While the Mormon Church continues to grow at a rapid
rate (it now has close to 9,000,000 members), it is obvious that
internal problems are also beginning to mount. Consequently, church
leaders have decided to take an uncompromising stand against Mormon
historians who wish to tell the unvarnished truth about church history
and other dissenters within the church.
In an apparent show of strength just before the
October, 1993, General Conference of the Mormon Church, six prominent
church members were summoned to stand trial in church courts for
apostasy. On October 2,1993, the Salt Lake Tribune reported
concerning the results of those trials:
Three men and three women have been charged with
apostasy for their writing and speaking about Mormon subjects.
Paul Toscano, [another scholar], D. Michael Quinn, Maxine Hanks
and Lavina Fielding Anderson were excommunicated. Lynne Kanavel
Whitesides was disfellowshiped. ...
During the council, Ms. Whitesides was accused of 'creating friction'
with her Mormon feminist statements on television. She also was
charged with failure to support church leaders by saying, also
on TV, she couldn't 'find any evidence of Christ in [Elder] Packer's
She was disfellowshiped ... for 'conduct contrary to the laws
of the church.' ...
Lavina Fielding Anderson was excommunicated for a single article
in the independent Mormon journal, Dialogue. The LDS Intellectual
Community and Church Leadership chronicled episodes of intimidation
against Mormon thinkers for the last 20 years. ...
LDS historian D. Michael Quinn has had three such councils within
the last four months. ...
While he didn't attend the council, he wrote a defense.
'I vowed I would never again participate in a process which was
designed to punish me for being the messenger of unwanted historical
evidence and to intimidate me from further work in Mormon history,'
But he did reaffirm his faith that 'Jesus is the Christ, that
Joseph Smith was God's prophet of the Restoration and that Ezra
Taft Benson is the prophet, seer and revelator on the Earth today.'
The council was kind. They put him on probation. But in July,
the punishment was upgraded to disfellowshipment. This week, while
he was in California, his stake leaders excommunicated him. ...
[another scholar], a conservative theologian and writer, was excommunicated
for his writings about the Apocalypse and the Book of Isaiah.
He ... declined to talk with the press about his experience.
Some of those who were excommunicated used to write
articles for the church's official publication, The Ensign. D.
Michael Quinn, for instance, has written at least six articles for
The Ensign, and about the same number for Brigham Young
University Studies. It seems ironic that this man, who was once
held in high esteem within the church, is now considered to be an
It was, in fact, D. Michael Quinn who lifted his
pen in 1977 in an attempt to refute our work. Dr. Quinn wrote a
pamphlet entitled, Jerald and Sandra Tanner's Distorted View
of Mormonism: A Response to Mormonism--Shadow or Reality? According
to Richard Stephen Marshall, Mormon historian Reed Durham gave him
the following information:
He also said that due to the large number of letters
the Church Historian's Office is receiving asking for answers
to the things the Tanners have published, a certain scholar (name
deliberately withheld) was appointed to write a general answer
to the Tanners. ... This unnamed person solicited the help of
Reed Durham on the project. The work is finished but its publication
is delayed, according to what Leonard Arrington told Durham, because
they can not decide how or where to publish it. ... It will probably
be published anonymously, to avoid difficulties which could result
were such an article connected with an official Church agency.'
('The New Mormon History," by Richard Stephen Marshall, A Senior
Honors Project Summary, University of Utah, May 1,1977, page 62)
As Dr. Durham predicted, Michael Quinn's work was
'published anonymously.' The words, "By a Latter-day Saint Historian,"
appear where Quinn's name should be found on the front cover and
the first page of the book. The coming forth of the anonymous rebuttal
was shrouded in secrecy. While we knew Zion Bookstore was the distributor
of the response, we were unable to find out where the booklets were
printed. In almost all books the name of the publisher is listed
at the beginning of the book. When we asked Sam Weller, the owner
of the bookstore, where he had obtained them, he replied that he
did not know! and that it was all a very secret
operation. He claimed that he received a letter giving details of
how he could handle the pamphlet, but that the writer was not identified.
He maintained that he received 1,800 free copies
of the pamphlet and was told that he could use any money he made
to reprint the booklet.
We talked with Wifrid Clark, who works for Mr.
Weller. Clark claimed that all he knew about the matter was that
Zion Bookstore received an anonymous letter containing a key
to a room in a self storage company on Redwood
Road. He said that he personally went to the company and picked
up the books.
In our book, Answering Dr. Clandestine: A Response
to the Anonymous LDS Historian, pages 1-6, we show how we broke
through the maze to learn that D. Michael Quinn was the author of
the rebuttal. This identification was confirmed by David Mayfield,
who worked for the Historical Department of the church at the time
the rebuttal was being prepared.
Those who were in authority over Quinn must have
had a great deal of trust in him; otherwise, they would not have
allowed him to work on such a secret project which could cause the
church great embarrassment if the details of it became known.
An organization known as Mormon Miscellaneous,
located at 8912 South 700 East, Sandy, UT 84070, still reprints
and sells Dr. Quinn's rebuttal to us. Now that Quinn has been excommunicated
from the Mormon Church, it will be interesting to see if this organization
will continue to sell the pamphlet. It would seem that there should
at least be some attempt to clarify what has taken place. Instead
of the words, "By a Latter-day Saint Historian" appearing at the
front of the booklet, it should read something like, "By an Ex-Latter-day
While D. Michael Quinn still maintains his belief
that Joseph Smith was a prophet, he has obviously become more critical
of the church leaders suppressing important documents. In the booklet
he prepared in 1977, he criticized us for being upset that the General
Authorities of the church were suppressing important documents from
"An extension of the Tanners' selective use of evidence
is the fact that they often make assertions and draw conclusions
without referring to evidence that qualifies, challenges, or refutes
their argument. For example, they berate the LDS Church for 'Suppression
of Records.'... the Tanners cast the LDS Archives in a sinister
light because it was closed to the public for many decades, but
fail to comment that this closed archive practice is not only consistent
with the policy of most businesses (including the richly historical
Hudson's Bay Company), but also with that of most religious and
charitable organizations.' (Jerald and Sandra Tanner's Distorted
View of Mormonism: A Response to Mormonism--Shadow or Reality? pages
Not long after Dr. Quinn wrote the statement cited
above, he had his own first-hand encounter with the suppressive
policies of the church and did not like what he experienced. In
his research Quinn discovered that for a number of years after the
1890 Manifesto, which was supposed to stop the practice of polygamy,
a number of prominent church leaders and others were secretly given
permission to take plural wives. Quinn pursued information concerning
this subject but found that church leaders would not allow him to
examine some important documents in the First Presidency's vault.
