Church History and Censorship


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“We have the responsibility to preserve the doctrinal purity of the Church. We are united in this objective.”

- First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve statement, Sunstone, 16:6, no. 92, November 1993, p. 72; http://www.mormonismi.net/artikkelit/puhdistus1993.shtml

“I have a hard time with historians... because they idolize the truth. The truth is not uplifting; it destroys. Historians should tell only that part of the truth that is inspiring and uplifting.”

- Apostle Boyd K. Packer, as related by D. Michael Quinn, “Pillars of My Faith,” talk delivered at Sunstone Symposium, Salt Lake City, August 19, 1994

“None of the early revelations of the Church have been revised.”

- Apostle Hugh B. Brown, letter to Morris Reynolds, May 13, 1966, reprinted in Tanner, Major Problems of Mormonism, p. 133, online at http://user.xmission.com/~country/reason/changes.htm

“There has been no tampering with God’s Word…. The whole body of Church laws forms a harmonious unit, which does not anywhere contradict itself nor has it been found necessary to alter any part of it.”

- Apostle John Widtsoe, Joseph Smith – Seeker After Truth, 1951, p. 119, 122

“Inspiration is discovered in the fact that each part, as it was revealed, dovetailed perfectly with what had come before. There was no need for eliminating, changing, or adjusting any part to make it fit.”

- Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1954, v. 1, p. 170; Smith made this statement while he was church historian, thus exemplifying the kind of ignorance (and/or lying) necessary to be a LDS historian.

“No true Latter-day Saint will ever take a stand that is in opposition to what the Lord has revealed to those who direct the affairs of his earthly kingdom. No Latter-day Saint who is true and faithful in all things will ever pursue a course, or espouse a cause, or publish an article or book that weakens or destroys faith.”

- Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, Conference Report, October 1984, p. 104

Statements from Scholars

“Many things have been intentionally ignored and sometimes concealed or have been taken to have religious meanings or implications which, in my opinion, have no religious connections whatsoever. I believe that the Church has intentionally distorted its own history by dealing fast and loose with historical data and imposing theological and religious interpretations on the data that are entirely unwarranted.”

- Sterling McMurrin, Mormon scholar, “7EP Interview: Sterling M. McMurrin,” by Blake Ostler, Seventh East Press, January 11, 1983, p. 1

“Honesty is not a particularly common virtue of churches, or of any other organizations. There is nothing new about churches perverting history... Most institutions, including churches, governments, and government agencies... often find it advantageous to ignore historical facts and do a little reconstructing here and there on their own history.”

- Sterling McMurrin, Mormon scholar, “7EP Interview: Sterling M. McMurrin,” by Blake Ostler, Seventh East Press, January 11, 1983, p. 2

“No church can stand a close scrutiny of its origins and history without a good deal of moral and intellectual cringing.”

- Stanley McMurrin, Mormon scholar, “7EP Interview: Sterling M. McMurrin,” by Blake Ostler, Seventh East Press, January 11, 1983, p. 3

“Mormon historians are told to write church history as elementarily as possible and as defensively as possible. This is accommodation history for the weakest of the weak Latter-day Saints, for the vilest of the vile anti-Mormons, and for the most impressionable of the world’s sycophants....
“Historians did not create problem areas of the Mormon past, but most of us cannot agree to conceal them, either. We are trying to respond to those problem areas of Mormon experience. Attacking the messenger does not alter the reality of the message.”

- D. Michael Quinn, see Mormon Mavericks: Essays on Dissenters, p. 339

“Three apostles gave orders for my stake president to confiscate my temple recommend. Six years earlier, I had formally notified the First Presidency and the Managing Director of the Church Historical Department about my research on post-Manifesto polygamy and my intention to publish it. Now I was told that three apostles believed I was guilty of ‘speaking evil of the Lord’s anointed.’ The stake president was also instructed ‘to take further action’ against me if this did not ‘remedy the situation’ of my writing controversial Mormon history.
“James M. Paramore, the area president who relayed these orders, instructed my stake presidency to tell me that this was a local decision and reflected their own judgment of the state of my church membership. My stake president replied that he was not going to tell me something which was untrue. Instead, the stake president informed me how this order came about and how they had resisted the area president for more than two hours. Unlike the area president, my stake president and one of his counselors had already read the Dialogue article. My stake presidency saw nothing in it to justify what they were being required by church headquarters to do to me.
“I told my stake president that I would not tell colleagues or friends about this because I did not want to be the center of more publicity. However, I told the stake president that this was an obvious effort to intimidate me from doing history that might ‘offend the Brethren’ (to use Ezra Taft Benson’s phrase). I didn’t feel I should be punished for describing Mormon events which the current general authorities wished I had never occurred. I said it was wrong-headed for them to confiscate my temple recommend, and that ‘I won’t be intimidated by anybody.’”

