General Conference: Mormons told to get past Joseph Smith’s history and move forward.

During last weekend’s General Conference of the LDS Church (3-4 October 2015), Mormon apostle Neil L. Andersen spoke on the topic of faith, and the importance of keeping it burning brightly. He said that faith does not come by chance, but by choice.

Mr. Andersen talked about faith challenges that result from “honest questions,” emphasizing the need to find answers using both intellect and feelings. Even so, he counseled,

“Faith never demands an answer to every question, but seeks the assurance and courage to move forward, sometimes acknowledging, ‘I don’t know everything, but I do know enough to continue on the path of discipleship.’”

Mr. Andersen spoke of the folly of “immersing oneself in persistent doubt fueled by answers from the faithless and the unfaithful” which serves to weaken one’s faith in the Restoration. Using the example of questions concerning the Prophet Joseph Smith that have been “hurled by his critics since this work began,” Mr. Andersen said,

“To those of faith, who, looking through the colored glasses of the 21st century, honestly question events or statements of the Prophet Joseph from nearly 200 years ago, may I share some friendly advice? For now, give Brother Joseph a break.”

Give him a break? What, exactly, was Mr. Andersen suggesting?

While the Mormon apostle did not provide any specific things for which Joseph Smith needs a break (I’d like to see that list!), perhaps he was suggesting, as many Mormons have of late, that Joseph Smith should be judged by reasonable 19th century Christian standards, not those of the 21st century. If so, this doesn’t help Brother Joseph at all. As Mr. Andersen pointed out, these criticisms have been “hurled” at the Prophet since the 1800s –19th century Christian standards did not allow people of Joseph’s time to give him a break.

Perhaps Mr. Andersen meant that those of us looking at the Prophet’s life two centuries after the fact cannot understand it. As he said,

“In a future day, you will have 100 times more information than from all of today’s search engines combined. And it will come from our all-knowing Father in heaven.”

This begs the question: What about the information we already have from our all-knowing Father in heaven? God Himself commanded us “Beware of false prophets” and explained, “You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-16).
There are two types of fruit evident in Joseph Smith’s life that, out of obedience to God, we should examine. One type is doctrinal: How did Joseph Smith affect the universal Christian church? Paul paints a picture that mirrors Joseph Smith’s influence on the church in 1 Timothy 6:3-5:

“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.”

joseph-smithThere is no question that Joseph Smith’s life as a prophet was characterized by controversy, quarrels, slander, friction, etc.

Another type of fruit we can examine in Joseph Smith’s life is his character/morals. We want to avoid using 21st century standards, so instead, consider standards that were acceptable in Joseph’s day:

“Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:2-7)

How well did Joseph’s life display these biblical fruits (i.e., qualifications for church leaders)? Was he “above reproach”? Obviously not, or we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Was he the husband of one wife? No, he had 30-40 wives. He was not “respectable,” he became “puffed up,” he did not “manage his own household” well, and the damage he caused as he “cared for God’s church” is well-known.

LDS apostle Neil Andersen must not have been suggesting that we be careful to judge Joseph Smith by 19th century standards, for that surely would not be giving the Prophet a break.

I considered that perhaps Mr. Anderson doesn’t want us to judge Joseph Smith at all. But that can’t be it because he asked his congregation to look at the “totality of Joseph’s life” (i.e., judge the positive things), noting that the Prophet translated the Book of Mormon in ninety days, though he was poor and under educated. “Tens of thousands of honest, devoted men and women embrace the cause of the Restoration,” Mr. Andersen said, “and at age 38 Joseph sealed his witness with his blood. I testify that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. Settle this in your mind and move forward.”

This, I think, is what Mr. Andersen was getting at when he said “Give Brother Joseph a break.” Or, to appropriate the words of another Mormon leader, “Don’t worry about those little flicks of history” (Gordon B. Hinckley, interview with Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes, April 1996). Mr. Andersen believes Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, and he wants Mormons to trust his testimony because, as he told the Mormon congregation, “The guidance of the First Presidency and the Twelve help protect our faith.”