In his article, "On Being a Mormon Historian (and Its Aftermath),"
D. Michael Quinn wrote the following:
President Hinckley telephoned in June 1982 to
say that he was sympathetic about a request I had written to obtain
access to documents in the First Presidency's vault but that my
request could not be granted...
In May 1984 my college dean told me he had been instructed by
'higher authority' to ask me not to publish a paper I
had just presented to the Mormon History Association. It was a
historical survey of the public activity of general authorities
in business corporations. The dean apologized for having to make
this request. I agreed not to publish my presentation and told
no one about the incident.
In 1985, after Dialogue published my article 'LDS Church Authority
and New Plural Marriages, 1890-1904,' three apostles gave
orders for my stake president to confiscate my temple recommend.
... I was told that three apostles believed I was
guilty of 'speaking evil of the Lord's anointed.' The stake president
was also instructed 'to take further action' against me if this
did not 'remedy the situation' of my writing controversial Mormon
history. ... I told the stake president that this was an obvious
effort to intimidate me from doing history that might 'offend
the Brethren' [i.e.,the highest leaders of the church].. The stake
president also saw this as a back-door effort to have me fired
from BYU. ...
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. (Faithful History:
Essays on Writing Mormon History, Edited by George D. Smith,
1992, pages 90-93, 95)
D. Michael Quinn finally found the church leaders'
attempt to control their history so repressive that he felt he could
no longer do research at the church archives:
"In June 1986 the staff of the church historical
department announced it was necessary to sign a form which Elder
Packer declared gave the right of pre-publication censorship for
any archival research completed before signing the form. I and
several others refused to sign the form and have not returned
to do research at LDS church archives since 1986. (Ibid., page
109, footnote 52)
D. Michael Quinn has shown a great deal of courage
throughout his ordeal with church leaders and officials at Brigham
Young University. In 1981, he did something that very few Mormon
scholars dared to do: he publicly took issue with Apostles Ezra
Taft Benson and Boyd K. Packer, two of the most powerful leaders
of the Mormon Church. To make things even worse for Quinn, Benson
became president of the church in 1985.
It was on November 4, 1981, that Quinn delivered a monumental address
before a student history association at Brigham Young University.
In the Salt Lake City Messenger, March 1982, we called it
"One of the best speeches ever given by a Mormon historian." Newsweek
referred to it as a "stirring defense of intellectual integrity."
In this speech, Dr. Quinn revealed that church officials "viewed
with understandable misgiving this burgeoning exploration of Mormonism's
fluid past," and then went on to make these significant comments:
The concern of these Church leaders has not been
assuaged by the fact that contemporary with the proliferation
of Mormon historians and histories there has been a shift in anti-Mormon
propaganda from doctrinal diatribe to the polemical use of elements
from the Mormon past to discredit the LDS Church today. In reaction
to this confluence of developments, two members of the Quorum
of the Twelve Apostles (Ezra Taft Benson and Boyd K. Packer) have
specifically identified Latter-day Saint historians as the source
of difficulty.... General authorities in recent years have criticized
Mormon historians for republishing in part or whole out-of-print
Church publications such as the 1830 Book of Mormon,
the Journal of Discourses (edited and published
for thirty-two years under the auspices of the First Presidency),
and statements taken from former Church magazines published for
the children, youth, and general membership of the Church. It
is an odd situation when present general authorities criticize
historians for re-printing what previous general authorities regarded
not only as faith-promoting but as appropriate for Mormon youth
and the newest converts.
Elder Packer specifically warns against historians using 'the
unworthy, the unsavory, or the sensational' from the Mormon past,
merely because it has been previously published somewhere else,
and he berates historians for their 'exaggerated loyalty to the
theory that everything must be told.' But this raises the question
of personal honesty and professional integrity. If a historian
writes about any subject unrelated to religion, and he purposely
fails to make reference to pertinent information of which he has
knowledge, he is justifiably liable to be criticized for dishonesty....
In connection with Elder Packer's counsel to avoid reference to
previously published sensitivities, Elder Benson warns historians
against environmental explanations of the background of revelations
and developments in LDS history....
Like the questions of previously published items, a historian
writing about a non-religious subject would be considered inept
at best and dishonest at worst if he described someone's innovation
or contribution without discussing the significance of previously
existing, similar contributions and ideas of which the historical
person was undoubtedly aware. If a Latter-day Saint historian
discusses the revelation to Joseph Smith about abstinence from
tobacco, strong drinks, and hot drinks, and then fails to note
that during the 1830s religious reformers and social reformers
were involved nationally in urging abstinence from these identical
things, any reader has cause to criticize the historian's accuracy,
to question his motives, and to doubt any affirmation the historian
might give to the revelation's truth.... If we write Mormon history
as though its revelations and developments occurred without any
reference to surrounding circumstances, we undermine the claims
for the Restoration of living prophets.... Boyd K. Packer demands
that Mormon historians demonstrate and affirm that 'the hand of
the Lord [has been] in every hour and every moment of the Church
from its beginning till now.'... Mormon historians may share the
convictions of the Nephite prophets and Boyd K. Packer that the
'hand of the lord' operates throughout history and that 'His purposes
fail not,' but they also have an obligation to examine the evidence,
reflect upon it, and offer the best interpretations they can for
what has occurred in Mormon history....
A more serious problem of Mormon history is involved in the implications
of Boyd K. Packer's demand that historians demonstrate that 'the
hand of the Lord [has been] in every hour and every moment of
the church from its beginning till now.' Every Mormon historian
agrees with Ezra Taft Benson that 'we must never forget that ours
is a prophetic history,' but there are serious problems in the
assertion or implication that this prophetic history of Mormonism
requires 'the hand of the Lord' in every decision, statement,
and action of the prophets.... Central to the apparent demands
of Elders Benson and Packer is the view that the official acts
and pronouncements of the prophets are always the express will
of God. This is the Mormon equivalent of the Roman Catholic doctrine
of papal infallibility....
Mormon historians would be false to their understanding of LDS
doctrines, the Sacred History of the Scriptures, the realities
of human conduct, and the documentary evidence of Mormonism if
they sought to defend the proposition that LDS prophets were infallible
in their decisions and statements.... the Mormon historian has
both a religious and professional obligation not to conceal the
ambivalence, debate, give-and-take, uncertainty, and simple pragmatism
that often attend decisions of the prophet and First Presidency,
and not to conceal the limitations, errors, and negative consequences
of some significant statements of the prophet and First Presidency.
