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RICHARD E. TURLEY, JR.
Richard E. Turley, Jr, Mormon Church Historian.
| I wanted to give a great example of a believing Mormon twisting the facts in order to play the persecution card. This is from LDS historian and apologist Richard Turley’s critique of Jon Krakauer’s book Under the Banner of Heaver that the church has posted on its official website:
"Krakauer presents a decidedly one-sided and negative view of Mormon history.
"Referring to Joseph Smith’s well-known 1826 trial, for example, Krakauer asserts that “a disgruntled client filed a legal claim accusing Joseph of being a fraud”. This assertion shows Krakauer’s unfamiliarity with basic aspects of the trial in question, as well as his tendency to spin evidence negatively. In actuality, the trial resulted not from “a disgruntled client” but from persecutors who had Joseph hauled into court for being a disorderly person because of his supposed defrauding of his employer, Josiah Stowell. As a modern legal scholar who carefully studied the case has noted, however, Stowell “emphatically denied that he had been deceived or defrauded” (Gordon A. Madsen, “Joseph Smith’s 1826 Trial: The Legal Setting,” Brigham Young University Studies 30 [spring 1990], 105). As a result, Joseph was found not guilty and discharged (ibid.)."
First, Turley characterizes this proceeding as “Joseph Smith’s well-known 1826 trial” as if this is no big secret. I went to BYU law school and I have practiced law for over 24 years now in the State of Washington. I spent ten of those years working as a staff attorney for the Washington Supreme Court and I have served as a judge for 8 years. In addition, I have been a church history buff since I was a teenager and I even read Edwin Firmage’s book on the history of the church in court. Yet, I did not know about this trial until I read an account of it as well as the court records of it seven years ago in a non-LDS source. The church never mentions the trial in any of its approved publications probably because as Hugh Nibley once wrote, "if this court record is authentic it is the most damning evidence in existence against Joseph Smith." To characterize this “trial” as “well-known” is deceptive and dishonest, particularly when it is not common knowledge among most Mormons.
Second, Turley claims that this “trial” was based on charges brought by “persecutors.” In actuality, members of Josiah Stowell’s family presented a written complaint against Joseph Smith that led to Smith’s arrest and to criminal charges being filed against him. Stowell’s relatives filed their complaint because they were concerned that Smith was preying on Stowell’s gullibility with his money-digging and peepstoning schemes to defraud Stowell out of his money. More importantly, the court records say nothing about any religious claims made by Smith. The whole proceeding focused exclusively on Joseph’s money digging scams. Clearly, Stowell’s family members were simply doing what any reasonable person would have done under the same or similar circumstances. There is no evidence whatsoever that religious persecution played any role at all in this proceeding. If the 1826 proceeding had involved anyone other than Joseph Smith as the perpetrator, no one would even question the motives of Stowell’s relatives in filing a complaint under these circumstances.
Third, Turley claims that Smith was found not guilty and discharged. This is not true. The proceeding in question was not an actual trial. It was a preliminary hearing to determine whether or not there was adequate cause for trying Joseph Smith on these charges. The judge determined that adequate cause existed, but instead of ordering Smith to be held in jail pending trial, the judge gave Smith “leg bail” – meaning that the Judge simply told Smith to get out of town.
If anyone has spinned the evidence regarding Joseph Smith's money-digging practices -- it is Joseph Smith himself. Smith had the following to say in his 1838 history about his involvement in money-digging:
"In the month of October, 1825, I hired with an old gentleman by the name of Josiah Stoal [Stowell], who lived in Chenango county, State of New York. He had heard something of a silver mine having been opened by the Spaniards in Harmony, Susquehanna county, State of Pennsylvania; and had, previous to my hiring to him, been digging, in order, if possible, to discover the mine. After I went to live with him, he took me, with the rest of his hands, to dig for the silver mine, at which I continued to work for nearly a month, without success in our undertaking, and finally I prevailed with the old gentleman to cease digging after it. Hence arose the very prevalent story of my having been a money-digger." Joseph Smith History 1: 56.
Smith's creates a number of false impressions. First, the 1838 history creates the impression that prior to October 1825 Joseph Smith had no involvement with searching for buried treasure. But the historical record establishes that the Smith family was well known throughout the Palmyra region for their treasures hunts and money digging activities. The historical record also shows that the Smith family relied on occult practices and the use of peep stones in their money digging activities. Affidavits gathered from 50 of Joseph Smith’s friends and neighbors establish beyond question that Joseph Smith and his family had a reputation in the Palmyra, New York area as hunters for buried treasure. These affidavits all describe Smith as a peep stoner or glass looker (similar to a confidence man like Professor Marvel and his glass ball in the Wizard of Oz), whose chief source of income was hiring out to local farmers to help them find buried treasure by the use of folk magic and "seer stones."
Joseph Smith’s 1838 history also creates the impression that Smith was merely a hired hand who helped with the digging in Stowell’s treasure hunting endeavor. Contrary to the impression created by his statement, the evidence establishes that Joseph Smith was recognized as the leading glass looker or peep stone seer in the New York region. It was because of Joseph’s reputation as a peep stone seer that Josiah Stowell traveled over 100 miles from his farm in southern New York next to the Pennsylvania border to Palmyra in order to hire Joseph to locate buried Spanish treasure on his farm through his peep stone.
Joseph Smith’s 1838 description of Stowell’s treasure hunting venture also strongly hints that he, Smith, viewed this money-digging activity as foolishness, particularly given Smith’s claim that he “prevailed” with Josiah Stowell to give up his hunt for treasure. But the records of the “well-known 1826 trial” show that Smith was forced to abandon his money digging activities with Josiah Stowell under the threat of going to jail, not because Smith prevailed upon Stowell to quit as he reports in his 1838 history.
Joseph Smith cover-ups the true extent of his money-digging and the Josiah Stowell affair in the same 1838 document in which he reports the First Vision. If the credibility of the rest of Joseph Smith’s 1838 history is judged by the credibility of verse 56, Joseph Smith’s reliability as a witness fails miserably. The bottom line is that Joseph Smith was not truthful about his involvement with money digging and Josiah Stowell in his 1838 history. Based on Smith’s lack of credibility regarding this incident, the credibility of the rest of Smith’s 1838 history becomes highly questionably.
I did not discuss the most important aspect of the 1826 trial, the part of the proceeding that will never be discussed in church approved materials. According to the court record of the trial made by the court's clerk, William Purple, Joseph Smith stated in court "That he had a certain stone which he had occasionally looked at to determine where hidden treasures in the bowels of the earth were; that he professed to tell in this manner where gold mines were a distance under ground, and had looked for Mr. Stowel[l] several times, and had informed him where he could find these treasures, and Mr. Stowel[l] had been engaged in digging for them. That at Palmyra he pretended to tell by looking at this stone where coined money was buried in Pennsylvania, and while at Palmyra had frequently ascertained in that way where lost property was of various kinds; that he had occasionally been in the habit of looking through this stone to find lost property for three years, but of late had pretty much given it up on account ofits injuring his health, especially his eyes, made them sore..."
The court record has Smith all but admitting that he was a con man. This is by far the most significant part of the 1826 "trial". Whether the charges brought against Smith were based on persecution or merely to protect Josiah Stowell from Smith does not really matter. Neither does the outcome of the proceeding really matter nor does it really matter whether or not the "trial" is well known. The only reason that I addressed these issues was because people like Turley try to obscure the real significance of the 1826 proceeding by throwing out these red herrings. The key point that Turley does not address is Smith's admission in court that he pretended to see things in his seer stone. Even a Mormon apologist cannot spin this admission, except to challenge the authenticity of the court record.* This is why Nibley wrote that "if this court record is authentic it is the most damning evidence in existence against Joseph Smith."
* I find it ironic that by claiming that the 1826 proceeding is well-known and relying on the court record to make his claims, Turley accepts the court record as authentic.
Just for interest sake, here is an excerpt on the 1826 trial from Marquardt and Walters, Inventing Mormonism, Ch.4, pgs.67-72 (footnotes omitted):
"Josiah Stowell was a farmer with substantial holdings in the town of Bainbridge, Chenango County, in southern New York and a member of the local Presbyterian church. In the mid-1820s Stowell organized a money digging company to search for a mine he believed had been hidden by Spaniards in northern Pennsylvania near the home of Isaac Hale. Stowell hired Joseph Smith and his father to help. It was while digging and boarding at the home of Isaac Hale that Smith met his future wife Emma Hale. She was born in July 1804 and was a year and a half older than Smith.
"Two of Emma's cousins, Joseph and Hiel Lewis, later recalled how the possibility of a treasure came to light:
"We are unable at this time to give precise dates, but some time previous to 1825, a man by the name of Wm. Hale, a distant relative of our uncle Isaac Hale, came to Isaac Hale, and said that he had been informed by a woman named Odle, who claimed to possess the power of seeing under ground, (such persons were then commonly called peepers) that there was great treasures concealed in the hill north-east from his, (Isaac Hale's) house. By her directions, Wm. Hale commenced digging, but being too lazy to work, and too poor to hire, he obtained a partner by the name of Oliver Harper, of [New] York state, who had the means to hire help. But after a short time, operations were suspended for a time.
"Josiah Stowell eventually took up the search. In the fall of 1825 he went north to the Manchester area to visit his son Simpson Stowell. While there he heard about the Smiths' ability to locate buried treasure. Reportedly Joseph Jr. told Stowell that he could see the treasure Stowell had been looking for in Harmony through his peep stone even while still in Manchester. He also, according to Stowell's account, "described Josiah Stowel[l]'s house and outhouses" accurately. Stowell was impressed and hired Smith and his father to help locate the treasure.
