Mormonism’s Secret History

In 1851 Mormon apostle Erastus Snow completed overseeing the production of a Danish translation of the Book of Mormon. It was the first non-English edition of the book ever published. When Deseret News provided an overview of the history of this translation work earlier this week, it reminded me of an old book about Mormonism that was written in Danish, precisely because of the Danish/English language barrier.

Secret History was written in 1876 by John (Johan) Ahmanson. Translated into English in 1984, Secret History provides an early “eyewitness account of the rise of Mormonism” from the perspective of a Scandinavian convert (every quote that follows is from John Ahmanson’s Secret History).

Christen Dalsgaard: "Mormons Visiting a Country Carpenter" 1856

John Ahmanson was one of Denmark’s first converts to Mormonism, under the influence of Erastus Snow. He wrote of his conversion: “The enthusiasm of these proselyters was unbounded, because it truly seemed like the fire that animated the first Christians had returned once again in their association… Soon I was convinced in [my] heart.” John was baptized into the LDS Church near the end of 1850 and soon after went to Norway as a missionary. There he spread the Mormon gospel and spent seven months in jail for preaching an unauthorized religion before finally returning to Denmark in 1853. Determined to leave immediately for America, John ended up delaying his trip for two and a half years at the request of his mission president. It was not until 1856 that John Ahmanson left Denmark for Salt Lake City, Utah, to gather with the Saints in Zion.

It was John’s plan to travel from Iowa City to Salt Lake City in a covered wagon, but because of language issues, he was asked by LDS apostle Franklin D. Richards to accompany the poorer Danish emigrants who were making the journey by handcart. Obeying this request, John became attached to the ill-fated Willie Handcart Company. Fortunate to survive the trip, in December 1856 John was reunited with his family who had travelled to Utah separately in a wagon train. He wrote, “Forgotten were the hardships of the journey and the long separation, and joyfully we drove in to Zion.”

But for John and his wife, the City of the Saints was a rude awakening. They did not find the promised land that they had been promised. John wrote,

“…as we often attended the Tabernacle, we came to see that although it was always well filled with people who called themselves saints, yet it was from the spiritual standpoint an empty desert in which the spirit and teaching of Christ have no dwelling place. We perceived also that Mormon doctrine was an unhappy conglomeration that swings like a spiritual chaos helplessly between two opposing foci, namely between the Christian faith and Bible (which is here called ‘the ancient traditions’), and the revelations of the modern prophet.”

Finding that Mormonism had but “one great commandment: ‘blind, unconditional obedience’ to the Prophet and the leaders of the Church,” John and his wife determined to leave Utah–and Mormonism. They did so in the company of many other Mormon families who could not live with the disillusionment they experienced upon gathering with the Saints in Zion.

Years later John Ahmanson wrote his book, Secret History. He did so because, while the Book of Mormon was available in Danish for his converted countrymen to read, the real heart and soul of Mormonism was unknown to those who did not have a good command of the English language. John wrote,

“There are probably thousands of our compatriots living in Utah who because of the language factor alone are not only ignorant about Mormonism and its history in general, but also about the unnatural and criminal obligations which they have entered into in ‘the Endowment House.’”

Thus, Secret History was published in order to alert Danish-speaking people to the true nature of Mormonism, a religion that was not adequately explained by Mormon missionaries who “imparted only ‘a little here and a little there,’ since they presumably believed that we were capable of receiving only ‘milk, and not solid food.’” John Ahmanson was especially concerned for his fellow-Danes who agreed to dangerous endowment covenants without even knowing what they were:

“I have repeated [John Hyde’s description of the endowment ceremony] here because there are undoubtedly thousands of my compatriots in Utah who, although they have received the so-called endowment, nevertheless because of their ill acquaintance with the English language are still comparatively unaware of the true significance and character of this ‘endowment.’”

It strikes me how little things have changed since the 1850s. Mormon missionaries still go into the world using the Bible “only as a decoy for their missionary expeditions.” They still claim the validity of their religion lies in the Book of Mormon even though the Book “does not have the slightest significance in religious understanding.” Mormon missionaries still tell potential converts only “a little here and a little there,” still leaving the converts in the dark regarding the truth of where Mormonism came from and what it actually is.