What Mr. Andersen is really asking for is that Mormons give Brother Joseph a pass. Ignore the fruit of the Prophet’s life. Ignore Christ’s exhortation to beware of false prophets. Ignore the clear and persistent warnings throughout all of Scripture that plead with people to test the prophets and try the spirits for their own spiritual safety. Ignore it all and thereby “protect” your faith.

To what end, Mormon friends? Is such a misplaced faith worth protecting?

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, Joseph Smith and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to General Conference: Mormons told to get past Joseph Smith’s history and move forward.

  1. falcon says:

    I think I saw the white flag of surrender being hoisted over the LDS General Conference when it comes to the cornerstone of their faith, Joseph Smith.
    It’s like the old phrase, “…..nothing to see here folks, just keep moving along.” This guy knows that there’s more than a few little minuscule problems with the Mormon prophet. The LDS church can’t stop the faithful from getting accurate information about Smith so they are taking a totally different approach to propping Smith up. The advice seems to be, “Stop asking questions. It all happened a long time ago. It doesn’t change anything.”
    There’s a reason why at least one sect of Mormonism acknowledged back in the days of Smith, I might add, that Smith was a fallen prophet. They say that he had one job to do and that was to bring forth the BoM. Shortly there after he went astray and introduced all sorts of doctrines that weren’t part of the restoration revelation. They dumped Smith and bid him a fond farewell.
    The LDS church created the Smith problem by portraying him as something he clearly wasn’t. Now they are stuck with having to put some lipstick on a pig of their own creation. Problem is, it isn’t working. So now the plan appears to be to get the folks to either quit asking questions or to sort of acknowledge the Smith problem but excuse it.
    I would tell faithful Mormons that they’ve been had. Better to turn to the Lord Jesus Christ and forget about Smith and his creation.

  2. falcon says:

    So what does a faithful chapel Mormon do when confronted by the news that the LDS church is sort of, kind of, maybe cracking the door open a tiny bit on the truth about Joseph Smith.
    It reminds me of those famous LDS mttos, “Now this doesn’t mean the church isn’t true” and “That’s no reason to leave the church” or “I knew that a long time ago and it doesn’t effect my testimony one bit”.
    As to that last line, if the prophet isn’t all that he’s cracked-up to be, wouldn’t that taint the stories he told? Isn’t credibility something that the prophet might be expected to have? Isn’t credibility something that the “one true church” should have. The “one true church” certainly hasn’t shown a lot of integrity in the past with the presentation they have made concerning Smith.
    Let’s be blunt. The LDS church has lied about Joseph Smith both through omission of key facts and commission in the creation of a false narrative.
    Let’s face it, for many LDS what they are in love with is the LDS church. They just flat-out groove on it. It means their needs. For the men it can be a feeling of spiritual power via their embracing of the priesthood. For the women it’s the idea that their family will be together forever and dad is going to be a heavenly father and mom will be his goddess. Together they will rule their own planetary system for eternity and have spiritual offspring populating their planets, praying to and adoring them.
    What person, believing this, would let a little detail or two or three, four, five………….about Smith get in the way of their dream. Unfortunately it’s all a fantasy and a cruel hoax.

  3. falcon says:

    And get this line:

    “In a future day, you will have 100 times more information than from all of today’s search engines combined. And it will come from our all-knowing Father in heaven.”

    So LDS faithful, don’t trust these search engines, you have to trust our all-knowing Father in heaven. What’s the message here? It’s not all that subtle. He should have maybe answered that these search engines are controlled by Satan and to use them will lead you away from the one true church and into outer darkness. When all else fails, bring on the scare tactics. So these search engines aren’t going to reveal accurate information? Well I have a suggestion. Learn what questions to ask and then go to LDS sanctioned material.
    This is what former LDS bishop Lee Baker said. He said he didn’t even know what questions to ask. Once he formulated the questions, he was able to find his answers right in LDS source material. He says that the information was right there; hiding in plain sight.
    Look LDS, aren’t you interested in the truth? If you find the truth and still want to be in the LDS club, then that’s your business. But at least ask some questions and deal with factually accurate information.

