Ch 4: Lying For The Lord

  • Can I trust the leaders of the church to tell me the truth?
  • Should I trust them to help me formulate my image of God?
  • Can they be trusted to present a truthful, accurate view of the past?
  • Can I trust them to provide counsel which is my personal interest rather than only that which benefits the church organization?
  • Are the Past and current leadership trustworthy enough to put major life decisions about my personal identity in their hands?
  • Could God really be behind lying?

Leaders in the LDS church have time and again deliberately lied about or denied church history and doctrines which, while true, have the potential to hurt the faith of its members.

In fact, in the same talk I referenced in Ch 1 of this series Apostle Boyd K. Packer stated that LDS scholars and historians are in peril of damnation if they choose to reveal the whole truth about the LDS church:

“There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful…

“The writer or teacher who has an exaggerated loyalty to the theory that everything must be told is laying a foundation for his own judgment…The Lord made it clear that some things are to be taught selectively and some things are to be given only to those who are worthy…

“That historian or scholar who delights in pointing out the weaknesses and frailties of present or past leaders destroys faith. A destroyer of faith – particularly one within the Church, and more particularly one who is employed specifically to build faith – places himself in great spiritual jeopardy. He is serving the wrong master, and unless he repents, he will not be among the faithful in the eternities…Do not spread disease germs!” (Boyd K. Packer, 1981, BYU Studies, Vol. 21, No. 3, pp. 259-271)

Apostle Dallin H. Oaks concurred:

“My duty as a member of the Council of the Twelve is to protect what is most unique about the LDS church, namely the authority of priesthood, testimony regarding the restoration of the gospel, and the divine mission of the Savior. Everything may be sacrificed in order to maintain the integrity of those essential facts. Thus, if Mormon Enigma reveals information that is detrimental to the reputation of Joseph Smith, then it is necessary to try to limit its influence and that of its authors.” (Inside the Mind of Joseph Smith: Psychobiography and the Book of Mormon, Introduction p. xliii f28)

Why does ANYTHING need to be sacrificed in order to maintain integrity? If it does, perhaps it is ill gotten “integrity.” Packer claims that God has “made it clear” that some things are to be given only to “those who are worthy.” Where did God make that clear other than to him and his colleagues? I find Packer and Oak’s rationalizations repulsive and immoral.

This outright censorship of the truth has been a cause of consternation for LDS historians, scholars, and scientists with views that may be considered “not very useful” by church leaders. For example, D. Michael Quinn expressed his frustration in an address to a student history association at Brigham Young University:

“General authorities in recent years have criticized Mormon historians for republishing in part or whole out-of-print Church publications such as the 1830 Book of Mormon, the Journal of Discourses (edited and published for thirty-two years under the auspices of the First Presidency), and statements taken from former Church magazines published for the children, youth, and general membership of the Church. It is an odd situation when present general authorities criticize historians for reprinting what previous general authorities regarded not only as faith promoting but as appropriate for Mormon youth and the newest converts.

“Elder Packer specifically warns against historians using “the unworthy, the unsavory, or the sensational,” from the Mormon past, merely because it has been previously published somewhere else, and he berates historians for their “exaggerated loyalty to the theory that everything must be told.” But this raises the question of personal honesty and professional integrity. If a historian writes about any subject unrelated to religion, and he purposely fails to make reference to pertinent information of which he has knowledge, he is justifiably liable to be criticized for dishonesty…

“The tragic reality is that there have been occasions when 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, 1982, pp. 2, 8-10, 13-14, 16-22; revised and reprinted in 1992 in Faithful History: Essays On Writing Mormon History, pp. 69-111)

Quinn’s speech was subsequently praised by Newsweek as a “stirring defense of intellectual integrity.” The church did not take kindly to his stance however, particularly since he continued to publish historical findings which were accurate but not flattering to early church history. Quinn was ultimately excommunicated from the church in 1993. (

Following the church’s example, perhaps in everyone’s next bishops interview members can answer every question with only those facts that will cause him to have faith in them and believe that they are completely worthy of temple attendance… We should leave out any facts that may cause doubt. After all, as Body K. Packer said, “some things that are true are not very useful.”

