D. Michael Quinn, Award Winning, Renowned Historian, Respected Professor & Writer
Michael told the Truth instead of "Faith Promoting" Lies and was Destroyed
On Being A Mormon Historian
(A lecture given before the Student History Association, BrighamYoungUniversity, Fall, 1981. The following text was scanned from a copy of the speech given to those who attended the presentation).
ON BEING A MORMON HISTORIAN
by D. Michael Quinn*
Although Latter-day Saints have been trained as historians at universities outside Utah for half a century and have been publishing Mormon history during that entire period, only recently have prominent LDS general authorities publicly criticized the motivations and publications of Mormon historians. In part, this can be explained as a reaction to the increasingly "high profile" or scholarly and interpretative Mormon history during the past fifteen years. At a time of phenomenal increases in the numbers of new conversions in the United States and throughout the world, there has been a growing crescendo or interest (particularly on the part of Latter-day Saints with generations of experience in the Church) in researching, writing, and learning about the history of Mormonism. Among the most significant examples of this trend are: the organization of the institutionally independent Mormon History Association in 1965 which has held annual conferences for the presentation of scholarly papers, and whose membership has grown from a few dozen to more than a thousand; the establishment of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought in 1966 with its emphasis on interpretative Mormon history; the intensified historical focus of the periodical Brigham Young University Studies which began devoting whole issues to LDS Church history from 1969 onward; the gradual opening of LDS Church Archives to professional researchers by Church Historian Joseph Fielding Smith in the late 1960s, the acceleration of that trend by his successor as Church Historian Howard W. Hunter, followed by the unprecedented appointment by the First Presidency of a professional Mormon historian Leonard J. Arrington to the position of Church Historian in 1972; the launching of the exclusively historical Journal of Mormon History in 1974; the addition of Mormon history to the format of Sunstone Magazine in 1977; and the activity from 1972 to 1980 (under the official auspices of Church headquarters) of the professionally trained Church Historian, Assistant Historians, and a university trained staff who Published scholarly and interpretative books and articles about Mormon history. This explosion of professional, interpretative, and footnoted approaches to Mormon history not reached out to the community of Mormon scholars and history buffs, but also has extended to the general membership of the Church through faculty members at Brigham Young University, Ricks Collage, and in the Church seminaries and institutes, as well as through scholarly historical publications by Deseret Book Company, the Church News, the Ensign and New Era magazines and their international counterparts. Preoccupied with trying to assimilate hundreds of thousands of new converts annually into the LDSChurch's present theological, social, and administrative identity, some Church administrators have voiced with understandable misgiving this burgeoning exploration of Mormonism's fluid past. The concern of these Church leaders has not been assuaged by the fact that contemporary with the proliferation of Mormon historians and histories there has been a shift in anti-Mormon propaganda from doctrinal diatribe to the polemical use of elements from the Mormon past to discredit the LDSChurch today. In reaction to this confluence of developments, two members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (Ezra Taft Benson and Boyd K. Packer) have specifically identified Latter-day Saint historians as the source of difficulty. Elder Benson gave two talks about this subject in 1976, one of which states:
This Humanistic emphasis on history is not confined only to secular history; there have been and continue to be attempts made to bring this philosophy into our own Church history. Again the emphasis is to underplay revelation and God's intervention in significant events, and to inordinately humanize the prophets of God so that their human frailties become more evident than their spiritual qualities.1
Five years later, Elder Packer expanded upon the point of view of Elder Benson in a detailed message delivered to religion teachers but directed to Latter-day Saint historians.2 As part of his indictment against Latter-day Saints who write scholarly, interpretative history, Boyd K. Packer has told his 1981 audience:
Unfortunately, many of the things they tell one another are not uplifting, go far beyond the audience they may have intended, and destroy faith.
