Monday, June 29, 2009

He Said: Active Members Interacting with Anti-Mormons

Anti-Mormons have always served a inculcating function in the LDS doctrinal and history arena. There has to be an opposition in all things and their desire to disseminate materials has contributed to the LDS research community at BYU. I have had mixed feelings about them. I have not agreed with their purposes or intentions but I would be a hypocrite to say I haven't benefitted from their desire to share material. It was a two-edged sword to associate with them since you had to be firm in the faith but even the institutional church or archives has had dealings with them over the years as manuscripts and other items have come from them. Even my bosses at BYU visited them from time to time when I worked there for seven years.

When I was a graduate assistant at the BYU religion department I worked in an office with four other graduate assistants. One of the assistants was a young man that was excommunicated prior to his coming to BYU. He told me his story as a cautionary warning or tale. He said on his mission he got a hold of Jerald and Sandra Tanner's Mormonism Shadow or Reality. I remember also on my own mission seeing it but I just laughed at it because it employed underlining as a way of pointing out what they considered ridiculous or false Mormon teachings. I never took it too seriously. My desk mate said he also felt the same way and that his intention when he started was to refute all their doctrines which he spent a great deal of mission doing.

When he came home he became obsessed with collecting any and all anti-Mormon writings and had hundreds of them that was why he was such a good researcher and was hired to work later with us in the BYU religion department. He said that he subtly began to lose his faith little by little as he couldn't answer all the objections he began to find. Eventually he lost his faith and began to doubt the church was true and apostatized. He was eventually called in and was excommunicated. Then after he was out of the church he realized what had happened to him and he repented and was able to come back and be reinstated. His most important point that he shared with me was being critical of the church doctrines and leaders leads to personal apostasy.

His story really had an impact on me and sobered me up to the fact that it is easy to lose your way when you begin questioning the doctrines of the church. I vowed in my life in light of his personal example and listening to Elder Boyd K. Packer's talk the Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect to not be one of the critical historian types.

I don't go out of my way to associate with anti-Mormon types but I have encountered them anyway. My treatment of them is similar to what I read while on a mission in an address by Mark E. Peterson about Jehovah Witnesses. He said that they are sincere people but sincerely wrong. I have respect for people including anti-Mormons for their sincere desire to enlighten me to the doctrines that they feel are wrong and I have taken their literature and looked at it but for the most part I either see through the distortions or I say it isn't essential to my salvation.

Even when I worked at the BYU religion department I had access to all the papers that Russell Rich had his graduate students do such as visiting every fundamentalist or splinter group and doing an advanced religion or history paper on them. At the Mormon History Association Meetings I listened as an enamored Scott Faulring and Mark Grandstaff had Lawrence Foster in our room for hours telling them about the Millenarian connection of Mormons with Shakers in Ohio or had them force me to befriend Earnest Strack. I never went beyond talking to Earnest but I recognized his sincere desire to unveil what he thought were hidden doctrines of Mormonism. He would stop me on the street as I walked by his shop and say do you want a copy of L. John Nuttall's diary or the Second Anointing compilation or John Taylor's Robes of the Priesthood. I would say thanks Earnest but I don't want to waste my money on it. I don't really want it. He would then said don't worry about money I will give you one free. Me I took whatever I could get free. I even collected hundreds of books every Friday off the Harold B. Lee Library cart when they wouldn't sell and the sign said free. I got a 1790 book and dozens of LDS books off that cart. Sometimes I took Earnest's offering and other times I said no thanks. I always felt a tad uncomfortable with Earnest pushing his stuff on me but most of the other history majors couldn't wait to trade with Earnest. I never once gave him anything but many of my fellow students would do research and feed him their latest finds. I know for a fact even history and religion professors did it by feeding it to their students who feed it to Earnest.

I ended up with them many times later from Faulring or some other history major would manipulate my bosses in the history or religion department to give them copies of legitimate stuff like Wilford Woodruff's potteries diaries and as repayment they would give me to give my boss some other document. I didn't really even look at the stuff for years until I sold my copy collection years later to a book dealer. My wife on the other hand thought it was fascinating and interesting stuff.

I have always seen the anti-Mormons from Ogden Kraut to Jerald and Sandra Tanner to Michael Marquart as being the enemies of the Church. I met the Tanner's once through one of my bosses in the religion department who stopped one time to talk to them and another time on the way to the MHA the guys I was staying with made me stop by and see Sour Kraut and later hooked up with Marquart. I wasn't impressed by either since they brushed off the people I was with. They considered themselves to busy to answer their inquiries. Marquart was fixated on sharing the surreptious temple transcript he made using a recorder.