Lying about Polygamy
The early practice of polygamy is one clear example of this kind of blatant dishonesty between leaders and the general membership of the LDS church. I mentioned earlier how I found the way Joseph Smith practiced it repulsive and immoral I find the lies that have been told regarding it just as unethical.

Would God command Joseph to secretly take his wife’s fellow presidency members in the Nauvoo Relief Society (as well as many others) as his own plural wives? Could it be proper or godly for him to publicly deny such behaviors and privately practice them? Would a true prophet ever secretly take other men’s wives because of his position, stating that he was either testing the faith of their husbands, or offering these women a greater chance for exaltation in the eternities because of his position of authority? It is well documented that Joseph married several women even before telling Emma. Would it be proper to keep such information from his own wife?

The first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants (1835) included a section denying any practice of polygamy:

“Inasmuch as this Church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication and polygamy, we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife, and one woman but one husband, except in the case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.” (History of the Church, Vol. 2, p. 247)

It is interesting to note that this section in the Doctrine and Covenants was in every single edition until 1876, when the Doctrine and Covenants first included section 132 justifying plural marriage.

Note that from the current heading of D&C 132, the church effectively admits the first section was a lie:

“Although the revelation was recorded in 1843, it is evident from the historical records that the doctrines and principles involved in this revelation had been known by the Prophet since 1831.”

It is also clear that on May 26, 1844 Joseph lied about practicing polygamy, despite proof to the contrary:

“I had not been married scarcely five minutes, and made one proclamation of the Gospel, before it was reported that I had seven wives. I mean to live and proclaim the truth as long as I can. This new holy prophet [William Law] has gone to Carthage and swore that I had told him that I was guilty of adultery. This spiritual wifeism! Why, a man does not speak or wink, for fear of being accused of this…I wish the grand jury would tell me who they are – whether it will be a curse or blessing to me. I am quite tired of the fools asking me…What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one. I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers.” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 6, pp. 410-411)

John Taylor also lied about the practice thus deceiving many English converts. In 1850 he published:

“We are accused here of polygamy,… and actions the most indelicate, obscene, and disgusting, such that none but a corrupt and depraved heart could have contrived. These things are too outrageous to admit of belief;… I shall content myself by reading our views of chastity and marriage, from a work published by us containing some of the articles of our Faith. ‘Doctrine and Covenants,’ page 330… Inasmuch as this Church of Jesus Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication and polygamy, we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife, and one woman but one husband, except in the case of death,…”‘ (tract published by John Taylor in England, in 1850, page 8; published in “Orson Pratt’s Works,” 1851 edition).

Since Taylor quoted from the “Article on Marriage” in his debate, which specifically forbade more than one living wife, while he was simultaneously a “husband” to seven living “plural wives,” his statement was indeed a lie.

Mormon converts in England had heard the rumors about Nauvoo polygamy, but the apostles like Taylor, who were overseeing the missionary work there, steadfastly reassured them that the rumors were false.   Then, in 1852, when the main body of Mormons had settled in Utah, seemingly safe from prosecution, they reversed themselves and publicly admitted polygamy.   That reversal caused European Mormons to leave the church, because they were disgusted at having been lied to by church leaders for years.

Should they have just put everything up on a shelf and remembered the “feelings” they had when Taylor preached to them? Should they have just “not worried about that?”
Both the laws of the state of Illinois and the published laws of the LDS Church stated that plural marriage was fornication and prohibited.  Yet Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and John Taylor and other church leaders practiced polygamy and polyandry illegally and lied about it both to the world and their own Mormon community. Evidence is also pretty strong that subsequent LDS leaders continued to sanction polygamous marriages even after the 1890 Manifesto. The lying continued.