"Oliver Cowdery, who became a friend of the Smith family in 1829, wrote of Stowell's project and of his hiring Joseph Smith:
"This gentleman, whose name is Stowel[l], resided in the town of Bainbridge, on or near the head waters of the Susquehannah river. Some forty miles south, or down the river, in the town of Harmony, Susquehannah county, Pa. is said to be a cave or subterraneous recess. . . . where a company of Spaniards, a long time since, when the country was uninhabited by white settlers, excavated from the bowels of the earth ore, and coined a large quantity of money. . . . Enough, however, was credited of the Spaniard's story, to excite the belief of many that there was a fine sum of the precious metal lying coined in this subterraneous vault, among whom was our employer [Stowell]; and accordingly our brother [Joseph Smith] was required to spend a few months with some others in excavating the earth, in pursuit of this treasure.
"In his own history Joseph Jr. also mentioned this work with Stowell:
"In the month of October Eighteen hundred and twenty five I hired with an old Gentleman, by name of Josiah Stoal [Stowell] who lived in Chenango County, State of New York. He had heard something of a silver mine having been opened by the Spaniards in Harmony, Susquahana [sic] County, State of Pen[n]sylvania, and had previous to my hiring with him been digging in order if possible to discover the mine. After I went to live with he took me among the rest of his hands to dig for the silver mine, at which I continued to work for nearly a month without success in our undertaking, and finally I prevailed with the old gentleman to cease digging after it. Hence arose the very prevalent story of my having been a money digger.
"Smith's father and mother indicated that he was more than a hired hand for Stowell. Joseph Sr. reportedly told Fayette Lapham that his son went to Harmony, Pennsylvania, "at the request of some one who wanted the assistance of his divining rod and stone in finding hidden treasure, supposed to have been deposited there by the Indians or others." Similarly Lucy recalled that Stowell had sought her son's help because he heard Joseph "possessed certain keys, by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye."
"In other words it was because of Smith's reputation that father and son made the trip of over one hundred miles to Harmony, Pennsylvania, where Stowell employed them to help locate the mine. Smith was now nineteen, and his father fifty-four.
"On 1 November 1825, soon after their arrival in Harmony and in anticipation of their discoveries, Stowell's treasure digging company drew up "Articles of Agreement." This agreement stipulated, "if anything of value should be obtained at a certain place in Pennsylvania near a Wm. Hale's, supposed to be a valuable mine of either Gold or Silver and also to contain coined money and bars or ingots of Gold or Silver," each member would receive a share, including a share to Oliver Harper's widow. According to this agreement, Joseph Sr. and his son Joseph (who both signed the agreement) would receive "two elevenths of all the property that may be obtained."
"It was while they were away in southern New York that the new land agent in Canandaigua agreed to sell the Smith's delinquent Manchester farm to their neighbor to the south who wanted to add it to his holdings. Only panic-stricken appeals by Lucy and Hyrum Smith to sympathetic neighbors and the return of Joseph Sr. prevented eviction. A kindly Quaker, Lemuel Durfee, bought the land and allowed the Smiths to remain as tenants.
"In 1834 Isaac Hale recalled the treasure-seeking venture:
"[Joseph] Smith, and his father, with several other "money-diggers" boarded at my house while they were employed in digging for a mine that they supposed had been opened and worked by the Spaniards, many years since. Young Smith gave the "money-diggers" great encouragement, at first, but when they had arrived in digging, to near the place where he had stated an immense treasure would be found--he said the enchantment was so powerful that he could not see. They then became discouraged, and soon after dispersed. This took place about the 17th of November, 1825; and one of the company gave me his note for $12[.] for his board, which is still unpaid.
"Others in the area also recalled Smith's activities and placed them within the context of religious and supernatural practice. Michael Morse described the treasure forays around Harmony to an interviewer in 1879:
"Joseph came into Harmony with a Mr. Stowell, to dig for treasure - silver in oars [ores] - which was said to have be[e]n mined and hid by Spaniards a long time before. He thinks three different companies had been digging for it in all and that Mr. Stowell with his company were one of the three Says Joseph at that time (about 1825) was a green, awkward, and ignorant boy of about 19 yrs of age Says he made no profession of religion. Said Mr. Stowell was a religious man, as was also Mr. Isaac Hale at whose house Mr. Stowell, Joseph and the other hired men boarded, and that prayers were had of mornings before the company set off to work.
"In 1842 Joel K. Noble of Colesville, New York, placed the money digging within the context of occult ritual. He recalled that young Joseph "came here when about 17-18 Y[ears]. of age in the capacity of Glass Looker or fortune tel[l]er." Noble summarized the story of the company's alleged sprinkling the ground with a dog's blood while offering prayers to obtain a buried treasure.
"While Joseph Smith was working for Josiah Stowell, he was brought before a court on charges sworn against him by a nephew of Josiah Stowell, Peter G. Bridgman (or Bridgeman). Apparently Bridgman became concerned that his uncle's money was being spent in the pursuit of elusive treasure. Accounts of these charges corroborate Smith's treasure hunting in southern New York and Pennsylvania.
"In 1831 Abram W. Benton, a young man about the same age as Joseph Jr., recalled the arrest for disorderly conduct and the judgement of guilt, adding, "considering his youth, (he then being a minor,) and thinking he might reform his conduct, he was designedly allowed to escape. This was four or five years ago." In Noble's 1842 recollection, Smith was charged with vagrancy, condemned, and "whisper came to Jo. off off--took Leg Bail (or Gave [Leg Bail])."
"For over a hundred years three different published printings of the actual 1826 court record taken from Albert Neely's docket book have been available as well as an account by William D. Purple. But because the pages from the original docket book had been lost, the authenticity of these published accounts was questioned. However, in 1971 two itemized bills were discovered which had been submitted by Justice Neely and Constable Philip De Zeng to cover costs incurred in the arrest and examination of Joseph Smith, and they confirm many of the details of both the Purple account and the published versions of the record. (For a detailed description of each of these documents, see the Appendix.)
"Because of the multiplicity of documents concerning the 20 March 1826 examination of Joseph Smith, it is possible to reasonably reconstruct the order of events as the young glass-looker would have experienced them. When Smith was arrested, he would have been brought before Neely for a preliminary examination, often referred to loosely as a "trial" but specified by Neely on his bill as an "examination." The examination was to determine whether Smith should be released as innocent of the charges or, if the evidence seemed sufficient, actually brought to trial. During the examination Smith's statement was taken (not under oath), and witnesses for and against the accused were sworn in and examined and their statements taken down. Both before and during the examination Joseph remained under guard by Constable De Zeng, who charged the county for "attendance with Prisoner two days and 1 nigh[t]"--the day of the examination and the day and night preceding.
"As indicated, Bridgman had sworn out the warrant. Neely's court record begins with the complaint: "State of New York v. Joseph Smith. Warrant issued upon written complaint upon oath of Peter G. Bridgeman, who informed that one Joseph Smith of Bainbridge was a disorderly person and an impostor." New York law collected various types of vagrancy under the broad heading of "Disorderly Persons" and included, along with beggars, prostitutes, and those who neglect their wives and children, "all persons pretending to have skill in physiognomy, palmistry, or like crafty science, or pretending to tell fortunes, or to discover where lost goods may be found." Since Smith had never actually led the diggers to anything of value, Bridgman considered that Joseph was indeed pretending to discover lost items.
"According to Neely's court record, as published in Fraser's Magazine, Smith first made a statement in his own defense:
"Prisoner examined: says that he came from the town of Palmyra, and had been at the house of Josiah Stowel[l] in Bainbridge most of time since; had small part of time been employed in looking for mines, but the major part had been employed by said Stowel[l] on his farm, and going to school. That he had a certain stone which he had occasionally looked at to determine where hidden treasures in the bowels of the earth were; that he professed to tell in this manner where gold mines were a distance under ground, and had looked for Mr. Stowel[l] several times, and had informed him where he could find these treasures, and Mr. Stowel[l] had been engaged in digging for them. That at Palmyra he pretended to tell by looking at this stone where coined money was buried in Pennsylvania, and while at Palmyra had frequently ascertained in that way where lost property was of various kinds; that he had occasionally been in the habit of looking through this stone to find lost property for three years, but of late had pretty much given it up on account of its injuring his health, especially his eyes, made them sore; that he did not solicit business of this kind, and had always rather declined having anything to do with this business.
"Joseph Smith made a passing remark about attending school and Josiah Stowell, Jr., who was almost seventeen years old at the time remembered, "I also went to schoal [school] with him one winter he was a fine likely young man and at that time did not Profess religion."
| Let me begin by acknowledging the length of this post. Sorry, but I've had a lot boiling in my mind the past few days, and it needs to come out.
The apologetic responses to Mattson's statements - both from professional apologists and the amateurs here - have been particularly galling to me. They are fresh evidence that the church and those who defend it unfailingly are, frankly, morally bankrupt. There is no lie that they will not tell, no blame they will not shirk, no truth they will not twist in the never-ending quest to defend what has become increasingly indefensible.
The arguments I have seen thus far, from BYU, MI, and MM, fall into the same basic, fact-defying categories:
Taking a page from Jensen and Turley's playbook, let's take these one at a time. But unlike those two clowns, let's actually ADDRESS them.
- The church actually is honest and open about its history; Mr. Mattson was just misinformed.
- This is old news, everyone knows about these issues.
- Answers to these questions are available to those who wish to search.
- If we don't have the exact answer for your exact question, be patient - there's some great research coming.
- This is just another form of persecution of Mormons.