  4. MJP says:

    This seems a very non-original defense of Anderson on behalf of Mormonism. Sweeping these things under the rug is something they have been doing a long time, and he is merely doing the same.

    “Who cares about all the bad things Smith did when he did so many good things!” (Geez, that is Biblical, isn’t it? Is right there in Romans, right?)

  5. falcon says:

    I don’t know why the LDS church tries this silly stuff. It’s the same with their “essays”. They do themselves more harm than good. Why don’t they just go on like they have and just keep counting their money? The people who are really into Mormonism and the LDS church aren’t going any where. Those who are persuadable in terms of material that will flip them, aren’t going to buy what these leaders are selling. It’s like FARMS/FAIR and their pathetic attempts to do apologetics. They make matters worse for those who ask serious questions and aren’t going to believe the fairy tale answers these groups come up with.
    The LDS church is going to have a certain attrition rate. As it is, two-thirds on the rolls of the LDS church are going inactive. Young men in Utah who belong to the church are leaving as are returning missionaries. So I’d say to the leadership, hunker down and realize that the church has too many fronts to fight on. Mormonism can’t be defended in any rational way. The Mormon faith is dependent on feelings.
    The truth contained in the history of the LDS church can’t sustain the emotions needed to believe Mormonism. It’s doomed.

  6. falcon says:

    It’s apparent to me that these folks are in trouble and they know it. But their feeble attempts to keep their membership from accessing the truth about the sect aren’t really going to work. Tell people not to do something and what will a certain number do? If the LDS folks get sick of the grind and have any doubts what-so-ever, they’re going to be gone. This is especially true in areas where Mormonism doesn’t dominate the culture.
    For some, they’re looking for a reason to leave. The leadership isn’t very effective in keeping the disaffected in the fold.

  7. Mike R says:

    Mormon apostle Andersen’s comments show that there is still unrest among LDS concerning certain things in their history . Mormon leaders have finally been forced to be more transparent concerning certain teachings/ behavior in their history , the recent essays they provided to their flock is their latest attempt at “answering” the growing number of LDS in recent years who had become troubled by discovering some aspects of their history largely by way of the Internet . But this latest attempt was simply anemic .

    The new renovated Mormon history complex in S.L.C. recently opened , and attendees can see Joseph Smith’s seer stone and even Mormon polygamy is included . But hopefully LDS will ask themselves what documents is there in the Church historical archives or First Presidency’s private vault that have never seen the light of day in public displays ?

    Have Mormon leaders been completely forthright / transparent about certain things their history ?
    The odds would say no . It will take the convicting power of the Holy Spirit on the heart of some member of the Mormon hierarchy who will then admit to some of the things that many rank and file members feel there as has not been full disclosure on yet .

    Autocratic religions like Mormonism seem to create a divide , something of a disconnect , between those at the top and those who comprise the rank and file . That type of arrangement is ripe for rank and file members to be kept in the dark , or not given the whole truth concerning serious issues by leadership lest significant numbers of members leave etc.

    May the Mormon people find the truth that Mormonism is not the answer .

  8. falcon says:

    Here’s the reason the LDS is trying to inoculate members against the internet.
    This is from the article linked to below.

    When fellow believers in Sweden first began coming to him with information from the Internet that contradicted the church’s history and teachings, he dismissed it as “anti-Mormon propaganda,” the whisperings of Lucifer. He asked his superiors for help in responding to the members’ doubts, and when they seemed to only sidestep the questions, Mr. Mattsson began his own investigation.

    But when he discovered credible evidence that the church’s founder, Joseph Smith, was a polygamist and that the Book of Mormon and other scriptures were rife with historical anomalies, Mr. Mattsson said he felt that the foundation on which he had built his life began to crumble.

    Around the world and in the United States, where the faith was founded, the Mormon Church is grappling with a wave of doubt and disillusionment among members who encountered information on the Internet that sabotaged what they were taught about their faith, according to interviews with dozens of Mormons and those who study the church.

  9. historybuff says:

    I’m sorry, but it’s a fact: most LDS are seeking a sense of community and a social structure; they want friends, not doctrine, and — let’s face it — the truth is irrelevant. They are either in denial or they have completely insulated themselves from the truth.

