been told by leaders of the church, even down to Gordon B Hinckley. I really respected and loved Pres Hinckley and it was devastating to see him tell a lie on a television interview. Jeffrey Holland was the latest.

      The church is constantly painting over cracks and it just won’t do anymore. There is too much evidence and all that Chris is trying to do is get the leaders of this church to stand up and admit it. I sincerely hope that one day soon he will succeed, because there are still some of us who would like to attend church in the spirit of open and frank discussion.

      I pray that you, Jay, will discover the truth for yourself. I can promise that you will find us compassionate and understanding because we know how devastating it is.

      I wish you well.

      • Gina says:

        Thank you for your post, as it validates my experience. Particularly as comments such as those of Jeff Walsh still have the ability to cause me self doubt. I too was a faithful and true believing member. However, in my mid-forties I found I could no longer keep at bay the many questions that were plaguing me. I had questions that caused me to suffer doubts, and depression.I attributed this to Satan and so my response was to pray more fervently, asking Heavenly Father to remove the doubts. I accompanied this with continued faithful daily reading of the Book of Mormon. Yet, instead of removal of my doubts and questions, as I trusted would be the case, I started to see things in the Book of Mormon that caused me to question it’s authenticity. This was alarming, but still I continued to read faithfully, thinking to do so would remove this new doubt as well. One particular time, while sincerely praying, I expressed my sincere desire to always be true to the Savior. My fear and belief was that my doubts about the church, and should I leave it, would be a betrayal to the Savior. Imagine my surprise when it came to my mind I could still have a testimony of Jesus Christ even if I didn’t have a testimony of the church. The point where I came face to face with what I could no longer deny was when I read in the book of Jacob, chapter 3 verse 5 where it clearly states it was a commandment from God “that they should have save it were one wife and concubine they should have none…”. This is in direct contraction to what is written in the D&C and what Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and many others who practiced plural marriage, did in the name of God. I realize there are arguments and justifications to defend this practice, but I simply cannot and will not accept that God gives contradictory commandments. Once I was able to open my mind to the reality the church might not be true, the truths allowed me to quickly see “the church” is not true.

    • Stormin says:

      Spoken like a true Sheep —— obviously on the payroll and expecting to retire from tithing funds! Just think of the big payroll and key supporters of lies and fraud —— BYU employees, church employees, BYU Idaho, BYU Hawaii, Seminary and institute teachers, GAs and Mission Pres with free education and living expenses —- probably missed others sorry! If I worked for the LDS church with their generous benefits I would be an ardent supporter of frauds also! I have definitely noticed in our stake more and more church employees are being called to key positions eventhough they are young ——- what can they say NO to the same hand that feeds them??

  8. Sara says:

    Thank for posting these letters by Chris. I so appreciate his honest and sincere desire to have TRUTH be known. I would love to read his book when it becomes published. May we all be such courageous “truth seekers” no matter the out come.

  9. Pingback: Twelve Members of Mormon Church Plead for Honest Answers to Two Open Letters | miguel in belgium

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  12. I think you know the answers to your questions about Church History. The questions are not new.

    I suspect you’ve discovered that most of them are in official church publications or church funded publications like BYUStudies. Although interpreted differently, the data used by the Church and by critics of the Church is often the same. Elder Russell M. Nelson used the same source in an Ensign article nearly 20 years ago describing Joseph Smith method of translation, including putting a stone in a hat, as do those who seem to think they are exposing a secret.

    The Church certainly didn’t try and hidden the Spalding Manuscript or Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews. BYU published both. The Church didn’t try to suppress Bushman’s work in Rough Stone Rolling. The book talks about polyandry. Bushman doesn’t put any spin on it.

    The Church can’t really hide from anything in the Journal of Discourses. The Church sold them on CD-ROM through Deseret Book of over a decade. Now they are online through Deseret Book along with journal entries and interviews from those involved in plural marriage in Nauvoo.

    The Church has never hidden the changes in the Book of Mormon. The only reason it is an issue is because critics act as if it is a secret and then people get concerned.

    It kind of takes the wind out of the sails when people realize that not only has the Church not been hiding things it has been publishing articles on these issues for a long time. Articles critics don’t refute because they don’t need refuting.

