Determining Fact from Fiction

Although I am not on Facebook I do still keep up with news in several different areas through other avenues. This particular Facebook Post came to my attention and it both shocked me and made me sad.

Uchtdorf is a member of leadership with the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Mormons give him the title of Apostle. He is well known and well liked among Mormons and up until now was actually a part of what is named the First Presidency of said organization.

In the past Uchtdorf has been known to appear more liberal in his positions regarding hot button issues that have confronted LDS members. As a Mormon myself he was the Apostle I enjoyed hearing from the most during the General Conference bi-annual broadcasts.

That was, however, until he started preaching “Doubt your doubts”. This Facebook post in particular, which I will quote in full.

Never in the history of the world has it been more important to learn how to correctly discern between truth and error. If you experience a moment of question or doubt, remember that in this age of information there are many who create doubt about anything and everything, at any time and every place.

Sometimes untrue claims or information are presented in such a way that they appear quite credible. However, when you are confronted with information that is in conflict with the revealed word of God, remember the parable taught in this video.

We simply don’t know all things–we can’t see everything. What may seem contradictory now may be perfectly understandable as we search for and receive more trustworthy information. Because we see through a glass darkly, we have to trust the Lord, who sees all things clearly.

A comment under this post responds with thoughts that ring true with my own feelings, which I’ll quote in full as well:

This is an unfortunate post. The first paragraph is great–healthy skepticism is critical to determining fact from fiction.

The rest, however, is a mind virus. Rather than trust what logic and evidence yields, we are to ignore it and trust in authority? This is openly fallacious and scary.

Let’s make it simple. A Jehovah’s Witness starts to doubt the validity of their leaders’ word about blood transfusions. They will lose their child by refusing the simple medical procedure. It was taught to be a great evil. They come to you, their friend, to determine whether or not the teachings of their church are in error. Do you 1) Tell them anything in conflict with the guidance from their leadership should be immediately discarded & ignored or 2) Help them realize that blood transfusions are a life–saving medical development and that just because they were told something by someone in a position of authority, claiming to represent God, doesn’t make it true. What if their church taught in Young Earth creation, or suicide as a way to achieve a higher state, or that they should marry into polygamous relationships to achieve exaltation? Do we help them reconcile an obviously false belief system, or do we help them determine the truth?

Similarly, things about LDS doctrine dont stand up to scrutiny in a historical or scientific context. Our testimonies are built on a na

rrative that might not be factual. Do we listen to the message saying we can’t ever understand it and just keep on no matter what the evidence is? “Doubt our doubts?” Or should we try to “discern between truth and error” and use our agency to our utmost ability? Those aren’t simultaneously compatible.

I appreciate the great kindness and tolerance taught by Elder Uchtdorf in his tenure as a leader of the LDS church. He is, by far, my favorite of the apostles. But this message today is destructive and insidious. It teaches members that they can’t even determine fact from fiction and must rely on their authority. This is wrong. We wouldn’t tolerate it in any other aspect of our life, or in any other religion, so why should we tolerate it now?

What I find most ironic is in Uchtdorf’s statement is this line: “Sometimes untrue claims or information are presented in such a way that they appear quite credible…”

Why do I find this ironic? Because for almost 30 years I was fed a specific narrative from the LDS church. Entire truth claims and information presented to me in such a way that they appear quite credible or at least I thought so when I was young and naive and blindly obedient. The reality was a narrative and foundation built on untruths.

Take Joseph Smith’s First Vision for example.

The first written version of the account by Joseph was not given until 12 years after it supposedly took place. When he first penned the account, Joseph only mentioned one person visiting him, which is no small detail to be mistaken about. There are now known at least nine different accounts relating the First Vision with varying degrees of changes and circumstances. If this vision was so important, why are there discrepancies?

As far as the dissemination of Joseph’s vision, there is scant evidence that it was referenced in any published material in the 1830’s and it was left out of the first publication of the Church’s history written by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. It was also left out of the Book of Commandments (published in 1833, it was the precursor to the Doctrine & Covenants) and the general Church membership did not receive information about the First Vision until the 1840’s and even then, the story did not hold the prominent place in Mormon thought that it does today. For an event of such import, why wasn’t it more widely known? And if Joseph’s telling of the event was the cause of such persecution to himself, why doesn’t the historical record bear this out?

