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Radio Free Mormon: 006: Denying Church History

Today “Radio Free Mormon” continues with its newest episode “Denying Church History”.  This episode uses an interview with Marlin Jensen where he was interviewed by Doug Fabrizio just after the Helen Whitney’s “The Mormon” aired on PBS.  Radio Free Mormon dissects this interview to show as Much as the Church wants to move into transparency that it still see too much of a risk to 100% completely stay clear of hiding history.

Resources: (start at 45:14)


As with all guest hosts, this Episode does not necessarily reflect the views of Bill Reel or Mormon Discussion Podcast.


Like this episode and others we have had from guest hosts,  Such contributions are highly desired.  My mission with Mormon Discussion Podcast is to bring great perspectives of Mormon History & Culture that helps struggling Latter-day Saints reconcile difficulties while being encouraged to stay in the Church.  If you wish to contribute either a Blog Post or a Audio Podcast Episode please do and send to me at ReelMormon AT gmail DOT com for consideration.


19 thoughts on “Radio Free Mormon: 006: Denying Church History”

  1. Radio Free Mormon is batting 1000! Another WOW episode.

    The one item that really hit me is I your calculating the hours of instruction. I am in my mid 50’s and I have been active my entire life (EQ Pres, HPGL, in YM’s for 10 years, multiple bishoprics).

    If I start calculating when I was 14 and started seminary 4 decades x 1,500 hours a year = 6,000 hours!! That does not include: all my person study time, my missionary personal and companion study time every day for hours for 2 years, my primary years, all the leadership meetings I have attended, etc.

    If I then calculate going to college for 9 months a year (taking summers off), studying 40 hours a week, that 6,000 hours comes out to about 4 years of college. I know that isn’t an absolutely fair comparison, but for me not to have ever heard the troubling issues in church history nor the significant past doctrinal changes UNTIL I started reading non-church approved sources (that I was taught reading them would mean Satan would have control over my mind and soul) is empirical evidence that average active members were shielded from the whole truth.

    I am very much an easy-come easy-go kind of a guy. Even though I am an attending member (trying to keep peace with the wife) I am mentally/emotionally a post-Mormon. But I am fine and want to support those that wish to be in the church. But the one button I still have is if anybody tries to shame me into, “you must not have studied so it is your fault you didn’t know.” They are going to get an ear full from me as a response.

  2. It’s regretful that Marlin Jensen had to represent the company line during this interview. However I think his overall tenure as church historian, and particularly his work with the Joseph Smith Papers project, demonstates his personal belief in transparent history. This isn’t his mess and I think he did what he could to help change things from the inside.

    As always, loved the guest episode.

    1. “It’s regretful that Marlin Jensen HAD to represent the company line…”


      Marlin is a grown man who can make his own decisions. No one forced him to lie repeatedly during this interview. He CHOSE to mislead us and lie in this interview. He is well aware of the painstaking efforts to hide information that the church apostles have been involved in for decades.

      He still may be a good man but don’t make excuses for his dishonesty. He chose to be in that position. He chose to represent the church and accept the callings he accepted. No one forced him to be dishonest! He knows better!

  3. In the interests of full disclosure, it would probably help everyone to know that Boyd Packer didn’t come up with the quote out of thin air.

    “Many things can be true and yet harmful to man. Not all truth is useful.” — Immanuel Kant
    (p.43 Lectures on Logic, (translated by J. Michael Young))

    And since Mr. Kant is ANYTHING but anti-intellectual, you might want to consider why he said it. Reading the full ‘Lectures on Logic’ would assuredly help.

    1. As I’ve already mentioned in a different reply to a different post where you pulled the same quote…..

      Immanuel Kant, in the very paragraph you pulled from, is making the opposite point to what you seem to be trying to make. Immanuel Kant says that when investigating truth we must be unconcerned if a truth might cause harm because otherwise our own biases will take over.

      “Let us, in every investigation of a cognition,
      take it completely alone[,] separated from all foreign questions of use or harm, and in particular when we ourselves have an interest in this use or harm[;] for otherwise partisanship at once states its judgment and deadens all cold reflections of the understanding”

      (p.43 Lectures on Logic, (translated by J. Michael Young))

  4. Really good podcast. It really gets at the tension that is found as members of the Church with content of what is taught.

    As one that was caught off guard when actively studying the history of the church and going through a faith transition since, I care about the pain that is caused by the white washing of history. On the other hand, I think I can understand the conflict the Church is going through.

    While Marlin Jensen does stretch things (some ideas I just disagree with), I do NOT think that he is as back and forth as the Podcaster emphasizes.

    The key is the context or audience.

    So, when Elder Jensen is saying that we want members to be informed I believe Jensen is saying that the methodology is personal study. In other words, get through the hard stuff, but do it on your own.

    When Elder Jensen is saying that we need to be cautious about who our audience is, he is saying in church meetings.

    I think he is being sincere. I have seen him speak before and the tone and concepts were the same. Study whatever you want alone, be cautious in disseminating information in class.

    So, I don’t think he was flip-flopping in the interview, but just changing contexts. He feels that the church does not suppress information and encourages the membership to seek knowledge, but he does not say that we actively teach the hard things on a given Sunday.

    Here is the problem for the church. People need community when processing the difficult history of the church. Discussion is a mechanism for understanding that members will seek. With the internet virtual communities were created. People that struggle with church history will find a community, but the Church does NOT provide one, so they are left to their own devices (pun intended).