1 - To anyone who dares to make the claim that the church really is trying to be open and honest about its history, I say this: you are lying. It is untrue that the church is open about it's history. It is not, and it has not ever been. To the objective student, it is obvious that the church and its leaders - starting with Joseph - were repeated revisionist historians, constantly tweaking the "gospel" narrative to make the message more palatable and inspiring. From the multiple accounts of the first vision, Moroni's (Nephi's?) visitation, the restoration of the priesthood, the Missouri period, the Mormon War, polygamy, revisions to the Doctrine and Covenants and the Book of Mormon for the church's morphing doctrines, the Book of Abraham, the Word of Wisdom, blacks and the priesthood, etc. etc. etc., it is a never-ending narrative that eschews the historical facts in favor of "faith promoting" deception. It continues today and is taught right out of the manuals that bear the imprimatur of the First Presidency and are thus (according to what I was taught in my TBM experiences throughout my life) official doctrine of the church. To those who wish to deny that this is still occurring, I refer you to Gospel Doctrine lesson 24, taught just a few weeks ago, which contained two historically inaccurate stories - one implicitly misleading, the other a terrible, slanderous untruth.
The implicitly misleading tale is the one concerning Hiram Page's "revelations," which recounts Hiram's use of a seer stone to receive supposed revelation and describing this under the heading: "We should recognize the deceptions of Satan that can lead us into apostasy." The lesson manual describes this strange ritual and leaves (I believe intentionally on the part of the manual's creators) the class with the impression that such a practice was unholy. What the manual fails to tell even the instructor - let alone the members - is that Page was only doing this because it is EXACTLY what he had seen Joseph do. Joseph used such a stone, and "received revelation" through it. He even translated the Book of Mormon with it. But the manual deceptively fails to mention these facts and explain the truth, which could still make for a proper lesson on the topic. Instead, it paints Page in a bad light and conveniently forgets to paint Joseph with the same brush.
The second, more terrible untruth is the story it tells of Thomas B. Marsh. As most here know, the well-worn story about Marsh's wife and the dispute over milk strippings being the catalyst for their "apostasy" is not true. There are many complex reasons why Marsh left the church, involving terrible actions on the part of Mormons - including church leaders like Sidney Rigdon and apostle David W. Patten - that led Marsh to bravely go to Missouri authorities at a time when Mormon leaders were vocally threatening to kill those who disagreed with Joseph. None of these reasons had anything to do with something so remotely trivial as dairy products, yet the church still teaches this story, year-after-year, as a mockery of the truth and a slander against Marsh's name. In the ultimate offense, the manual lays the blame for the infamous "extermination order" at the feet of Brother Marsh, but says nothing - NOTHING - of the Mormons who attacked Missouri settlements during that time, looted at least one general goods store to stock the Bishop's Storehouse, and burned the town of Gallatin. The fact is that no one ever heard of the milk story until some 20 years later when George A. Smith pulled it out of thin air in a talk to make Marsh look foolish. But the church still teaches this lie, and it is the go-to story to lampoon those who would choose trivial things over the "kingdom of God." GBH mentioned it in a talk during his presidency. It's a convenient, "faith-promoting" lie.
The church is not open about it's history, and it's not trying to be now. Projects like the JSP are just trying to get ahead of a wave of unfettered information so that the church can talk a good game while still teaching bold-faced lies in its curriculum.
2 - That leads us right into the second one, that all of these issues are old news. Perhaps to the apologists, who have been wrestling these issues for 40 years like a herd of greased pigs, they do feel like old news. But to the rank-and-file membership, the issues raised by Mattson - as well as many others - are NOT "old news," and they have NOT been addressed. This board, the others like it, and the growing number of disaffected members of the church are proof positive that these issues have been buried and hushed up, and then have to be discovered through other means. Besides, the great ironic question of those who wish to claim that these issues are "old news" is that if this is true, then why the h*ll haven't the church or its lackeys been able to come up with any explanations that hold the slightest drop of water when looked at objectively? If these issues are so yawn-inducing, so "yesterday's news," then where are the answers, huh? Where are all these glowing truths that will put down the doubters andshore up the truth of God's gospel? To all of you who claim this, WHERE IS THE BEEF? There isn't any - you haven't come up with any answers or reasonable explanations - let alone truthful ones - that allay these concerns or provide an explanation for any of these issues that doesn't ultimately resort back to "Pray about it, and if you're righteous, you'll shut up."
3 - The claim that "the answers to these issues are available to those who are willing to look" isn't just deceiving, it's offensive. It's offensive to anyone who has actually looked for answers, and it's offensive to the brave researchers who actually HAVE looked for the church's supposed openness and paid the ultimate price. To all those who would claim that these answers are available to the faithful seeker, and that the church encourages examination of these issues, I say: tell that to Fawn Brodie, Juanita Brooks, the Tanners, Michael Quinn, and the rest of the September Six. These people looked for the answers - they even went to the church's official sources and papers. When they published what they found, they were ostracized, persecuted, and in most cases they were shown the door. They continue to be vilified as anti-Mormons, spoken of in hushed tones reserved for "he/she whose name we dare not speak," for doing nothing - NOTHING - more than speaking and publishing the truth. For the church and its defenders to now say "Oh, hey - you have a question? Well c'mon buddy, we've got answers for you in spades, all you have to do is look, and we fully support that!" is so patently, blatantly dishonest and a slap in the face to those people who were attacked and persecuted by the church for doing exactly that. How dare they say this? To foster such devotion in the TBM ranks and promote faith in the institution as infallible, and yet take such a deceptive, deceitful tack on this issue, isn't just wrong - it's evil.
4 - To those who say that Mattson just needed to be patient and find the answer to his concerns, I say that he WAS patient. He was patient for 8 years. He asked for guidance from several GAs, including at least one apostle. He gave the church multiple chances to give some reasonable response to his concerns. They had worlds of time. But when the initial round of jedi mind tricks didn't work, they seemed to decide to ignore him. The fact that he finally went public is the church's fault. They had plenty of time and plenty of chances to address this honestly, but they wouldn't. It actually blows my mind that the church sent Elder Jensen and What's-his-name Turley under the guise of addressing questions, only to spend several hours blowing smoke at the Swedes and claiming that, despite having traveled half the world to be there, they didn't have the time to actually give any answers. Mind-blowing arrogance and bush-league tactics. Did they just think that by showing up in their well-pressed suits and "mantles" that they would stupefy the crowd into submission?
5 - Finally, to those who wish to paint the Mattson issue as just another form of persecution, your position is ridiculous. I only address it because it's one of the major themes of the hand-wringing responses. The prime example of this is the MM piece by Juli Caldwell. This response is intellectually dishonest in that it attempts to recast the discussion as a strawman persecutor, and place the church in the role of "victim" rather than what the facts show. (In this way, it's not unlike the church's role in producing the novel "Victims" about the Hoffman affair, where the church attempted to spin the truth to cast itself as just another victim of Hoffman's, rather than his chief enabler and the cast of uninspired frauds that they were exposed for. Interesting that Turley told the Swedish "saints" to read that book when researching the Hoffman affair, as opposed to one of the many that were more objective. But I digress...)
Caldwell's piece in particular is so painfully inept. It plainly attempts to paint the church as a victim of its own history, still suffering the gaping wounds of misunderstanding, and accusing Mattson and the Times of pouring salt into them. As though they have committed some offense against the church by bringing up its "dirty laundry" for all the world to see. Caldwell's message seems to be "shame on you, Hans Mattson, for speaking of these things. Don't you know that as Mormons, we aren't supposed to talk about or ask questions about those things? That those are our dirty family secrets? How dare you, Sir!?" In a way, Caldwell is just repeating what is said around Mormon dinner tables and in hushed voices in quorum meetings the world over: "Shhhhh....we don't really discuss that. Next time, you should know better than to bring it up." Not surprisingly, this is seemingly the same kind of response that Mattson received when he first raised these issues with church leaders.
Well guess what, bozos? WE ARE TALKING ABOUT IT!!!! These are issues, and they are not going away. And every half-assed, twisted, transparent argument you give just confirms more and more that 1) you don't have any answers, 2) but you're willing to try a thousand different lies, and 3) that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not in the least bit what it claims to be: the "one true church." No god worth worshipping - let alone a loving "Father in Heaven" like the one you describe in the current version of your doctrine as akin to a perfect father who just wants his children to return to him - would ever trust his "plan of salvation" to you.
"I'm going to give you my best short answer on DNA."
"Is it the same as FAIR and FARMS?"
"Um. It may be."
Leaders of the LDS Church rarely have the courage to directly answer difficult questions. Instead, they hide behind apologists and increasingly their well funded PR department. If someone raises a question they simply refer them to these unofficial sources for an explanation. This is a common tactic large corporations use to avoid having to answer difficult questions. Its a form of "plausible deniability". The leaders pretend or don't know the answers and refer questioners to the apologists. The apologists can give utterly outrageous answers (e.g. horse = tapir; two Cumorahs; Limited Geography etc) and the church can distance itself from them because the apologists don't officially speak for the church.
On November 28, 2010 a special fireside was held in Stockholm, Sweden for members of the LDS who had doubts. The fireside was attended by Elder Marlin K. Jensen (LDS Church Historian) and Richard E. Turley Jr. (Assistant Church Historian). Our attention was drawn to the occurrence of this meeting by Hans Mattson, who had recently retired as an Area Authority of the Church in Europe. You can read Hans' interview with the New York Times here (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/us/...). A full transcript of the fireside can be found at the Mormonthink website (http://www.mormonthink.com/files/swed...).
This fireside is notable for several reasons, but in my view the most significant thing that occurred at this fireside was that LDS general authorities who had been sent by the First Presidency actually gave answers to difficult questions. Consequently, we can regard those answers as official church responses. And just as many of us suspected, those answers are exactly the type of answers being given by the church's "unofficial" apologists, most of whom are/were based at the Maxwell Institute at Brigham Young University.
At the beginning of the fireside members were invited to submit questions. Once a list had been gathered, answers were given and further questions taken. Given that the audience were the descendants of seafaring vikings it was not surprising that the following question was asked.
