Least Influential Mormons

On the MormonMentality blog, esodhiambo asked readers to make a list of the “least influential Mormons of the Twentieth Century.” A couple of readers took this to mean the “person least influential on 20th century LDS-ism” and named Joseph Smith. One reader wrote,

“I second [the] nomination of the Prophet Joseph. No one’s name gets mentioned more whose thoughts and contributions get ignored so much.”

It’s an interesting idea. If we were making a list, I think we might include the names of at least the first five LDS prophets as those whose doctrines are often considered irrelevant in Mormonism today. A number of their significant teachings have fallen by the wayside. Like seeds that fell on rocky ground, the doctrines endured for a while; but when tribulation or persecution arose because of them, the Saints quickly swept the teachings under a rug (please pardon my mixed metaphors) [see Matthew 13:20-21]. This is not to say that the doctrines have necessarily been abandoned; they might not be spoken of very often, but they have never been formally denounced.

Just sweep our problems under the rugI’ll list one largely ignored teaching from each of the first five LDS prophets. Please feel free to add to the list.

Joseph Smith: “We shall, in this lecture speak of the Godhead: we mean the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power over all things– …They are the Father and the Son: The Father being a personage of spirit, …The Son, …a personage of tabernacle, …possessing the same mind with the Father, which mind is the Holy Spirit…” (Lectures on Faith, Lecture Fifth)

Brigham Young: “Now hear it, O inhabitants of the earth, Jew and Gentile, Saint and sinner! When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is MICHAEL, the Archangel, the ANCIENT OF DAYS! about whom holy men have written and spoken–HE is our FATHER and our GOD, and the only God with whom WE have to do. Every man upon the earth, professing Christians or non-professing, must hear it, and will know it sooner or later.” (Journal of Discourses 1:50-51; caps and italics retained from the original)

John Taylor: “Why is it, in fact, that we should have a devil? Why did not the Lord kill him long ago? …He needed the devil and great many of those who do his bidding just to keep men straight, that we may learn to place our dependence upon God, …When he destroyed the inhabitants of the antediluvian world, he suffered a descendant of Cain to come through the flood in order that [the devil] might be properly represented upon the earth.” (Journal of Discourses 23:336)

Wilford Woodruff: “If there was a point where man in his progression could not proceed any farther, the very idea would throw a gloom over every intelligent and reflecting mind. God himself is increasing and progressing in knowledge, power, and dominion, and will do so, worlds without end. It is just so with us.” (Journal of Discourses 6:120)

Lorenzo Snow: “As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.” (quoted in Latter-day Prophets Speak, Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Bookcraft, 71)

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
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23 Responses to Least Influential Mormons

  1. traveler says:

    A question – if the Prophets have a lock on truth, yet are also human (and fallible) then exactly when is the “Prophet” speaking – and not the person…I ask this not to ridicule anyone(LDS or Evangelical) but just to get some clarity on this point.

    Is it just possible that g*d likes to change what “the truth” is — or could it be that we are all just humans struggling to make our way in the world?

    Honestly, if the site moderator wants all posters here to be “christians” please do contact me about this. I’m not here to cause trouble but simply to contribute, and sometimes an outside perspective can be helpfull.

  2. falcon says:

    Traveler,
    So nice to have you here. “Traveler” was, by the way, the name of one of Robert E. Lee’s horses during the Civil War, the other horse being “Lucy”. Sorry to digress but I am a warehouse of useless trivial information. My understanding is that Mormon prophets are pretty much covered, not by a statute of limitations on their proclamations, but by a theological system that ignores the embarrassing goofy stuff. At the time of the proclamation, the prophet and the faithful believed it but their not around now so forget about it. This approach is also covered under “progressive revelation”. This is the cool part about Mormonism. The faithful are really stoked by the idea that their god is constantly revealing new stuff to them. That kind of makes them spiritually superior to orthodox Christians who never get any new stuff. Changing of doctrine doesn’t really happen in orthodox Christianity. We’re pretty much set. For Mormons, it’s all about progression, whether to godhood or enlightenment. So it all works together just fine when the current prophet wants to change course.