One who chooses to follow the tenets of his profession, regardless of how they may injure the church or destroy the faith of those not ready for "advanced history" is himself in spiritual jeopardy.3
In addition to these jaundiced ecclesiastical views of Mormon history writing by Latter-day Saints, Mormon historians have also recently received criticism from fellow academic Louis C. Midgley, political philosopher at BrighamYoungUniversity. Midgley concludes a 1981 presentation on Mormon historians with the following statement:
It is depressing to see some historians now struggling to get on the stage to act out the role of the mature, honest historian committed to something called "objective history," and, at the same time, the role of the faithful Saint. The discordance between those roles has produced more than a little bad faith (that is, self-deception) and even, perhaps, some blatant hypocrisy; it has also produced some pretentious[,] bad history.4
As one of those historians who have struggled to get on the stage Midgley describes, I would like to explore things that he and others have questioned: the motivations, rationale, intentions, and conduct of Latter-day Saints who profess to write objective Mormon history. I would not claim to speak for anyone aside from the one Mormon historian I know best. His biography is of no interest to anyone but himself, but elements of his background are important to understand his activity as a Mormon historian, his motives, and his reactions to the criticisms by his ecclesiastical superiors. To begin with, he was born with a split-identity: seventh generation Latter-day Saint on his mother's side, but of Roman Catholic, Mexican origin on his father's side. Since his earliest childhood, however, self-identity was not the most important emphasis of his life, but rather an intense personal relationship with God. As long as he could remember, he knew God as personage and immediate influence, and on occasion he had heard His voice. Long before he had ever heard much about the Holy Ghost, this young man had what seemed to be constant experience with a presence from God in comfort and revelation "like a fire burning" within him, and as an adolescent he was surprised to discover in scripture descriptions of others' experiences with the Holy Ghost that he had thought were God's special gifts to him alone. Although he had always known God as Father, Christ as Savior, and the Holy Ghost as comforter and Revelator, at the age of eleven the young man realized that he had been a member or the LDSChurch for three years without specifically asking God about its validity. Therefore, he sought and received knowledge through the Spirit that the Book of Mormon was the word of God, that the Church was true and necessary, and that its president was indeed a prophet of God. Although his relationship with God and the Spirit was the primary dimension and sufficient epistemology of his life, the young man felt impressed that it was necessary to explore the temporal manifestations of God's dealings with His people and prophets, as well as their conduct. By age fifteen he had read all the Standard Works (except for half of the Old Testament), and at seventeen he was reading the seven volume History of the Church and Journal of Discourses. To the occasional discomfort of his LDS Seminary teachers, he subjected any religious proposition to analysis, particularly with reference to the complete scriptural context. By eighteen, he had read and made his own card index of the Old Testament and other Standard Works, had written independent studies of misconduct in Roman Catholic popes from Marcellinus to Leo XII and of unfaithfulness in LDS general authorities from Sidney Rigdon to Richard R. Lyman, had compared all proper names in the Book of Mormon with the Bible, and had conducted a line-by-line comparison of the 1830 and later editions of the Book of Mormon. "I will not accept any criticism of the Church on face value," this eighteen-year-old wrote in his personal journal, "but, instead, search and study (and if need be, pray) to find the truth."5 During these adolescent years, the young man not only prayed, but often went on food and water fasts of more than three days to draw close to the comfort, strength, and guidance of the Spirit as he confronted the difficulties of maturation at the same time he submerged himself in the intricacies or scriptural study and the diatribes of anti-Mormon literature. A few months before his nineteenth birthday, the young man wrote:
At present my evaluation of what I am going to have to do to be spiritually educated in the Gospel is to become extremely well acquainted with the Standard Works, Journal of Discourses, Times and Seasons, History of the Church, and the discourses and writings of the Prophets. It is a monumental task at this alone, which requires more than a cursory reading or even a single, very detailed reading of these materials. I can now see clearly, for really the first time, that such a task will take a lifetime to encounter, and longer to master...6