To me this fact is well documented enough to make their word on anything questionable. Here we have the first three or four leaders of the church who are proven liars in order to protect themselves from criminal prosecution and to continue promoting an image of the church that was untrue. The modern LDS church, however, wants me to disregard the facts and not “worry about that.” I think that’s a request far too great given the fact that I’m also required to “sustain the brethren” and accept their word as if from the mouth of God.

The modern church is also party to the lies as they continue to downplay the part polygamy played in the early days of the church. Ask yourself, for example, how much respect Gordon B. Hinckley showed the thousands of people who made almost unbearable sacrifices for the “eternal principle” of plural marriage, when he eliminated all references to it in the Sunday School manuals? When he eliminated it from the new teachings of the prophet Joseph Smith and Brigham Young? When he refered to it as “not doctrinal”, even though it is STILL in D&C 132? When he pretends to think that only between “2 and 5 % of people” were ever involved with it?

Checking out and see if it’s not just a complete whitewashing of history. There’s no mention of his plural marriages or of his deception with his wife.

To denigrate plural marriage is to denigrate those who followed it and their heartbreaking sacrifices. Modern prophets are retroactively as uncaring toward their feelings, as Joseph Smith was 160 years ago, and it is not right. Many of those women spent their entire lives without the affection they longed for. Many of them were married to men they hardly knew, and were denied the opportunity of marrying a man they had fallen in love with. And the real irony is, as anyone who has spent time in Utah knows, the descendants of those polygamous families are the backbone of the present church. Without that “not doctrinal” doctrine (as they call it), current prophets wouldn’t have half the church they have right now to preside over.

Denigrate plural marriage, which for fifty plus years was touted by church presidents as having “redemptive properties” and being essential for entrance to the Celestial Kingdom, and you have just denigrated all of those descendants’ heritage, and made a mockery of their ancestors’ sacrifices (as well as of the whole church itself). And I say that’s just wrong and dishonest. It is shameful.

Temple Ceremony
It’s a well-known fact that the LDS endowment ceremony is similar in many respects to the Mason ceremony. The same penalties, signs, procedures and obligations of secrecy are used in both ceremonies. Since Joseph became a Mason before introducing the endowment ceremony into the LDS theology, he took the Masonry oaths not to divulge those signs oaths and covenants to anyone. He, of course, broke that oath and not only introduced the oaths to other men, but he also inducted women into his adaptation of the ceremony. Joseph Smith’s dishonesty in this practice outraged fellow Masons in the Southern Illinois area.

In fact, this is one of the factors that led mobs of men to seek Joseph Smith’s life. They were angered that he had broken the oath he took upon becoming a Mason and sought to inflict the penalties agreed upon during the induction ceremony. He must have known that his life was in danger for doing this. One of his plural wives’ (Lucinda Pendleton) first husband (William Morgan) was a noted leader of the anti masonry movement and was killed for printing a book revealing the masons’ secrets. It’s interesting to note that when Joseph eventually was martyred, according to Heber C. Kimball his last words “Oh Lord, my God” with his hands upturned are the exact words and sign used in the Mason’s distress call for help. He was asking for help from the very men he had lied to and betrayed.

“Joseph stood at the open window, his martyr-cry being these words, ‘O Lord My God! This was not the beginning of a prayer, because Joseph Smith did not pray in that manner. This brave, young man who knew that death was near, started to repeat the distress signal of the Masons, expecting thereby to gain the protection its members are pledged to give a brother in distress.” – Heber C. Kimball, Mormonism and Masonry, p. 16-17

Church Membership and Growth
In October 2003 General Conference, James E. Faust spoke to members such as myself who harbor doubts. In this talk he said:

“Another powerful evidence of the divinity of this holy work is the remarkable growth and strength of this Church worldwide. It is a unique institution. Nothing quite compares to it.”

Data published by members of the church and easily available to Faust directly contradict this assertion on several levels ( Yet this false information provided by church PR is also often reported in the media.