    And they are afraid to ask questions even if they have them. This is not really a very strong endorsement of John 8: 32: Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.

    The sad truth for Mormons is that if Joseph Smith is the answer, you’re asking the wrong question.

  10. historybuff says:

    And, Mormons: Does it make any difference to you that you now know that your leaders — ALL of them, even your bishops — have lied to you about Joseph Smith for over 170 years?


  11. historybuff says:

    Yes, I know, I can already hear you: “But we still have our LDS scriptures and they are true because they were given to us by God!”

    Fine. So, then what do you think of this scripture from the Doctrine and Covenants:

    “Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy; we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in the case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.” 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, C1, p. 251 (1835). — Joseph Smith.

    Are you still in denial?

  12. falcon says:

    You hit a home run with this observation:

    “…….most LDS are seeking a sense of community and a social structure; they want friends, not doctrine, and — let’s face it — the truth is irrelevant.”

    To LDS the truth IS irrelevant, it’s how something makes them feel. The feeling, they believe, is communication from the Mormon god. But I’m being a little monolithic here. We know there are a lot of different “types” of Mormons. The average, run of the mill chapel Mormon, is just in love with the LDS church and the leadership.
    Think of this. You have a young Mormon man, maybe on the down-side of the socio-economic strata, living in an area where there aren’t a lot of Mormons, he can garner some respect and standing within the LDS community. If he’s a full-on true believer, he has the priesthood which he believes gives him spiritual power and authority. Is this man going to start asking questions? I don’t think so. First of all, like I’ve pointed out, he doesn’t even know what questions to ask even if he was so inclined. But he isn’t inclined. There isn’t any motivation to do so.
    That’s why I say, why does the LDS leadership even bother? Just shove their chips to the middle of the table and let it ride. There is a flow out of the LDS church, but the leadership isn’t going to stop it by these pathetic attempts. Just hold on to the true believers and skim the 10% tithe very month as dues in the club. They have so much money with their investments that they can go on indefinitely. The LDS church is closing down wards and consolidating which is what a business does when it’s losing market share.

  13. falcon says:

    I think having members roaming about the internet must drive the LDS leadership to distraction. In the old days, they could control the flow of information and keep the faithful in line with a few pat phrases and homilies. Now it’s the wild west out on the internet. Unable to control the flow of information, all they can do is send out warnings. They have to keep the folks in the program, in their view, but it’s really a losing effort.
    Have you noticed all of the websites, blogs etc out there. Just consider YouTube for example. It sort of reminds me of a weak bee hive. Pretty soon the other colonies realize that the weak hive can’t defend itself and the weak hive gives up. The LDS is moving to becoming a weak colony but in this case, the bees are flying away finding a better place to live.

  14. historybuff says:

    Because Elder Andersen — APOSTLE Andersen — declared it, I’m going to remind you again. It’s true:

    “The guidance of the First Presidency and the Twelve help protect our faith.”

    They DO protect our faith. And what have the First Presidency and the Twelve done to protect our faith? Every First Presidency and every Quorum of the Twelve, since 1844, has lied to us about Joseph Smith’s polygamy. And the lies never stopped: the Book of Abraham, the Mountain Meadows Massacre, African Americans and the Priesthood — the list goes on.

    Had enough?
    Sadly, I don’t think so.

  15. falcon says:

    Realistically, there aren’t a lot of people who are going to join the LDS church and become full-on temple Mormons. It’s a market niche because the program requires an enormous commitment and effort that most aren’t interested in. It’s like joining the Free Masons and working yourself up to the 32nd degree.
    What about the home-grown LDS folks? Do they stick around? Inactivity is a major problem within the average LDS ward. The techniques that are generally used with this type of religious sect have a shelf-life and it’s now effecting the LDS brand. Once fear can’t control someone, finding out what Mormonism is all about, is a lights out scenario.