Over the next decade, a series of unforseen circumstances (which he now regards as divine intervention) caused him to abandon his life's ambition to become a medical physician, and in turn abandon his second-best decision to complete a doctorate in literature. Instead, after much prayer and soul-searching, he decided to turn his intense avocation of scriptural and Church history research into a life's work. He began graduate study in history, even though he had enrolled in only a couple of undergraduate history courses and had never taken a course in LDSChurch history. Since that time, this junior historian has played a minor role in the development of Mormon history writing since Leonard J. Arrington was appointed Church Historian in 1972. This young historian has spent a decade probing thousands of manuscript diaries and records of Church history that he never dreamed he would see. He has published a score of articles about LDSChurch history, several of which have been described as "controversial" by some people. He has always researched and written about Church history with a continual prayer for the Lord to guide him in knowing what to do and how to express things in such a way that they might be beneficial to the understanding of the Latter-day Saints. He would have been satisfied to have remained indefinitely on Leonard Arrington's staff, but be quit his position there to begin Ph.D. study at YaleUniversity. He did this only because he felt impressed that it was the Lord's will for him to do so. Although he had uprooted his family shortly after purchasing their first borne in order to go to Yale and although he had borrowed thousands or dollars in order to study there, he found himself ready to abandon his Ph.D. in the middle of writing his dissertation because be worried that it involved too many controversies condemning the LDS Church and its general authorities. He asked the Lord to tell him if he should stop writing something as controversial as his study of the pre-1933 general authorities had turned out to be, and he told the Lord that he would stop and even destroy his research if that was the Lord's will. He was in earnest and desired to listen to the Lord's will, not his own nor anyone else's. This faltering young historian obtained a spiritual witness that it was right to complete his dissertation despite the so-called "controversies" and "sensitive" areas of Church history with which it dealt, and he then asked for the courage and strength to face the criticisms and consequences that might result from those who were hostile to the kinds of things he was researching and writing. It is from this background that the present historian approaches recent criticisms concerning the writing of Mormon history by Latter-day Saints. We will proceed from smaller issues to more important issues concerning Sacred History, Secular History, Pluralistic History, Monistic History, and Accommodation History. Elder Benson has objected to Mormon historians' use of scholarly "expressions" and "terminology" in describing developments or characteristics of Mormon history. Among the terms he says "offend the Brethren and Church members" are "alleged," "experimental systems,""communal life," "communitarianism," and "Christian primitivism."7 Elder Benson prefers that Mormon historians use traditional Mormon terms and phrases even when Latter-day Saint historians are writing for scholarly, non-Mormon publications. One approach in responding to this criticism is to observe that many of the terms and phrases we Mormons use have highly specialized meanings unrecognizable to anyone but another Mormon. This either requires cumbersome explanations of what is essentially Mormon jargon or the substitution of words and phrases familiar to the rest of the English-speaking world. Historians usually adopt some combination of those two alternatives, just as do LDS missionaries who encounter blank stares as they casually use familiar Mormon terms in explaining the Church and Gospel to non-Mormons. If there is going to be any communication between Mormons and non-Mormons about the characteristics of the Church, then Mormons often have to use terms familiar to non-Mormons rather than traditional Mormon usages. There is no justification for this necessity being regarded as subversive when scholars do it and admirable when Mormon missionaries do it merely because the former may employ the scholarly terms of the general language whereas the latter employ conversational terms of the general language. Several of Elaer Benson's examples of offensive scholarly expressions are also virtually the same as phrases in earlier, official Church publications. "Christian primitivism" is simply another form of the phrase "the PrimitiveChurch" which appears in Joseph Smith's Sixth Article of Faith. In 1930, the First Presidency approved, copyrighted and published A Comprehensive History of the Church, which described the United Orders of Utah as having a "communistic character" and the first high school LDS seminary as being "in the nature of an experiment."8 It will be an awkward situation, indeed, if historians are expected to shun not only secular terminology in Mormon history, but also terms which had approval of the First Presidency in former times. Related to the above question of terminology is Boyd K. Packer's advice to historians not to publish or refer to sensitive or controversial items merely because they have already been published before. The criticism of "communistic-communal-communitarian" as applied to the Church's United Order of Enoch despite similar usage in previous official publications