The interesting thing was that many so-called faithful Mormon students were enamored of these people and others like Gary Bergera and Elbert Peck. From time to time I would run across them since they were contemporaries. I personally didn't get on the worship train or the folk hero syndrome. I recognized that they served a useful purpose in getting out the hidden sources. When Lyndon Cook and Andy Ehat lost their Joseph Smith material right out of an office in the religion department at BYU I had a good clue who took it since one of the underground admitted he got it from the person or church leader who used the office and had taken it. My acquaintance didn't want Ehat to know there were more involved than the one guy. I had nothing to do with it. I tried to tell Ehat about the Kabal but he was in denial at the time and the guy who told me he was involved denied he had taken it to Ehat which was technically correct but also a subtle lie since he had copies of his stuff. It was like the Giadianton robbers as documents in the BYU special collections, the religion department, and the history department were slippery and made their way to the anti-Mormons and scholarly Mormons whose purpose was to blow the lid on sensitive materials and open up the sources or own them secretly.

I have always felt we should limit our interactions with the Anti-Mormons and dissidents. But Russell Rich and other BYU professors have been of a mind that we should get to know them. Reed Benson would say it was better to know the "enemy." When I worked for Lamar Berrett he had copies of all of Rich's students papers. His graduate students went out to every major offshoot or fundamentalist group in the 1960s and 1970s and did graduate religion papers on them. I made copies of them but most of the people are now deceased. My wife threw them and about a ton of paper I had in the landfill in California when I lived there in 2000. The rest of my stuff I sold later to a Utah book dealer. My wife has become enamored with the fundamentalists and wants to know all their secrets. I on the other hand don't think it is worth bothering with.

In the 1970s and 1980s with the excommunication of the September 6 group and others of their ilk. Elder Packer seem to suggest through his hard disciplinarian approach that if we valued our membership we should avoid the critical school. In the 2000s the church developed a kinder and gentler approach as more and more people who weren't around in the Arrington years began to attend conferences like Sunstone etc. Now a days there are more conservatives who have no clue about the the previous decades and attend them. I on the other hand still have a reluctance since I remember my desk mate's warning and have never once attended any of the Anti-Mormon attended conferences or meetings like Counter-point or Sunstone. I just don't feel uplifted by examining a bunch of old chestnuts like Adam-God, Polygamy etc.


  1. It's only an old chestnut to those who have grown up near the tree. Many faithful/devout members of the church grow up not being exposed to them. Then, as adults they come across things they NEVER heard in Sunday School, and it's a shock.
    It's a fine line, but I do wish the year we study church history we were exposed to a tiny bit more history.

  2. Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.

    -Aldous Huxley

  3. How is Ogden Kraut anti-Mormon? I've read every one of his books, and I've not seen anything remotely anti-Mormon. That's like calling Joseph Smith or Brigham Young anti-Mormon just because they don't see eye to eye on doctrine with the current leadership, or vice-versa.

    Would you also consider all those in the Community of Christ to be anti-Mormon, since their view of Mormonism is different than yours?

  4. I too would like to hear a good defintion of what anti-mormon is.

    Surely it can't be someone who studies first person historical resources? What is an enemy exactly? Is it someone who calls for change?

  5. They're right, Dr. B. -- your post seems to blur the line between anti-Mormons and those who have a different religious viewpoint than yourself. Are you saying we should keep our distance from everyone who has other than a strictly conservative Mormon paradigm?

  6. "His most important point that he shared with me was being critical of the church doctrines and leaders leads to personal apostasy."

    Perhaps he was confused. It seems that he WASN'T being critical of church doctrines and leaders. He was being critical of anti-mormon literature. He was being a steadfast Bible-basher, trying to prove the anti-mormons wrong. Perhaps his main point should have been that narrow-mindedness and black/white thinking leads to personal apostacy.

  7. I am not sure that the Gadianton robbers would have dedicated themselves to publishing historical documents. If anything, Gadianton robbers would probably subscribe to Elder Packer's maxim that not everything that is true is useful.

  8. Just wondering- Does Dr B reply to comments and engage in conversation/dialogue? Or is he writing position papers stating the immutable truth? Just curious...