- D. Michael Quinn, “On Being a Mormon Historian,” pp. 91-92

“The tragic reality is that there have been occasions when [Mormon] Church leaders, teachers, and writers have not told the truth they knew about difficulties of the Mormon past, but have offered to the Saints instead a mixture of platitudes, half-truths, omissions, and plausible denials.”

- D. Michael Quinn, “On Being a Mormon Historian,” p. 8; reprinted in Smith, ed., Faithful History: Essays on Writing Mormon History, 1992, pp. 69-111

“When Elder Packer interviewed me as a prospective member of Brigham Young University’s faculty in 1976, he explained: ‘I have a hard time with historians because they idolize the truth. The truth is not uplifting; it destroys. I could tell most of the secretaries in the church office building because that they are ugly and fat. That would be the truth, but it would hurt and destroy them. Historians should tell only that part of the truth that is inspiring and uplifting.’”

- D. Michael Quinn, “On Being a Mormon Historian (and Its Aftermath),” in George D. Smith, ed., Faithful History: Essays on Writing Mormon History, 1992, p. 76

“Revelations have been revised whenever necessary. That is the nice thing about revelation – it is strictly open-ended.”

- Hugh Nibley, LDS scholar, letter to Morris L. Reynolds, May 12, 1966, quoted in Tanner, Case Against Mormonism, 1967, v. 1, p. 132, online at http://user.xmission.com/~country/reason/changes.htm

“Joseph would dictate them [his revelations] to a clerk at as fast and steady a pace as the clerk was able to write, maintaining an even flow of delivery, and never altering the words spoken.”

- John J. Stewart, Mormon scholar, Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet, 1966, p. 57

Others:


“F. Burton Howard and F. Enzio Busche came out on separate occasions and told me we have an obligation to conceal our doctrines; that we are trying to be a mainstream Christian Church.”

- Michael Barrett, LDS attorney, quoted in Bill McKeever, “Excommunicated for Publicly Discussing Mormon Doctrine?,” Mormonism Researched, Summer 1994, p. 3

“Charismatic movements, such as Mormonism, maximize events by coloring them with an indelible strain of folklore. Myth is frequently more powerful than the historical reality that endangers it.”

- Richard S. Van Wagoner, LDS Historian, Sidney Rigdon – Portrait of Religious Excess, p. 246

“In sacred history, the divine is an actor in the drama, a direct participant, not a supernatural presence. Because the divine is a natural part of the process, sacred history inevitably takes on a mythic character, which makes it ‘truer than true,’ if by truth one means that which is established and verified according to the canons of historical scholarship. Sacred history has other characteristics as well. It is stripped down – in artistic terms, stylized – so that the story is told in blacks and whites, with no grays. The persecuted and persecutors, the people of God and the people of Satan, good and evil are locked in mortal combat in which compromise is out of the question. All the ambiguity and complexity of human existence is shorn away. Moreover, the context is left ambiguous enough to keep the narrative from being either time bound or culture bound; it functions as scripture.... Mormonism’s sacred history, like all sacred history, is a part of the mythological dimension of this religion. By its very nature it can only be retold and defended; not reinvestigated, researched.”

- Jan Shipps, religious scholar, “The Mormon Past: Revealed or Revisited?”, Sunstone, v. 6 (Nov./Dec. 1981), p. 57

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Plagarism in Church History

The Wasp (original newspaper report):


“Joseph Smith was arrested upon a requisition of Gov. Carlin,… in accordance with a process from Gov. Reynolds of Missouri, upon the affidavit of Ex-Governor Boggs,… the Municipal court issued a writ of habeas corpus according to the constitution of the State,… they left them in care of the Marshal, without the original writ by which they were arrested, and by which only they could be retained, and returned back to Gov. Carlin for further instruction, - and Messrs. Smith and Rockwell went about their business. As to Mr. Smith, we have yet to learn by what rule of right he was arrested to be transported to Missouri for a trial of the kind stated.” (August 13, 1842)

History of the Church (Joseph Smith, Jr. version):

“I was arrested… on a warrant issued by Governor Carlin, founded on a requisition from Governor Reynolds of Missouri, upon the affidavit of ex-Governor Boggs,… the municipal court issued a writ of habeas corpus according to the constitution of the state,… they left us in the care of the marshal, without the original writ by which we were arrested, and by which only we could be retained, and returned to Governor Carlin for further instructions, and myself and Rockwell went about our business. I have yet to learn by what rule of right I was arrested to be transported to Missouri for a trial of the kind stated.” (v. 5, pp. 86-87 – more direct quotes follow this passage)