is a minor issue compared to the one Elder Packer raises. General authorities in recent years have criticized Mormon historians for republishing in Part or whole out-of-print Church publications such as the 1830 Book of Mormon, the Journal of Discourses (edited and published for thirty-two years under the auspices of the First Presidency), and statements taken from former Church magazines published for the children, youth, and general membership of the Church.9 It is an odd situation when present general authorities criticize historians for re-printing what previous general authorities regarded not only as faith-promoting but as appropriate for Mormon youth and the newest converts. Elder Packer specifically warns against historians using "the unworthy, the unsavory, or the sensational" from the Mormon past, merely because it has been previously published somewhere else, and be berates historians for their "exaggerated loyalty to the theory that everything must be told."10 But this raises the question or personal honesty and professional integrity. If a historian writes about any subject unrelated to religion, and he purposely fails to make reference to pertinent information of which be has knowledge, he is justifiably liable to be criticized for dishonesty. What is true outside the topic of religion is equally true in writing about religious history. That is the reason First Presidency Counselor J. Reuben Clark Jr. criticized Church historian B. H. Roberts and the seven-volume History of the Church. President Clark told a meeting of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in April l943:
The Documentary History of the Church unfortunately as printed does not contain all of the documentary history as it was written. Brother Roberts made some changes in it. We do not know always what the changes were or what they are, so that, as an absolute historical source, the printed Documentary History is not one that we can invariably rely upon. . . Brother Roberts' work is the work of an advocate and not of a judge, and you cannot always rely on what Brother Roberts say. Frequently he started out apparently to establish a certain thesis and he took his facts to support his thesis, and if some facts got in the way it was too bad, and they were omitted.11
It does disservice to the cause of the Church for Latter-day Saint historians to render themselves and the Church itself subject to justified criticism because they have ignored readily available and previously published materials in the writing of Mormon history. If such material is sensitive, controversial, unworthy, unsavory, or sensational, then it is a matter of the author's judgment of its importance whether the item should be quoted, paraphrased, or only referred to in a footnote. In connection with Elder Packer's counsel to avoid reference to previously published sensitivities, Elder Benson warns historians against environmental explanations of the background of revelations and developments in LDS history. Elder Benson gives as examples the discussion by historians of the American temperance movement in the 1830s as part of the circumstances out of which Joseph Smith obtained the revelation on the Word of Wisdom, and be referred to historians who explained the revelation on the three degrees of glory in terms of contemporary questions by American philosophers about the afterlife.12 Like the questions of previously published items, a historian writing about a non-religious subject would be considered inept at best and dishonest at worst if he described someone's innovation or contribution without discussing the significance of previously existing, similar contribution ideas of which the historical person was undoubtedly aware. If a Latter-day Saint historian discusses the revelation to Joseph Smith about abstinence from tobacco, strong drinks, and hot drinks, and then fails to note that during the 1830s religious reformers and social reformers were involved nationally in urging abstinence from these things, any reader has cause to criticize the historian's accuracy, to question his motives and to doubt any affirmation the historian might give to the revelation's truth. It is obvious that Elder Benson opposes those who might argue that Joseph Smith simply invented something be called a revelation that actually was a product of his own mind and of the contemporary culture and environment. Not only as a believing Latter-day Saint but also as a historian, I also oppose those who make such conclusions. One can acknowledge the influence of environment and contemporary circumstance, and still affirm the actuality of divine revelations like the Word of Wisdom that seem to relate directly to the contemporary environment. In Mormon doctrine, revelations come because of specific questions that individuals or prophets ask God, and those questions arise in the minds of prophets because of conditions they observe or experience. Without environmental influences or surrounding circumstances of significance to the prophet, there would be no revelations from God to the prophets. And the changing circumstances and environment of the world are the very reasons Latter-day Saints affirm that there must be living prophets on the earth to respond with the word of the Lord to the new circumstances. If we write Mormon history as though its revelations