And Christians still believe that Mormons desperately need to know the truth. In 1876 John Ahmanson said he wrote his book,

“In the belief that the truth, the naked and unreserved truth – even though it be bitter and disappointing for many – is the only sure means of leading these misguided but honest and upright people out of the shameful slavery of Mormonism, and back to the kind and humanitarian teaching of Christ (and possibly rescue others also from being led astray by this brazen and clever deception).”

Christians still love God’s truth and still care about the eternal fate of those who don’t know Him. So using the words of John Ahmanson we still declare,

“In the hope that these too might come to see that a Society which has to hide itself in the dark cannot be from Him who is the Light and the Father of light, this is [our] motive for bringing this all out here into the open.”

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.
This entry was posted in Early Mormonism, Mormon History and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Mormonism’s Secret History

  1. Mike R says:

    This story of a devout follower of a modern day prophet sounds like classic Mormonism.
    What he experienced in the way of submitting to leaders who created doctrines, rules,
    and “obligations” out of whole cloth but promoted as the gospel of Jesus Christ ,
    combined with loyalty to a man who claims he is the mouthpiece of God , all adds up
    to picture what Jesus and His apostles said 2000 yrs ago would come — Matt 24:24.
    Your heart has to go out to the those people who were so misled back then , good ,
    decent people detoured into following a group men who advertised themselves as
    being personally directed by Jesus to head His Church, but in fact they were only
    religious men ” who taught for doctrine the commandments of men ” , only ” the precepts
    of men ” on many vital issues [ Gal.1:8-9; 2Nephi 28:14,31 ] . Those men and women
    seeking a true relationship with God did’nt need those men then nor their modern day
    counterparts .

  2. falcon says:

    Yea, the sales technique is called “bait and switch”. In-other-words the bait that is laid out there attracts the prey and once committed the switch is made and the promise of the bait, not fulfilled. This is a typical con technique used by unscrupulous sales people and unfortunately religious grifters.
    The enthusiasm of the sect and the love bombing techniques employed by these false religious sects serve to blind the prey from the danger that lurks there in. This was a sad but true tale told by many European converts to Mormonism. Once here in America they were literally stuck. This was particularly true for women if their husbands died and they had no means of support and no family to turn to.
    The milk before meat is just a dressed-up con. It’s an excuse Mormons use for lying by omission. Mormons withhold information regarding the “real” Mormonism and paint a picture of a religion that doesn’t exist in reality. There’s a reason why Mormons get the reputation for being dishonest when it comes to being up-front about their religion. It’s also the reason why life long Mormons, as well as converts, are leaving the LDS church in droves.
    Once the sect loses the leverage of fear and shame and the aura of “truth”, people walk right out the door.

  3. grindael says:

    This speaks for itself,

    “Pres. [Joseph F.] Smith said that he wanted to refer to a matter that had given him much concern—namely, the private journals of the brethren of the council. Many things were written in them which, if they were to fall into the hands of the enemy, might bring trouble upon the church. After the death of the brethren, you cannot tell what may become of their journals, and even now the brethren felt an anxiety in relation to Pres. Geo. Q. Cannon’s journal, who made a pretty full account of everything that transpired in the councils of the brethren; the same with Abram Cannon and others. Elder Jno. H. Smith said that he was very much concerned about this matter and had been for a long time and felt ‘that some action should be taken in the premises. Pres. Winder said that it was very unsafe and risky for the brethren to write down that which occurred in these meetings. This duty belonged to the clerk of the council and nobody else. Pres. Winder moved that it be the sense and feeling of the council that the brethren should not write in their journals that which took place in the council meetings. Carried by unanimous vote. Meeting adjourned. Benediction by Elder Jno. H. Smith. (Larson, A Ministry of Meetings, The Apostolic Diaries of Rudger Clawson, October 5, 1904, pages 777-778) _johnny

  4. grindael says:

    Dear Brother Heber [J. Grant]:

    I received your letter of Sep. 11th and appreciate all that you say. Pleased to hear that you are enjoying your labors. Will send the certificate book you ask for.

    You will see by the “leaves” of today that I am debarred from writing in my journal the doings of the council, which of necessity debars me from sending you any further “leaves.” I regret this exceedingly, but of course you will see the wisdom of the council’s action in the matter.