    In the past decade the Church has made a tremendous effort to make original records available. I don’t know of any other private organization making such a monumental effort. Many of the Journals of Church leaders published by Signature Books would not have been possible without access to the manuscripts in the Church History Library and Archives.

    If you look at the Church History Library Catalog online you’ll see plenty of books written by those who do not agree with our beliefs. You can walk in a read most of them without having to wait very long.

    If you want something from the Church History Library and you know what it is, ask them and they’ll send you a copy if they can.

    In 2003, the Church published a 76 DVDs containing high resolution images of over 400,000 documents from the Archives. It includes unpublished revelations received by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young’s letters, letter from Joseph to Emma and at least one to another wife, any many other collections.

    The First Presidency continues to pull records out of their vault and make them available to the public. Most recently through the Joseph Smith Papers.

    Most of the current leadership manuals are online for the world to see, including the book given to missionaries, Preach My Gospel. It’s not a secret.

    I know some people got all upset to hear the General Authorities are compensated for their time. That’s been public since at least 1992 when it was mentioned in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, a publication sponsored but the Church. Beyond that, the D&C stays that bishops and stake presidents can be supported by the funds of the Church. Presently they are not but the provision is there.

    I could go on and on, but I’ll stop. Just to be clear, I haven’t mentioned FARMS, FAIR, the Church Public Affairs Department, Hugh Nibley, or any other source that seems to be a hot button. Not all of the answers are there yet. Sometimes we discover that the history we thought was correct wasn’t and so adjustments are made along the way.

    There is a saying that seems to be true and I think it fits this situation. If you want to hide something from members of the Church, put it in a book.

    If you want to discover accurate history of the Church, you’ll probably find more success by joining the Mormon History Association than you will by demanding responses from the First Presidency. It will probably be a more rewarding experience. Yet, like I said, I think you have the answers to your questions.

  13. LJ says:

    I think the difference though is not publishing them, but actively teaching them to the rank and file.
    Yes the church published these documents, but that never filtered down to the Gospel Doctrine teachers manual, where 99% of the active church membership get their knowledge.

    I think this is the disconnect that rankles people.

  14. Libster says:

    Matthew thats wonderful research ……but the truth is if you went to any ward and asked for a show of hands on questions like…
    Who knows there are contadictory versions of the first vision?
    Wh knows early members of the church knew nothing about the first vision?
    Who know’s joseph had 33 wives?
    who know’s Joseph was married to 14 year olds?
    Who knows the books of Mormon was translated by the use of a magic stone in a hat?
    Who knows that Joseph smith joined the methodist church after being told by God that the other churches were an abomination?
    Who knows that the temple ceremony was inspired by Masonry, or that Joseph Smith was a 33rd degree mason?
    Who knows about Josephs affair with Fanny Alagar?
    Who knows that there are thousands of changes to the book of Mormon, some of which are doctrinal?
    Who knows about the mountain meadows massacre?
    Who knows that Brigham young taught that Adam was God?

    I could go on and on……. 98% of the congregation wouldnt have a clue what you are talking about.
    If people who live, love and run the church dont know about the above then it is the fault of the leaders. Its abusive… it’s like witholding the fact our childs adopted and then when they found out to great personal upset mocking them and saying I never witheld you birth certifcate you could have looked at it at any time!??? anyone would say that was twisted and mean!
    The fact is Matthew that the rank and file are so busy busting a gut for the church that they dont have time to serach out information which contradicts what they are taught in their sunday school lessons. Why would they? When they trust the lesson manuals?

  15. Those are good points from both of you. I wonder how much time and effort should the Church devote to pointing out something that is not is not central to the mission of the Church?

    The Introduction to the 1981 Edition of the Book of Mormon says there are changes in this edition that were not in previous editions. While some would have enjoyed a full issue of the Ensign devoted to explaining all the changes, most would not. The Ensign contained some information at the time and other publications expanded on the details. Does this mean the Church did not go far enough to explain the changes?