and developments occurred without any reference to surrounding circumstances, we undermine the claims for the Restoration of living prophets. This is one of many areas in Mormon history writing where an alleged defense is actually a disservice to the Saints. In a more precise discussion of Elder Benson's concern about environmental explanations of Joseph Smith's revelations, Boyd K. Packer warns Mormon historians: "There is no such thing as an accurate, objective history of the Church without consideration of the spiritual powers that attend this work. . .without consideration of spiritual guidance, of discernment, and of revelation. That is not scholarship."13 I agree with him fully, but (particularly with rererence to Latter-day Saint historians) Elder Packer has created an enemy that does not exist. It is impossible for even an atheist to write about Joseph Smith or Spencer We Kimball without acknowledging that they claim to be prophets of God, that they have made pronouncements in the name of God, and that they have proclaimed specific documents to be divine instructions given by revelation from God. True, a writer can express a tone of ridicule or affirmation, hostility or sympathy, detachment or advocacy when writing about such prophetic claims, but no reputable historian (least of all a believing Latter-day Saint) excludes consideration of the spiritual dimension in writing about men like Joseph Smith. Influenced by Freud or other theorists, historians may give alternative explanations for Joseph Smith and other prophets, but they must also acknowledge the prophetic claims of these men. Professor Louis Midgley's central criticism of Mormon historians is that their writings about Joseph Smith do not positively affirm to the world their personal testimonies that be was God's prophet, and Ezra Taft Benson seems to indicate this same expectation when be says, "We would hope that if you feel you must write for the scholarly journals, you always defend the faith.14 But why is it necessary for Latter-day Saint historians to do more than the writers of Sacred History did when they simply stated that Moses and tbe other prophets said, "Hear ye the word of the Lord?" Boyd K. Packer himself once counseled an LDS Seminary teacher to use the words "The latter-day Saints believe" and "they claim" in his Ph.D. dissertation, rather than portraying the spiritual experiences as facts.15 Most Latter-day Saint historians simply report that Joseph Smith said be saw God and Jesus Christ, and that he announced numerous communications as direct revelations from God. Occasionally, a Mormon historian writing to a general audience (primarily non-Mormon) may also suggest alternative explanations for the prophetic claims, without stating the historian's own beliefs about what is inevitably a question of personal faith. Skeptics are often unmoved by the most ardent personal testimonies, and earnest inquirers have occasionally been converted to the Church after learning about it from anti-Mormon publications. It is inconceivable to me that a Latter-day Saint with a personal testimony would begin to lose that testimony simply because he or she read a publication by a Mormon historian who reported the revelations of Joseph Smith without including the historian's personal testimony of the truth of those revelations. That kind of scholarly detachment does not threaten testimony and is not subversive to the Church. Central to the above criticisms by Elders Benson and Packer and by Professor Louis Midgley is their assertion that Mormon historians have adopted the assumptions of secular scholarship and have abandoned the verities of the Spirit in their presentation of Mormon history. Ezra Taft Benson speaks "of this trend, which seems to be an effort to reinterpret the history of the Church so that it is more rationally appealing to the world." Boyd K. Packer warns against the tendency for Mormon academics, and historians in particular, "to begin to judge the Church, its doctrines, organization, and leadership, present and past, by the principles of their own profession," and Professor Louis Midgley writes that "it is now possible to find historians functioning within the Church defending the proposition that the Restored Gospel must be studied and evaluated entirely with what they choose to call the 'naturalistic assumptions' of certain wholly secularized professional historians."16 In other words, they accuse Mormon historians of writing to accommodate non-Mormon assumptions. This involves the distinction between monistic history and pluralistic history. As used here, monistic history refers to the willingness of a historian to consider only one explanation for historical developments, and pluralistic history refers to the willingness of a historian to consider more than one explanation. The former is closed and the latter is opon. Elders Benson and Packer and Professor Midgley demand that interpreters of Mormon history be "open" to the spiritual dimension of revelation and prophetic identity in Mormon history, rather than simply dismissing out of hand the possibility of divine revelation and prophetic calling. But in reality, they are not asking for a pluralist interpretation of Mormonism. They are asking that any interpreter simply change the monistic category of Joseph Smith as fraud, or religious genius, or