Saturday, August 2, 2008

Elder Oaks' Counsel About Church History Reported by the Media

Recently Elder Oaks spoke at the Amasa Lyman Exposition in Salt Lake City and delivered a talk following the text of a talk he gave in 1985 regarding the Mark Hofmann letters, as reported by Mormon Times.

With the emergence of biographies of early church history and documents purporting to be the product of early church leaders, Elder Oaks reaffirmed his suggestions from 1985 when researching LDS history as reported by the media.

1) Scientific Uncertainties - "Most of the news media go to their readers or viewers on a daily or hourly basis, often under great pressure to scoop their competition. As a result, they frequently cannot obtain irrefutable scientific verification of the facts they will report."

While not directly related to science, one need only look at the recent media coverage of the LDS Missionary Calendar and the creator who was disciplined (see here).

2) Lack of Context - "An individual historical fact has meaning only in relation to other events. Outside that context, a single fact is almost certain to convey an erroneous impression. As a result, when the media report historical facts, they may provide information, but they rarely provide illumination."

Mountain Meadows comes to mind when thinking of this. Whenever this is reported on, few media outlets and even "scholarly" writings take into the context of the relationship between Utah and the Federal Government in the 1850's. Brigham Young certainly inflamed the situation with his rhetoric, but by that time I believe that LDS had a reason to be paranoid after being driven from two states and subject to Johnson's army.

3) Bias - This seems pretty obvious. Whether they intend to be or not, media is biased and has a difficult time staying objective. Even if there is no political bias, usually a media outlet will have be willing to sensationalize an item for the purpose of making money and that seems to be to make a bias towards focusing on the weird.

4) Balance - Use your head here. At least try and tell both sides. Bushman is a great example of a faithful historian who tried to look at the perspective of our enemies to see what upset them. Usually the truth is somewhere in the middle.

5)Truths and Half-truths - "A lie is most effective when it can travel incognito in good company, or when it can be so intermarried with the truth that we cannot determine its lineage." I think that context comes into play here as well.

For a great example of something true, taken out of context and used to prove another point, see here.

6) Evaluate - I think that the lawyer in Elder Oaks would like to say "analyze". Essentially he says that we have intellectual and spiritual analyses that we need to go through. Of course we refer to thinking the issues through and then praying about it to receive a witness from the Holy Ghost. Caveat: Evangelists beware, we do rely on the Spirit to confirm truth. As Jeremy learned last week, we should not rely on the Holy Ghost but the Bible (how one comes to the conclusion that the Bible is then true is still not clear to me).

Elder Oaks then makes an interesting comment about those who come to the intellectual conclusion that the church is incorrect:

"Evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed is in a class by itself. It is one thing to depreciate a person who exercises corporate power or even government power. It is quite another thing to criticize or depreciate a person for the performance of an office to which he or she has been called of God. It does not matter that the criticism is true."

Interesting to see that during this talk I suppose. However, when recently reading through Bryce's blog and his post of priesthood keys in the Book of Mormon, I came across this comment by spektator. All I have to say is "Holy Ark Steadying Batman!"


Bryce Haymond said...

I love this quote:

"A lie is most effective when it can travel incognito in good company, or when it can be so intermarried with the truth that we cannot determine its lineage."

I have had to combat this quite a bit recently, and I see many swimming in these kinds of lies recently. It will probably only get worse. Consider this terribly erroneous view of the redemption of the dead that I had to fight over with a couple faithful guys the other day. One of them said:

"Add to the died-before-age-of-accountability number, those who died without hearing the gospel (who, also according to LDS scripture, are pretty much guaranteed entrance to the Celestial Kingdom), then Mormons will be a 'super-minority'."

Can you see the error here? For some it might be hard to detect, but it is incredibly false, on multiple counts. Even these two faithful guys could not see it, and thought I was the apostate. Scary.

Hans said...

Good point on that Bryce. I don't know what we can do about such comments but do our best to call it out. Which of your posts was the comment in? I thought that even most members of the church would have a better understanding of those principles.

Bryce Haymond said...

