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Radio Free Mormon: 34: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics Pt 2

RFM todays tackles the awareness of LDS Leaders that the Church is losing members in a mass apostacy.  In this part 2 episode RFM how much LDS leaders know that Mormonism is no longer growing.  Using Marlin Jenson’s statement that

“The fifteen men really do know, and they really care. And they realize that maybe since Kirtland, we never have had a period of, I’ll call it apostasy, like we’re having right now; largely over these issues. We do have another initiative that we have called, “Answers to Gospel Questions”. We are trying to figure out exactly what channels to deliver it in and exactly what format to put it in. But we want to have a place where people can go. We have hired someone that’s in charge of search engine optimization. We realize that people get their information basically from Google. They don’t come to If they get there, it’s through Google. So, we are trying to create an offering that will address these issues and be available for the public at large and to the church leaders, because many of them don’t have answers either. It can be very disappointing to church members. And, for people who are losing their faith, or who have lost it, we hope to regain to the church.”

and then showing all the reactions of various LDS leaders in followup.


17 thoughts on “Radio Free Mormon: 34: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics Pt 2”

  1. Another great podcast. The Church seems to be trying to do enough to try to placate some of the people with historical/doctrinal questions while not tipping off the true blue members that such problems even exist, for fear they will have the same questions. I noticed this with a May 2016 devotional for young adults on the first vision with Richard Maynes that was broadcast church-wide to young adults. The gist of it was “here is why the first vision is important, there are multiple accounts that essentially say the same thing, here’s why the first vision is important.” He can get credit for being open and discussing the multiple accounts while avoiding any discussion of contradictions, developing theology or other implications. The average attendee would walk away thinking they knew about the issue and there was nothing to worry about. But, if someone was interested, they would research the first vision and encounter the problems. In my view the Church either needs to have good answers for these questions (which it’s pretty clear they don’t) or acknowledge that these issues make the narrative messy and give people space to reach they’re own heterodox conclusions. Unfortunately, orthodox members often make life very difficult for people who want to remain engaged and participate and have nuanced or non-believing views.

    1. You raise a good point here, Felix.

      I think that the LDS Church is doing a better job of addressing issues in a way that gives the illusion to orthodox members of having dealt with the subject (while really not) so that later, when said orthodox member encounters said problematic issue, he or she can brush it aside by saying they already “know all about it.”

      I think this is a good strategy for the LDS Church to be following.

      Short of just being honest, of course.

      1. Piggy-backing on Felix’s comment RE: first vision stuff, I came across this fascinating gem on the NewOrderMormon forum (credit to the original poster for sharing it there):

        Forgive me if this has been covered in a previous podcast RFM, but have you considered doing a podcast on the first vision history? I know this (1st vision accounts and history) has been beat to death elsewhere, but I love the angle you take on historical issues and the additional inferences you share by merging all your sources into an impressive cohesion. As the original poster on NOM posited, this letter from Cowdery in 1835 does appear to suggest that he had no idea about any prior heavenly visitation and that the first visitation JS had was the visit from Moroni. I had never heard of this before.

        In isolation, all these historical issues are interesting, to say the least, but when you step back and look at the mosaic of untold church history, serious consideration starts to develop…

        1. I don’t see at all how this would leave one to believe that joseoh had recieved no prior visitation. So you know, I have many questions and doubts about the historical narrative put forth by the church but this is simply a second hand account of just one event in a tapestry of events. Not only is it just a second hand account but it is written more than a decade after the fact. Let us seek for truth and not try to fir everything into the box of the narrative or outcome that we want.

          1. I see where you’re coming from Rick. But check out this statement from the church in the intro to the Joseph Smith papers project:

            “In the early 1830s, when this history was written, it appears that JS had not broadcast the details of his first vision of Deity. The history of the church, as it was then generally understood, began with the gold plates. John Whitmer mentioned in his history “the commencement of the church history commencing at the time of the finding of the plates,” suggesting that Whitmer was either unaware of JS’s earlier vision or did not conceive of it as foundational.”