personality disorder, for the equally monistic interpretation that Joseph Smith was a divine prophet. If asked to give a categorical definition of Joseph Smith, (and virtually every other Latter-day Saint historian would say that be was a divinely-called prophet of God, but in all honesty we must also acknowledge that other reasonable, honest, and conscientious interpretations are also possible. Moreover, the requirement for a monistic interpretation of Mormon history does not stop with categories of definition, but also extends into process. For example, Boyd K. Packer demands that Mormon historians demonstrate and affirm that "the hand of the Lord [has been] in every hour and every moment of the Church from its beginning till now."17 This would require a single, monistic explanation for every event in Mormon history, but there are compelling reasons why Mormons ought to be willing to consider alternative explanations within Mormon history. Personally, I am not willing to simply say that "the band of the Lord" is a sufficient explanation for all the events and developments in the Mormon past, and there is profound Scriptural precedent for being willing to consider pluralistic explanations for even the most crucial events in Mormon history. One of the most inportant developments in the Sacred History of the Book of Mormon was the destruction of the nephite people, yet the prophet-writers of that history suggested several different causes: adultery,18 fornication,19 the Gadianton Band of Robbers,20 secret combinations in general,21 unrighteous lawyers and judges,22 or pride.23 Although some of these explanations are interrelated, others of these historical interpretations in Book of Mormon Sacred History are distinct. If we were to adopt secular terms to describe these explanations by prophet-historians, we could substitute moral disintegration, social disorganization, political discontinuity, and socio-economic disparity. Which of the various historical explanations within the Book of Mormon is the "true" or "real" reason for the decline of the Nephite civilization? I don't know, and apparently the historian-prophets who wrote the record didn't know, either. But they felt an obligation to examine the evidence, reflect upon it, and offer the best explanation or interpretations they could. In like manner, Mormon historians may share the convictions of the Nephite prophets and Boyd K. Packer that the "hand of the Lord" operates throughout history and that "His purposes fail not," but they also have an obligation to examine the evidence, reflect upon it, and offer the best interpretations they can for what has occurred in Mormon history. The human record is characterized by complexity, both in the Book of Mormon peoples and in Latter-day Saints. There is nothing subversive about interpreting these developments from different points of view, even perspectives of understanding in secular disciplines. A more serious problem of Mormon history is involved in the implications of Boyd K. Packer's demand that historians demonstrate that "the hand of the Lord [has been] in every hour and every moment of the church from its beginning till now." Every Mormon historian agrees with Ezra Taft Benson that "we must never forget that ours is a prophetic history,"24 but there are serious problems in the assertion or implication that this prophetic history of Mormonism requires "the hand of the Lord" in every decision, statement, and action of the prophets. This is a far larger question than the historical exploration of environmental backgrounds to decisions and revelations or the application of secular understanding to explain specific events in religious history. Central to the apparent demands of Elders Benson and Packer is the view that the official acts and pronouncements of the prophets are always the express will of God. This is the Mormon equivalent of the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility. The Catholic dogma of infallibility is not that the pope is incapable of human weaknesses, but that his statements and decisions are infallible in all matters of faith and morals. It was not until 1870 that Roman Catholicism officially adopted the infallibility doctrine, and the Mormon Church would have to dispense with some of its fundamental doctrines in order to adopt a position of prophetic infallibility. The LDS doctrine of free agency is central to the entire Mormon view of existence in time and eternity, and that doctrine is incompatible with the view that a Latter-day Saint is free to make mistakes in what he says and does until he becomes a prophet. If a prophet is incapable to personal opinion, human limitation, and error in his decisions and statements, then that prophet has no free agency as a prophet and personal responsibility. If an LDS prophet is incapable of making mistakes in his prophetic calling, then he is the only Latter-day Saint who is excused from "rendering an accounting of his stewardship unto God," as required in the firm doctrine of each individual's absolute responsibility for his own actions and for the callings given to tbe individual by God on earth. The Apostle Paul wrote authoritatively to the Saints, but noted that "I speak this by permission, and not of commandment." Although the Book of Mormon was written, preserved, and translated by prophets of God, the