It wasn't on my blog. See the thread here:

Unfortunately, I think the one who made the comment might be a hypocrite:

"After years away from Mormonism, I went back to the LDS church, and though I have not officially rejoined, I’m as active/participatory as a non-member/visitor can be, and I fully support the LDS prophet and apostles."

Hans said...

Thanks for the link. I am surprised at some of the comments, but I think that the Catholic posters never seemed to acknowledge the point that those who had passed on from hundred of years never had the chance to choose. But I don't want to threadjack my own post.

I just came back from reading comments from BCC on this and was surprised at the amount of dissent about Elder Oaks' last comment, even though the comments are somewhat soft. No one seems to think that Elder Oaks could be reminding endowed members of a covenant that they made. Sometimes I think that people, a lot of the time myself included, are too smart for their own good.

john f. said...

Hans wrote I think that the Catholic posters never seemed to acknowledge the point that those who had passed on from hundred of years never had the chance to choose.

Actually, Bryce seemed to be the one failing to acknowledge this point on that thread, talking instead of sinners who loved darkness more than light etc. (a category of people that no one except himself was talking about).

Bryce, there was no lie whatsoever in anything that I wrote on the Defensor Veritatis post. As far as I can tell, you are the one in troubled doctrinal waters based on your comments there, specifically your choice to privilege Elder McKonkie's book Mormon Doctrine over the objections of our prophet David O. McKay and your spiteful indignation over the idea that some people who accept the Atonement at the eleventh hour whose proxy baptisms have been done might inherit the same wage as you with your lifetime of living in the covenant.

For the record, I happen to agree with you that the particular quote you highlight from Bookslinger in your comment above is doctrinally off-base but I believe that owes largely to how Bookslinger expressed himself, although it might indeed reflect a slight misunderstanding of doctrine.

I find your suggestion that Bookslinger is a hypocrite to be very crass. Bookslinger has always been upfront about how he was excommunicated and is now working his way back toward full fellowship. There's no hypocrisy there at all. Hypocrisy, however, abounds in people who set themselves up as judges of other people's righteousness, especially based on nothing more than musings and conversations about peripheral doctrinal matters.

My approach to people like Bookslinger who love the Restored Gospel and who are working their way back into full fellowship after a painful excommunication and a period of true spiritual suffering occasioned by the loss of the Spirit that accompanies the actions that lead to excommunication and the excommunication itself is to extend the hand of fellowship and be supportive of them in their journey back to embracing the restored Gospel, not speculate as to whether they are hypocrites based on their status as excommunicants.

It is also ironic that you muse about how he might be a hypocrite because of his excommunication and his doctrinal misstatement at Defensor Veritatis and that your view of him and me has apparently informed your new post elsewhere about the error you are confronting among faithful members around the internet because as far as I can tell, Bookslinger is the only blogger whose blog has been specifically mentioned by a General Authority -- Elder Ballard, to be precise.

Readers of this blog will judge for themselves whether you have a sound and charitable understanding of doctrines of the Restored Gospel based on your strong and judgmental statements and tone in the Defensor Veritatis thread. But it bears mention that your approach of broad condemnation of your fellow faithful Latter-day Saints is an unhelpful and unduly critical approach under any circumstances. I must also counter your hostility whenever I have the time and opportunity, especially when you make such derisive comments about such good people as Bookslinger to further your own ends and in a vain attempt to bolster your own image as an arbiter of true doctrine and an ultimate judge of others' righteousness and doctrinal understanding.

Hans, I am writing this in defense of myself and Bookslinger since Bryce has seen fit to claim that we are purveyors of lies traveling incognito in good company. You can be your own judge of my relationship to and understanding of the Restored Gospel by perusing the archives of my blog a bird's eye view. But I ask you to let this comment stand even if it does continue a bit of the threadjack begun by Bryce because it does not seem fair for Bryce's comment about my doctrinal understanding ("terribly erroneous view of the redemption of the dead that I had to fight over with a couple faithful guys the other day") to stand without a rejoinder. Consider also that Bryce does not read very carefully as my comments on the Defensor Veritatis blog were not the same as Bookslinger's and therefore he cannot accurately say that we were both arguing what he quotes Bookslinger as saying in the first comment here.

Hans said...