In like manner, however, the Mormon historian would be equally
false if he failed to report the inspiration, visions, revelations,
and solemn testimonies that have also attended prophetic decisions
and statements throughout Mormon history.
A few critics have been more specific in their criticism of Mormon
historians who portray the human frailties of LDS leaders. Ezra
Taft Benson observes that Mormon historians tend 'to inordinately
humanize the prophets of God so that their human frailties become
more evident than their spiritual qualities,' and Boyd K. Packer
has recently made the following comments about a Mormon historian's
talk: 'What that historian did with the reputation of the President
of the Church was not worth doing. He seemed determined to convince
everyone that the prophet was a man. We knew that
already. All of the prophets and all of the Apostles have been
men. It would have been much more worthwhile for him to have convinced
us that the man was a prophet; a fact quite as true
as the fact that he was a man. He has taken something away from
the memory of a prophet. He has destroyed faith.'
This is, in part, related to the infallibility question. Elder
Packer criticizes historians for eliminating the spiritual dimension
from their studies of prophets, and he accuses such historians
of distortion for failing to deal with such a fundamental characteristic.
Yet Elders Benson and Packer also demand that historians
omit any reference to human frailty (aside from
physical problems, I suppose) in studies of LDS leaders, and emphasize
only the spiritual dimension. Elder Packer quite rightly observes
that omitting the spiritual, revelatory dimension from the life
of a Church leader would also deny the existence of the spiritual
and revelatory, but it is equally true that omitting reference
to human weaknesses, faults and limitations from the life of a
prophet is also a virtual denial of the existence of human weaknesses
and fallibility in the prophet. Must Church history writing portray
LDS leaders as infallible, both as leaders and as men? This is
not the Sacred History we know.
Sacred History (which is contained in the Bible, Book of Mormon,
Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price)
is an absolute refutation of the kind of history Elders Benson
and Packer seem to be advocating. Sacred History
presents the prophets and apostles as the most human of men who
have been called by God to prophetic responsibility. Sacred History
portrays the spiritual dimensions and achievements of God's leaders
as facts, but Sacred History also matter-of-factly demonstrates
the weaknesses of God's leaders. Examples are the scriptural accounts
of Abraham's abandonment of his wife Hagar and son Ishmael, Noah's
drunkenness, Lot's incest, Moses' arrogance, Jonah's vacillation,
Peter's impetuosity and cowardice... Moreover, the Doctrine
and Covenants contains frequent condemnations of Joseph Smith
by the Lord. Sacred History affirms the reality of divine revelation
and inspiration, but also matter-of-factly demonstrates that God's
leaders often disagree and do not always follow His revelations
According to the standards of history apparently required by Ezra
Taft Benson and Boyd K. Packer, such a writer of Scriptural Sacred
History is suspect at best and faith-destroying at worst.... The
recent biography of Spencer W. Kimball is virtually Sacred History
in its presentation of a loveably human prophet of God, whereas
the Mormon history of benignly angelic Church leaders apparently
advocated by Elders Benson and Packer would border on idolatry.
Ezra Taft Benson, Boyd K. Packer, and Professor Midgley accuse
Mormon historians of writing Church history to accommodate non-Mormon
scholarship, but Elder Packer, in particular, advocates another
type of Accommodation History. He assaults the philosophy and
conduct of Mormon historians because their objective Church history
'may unwittingly be giving "equal time" to the adversary,' and
because such history may be read by those not mature enough for
"advanced history" and a testimony in seedling stage may be crushed.'...
Boyd K. Packer is not advocating the gradual exposure of the Saints
to historical truth. He excludes that possibility by warning historians
against publishing objective history even in professional journals
that 'go far beyond the audience that they have intended, and
destroy faith,' and he assails Mormon historians who 'want to
tell everything whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not.'
Elder Packer is not advocating Paul's dictum of milk before meat,
but he demands that Mormon historians provide only a Church history
diet of milk to Latter-day Saints of whatever experience....
a diet of milk alone will stunt the growth of, if not kill, any
Aside from urging the kind of Church history that would not surprise
or offend even the newest convert, Boyd K. Packer urges that historians
write Church history from a siege mentality to deny any information
that enemies of the Church could possibly use to criticize the
Church. By this standard, most of the Old Testament, the Gospel
of John, many of Paul's epistles, and the Book of Revelation would
never be approved for inclusion in the Bible.... Why does the
well-established and generally respected Mormon Church today need
a protective, defensive, paranoid approach to its history
that the actually embattled earlier Saints did not employ?
Ezra Taft Benson and Boyd K. Packer want Church history to be
as elementary as possible and as defensive as possible. This is
Accommodation History for consumption by the weakest of the conceivably
weak Saints, for the vilest of the conceivably vile anti-Mormons,
and for the most impressionable of the world's sycophants....
'The Accommodation History advocated by Elders Benson and Packer
and actually practiced by some LDS writers is intended to protect
the Saints, but actually disillusions them and makes them vulnerable....
The tragic reality is that there have been occasions when Church
leaders, teachers, and writers have not told the truth they knew
about difficulties of the Mormon past, but have
offered to the Saints instead a mixture of platitudes, half-truths,
omissions, and plausible denials. Elder Packer and others would
justify this because we are at war with the adversary' and must
also protect any Latter-day Saint whose 'testimony [is] in seedling
stage.' But such a public-relations defense of the Church is actually
a Maginot Line of sandy fortifications which 'the enemy' can easily
breach and which has been built up by digging lethal pits into
which the Saints will stumble. A so called 'faith-promoting Church
history which conceals controversies and difficulties of the Mormon
past actually undermines the faith of Latter-day Saints who eventually
learn about the problem from other sources.... In warning Mormon
historians against objective history and against telling too much
truth about the Mormon past, Boyd K. Packer says, 'Do not spread
disease germs!' To adopt the symbolism of Elder Packer, suggest
that it is apostates and anti-Mormons who seek to infect the Saints
with disease germs of doubt, disloyalty, disaffection, and rebellion.
These typhoid Marys of spiritual contagion obtain the materials
of their assaults primarily from the readily available documents
and publications created by former LDS leaders and members themselves.
Historians have not created the problem areas of the Mormon past;
they are trying to respond to them. Believing Mormon historians
like myself seek to write candid Church history in a context of
perspective in order to inoculate the Saints against the historical
disease germs that apostates and anti-Mormons may thrust upon
them. The criticism we have received in our efforts would be similar
to leaders of eighteenth century towns trying to combat smallpox
contagion by locking up Dr. Edward Jenner who tried
to inoculate the people, and killing the cows he wanted to use
for his vaccine.
