Evidence has recently come to my attention that the LDS Church is currently engaged in removing miraculous elements from some of its cherished stories in Church History.
This episode presents that evidence.
Let me know what you think in the comments section below!
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9 Replies to “Radio Free Mormon: 253: DEMYTHOLOGIZING MORMONISM”
Great episode! Personally, I’d love it if you could compile a comprehensive list, in a rapid fire episode, of all the faith promoting stories that have been proven false. Charles Anton, carrying people across a frozen river, broken dishes for the Kirkland temple, Joseph Smith’s face on BY, etc. Thanks for all you do!
I have so many thoughts on these. I’ll try to condense them.
Example one: I always thought that the prophet got revelation talking to Jesus face to face. I look back now and feel a bit stupid for thinking that, but realize that even though the church never said it in those words, they made room for such speculation, and they let us think that way.
Now this is all very puzzling to me… Elder Eyering’s words were shocking to me. The prophet “thinks”? Come again? Let us go to a testimony meeting and say we think the church is true… How would that work? How would I be seen in the eyes of the members, and the bishop, and all that heard me? Woman of little faith. Get a testimony please, then come bear it again when you KNOW!
In my last years as a member of the church, I made it a point to say “I believe”, instead of “I know”, out of respect for people that could be in the audience from other faiths. Because it’s a belief, a profound belief! I have family and friends that believe differently, and for me to say “I know” would come as holier than thou, in my eyes. And I was a member of the fold, a sinner, ya know. But the prophet? Seer? Revelator? He thinks that’s what the Lord knows? What in the name of heavens is wrong with this picture?
My most obvious conclusion is that revelation comes to all these 15 Revelators, as a veredict comes to a panel of the jury in a court of law. When there’s one that doesn’t agree, they stay sequestrated in a hotel room, until it’s unanimous. It’s a thought process, of one trying to convince the other either with real arguments, or just for the sake of all going home and being done with this decision. So I guess what happens with a jury is a miracle too.
What am I missing? What’s different?
Off to listen to the rest of the past. I’ll come back with more of my thoughts. You know, being Sunday and all, it’s like gospel doctrine class. I was always the one with lots of comments!
OK, I grew up listening to those two stories with the miraculous events. I have watched Windows of heaven, more times that I care to count.
I did not know of the new re-writing of those stories. So, I guess my question is, WHY?
Without much time to think about it, my firsts impression is that in these days of technology, and where everything that has been written comes to the surface sooner or later… The lack of evidence or testimonies poses a problem to the church. Because “by the mouth of two or three witnesses…” right?
It’s all very intriguing and puzzling.
Very interesting indeed…
With the miraculous accounts they please the member that need a church of miracles… And with the other ones, they please people that need facts to corroborate a story…
I don’t know. Beats me all the stuff they do.
Thanks for all the work and research you put in this! Truly enjoyed my Sunday morning.
Just wanted to share with you briefly the fact that I think you’re onto something related to the account of Snow’s miraculous ending of the drought being associated with the 5 year-old’s teaching manual.
Some time ago I investigated the Church’s relatively recent whitewashing/removal of any and all mention of “gold plates” from virtually all children’s, youth, and adult teaching manuals (**with the sole exception being the 5 year-old’s primary manual**).
The reason I wanted to mention this is because it appears the 5 year old’s are now the only ones currently being exposed to BOTH of these thoroughly debunked “faith promoting” stories. Again, any mention of JS using literal “gold plates” has been entirely removed from all current LDS teaching manuals (including elders, RS, young men, young women, primary etc.) with the exception of the CTR 5 group!!
Could this be because they feel the 5 year-olds are just old enough to be indoctrinated by these “faith promoting” stories while at the same time being intellectually incapable of going online to find the truth?
Also, if there are two of these (debunked) stories in the 5 year old manual… I wonder what else they are potentially misleading this particular age group about?
Below is an account about Brigham Young that has been quoted at general conference at least twice since it first was discovered in 1976. Elder Merlin K Jensen, who was at the time the Church Historian and a general authority Seventy said in Gen Conf Apr 2001,
“A story contained in the family lore of Brigham Young’s descendants illustrates the submissive nature of humility. It recounts that in a public meeting the Prophet Joseph, possibly as a test, sternly rebuked Brigham Young for something he had done or something he was supposed to have done but hadn’t—the detail is unclear. When Joseph finished the rebuke, everyone in the room waited for Brigham Young’s response. This powerful man, later known as the Lion of the Lord, in a voice everyone could tell was sincere, said simply and humbly, “Joseph, what do you want me to do?”6
The power of that response itself brings a feeling of humility. It reminds us that the greatest act of courage and love in the history of mankind—Christ’s atoning sacrifice—was also the greatest act of humility and submissiveness.”