            It’s curious as to why no one in the early church didn’t seem to know about Joseph’s first vision. But apparently Joseph was sharing his experience with Moroni and the gold plates.

  2. Thank you for another podcast. I began listening to RFM two months ago, and I have gone through all your past episodes and wait with interest for each new one to come out. Your research is impressive and I have never been bored by too much data. You have a fun and interesting way of presenting it. Thank you so very much.

  3. I know a therapist in SL County. She indicates the number of missionaries coming home from their missions has grown significantly, and the mental problems from younger missionaries going have grown as well.

    I think the age change, as far as the church is concerned, is backfiring.

    1. going on a mission when I was 19 years old was hard enough. I cannot imagine going on a mission right out of high school. There are definite costs associated with lowering the mission age.

  4. RFM, I enjoy your casts. I’ve been aware for years of how a line between clear and concise claims and information can be smeared, and how gaslighting can be used to dissuade those who question that line. I am convinced the LDS church does that.

    It’s not related directly to your cast, but years ago when I was a child, I was asked about the “black policy”. I was just a teenager. The person’s question stumped me. He said: “If blacks can’t receive the priesthood because they were not worthy than what happens to a black child who dies before they are 8 years old? Do they go to hell, or are they saved in the Celestial Kingdom?”

    What a PARADOX! When I asked about this, I was told: “You shouldn’t be asking those types of questions! Where is your faith! You need to just listen to the leaders….” Indirectly, I was gaslighted.

    I’m of a different opinion since this time; If a person or organization can’t answer a REAL question,..they have something to hide. Period.

    1. Great insights! I had never before heard the question posed about what happened to a black child who died before the age of eight prior to lifting the priesthood bad! That is a very good question! And, when it comes to the church being able to answer your question, Just wait until part three when Elder Holland derides people who are upset because the church cannot answer their questions! I have audio of that! And I will be playing it in part three! Thanks again!

      1. For a while there I know that Bill Reel and Holland kindof had correspondence. I use to believe Holland was one of the more “tender” and “progressive” apostles. Your podcast about Wrong Roads Taken — well, it kindof blew my mind. And then along comes Bednar’s idea of having faith NOT to be healed?


        That’s like saying: “I have faith not to believe the scriptures”…or “I have faith not to believe the prophet”.

        It destroys the entire intent.

        I don’t even know what the church teaches anymore. I am convinced Bednar is a mini-bully Mcconkie and Holland has doubled-back into more rigid orthodoxy. Maybe at one time he was a little more open and tender, but that must have been a “wrong road taken”.

  5. My thoughts, in no particular order….

    While an admission that members and leaders have made mistakes by is a good first step, it is disappointing (and not at all surprising) that they won’t name a few. It hear all the time that our leaders are fallible and do make mistakes. But when I ask for an example…name ONE…crickets. Of course we can tick them off one after the other. The bigger question (at least to me) is what is the implication of such an idea in the era of exact obedience and follow the prophet. How do I know that the things that R. Nelson and D. Oaks testify are the word and will of God (PoF, Nov Policy, etc) won’t be walked back as them speaking as men in 10, 20, or 50 years when the policy or doctrine changes?

    It’s also great that there is a place for me. I don’t doubt it. I’m sure they would love to have me back. The problem is….there is no resolution to my concerns. And they don’t even want to hear what they are. So I have drawn my own conclusions, and short of God himself (or Jesus…I’m not picky) coming down and resolving my concerns and setting me straight over a cheesesteak, I wont be going back. Curiously, I might be on a list similar to the one you reference in my ward. My HP group leadership is currently tripping over themselves to inviite me to do stuff. After not hearing a word from any of them in two years. It’s not like I’m lost. I was active in the ward and group for 16 years, live in the same house, have the same phone number and email, and my wife is still as active as ever.

    Perhaps the growth of the church in Africa can replace the attrition in other parts of the world in terms raw numbers, but it won’t replace the lost tithing dollars or the leadership pool. What are the chances the vacancies in the Q12 are filled with someone from Africa or Latin America?