The central argument of the enemies of the LDS Church is historical,
and if we seek to build the kingdom of God by ignoring or denying
the problem areas of our past, we are leaving the Saints unprotected"
(On Being A Mormon Historian, by D. Michael Quinn, 1982,
pages 2, 8-10, 13-14, 16-22; revised and reprinted in 1992 in
Faithful History: Essays On Writing Mormon History, pages
In the "Aftermath" which appears in Faithful
History, Michael Quinn stated that after he gave this talk he
was warned by "active and inactive Mormons and even non-Mormons"
not to publish this essay. Nevertheless, he gave Sunstone permission
to publish it. The "publicity resulted in meetings with my college
dean and with a member of the First Presidency.... Neither Dean
Hickman nor President Hinckley gave direct instructions, but both
advised against publication of 'On Being a Mormon
Historian.' A few days later, I asked Sunstone's editors
not to print the already typeset essay." (Faithful
History, page 89)
When we discovered that Sunstone was not
going forward with the publication of this important speech, we
suspected that a great deal of pressure was being exerted to suppress
Dr. Quinn's essay. Since we felt that no publisher connected with
Mormonism would dare print the speech, we published it ourselves
in early 1982. Quinn did not ask us to do it, and we had no communication
with him--either directly or indirectly--regarding the subject.
We published it because we believed the Mormon people had a right
to know what was going on in their church.
Church leaders were distressed with Quinn when
Newsweek ran a story entitled, "Apostles vs. Historians,"
on February 15, 1982. Quinn reported that one of the church leaders
warned him that Apostle Boyd K. Packer, whom he had criticized in
his speech, could remain vengeful long after having a disagreement:
"A few days later, a general authority invited me to his office.
He warned me that he found Elder Packer to be easily offended and
vindictive years afterwards." (Faithful History,
On page 103 of the same book, footnote 22, Michael
Quinn told of an experience he had with Apostle Boyd K. Packer:
"When Elder Packer interviewed me as a prospective
member of Brigham Young University's faculty in 1976, he explained:
'I have a hard time with historians because they idolize the truth.
The truth is not uplifting; it destroys. I could tell most of
the secretaries in the church office building that they are ugly
and fat. That would be the truth, but it would hurt and destroy
them. Historians should tell only that part of the truth that
is inspiring and uplifting.'"
Although he did not use the same graphic example,
in a speech given in 1981, Apostle Boyd K. Packer made these comments:
"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.
"Historians seem to take great pride in publishing something new,
particularly if it illustrates a weakness or mistake of a prominent
"The writer or the teacher who has an exaggerated loyalty to the
theory that everything must be told is laying a foundation for
his own judgment....
"That historian or scholar who delights in pointing out the weaknesses
and frailties of present or past leaders destroys faith. A destroyer
of 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,...
"In the Church we are not neutral. We are one-sided. There is
a war going on, and we are engaged in it." (Brigham
Young University Studies, Summer 1981, pages 263-64, 266-67)
Interestingly, many Mormon intellectuals feel that
Apostle Boyd K. Packer is the moving force behind the present purge
going on in the church. An Associated Press article mentioned that,
"The actions came just months after Elder Boyd
K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles identified feminists,
homosexuals and intellectuals as the three dangers
facing The Mormon Church." (Salt Lake Tribune, September
Church officials, however, have denied that the
excommunications have been directed from the highest levels of the
church and claim that it is local leaders who have instigated the
trials. It seems highly unlikely, however, that so many prominent
people would be called in by local leaders in such a short period
of time. The whole thing seems to be orchestrated from above. As
indicated above, it appears that the timing of the purge was related
to the General Conference of the Mormon Church. Church leaders seem
to be making a statement that those who continue to question the
authority and policies of church will be cut off.
Some important information regarding Apostle Packer's involvement
in the purge came to light on October 10, 1993, when the Arizona
Republic printed the following:
"...a small but influential number of 'saints'
claim their leaders are silencing legitimate internal debate in
the name of maintaining doctrinal purity, conformity, obedience
"The situation is complicated by the fact that the church's president
and prophet, 94-year-old Ezra Taft Benson, is silenced by infirmity.
"Benson's counselors and quorums run church affairs. Critics claim
that the void has robbed the church of direction and perhaps even
of divine inspiration, and that ambitious elders may be leading
the Brethren astray....
"Dallin Oaks, 61, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
said the sanctions were not part of an orchestrated effort to
"'There is no purge' said the former BYU president who has dismissed
critics as 'publicity hounds' and 'wolves.'
"However, Oaks did not deny that Boyd K. Packer, a senior apostle
may have improperly met with the leader of a church
court hearing excommunication proceedings against author and lawyer
"Toscano 48, an outspoken women's rights supporter, was 'ex'd,'
as church members call excommunication, on Sept. 19.
"In addition, Oaks acknowledged that the Strengthening theMembers
Committee, which some members liken to an intelligence agency
but which Oaks calls a 'clipping service,' may have monitored
speeches, writings and activities of those suspected of apostasy
and passed on material to church officials.
"'Elder Packer does not have the authority to make church policy,'
Oaks said of the man many dissident believe plays a key role in
"Oaks said that 'if Elder Packer is having any conversations with'
the court, 'it is outside the normal channels and...
if he gave a directed verdict (against Toscano), that is contrary
to policy and irregular, and it is contrary to what I know about
Elder Packer and the way he operates.'
"Packer acknowledged Thursday that he met in July with fellow
church leader Loren Dunn and Toscano's stake president,
Kerry Heinz, to discuss Toscarno. He said Heinz,
requested the meeting.
"'We talked doctrine and philosophy,' Packer said. 'I did not
instruct him to hold a disciplinary council and absolutely did
not direct a verdict. That is against church policy. When he (Heinz)
left, I did not know what he would do.'...
"Last month, John Beck, 33, of Provo, resigned the church and
quit his job as a BYU business professor.
"'My problems had to do with the ethics of the university,' he
said, 'which comes down to their not telling the truth. They are
firing people not for the reasons they say.'
"His wife, Martha Nibley Beck, 30, daughter of tamed pro-church
scholar Hugh Nibley, said she left her job as a BYU sociology
professor in July after the school removed Carol Lee Hawkins as
leader of the Women's Symposium....
"'The church is moving toward social isolation,' Martha Beck said....
"BYU spokeswoman Margaret Smoot said that the removal of Hawkins
"However, Smoot's predecessor, Paul Richards, 57, who left BYU
last year, ridiculed that notion.... 'The church wants to portray
this image of being unified in all it does.... It wants Mormons
to be unquestioning--something I believe goes against church teachings
and portrays a great insecurity.
