LDS Church: Do as I say, not as I do
When it comes to evaluating or scrutinizing the LDS church, most members will tell you that the doctrine or church is perfect, but run by imperfect people. While this may sound good in theory to the members, it should be a blaring red flag. This is actually a “stop think” method utilized to keep members from thinking critically about the organization and blaming themselves for it’s (the organization’s) shortcomings. To continue this discussion, I would like to distinguish and segregate LDS faithful into two groups. The first group is comprised of the average member, serving in their local vicinity in various capacities and generally trying to do their best to fulfill what has been asked of them and what they believe is right. The second group is what I would call “upper management”, those at the top of the pyramid dictating the direction of the church whole. This group includes the First Presidency, the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, Seventy and some of the many office positions that keep the church running.
This second group is where I would like to focus and apply my theme of “Do as I say, not as I do”. Though there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of examples of this, today I will play nice and only focus on one, which in a way, covers most of the rest. To setup this example, let’s establish from the LDS Church’s own Gospel Essentials what it means to be honest:
Lying is intentionally deceiving others. Bearing false witness is one form of lying. The Lord gave this commandment to the children of Israel: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor" (Exodus 20:16). Jesus also taught this when he was on earth (see Matthew 19:18). There are many other forms of lying. When we speak untruths, we are guilty of lying. We can also intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth. Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest.
While I was on my way out of the church in June of 2008, I met twice with my Stake President. In trying to understand my reasons for leaving, he asked me several questions. “Have you been offended?” No. “Do you have any unresolved transgressions or sins?” No. (Side note: These are the typical off hand reasons that LDS members think of when hearing about a member going inactive or falling away. While this is sometimes the case, it is usually not the norm for stalwart members who leave unexpectedly.) “What is your main concern regarding the church?” My response to this question was the lying and deception to cover up and withhold the full history of Mormon origins.
How do I know the church is covering up or withholding the full story? Because Apostles themselves have admitted and admonished to not teach the full version of church history. Their reasoning is the whole “milk before meat” mentality. However, the diet of church history is never transitioned to “meat” and members are forever left to subside on “milk”. Church educators for seminary and institute often take it upon themselves to learn the “meat” of church history but when they attempt to share this “meat” with eager students, they are sometimes disciplined, threatened, or even fired. So while the “upper management” of the church preaches “honesty”, they themselves are failing to be honest themselves under their own definition of the term: “We can also intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth”. Essentially what is taught in seminary, institute, primary, and Sunday school doctrine classes around the globe is a severely biased, watered down, and even modified version of the real events.
“It is . . . my conviction that God desires everyone to enjoy freedom of inquiry and expression without fear, obstruction or intimidation. I find it one of the fundamental ironies of modern Mormonism that the General Authorities, who praise free agency, also do their best to limit free agency's prerequisites--access to information, uninhibited inquiry and freedom of expression.”
-Michael Quinn, ex-LDS Historian
The following quotes are excerpts from a discourse given by Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1981 to LDS church educators during a conference at Brigham Young University. This clearly depicts the lengths and means the “upper management” is willing to enforce to keep the LDS faithful on a steady diet of “milk” while withholding the more filling and needed “meat”. (source: "The Mantle is Far, Far Greater than the Intellect", Boyd K. Packer PDF)
"Church history can be so interesting and so inspiring as to be a powerful tool indeed for building faith. If not properly written or properly taught, it may be a faith destroyer."
“There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful."
"The writer or teacher who has an exaggerated loyalty to the theory that everything must be told is laying a foundation for his own judgment. The Lord made it clear that some things are to be taught selectively and some things are to be given only to those who are worthy or trust.”
"That historian or scholar who delights in pointing out the weaknesses and frailties of present or past leaders destroys faith. A destroyer of faith - particularly one within the Church, and more particularly one who is employed specifically to build faith - places himself in great spiritual jeopardy. He is serving the wrong master, and unless he repents, he will not be among the faithful in the eternities. Do not spread disease germs!" (Boyd K. Packer, 1981, BYU Studies, Vol. 21, No. 3, pp. 259-271, emphasis mine)
While I understand the LDS church’s concerns and reasons to build faith instead of “destroying” it, my question is, if the full version of history and events is such that faith would likely not be established when taught, then perhaps it’s not a foundation one would want to have faith in anyways. Notice that Elder Packer’s concerns are not whether truth is being taught, but whether faith is being established. Using this logic, one could freely modify and teach the history of events of any cause to recruit followers, gain power, wealth or whatever and feel that the ends justify the means. However in the LDS church’s case, this is in clear contradiction to their own values and creed.
“As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil they set out to destroy.” -- Christopher Dawson
When history is modified such that it only paints a positive light for any organization, it is easier for people to get warm fuzzies about it, such that they falsely think they are joining a good cause and fail to recognize or accept all of the skeletons in the closet from both the past and present. They only see and accept what the organization want them to. Unfortunately, when combining this control of information with other subtle means and tactics, the free agency and authentic identity of individuals is literally robbed from them.
“For faith, as well intentioned as it may be, must be built on facts, not fiction - faith in fiction is a damnable false hope.” -- Thomas Edison
Teaching a biased, watered down version of history is, in a very real sense, teaching fiction, spun to the benefit of the organization at the expense of the individual. Deception, lies, and cover-up are normally attributes of evil. An organization that preaches one thing but does another is not an organization worthy of loyalty.
“The prophet himself stands under the judgment which he preaches. If he does not know that, he is a false prophet.” -- Reinhold Niebuhr
“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” -- Aldous Huxley