Hi John,

I don't like to delete comments and because it looked like we were playing in the Catholics' playground, this may be a more suitable place to discuss this as it is LDS themed. I try not to censor posts unless they are spam or go into improper parts of the temple, which I applaud Bryce for doing regarding parts of the temple. I definitely like to have all points of view heard so whether I agree with someone or not, I try to let comments stand.

Thank you for also sharing your blog link, I think I found my way over there once on a link from Mormanity.

I think that there may not be too much traffic through here over the next few days due to FAIR and Sunstone conferences, but I hope to see more traffic after that.

Just for the record, because I came onto Defensor Veritas late and didn't feel like jumping in when it was pretty much already a dead horse, I would say that I understand why Catholics feel that they don't want to release their records because I just don't think that they have anything comparable to proxy ordinances that would do either side justice. That is why I brought up the point that I did, that is to say, that Brad and others made the point that these people had already made their choice and so it is sacrilege to do proxy work for them, but that is like saying that I chose to be an American when I was born here. The 14th Amendment didn't really give me much of a choice! But I think that topic is long gone now so perhaps it doesn't matter.

Thank you for stopping by!

Bryce Haymond said...

Wow, John. I don't think we had the same conversation. Clearly we were thinking on two completely different levels. And by the way, my recent posts on had nothing to do with you or Bookslinger.

Bryce Haymond said...

Just so we have my side of the story, let me address some of John's concerns.

The entire argument we had was started and based on the premise that those who've never heard the gospel will basically get a free ticket into the Celestial Kingdom. This is not true, and I spent the rest of the time trying to show John that it wasn't. There will be a great number of people who will NOT be able to fully repent of the things they have done in mortality at the 11th hour. The Book of Mormon makes this clear:

"33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.
34 Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.
35 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked" (Alma 34:33-35).

This scripture, and many more like it, does not just apply to those who have heard the gospel, but to all those who do evil in spite of the light they've been given at birth. People give much too little credit to the light of Christ which is given to every man and woman when they are born into this world (John 1:9). They will be held accountable for that.

As for your shooting down of Elder McConkie's (this is the correct spelling) book, I don't think it is wise. Every book that has been written by anyone is filled with error, including those written by General Authorities. That doesn't mean we throw the baby out with the bath water though, which is what you've done with Elder McConkie. There is still much of value in Mormon Doctrine, whether you choose to see it or not.

If you agreed that Bookslinger's quote was doctrinally off-base, then why did you spend the rest of the thread defending it? That is what I don't understand. I don't believe it is a "slight misunderstanding of doctrine;" it is a HUGE misunderstanding of doctrine. The redemption of the dead includes many qualifying factors which Bookslinger greatly discounted in giving the heathen a free pass. What happened to accepting or rejecting the gospel?

As far as Bookslinger goes, I can only go by what he specifically said in the thread. He said, "After years away from Mormonism, I went back to the LDS church, and though I have not officially rejoined, I’m as active/participatory as a non-member/visitor can be, and I fully support the LDS prophet and apostles." If he is working his way back to rebaptism, then that is wonderful and I fully congratulate him, and welcome him back. But he said absolutely nothing of any intention whatsoever of a desire to be rebaptized. There is no virtue in being the most active non-member in the world, which is the feeling I got from his words.

As I said before, my posts on have absolutely nothing to do with you or Bookslinger. They are directed to another audience entirely, particularly the DAMU's who find it amusing to throw apostasy around the Bloggernacle at the expense of those who cannot see their deception.

Also take note, just because a General Authority has mentioned a blogger does not automatically mean they agree with everything they say, with their status in life, with how they blog, with their views on doctrinal matters, or anything else. Elder Ballard's comments were specifically directed at what Bookslinger was doing, namely, handing out copies of the Book of Mormon and writing about his experiences doing so, which is commendable, but it does not speak more than that. Bookslinger does not somehow have any more authority for being mentioned by a General Authority than if he hadn't.

Yes, John, readers will judge for themselves. When I see extreme doctrinal error, I stand for the truth. It does not matter if I am speaking with a Latter-day Saint or anyone else. As for your attacks that I am some "ultimate arbiter of truth," most people with ears to hear and eyes to see will notice that I quote the General Authorities extensively in what I have to say. I'm not making this stuff up of myself.