    More importantly do the changes to the text invalidate it as a translation/transcription of an ancient text? No more so than the words in the first printing validate those claims. The majority of the changes that impact what is taught, were made by Joseph Smith.

    Two recent books, The “Book of Mormon”: A Biography (Lives of Great Religious Books) by Paul C. Gutjahr, and How We Got the Book of Mormon by Richard E. Turley Jr. and William W. Slaughter discuss this. Both written for general audiences. The first by a non-Mormon and the second by the Assistant Church Historian.

    Royal Skousen has spent the past 30 years or so studying and publishing on the variations in the Book of Mormon manuscripts and printed editions. It’s dry yet important work. So again, how far does the Church need to go before they have gone far enough to satisfy concerns?

    Should the missionaries teach that there have been changes in the Book of Mormon over the years but it is essentially the same text as first printed in 1830? How many would care? I think your question is valid I just wonder what point is enough?

    The question about Mountain Meadows is important, and it’s no fun to learn about it from a critic first, but at what point is it introduced? How do you weave it into the curriculum and really, what would be the purpose? It is mentioned briefly in a manual on Church history for Institute students and there is plenty of material available from BYU that stands up to criticism, including some recent material the critics are glad BYU published.

    Those in the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve have described the massacre as it was, and awful crime against innocence people. The Church has spent millions to preserve both the land where the murders happened, church records related to the massacre, and to make those records available to the public.

    Will Bagley, Brigham Young’s biggest modern day critic, and a respected scholar, has said there is no smoking gun linking Brigham Young to the massacre. Doesn’t mean Bagley is fond of Young or doesn’t have concerns about other issues, particularly after the massacre? No, he has plenty of concerns and questions. Many of them the same questions and concerns held by scholars inside the Church.

    Again, when will the Church have gone far enough? Far enough for Bagley? Far enough for you? Far enough for me?

    Does the translation of the Book of Mormon with a stone in a hat make it less credible that if Joseph Smith was sitting at a table with his finger on the plates as depicted by several artist? Does that really make a difference as to whether or not to consider accepting the text for what it claims to be? It may for some but I don’t see it doing so for most. What are the missionaries saying that is incorrect? Whether it be a seer stone, the ancient Urim and Thummim, or directly into Joseph Smith’s mind without any physical object of focus it still fits within the explanation that it was by the gift and power of God.

    It is an interesting subject? Yes, very interesting. Is it worth devoting 45 minutes or thirty minutes of Sunday school time to discussing every few years? I don’t think so. An Ensign article? Sure.

  16. Now to shift gears, I freely admit there are aspects of Church history that are not presented accurately in spite of the historical record. Although they do creep in from time to time (as I think they do in most areas of history) most of the time it is stories that get passed around that are false. For example, stories about why polygamy was practiced and why it ended that have no foundation in fact. People hear them, past them on without thinking much about it and then, boom. One day they discover that what they thought and shared with others for the past twenty years was completely wrong. It’s a frustrating experience.

    Then there are assumptions we make because we don’t stop and think about the time line. For example, the account of Joseph Smith’s leg operation when he was a boy. When I heard it as a kid I took it in as a Word of Wisdom story. “Wow, he wasn’t even a prophet yet, didn’t know anything about the Word of Wisdom yet somehow he knew not to drink.” My interpretation was false. The story had nothing to do with the Word of Wisdom. It was about Joseph and his relationship with his father from the perspective of his mother, Lucy Mack Smith.

    Years later I read in an encyclopedia the Joseph Smith drank alcohol. I thought it was garbage. Nope, it’s true. It’s right they in the History of the Church. The work referenced in the section headings in the Doctrine and Covenants. It’s in the authorized Church approved history.

    What was the problem this time? I was taking what I thought I knew about him not drinking as a boy, connecting it with the Word of Wisdom as practiced today, and coming to a conclusion that he didn’t drink based on, well nothing really. So yes, Joseph Smith drank on occasion. Including the day of his death. John Taylor makes it clear in the History of the Church that the wine they requested was not for the sacrament but to lift their spirits.

    Later I discovered the Word of Wisdom was not a requirement for a temple recommend until the 1920s.
    It revealed to me that I had assumptions about things in the past based on how I Church operates today. Not a good thing to do.