I struggled on my mission in Brazil, not with any sins, not with a lack of desire to do the missionary work (I was ready and eager to do that, because I believed in mormonism full-heartedly back then) but with the foreign language. It was so bad in my early days on the mission that I would say little to nothing for days at a time. I felt that I was disappointing the Lord, that I was letting down God Almighty, and that I was a failure. To rectify that I decided I would memorize the First Vision in Brazilian Portuguese, no matter how long it would take or how difficult the process. I agonized daily over memorizing it until I could recite it perfectly in Brazilian Portuguese. I was proud to recite what I thought was such a miraculous and important event in human history.

Fast forward several years and I find out that there is more than one documented version of this “First Vision”, all with conflicting details. The more I research about the issue, the more it becomes clear that the narrative the LDS church wants to press upon their members is not true.

The most damming evidence? Joseph Fielding Smith, as historian of the church at the time (before he was promoted to be an Apostle), when it was discovered there was a First Vision account penned by Joseph Smith himself in his own journal that differed from the account the LDS church had been using as cannon up until that point, Joseph Fielding Smith had the journal entry torn out of the journal and hidden in his personal safe.

Somehow someone got word it existed, one of the Quorom of the 12 Apostles with more power than Joseph Fielding Smith at the time forced him to open the safe and share it, but no copies were allowed. It was described as a “strange account” of the first vision. Once too many people knew it existed, they let it leak through someone’s master’s thesis at BYU (not the actual account, but rather a mention of it). This allowed the LDS church to claim they knew about the account all along and that it was publicly accessible for any member to learn about. Plausible Deniability.

So yes, Ucthdorf, I do agree, “Sometimes untrue claims or information are presented in such a way that they appear quite credible…” Just like the LDS church did all my life.

Here’s a few more pieces of evidence that verifiably disprove LDS truth claims:

  • King James Translation errors are found in the BOM – There a numerous examples of errors made by the translators of the KJV in the early 1600’s and these errors are copied word for word into the BOM. How could a book that was supposedly written a millennia prior contain errors made by 17th century scholars?
  • Anachronisms in the BOM – There are dozens of references to things in the BOM that simply did not exist in pre-Columbian America. Elephants? Steel? Chariots?
  • Native American DNA – For over a century the church taught that Native Americans were the descendants of the Lamanites. The introduction to the BOM even said they were the “principal ancestors of the American Indians”. As evidence to the contrary has built the church had to admit Native Americans are descended from Asian ancestors and they changed the introduction of the BOM.
  • Lack of archaeological evidence – There are accounts in the BOM of tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of people dying in battles (e.g. Hill Cumorah) yet there has been no evidence found to support these civilizations.
  • Tower of Babel – The Tower of Babel and associated events being literal are a staple story of the Jaredite history in the Book of Mormon. The Tower of Babel has been discredited and regarded as a myth by almost all.
  • No death before the fall – See 2 Ne 2:22 or Alma 12:23-24. There is massive fossil evidence for life going back millions of years. There are not only animal deaths but multiple hominid species a couple hundred thousand years before Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden. D&C also lists the age of the earth as being only a few thousand years old.
  • Doctrinal changes to BOM regarding Trinitarian views – Many changes have been made since the original 1830 publication of the BOM. These changes were not just simple grammar edits, many of these changes show an evolved view of the godhead, shifting from a Trinitarian view to a separate God/Jesus relationship.
  • Book of Abraham – I’ll just share a quote from the essay on this topic, “None of the characters on the papyrus fragments mentioned Abraham’s name or any of the events recorded in the book of Abraham. Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham, though there is not unanimity, even among non-Mormon scholars, about the proper interpretation of the vignettes on these fragments. Scholars have identified the papyrus fragments as parts of standard funerary texts that were deposited with mummified bodies. These fragments date to between the third century B.C.E. and the first century C.E., long after Abraham lived.” To summarize, we have several of the papyrus fragments and they do not match the Book of Abraham.

And so many more…

So, do we “doubt our doubts” and continue to blindly follow these men standing as an unnecessary intermediary between us and God? Or do we use our upper cognitive faculties and actually reason for ourselves.

Personally, I have found truth in reason.


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