Again, my posts have nothing whatsoever to do with you or Bookslinger. If you want to place yourself in the category of people that I've written about, then that is your choice, not mine.

I would hope that we could move on from this issue, but as long as you want to continue addressing it, I'm all game.

john f. said...

The entire argument we had was started and based on the premise that those who've never heard the gospel will basically get a free ticket into the Celestial Kingdom.

Since I never made such a ludicrous argument I find it odd that you were trying to persuade me or convince me that it was in error.

john f. said...

Bryce, a typo in spelling McConkie's name does not imply anything but thanks for pointing out the error.

The burden of proof and persuasion is on you when quoting from the book Mormon Doctrine. This is because Apostle Mark E. Petersen found at least 1,067 substantive doctrinal errors in the book. Our prophet David O. McKay lamented that it was ever published and would have preferred to require Elder McConkie to repudiate the errors that abound in it except that making such a demand would have destroyed all credibility that Elder McConkie had as a General Authority. Those are President McKay's words, not mine. That is an extremely strong point and should not be overlooked when using the book Mormon Doctrine to portray your fellow Latter-day Saints as being doctrinally off-base.

None of my words about the book Mormon Doctrine relate in any way to Elder McConkie's testimony during Conference Talks. To my knowledge, Elder McConkie did not stray into the realm of doctrinal speculation and did not package personal opinion about obscure doctrinal matters as official Church doctrine during his Conference Talks. In other words, I fully endorse Elder McConkie's calling as an Apostle and his testimony of Jesus Christ in that role. On the subject of the book Mormon Doctrine, however, I must side with the prophet David O. McKay and the united Brethren in regretting that the book got such wide circulation because of the severe flaws of the book.

Bryce Haymond said...

John, you didn't make the argument, but you supported it pretty arduously.

As for books on Mormonism, I'm sure any apostle could find hundreds of errors in any book by any LDS author. Does that repudiate everything they ever said in it? No. I think your opinion of Mormon Doctrine is off-base. Yes, it has errors, but that does not mean we should throw it in the trash.

john f. said...

Bryce, please read more carefully. I said that when you try to use the book Mormon Doctrine as a blunt instrument with which to bash your fellow faithful Latter-day Saints, the burden of proof and persuasion is on you because of President McKay's and the united Brethren's concerns about the book and dismay that it was ever published in the first place. I said nothing about throwing it in the trash.

Bryce Haymond said...

John, if you can find anything by David O. McKay on Elder McConkie's thoughts on the "Second Chance Theory" in Mormon Doctrine, then I can consider retracting my use of that portion of his book. Until you do that, you have no argument.

john f, said...

Bryce, are you certifying that information in the entry you mention is not among the 1,067 substantive doctrinal errors identified by Apostle Mark E. Petersen?

At any rate, since I never said anything that even remotely supports Elder McConkie's speculations about Second Chance Theory, you are way off the mark here. Just admit it and that you have set yourself up without any authority as an arbiter of true doctrine, and that your methods on the internet constitute exercising unrighteous dominion in the traditional sense of the term, and we can all move on.

Bryce Haymond said...

It may not be among the 1067 substantive doctrinal errors. How do you know? I don't throw away the words of Elder McConkie so fast.

John, I'm not sure why you believe I am the "ultimate arbiter of true doctrine," and that my "methods constitute exercising unrighteous dominion." Can we not quote the brethren anymore in support of our beliefs? Can we not appeal to them for knowledge of the truth? I don't believe we can. I have said nothing that the Brethren have not said. So wherein am I being the "ultimate arbiter of true doctrine"?

john f. said...

Bryce you are exercising unrighteous dominion when you unrighteously sit in judgment of your fellow faithful Latter-day Saints' doctrinal understanding, particularly when you are the one in the wrong for taking umbrage at Jesus' parable of the laborers in the vineyard and accusing those of us who will be happy to share exaltation with those who lived without the law and who accepted the Atonement at the eleventh hour upon first learning of the Restored Gospel and the Atonement of Jesus Christ in the Spirit World of holding to "incredibly false" doctrine and of being purveyors of lies traveling "incognito in good company".