    Could the Church have clarified these Word of Wisdom matters? Maybe, but maybe not. What’s to clarify? They don’t know my questions and they shouldn’t have to know them. Possibly some information that the application of the Word of Wisdom developed over time rather than in a day? Yes, that would be nice, but how many of the people involved in writing the curriculum knew when, where, and how all that happened?

    I have to find my own answers. I found many of them and have more that I look forward to discovering.

    So what do we do about it? First, we need to keep our thinking caps on and be willing to not pass things on, positive or negative, until we’ve done our homework. When we don’t know for sure qualify the statement. Make sure your opinion is indicated as such.

    Second, know that Church leaders do try to keep false history from spreading. In the Southeastern United States, a statement floated around for years that was attributed to President Spencer W. Kimball. Yet when the claim was traced back, it hit a dead end. No available link connecting it to President Kimball. So what happened? The General Authority responsible for training leaders in the area asked them to stop attributing it to President Kimball. It wasn’t anything earth shattering. Just a simple statement about the South experiencing high conversion at some point in the future. Harmless really, except if there is no record of him saying it, then it becomes a problem. So know that corrections are made both in print and via instructions to leaders to help keep things accurate.

    Third, if you find an error or have concerns about something in the curriculum, contact the right department. Not the First Presidency. Usually it’s listed in the front of the manual. Have your documentation together and share what you have discovered. Offer solutions. I’ve done this plenty of times and each time the response has been a gracious, “Thank you.” Sometimes I’ve seen corrections made and other times not. I’m still checking every couple of years for an incorrect date to be changed. Nothing major, just one year off and clearly a minor mistake but nonetheless something that needs to be corrected.

    Fourth, it helps to keep in mind that we don’t know what the First Presidency does or does not know. Playing a game of what they are keeping held back isn’t productive because we can’t really know with certainty. When an official statement comes out I often ask myself, ‘I wonder what the First Presidency knows about this that I don’t know?’ For me it is okay to trust that they know what they are doing. I am okay with being settled in my own mind on an issue the First Presidency has not yet made any statements about.

    In some cases, conclusion I’ve come to years ago end up being in harmony with the First Presidency years later. Is it because I’m smart than they are? Clearly not. I think the biggest reason is when I come to a conclusion, first, it’s just me. I don’t have to agree with anyone else before I say ‘yep that is what I believe.’

    The First Presidency does not have that luxury. They must be unified and in perfect agreement before they act on certain issues. They don’t compromise with each other. Nor does the Quorum of the Twelve. That means at times it is a very slow process to have everyone, all 15, on the same page in every way before they can move forward. They are intelligent men, with great insight, who see it as their responsibility to speak their mind in those council meetings.

    Second, what I conclude in my mind has nowhere near the implications of what the First Presidency says officially. Millions of people are not going to act on my words. If I discover a year later that I was wrong, it’s not going to be much of an issue. If the Council of the First Presidency and the Twelve discover that their decision was the wrong, it can be a huge problem. Difficult and expensive to correct. Not everything has to go through that process but when it done it is done in detail. Nothing is spared. I have neither the means not the need to operate my life in that fashion.

    Remembering these two things quickly alleviates any thought or feeling of criticism that may arise within me in regards to anything implemented by either of these two quorums.

    So I recognize that what I’ve written doesn’t address everything. I also recognize that it would be foolish of me to calm that I understand all your concerns and even worst to dismiss them. I hope this helps explain my previous post and may answer a few questions. Nor am I under the delusion that anyone here is looking to me for answers. I don’t expect my words to change someone’s passionate opinion, but it if helps someone see things from a different angle. If helps them see things let harshly or feel somewhat understood, they my time typing this was well spent.

    • sch says:

      Mathew,

      Fascinating post but it is a long winded and comes to naught. I for one, appreciate the effort you must have put into it. But, in the end it doesn’t really matter what a prophet did or did not do, what a prophet did or did not say, what a prophet thought or did not think. Why? Because the real question is so much simpler and leads to much more productive results.