  3. Non-Christians are certainly welcome here.

  4. iamse7en says:

    Haha. I can only laugh at this posting. The thought came to me: Who better to tell ME (a proactive and faithful member of the LDS Church) what teachings are ignored or taught in the Church, than Sharon? It’s hilarious.

    The Lorenzo Snow couplet is one of the LEAST ignored teachings in the Church. I hear it, at least, twice a month…. Which is a lot, considering.

    You’re also trying to twist Joseph Smith’s comment (even if it is HIS comment, because we don’t know FOR SURE if he wrote the Lectures on Faith). Nothing in that statement is controversial, or against anything that the Church believes and teaches today.

    So, you made me laugh, Sharon. You say that Lorenzo Snow’s couplet is an ignored teaching, when I hear it ALL THE TIME, in the Church. It really hurts your credibility. You should actually try attending the LDS Church regularly enough for you to make sound judgments. Who are you to tell your readers (that includes me) what teachings are taught or ignored in the LDS Church? The whole thought of it just made me laugh out loud. Thanks for that.

  5. Sharon Lindbloom says:

    iamse7en, I’m glad to have brightened your day. ☺

    “The Lorenzo Snow couplet is one of the LEAST ignored teachings in the Church. I hear it, at least, twice a month…”

    A number of years ago President Hinckley said that the Church does not emphasize the teachings contained in the Lorenzo Snow couplet, that not much is known about its “deep theology,” and that he didn’t know that the Church even teaches it (for more info click here). Have I misunderstood President Hinckley’s remarks?

    Furthermore, evangelicals have been accused of “bearing false witness” against Mormons by suggesting Mormonism adheres to the teachings in the Lorenzo Snow couplet (for more info click here).

    Perhaps this is a case where the public face of Mormonism is different than the Mormonism members see click here).

  6. iamse7en says:

    Again… I love this: Critics of the LDS church search and search the millions of words that anyone has ever said or written. There was a lot of uproar over this TIME discussion. The uproar was to try and prove that President Hinckley was distancing himself from core teachings, or that he didn’t know our doctrine.

    FAIR explains well:

    President Hinckley did not deny this part of President Snow’s couplet. He merely said we do not emphasize it, which is true. We are more concerned with our future, not Heavenly Father’s past. So how could this be out of context? Simply because the author of the article said “On whether his church still holds that God the Father was once a man, he sounded uncertain” does not mean that President Hinckley was, in fact, uncertain. The author goes on to quote President Hinckley stating that we do not emphasize it. The article did not print the question President Hinckley was answering. The question was, “Is this the teaching of the church today, that God the father was once a man like we are?” (emphasis added) To which President Hinckley replied, “I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it.”

    There is a big difference between Time’s published statement that President Hinckley “sounded uncertain” and President Hinckley’s statement that we do not emphasize it. So, was the Church correct in its reply to Mr. Wilson? Did Time take President Hinckley’s comment out of context? You bet they did

  7. clarity67 says:

    Iamse7en,

    You’re right! You bet they took the quote out of context, but that is to be expected of TIME magazine- they are in business to sell magazines, not a sincere quest for the truth. The more controversy, sensationalism that will draw attention can only inure to their benefit as capitalists. We shouldn’t be surprised though, it wasn’t the first time (or the last for that matter) they would do so on purpose. What’s more noteworthy is that Sharon fell for it. It’s curious to me the amount of effort expended in “critical analysis” of Mormon beliefs and the often veiled attacks which accompany said disparagement under the auspices of “reaching out”. Sorry if that is a reciprocally offensive criticism to this blog, but upon review of the recently presented subject matter, it’s truthful nonetheless. On the contrary, I have yet to meet or even hear of a practicing member of the Church who, whether proactively or covertly, targets another faith, Christian or otherwise, with such vigor. It makes me feel honored like I am doing something right. (MATTHEW 5:11-12)