"'I worked in public affairs for the church for 13 years, and
I had to lie all the time, and this has really battered
my faith.'" (Arizona Republic, Oct. 10, 1993)
The same issue of the Arizona Republic revealed
that the Mormon prophet's grandson had decided to leave the church
because of the church's misrepresentation of the facts:
"Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Steve Benson--first
grandchild of Ezra Taft Benson, the ailing head and prophet of
the Mormon Church--has resigned from the church.. His wife of
16 years, Mary Ann Benson, 36, also resigned.... The Bensons said
they resigned to protest what they believe is an increasingly
intolerant church leadership....
"He said the example set by his conservative, outspoken 94-year
old grandfather... gave him the fortitude to make an emotionally
wrenching split from the church.
"There is an old Mormon hymn,' he said in explaining his resignation.
'"Do what is right, let the consequence follow,. battle for freedom
in spirit and might."'
"'In order to be truly obedient, one must be allowed the right
to think, question, doubt, and search for truth. The modern church
is intolerant of these God-given rights I didn't leave the church.
The church left me.'
"Mary Ann Benson said leaving the church was 'painful, yet exhilarating.'
"'Since I've left, I feel very empowered and free, free to define
my relationship with God, follow my purpose in life and free to
finally find peace,' she said
"Steve Benson said he believes one sign of the church's 'dysfunctionality'
was reaction to his statements in July on his grandfather's infirmity.
"At that time, Benson said he believed that due to his failing
health, his grandfather was incapable of exerting any true leadership.
"'I hated to see the church manipulate him and... use him to falsely
prop up the notion that he is actively leading the church,' he
"'Local church leaders called me in to explain my actions. I received
anonymous letters, some hateful, from church members--in essence
damning me to hell and telling me I was possessed by the devil.'"
(Arizona Republic, Oct.10, 1993)
The following day, October 11, 1993, the Salt
Lake Tribune reported some other statements made by Steve Benson:
"'I could not, in good conscience, be in an organization
that was destroying the spirituality of the very souls of its
members,' Mr. Benson said Sunday. 'In the name of freedom of religion,
the church has turned freedom of speech on its head.'
"'[I left] because of the current atmosphere of fear, intolerance
and intimidation in this dark period of the church we're groping
through now,' he said...
"'I felt the church had put a theological plastic bag over my
head that was spiritually and intellectually suffocating me,'
"Be [by?] refusing to be silenced, and by leaving a church he
believes to be run by a 'corrupt' leadership, he said he has lived
up to his grandfather's expectations."
The next day an article written by Vern Anderson
of The Associated Press reported a new development. The article
was captioned, "Oaks Lied To Protect Fellow Apostle":
"The grandson of Mormon Church President Ezra
Taft Benson contends that a church apostle lied in
order to cover up a more senior apostle's role in
the excommunication of a Mormon dissident.
"Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Steve Benson said Monday his
decision last week to resign from the church was based in part
on Elder Dallin H. Oaks' statements to a reporter about Elder
Boyd K. Packer.
"Elder Oaks admitted late Monday he 'could not defend the truthfulness
of one of the statements' about Packer, who is considered
by many to be behind the church's recent crackdown on dissidents....
"Oaks told Arizona Republic reporter Paul Brinkley-Rogers
on Oct. 1 that he had "no knowledge" of whether Packer had met
with Kerry Heinz, the local ecclesiastical leader for... Paul
Toscano, before Heinz excommunicated Toscano on Sept. 19....
"However, in a 'personal and confidential' letter to Oaks on Oct.
6, Benson reminded the apostle that in a private meeting Sept.
24, Oaks had told Benson he was 'distressed and astonished' that
Packer had met with Heinz.
"He quoted Oaks as saying of Packer, 'You can't stage manage a
grizzly bear,' and added that 'it was a mistake for Packer to
meet with Heinz and a mistake for Heinz to ask for the meeting.'...
"Benson said he was making his letter to Oaks public because he
was fed up with church leaders shading the truth....
"In an interview Monday evening, Oaks declined to confirm or deny
most of Benson's assertions about a pair of private interviews
the church prophet's grandson had in September with Oaks and Elder
Neal A. Maxwell, another member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles...
"However, Oaks, a former Utah Supreme Court justice, acknowledged
that his single statement to reporter Brinkley-Rogers about having
no knowledge of the Packer-Heinz meeting was one 'I could not
"'It was not a truthful statement,' Oaks said.
"Benson's letter to Oaks had warned the apostle that unless he
set the record straight, Benson would feel no obligation to honor
the promise of confidentiality he had earlier given Oaks and Maxwell.
"Oaks called The Republic's reporter that night and retracted
the 'I have no knowledge of whether he [Packer] did' statement....
"Oaks did not retract other statements in the interview... that
Benson had alleged--and Oaks denies--were false or deliberately
"Oaks... stressed that Benson at least three times had assured
him and Maxwell that their meetings... were confidential and would
never be publicly discussed.
"'I think that Steve Benson is just going to have to carry the
responsibility for whatever he relates about a confidential meeting,'
"Benson said he felt acutely the moral dilemma of having promised
confidentiality, but then having seen deliberate efforts to mislead
the public about Packer's role in the Toscano affair.
"'I had to decide to be a party to the coverup or be faithful
to my own convictions.' Benson said. 'I had to let Elder Oaks
walk a plank of his own making.'"(Salt Lake Tribune, October
The more church leaders said on the subject, the
worse it began to look for Oaks, Packer and other church leaders.
Apostle Packer eventually revealed that he had the approval of the
Council of the Twelve Apostles to meet with Heinz. On October 17,1993,
the Salt Lake Tribune reported:
"Mormon Church Apostle Boyd K. Packer said he
had the endorsement of the Council of the Twelve Apostles when
he met with an ecclesiastical leader who later excommunicated
a member of the church.
"Packer told the church-owned Deseret News Friday that
when stake president Kerry Heinz asked through a midlevel church
official to meet with Packer, Packer asked his fellow apostles
in a meeting whether he should.
"'...I felt there may be some sensitivity about his request,'
Since Apostle Oaks is a member of the Council of
the Twelve Apostles, he must have known about this meeting even
before it occurred. The fact that he told Steve Benson about the
meeting after it took place, shows that it was on his mind and that
he was deeply concerned about the matter. In light of the above,
the fact that Oaks was not forthright about the matter casts a very
bad light on the whole affair.