We had some Vikings visit North America about 1000 years ago, and today we know exactly where they lived actually, there are archeological evidence that they leave there, etc. So what about all the millions of people who have been Lamanites or Nephites . What kind of evidence can you show that actually exist? Every single small Indian tribe in the whole of America we know about today because they all leave buildings and tombs and anything which we can prove that they are there, have been there. And as far as I know there is nothing prove there have been Lamanites or Nephites in America.
It is a well-established fact that the viking Erik the Red reached the New World in about 1000 AD. There is unmistakable archaeological evidence of his trip as well as written records. So why can't we find the remains of massive Nephite and Lamanite civilizations? I made a similar observation a decade ago in my book Losing a Lost Tribe.
If we have time also could you comment on the American Indians and the DNA, and the connection to Lamanites, Nephites, and then back to the Jewish people. Interesting to hear.
"Ten centuries ago a handful of Norse sailors slipped into Newfoundland, established small colonies, traded with local natives, then sailed back into the fog of history. In spite of the small scale of their settlements and the brevity of their stay, unequivocal evidence of their presence has been found, including metalwork, buildings, and Norse inscriptions. Just six centuries earlier, the Book of Mormon tells us, a climactic battle between fair-skinned Nephites and dark-skinned Lamanites ended a millennial dominion by a literate, Christian, Bronze Age civilization with a population numbering in the millions. Decades of serious and honest scholarship have failed to uncover credible evidence that these Book of Mormon civilizations ever existed. No Semitic languages, no Israelites speaking these languages, no wheeled chariots or horses to pull them, no swords or steel to make them. They remain a great civilization vanished without a trace, the people along with their genes." -Southerton, Losing a Lost Tribe, 2004
Quickly. Archeology and the Book of Mormon. Why isn't there all this specific evidence of Nephites and Lamanites. You know, I'm going to combine it with Indian DNA because the answers are really quite similar. You may be able to find some evidence of Viking culture on the coast, but if Vikings went to the new world many, many times, you probably wouldn't be able to find evidence of all the people who went there.
I'm sorry, ??- I mean there were millions of people building cities and creating wagons with wheels, and horses, and had so many things, weapons destroying things, so I guess there should be some traces, somewhere, in the whole of Americas if they ever existed.
Turley missed the point of the question, hence the frustrated follow up question above. He moves on to talking about DNA.
As you know, there are cultural ruins all over the Americas. The question is, were these Book of Mormon peoples or not? Some people have tried to answer that using the DNA to say maybe these were Book of Mormon people, maybe they were not. Are there any DNA experts here? I'm gonna give you my best short answer on DNA.
Is it the same as FAIR and FARMS?
Um. It may be. Let me just-if you have a family tree that goes back like this, and so on, you get the idea, it's way out here. DNA cannot tell us about all of our ancestors. I was the president of the genealogical society of Utah, which oversees the collection of family history records , the Church's family history records. We were very interested in DNA for genealogical purposes to find out what it could tell us. What we learned is that DNA can tell you about this line here. OK? The Y chromosome. And DNA can tell you about this line here, which is mitochondrial DNA. So through DNA, you can learn about the line that is all males down through here. If there's a female in this line, it's stuck and it can't go any further. Now, here you can tell about the line that is female all the way down. OK? But what's in the middle here you can't discover through DNA with today's technology. OK? Now, if you think this out further, like this, what basically happens is let's say you've got one person here downto maybe 10 million or whatever.
Turley's answer about the limitations of mtDNA and Y-DNA studies comes straight from the apologetic work of several LDS scholars. It appeared in a 2003 FAIR article by D. Jeffrey Meldrum "The Children of Lehi: DNA and the Book of Mormon". The same argument appears twice on the BYU Maxwell Institute website in articles by Brian Stubbs and D. Jeffrey Meldrum, and Trent D. Stephens.
How many of those 10 million people have DNA that we can discover this way? If the lines don't intertwine, the answer is just these two. The first one and this one. What actually happens is that as people intermarry and you shift from male to female here or from female to male there you lose the opportunity to trace their strand. So what happens over time is that you lose-you lose DNA identity as you work your way down through time. It's not always possible to be able to identify peoples who were there.
MtDNA and Y DNA Population Studies
Turley is quite correct that mtDNA and Y chromosome DNA analysis does not reveal much about an individual's ancestors. They reveal only two out of about a million ancestral positions in a person's family tree going back 20 generations. So how on earth can they tell us anything useful? The reason is that human geneticists studying Native Americans are NOT studying the genealogy of individuals. They are studying the genetic relationships of entire populations. And MtDNA and Y-DNA studies have been spectacularly useful for tracking human population migrations around the world. Closely related people tend to have the same mtDNA and Y-DNA lineages, particularly before the modern age of transoceanic voyaging. As related groups of people have migrated around the world they have taken their genes with them.
Virtually all mitochondrial lineages found throughout the world can be grouped into less than twenty-five major family groups represented by letters A, H, X, and so on. Essentially all Native American mitochondrial lineages fall into one of five major families: A, B, C, D, or X, none of which were derived from a recent migration from Israel. If we could go back twenty generations in an American Indian's pedigree chart, it is extremely likely that those same five lineages occupied virtually all the million-odd ancestral slots. Even those mitochondrial lineages that end up in males and are not passed on to the next generation came from the same five sources. It is possible that some lineages may not have been detected yet or have been lost in time through chance, but these would have been very rare mitochondrial family lines.
Turley is also unaware of the recent work on nuclear genes that essentially fills in the large numbers of ancestral slots in a person's pedigree chart. Work on nuclear DNA has confirmed that Native American DNA is derived from Asia. For a description of the nuclear DNA research see my post entitled "Could Generations of Lamanite DNA Just Disappear?"
But there's a bigger problem. The bigger problem is this: in order to capture DNA, in order to make a comparison, you need two things. One, you need to know, what was the DNA of Lehi's family? And then two, what is the DNA of ancient American peoples? We know some but not all the answers here. We're continuing to learn over time. The body of types of DNA for these people is growing. With this one, we have no way of knowing the answer. We do not know what Lehi's DNA was. The place where they were living at the time was a place that had immigration in and out. The kind of DNA they had is impossible to determine. So that's the basic answer. You can't tell because you don't know both the DNA of Lehi's family history.
So there are people in the Americas now might have DNA from Lehi? You don't know the original.
They might be-they could easily be descendants of Lehi for the reason I explained at first with that chart. They might have the DNA of Lehi, we just don't know what DNA Lehi's family had.
You don't think that he was from the house of Israel?
Yes, but so is most of the world today.
It is astounding how poorly informed this last statement is. It is sheer nonsense to think that most of the world's populations are descended from the House of Israel...even partially. All of Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the Americas were heavily populated many thousands of years before Israel even existed. China sustained massive populations well over 10,000 years ago, as did much of the rest of Eurasia. It is a myth that the House of Israel has played at centre stage of world affairs for the last couple of thousand years.
No but if, but if his area is a crossroad, we have immigration coming in, it doesn't take very many generations before that DNA is, as I was showing you here earlier, it only takes one marriage for that to stop.
I actually don't think that's correct according to scientific evidence today. I think you actually can trace back to with DNA and tell for instance where the Swedish people are coming from or where the Asian people are coming from. I think you can do that quite well according to reports I have seen. I'm very, very surprised that you're [playing] that there is no evidence at all.
You can follow this.
All I said was if, if these people don't intermarry, it's one. But if they intermarry what happens is this line-let's pose that this person has a child and that child marries here.
OK? Then this DNA gets connected here and goes in along the male line all the way through. They have a daughter and that daughter marries and they have a line of daughters that could come in like this. But the original DNA batch from here? They don't replicate down.
I'm not an expert but that's your opinion and you know much more about this than I do. If you look at the tests they've done now with the DNA they've found with your mind it's, you know, statistically, do you see that it's very probable, the outcome compared to, you know? It would be easier if they found maybe some indication that would be stronger there would be some trace. What's your opinion on it? Do you feel, would I lie to you? It's statistically probable the way we see it?
I grew up with a PhD father who was a scientist, OK, he was a nuclear engineer and I was taught scientific method and statistics and the importance of recognizing the limitations of the science. What I'm saying about DNA is its an extremely important tool for finding our where peoples come from. Its limitation is, it can't tell us about all the people who used to exist, it can only tell us about some. Now, maybe someday, the technology will improve. But today, it can't. So, because of these limitations, for anybody who claims one position or another on Lehi's families is inconsistent with the science. That's all I'm saying.
Turley's claim that we need Lehite DNA in order to be able to detect his ancestors today is an argument that has been presented over and over again by several apologists including Jeff Lindsay, Michael R. Ash, FAIR, Brian Stubbs, Daniel Peterson and Matthew Roper to name a few.
We Don't Need Lehite DNA, We Need non-Asian DNA
It is nonsensical to claim that because we don't know what the DNA of Lehi's family looks like we cannot possibly find Lehite DNA today. We know that Lehi and Mulek were members of two different Israelite tribes and that they and their families lived in Jerusalem. It is perfectly reasonable to assume that both the Lehites and Mulekites were Israelites, or at the very least closely related to people living in the Middle East. We know a considerable amount about the DNA lineages of living people whose ancestors were Israelites reaching back 2600 years ago. Israelite DNA lineages belong to the same family groups found in European populations: the H, I, J, K, N, T, U, V, W, and X groups. Other Middle Eastern populations such as the Syrians, Egyptians, Lebanese, and other Arabic groups have similar mitochondrial DNA lineages belonging to these families. Essentially all Europeans and Middle Easterners possess one of these lineages.