    Praying for your continued welfare, prosperity, and happiness, and a full measure of success in your missionary labors, I remain,

    Yours most faithfully,
    [signed] Rudger Clawson

    (same entry)._johnny

  5. grindael says:

    Now why in the world would it be “unsafe and risky” to write down what occurred in the meetings of the True Church of Jesus Christ? What in the world would be so “troubling”? In fact, the journals of Abraham H. Cannon were just published, and here is one entry to think about,

    Dec. 17, 1892: At my Quorum meeting on Thursday the brethren were told that our success in the Church suits was in a great measure due to the fact that we have a partner of Justice [Stephen J.] Field of the Supreme Court of the United States in our employ, who is to receive a percentage of the money if the suits go in our favor, and the property is returned to us. It was decided at this meeting that we would dispense with the services of the Church attorneys at the end of the year. Those now employed are F[ranklin] S. Richards and Le Grand Young. The former receives $5,000 per year, and the latter $3,000. The latter has felt some reluctance at accepting his pay for the work now being done, but the former has felt it was his due.

    They bought off a Supreme Court Judge. Use the link for more excerpts from Cannon’s diary. _johnny

  6. falcon says:

    This of course is all lies put out by the enemies of the church who are warring against the truth of the restored gospel. And you know what intense “persecution” the LDS church was having to endure at the hands of the U.S. government at this time. This was about the time of the manifesto where the LDS church, Utah branch, was forced to give up polygamy or loose the nice little empire they had built out in Utah. They dumped polygamy, embraced the free enterprise system big time, and modified their religion to a level acceptable to polite society. They bought peace at the expense of sticking with their convictions which were that polygamy was ordained by God and necessary for a man to achieve the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom.
    Money does talk and is valued more so than convictions, most of the time.

  7. fproy2222 says:

    I have been looking for a large print version of this book, or an eBook copy and cannot find one.
    If your article comes from the book, and not someone else’s review of the book, would you scan a few pages so I can see if my old eyes can read them.

    [email protected]

    [Fred, I have the book, but I cannot scan any pages. I measured the text, in case that would be of any help to you. A capital “T” (for example) is 2.5 mm high. A lower case “m” is 2 mm. From text baseline to text baseline measures 4 mm. Quoted blocks of text are smaller, a capital “C” measuring just over 2 mm. You might check with the publisher (Moody Press) and see if they can help further. -Sharon]

  8. falcon says:

    This is ridiculous. What’s wrong with you? Are you questioning Sharon’s integrity? Are you that incredibly desperate? I suggest you spend your time uncovering the deceit of the founder of the religion you have given yourself over to. You have the mindset of the “true believer”. You simply cannot phantom the possibility that Mormonism is false therefore you grasp at any straw to maintain your belief in a religious system and a false prophet.
    I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because the diluted thinking of the “true believer” makes no logical sense. Mormonism cannot possibly be wrong? It must be the evidence and those presenting the evidence that must be flawed, right.
    We all have to realize that you’re in a spiritual brain lock I guess. The Bible rightly says, “There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man……….as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
    You need to get yourself born again by the Spirit of God fred and come out of the darkness that is clouding your mind and spirit.

  9. fproy2222 says:


    Thank you. I will print up some stuff with those measurements and see how I handle them.


  10. fproy2222 says:

    falcon says: – February 27, 2012 at 5:58 am – ( This is ridiculous. What’s wrong with you? Are you questioning Sharon’s integrity?)

    I know it is not nice to lump people together, but I must go on the actions of the majority of the people that are on the same mission as you folks.

  11. falcon says:

    What exactly do you mean by the following statement?

    “I know it is not nice to lump people together, but I must go on the actions of the majority of the people that are on the same mission as you folks.”

    You speak in a sort of cryptic language and since I don’t have the secret handshake or the passwords or not even a decoder ring, you’re going to have to be a little more clear on what your saying.
    For example, what is the “mission” we are on? In your own words please.
    I’ll tell you first hand what mission I’m on. I’m on a mission first of all, to inform people about Mormonism; its founder, history, doctrines and beliefs. The reason I’m on that mission is so people don’t get sucked into a religion that isn’t up-front with people regarding what it believes about the nature of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Mormon plan of salvation.
    I think people ought to know that Mormons believe that their are millions if not billions of gods in the universe and that all of these gods were former men who, by following the Mormon system, became gods themselves. I think that people ought to know that Mormons believe that Jesus is the spirit off-spring of the Mormon god of this planetary system and one of his many wives. I think that people ought to further know that the Mormon Satan is also the spirit off-spring of this Mormon god and one of his many wives. I think people ought to know that Mormons believe that there is a Holy Ghost and a Holy Spirit. The Mormon Holy Spirit is an energy source likened to electricity. I think people ought to know that Joseph Smith had a least 33 wives.