  8. falcon says:

    This is strickly anecdotal, but one of our frequent LDS posters from the past wrote that the man/god doctrine wasn’t even emphasized in the LDS church and it was just a small part of the restored gospel. In fact, according to our poster, it was rarely even spoken about in their place of worship. Hinckley’s words seem pretty straight forward to me. Didn’t he also say something like that in an interview with Mike Wallace? I’m sure someone can produce the tape.
    Now why is Mormonism “targeted” for scrutiny of its beliefs? The Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith laid down the gauntlet from the beginning calling Christianity an abomination. There are thousands of Mormon missionary out promoting the “restored gospel” as the real Christian faith. What do think that? Christians are going to roll over for you? So I think we have the right to defend the Christian faith against the false teachings of the Mormon church.

  9. David says:

    iamse7en, you just sourced from FAIR so you have lost a ton of credibility in my eyes.

    I am sure Mormons reading this blog think you gave an adequate defense of GBH. I think this is a prime example of “you don’t get it”. If you really think GBH’s word’s, in any context, could somehow make your church not look bad to outsiders . . . well, that is the joke of the day. At best you have merely given the faithful (including yourself) a slight reduction in cognitive dissonance.

    No one is debating if GBH actually said, “I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it.” Your number one guy said “I don’t know” in regard’s to a major point of doctrine. Does your church teach it? You seem to know more than GBH because he says “don’t know” and you say yes. If GBH can say “don’t know” and still be certain, then he is lying.

    We know GBH fudged on Larry King too. I know some Mormons had a hard time trying to reconcile GBH’s words then with what they had known (or thought they had known) to be true. Also, I noticed no one touched B. Young and Adam-God.

    What would be more laughable, if it wasn’t so sad, is the idea that one must be a Mormon in order to accurately articulate Mormon doctrine. That idea screams desperation.

    Lastly, as a point of clarification for traveler some orthodox Christian groups do have continuing revelation or something akin to it. The Roman Catholic Church considers certain pronouncements as “dogma”; this looks alot like modern day revelation. Charismatic groups practice the gift of prophecy in the modern day. One does not need to look into a hat to hear from God.

  10. eric017 says:

    Wow, it looks as if iamse7en forgot to prioritize meat and milk when speaking with gentiles (i.e. you couldn’t have put a better exclamation mark on the entire thesis of Sharron’s post here).

    This post highlights that one must seriously question the meme that the modern LDS church is the same practicing entity as the first century Christian church, as many Mormons believe. In my opinion, when one looks at the words spoken by the current missionaries, general authorities and church publications and compares these words to the words of past LDS leaders (Smith, Young et al.) one can only see the LDS church as an ever evolving entity. Refusing to do so require contortions in logic I believe the church is only too happy to maintain in their defenders of the faith.

    Mormonism 2.1 (or whatever number one might assign) is not the same as that taught by Joseph and Brigham. Indeed, both would probably consider the most populated Mormon sect an apostate offshoot, and feel much more comfortable within the theocratic Warren Jeffs’ pews. Although they may just like this current version best because it certainly has more money. The current version is no longer Joseph’s Church or Brigham’s Church (it certainly isn’t Christ’s) based entirely on what it’s current PR department publishes officially and what Smith and Young taught in the past. I wonder how long it will be before the ghost of Bruce McConkey no longer feels comfortable in the ward house. Ten more years?

    But here is the really amazing part. One could arrive at this conclusion without ever reading anything written by a non-Mormon. Those darn Journal of Discourses; why won’t they just go away.

  11. Sharon Lindbloom says:

    I encourage those of you who assert President Hinckley’s comments were taken out of context to read the article linked to above (and here). An excerpt:

    In a telephone conversation, Van Biema told us that Time stood by its story as written, and that he had asked Time senior correspondent Richard N. Ostling, who conducted the Hinckley interview, to reply to our letter. Here is the text of Ostling’s reply, along with Time’s transcript of the relevant part of the recorded interview, which Ostling included (copies of this correspondence is available on request):

    Dear Mr. Wilson:

    Here’s the transcript of my question and President Hinckley’s response to me. This came just after a long discussion on whether men can become gods, which the President affirmed. You can judge Mr. Watson’s “out of context” assertion for yourself.