  16. falcon says:

    What does the LDS church claim for membership numbers? I think it’s something like 15 million world wide. Two-thirds of those on the rolls are inactive. That gets us down to about 5 million. What percentage of that number are full-blown temple Mormons? I’d be surprised if it were as many as 1.5 million. That’s the reason why the past president was building all of these smaller temples all over the place. To give people access to the program it had to be convenient. The smaller, less grandiose temples became known as “McTemples”.
    What’s my point? Mormonism is a hard sell. In fact, in order to get recruits to sign on, pertinent information needs to be withheld. Enter the age of the internet. A couple of clicks and a google search and prospects can learn all they need to learn about the “one true church”. While the LDS leadership can warn the membership away from what they don’t want them to see (with little success) a prospect has no motivation not to look.
    So the MM go out and do their presentation trying to gin-up some emotions and convincing the prey that the feeling is a message from God. What will win out in the end, a feeling or facts and evidence? It’s the same with the rank-and-file members. Can there be enough positive emotions generated over a long period of time to keep these folks in the fold? Obviously not because the LDS church is having little success keeping members once they start searching for and finding readily available information.

  17. historybuff says:

    It’s sad but true: Too many people — Mormons included — are looking for a social club and acceptance rather than truth from God.

    Sorry about that, but it’s a fact.

  18. falcon says:

    Are the LDS authorities afraid that the members will discover the truth about Mormonism and leave the sect? That seems to be their motivation. That’s very telling isn’t it? They don’t want the members to know the truth. So how honorable can these supposed pillars of the LDS faith be. I don’t know if I’d be willing to cut them any slack. That is, say that these leaders don’t know any better. Do you know of any Christian denominations that are warning their membership off of the internet, afraid that they will leave?
    Christianity isn’t about belonging to a certain religious sect. It’s about coming to the knowledge of who Jesus is and accepting His sacrifice on the cross, through faith, and being redeemed. That’s it. It’s not about doing a laundry list of denominational approved tasks in order to garner a higher level of reward.
    If someone leaves a denomination it doesn’t effect their spiritual status before the Father.

  19. falcon says:

    Think about this. If the LDS leadership had any confidence at all in their religious sect, why would they care if the membership was perusing internet sites? Well, they will share, the members are either bumping into unreliable information or they are so tender as not to be able to handle what they come across. I’ve heard LDS formers say that they didn’t go to any anti websites. They got their information from LDS sources. It’s just that once the information is known, it doesn’t past muster.

  20. falcon says:

    I’m just wondering, does the LDS leadership think that the information their members are finding on the internet is inaccurate or totally wrong or do they think that these tender hearted folks can’t handle the truth? The leaders have to know the truth, don’t they? I’ve done this apologetic work for long enough to know that the explanations given by those supporting their LDS faith is really lame. In order to prop-up the sect and the faith, they have to warn-off the members and go for the “feeling is truth” construct.
    There will always be people who like Mormonism and for whom any explanation, no matter how ridiculous, will keep them in the fold. But how does the LDS go about and find that small niche of people who would convert to the sect? If prospects get accurate information from the get-go, chances are they won’t go any where near the LDS church. These are the folks that the LDS leaders can’t control or influence.

  21. falcon says:

    The LDS leadership is floundering, trying to stem the tide of flow out of the sect. But are they interested at all in the truth? If they were interested in the truth they’d stand up at GC and speak the truth. The question is often asked as to whether or not the leadership knows the truth but aren’t interested in “revealing” it because they lead rather cushy lives within the church. I’m sure given all the perks of the job, those at the top aren’t motivated by something as non-faith promoting, fact based evidence.
    They have to keep their customers. I don’t know what the closing rate is for the MM as the ride their bikes around the neighborhoods of the world trolling for prospects. I do know that they aren’t paid by the LDS church, being self-financed. If the LDS church had to actually support the MM financially, they’d close the operation down. I can’t believe these boys and girls are bringing many prospects into the fold and then there’s the problem of retaining the converts.
    So were back to that 5 million number of members who are actually active. Being considered “active” is a rather low bar to clear. The leadership is in a losing battle but if they’ve managed their money well, which I think they probably have, they can keep the doors open. This is important to the leadership because they’re the only ones benefiting off of the labors of the worker bees. That’s the prime motivation for keeping people in the sect whether these dudes can admit it to themselves or not.

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