  9. Anonymous,

    I think this line from the article answers your question.

    "I have always felt we should limit our interactions with the anti-Mormons and dissidents."


  10. Ogden Kraut...anti-Mormon?
    I would take issue with that and the rest of your post.
    I stopped going to church after being exposed to it's true history. After years of searching, I came back to the Church...fully embrace it's history and eventually became fundamentalist.
    Many of us that have fundamentalist views view ourselves as moving parrellel with the Church until that time when all things are set back in order.
    If the Church was forthcoming about it's history, I would never had a problem with it. Of course, they run the risk of losing millions of members to fundamentalism if they're really honest. :)
    IMHO Ogden Kraut was a Mormon on steroids and as pro-mormon as you can get.

  11. Bruce,

    Wouldn't you say that most fundamentalist Mormons you know have a great love of the Church?

    I don't know a single fundamentalist, and I know more than a few, that would remain outside of the Church if the Church would allow them the agency to live the fullness of the gospel.

    The Church may want to destroy me, but I certainly don't want to destroy the Church.

  12. Absolutely,
    Just because we see things as temporarily out of order does not mean that we don't view the Church as a legitimate, if somewhat wayward and diminished, devine institution.
    We sure as heck aren't "anti" Mormon or "anti" Church.

  13. Holy smokes! This seems pretty harsh. Shall I assume if one of your kids decides to follow a different path than Mormonism you'll treat them as an "anti" and never let them darken your doorstep? Good to know.

  14. Wow! The fundamentalist sure took umbrage to my equate the Tanners and Kraut as anti-Mormon. Despite the fact that Kraut espoused fundamentalist beliefs fundamentalist believe that the LDS have apostatized when we stopped practicing polygamy openly. They go on ad naseum about how they are really following Joseph Smith. Newflash modern day prophets have modern day revelation and the church is still on track. Who you trying to kid about how you are just trying to help us get back in line?

  15. Dr. B,

    What is apostasy if not the renuciation of established doctrines?

    Joseph Smith established the gospel on this earth. Some have renounced precious gospel truths. In reality, the only thing that seperates you from the Tanners are the number of doctrines you've renounced.

    Your position that modern day prophets with modern day revelation can trump the revelations of other modern day prophets makes me think we should start teaching our children to hold onto the rubber rod, rather than the iron rod. The straight and narrow path then becomes rather crooked, depending on the views of the prophet of the day.

    It doesn't take a genius to know that the Church today is not the same as the Church in the first 50 years. Doctrines were renounced to gain favor with the world. In other words, apostasy.

    Revelation is the word of God. We know from D&C 3:1-3, that God does not walk in crooked paths, nor does he vary from that which he hath said. If God speaks through prophets, and God does not vary from that which he hath said, then prophets revelations should all be consistent. They might expound upon a certain principle, but they can never change the principle.

    The 9th article of faith not only states that we believe in continuing revelation, but it also states that we believe all that God HAS revealed. That's all past revelation. Like the revelation found in D&C 132, which you've renounced along with the Tanners.

    Joseph Smith taught that "Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed."

    Have priesthood ordinances been changed? I've not one time seen the sacrament administered in an LDS church in accordance with the scriptures. Not to mention all the changes and alteration made to temple ordinances.

    As Joseph said, "If there is no change of ordinances, there is no change of Priesthood."

    Joseph gave us a key to help us spot apostasy. Look for changes in the gospel he restored.

  16. Brent:

    As to Joseph Smith he himself changed practices as new revelation was given and refined it. When baptisms for the dead were first instituted men were baptized for women and women for men. Eventually Joseph sorted it out after the Lord told him he was doing it all wrong.

    As to your reference to polygamy in D&C 132 spiritual polygamy has been continuously practiced since Joseph's time. I know for a fact that LDS leaders including two of the last four prophets have had plural wives. Howard W. Hunter remarried and Ezra Taft Benson was sealed in the mid1940s to a distance deceased cousin in the Logan Temple. The second endowment has been given continuously since the time of Joseph Smith and all the Twelve and Seventies as well as other church leaders have secretly received it. I suspect most of the Twelve in the twentieth century live the law of spiritual polygamy also. Even if one or two choose otherwise there is a precedent in what Orson Pratt in the Seer said on his series on Polygamy that you can have one wife but it will take longer to populate worlds. I suspect every prophet and the Twelve are definitely living the law of man and God.