    Best,
    [signed]
    R. N. Ostling

    Here is the relevant excerpt from President Hinckley’s interview with Time:

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

    A: Yeah

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

    A: I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it. I haven’t heard it discussed for a long time in public discourse. I don’t know. I don’t know all the circumstances under which that statement was made. I understand the philosophical background behind it. But I don’t know a lot about it and I don’t know that others know a lot about it.

    Notice that President Hinckley’s answer, “I don’t know that we teach it . . .” comes in direct response to the question, “Is this the teaching of the church today, that God the Father was once a man like we are?” Thus, the statement in the letter from the Office of the First Presidency that President Hinckley’s words were quoted out of context — that these were made “in response to a question about the actual circumstances and background surrounding remarks given during the funeral services of a man named “King Follet, not the doctrine of exaltation,” — is clearly false.

  12. falcon says:

    Eric,
    Sorry to burst your bubble baby, but the Journal of Discourses doesn’t count for much in today’s Mormon World. NonMormons keep forgetting the concept of progressive revelation. That’s why Mormonism appears so dishonest to Christians and why Mormons keep saying that we orthodox folks keep misrepresenting their “theology”(?). Mormon doctrine is a theological shell game to those of us who insist on some sort of clear definition of terms. Mormonism is an amalgamation of constantly changing doctrine based on “revelation” that masquerades as Christianity.

  13. Rick B says:

    Falcon said

    Eric,
    Sorry to burst your bubble baby, but the Journal of Discourses doesn’t count for much in today’s Mormon World.

    Falcon, as I said before, Adam God is only two pages long, and Brigham Young DOES CALL IT DOCTRINE. Yet LDS blow it off, but the King Follet Discouse is 11 pages long, and the LDS call it, THE GREATEST SERMON EVER GIVEN.

    Why is it ok to pick and Choose when it fits their doctrine, yet when it disagree’s they blow it off? Rick b

  14. falcon says:

    Rick,
    Because that’s how Mormonism works! You see the whole deal is predicated on the Mormon concept of “faith”. I was more than a little shocked when I realized to what degree Mormons are sold out to Joseph Smith and his restored gospel and the whole Mormon program to the point of suspending independent thought. As Christian apologists we can definitively and without question show how the BoM is not a historical document but a work of fiction. We are told by Mormons that the evidence presented is not real evidence because it is based on the word of men and conflicts with what has been revealed by their god to their prophets. And then there’s the confirming special feeling that mixes emotions into the equation. So Mormons will drink the Kool Aid every time when they are brought to a decision point regarding the prophet,the dubious history of the group and the ever changing doctrine. The important thing to a Mormon is to maintain that “faith”. To do other wise puts the Mormon into outer darkness for eternity. The pressure to conform to the group and not question isn’t something that we can relate to.

  15. eric017 says:

    I agree entirely that the Journal of Discourses are largely discounted to the point that many young people aren’t even exposed to their existence. I think that’s the point. One hundred forty years or so ago ‘Adam God’ was taught as doctrine, and documented as such by the church itself. Today, this along with the other quotes above are at least strongly distanced from, or at most outright denied by the official publications of the church itself. Why? I believe this is because it’s well-oiled PR machine knows how damning these ideas are to Christians. And more than anything else, the Mormon Church wants to be considered Christian. All the while the faithful maintain that the church and the LDS gospel are the same as taught in the New Testament. Thus, a very sanitized “Gerald Lund”-esque version of church history is both publicly taught and unofficially endorsed. Any hint to the contrary that threatens the legitimacy of former prophets (especially Smith and Young) suddenly becomes [filtered profanity or slur].