title page declares, "And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men." A Book of Mormon prophet expressed his "opinion" about doctrines only partially revealed to him. Joseph Smith specifically denied that everything a prophet said was the word of the Lord, and affirmed, "A prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such." When J. Reuben Clark announced a decision of the First Presidency to a general conference in 1940, President Clark observed, "We are not infallible in our judgment, and we err, but our constant prayer is that the Lord will guide us in our decisions, and we are trying so to live that our minds will be open to His inspiration." To the Church Seminary and Institute teachers in 1954, President Clark also declared that "even the President of the Church has not always spoken under the direction of the Holy Ghost."25 Mormon historians would be false to their understanding of LDS doctrine, the Sacred History of the Scriptures, the realities of human conduct, and the documentary evidence of Mormonism if they sought to defend the proposition that LDS prophets were infallible in their decisions and statements. Moreover, it would be hardly less false to allow readers of Mormon history to draw the conclusion that LDS prophets were infallible in their statements and decisions, because the Mormon historian presented Church history as though every decision and statement came as the result of direct revelation to the prophet. Therefore, the Mormon historian has both a religious and professional obligation not to conceal the ambivalence, debate, give-and-take, uncertainty, and simple pragmatism that often attend decisions of the prophet and First Presidency, and not to conceal the limitations, errors, and negative consequences of some significant statements of the prophet and First Presidency. In like manner, however, the Mormon historian would be equally false if he failed to report the inspiration, visions, revelations, and solemn testimonies that have also attended prophetic decisions and statements throughout Mormon history. A few critics have been more specific in their criticism of Mormon historians who portray the human frailties of LDS leaders. Ezra Taft Benson observes that Mormon historians tend "to inordinately humanize the prophets of God so that their human frailties become more evident than their spiritual qualities." and Boyd K. Packer has recently made the following comments about a Mormon historian's talk:
What that historian did with the reputation of the President of the Church was not worth doing. He seemed determined to convince everyone that the prophet was a man. We knew that already. All of the prophets and all of the Apostles have been men. It would have been much more worthwhile for him to have convinced us that the man was a prophet; a fact quite as true as the fact that be was a man. He has taken something away from the memory of a prophet. He has destroyed faith.26
This is, in part, related to the infallibility question. Elder Packer criticizes historians for eliminating the spiritual dimension from their studies of prophets, and he accuses such historians of distortion for failing to deal with such a fundamental characteristic. Yet Elders Benson and Packer also demand that historians omit any reference to human frailty (aside from physical problems, I suppose) in studies of LDS leaders, and emphasize only the spiritual dimension. Elder Packer quite rightly observes that omitting the spiritual, revelatory dimension from the life of a Church leader would also deny the existence of the spiritual and revelatory, but it is equally true that omitting reference to human weaknesses, faults, and limitations from the life of a prophet is also a virtual denial of the existence of human weaknesses and fallibility in the prophet. Must Church history writing portray LDS leaders as infallible, both as leaders and as men? This is not the Sacred History we know. Sacred History (which is contained in the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price) is an absolute refutation of the kind of history Elders Benson and Packer seem to be advocating. Sacred History presents the prophets and apostles as the most human of men who have been called by God to prophetic responsibility. Sacred History portrays the spiritual dimensions and achievements of God's leaders as facts, but Sacred History also matter-of-factly demonstrates the weaknesses of God's leaders. Examples are the scriptural accounts of Abraham's abandonment of his wife Hagar and son Ishmael, Noah's drunkenness, Lot's incest, Moses' arrogance, Jonah's vacillation, Peter's impetuosity and cowardice, Peter and Paul's mutual criticism, Lehi's doubt, Alma the Elder's former whoredoms, Alma the Younger's former apostasy, and the progression of Corianton from adulterous missionary, through repentance, to one of the three presiding high priests of the Church among the Nephites. Moreover, the Doctrine and Covenants contains frequent condemnations of Joseph Smith by the Lord. Sacred History affirms the reality of divine revelation and inspiration, but also matter-of-factly demonstrates that God's leaders often disagree and do not always follow His revelations consistently. An example is Peter's continued shunning of Gentiles despite his revelation at Joppa, for which Paul publicly condemned