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Gospel Topics Review (Intro) Part 3

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever
The Truth Network Radio
April 6, 2021 9:55 pm

Gospel Topics Review (Intro) Part 3

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever

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April 6, 2021 9:55 pm

This week we introduce a book review that we will do for the next three months, as each of the original 13 essays are covered in a book put out by Signature. For more on the Gospel Topics Essays, we invite you to visit

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Viewpoint on Mormonism, the program that examines the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from a biblical perspective. Viewpoint on Mormonism is sponsored by Mormonism Research Ministry. Since 1979, Mormonism Research Ministry has been dedicated to equipping the body of Christ with answers regarding the Christian faith in a manner that expresses gentleness and respect. And now your host for today's Viewpoint on Mormonism.

Who is Hans Mattson and what was the Swedish rescue? Welcome to this edition of Viewpoint on Mormonism. I'm your host, Bill McKeever, founder and director of Mormonism Research Ministry, and with me today is Eric Johnson, my colleague at MRM. We are looking at a book titled the LDS Gospel Topics Series, a scholarly engagement.

This is a book that came out in late 2020, published by Signature Books, and as we've mentioned earlier in this series, Signature Books is known for publishing books that, well, let's put it this way, some would say very controversial. They are not known for printing whitewashed histories. They have no problem with publishing Mormon history that has all the warts involved.

It may make some past leaders look not very good, but they're not afraid to do that. That has certainly upset some faithful Latter-day Saints, but I think that's what gives a lot of the books published by Signature the strength that they have, because George D. Smith, one of the co-founders of Signature Books, was not afraid to do that. He wanted to do that, and as I mentioned earlier, had the LDS Church followed that kind of direction, in other words, printing a history that had all of their leaders' foibles and all of their mistakes and all of their errors even, I don't think the LDS Church would be in the situation that it is today. I don't think that they would have had to have even come up with these Gospel Topics essays that we are discussing right now, and this book probably would have never needed to be published. George D. Smith saw something, unfortunately folks, for the LDS Church that they didn't follow.

Had they followed George D. Smith's design of printing the history, no matter what it said, they wouldn't be in the mess that they are today. And wouldn't you say a lot of this comes because of the public relations mindset of the Church? Because Mormon leaders are very much concerned about its image and how they stand up in front of General Conference, and everybody stands up when they walk in, there's a hush, and I think they like that. I think they like the power, and so to create any kind of controversy by delving into the actual history of the Church and producing that information so that the people can understand is not something that they have encouraged ever in their history until these last few years. The introduction of this book gives you the background as to what took place up until the eventual public publishing of the Gospel Topics essays.

And as we mentioned in yesterday's show, it really goes back to a meeting that took place in November of 2010 in Stockholm, Sweden. This meeting was requested, as the book says, by a well-respected Swedish Latter-day Saint named Hans Mattson, a one-time, quote, area authority 70, end quote, for the LDS Church in Europe. It says that Mattson expressed alarm concerning certain controversial LDS teachings discovered on the internet. He's quoted as saying, I felt like I had an earthquake under my feet. Everything I'd been taught, everything I'd been proud to preach about and witness about, just crumbled under my feet.

It was such a terrible, psychological, and nearly physical disturbance. So as a result of what Hans Mattson went through regarding his own personal faith, he had, you might say, the influence in Stockholm, Sweden to be able to have two Mormon historians come and address some of these concerns. As the book says, these two men would be Marlin K. Jensen and assistant church historian Richard E. Turley.

Marlin Jensen was not only the church historian, but he's also a general authority. So I would say if you're going to have two people come and address some of the concerns you may have, it would probably be Marlin K. Jensen and Richard Turley and their knowledge of LDS history, and we assume their knowledge of LDS doctrine. As the book points out on page two, that this meeting, this fireside as they call it, quickly turned testy. And even though they opened up with prayer and gave their testimony immediately, someone in the crowd wanted to get right into the questions. I guess they weren't really there to listen to long flowing testimonies about the LDS church and its truthfulness. And so the book goes on to say on page two, Jensen and Turley, well aware of the crisis at hand, had been previously apprised of some of the questions the Swedes might ask.

It goes on and says, they brought a handout recommending five websites favorable to the church and implored the participants to spend more time on these faith affirming sites rather than on anti-Mormon websites. They further stated that senior church apostle Boyd K. Packer had directed the church history department to put together a committee to create answers to difficult gospel questions in what would later be called the gospel topics essays. Quote, we are working on those now, Jensen stated, and we're also giving thought to how we will disseminate these answers to the world, but we'll give you our best answers. We wanted you to know tonight, there are answers, end quote. The next paragraph goes on to say though, that the answers could not come fast enough. A year after Turley and Jensen met with Swedish Latter-day Saints, Travis Stratford, now I should mention Stratford is mentioned in the acknowledgements of this book.