LDS apologists didn't need ancient Asian DNA to be convinced that American Indians are essentially all descended from Asian ancestors. So why do we need ancient Israelite DNA? John Butler has loudly trumpeted the missing Lehite DNA argument; yet he was persuaded "that almost all Native Americans tested thus far possess genetic signatures closely resembling modern-day Asians".
One of the attractions of working with DNA is that it carries its own history within its sequence. People who are related to each other carry DNA that shares common spelling changes that have accumulated throughout time. Anthropologists don't need an ancient DNA sample to confirm relatedness because related DNA lineages by definition share common DNA spelling changes that occurred in their ancestors. Modern populations carry everything we need because these informative DNA spellings are rarely lost over the generations; rather, they are inherited down the generations.
The other obvious problem is that we don't have any Native American DNA lineages that are even candidate Israelite DNA lineages. Those that don't belong to the five lineage families (A to D, X) are derived from Western European or African populations and arrived after Columbus. Virtually 100% of Native American DNA lineages are Asian in origin. They belong to large lineage families that have common ancestors with Asian lineages going back about 15,000 years. Even if Asian lineages magically found there way to Israel 3,000 years ago and were picked up by the Lehites, they would be distantly related to the Asian lineages that found their way to the New World 15,000 years ago.
BYU Apologetics = Official Church Position
Almost everything published by FARMS, FAIR and the Maxwell Institute at Brigham Young University appears with the following sort of disclaimer.
"The views expressed in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of the Maxwell Institute, Brigham Young University, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
Now we know the truth. When Church leaders are in a corner and are forced to respond to difficult questions they assume the exact same position as LDS apologists at BYU. The church can no longer plausibly deny that the views of the Maxwell Institute do not represent the position of the church. When push comes to shove the church's unofficial apologists are official after all.
| As were many others, I was astounded by the front-page article in the New York Times entitled "Some Mormons Search the Web and Find Doubt," published in the Sunday edition for July 20, 2013. The article focused on Hans Mattsson, a former member of the 3rd Quorum of the Seventy (i.e., an Area Seventy) residing in Sweden, and his path from true believer to doubting, semi-active member. Mattsson spoke of meetings with Church leaders in an effort to receive answers to difficult questions about LDS history, and, in particular, a November 2010 meeting in Sweden attended by Elder Marlin K. Jensen, then a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and Church historian (Jensen has since been retired), and his assistant historian, Richard E. Turley, Jr. |
After reading the fascinating article, I poked around the Internet for more information and found a treasure trove at the Mormon Stories website: a 5-part interview of Mattsson and his wife, Birgitta, by John Dehlin, as well as the written transcript (hereinafter, "Transcript") from an audiotape of the November 2010 meeting with Jensen and Turley (the Transcript has since been taken down by Dehlin, but can be found in several other places online). The Transcript was even more astounding than the Times article, and the Mattsson interview by Dehlin helped fill in some holes in the Transcript. I also listened to the audiotape of the actual November 2010 meeting, from which the Transcript was made. Taken together, these sources reveal how serious the problem has become in Sweden.
FYI, my citations here are to the version of the Transcript that can be found as a PDF copy at the following link: http://www.roadkilldelight.com/NOM/SFMJRT.pdf
How the Meeting Came to Pass:
The 2010 meeting in Sweden was extraordinary - I had never heard of the Church sending the top two men in its historical department (one of whom was a GA at the time) to the other side of the world to speak with just 20-25 LDS members with troubling questions about LDS history. Elder Jensen explained why he came to meet with this small group of Swedish saints:
Quote:This situation in Sweden is a little bit unique because it seems to involve a group of you who are loosely networked everywhere across the world because of the Internet and the explosion of information that has come. (Transcript at 4) (emphasis added).I'm not sure what Elder Jensen meant by this - perhaps that this small group of Swedish saints was having a great influence on LDS members throughout Sweden (or the world)? Obviously it was serious enough to require such a rare meeting.
In his interview with Dehlin (specifically, Part 4), Hans Mattsson mentioned that his brother, a church leader in Sweden (who I believe to be Leif Mattsson, Hans's twin and a former (perhaps he still is) stake president in Sweden) called Church headquarters in Salt Lake to express concern about what was going on in Sweden (Mattsson didn't give any detail of the specific "concern," but it could have been the growing influence of a Mormon Stories group that had been organized in Sweden, which had 500 - 600 participants). Hans Mattsson recounted that he was told that "someone high up [at Church headquarters] said that historians would be sent."
We know from Elder Jensen (as shown in the Transcript) that shortly before the 2010 meeting, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve, accompanied by Elder Rasband of the Seventy, had visited Sweden, and that "as a result of that visit and some other things ." Jensen and Turley were sent to Sweden. (Transcript at 3) (emphasis added). I wonder if the "some other things" included the telephone call to headquarters by Mattsson's brother.
In any event, the meeting was "secret" (according to Hans Mattsson) and held on Sunday evening, November 28, 2010, in the V„sterhaninge Chapel in Stockholm, Sweden. According to Mattsson, only 20 to 25 Swedish members were in attendance. In addition to Elder Jensen and Bro. Turley, the LDS Church was represented at the meeting by Area President Erich W. Kopischke of the 1st Quorum of the Seventy, Area Seventy R. Ingvar Olsson, and several local stake presidents and bishops. The meeting apparently lasted several hours; according to one attendee, Church leaders also held another meeting that night (but just amongst themselves).
The Meeting Began and Ended with Threats to the Questioning Members:
Before giving my observations about the "meat" of the meeting, let me say that I was struck by how the two General Authorities in attendance (Elders Jensen and Kopischke) began and ended the meeting with veiled and express threats toward the 20 - 25 Swedish members. Before asking for questions, Elder Jensen began the meeting with a discourse in order "to just create a little framework for our discussion tonight .." (Transcript at 4). He then went on to read scripture verses about good and evil. He talked about the spirit of Christ, but then spent considerable time focusing on "the spirit of the devil" and our right to choose good or evil. I understood this part of the sermon to be Jensen's subtle suggestion to the members that their questions and doubts stemmed from their being under the influence of Satan. Elder Jensen is a very nice man (I've met him a couple of times), and it's not his style to offer negative statements directly - he tends to `beat around the bush' to avoid offending anyone, but I think this was an odd way for him to start the meeting.
His colleague, in contrast, Area President Erich W. Kopischke, had no problem issuing a very direct threat to the members at the end of the meeting. Kopischke's threat is not included on the audiotape or in the Transcript of the meeting - I obtained my information about it from Hans Mattsson's interview with Dehlin (Part 4), which has been confirmed by comments of other attendees posted on the Mormon Stories website. This is how one attendee described it, after complaining that Turley kept using the excuse of "not enough time" to avoid answering questions:
The paradox was that the Area general authority [i.e.
, Kopischke] took almost an hour at the end, sharing the Korihor story[,] telling us not to disturb our friends in the Church[,] and make a decision to stay or leave. (See
Comment by Jonathan Bautista on Mormon Stories
, 7/22/13).According to Hans Mattsson (Part 4 of Dehlin interview), President Kopischke prohibited
the members from speaking with anyone about what had been discussed during the meeting. Kopischke also gave the members an ultimatum
to decide whether to stay in or leave the Church. In addition, he later directed the members' bishops and stake presidents to speak with each of the members in attendance and get his/her answer about staying in or leaving the Church, which Mattsson said did occur (Mattsson, when asked for his answer by his bishop, responded that he "needed time" - I don't know if Mattsson ever gave his bishop an answer).
Kopischke's ultimatum and required follow-up were confirmed by two other attendees, both of whom posted on Mormon Stories
. One attendee wrote:
I attended the meeting 2010
. In a way I feel like defending Jensen and Turley. What else could they do and say? We received credit that our questions were valid and not just anti-lies, but there are [n]o answers and they could not fabricate any. In the meeting there were several bishops and SP's that had never even heard of these questions, together with us dissidents. Sometime later Jensen said that they were terrified what those leaders would think when they heard about all these issues for the first time. For me personally the aftermath of the meeting was that I was contacted and asked to resign voluntary otherwise I would be excommunicated for apostasy. I resigned
Comment by Christina Hanke on Mormon Stories
, 7/21/13) (emphasis added).Another attendee wrote:
After years of study I also attended the meeting with Elder Jensen and Bro. Turley
. They both came across as very caring and genuine people. The big take away for me at this meeting was that the questions I was having were legit. The history that was troubling me were events that really happened.
.I too had meetings with stake presidents and bishops
as well as stake representatives. Overall however I was treated very well.
The paradox was that the Area general authority took almost an hour at the end, sharing the Korihor story[,] telling us not to disturb our friends in the church[,] and make a decision to stay or leave
For me it was valuable as it forced me to make a decision
I haven't regretted.
Me and my wife have removed our names
from the LDS records. We have also removed our children's name from the records. (See
Comment by Jonathan Bautista on Mormon Stories
, 7/22/13) (emphasis added).Well, at least with these members, Pres. Kopischke accomplished his mission that night - to get rid of meddlesome members once and for all. In his interview with Dehlin, Mattsson said that 5 or 6 members decided to leave the Church after being given the ultimatum at the meeting.
I personally think a primary reason for the meeting was to ferret out troublemakers and push them out of the Church, and not necessarily to answer tough historical questions. I don't think the meeting would have been held unless the leaders had met beforehand and mapped out a strategy. In fact, at the beginning of the meeting Elder Jensen foreshadowed Pres. Kopischke's later role, saying:
I want to thank President [Kopischke] for being here tonight [i.e.
, he had traveled from Germany] as your area president and I want to invite him to say anything he wants to say at any point during the meeting, but he mentioned that he'll at least say something at the end
if not before. (Transcript
at 3) (emphasis added).I can't imagine Elder Jensen sitting still if he hadn't known that Pres. Kopischke would go after the members the way he did. This is why I am very troubled by Elder Jensen apparently going along with the ambush at the end of the meeting.