    The church is walking a tightrope with regard to transparency. I think it was M. Jensen (perhaps in that same USU event) that said something to the effect that the majority of the membership is satisfied with the status quo. They like the correlated version and are unaware that it isn’t the way it really was. And they don’t care to know. Too much transparency rattles the base. Not enough drives out the curious. It’s a tough spot without a simple solution. Except maybe tell the truth. Nah.

    I loved the click to the essays illustration. My wife loves to tell me that they aren’t hidden. I say that’s because you know that they are there (but she won’t read or discuss them). Try to browse to them from the home page. It was the admissions in the essays that finally pushed me out. The Brethren also like to point to the JS papers as the Church being transparent. Perhaps on the surface. I liken them to an attorney burying controversial or damning information in an avalanche of paper. Let’s face it, most members are hard pressed to make it through the BoM. How many of them are going to slog through thousands of pages of Joseph’s documents to discover how things really went down? If they really wanted to general membership to know this stuff, they would publish it on the front page of the website, put it in the manuals and discuss it in GC. I won’t hold my breath. They will do the least amount required to be able to claim some form of transparency. Blah.

    That’s enough for now. If you’ve made it this far…thanks for listening. All typos are mine and mine alone.

  6. Great podcast as always – goes without saying but I said it anyway.
    I love when you laugh or giggle and I love the set up for your post music and again your music choice is awesome.
    Oh and making love out of nothing at all was another great selection for another podcast

  7. Part 3 has been pushed back longer than I anticipated due to an office move. I hope to have it ready to go by this coming Sunday.

    But I may have to postpone it beyond that other things come up.

    Your patience is appreciated!


  8. Dear RFM:
    I’ve gone back to listen to all of your episodes. So very good!
    This question relates to the episode you did about Joseph Smith’s contradictions (I could not find another way to ask you and feel that, for me, this is a pivotal point of understanding that I hope you will help me with). In the episode you presented the facts demonstrating that JS relied upon a scientific approach to religion in that he was willing to reject prior doctrine when a new revelation contained contradictory information.
    I do not disagree given the historical record; but, it leaves me in a difficult place.
    I believed I was taught early in the church that true prophets received God’s revelations (communications from God regarding religious truths…is that a good definition of revelation?). Seemed to me that the whole point of a prophet was that such a person, called by God, would be the distributor of truth to God’s faithful followers. I think this is different than a scientist who relies upon the results of experiments (experience) to figure out what appears to be the truth at least and until some other experience (experiment) suggests otherwise.
    So if JS wrote down a revelation (as defined above) and then 10 years latter God communicates a revelation that is different (you gave a good example about polygamy) I would conclude that it wasn’t very smart to rely on the first revelation. And, since the first revelation could be contradicted by later revelations, then why should I be willing to trust the later revelations because it also could be contradicted by a subsequent revelation.
    To me, then, it boils down to revelation from Prophets like JS being philosophies of men mingled with scripture and that your revelation, my revelation, or another person’s revelation could just as easily be the truth until somebody else comes along with a contradictory message.
    One possible argument is that JS had authority to receive the first revelation (so God would only inspire JS on a particular gospel question and thus invalidating anybody else who presented a theory or revelation) and because he sees through a glass darkly, he did the best he could to convey the meaning of the revelation at the time. Then, 10 years later, with more experience, he obtains a revelation with ideas that are less murky than the first one. I can see how that might be the case.
    In response, I would raise the same argument: Why, then, would I trust the initial revelation or the second clarifying revelation. Why would not my own revelation (I could easily consider a religion topic, think about it, pray about it, and then, upon receiving inspiration, articulate a position that might be somewhat truthful) or another person’s revelation on the topic be just as important to follow.
    In summary, a prophet as presented by the LDS faith, is something more…more authoritative….with more clarity than I as a lowly member of the church could ever hope to see….. Sadly, I only see LDS church leaders passing off their own murky ideas as some grand clarifying doctrine that we are bound to accept as the word of God. And, with respect to JS, why would his “revelations” be worth anything, if they can be changed at his convenience or the convenience of subsequent prophets and replaced with some other “revelation” to fit the circumstance…..that is just a man…not a prophet.
    Hope you can see the dilemma and I would appreciate your comment.

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