It says, many people made this volume possible. First and foremost is Travis Stratford of New York City, who graciously shared his experiences behind the scenes, encouraging officials of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to release the gospel topics essays. Page three describes Travis Stratford. He was a middle-aged brand strategist from New York City, was experiencing a faith crisis of his own. Having served an LDS proselytizing mission in Sweden, graduated from LDS own Brigham Young University, and married in the LDS temple, Stratford had come of age in an Orthodox LDS environment. But over the years, his faith had wavered, affected by website he discovered discussing and challenging LDS truth claims. After learning about the Swedish rescue fireside, he contacted Madsen, hoping for a collaborative effort to use his research skills and Madsen's connections to help the brethren understand how faith crisis is destroying LDS families. And we should mention that phrase, to help the brethren understand how faith crisis is destroying families, LDS families in brackets. That is in quotation marks. And that was an issue that was going on.

It still is going on, but it was certainly going on at this time. In May, 2011, Madsen scheduled a meeting with Marlon Jensen, perceiving him as, quote, the most qualified to understand the issue, end quote. With the Swedish fireside still fresh on his mind, Jensen agreed to meet with Madsen and Stratford in New York City in October of that year. Included in the discussion was LDS scholar Gregory A.

Prince. Jensen attended with the blessing of Apostle Packer. Now it's interesting. They're getting the blessing of Boyd Packer, who's an apostle at this time. So you could say there's a bit of officiality to this meeting.

This isn't being done in a dark room in a restaurant somewhere. This actually has the permission of a general authority to be able to discuss these matters. Notice, though, the date when this meeting takes place. May of 2011.

The Swedish rescue took place in November of 2010. So we're about five months away, and this is still an issue that needs to be pursued. And Hans Madsen is a part of this, as well as this gentleman by the name of Travis Stratford. It goes on and says in preparation for the meeting, Stratford compiled data to present to Jensen. He asked his friend John Delenn to assemble a team of LDS professionals to conduct a qualitative ethnographic survey on why Mormons question. Delenn, a therapist in training, specialized in navigating LDS faith crises. And he's the one today who runs the podcast Mormon Stories, goes on and says the team surveyed several thousand disaffected Latter-day Saints receiving 3,086 responses. Though not strictly scientific, the survey revealed that Latter-day Saints became disaffected due to a loss of belief in LDS doctrine and theology. Many respondents question the prophetic role of Joseph Smith, founder of the LDS church, and the Book of Mormon as a divine text.

A significant number of respondents question the translation of the Book of Abraham, LDS teachings on polygamy, blacks in the priesthood, DNA and Book of Mormon peoples, and quasi-Masonic aspects of the LDS temple endowment ceremony. Now Bill, let me ask you this question. How are people finding out all about these things at this time in history? Well, it's the internet. The internet has become huge. And so it wasn't a problem back in the nineties.

It wasn't before the 1990s. And then as the internet becomes more and more popular and the iPhone comes out in 2007 and information is now at your fingertips, now the people are able to access websites like, which has been around since 1995. And they're able to see the information that their church has not been publishing for the public to see. It goes on on page four to say that John Delin's research, which was eventually published on the internet in March 2012, represented the first systematic effort within the LDS church to quantify why individual Latter-day Saints were experiencing a faith crisis. And the next sentence I thought was telling, Eric, where it goes on to say, notably his work challenged the popular perception that Latter-day Saints became disaffected largely because of sin, pride, spiritual inertia, or personal conflicts with leadership. How many times have we heard that from Latter-day Saints? They will usually blow off the testimonies of those who have left the church by assuming, well, there must have been sin in their life, or they just couldn't get along with the leaders who were telling them to straighten up. We've heard Latter-day Saints say things like that.

Or even somebody must have hurt you. Those seem to be the three biggest reasons that people used to say why somebody could not stay a Latter-day Saint. The paragraph goes on to say the study showed convincingly that Latter-day Saints tended to leave due to a crisis of faith triggered by controversial aspects of church history and doctrine compounded by official attempts to minimize or obfuscate. What that really means, folks, is a lot of times when a member had questions, they were told, well, that comes from an anti-Mormon source or that comes from a questionable source. You shouldn't be reading that. Just ignore it.

Just pray about it. You don't need to look any deeper into this. And that strategy backfired big time.

It did. It says in the next paragraph that at the New York City meeting, Jensen, this would be Marlon K. Jensen, church historian, expressed shock at the survey's findings. Why Mormon's question indicated a much more extensive faith crisis than Jensen initially believed. But more important, the crisis affected well-educated LDS professionals, quote, our best and our brightest, end quote, are leaving the church, Jensen noted, prompting him to call for reconciliation strategies to remedy the problem. This is what's going to eventually lead to these Gospel topics essays. We hope you will join us again as we look at another viewpoint on Mormonism.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-04 10:07:16 / 2023-12-04 10:12:18 / 5

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