During his opening remarks, Elder Jensen had gone out of his way to try and put the members in attendance at ease:
I feel like we're among friends, brothers and sisters. I don't feel like this is a meeting of adversaries, of us against you, of you against us
. We're all Latter-day Saints. (Transcript
at 3) (emphasis added).A short time later, Elder Jensen offered: "I just wanted to begin in the spirit of love and common understanding with you .." (Id.
Elder Jensen knew of the ambush that was to come at the end of the meeting, then these statements were lies
, pure and simple. Because of my great respect for Elder Jensen, I hope he didn't know of Pres. Kopischke's plan, but my gut tells me he probably did.Preparation by Jensen andamp; Turley:
According to Elder Jensen, he and Turley were "given, in advance, some indication of what your questions have been." (Transcript
at 9). So one would think that they would be prepared to answer the tough questions, right? Wrong. In answering the questions, Turley in particular seemed very ill-prepared and often used the "we're out of time" excuse to move along to the next topic. I was very surprised by the way the Church's top two historians struggled to give cogent answers. It made me realize why Mormon apologists often come across so badly - even Church leaders have no clue as to how to answer the tough questions.The Handout Given to Members at the Meeting:
Before trying to answer the questions, a handout was given to the members, which Elder Jensen described as showing "the five very best websites for authentic answers to [their] questions." (Transcript
at 20). This was probably the same list later used as part of the "Swedish Rescue" (see mormonthink.com
). I imagine the list included links to FAIR, Maxwell, FARMS, etc. In lauding these websites, Elder Jensen also brought up so-called "anti" sites:
Let me just say if you spend as much time on these five websites as you spent on other websites [i.e.
, "anti"], cause I have visited as has Brother Turley some of these anti-Mormon websites. And they're very dark to me. And Brother Turley and I know many of the people who maintain these websites
, and I can say to you they're not the people whose teachings I'm going to follow. (Transcript
at 20-21) (emphasis added).I'm curious as to who are the "people" he claims to "know." Is he referring to John Dehlin or Dr. Shades? I'd love to know.
As far as I know, this handout is the closest thing to what the Church has offered members as some sort of "answers" to tough questions. In the Times
article, there was mention by Hans Mattsson of a visit to Sweden by an unnamed "senior apostle," who told a meeting of Swedish members "that he had a manuscript in his briefcase that, once it was published, would prove all the doubters wrong." According to Mattsson, the mysterious "manuscript" never appeared, and when Mattsson later asked the apostle about it, "he was told it was impertinent to ask." The Times
article strongly suggested that this unnamed apostle was Elder L. Tom Perry -- a Church spokesman confirmed that Elder Perry did visit a branch in Sweden with skeptical members, to whom he gave a letter written by the Church's history department that, as he recalled, satisfied their questions. So, what was the "manuscript" and has it ever been published? And what was in the letter written by the Church history department and handed out to the Swedes? I have no idea.
In the Transcript, Elder Jensen also mentioned a special committee organized to come up with official answers to tough questions:
By and large, I'd like you to know that as a Church history department we have at President Packer's direction put together a committee to create answers to difficult gospel questions. We are working on these answers now and we're also giving thought to how we will disseminate these answers to the world. We don't want a website where people come to Mormon problems, obviously. (Transcript
at 21).It's now been nearly 3 years since Elder Jensen said this, and I don't recall seeing anything "official" that answers the tough questions, from this "committee" or otherwise. What's taking so long? It seems as if the Church just wants to continue to rely on non-official apologist websites like FAIR, etc., to do the Church's job of coming up with answers. Turley admitted in the Swedish meeting that an official Church website with answers didn't exist at the time. (See Transcript
at 21). I think this is still true today, which tells me the Church does not have answers to the tough questions.Some Questions and Attempts to Answer:
The meat of the meeting involved the discussion of 15 questions raised by the members in attendance and the attempts (mostly by Turley) to answer them. Only the first two or three questions raised were discussed in depth - the others were mentioned very quickly due to "lack of time." I will only discuss in this post the four questions I thought received the most attention. These four questions are summarized as follows:
1. Why does the Church not accurately depict the method by which the Book of Mormon was translated from the Gold Plates (i.e.
, the incorrect
depiction of Joseph reading directly from the plates vs. the correct
depiction of Joseph looking at a seer stone with his head buried in a hat)? As a corollary, why were the plates preserved for 1,500 years but never used in the translation process?
2. Was polygamy, and especially Joseph Smith's polyandry, a teaching from God? As a corollary, was it from God that Joseph pressured/forced many women to become his plural wives?
3. Why doesn't the Book of Abraham translation match up with Egyptologists' translations of the papyri?
4. Why does DNA evidence not support the historicity of the Book of Mormon?Misrepresentation of the Book of Mormon translation process:
As we have all seen, the many artistic depictions of the Book of Mormon translation process shown in Church magazines and manuals, temple visitor centers, etc., misrepresent what really occurred. These pictures always show Joseph at a table with the Gold Plates in front of him and he is reading the markings (some pictures show him placing a finger on the plates to keep his place). We now know, and Jensen and Turley admitted at the meeting, there is no evidence that Joseph ever used the physical plates to translate the Book of Mormon - all testimony from persons who would have known state that Joseph translated by placing a seer stone in the bottom of a hat and then placing his face fully in the hat to read the translation. But, yet, the Church continues to use false depictions of the process - I have NEVER seen the Church use any picture that suggested Joseph put his face in a hat to read a seer stone. I certainly can understand why the Church avoids showing this - sticking one's head in a hat to read a magic stone is a lot nuttier than one's using actual plates to translate. But it's still a fraud, which was the Swedish members' beef.
Turley tried to answer this question. He started off by blaming the artists
because the false depiction was "their idea of what it must have been like." (Transcript
at 23). This is pretty lame, imo. The Church didn't have to use these pictures in its magazines, manuals, and visitor centers - the Church consciously chose to do so, knowing
they were false depictions.
Turley went on to say that the Church is trying "to bring the curriculum in conformity with the sources." (Id.
). Does this mean the Church will soon replace the old pictures with a new rendition showing Joseph's face in a hat? That'll never happen.
As an example of changing the curriculum to be more historically accurate, Turley mentioned the story of Joseph and Oliver receiving the Aaronic Priesthood from John the Baptist (in Dandamp;C 13) on the "banks of the Susquehanna River," which will soon be changed to reflect that the event actually occurred in the "woods" near the river. (Transcript
at 24). "Banks" vs. "woods" - BFD! But officially teaching the "face in the hat" translation process? Now that
would be a big deal!
A Swedish member then asked how the translation
of the Book of Mormon actually happened. Turley responded that the word "translation" in connection with the Book of Mormon is not used in the way most people would interpret the word (such as translating a text from one language to another). According to Turley, the word "translation" actually meant "revelation." (Id.
). In this way, Joseph could simply stick his head in a hat with the seer stone and the English version of the Book of Mormon text would be "revealed" to him - there would be no need to use the actual Gold Plates in the process.
This answer led to more questions from the members: why the need for the plates?, why the Urim and Thummim?, and why the hat? Turley said the physical plates were needed because they "were real and they were preserved and they were passed down from generation to generation." (Transcript
at 25). So what? We know that Joseph never used the plates to translate; moreover, we also know that the "face in the hat" method worked just fine to give us what Joseph described as "the most correct of any book on earth." Turley's "answer" was just stupid, and I can see why one Swede piped up shortly thereafter, "Can you see that we feel deceived?" (Id.
Turley went on to claim that the hat was necessary "to block light out so that Joseph . could see what he was doing with the record." (Id.
at 25). Turley then added: "Sometimes the light, you know, affects your spirit." (Id.
). Huh? I always thought of light as having a positive effect on one's spirit, and the dark just the opposite. And couldn't Joseph have accomplished the same thing by reading his seer stone in a darkened room or doing it at night? The hat thing is just kinda creepy.
Turley then explained the need for a physical Urim and Thummim (as well as seer stones) by making a comparison to Moses' "brass serpent on the rod" and the "Ark of the Covenant" - forms of "tangible manifestations that are used to focus faith." (Transcript
at 25). Again, so what? Turley related that Joseph didn't need the Urim and Thummim (or seer stone) when he later translated the Bible because Joseph had matured spiritually enough that he no longer needed a physical aid to "focus [his] faith." (Id.
at 25-26). Whatever you say ..
At this point some members started to express their displeasure at how things were going, with one even stating: "But the thing is, we won't get answers. They [i.e.
, Jensen and Turley] already said that. Then we need to choose one question and get all their answers." (Transcript
This outburst caused Elder Jensen to step in and try to quell the rising rebellion. He essentially bore his testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and told the members the book exists and it's up to them to obtain answers through the spirit. (Id.
at 27). Turley, apparently grateful for the help, then jumped in with this old chestnut: Joseph translated the Book of Mormon over a period of 60-90 working days, and no author (including Turley) could do this without the help of the Lord. (Id.
). This drew one of the more interesting responses by a member:
That is amazing. But those are not the questions [i.e., answers?] we want
at 27) (emphasis added).This must have spooked Turley, because he immediately said, "OK. We'll move on." (Id.
). BUT the members wouldn't let him. One quickly asked why the Church doesn't "present about the seer stone more efficiently?" (Id.
). Turley responded that the early Church did talk about the seer stones "often," but that each successive generation talked about it less because "[e]ach generation retells the story according to their own circumstances." (Id.