A recent LDS Church News article entitled “Church Fastest Growing in Nation” claims that a Glenmary study “shows The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the fastest-growing faith in the nation during the 1990s.” In reality, the Glenmary study found that the LDS Church ranks twenty-third among the 149 participating U.S. faiths in overall growth rate, but first among denominations with over one million adherents. The Glenmary study was prominently misquoted with the “fastest growing church in the U.S.” claim being made in the Ensign, in three separate articles in the LDS Church News, and once in the “The Church in the News” website news.

World trends are even more sharply different than the church’s claim. There are 650,000 active Seventh-day Adventists in Kenya alone, but only 500,000 Latter-day Saints (of which approximately 170,000 are active) in all of continental Europe, Asia, and Africa combined. After more than a decade of proselyting in Russia with the largest full-time missionary force of any denomination, LDS membership has risen to only 11,000, with a fraction of those members remaining active. The same period has seen the number of active Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia rise to over 120,000, with some 275,000 individuals attending conferences. There are more active Jehovah’s Witnesses in the countries of Georgia or Armenia than active Latter-day Saints in all of Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and Russia together. There are less than 100,000 active Latter-day Saints in all of Europe, including the United Kingdom. In comparison, there are over 1.4 million proselytizing Jehovah’s Witnesses in Europe, and 2.7 million who attend Jehovah’s Witness conferences. In 1954, there were 7.7 Mormons per Witness publisher. By 1994, this had been reduced to 1.9. Given that the Mormons are generally viewed as the world’s most successful new religion and had about an 80-year start on the Witnesses, this is an astonishing achievement.

The way membership is counted adds to the misleading information. The LDS church, for example, counts even inactive members and those who don’t report themselves as LDS. Many other denominations have clear performance-based definitions of what constitutes a member (Jehovah’s Witnesses count only a baptized individual who participates regularly in proselytism; Adventists count only enrolled, active Sabbath School members, etc.). LDS membership statistics, however, have no obligatory correlation to activity or even religious self-identification of members as Latter-day Saints.

Therefore, official LDS membership statistics must be interpreted with caution, and should not be considered to be reflective of the actual strength or commitment of church members in the absence of activity rates or other performance-based data. Population-based studies consistently demonstrate that only a fraction of those on LDS membership rolls even identify the LDS Church as their faith of preference.

Studies investigating church growth using relevant independent parameters show that “real” LDS growth is modest, with high attrition. The CUNY American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) queried the self-identified religious affiliation of a large cohort of U.S. citizens in 1990 and 2001. The study found that the LDS Church had one of the highest turnover rates of any U.S. faith. Because of high turnover, the actual growth rate in the number of Americans identifying themselves as Latter-day Saints between 1990 and 2001 was found to be similar to the overall population growth rate, for a net real growth rate of close to zero.

From the data, the CUNY authors observe:

“Some groups such as Mormons…appear to attract a large number of converts (‘in-switchers’), but also nearly as large a number of apostates (‘out-switchers’).” (

An independent survey conducted by USA Today in March 2002 demonstrates similar findings. A comparison of USA Today survey data on self-reported religious identification in all fifty states to official LDS Church Almanac data reveals even more strikingly that the percentage of individuals in almost every state identifying themselves as Latter-day Saints is significantly lower than official membership figures, often dramatically.

Activity rates, convert retention rates, and other meaningful measures of member activity are virtually never given to the media. The impression is given that the stories of exceptional members are in some way typical or representative of church membership as a whole, when the fundamental reality that the large majority of members — 70-80% in most nations outside of the U.S., Canada, and the Pacific — are completely inactive.

The LDS media is generally silent on quality objective research and news which fail to adequately validate glowing public relations images. For example, a LDS Church News article in December 2001 proclaimed proudly that Latter-day Saints would be counted separately on the 2002 Chilean census, and conveyed excited anticipation about the data the upcoming census would bring. Rodolfo Acevedo, director of LDS public affairs in Chile, is quoted in the article as stating:

“This has not only given us the opportunity to remain apart from the other traditional registrations of the past, but we will also be able to see exactly how many Chileans claim membership in the Church.”