    George F. Richards told ETB that this would all be straightened out in the Millennium when a backlog of second endowments and sealings would take place. We are not retrenching any differently than Joseph Smith himself. Hence the authority is in tact today.

    BTW Joseph Smith seemed to be retrenching on polygamy himself in that in his last year particularly his last eight months he did not take another plural wife. Guess he was too busy or might he have been letting things cool off.

    The fundamentalist like you seem to have stopped your affliation with the Lord's restored church when you believed John Taylor was the last prophet to hold the keys. The lline is unbroken down to Thomas S. Monson.

    LDS leaders can follow the law of the land and the spiritual law and still be in compliance with God's practices. You should bone up on your church history so you can return to the true fold of the Lord.

  17. Joseph didn't do away with baptisms for the dead, he just refined the process. I made allowance for that in my last post. Also, refining of an ordinance just after implementation is a little different that removal of key parts of an ordinance 150 years later.

    The second endowment is a necessary ordinance. One in which certain priviledges are given to those who receive it. Do you know what those priviledges are? They become sovereigns in the priesthood. Those who receive it need no authority from man to perform nay of the ordinances of the priesthood in building up the kingdom of God. Even including sealings.

    That's one reason why the average member, no matter how righteous, will never be offered the second endowement. The leadership is just preserving their place over the general membership.

    A key to knowing a true prophet of God. A true prophet of God elevates those around him to the same position in which he has attained. A prophet that has fallen into priestcraft exhorts those around him to follow him. He sets himself up as a light to follow. As Moses said, "would God that all the LORD's people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them."

  18. On to polygamy. First, let's see what Gordon B. Hinkley had to say about plural marriage. "I condemn it, yes, as a practice, because I think it is not doctrinal. It is not legal. And this church takes the position that we will abide by the law. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, magistrates in honoring, obeying and sustaining the law."

    What is the law of the land? Well there is no higher law than the Constitution of the United States. What does the Constitution say about practicing religious ordinances, like plural marriage?

    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise therof..."

    Do anti-polygamy laws prevent the free exercise of religion? If you believe plural marriage came as a revelation from God then the answer would have to be "yes".

    Many of the neo-Mormons like to hang their hat on the 12th Article of Faith, but what about section 98 of the Doctrine and Covenants? Let's explore that a little futher. Let's start with verse 4.

    "And now, verily I say unto you concerning the laws of the land, it is my will that my people should observe to do all things whatsoever I command them.

    And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and priviledges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.

    Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land;

    And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil."

    Whoa! Is the Lord actually stating that extra-constitutional laws cometh of evil? Are those who uphold un-constitutional laws actually upholding evil? Back to verse 11.

    "And I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall forsake all evil and cleave unto all good. that ye shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God."

    Uncontitutional laws cometh of evil. The Lord has commanded us to forsake all evil. Plain and simple. Now on to verses 12-15, which shows the weakness of those saints who embrace the manifesto.

    "For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you herewith.

    And whoso layeth down his life in my cause, for my name's sake, shall find it again, even life etenal.

    Therfore, be not afraid of your enemies, for I have decreed in my heart, saith the Lord, that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my covenant, even unto death, that you may be found worthy.

    For if ye will not abide in my covenant ye are not worthy of me."

    So what does this say about the cowards who renounce a principle to avoid persecution?

    "The Prophet did not say that any law passed by congress is the supreme law of the land. He knew better. He knew that Congress would pass laws that would be invalid. What he said was this- 'When a people or a church have received a divine command and a law is enacted against it, do they no know whether the law is constitutional or not, seeing that congrss is prohibited by that sacred instrument from passing any law respecting an establishment of religion? And if the Supreme Court, yielding to popular clamor against an unorthodox body rules that the unconstitutional law is constitutional, does that alter the stubborn, patient invincible fact that the law is in violation of the great guarantee of religious freedom? Any man who says that he really and firmly believes a certain law of God binding on him, and who will not obey it in preference to a conflicting law of man, or a decision of a court, has either an unsound mind, or a cowardly soul, or is a most contemtible hypocrite.'">(Deseret News, July 6th, 1886)

    My thoughts exactly.

  19. Please send where and how to get details on the second endowment. I have searched for years and cannot find very much.
    I understand those who receive are bound by oath NOT to reveal.
    Do you know IF any non-leadership members ever are priveleged to receive it? (hard to know if it's secret, eh?)
    Thank you.