This explanation led to one of the more interesting exchanges of the night. A member asked: "But we are led by revelation, the Church, so I mean, shouldn't, then, the leaders correct so that not people [of] every generation change the story?" (Transcript
at 28). Seems like a reasonable question to me. But Turley completely blew the answer:
Much of what you get about history comes from historians[,] from the people like me who do the best they can under the circumstances of their time. And then somebody else comes along, later, with new discoveries, new documents, and they rewrite it. OK? So it's - Don't put the responsibility on the prophet
, but [put] it on ordinary people like me who do the best we know how to do it. But somebody will come along later and do it better. (Transcript
at 28) (emphasis added).Wow. So why the hell do we need a prophet? Turley seemed to be saying that LDS history, which forms the basis for many testimonies (such as the First Vision, the Book of Mormon, angelic visitations to restore priesthood keys, etc.), is just one historian away from being changed. That sure is comforting.Joseph Smith's Polygamy and Polyandry:
If the discussion about the Book of Mormon translation was testy, the discussion about polygamy, particularly Joseph's polyandry, was downright heated. And it wasn't helped by Turley continually dodging questions.
Turley began by admitting that Joseph Smith did practice polygamy AND polyandry
at 28). As for how many wives Joseph had, Turley didn't have an answer but said that later publications of the Joseph Smith Papers
will "answer that question in the future." (Id.
). Turley refused to go into specifics about why Joseph married women who were already married to other men, saying:
That actually boils down to a marriage by marriage statement. And it's fairly complex but it's an excellent question. We just don't have the time tonight to answer it, but there are answers. (Id. at 29) (emphasis added).
Since Turley didn't have the time, perhaps he should have referred the members to Todd Compton's excellent book, In Sacred Loneliness, which did perform a "marriage by marriage" analysis that Turley said was necessary to answer the question. And if, as Turley claims, "there are answers," WHERE are they? He, of course, doesn't say.
A member then asked Turley if polygamy is a "principle" we believe in and could it be "practiced that way?" - which I believe was a reference to polyandry. Here was Turley's very deft dodge:
I'm not a prophet so I can't tell you about the future
. I've said to people who have asked me this question, do you think this is going to come back, I say, I think I have a better chance of being hit by a meteorite from space than having this come back. (Transcript
at 29) (emphasis added).Turley didn't realize it, but he had just walked into a trap. A member quickly reminded Turley that polygamy is "still here now" and practiced by the LDS Church. The member was referring to the official policy in Handbook 1
that allows a living man
who married his first wife in the temple (but is now either widowed or civilly divorced) to marry a second wife for time and all eternity in the temple, whereas
a living woman
who married her first husband in the temple (but is now either widowed or civilly divorced) cannot
be sealed to a second husband unless the first sealing is cancelled. One-quarter of the Quorum of the Twelve (Elders Perry, Nelson and Oaks) practices this form of spiritual polygamy -- after being widowed, each married a second wife for time and all eternity in the temple.
This policy can be extremely cruel. For example, it is also official policy that if a woman
who was married to a first
husband in the temple (and is later widowed or civilly divorced, but the sealing is not cancelled), later marries a second
husband, all children
she has with her second
husband will be turned over (with her
) to the first
husband in the hereafter. Yikes!
Turley tried to wiggle out of this by referring to Dandamp;C 132 and the promise that "you'll be together. Do we know a lot about how that works? We really don't." (Transcript
at 29). Umm, Rick, we really DO
know a lot about how it works, which is why the Church has a very detailed and official policy about it in Handbook 1
(discussed above, and which members are not allowed to see).
One tenacious Swede could not accept Turley's answer. This amazing colloquy followed:
MEMBER: But do we believe in it [i.e., polygamy]?
TURLEY: Do we believe in the 132nd section? Yes, we do.
MEMBER: So we believe in polygamy.
TURLEY: We don't practice polygamy on earth.
MEMBER: Yes we do, we go to the temple and seal them.
TURLEY: But you know what I mean.
TURLEY: One man, one wife at a time on earth.
MEMBER: Yeah, but if it was legal today, would we have two wives? Could I take another?
TURLEY: It would not change from the current position until the prophet said so. And as I said, I can't predict the future.
MEMBER: But you must answer
, I think you can answer at least, do we believe in polygamy?
We don't practice it, but we believe in it because we are sealing more wives to one man.
TURLEY: Well, we believe in the sealing of people.
The reason I hesitate to say we believe in polygamy is if I say that then people will say, well then you have more than one wife, right? You don't, right? Nobody else here does, either, I believe. That's why I say it the way I say it, OK?
MEMBER: Is that your technical way ..?
TURLEY: No, nobody's telling me anything.
MEMBER: Do we believe in polygamy?
TURLEY: WE DO BELIEVE IN POLYGAMY
; we don't practice polygamy. That's what I'm trying to say.
at 29-30) (italics in original; bold and capitalization added).Turley must have been sweating bullets after that exchange. But it wouldn't get any easier. Another member then brought up Joseph's polyandry in scathing terms (the question is very long, so I tried to condense it):
Can you please try to convince us how this [i.e.
, polyandry] can be Christ-like, like Joseph Smith? To take the wives or have sex with wives that are already married to other men? . I like to say they were extremely unhappy because they were forced by . pure pressure. And they didn't do it because of love, they didn't do it because of infatuation, just it was they were forced into [the] situation. . But we have this situation with a person who calls himself the second next to Christ, you know? And the founder of this church. . To take other women in a secret way, force them into some kind of marriage, I would like to call it mistresses, or forcing 14-year old girls to marry him against her obvious will, I just don't understand. Behind his own wife, even the counselors in the Relief Society, Lavina Smith [ed. note: ? - may mean Eliza R. Snow, Emma's counselor
], were his secret wives. The deeper you go on this the worse it becomes. This is true. (Transcript
at 30-31).Turley again looked for an `escape hatch':
Let me just say, if we had more time
we could dissect this wife by wife, which is pretty much what you have to do to get to the answers on this matter. We don't have that kind of time
at 31) (emphasis added).Since there was not enough time, Turley again should have referred the member to Compton's In Sacred Loneliness
, which contained the very type of "wife by wife dissection" that Turley says is required to find the answer.
This questioner still wouldn't let Turley off the hook. Despite the "lack of time," the member asked: "Is it true in general? Or is it not true at all?" (Id.
). Turley was cornered, so he finally admitted the obvious:
It's true that Joseph Smith practiced plural marriage in that he had wives who were not married to anybody else[;] it's true that he practiced polyandry and he did have wives who were married to somebody else
) (emphasis added).The member smelled blood, and went for the jugular: "14 years old? 16 years old?" (Id.
). Poor Turley - yet another admission he didn't want to make, but this time he at least tried to muster some explanation for Joseph's inexcusable behavior:
He had a wife who was 14 years old
, but remember, on the frontier in America, women married young, often as young as 12 years of age because the life span of people in those days wasn't what it is today. On the frontier, not as much in the rest of America, but on the frontier, if you look at population studies, if you look at censuses of people across the American frontier at the time, they often married quite young. So marrying a 14 year old in those days was not the same - it was like marrying a 21 year old today
at 32) (emphasis added).How lame was that answer? Utterly awful! As a "historian," Turley is well aware that Helen Mar Kimball (the 14-year old wife in question) did not live "on the frontier" at the time she was pressured into marrying Joseph Smith. She lived in Nauvoo, which was a real city with brick homes, roads, a theater, and stores; in fact, Nauvoo for a time was bigger than Chicago! So what the hell is Turley talking about when he proffers a bogus "frontier" argument to excuse Joseph's marriage to a 14-year old? Turley also failed to realize that even if a girl as young as 12 years old "on the frontier" did marry, this cannot be compared to a 14-year old girl marrying a man in his late 30's and who already had a number of other wives
. Turley's "frontier" defense is embarrassing, particularly coming from the #2 guy in the LDS Church's history department. Couldn't he have come up with a better answer? No wonder the Swedish members were so pissed.
I think Turley knew he had given a crappy "answer," because he quickly tried to move on:
My point is there was a different societal normalized age of marriage in those days. Let's move on. This is a complicated one.
at 32) (emphasis added).You bet it was a "complicated one," because this member was not willing to "move on," and, instead, asked Turley:
You think that's the most important question? Does the Church recognize this practice as being OK? Does the Church officially endorse this?
Or do they recognize that it might actually have been in error? Do you have an opinion on that from the Church? (Id.
) (emphasis added).This member wanted the answer now. And Turley just couldn't give her one:
I've never seen a formal statement about that. (Id.
).The member nevertheless kept at it, and, FINALLY, forced Turley to give a real answer:
MEMBER: The basic question here is of course then, was this a mistake done by Joseph Smith?
And if it was, how could he continue to be a prophet? And if it was not a mistake, it must be endorsed by the Church
, I guess.
TURLEY: What the Church does say on these questions about Joseph Smith in general is this: either Joseph was a prophet of God or wasn't
. Correct? And the way in which you decide that, not just intellectually, but spiritually, is the way that Elder Jensen talked about at the beginning. That's the official Church statement on the matter
. I've never seen an official Church statement that goes into the details. (Transcript
at 32) (emphasis added).So there you have it. Turley had NO answer to give other than
it's up to the individual member to decide (both "intellectually" and "spiritually") whether Joseph Smith was or was not a prophet of God. That's the best answer the Church can give? So much for answering the tough questions.
This member still wouldn't let Turley go, following up Turley's last answer with this emotional plea for help:
But why does my spirit talks to me and screams wrong, wrong, wrong, even if it's a prophet of God? Do I have the devil in me
who's talking to me and says I should understand this 14 and 16-year old girls marrying? I can't - my spirit doesn't - I can't get it through my mind. Is it the devil speaks to me?