      The only answer I want from any member … don’t care if it is the prophet or all the way down to the eight year old that was baptized yesterday is the same. However, the answer must be consistent among them all because everything else hinges upon it. All I want to know is when is a prophet speaking as a prophet and when is he not. The answer needs to be clear and concise. In addition every member, if they are in fellowship with the church , must get the *same* yes or no answer to any statement made by a prophet. That is, member A is not allowed to believe statement x to be prophetic while statement y is not while at the same time member B believes the opposite position. Oh, and once the rules are set they can’t be changed to exclude contradictory or embarrassing statements that clearly conform to the rules as stated. In other words you can’t have one set of rules for prophet J and another for prophet B.

      Please, no circular logic either. It is not acceptable to answer that if the members are in agreement with the prophet on a subject then that is a prophetic statement. The fickleness of members is notorious … one only needs to think of the blacks and the priesthood to recognize that majority agreement with the prophet is not the answer … also I am pretty sure that God doesn’t run a democracy … but I could be wrong🙂

      And, before you say that each member gets to decide for themselves through prayer if a prophet is speaking as a prophet then let me stop you right there because that is a less than useful answer. I do not think even the brethren would support a religion in which members can pick and choose through prayer which statements or teachings or ensign articles or prophet’s mumbling in a long forgotten diary can be considered as coming straight from God. In the end, that is what we are talking about here isn’t it? When we are talking about a prophet we are talking about a man who receives a message straight from the mind (or mouth as the case may be) of God passing directly into the mouth of the prophet and down to us as members; unfiltered, unaltered, undamaged. If a prophet cannot do this thing, this channeling of God, then he is not fit to be called such.

      Kindly waiting your reply as I feel in the end this will help us all clearly resolve what is prophetic and what is not. It will go a long way to helping us settle this endless argument over what in actuality the church considers to be its doctrine and so allow us all to return to full fellowship in the church where we can work together in brotherly (and sisterly) love to build the kingdom here on earth. I think, in the end, this is all any of us desire.

      P.S. Please don’t fall back to “if it agrees with the standard works then he is speaking as a prophet.” This answer falls apart at two points at least. One, the standard works contradict them selves in several places so we are left in the difficult position of deciding which part of the standard works to accept as prophetic and which ones to reject. Two, If all a prophet can do is make statements that agree with the standard works then of what use is he?

      • “When is a prophet speaking as a prophet and when is he not?” Great question, Srh. Thank you for pointing out the kind of slippery non-answers you don’t want to read. I appreciate your humor, but I don’t have a concise answer to your question nor have I looked for one. Perhaps a brighter intellect than mine can illuminate the subject.

        However, I do not agree with the limitations in your definition of a prophet.

        A prophet is not a celestial telegraph machine. Inspiration is not limited to words and when it is words it isn’t always mean to come “down to us as members” in a transcript or even come to us at all. John the Revelator described a vision, mostly in his own words. Moses spoke with God face to face while other prophets received instruction from angels. The filter is the prophet’s ability to describe the experienced. In some cases, they wrote that what they saw and heard is beyond description.

        Other times they work on a particular issue and seek approval to move forward. The revelation is a confirmation of the decision. Paul’s letters are not words directly from heaven yet many Christians accept them as teachings with the same authority as the Gospels. Most recognize that some of what he said related to the culture of his day and was specific to the congregations he was writing. Whether or not he was a prophet or an apostle, his words had the authority of the apostles.

        None of this answers your question about being selective and accepting only what is comfortable as divinely approved while discounting what is uncomfortable.

        Nor does it answer what may need to be answered first. What is the definition of a prophet in the Church and what are the differences between a prophet, a seer, a revelator, and an apostle? What is specific to each title and what is common among them?

        Whatever answers I may find are unlikely to satisfy you. They may work for me but not be enough for you. That’s okay. An underlying principle in the Church is for us to known things through our own efforts.

        One more thought. The petitions that are up make claims and demand answers. They seem to say ‘give us the answers.’ It seems to assume that those protesting are unable to find out for themselves. Clearly, that’s not the case. The First Presidency, if they were to choose to answer is likely to point to many of the same resources already available to the public. In other cases they may say, “Keep looking.” Whatever the response, it won’t mean as much or be as lasting as what an individual can find on his or her own. That has been the case in my life. I retain and understand answers I have searched for much more than those handed to me. Few, if any, answers that I’ve demanded of anyone have ever been of any lasting value.