The Chilean newspaper La Tercera reports that the Church had lobbied heavily to be added to the Chilean census prior to this announcement. Now that the final census data has been released, demonstrating only 103,735 Chileans over age 15 identifying themselves as members of the LDS Church compared to 520,202 official members in 2002, no church-sponsored periodical has made mention of the census or its findings. No LDS Church News article has cited religious census data on the number of LDS adherents in any of the countries that include Latter-day Saints on the census. In every case, there is a large discrepancy between official church membership figures and the number of individuals identifying themselves as Latter-day Saints.

The 2000 census of Brazil lists 199,645 individuals who have identified themselves as members of The LDS church. The church claims 867,000. As a former missionary to Brazil, I’m sure the church has baptized 867,000 people but obviously only 25% recognize the church as their religion of choice. The others have moved on to other religions or can’t even remember the name of the church well enough to answer the survey correctly. Of the 199,645 who do claim membership, even the most optimistic activity rate of 50% would give the church 100,000 active LDS members in that country.

Perhaps it’s only self-deception and not outright lying on the part of church leaders. Still, the church’s claims regarding membership and growth mislead the public as well as its own membership especially when used a reason for the truthfulness of the church as Faust did and is often done. As a person whose main concern was the church’s deliberate distortion of facts, I found Faust’s talk having the opposite effect.

It’s also interesting to note that in another context the church has basically admitted that it is insignificant in the world. When questioned about the danger of church buildings being the target of terrorists the church’s official reply was:

“The state Department of Public Safety confirmed little intelligence has been found that makes Temple Square or other LDS Church sites terrorist targets,” said spokesman Derek Jensen.

Gregory Dunn, the managing director of security for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said church buildings in other countries are as safe as they are in Utah.
“It turns out the church just isn’t really that well known in the places where the risk is greatest,” he said. “The church carries a lot of anonymity in many places of the world.” (LDS Official: Churches Not Terrorism Targets, KSL News web site, Nov. 4, 2004;

Less than Honest Prophets and Members
LDS church leaders have apparently changed their views regarding the doctrine that God was once a man. Despite multiple statements affirming this doctrine by early church leaders, President Gordon B. Hinckley deliberately disguised the issue in discussing it with the press. For example, in a Time interview on August, 1997 he said:

Q: Just another related question that comes up is the statements in the King Follett discourse by the Prophet.

Hinckley: Yeah

Q: … about that, God the Father was once a man as we were. This is something that Christian writers are always addressing. Is this the teaching of the church today, that God the Father was once a man like we are?

Hinckley: I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it. I haven’t heard it discussed for a long time in public discourse. I don’t know. I don’t know all the circumstances under which that statement was made. I understand the philosophical background behind it. But I don’t know a lot about it and I don’t know that others know a lot about it. (Time Magazine original transcript, Aug 4, 1997)

He doesn’t know that we emphasize it? He needed to go to church more but he surely knows it’s taught. He later hinted in conference that he had been misquoted in the media, but that’s not the only time he minimized this teaching in public. The news sources have released transcripts of the interviews in order to clarify that he wasn’t misquoted.

In another interview prior to the 2002 Olympics, Hinckley said that I should be able to see the church’s financial records:





I’m still waiting. Anyhow, it is clearly a less-than-honest answer.

Many of the GA’s talks are reworked from he thoughts of well-known philosophers and writers. President Benson’s sermon on pride plagiarized the writings of C.S. Lewis, from Lewis’ book Mere Christianity, specifically the chapter, “The Great Sin” (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1952, revised and enlarged). A line-by-line comparison of the text of both documents provides clear and convincing evidence. His sermon borrowed heavily, and without attribution, both in terms of wording and concept, from Lewis’ earlier work.