That I should accept that because Joseph Smith is a prophet? So he did that right, it was God told him to do that? Go behind Emma and take these wives? (Id.
at 32-33) (emphasis added).This statement broke my heart. Here was a member who could not reconcile his spirit with Church history. He wanted help. He wanted answers, something to comfort his soul. Turley offered nothing; instead, Pres. Kopischke jumped in to bear his testimony that there are a lot of things in the scriptures that he does not understand (using as examples the stringent Law of Moses and Jesus breaking the Word of Wisdom by drinking wine), but that he believed that Moses was a prophet and that Joseph was a prophet. (Transcript
at 33). This "testimony" comes across as pretty hollow now, since we know that this same man was planning to ambush the members with threats and an ultimatum at the end of the meeting.Book of Abraham problems:
Turley was relieved he could finally move on to problems with the Book of Abraham translation. Turley provided this "position" of the Church relating to the Book of Abraham:
The Church does believe that the Book of Abraham is the word of God and if you read the Book of Abraham, there are doctrines and principles you will understand that are important to you. That is the Church's position. Exactly how Joseph Smith did it? There are lots of scholarly debates going on about that. But there's excellent work going on at BYU that should be out in the next year.
That's all I have time to say about that. (Transcript
at 34) (emphasis added).Turley then made these interesting admissions:
a. The papyri in the Church's possession are from the Egyptian Book of Breathings
(Turley didn't say this explicitly - he said: "The papyrus that we have we know what books those are from [in] Egyptian."); and
b. The papyri in the Church's possession are a copy
of the original text (i.e.
, the fragment is 1,500 years old, the text much older). (See Transcript
A Swedish member then raised the controversy surrounding the so-called "Kinderhook Plates," which were a hoax intended to trap Joseph. Turley refused to concede that Joseph had been duped, saying:
[T]here's clear evidence that Joseph wanted to translate them and never did
. Why didn't he? I think because they were a fraud. (Transcript
at 35) (emphasis added).Of course, this statement does not jive with the evidence. William Clayton, Joseph's private secretary, wrote this contemporary account in his journal:
I have seen 6 brass plates ... covered with ancient characters of language containing from 30 to 40 on each side of the plates. Prest J. has translated a portion and says they contain the history of the person with whom they were found and he was a descendant of Ham through the loins of Pharaoh king of Egypt
, and that he received his kingdom from the ruler of heaven and earth. (William Clayton's Journal, May 1, 1843, as cited in Trials of Discipleship - The Story of William Clayton, a Mormon
, p. 117) (emphasis added).In response to a member who brought up this evidence, Turley said that the statements showing that Joseph did
try to translate the phony plates, such as the one above by William Clayton, were "so contradictory, they're unreliable. OK. Let's continue through very quickly." (Id.
at 35). When asked if this was the Church's official position on the matter, Turley demurred:
Again there isn't an official Church - these are scholarly debates, there's no official Church thing on that. (Id.
at 36).In other words, there is NO answer or position on the Kinderhook Plates, either.Lack of Book of Mormon evidence:
The final question I'll discuss here concerns Turley's discussion of the Book of Mormon and the lack of evidence for its historicity. Turley focused on the DNA evidence and what it means for the Book of Mormon. Turley is a lawyer-turned-historian. He conceded he is not a scientist; however, this did not stop him from giving a long, drawn-out explanation for why DNA evidence is not relevant to the historicity of the Book of Mormon (See Transcript
I'm not a scientist, either, so DNA-speak is mostly mumbo-jumbo to me. However, I find Turley's claim that DNA is irrelevant because "[w]e do not know what Lehi's DNA was[,]" to be untenable. Lehi came from Jerusalem. Lehi is a descendant of Joseph of the House of Israel. So can't we be confident that Semitic (i.e.
, Middle Eastern) blood flowed through Lehi and his family?
Simon Southerton, a real scientist and geneticist, seems to think so. In a direct response to Turley's claim, Southerton recently wrote:
1. Lineage extinction through marriage:
Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA has very effectively told us that between 99.6% and 100% of the DNA of Native Americans is derived from Asia. LDS scholars have conceded this. The claim of lineage extinction through marriage is misleading. We also now have nuclear DNA studies that support the Y and MtDNA studies. Native American nuclear DNA is derived from Asia.
2. We don't have Lehi's DNA:We do not need Lehi's DNA to be able to tell if Native American DNA came from Israel.
LDS apologists have accepted the Asian origin of Native American DNA in the absence of any 3,000 year old Asian DNA. Lehi's DNA would have been Middle Eastern in appearance and we do not see Middle Eastern DNA in Native Americans.
(Simon Southerton post at Mormon Stories
on 7/22/13) (emphasis added).Turley was then asked at the meeting, "You don't think that he [i.e.
, Lehi] was from the House of Israel?" Turley gave this baffling answer: "Yes, but so is most of the world today." (Transcript
at 46). I have no idea what Turley meant by this, but it sounds absurd. And the Swedish members thought so, too.
Turley must have realized he hadn't persuaded anyone, because he next pulled this out:
I grew up with a Ph.D father who was a scientist, OK, he was a nuclear engineer and I was taught scientific method and statistics and the importance of recognizing the limitations of science. What I'm saying about DNA is it's an extremely important tool for finding ou[t] where peoples come from. Its limitation is, it can't tell us about all the people who used to exist, it can only tell us about some. Now, maybe someday, the technology will improve. But today, it can't. So, because of these limitations, for anybody who claims one position or another on Lehi's families is inconsistent with the science. That's all I'm saying. (Id. at 47) (emphasis added).This is a bunch of hooey. If Lehites and Mulekites lived in America and eventually numbered in the millions (as suggested by the Book of Mormon text), and are among the ancestors of present-day Native Americans/Lamanites, then at least a trace of Semitic blood would be found today. Scientists are finding Neanderthal DNA in today's humans, and, yet, Turley thinks technology is not good enough to find Semitic blood in descendants just 1,500 years later? That's ridiculous.
I don't know why this Swedish episode has bothered me so much. None of the questions raised by the Swedish members are new to me - I've studied them all at one time or another. Moreover, none of the so-called "answers" offered by Turley are new to me - I've heard a variation of each by the apologists. So why am I troubled enough to write this incredibly long essay? I'm not really sure. Perhaps it was because of the very sincere Hans Mattsson and his search for truth, no matter how painful. Perhaps it was the anger I felt at the way the Swedish saints were treated at the meeting, particularly the threats and ultimatum made at the end. Perhaps it was because I once held the Church's top two historians in much higher esteem than the typical Mormon apologist, only to find that they were unable to provide anything better than the dribble already espoused by classic-FARMS. Whatever it was, I know the Church is in trouble. The questions raised by the Swedes will not go away - thanks to the Internet, they will be magnified. What can the Church do? I honestly don't know. A real paradigm shift (that would include an admission of mistakes and errors by men once viewed as infallible) may not be possible. But I do know the Church cannot ignore this or other data (such as John Dehlin's survey of doubting/leaving members). As Hans said in the Times interview, these problems are causing the Church to lose some of its best and brightest. That is truly sad.
| There is something about what the Church did here that rises above the level of mere predictable b***s*** and hand waving. There is an edge to it. I think it is the way the Church exercised its institutional power in connection with the meeting, which Rollo Tomasi described very well in his summary:
Rollo Tomasi wrote:
According to Hans Mattsson (Part 4 of Dehlin interview), President Kopischke prohibited the members from speaking with anyone about what had been discussed during the meeting. Kopischke also gave the members an ultimatum to decide whether to stay in or leave the Church. In addition, he later directed the members' bishops and stake presidents to speak with each of the members in attendance and get his/her answer about staying in or leaving the Church, which Mattsson said did occur (Mattsson, when asked for his answer by his bishop, responded that he "needed time" - I don't know if Mattsson ever gave his bishop an answer).
This strategy, of calling a group of dissenters together in an overture of cooperation and mutual understanding, and then using their participation against them to force their cooperation or expulsion, might be recognized by students of modern Chinese history in the Hundred Flowers Campaign.
The Hundred Flowers Campaign was a 1957 Communist Party-sanctioned effort to promote societal progress in China, through inviting open critical discussion of the government from many different schools of thought (in Chairman Mao's poetic words: "let one hundred flowers bloom"). Mao had this to say about the idea: "Our society cannot back down, it could only progress...criticism of the bureaucracy is pushing the government towards the better."
Mao laid out ground rules for the discussion, drawing a distinction between criticism that was "constructive" and criticism that was "destructive." Intellectuals, no matter their philosophical or ideological bent, were invited to come forth and comment. After many people took the invitation -- at obvious personal risk -- to openly discuss their concerns, Chairman Mao abruptly changed his mind about their critical voices, calling them "serpents" that he had now enticed out into the open, to have their heads cut off. Those "destructive" commenters were singled out and punished with exile to prison camps for hard labor and reeducation.
What disturbs me most about this meeting in Sweden is that the Church apparently drew the concept for the meeting from the same authoritarian well as Chairman Mao's Hundred Flowers. Turley and Jensen enticed dissenting Church members to speak up by professing faith that mutual discussion and historical scrutiny would vindicate the Church's doctrines and strengthen the community, like Chairman Mao enticed intellectual dissenters to speak up by professing faith in the value of critical discussion. Jensen encouraged discussion in "the spirit of Christ" and warned against "the spirit of the Devil," like Mao encouraged "constructive" criticism and discouraged "destructive" criticism. Then, when people took the personal risk to come forward, the Church identified them as threats and forced them into an inquisition with the goal of purging their voices from the Church, like Chairman Mao purged his dissidents.
I believe this is the first time I've seen the Church protect itself from its own members through baiting and betrayal. It's an incredibly vulgar use of institutional power, accentuated by the the Church's claim to divine authority and inspiration.
| Parcel 15-01-232-011-0000 |
TURLEY, RICHARD E JR
99 W SOUTHTEMPLE ST APT 304
He also owns this condo right near the temple:
44 W 300 S 1803S
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