    Quick anecdote: I was excited for the lesson on the First Vision, because the Church is now providing resources with the different and differing accounts. I show up on Sunday and I hear the same lesson that I heard when I was a youth. One vision and the leg surgery story. One class member attempted to introduce the other vision accounts with 2 minutes left and the teacher even responded with “Yes there are” when he said there was more than one. Sigh.

    What is happening? The church is attempting to bring in better history, but the members themselves are now too cautious and scared of the information to even use it.

    Step up Church. Step up.

    1. Unfortunately, now it’s the members who have been trained to avoid searching for the truth that instruct others to continue to do the same as they have.

      Orthodox members are hard to break, it will take at least two generations to see the change that we would like.

      However please note that Progressive/Liberal Churches cease to be relevant, otherwise the Community of Christ would be experience huge growth and it’s not.

      1. Your stance seems to be that of the late Hugh B. Brown, who said (essentially), “On your quest [for more light & knowledge], ‘Seek truth…but don’t get too much’.”

        After Brown (who was always a Canadian, to me: even though he had dual citizenship) made the above type of statement, my opinion of him went way down.

        The hidden associated thought that went with Brown’s utterance can be seen in the context in which it was delivered:
        “If you get too much [truth], you will get to a place where you touch upon that necrotic/putrifying sore that is all bandaged up in many strands [i.e.,layers] of deceit/lies, at the very core.
        >>> And then, you– like Hugh Brown– would simply become undone by what you find.

        So, don’t get too much!

        (Or, as Satan says in the Garden of Eden, in the temple ceremony, “Quick! Hide!”)

  5. I believe Marlin Jensen is very sincere and was just doing the best he could under the circumstances. I can’t fault him for that. The church is in a very difficult position mostly because it’s history is so foundational to it’s truth claims. If it was to be completely transparent and give all the facts about it’s history how many people would join? Can you imagine a missionary teaching an investigator about the first vision and explaining how the story evolved through the different versions of the story or how Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon through a peep stone along with all the anachronisms, DNA and historical problems with the Book. It would be very difficult for anyone to gain a witness of it’s truthfulness. The church is very effective at giving us moral & spiritual guidance, service opportunities, hope in the afterlife, community, etc. etc. But would it or could it be as effective if it let go of it’s only-ness?

  6. So the Church made Marlin Jensen lie? Last I checked we are agents unto ourselves.

    The loyalty that attempts to justify lying to the people sickens me. MKJ clearly didn’t imagine or foresee that his lies would someday be exposed.

    Forgive me, I thought we cared about the truth.

  7. Elizabeth K: You GO girl!!!
    I’m sick to death of this church’s equivocation! I am also so grateful to see the comments from others that come from wanting honesty and integrity in their lives. The lies, deceit, whitewashing or whatever adjective you want to use is causing so much tension in my life and specifically my marriage- it’s untenable.

    I read comments on other articles and blogs from TBMs and it may as well be Scientologists- just keep praying, reading our books and you will know the Truth as we spoon feed it to you. Forget the evidence and just wait for the Spirit. It’s an insult to any intelligent discourse.

    1. Julie: “It’s an insult to any intelligent discourse” Amen!

      “When the culture of an organization mandates that it is more important to protect the reputation of a system and those in power than it is to protect the basic human dignity of individuals or communities, you can be certain that shame is systemic, money drives ethics, and accountability is dead.”
      (Brene Brown “Daring Greatly” p. 196)

      If the church was just any old corporation I might not be so upset (or at least not so surprised). But families are being ripped apart and lives are in ruin. The suffering is real and it’s massive.

      The brethren have the power to put an end to it but they don’t. And they won’t. They’re still playing games and spinning half-truths.

      They either have no idea about the carnage happening in families, or worse, they *do know, but they care more about protecting themselves, each other, and the institution.

  8. Just wanted to say I really appreciate everybody’s listenership and the great comments you have all made.

    This kind of feedback is the motivation that keeps me wanting to produce future podcasts!

    Thanks again!


  9. biased comentary. listened to the whole thing and not one mention of the Joseph Smith Project. I guess documentary editing is not what it claims to be.

  10. I think the ultimate issue is that the prime directive of the LDS Church is to look good.

    Any hiding of history, or denials of hiding history, or equivocations that cover up bad behavior or questionable conduct–all of this is acceptable if the ultimate goal is to preserve the image of the Church.

    The ends justify the means.

    1. And therein lies the problem: The prime directive.

      People and institutions who insist that image reigns supreme can’t escape the inevitable reckoning. It’s already catching up — superficial focus (in doctrine, policy, teachings) and intolerant to scrutiny.

  11. RFM,

    This is likely the best Mormon issues podcast of all time. And I have listened to lots and lots and lots of them. You name it, I have probably listened to at least some of them.

    How do you have time to do all of this research? I thought I was reasonably knowledgeable but you blow me away. I am amazed how expert you are at taking the arguments to the core.

    Not since John Larsen’s Mormon Expression have I been so addicted to a podcast but yours surpasses his because it comes from a place of facts with not much bashing. I am in awe. I donated to Bill Reel mistakenly thinking that you were him. How do I donate to YOU? On another note Paul Cheesman is pronounced Chess-man. I have some inside info but not for the message board.

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