David O. McKay seems to have stolen his famous “No Other Success…” from Benjamin Disraeli. Hugh B. Brown’s famous talk on the oak tree came directly from the teachings of the Rosicrucians. The Mormon Church has a parasitical habit of taking from others and claiming to own it. Or, as in the case of Paul Dunn, they just make it up and claim it’s true.

Steve Benson (grandson of Prophet Ezra Taft Benson) described a firsthand experience with Apostle Dallin H. Oaks in which he was requested to hide the truth:

Oaks expected me to cover for him after he lied in public about what we had talked about in private. In an on-the-record interview with a newspaper reporter, he blatantly misrepresented the truth about Boyd K. Packer’s involvement in the excommunication of Salt Lake author, Paul Toscano–who had attracted scowling Church attention for, among other things, suggesting that members need not perpetuate a Cult of Personality by standing up when General Authorities walked into the room.  (Steve Benson, Conversations Behind the Mormon Curtain: A First-Person Account of Meetings Between LDS Apostles Dallin H. Oaks, Neal A. Maxwell, and Steve and Mary Ann Benson, November 21, 2002)

I also find it increasingly distasteful as I discuss these issues with members how quickly they are able to lie and justify their leaders’ behavior. Take the temple changes and DNA issues for example.

Mormons deny that temple ordinances have changed in any significant way since their inception. Despite the fact that Joseph Smith himself said that God “set the ordinances to be the same forever and ever,” the LDS Church has continuously changed the temple ceremony over the years. It quietly made many drastic changes in April 1990 by removing all the penalties, which were taught as essential when I received them the first time in 1984. Previously the church had changed the ordinance in various ways most notable in 1931 they removed a death oath or covenant that patrons took offering themselves up to avenge the blood of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

The Watchtower (JWs) employ similar tactics in denying they claimed the world would end in 1975. Many JWs quit their jobs, took their kids out of school and became full-time missionaries as the world was about to end. Today they deny they ever taught that. JWs will deny it, or if cornered, will comment that it was just some over zealous members. They lost 1/3 of their membership just after that event (or non-event).

Current JWs are totally unaware of what really happened in 1975. Mormons do this with the changes in the temple ceremony. Some will still deny it even though they experienced the modifications personally as it is too sacred to talk about. Younger Mormons do not know there were any changes. I know it has changed and I think it’s dishonest for someone to tell me that having to pantomime your own death is insignificant. If it was insignificant, I deserve an apology for being coerced into doing something so disgusting for no apparent reason.

One of the other dishonest arguments I’ve heard is that it’s not church doctrine that American Indians are Lamanites. That’s just plain dishonest

Having grown up in the church, I have a hard time not laughing painfully when I read that. The problem is, of course, that church doctrine is whatever you want it to be at the time. Somehow I’m supposed to believe that the prophets didn’t know what they were talking about in the past even though they spoke authoritatively and with confidence. Yet I’m supposed to believe other things they have revealed when they clearly couldn’t tell the difference between a revelation and an opinion. The obvious question is…why believe ANYTHING they say?

Add to all the institutionalized lying the church’s slick version of (or omission of) events and details such as the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the fate of the Martin/Willie Handcart Company, The Mark Hoffman affair, the Danites, the Council of Fifty, the Strengthening the Members Committee, post-Manifesto Polygamy, the Law of Adoption, the United Order, speaking in tongues, females performing ordinances & magical thinking in the early church, Joseph Smith being ordained King.

Compare the church’s official version and explanations with the descriptions offered by historians and you can only conclude that the church is lying or omitting pertinent information.

So, the questions remain:

  • Can I trust the leaders of the church to tell me the truth?
  • Should I trust them to help me formulate my image of God?
  • Can they be trusted to present a truthful, accurate view of the past?
  • Can I trust them to provide counsel which is my personal interest rather than only that which benefits the church organization?
  • Are the Past and current leadership trustworthy enough to put major life decisions about my personal identity in their hands?
  • Could God really be behind lying?

In being honest with myself I have to say “no” to all the above.

*See the “Why I Left Mormonism” link in the menu above for the rest of the story.

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