Apostle Dallin Oaks allowed his own church's newspaper to interview
him about the matter. Notwithstanding the fact that Oaks had shot
himself in the foot, he proceeded to attack the Associated Press:
"'Life isn't fair,' Elder Oaks said. 'Somebody
said that time heals all wounds. But it's also true that time
wounds all heels,' he added in jest. But in a serious tone, Elder
Oaks... said he feels 'wounded' by an Associated Press story that
he said dwelled on his admission that he made a statement he couldn't
defend, and downplayed his efforts to promptly correct his unintentional
"'It impugned my integrity and seriously distorted the account
of the facts as it was presented,' Oaks said in an interview this
"The apostle said he didn't willfully mislead a news reporter.
He explained that he had misspoken during an hour-long interview
and when he was notified of that, he called the reporter to retract
a 'statement I could not defend.'...
"In his interview with the Deseret News, [Steve] Benson
said what Elder Oaks told him didn't square with what was said
to the reporter.... he transmitted a confidential letter to Elder
Oaks pointing that out. Benson said he also warned that if the
apostle did not 'set the record straight' he would no longer feel
obligated to keep their discussion confidential.... Elder Oaks
said, he reviewed the transcript of his interview with the reporter
and found he couldn't defend his comment about having no knowledge
of Packer meeting with Heinz.
"'How do you make a statement like that? I can't give any better
explanation than the fact that I was talking a mile a minute and
I just said something that on mature reflection I (concluded),
"I can't defend the truthfulness of that,"' Elder
Oaks said.... after later learning that Elder Oaks left intact
the other comments that troubled Benson, Benson said he followed
through on his threat to go public." (Deseret News, Oct.
Apostle Oaks would apparently like people to believe
that he merely made a mistake when he said he did not know Apostle
Packer met with Heinz. This, of course, is very difficult to believe.
Ironically, Oaks himself has released a partial transcript of his
interview with The Arizona Republic which establishes beyond
all doubt that he was not forthright about the matter:
"Oaks: 'As for Elder Packer, Elder Packer does
not have a specific responsibility for any area in the church....
So, if Elder Packer is having any conversation with Kerry Heinz,
it is outside the normal channel. That's all I can say. I have
no knowledge of whether he did. But if he did and
if he gave a directed verdict or anything like that, that is contrary
to policy. It is irregular and it's contrary to what I know of
Elder Packer and the way he operates." (Salt Lake Tribune,
October 17, 1993)
As we have shown, Apostle Oaks tried to divert
attention away from his fallacious statement by attacking the Associated
Press. Oaks claimed the story "impugned my integrity and seriously
distorted the account of the facts ..." The Associated Press responded
"Bill Beech, bureau chief for The Associated Press
in Salt Lake City, said the AP story was based on a tape-recorded
interview with Oaks, was accurate and made no distortions.
"Though Packer said Friday that he had the support of the Council
of the Twelve in meeting with Heinz, Benson wrote in an Oct. 6
letter to Oaks that Oaks had told him 'it was a mistake
for Packer to meet with Heinz and a mistake for Heinz
to ask for the meeting.'... in another letter Friday to Oaks,
Benson appealed to the apostle to correct what Benson believes
are other conflicts between Oak's private version and the public
statements about Packer's involvement.
"'You were provided an opportunity to set the record straight
completely,' he wrote. 'You chose only to correct one of three
falsehoods.'"(Salt Lake Tribune, October 17, 1993)
Apostle Dallin Oaks finally became so upset over
the charge that he had lied that he did something very few General
Authorities have done in recent years: he wrote an article regarding
the matter which was published in the Salt Lake Tribune on
October 21,1993. In this article Apostle Oaks said, "I did not
'lie' to the reporter," and went on to declare: "My perception
of this matter is simple. I have been the victim of double-decker
deceit: 1, betrayal of promises of confidentiality,
and 2, false accusations of lying."
While Apostle Oaks maintained that there is no orchestrated
effort to silence critics in the church and that, "There is no
purge," the evidence all seems to point in the opposite
direction. Allen Roberts, coeditor of Dialogue: A Journal of
Mormon Thought, commented as follows:
"Elder Dallin Oaks has attempted to persuade the
public that 'there is no purge' on the reasoning that six lost
people are of no numerical consequence given the church's membership
of 8.5 million. Recently excommunicated historian Michael Quinn
had this to say about Elder Oaks' notion that it takes more than
six people to constitute a purge: 'That is like saying there wasn't
a purge at Tiananmen Square because only 200 people were killed
out of one billion Chinese.'... The purge is more widespread and
far greater in scale than any have heretofore reported." (Private
Eye Weekly, Oct. 20, 1993)
The Religion Section of the Salt Lake Tribune,
Oct. 16, 1993, contained an article entitled, "More Stories
Point to LDS Leaders As Source of Dissident Crackdown." In this
article Peggy Fletcher Stack presented some important information
which seems to establish that there is indeed a "purge" going on
and that it is being directed from the highest levels of the church.
In our new book, The Mormon Purge, we have more information
regarding this important subject.
While we believe that the Mormon Church and other
organizations have every right to excommunicate those who will not
conform to its teachings, it is extremely disturbing that the Mormon
leaders would work in a clandestine manner to accomplish their purpose.
As one of the dissidents has pointed out, the top officials have
tried to shield themselves, giving the appearance that they are
benign, good-natured individuals, while those on the lower levels
have to take all the blame for the excommunications. It may be true
that the top leaders of the church felt that it is necessary to
remove some members to preserve the church, but they should have
had the courage to stand up and accept responsibility for their
Now that the cover-up seems to be unraveling, the
First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have issued
a statement which seems to indicate that the excommunications will
continue. In this statement we find the following:
"We have the responsibility to preserve the doctrinal
purity of the church. We are united in this objective....
"The longstanding policy of church discipline is outlined in the
Doctrine and Covenants: 'We believe that all religious
societies have a right to deal with their members... according
to the rules and regulations of such societies... They can only
excommunicate them from their society, and withdraw
from them their fellowship.' (Doctrine and Covenants 134:10.)...