  12. falcon says:

    It might also be helpful for people to know that Brigham Young taught that the Mormon god the father had actually physical sexual relations with the Virgin Mary in conceiving Jesus. People should know about the adam-god doctrine and also the doctrine of blood atonement.
    People should be informed that Joseph Smith was very active in folk magic and “translated” his golden plates by putting his magic rock in his hat and shoving his face in the hat received the message. He did this without even having the plates present. In addition to this, Joseph Smith was convicted of being a disorderly person for taking money from people who he told would receive buried treasure in the ground that he could spy with this same magic rock.
    So that’s just a few points, but mainly my mission is to insure that people are fully informed about Mormonism. They should also know that Joseph Smith’s wife Emma and their son didn’t belong to the Utah denomination of Mormonism. That group basically repudiates Utah style Mormonism.
    So anyway that’s my mission that God has called me to. The apostle Paul told Timothy to stop men from teaching strange doctrine. While we can’t stop people from doing that we can make sure people are fully informed.

  13. fproy2222 says:

    You did a good job of answering your own question, and then to insure anything I reply is lost, you again use the shotgun method of confusion. Good controlling method and your group loves to use it.

    Can you function as a pro Christian and not as someone who must teach against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints?


  14. falcon says:

    Nice diversionary tactic as usual.
    I listed point blank why we engage in Christian apologetics and are vehement about getting the truth about Mormonism out to the general public. You can find no fault in anything I have listed except to repeat your tired old phrase about “shotgun method of confusion”. You ran out of arguments days ago on this blog and have taken to repeating that same old tired mantra which indicates to all of us that you have nothing to offer in defense of Mormonism.
    What we do is compare and contrast the fraudulent restored gospel of Mormonism with the Gospel of Jesus Christ as presented in the NT. It is imperative that people see the stark differences between Mormonism that promotes a heresy of many gods and men becoming gods, with the One True and Living God.
    Really fred, you sound like the people in the peanuts cartoons that don’t have voices but are represented by a horn going, “blah, blah, blah” when they speak. If you can’t formulate an intelligent thoughtful response please refrain from posting. Your lack of depth is obvious.
    I would suggest that you read the Book of Jude in the NT. Jude says we are to contend earnestly for the faith. Then he list those individuals/groups that have been marked out for destruction. This would be Mormonism. We are to expose this religion and in so doing provide a pathway for salvation for those trapped in the web of this deceit and deliver them and keep others who are being seduced by the cunning arguments of Mormonism, out of its grasp.
    You have nothing on which to stand fred other than your desire for Mormonism to be true. Sincerity isn’t enough, only saving faith in Jesus Christ will do.

  15. Rick B says:

    Fred said

    Can you function as a pro Christian and not as someone who must teach against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints?

    Dont you just love the Mormon Fred’s of the world? They claim to know the truth, yet refuse to share it, How does that work when either doing a missions trip or teaching church?

    Also I have shown him what His prophets, Presidents and Book of scripture have said. Like Expose JS if he is a fraud, meet us in public and open our eyes, Things like that, yet he willfully chooses to ignore what he does not like, even if it is taught in scripture and from his prophets. Yet he sits here and tells us it is us who have no clue. And whats even sadder is, the Honest, loving LDS who do care and are trying to make a difference never say anything to these types of Mormons. Then they wonder why they have a hard time dealing with people and wonder why people cannot trust them.

    If I meet christian that acted like Fred and was giving us a bad name and making it harder to talk to people I would confront them, and I HAVE done this with other Christians. But if Mormons wont or dont care, then I guess thats on them, and they must deal with what ever comes their way as a result of some rotten apples in the bunch.

  16. falcon says:

    This is what the “parent” organization of this blog has to say about its mission and goals. Now according to you, what these folks need to do is to not mention anything about Mormonism but just speak about Christianity.
    I guess what you’re asking is for ministries like this to not speak about Mormonism. I can understand why. You don’t want Mormonism exposed for what it is. You want to suck some poor unsuspecting schmuck into the religion and that’s not possible if they are informed. Here’s what MRM says about its ministry. Maybe you should contact Bill McKeever about your concerns.