him. According to the standards of history apparently required by Ezra Taft Benson and Boyd K. Packer, such a writer of Scriptural Sacred History is suspect at best and faith-destroying at worst. To use Elder Packer's words, "instead of going up to where [God's leaders] were, he devised a way of collecting mistakes and weaknesses and limitations to compare with his own. In that sense he has attempted to bring a historical figure down to his level and in that way feel close to him and perhaps to justify his own weaknesses."27 Sacred History presents God's leaders as understandable human beings with whom the reader can identify because of their weaknesses at the same time he reveres the prophetic mantle. Sacred History enriches the lives of the readers by encouraging them to identify and empathize with fallible, human prophets, rather than discouraging them by presenting the prophets as otherworldly personages for whom the reader can feel only awe and adoration. A young contemporary of Joseph Smith expressed the importance of identifying with fallible prophets in this way: "I saw Joseph Smith the Prophet do things which I did not approve of; and yet... I thanked God that he would put upon a man who had these imperfections the power and autbority which be placed upon him... for I knew I myself had weaknesses and I thought there was a chance for me." This young man, Lorenzo Snow eventually became an apostle and president of the LDS Church.28 The recent biography of Spencer W. Kimball is virtually Sacred History in its presentation of a loveably human prophet of God, whereas the Mormon History of benignly angelic Church leaders apparently advocated by Elders Benson and Packer would border on idolatry. Ezra Taft Benson, Boyd K. Packer, and Professor Midgley accuse Mormon historians of writing Church history to accommodate non-Mormon scholarship, but Elder Packer, in particular, advocates another type of Accommodation History. He assaults the philosophy and conduct of Mormon historians because their objective Church history "may unwittingly be giving 'equal time' to the adversary," and because such history "may be read by those not mature enough for 'advanced history' and a testimony in seedling stage may be crushed."29 In regard to this latter point, he takes historians to task for being "so willing to ignore" the necessity for teaching fundamentals before presenting advanced information, and Elder Packer observes that "teaching some things that are true prematurely or at the wrong time, can invite sorrow and heartbreak instead of the joy intended to accompany learning."30 But Boyd K. Packer is not advocating the gradual exposure of the Saints to historical truth. He excludes that possibility by warning historians against publishing objective history even in professional journals that "go far beyond the audience that they have intended, and destroy faith," and he assails Mormon historians who "want to tell everything whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not."31 Elder Packer is not advocating Paul's dictum of milk before meat,32 but he demands that Mormon historians provide only a church history diet of milk to Latter~day Saints of whatever experience. No historian has the kind of insensitivity for prerequisites that Elder Packer accuses us of, and I am personally very sensitive to the need to reassure and cushion the Saints due to the fact that half my own family are Catholics, several are recent converts, and others are inactive members of long standing. But a diet of milk alone will stunt the growth of, if not kill, any child. Aside from urging the kind of Church history that would not surprise or offend even the newest convert, Boyd K. Packer urges that historians write Church history from a siege mentality to deny any information that enemies of the Church could possibly use to criticize the Church. By this standard, most of the Old Testament, the Gospel of John, many of Paul's epistles, and the Book of Revelation would never be approved for inclusion in the Bible. Moreover, at the very time the Romans were persecuting and martyring the early Christians (to an extent never equaled in Mormonism), the New Testament writers were including candid discussions of Peter's foibles, disagreements between the apostles, and apostolic condemnations of whole communities of Christians. In mid-nineteenth century, when the Mormons were generally hated and persecuted and were routinely attacked in the public press, President Brigham Young and other LDS leaders published sermons which spoke quite openly about Joseph Smith's weaknesses at the same time they testified of his prophetic calling. Why does the well-established and generally respected Mormon Church today need a protective, defensive, paranoid approach to its history that the actually embattled earlier Saints did not employ?
Using advanced scientific mind control techniques, we believe the CIA/LDS MKUltra mind controllers at the direction of the false Prophet planted Michael Quinn with the belief of his being homosexual in order to further discredit him because of the historical truths that he reveals. Please observe the homosexual activities implanted and used in the mind control process to undermine Christian beliefs. Drug use has also been "seeded" by these same perpa-Traitors.
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