The source of this quote used at General Conference in the footnotes of his talk was author Truman Madsen, which says about source of the story as “… recounted to Truman Madsen by Elder Hugh B. Brown, whose wife, Zina, was a granddaughter of Brigham Young. See New Era 6 (April 1976).
The first time this BY story started to be told publicly by a church member as far as I can search on the church magazines, was by Madsen in 1976. We don’t have a date when the event between JS and BY occurred so we would have to say it happened approximately 140 years earlier. Firstly, the story is said to be “in the family lore of Brigham Young’s descendants “. Hence, after 140 years it’s been retold to Madsen by Hugh B Brown who must have heard it from his wife’s family, who must have been told by another relative from an earlier generation who lived in the time of BY. I note that there is no reference to an early church members diary entry. Presumably, it has originated with someone who is directly related to BY, so there is the possibility it is embellished as it is favourable to their grandfather. If we go over what we don’t know : 1) the date, 2) where it was, 3) what kind of meeting it was, 3) the details of what it was that BY had or hadn’t done, 4) we don’t know who started the story, 5) we don’t know if the account comes from someone in the room with JS and BY or if it was told third hand, 6) or was it in fact BY himself who told the story to his family?, 7) the possibility it is an oral history that was not recorded close to the event.
It’s certainly not a “firsthand account”. Because no diary entry is mentioned, at best it is a third hand account if Hugh B Browns wife heard it directly from one of her grandparents or their siblings. Yet the LDS essay can’t make any conclusions about Emma because “she left no firsthand accounts” and it was “Impossible” to know her thoughts.
The fact that this was quoted by a Church Historian in a general conference of the church where talks are considered to be almost scripture, is an extraordinary situation. If you ask me the story has been embellished by the additions of things like “powerful man”, “the Lion of the Lord” and “in a voice that everyone could tell was sincere.” When we don’t even know the full details of the source of the story or if the person who originated the story was actually in the room in attendance.
The quote was repeated in 2003 at another general conference by another speaker and now appears six times when search on the official church website.
The historical source of the oral story of BY … he said (Trueman), he said (Hugh), she said (Zina), they said (???)
Just as a note. I learned from sister black at BYU that the church debt was due to Brigham Youngs wives sueing the church because the salt lake city temple was in their name. They were paid off with a large amount of money. Not to reasons mentioned in the talk but helps explain the current coorporate structure of the church.
Windows of Heaven was a great story. Shame it was fake.
IIRC, about 30 years ago the church prioritized “real life” stories over fiction for its magazines. This was an interesting publishing decision given a huge advantage of fiction is it doesn’t need to be fact checked! Fiction can be assessed mainly on its moral and message. Real life stories have the unique problem of not being as real as the story teller wants us to believe. Consider Les Miserables. As a work of fiction the story can never be proven false. The message of the story is safe from fact checkers and always will be. Same resilience applies to the great story of “Build you a Rainbow”. It is a made up story so we never need worry if Jamie’s mom actually played football with the kids in the neighborhood.
Myths are extremely powerful. Consider the Liahona mentioned in the Book of Mormon. When Alma talks about the Liahona the reference is mythical. He uses the lore of the Liahona to teach important spiritual concepts. In what Alma teaches about the Liahona it only matters that the object is believed. The tradition/ lore / myth is what matters. The miracle, or question, that the Liahona existed at all is not important, it is what the Liahona symbolized that matters.
If the foundation of the myth is fact checked away the myth crumbles. This the conundrum. Institutions value myth and lore to build up their prestige. But the more they incorporate myth into their identity, the greater the risk some myths will be revealed as baseless.
Well done podcast.
Based on Leonard Arrington’s biography I believe that it’s pretty clear that the Q15 of his time wouldn’t allow the Saints history to be written as its being published today. Arrrington was dismissed for telling a history that wasn’t faith promoting enough. The information age has inspired a higher level of integrity, although the Q15 still have a ways to go.