Please note that on the Defensor Veritatis thread no one (except you, apparently) was referring to people who loved darkness more than light while in mortality and who would not have accepted the Atonement if they had learned of it in mortality.

You have a serious problem of taking your personal interpretation of the Restored Gospel and its doctrines (largely informed by Elder McConkie's book Mormon Doctrine, apparently, despite our prophet David O. McKay's and the united Brethren's concerns about the doctrinal errors in the book and their dismay that it was published in the first place and that it achieved such wide distribution -- why these concerns don't seem to bother you and you prefer to privilege Elder McConkie's book over such considerations is very curious) and holding everyone else accountable for your own interpretation as if it were the official and only possible interpretation. You then accuse people who do not share your indignation that some of our fellow children of God might enjoy exaltation with us after having accepted the Atonement at the eleventh hour and then benefiting from the proxy baptism and other proxy ordinances that have been performed on their behalf of spreading lies traveling incognito in good company. For what it is worth, I am confident that Elder Oaks (the originator of this phrase about lies traveling icognito in good company) would share my alarm at your spite toward the children of God who were born in circumstances in which they could not know of or learn of the Restored Gospel and thus accept the true understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ while in mortality in order to be cleansed of their sins. In fact, I believe I am on solid ground in stating that Elder Oaks would share my sense of gratitude and awe at the amazing power and efficacy of baptisms for the dead in making the saving power of the Atonement available to everyone who ever lived in spite of the circumstances into which they were born that prevented them from ever learning of the Restored Gospel during mortality so that they would have the opportunity to accept or reject for themselves the Atonement and the doctrines of the Kingdom. I believe that Elder Oaks is on record as teaching that the justness and mercy of God are evident in the fact that he has provided for such a mechanism as proxy ordinances and the preaching of the Gospel in the Spirit World as a means to reach those of his children who never had the opportunity to hear of the Gospel in mortality. Surely, God is grieved that some or many of his children will even reject the Atonement while in the Spirit World. Nevertheless, we are not their judges and have no reason to disparage them through invocation of Alma 34:34 or any other scripture. Rather, ours should be a posture of charity and long-suffering toward all of Heavenly Father's children who have not been privileged with a knowledge of the Restored Gospel during mortality and who therefore lived without the law during their time on earth. Taking joy in the prospect of the suffering of those who in the end might reject the Atonement in the Spirit World is not conducive to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Taking umbrage with the thought that you might be sharing the Celestial Kingdom with some who accepted the Atonement at the eleventh hour is also definitely contrary to the spirit of Christ's message. We are not to question the Lord's generosity in granting the same wage to the laborers who joined in the work at the eleventh hour lest we forfeit the mercy that has been extended to us, despite our lifetime of labor under the covenant. None of this has anything at all to do with the "Second Chance Theory" that you inappropriately accused me of supporting on the Defensor Veritatis thread. This is all a standard and completely orthodox understanding of our scriptures and of the vicarious work for the dead that we perform in our temples. The fact that you were tilting at windmills in arguing about people who love darkness more than light and who would not have accepted the Atonement in this life even if they had been taught about it while in mortality has no bearing on the issue since neither I nor Bookslinger was talking about such a class of people. That you wanted to portray us as if we were and therefore were apparently guilty of a universalist understanding of the Gospel is very interesting indeed.

Nothing I have said here or anywhere else is out of line with what any of our General Authorities have said. In fact, I put strong emphasis in my personal life an in all my interactions both online and in real life on upholding and incorporating our leaders' teachings in everything I say and do in the Gospel.