    Mormonism Research Ministry is a missionary/apologetics organization that was organized in 1979 to propagate the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to critically evaluate the differences between Mormonism and biblical Christianity.

    Our purpose is to:

    * provide factual material in printed and electronic form. This includes our bi-monthly newsletter Mormonism Researched, website, books, tracts, and tapes.
    * take the gospel directly to the Mormon people by conducting outreaches at Mormon events such as temple openings and pageants.
    * provide individual counseling with those who are questioning their Mormon faith, as well as help those who need information to share their faith with those in Mormonism.
    *educate the Body of Christ by speaking in churches, Bible colleges, seminaries, and conferences. We desire to serve all Christians who honor the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith as revealed in the Bible.

    The problem fred is that you know that Mormonism can’t stand up to close scrutiny.

  17. Rick B says:

    Here is my thoughts,
    The Fred’s of the world dont like what we are doing or even agree with us, but yet what they fail to understand even when we/I tell them flat out, they bring it upon themselves. It is in part the Fred’s of this world that simply will not answer questions and share the truth with us, so we have to dig into what they believe. The Fred’s of the world cannot have it both ways, Not be upfront and honest and then complain and cry because we look into this stuff on our own. If they were just forth right in what they believe and answer questions it would be a lot better.

  18. falcon says:

    My thoughts exactly. Isn’t funny how a simple listing of the facts of Mormonism sets these people (the freds) off? Why is that? Well it’s like you said, they don’t want people to know about this stuff. I mean really, how will a potential prospect react when they are told that one of the major prophets of Mormonism taught that the Mormon Heavenly Father had actual sexual relations with the Virgin Mary. This isn’t conjecture or opinion. He said it. Mormons can’t even nuance it. It’s rude and disgusting.
    Or what about Smith and his magic rock and his being charged with being a disorderly person for taking money from people in exchange for “glass looking”. That is, saying he could locate buried treasure in the ground by the use of his magic seer stone. It demonstrates what a fraud Smith was and calls into question his veracity regarding his other claims. That’s a straight up fact.
    Smith told at least one woman that an angel with a sword appeared to him and said he would kill (Smith) unless he practiced polygamy. That was his come-on to her. That he claimed this is a fact.
    So is it any wonder that all fred can do is continually repeat his tired out statements about “study to find the truth” and ” you’re using a shotgun approach to spread confusion.”
    There is no defense a Mormon can make regarding the evidence available to prove Mormonism false.
    Let’s face it, if fred were a defense attorney called to represent Mormonism, he would be fired and disbarred for incompetence.

  19. Kate says:

    I find it interesting that when Christians show how Mormon doctrines and beliefs are far removed from Christianity it is called aunt tye Mormon, yet the LDS can send missionaries all over the world claiming that Christianity is an abomination to God and needed to be restored by Joseph Smith. LDS can speak openly and publicly about Christianity, trashing the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, the Christian God, but no one better dare say a word against Mormonism. I find it very ironic that the things so upsetting to Mormons are the very words said by their own prophets and apostles. The very doctrines that have been taught and practiced by their own faith. The very “revelations” given to their own prophets. I can tell that fred has done absolutely NO research on his own and has probably never read anything that wasn’t church approved. He’s upset and thinks you lie when stating the facts, because these facts have never been taught in an LDS meeting house. He claims the shotgun method of confusion because there are truly hundreds if not thousands of teachings and doctrines that are so “out there” that past leaders couldn’t have possibly said or taught that. It doesn’t matter that these things aren’t what is fully taught in the church today, what matters is that they were taught as revelation from God. This alone should show everyone looking into it that LDS leaders haven’t exactly been trusted guides (as Mike always points out) 🙂

  20. JanRenae says:

    Glad I stumbled across this blog. I read “Secret History” a few years ago, and was actually just trying to remember the name of the author. I have in mind to recommend it to someone, but first I need to somehow secure a copy. (The one I read was borrowed). Anyway, my husband is a former Mormon, and I think he will greatly benefit from your blog. He’s a devoted born-again Christian now, and has a deep seated desire to rescue others from the bondage that he was saved from. Thanks for being here.

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