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. 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. This week we began looking at a book that was published in late 2020. It's titled the LDS Gospel Topics Series, a Scholarly Engagement. It includes a number of chapters written by various authors who tackle the individual Gospel Topics essays, 13 of which came out originally beginning in the year 2013. To better understand the Gospel Topics essays, it's good to also understand why these essays had to be published in the first place. Eric, from what we talked about so far this week, we know that the essays tackle a lot of the controversial issues of LDS doctrine in history. It seems like for them to come out beginning in 2013 is a long ways away from the beginning of the church in 1830. Why does it take the LDS church so long to address some of these issues?
I think that's a fair question. A point I brought up earlier this week is this book published by Signature and a man who is the co-founder of Signature Books, George D. Smith, had a mission goal of publishing books about Mormon history as honestly as possible, even if it did not put LDS leaders or the LDS church itself in a positive light. George Smith had the attitude that history should be accurate and include all of the negative as well as the positive aspects of what goes on in the LDS church. The point I've been trying to make, and I think is important, if the LDS church had that goal from the very beginning, going clear back to the 1800s, I don't think they would have ever been compelled to come up with the Gospel Topics essays and try to explain its history, which of course came across as quite shocking to even many faithful Latter-day Saints when they started reading the essays and found out what the church was admitting to because they had been led to believe, many of them, that a lot of the things in the essays that the church is now agreeing to were nothing more than just lies by enemies of the church. But when you have an authoritarian type of government that the church has with its prophet and its apostles at the top leadership, as we said yesterday, very much a public relations organization, but it's no different than many other churches or religions out there. One that comes to mind would be the Jehovah's Witnesses. How many Jehovah's Witnesses, members of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, know its true history? And when you're talking to a Jehovah's Witness at the door and mention some of the things, many of them don't even know that the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society predicted that Jesus was going to come back several different times, the latest in 1975. For many of them, it's new information. Well, this is a problem because when your members start to find out this information through the internet, they start to ask questions and they're not getting good answers to those questions.
They're getting frightened and many of them decide, why would I want to stay with the religion that doesn't have honesty as a policy? And I think what you bring out is probably what a lot of the people were thinking at what we've discussed this week, an event known as the Swedish Rescue. You had two Mormon historians go to Stockholm, Sweden. This was requested by an area authority 70, a man by the name of Hans Mattson, who himself was being pelted by questions of those underneath him regarding history and doctrinal issues that these members were finding on the internet. As I understand Mattson's story, he tried to get answers for these people and was basically told, just ignore it.
You know, it's not all that important. That's just the enemy making up lies. But as he started looking into some of these concerns, he realized these were valid concerns.
This led to the Swedish Rescue in November of 2010. The book talks about that. But it also mentions research that was done by a man by the name of John de Linn. John de Linn had taken a survey trying to find out what is it that's causing a lot of these individuals to have what he calls a faith crisis. And as the book brings out, and we noted yesterday, it says that, notably, his work, de Linn's work, challenged the popular perception that Latter-day Saints became disaffected largely because of sin, pride, spiritual inertia, or public conflicts with leadership. 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. I probably would have included the word intimidate as well, because we've heard stories of Latter-day Saints when they went to their bishop, for instance, and being told, you shouldn't be looking at that stuff. That's spiritual pornography to go read things like that about the church.
That's intimidation. And we know that a lot of Latter-day Saints experienced that as well. Well, John de Linn comes in contact with a man by the name of Travis Stratford. And as the book explained, it was Stratford who really encouraged the leadership to publish these Gospel Topics essays.
So he plays a pretty major role in this. There were reports, there were surveys showing what was going on in the church. And then on page six, it talks about how these stories started to circulate on the internet, and how Stratford met with a dozen or so officials at church headquarters in February 2012 to present data from de Linn's survey and to discuss the impact of faith crisis on LDS families. The information is starting to get out.
The internet is going to make it impossible for this genie to be put back in the bottle. The church is going to have to do something about it. And at this meeting that it talks about in February 2012, now remember, folks, look at the timeline, the Swedish rescue took place in November, late November 2010. We are now February 2012. And the church has basically done nothing about these surveys that John de Linn has put together or research that Travis Stratford has put together.