You are exercising unrighteous dominion NOT because you quote the Brethren but because you are declaring other people to be in error who are manifestly not in error. You are claiming to "take a stand for truth" against others' faulty doctrinal understanding because, e.g., they do not share your fringe views of environmentalism. To my knowledge those views are not shared by the Brethren and are certainly not taught by them -- in fact your asinine WALL-E screed actually contravenes teachings of Elder Neal A. Maxwell and others on the importance of our stewardship over the environment. When people pointed this obvious point out to you on your thread, you responded with calls to repentance and statements to the effect that standing for true principles is never popular. Here's the rub -- you weren't standing for true principles, you were only standing for your own political preferences. It is simply absurd to claim that people who support environmentalism are one step away from getting abortions for the sake of the environment, or that the movie WALL-E supports such a position. Most of us Latter-day Saints who support environmentalism do so because it is the right thing to do and not because we are participating in Satan's plan. Luckily for us, canonized scripture and the ample words of modern prophets and apostles support us in our efforts to be good stewards of the earth, which is just the LDS way of saying environmentalism. That some people (even, perhaps, a growing number of people) are making environmentalism a surrogate for religion is a good point that could have been made without the hyperbole and embarrassing non sequiturs of your post. That you responded to people in the comments with calling their righteousness, doctrinal understanding, or commitment to the Restored Gospel into question (and through your self justifying resort to martyr-type language to do so) because they disagreed with your political opinion, which you were expressing in religious terms and then acting like it was the only possible interpretation of the Restored Gospel and that anyone with a different view of the value of environmentalism was literally contravening the Gospel itself, was what then spilled over into being overbearing rather than bold from just being a fringe post.

Then you crossed the line into exercising unrighteous dominion for deleting comments that called you on your overbearing behavior and on your unrighteous judgments of your fellow Latter-day Saints. I say unrighteous judgment here because for all you know, every single one of the commenters on that thread were temple-recommend worthy Latter-day Saints leading righteous lives with entirely sound doctrinal understandings, which for them included an awareness of the grave responsibility we have as children of God to be good stewards of the earth, which certainly does not include dumping toxins and chemicals into rivers, depleting the Ozone layer, or polluting our skies with smog and other pollutants. But you chose to declare them in actual doctrinal error rather than acknowledge that they were simply expressing a different political opinion than yours.

Also, just for your information, when you say something like "Can we not quote the brethren anymore in support of our beliefs? Can we not appeal to them for knowledge of the truth?" in a conversation with me in which I have said nothing against quoting the Brethren in support of our beliefs or appealing to their official teachings for knowledge of the truth, it implies that you are accusing me of actually having argued that we cannot quote the Brethren in support of our beliefs of appeal to them for knowledge of the truth. Can you understand that?

Let's be clear. Are you saying that I have argued here or elsewhere or that I believe that you cannot quote the Brethren in support of your beliefs or appeal to them for knowledge of the truth? You really should be more careful in what you accuse people of, particularly when you are entirely off base with your denunciations.

If this is about the book Mormon Doctrine then I find your approach very curious. You will not acknowledge the significant flaws identified by Mark E. Petersen. We know that he identified 1,067 of them in a 700 page book but we do not know what the specific errors were. Still, the math involved tells us there was likely more than one such doctrinal error or misstatement on each page. We know that David O. McKay was very concerned about those errors and wanted Elder McConkie to repudiate them publicly but did not demand it because he realized that the errors were so substantial that it would destroy Elder McConkie's credibility as a General Authority. As such, it seems wise to err on the side of caution when using Elder McConkie's book Mormon Doctrine as your support in doctrinal arguments. President McKay's concern shifts the burden of proof and persuasion to you to show that the selection you wish to use as support is not one of those containing a substantial doctrinal error. Perhaps it is more advisable to seek support for your arguments in Elder McConkie's published conference talks in order to avoid these unfortunate problems associated with using the book Mormon Doctrine as support when setting yourself up as an authority on points of doctrine and declaring your fellow faithful Latter-day Saints in error.

A very useful alternative, if you are particularly wed to the form of Elder McConkie's book as a compendium of topics akin to an encyclopedia and for that reason are not willing to sway based on our prophet's concerns about the book, is to rely on the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. This also is not an official source in the sense of being published by the Church itself but, whereas the book Mormon Doctrine is expressly disclaimed by the Church, the Church provides links to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism and announced on its main website recently when the EoM was made available to the public online. As it is also organized in the form of an encyclopedia, it offers a similar functionality, if that is your concern with giving due deference to President McKay's concerns about the book Mormon Doctrine.

Bryce Haymond said...

I'm done arguing with you John. Move on.