  20. Wow! Thanks, Brent, for turning me on to this site! I haven't had such a good laugh in a while!

    I need to find the reference, but John Taylor stated that those who think they are fulfilling the Law by marrying another woman after their first wife dies are fooling themselves. It is a Principle of the living.

    The truth is - the Church abadoned God's Law a long time ago, so God gave it to another people. Along with the Second Annointing...


  21. Moroni:

    I said that I know of cases where they are sealed to other spiritual spouses vicariously. There is nowhere I can find that it says living so you just made that up since it supports your spurious claims that there was a falling away. Joseph Smith married both ways in marrying his 37 wives some were vicarious some were living. The LDS leaders can practice the principle doing both and still comply with the law of the land.

    In fact Joseph Smith might very well claim more in the next life since he can't take any more in marriage since he is dead now. He will probably end up with all of your wives and you will be a lone man.

    The second endowment is still alive and well in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There is no evidence about your contention on the amount of wives a man should have either. Orson Pratt in his treatise discussed having just one or having many. He said it would just take the man longer to populate worlds with only one. The Muslims have six whereas you only claim three an arbitrary number are needed.

    You just have a hard time accepting something counter to your illegal practices that still complies with the principle and the law. As if breaking the law makes you uber-righteous. I agree with George F. Richards that it will be ironed out in the millennium. Joseph Smith certainly didn't take another wife from November 1843 until June 1844. He also said about the same time polygamy would be the death of them if they continued to live it and they would have to go to another country to do so. I think he was still figuring out polygamy since just like baptisms for the dead he was fine tuning it. I mean he started out with no ceremony consummating relations to a ceremony to vicarious. If he had lived longer he probably would have tempered it like Wilford Woodruff and Joseph F. Smith else why the moratorium on having himself sealed.

  22. Sharon:

    You can go to the Harold B. Lee Library and read a thesis on George F. Richards by Dale C. Mouritsen who discusses the backlog in the millennium conversation between Richards and Elder Benson. The HBLL might even have the second endowment compilation that has circulated among LDS and others for years but i couldn't locate it on the Online Catalog.

    Fred Collier has published a few things like the Robes of the Priesthood etc. Joseph Murren, a former seventy and Stephen Stoker who wrote stuff together also have copies of these talks. I don't know if either is still around or would share this stuff.

    David John Buerger discusses the second anointings in Dialogue Spring 1983.

    The Scott Faulring collection at the University of Utah has all of the compilations from Ernie Strack and other material that fundamentalist put out that Faulring collected as did Jay Bell and that crowd. The Y might have the same stuff but aren't as easy to get in to. I used to have copies of the second endowment stuff and diaries of some like William Clayton, L. John Nuttall etc. that I got like dozens of students from Grandpa's Books but I got rid of my collections a few years back. Now I subscribe to LDS Library collection which is 3000 books and own a handful of LDS books on esoteric LDS subjects that my wife explores.

    Gary Bergera at Signature Book has much of the same stuff as Scott Faulring. In addition in the Jay Bell collection at the U of U is some of the same stuff. You can look it all up on line by going to the U's special collections catalog. You can actually call Stan Larson and order some of this for the price of copying and their research time which you need to negotiate up front. It is usually very reasonable. He is the head of special collections at the U. He will assign one of his people to finding it and copying it.

    My ETB reference on his vicarious sealing comes from his personal diary which are in the possession of Reed Benson and Mark Benson. I think the LDS Church should acquire them and neither one would let you see them nor me today if I asked which I wouldn't. I don't have a copy but I did read that particular entry but I forgot the exact year since my memory is good but not faultless. It was 1945 or 1946 but I can't remember the exact year anymore.

    I hope you find this helpful.

  23. Plural marriage is not against any law that God recognizes. I've proven that above. Stop using this tired and untenable argument.

    If you don't want to live Celestial laws then fine, but stop using the laws of man to rationalize your rejection of God's laws.

  24. Sharon,

    If you want to learn about the second endowment, may I suggest speaking with someone who's actually received it. Obvioulsy, there are limits as to what they can say, but you will get more information than you could ever get from the Church.

    Feel free to email me. Just put a dot between my first and last name at yahoo, and I'll point you in the right direction.

    You could also read some of the works of the great anti-Mormon, Ogden Kraut. Right, Dr. B? :)