"The general and local officers of the church will
continue to do their duty and faithful church members
will understand." (Salt Lake Tribune, Oct. 17, 1993)
Although a statement like this coming at a time
of tenseness in the LDS Church is likely to silence many church
members, it could also cause further dissension. In view of the
backlash which has already occurred because of the excommunications,
it remains to be seen whether church leaders will continue with
One thing that is obvious about the whole affair
is that many members of the church are becoming polarized over the
issues and the rhetoric is becoming louder. For example, Allen Roberts
wrote the following:
"All fingers seem to point to Elder Boyd Packer,
acting president of the twelve apostles, as the prime force behind
what has been called the 'Mormon Inquisition.' While Elder Packer,
nicknamed 'Darth Packer' by the irreverent because
of his cold and detached personal style, is a far cry from Torquemada
(the 15th century Inquisitor General of the Spanish Inquisition),
his speeches, instructions to lower ranking authorities, and direct
contacts with local leaders have shown him to be the prime orchestrator
of top level-organized punishment,... Raised by an authoritarian
German father, Packer and his brothers entered the military during
World War II instead of serving missions. This military influence
had an indelible impact on Packer's view of the church, according
to a close family acquaintance, 'He sees the church as an army.
He is one of its generals and the members are privates who should
march in step and do what they are told without question.' (Private
Eye Weekly, Oct. 20, 1993)
On October 18,1993, the Salt Lake Tribune revealed
"A threat apparently intended for excommunicated
LDS historian D. Michael Quinn was delivered by phone Saturday
night to the home of the wrong Michael Quinn.
"The baby sitter of Michael D. Quinn answered the phone call...
Michael D Quinn, who is a member of the Elders Quorum in his ward
in Bountiful, explained:
"'The 15-year-old baby sitter answered the phone and a male voice
asked for Michael Quinn. She said he I could not come to the phone....
"'The man told her to give me this message, "I'm tired of the
statements he's making about the LDS Church. I'm tired of hearing
him criticize the church. He'd better start keeping to himself.
If he doesn't, I have his phone number and I know where he lives.
I'll come get him. I hate him. He stinks. Then he hung up.'...
"Angered by the threat after he spoke to the nonhistorian, Mr.
Quinn, the historian, said Sunday:
"'Threatening phone calls are a new low in the
current atmosphere of repression in the LDS Church.
I hold Apostle [Dallin H.] Oaks personally responsible for inciting
such sick-minded Mormons. Apostle Oaks publicly stated that the
feminists and scholars excommunicated in September were actually
wolves. Utan sheepherders kill wolves rather than
allow them to wander around and kill sheep. Elder Oaks has increased
the paranoia of Mormons toward differences of opinion and dissent.
I refuse to remain quiet while... Oaks and [Apostle] Boyd K. Packer
demonize anyone they don't agree with. It would have been more
Christian of Apostle Oaks to describe excommunicated persons as
"lost sheep." That might have avoided giving encouragement to
the self-appointed vigilantes in the Mormon community.'"
The Thinking Has Been Done
In our book, Mormonism: Shadow or Reality?
pages 183-84, we present a number of statements from Mormon leaders
which clearly teach blind obedience to the authorities of the church.
One of the most controversial is a Ward Teachers' Message which
appeared in the official organ of the church, The Improvement Era,
"Any Latter-day Saint who denounces or opposes,
whether actively or otherwise, any plan or doctrine advocated
by the 'prophets, seers, and revelators' of the Church is cultivating
the spirit of apostasy. Lucifer... wins a great victory when he
can get members of the Church to speak against their leaders and
to 'do their own thinking'....
"When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they
propose a plan--it is God's plan. When they point the way, there
is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should
mark the end of controversy." (The Improvement Era, June
1945, page 354)
Mormon apologists, who do not want to face the fact
that their leaders require very strict obedience to their counsel,
have found a letter written by the eighth president of the church,
George Albert Smith, which they feel invalidates the quotation cited
above. It was published in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought,
Spring 1986, pages 38-39. President Smith was responding to a question
by a Unitarian minister who was upset by the article which appeared
in the Mormon Church's official organ.
In response, President Smith wrote: "I am pleased to assure you
that you are right in your attitude that the passage quoted does
not express the true position of the Church."
President Smith's letter raises a very serious
question: why did Smith write this letter to a private individual,
who was not a member of the church instead of making a public correction
in the church's Improvement Era? If the article did not really
represent the position of the church, Smith should have demanded
a retraction. Mormon apologists have been unable to point to any
public statement by Smith repudiating the article.
It should be noted also that this notorious Ward
Teachers' Message was also printed in the church's newspaper, Deseret
News, Church Section, on May 26, 1945. It is clear, then, that
the Latter-day Saints read this message in both the Deseret News
and The Improvement Era. Moreover, the ward teachers presented
this lesson in the homes of the Mormon people.
Unfortunately, the Mormon Church has a history
of giving out false statements to those who are not members of the
church when embarrassing information comes to light. Moreover, there
have been times when even members of the church have been deliberately
deceived about what was going on by church leaders to protect the
image of the church. It was Joseph Smith himself who set the example
in this regard.
Mormon Church records clearly show that Joseph Smith was deeply
involved in the secret practice of polygamy while he was in Nauvoo,
Illinois, yet on May 26,1844, just a month before he was murdered,
he absolutely denied any connection with the practice:
"What a thing it is for a man to be accused of
committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find
one, I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years
ago; and I can prove them all perjurers." (History of the Church,
vol. 6, page 411)
Joseph Smith actually had far more than seven wives
when he made this statement. Those who will take the time to examine
the church's own Doctrine and Covenants, Section 132, will
find that Smith had already received plural wives when he gave the
revelation on the subject in 1843. In that revelation we find the
"And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith [Joseph's wife],
receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph,
and who are virtuous and pure before me...
"And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood--if any
man... have ten virgins given unto him by this law,
he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are
given unto him; therefore is he justified." (Doctrine and Covenants
132: 52, 61-62)
For more information on the false statements regarding
polygamy by Joseph Smith and other Mormon leaders see Mormonism:
Shadow or Reality? pages 245-248. After the Manifesto, almost
fifty years later, the top Mormon leaders publicly proclaimed that
they were not allowing any more polygamous marriages. These statements,
however, were absolutely false (see pages 231-244b of the book cited
above). As noted above, D. Michael Quinn found himself in serious
trouble with church leaders for revealing the truth about this matter.
The belief that the interests of the Mormon Church
are sometimes more important than the truth has continued right
up until the present time. We have already shown that Apostle Dallin
Oaks told Steve Benson in private that he knew Apostle Packer met
with Kerry Heinz, but when Oaks was asked about the matter by the
press, he claimed he had no knowledge about such a meeting.
While we may never know exactly what was on President
George Albert Smith's mind when he wrote the letter to the minister,
it is obvious that his public silence concerning this serious matter
left the Mormon people with the strong impression that they should
never question the decisions of the leaders of the church.
The purge which is now going on in the Mormon Church
tends to demonstrate that the present leaders of the church want
their people to believe that, "When our leaders speak, the thinking
has been done. When they propose a plan--it is God's plan....