        If those with questions still have a particle of belief remaining, then turn to the same source of revelation the First Presidency calls on daily in prayer, do the same and then get to work to find the answers.

        Don’t just dig for problems. Try digging up some of the tremendous good the Church does that isn’t front page news. All the things that ‘98% of the rank and file’ doesn’t have a clue about. Apple orchards in North Korea, the Neonatal Resuscitation Training Program, support for hospitals and clinics in Myanmar, and a long list of work the Church is doing every day. How many hands would go up in Sunday School? Few. It’s not hidden. It’s right there in plain view if we take the time to look for it. Dig on but don’t cast away diamonds on a search for coal.

        Those looking to answer uncomfortable questions please make sure you are not looking only to confirm what you think you already know. Most close the books too soon and cut themselves short from learning the full story in context. Don’t join that club. It leaves you, and those you teach, susceptible to have what you thought you understood, pro or con, pulled out from under you.

        Yes, long winded but hopefully clear. Please pardon the grammatical and style errors.

  17. Please pardon the grammatical errors in the my previous post. It’s no fun to catch them after the final click.

  18. pioneer1003 says:

    Matthew, thank you for your interesting and polite dialogue with the forum, and for your points in favour of the Church. For me, it’s very simple – were Joseph Smith and Brigham Young true prophets? I have to say, after 2 years of rigorous research, no they were not, could not have possibly been, not even close.

    After over 40 years association with the Church, this was a huge blow. I was never TBM, so I didn’t have as far to fall emotionally as many here. I’m just devastated for my family and LDS friends, whom I love dearly – but they are happy with their lives in the Mormon bubble. I don’t rock their boat, and they don’t rock mine!

    I do have one question for you though Matthew, knowing what you now know about the true history of the church, and it seems that you have accepted it (I would say, rationalized it away) would you have joined Joseph Smith or Brigham Youngs church had you lived in those times? I feel that the vast majority of church members would not have even given the early church a second glance!

  19. That is a tough question to answer. I can only speculate. Would I recognize the good and receive the type of confirmation others said they received? If I did receive a confirmation, would I have the courage to act on it? I hope the answer to both is ‘yes’ but I’m not certain.

    If given the opportunity I probably would have listened to both Mormons and to those who were against Mormons.

    I try not to dismiss ideas that interest me without first talking to those who believe them and trying to understand how they see things and why they accept something as true.

    Tying this back into the post, I think not listening, while thinking we have the answers for someone else, is a real problem. We may dismiss things too quickly.

    There are plenty of websites filled with positive answers to questions about the Church, but I think they are often the wrong answers because the question is misunderstood. The answer satisfies the one who gave it because the question was never a real concern of theirs. They don’t have to dig far to find a solution to something that wasn’t a problem.

    • SteveBloor says:

      Hi Matthew,

      A good place to start being more circumspect about our beliefs is to question how we make our beliefs in the first place.

      I always advise people now not to believe everything they think. And to question the reasons for those beliefs.

      Most of us, as humans, base our beliefs on emotion driven thinking. Rather than on strong evidence & objectivity.

      As a result human beings are extremely gullible to unjustified beliefs.

      Psychologists can tell you that most people make their beliefs first then look for evidence to confirm those beliefs. This leaves us vulnerable to subconscious cognitive biases like confirmation bias or observer bias.

      As humans we can be very irrational about our beliefs and hold onto them despite disconfirming evidence to the contrary.

      I strongly recommend reading into how we as human beings actually form our belief systems.

      A good starting point is a book by professor of psychology Michael Shermer called ‘The Believing Brain’.

  20. Pingback: My Reasons For Supporting Tom Phillips in His Fraud Case Against President Thomas S Monson | Steve Bloor's Blog

  21. Pingback: Chris Ralph’s open letter to the First Presidency & Quorum of Twelve: 23rd December 2012 | journeyofloyaldissent

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