  16. eric017 says:

    I should have added “regardless of truth” to the last sentence in the comment above.

  17. Ed says:

    eric017: I loved the “Gerald Lund-esque” statement. I read the first three books in the Work and the Glory series as a teenager and had no idea how much he was leaving out in order to make the series “faith promoting”.

    I am especially sad for the LDS church members in third world countries whose only access to church history are the official LDS publications (where, for example, Brigham Young is portrayed as a monogomist). Hardly anybody that I met on my mission had even heard of a polygamy, let alone the more “potent” doctrines of the early church prophets.

  18. Rick B says:

    Falcon, I totally agree with you, I did not dis-agree with you and hope I did not make you think that. Anyway in todays news paper, you might find the article on the web, it was talking about a doomsday cult in Russia hiding in a cave waiting for the end of the world to arrive in May.

    Then needed to get the Cults \”prophet\” from the local psych ward to help get the cult to leave the cave. I thought it was funny, yet tragicly sad. Rick b

  19. falcon says:

    Yes Rick, I knew you were in agreement. I saw that story too about those people in the cave in Russia and also about their “prophet”. There is a certain segment of the population that will be duped; they want to believe so badly in what the “prophet” is selling. That’s why it’s important for people to check everything out regarding a prophet’s past history, his character and not the least, his teachings. I remember hearing about how Peter Sellers, the actor, died of reversable heart disease because he kept going to psychic healers rather than medical doctors. I think a little healthy skepticism is essential for a strong faith.

  20. 2nd class says:

    Getting back to the original question, about original doctrines still practiced or not: many Mormons in southern Utah still actively practice B. Young’s policy of abuse, threat and intimidation using their church as the justification. Pres. Monson may claim that openness and acceptance are the order of the day, but he has no clue what it’s like for “non-members” who live in his kingdom.
    And for those of you devotees who read/comment on this blog, let me save you the trouble of denouncing me and demanding that my post be stricken (I’m used to it. That’s standard operating procedure here against us 2nd class citizens).
    You may deny it all you like, but, as you clearly haven’t lived it, don’t embarass yourselves.

  21. falcon says:

    Hugh Nibley said that one of the hallmarks of Mormon truth is that it has never changed over time:
    “The gospel as the Mormons know it sprang full grown from the words of Joseph Smith. It has never been worked over or touched up in any way, and is free of revisions and alterations. Joseph Smith took the same elements that have proven so recalcitrant and so hopelessly conflicting in the hands of the churchmen and threw them together, with an awful lof of other stuff, to follow Brodie, into a single wildly chaotic mess. And lo and behold everthing fell into line of its own accord; all the haphazard elements in the bewildering heap fitted together perfectlhy to form a doctrine so commanding that not even a hint of rehtorical paradox is needed to support it, and no ‘Gregorian compromise’ with a pleasure-loving world has been necesaary to assure its vigorous growth.” (No Ma’am, That’s Not History)
    I say, “Way to go Joe”. No touch-ups or reworks with your inspired revelations. Those prophets who followed you wouldn’t dare!

  22. Rick B says:

    Hey Falcon,
    What book Did Hugh say that in? Then I say this with a little sarcasm, But I guess Hugh died before seeing the 4,000 changes to the book of Mormon, and the removal of the lectures of faith from the D and C and all the changes to the D and C plus the changes to the Pearl, O and the changes to the Bible by way of the J.S.T.

    Boy Hugh missed the boat on that one, But then I suspect LDS will simply say, that was not Doctrine and Hugh was not a prophet it was his mere opinion. Well Hugh, some things do never change, like the replys of the LDS. Rick b

  23. falcon says:

    Rick,
    For a full discussion of this topic along with the above quote go to a site called “20 Truths about Mormonism”. I have corresponded some with the exMo who runs the site. The quote as I found it there was from “No Ma’am, That’s Not History”. The heading of this is under #6 Changing Doctrine Over Time. Very good presentation. A lot of documentation regarding the changing face of Mormon doctrine.

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