Basically they're sitting on it. And the book talks about that when it says that at this meeting in February of 2012, where de Linn's survey was to be discussed, it says that apostles L. Tom Perry and Quentin L. Cook were present as well. But what does it say about this bureaucratic inertia, Eric? It says, coupled with the anxieties of certain church leaders, stalled progress for a year seeking to push the progress forward Stratford with Jensen's support, put together a hardbound report of the faith crisis findings, which included data from de Linn's survey and the PowerPoint presentations he made in Salt Lake City. We should mention that the Jensen is Marlin K. Jensen. He was one of the historians that was present at the Swedish rescue. He and Richard Turley were there to answer questions that members in Stockholm, Sweden had regarding LDS history and doctrine.
Now what's interesting is on page seven, what does it say at the top? The LDS faith crisis report presented significant challenges to the church's top leadership. It called the church to be more open and honest about its history and doctrine, warning that quote, unless bold measures are taken to treat those in faith crisis and to mitigate the challenge for future generations, significantly more LDS families will become impaired and the future success of the church will be put at risk end quote. Going back to what we've talked about earlier this week, if the church had been honest from the beginning, this would not even be an issue. It's because the LDS church decided to go down the road of an airbrushed history that we are seeing this problem. There's no way the church can hide this anymore. The internet has made it impossible.
Let me just give you a quick example of what we're talking about. In February of 2001, the church had the Ensign magazine front cover with Joseph Smith looking at the gold plates with his finger going across as if he's reading the plates. That's in 2001. Well, just a little over a decade later, they admitted that he wasn't just looking at the plates, but that he was looking at a stone in a hat. That's how today, if you see church art, they actually portray Joseph Smith looking into a hat or as if he just looked into a hat. That blew a lot of people away in the Latter-day Saint church because they're thinking, I always thought that he had the place. Well, no, they were covered up and that was historical and that was out there.
People had access to that if they wanted to find it, but now the church has admitted to that, and I know of people personally who left because of that. And how many times had we personally talked to Latter-day Saints when we bring up the translation process of the Book of Mormon, which is a chapter in this book, they looked at us as if we were lying. Well, then you had eventually 17th President Russell M. Nelson. He did talk about the rock and the hat, but it was kind of like a blip in their history. He mentions it and then you never really hear about that again for a long time. And then you do have Dr. Daniel Peterson, a Mormon apologist, a professor at BYU. He does mention it. That was in Helen Whitney's series on PBS called The Mormons. He mentions it there, but again, it's not something that's being said over and over.
So I would assume the masses are not gathering that information and remembering it as time goes on. Let me read one more paragraph on page seven. It says, Stratford's report laid bare.
What was at stake? There's a significant chasm between correlated hagiographic church history and LDS books and manuals and unfiltered, less than edifying accounts on the internet. Certain leaders responded to the faith crisis report, skeptically declining to admit what seemed obvious to others. The internet was causing the church to lose control over its narrative. In particular, Apostle Cook, that's Quentin L. Cook warned Latter-day Saints about the dangers of using the internet to research church history. Cook addressed the issue in an LDS general conference sermon in October, 2012, some six months after receiving a copy of Stratford's presentation. He stated, quote, some have immersed themselves in internet materials that magnify, exaggerate, and in some cases, invent shortcomings of early church leaders and quote, further warning that church members could quote, draw incorrect conclusions that can affect testimony end quote. Cook counseled, quote, any who have made these choices can repent and be spiritually renewed end quote. Why is this significant? Well, as it says, Cook was one of those general authorities that was at this meeting in February of 2012.
In October of 2012, he gives this conference message. Here's that intimidation that I was talking about, being that I'm reading these quotations that seem to come from the church, at least from some documents that the church has produced, and I'm struggling with this. And what are they being told? Well, here's a general authority, a Mormon apostle in the church, in general conference telling those people who have done this kind of research and are troubled by it, that they need to repent. They need to repent for reading what probably amounts to nothing more than citations from LDS church history. Quentin L. Cook is supposed to be a Mormon apostle, and he doesn't seem to have the discernment to see that this is a real issue that needs to be tackled. Thank you for listening. If you would like more information regarding Mormonism Research Ministry, we encourage you to visit our website at www.mrm.org, where you can request our free newsletter, Mormonism Researched. We hope you will join us again as we look at another viewpoint on Mormonism.
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