When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy."
The statement made in The Improvement Era in
1945 appears to be the basis for a statement which appeared in the
church's publication, The Ensign, some thirty-three years
later. In an address given by Young Women General President Elaine
Cannon in 1978 we find the same type of reasoning:
"Tonight President Kimball extends an invitation...
for all of us as women to follow him as he follows the Savior....
He is our leader, in all the world of would-be leaders, who can
guide us back to the presence of God.... Personal opinions may
vary. Eternal principles never do. When the prophet speaks, sisters,
the debate is over.... we emphatically and happily
declare, 'I will be obedient! I will help strengthen others that
they may be so too!'" (The Ensign, November 1978, page
The following year, 1979, the First Presidency Message,
written by President N. Eldon Tanner, First Counselor in the First
Presidency, endorsed Elaine Cannon's statement as an Important truth
"Recently... Young Women President Elaine Cannon
made the following statement: 'When the Prophet speaks,... the
debate is over' (Ensign, Nov.1978, p.108).
"I was impressed by that simple statement, which carries such
deep spiritual meaning for all of us. Wherever I
go, my message to the people is: Follow the prophet....
"It is difficult to understand why there are so many people who
fight against the counsel of the prophet...
"Latter-day Saints should be able to accept the words of the prophets
without having to wait for science to prove the validity of their
words. We are most fortunate to have a living prophet at the head
of the Church to guide us...
True Latter-day Saints... know that the messages of the prophet
have come from the Lord and have the concurrence of all the General
Authorities... Whose side are we on? When the prophet speaks the
debate is over." (The Ensign, August 1979, pages 2-3)
The reader will notice the close agreement between
the statement made in 1945 and the one which appeared in 1979. The
1945 Ward Teachers' Message contained this statement: "When our
leaders speak, the thinking has been done.... When they give
direction, it should mark the end of controversy."
The 1979 First Presidency Message reads: "When
the prophet speaks the debate is over." As far as
we can determine, the same basic message--that church
members are to give unquestioned obedience to the pronouncements
of the church--appears in both statements.
Mormon leaders maintain that the LDS Church is "the
only true church" upon the face of the earth. Moreover, it is claimed
that the church is led by direct revelation from God through the
"living prophet," who is also the president of the church. No one
else can give revelations to the church.
In our book, The Changing World of Mormonism, published by
Moody Press in 1980, page 439, we pointed out that the Mormon Church
had been confronted with some serious problems and that the ability
to deal with these issues was complicated by the fact that some
of the Mormon leaders were very old. David 0. McKay, the ninth prophet,
lived to be ninety-six years old. He was in very poor health toward
the end of his life and was hardly in any condition to function
as prophet, seer and revelator for the church.
Instead of appointing a younger man after Mckay's
death, church leaders chose Joseph Fielding Smith who was ninety-three
years old. Smith lived to be ninety-five, and the leader ship of
the church passed to Harold B. Lee who was seventy-three years old.
Lee lived less than two years and Spencer W. Kimball became president.
Kimball lived to be ninety years old, but was in very poor health
toward the end of his life and could not really lead the church.
Ezra Taft Benson became president of the church in 1985. Although
he is now ninety-four he is still sustained as the living prophet.
The way the Mormon hierarchy is structured there
seems to be little hope of younger leadership and even less hope
for any new revelations from the "living prophet." The problem is
that the president of the Council of the Twelve Apostles always
becomes prophet of the church. Since this system is based on seniority,
it is almost impossible for younger men to move to the top.
Interestingly, the average age of the last five
prophets of the church was eighty-one years when they
attained that position. This should be contrasted with the fact
that Joseph Smith was only in his twenties when he assumed the role
of prophet of the Mormon Church. The present system, therefore,
seems to insure that a man who is already old can become prophet.
The effect of this policy is that those who are appointed prophets
are very likely to become senile or in bad health during their presidency.
The Mormon system works in such a way as to bring
a man into the highest office in the church at the very time when
he is least competent to adequately perform his duties.
While the highest leaders of the church have forced many of those
on lower levels to retire (i.e., go on emeritus status), they will
not retire themselves and the "living prophet" is never removed
no matter how incompetent he becomes.
It has become very obvious that at time present
time the Mormon Church does really not have a functioning prophet.
The whole claim that the church is superior to all others because
it has a "living prophet" now seems to be in jeopardy. Although
church leaders have tried very hard to cover up the seriousness
of the situation, the truth is becoming widely known to the Mormon
As we have shown above, when Steve Benson publicly
questioned the fact that his grandfather was capable of running
the church, he was called in to explain his actions. On July 10,
1993, three months before Steve Benson left the Church, Vern Anderson
of the Associated Press reported that President Ezra Taft Benson's
grandson was deeply concerned regarding his grandfather's growing
problem of senility:
"As Mormon Church President Ezra Taft Benson approached
his 94th birthday, the years have stilled his voice, clouded his
mind and raised questions about the faith's rigid order of succession.
"Attired in a sweatsuit and fed by others, Benson spends his days
in supervised seclusion in an apartment overlooking Temple Square.
He is an infirm retiree in a church that doesn't officially retire
its 'prophet, seer and revelator.'
"The incongruity struck a 13-year-old Benson great-grand-son the
other day as he poured his breakfast cereal: 'Dad, why do they
call him prophet when he can't do anything?
"The boy's father is Steve Benson, a practicing Mormon who won
a Pulitzer Prize this year for the political cartoons he draws...
"His son's question is one reason Benson decided to speak openly
for the first time about his grandfather's decline....
"A more compelling motivator, however, is what he believes are
misleading efforts by the church's hierarchy to preserve an image
of a more vibrant Ezra Taft Benson, an image less problematic
for the core Mormon belief in a literal prophet of God.
"'I believe the church strives mightily to perpetuate the myth,
the fable, the fantasy that President Benson, if
not operating on all cylinders, at least is functioning effectively
enough, even with just a nod of the head, to be regarded by the
saints as a living, functioning prophet,' he said.
"That is not the grandfather Benson saw when he visited in March
from Arizona, or whom he has seen struggle with encroaching senility
during much of his 7-year administration.
"'The last time I saw him he said virtually nothing to me,' said
Benson... 'He looked at me almost quizzically as if he were examining
"In earlier visits, the former U.S. agriculture secretary... could
manage at least a word or two....
"Benson, who has not spoken in public for more than three years,
was already suffering memory loss when he assumed the presidency
in 1985 at age 86. His grandson said facing church audiences became
a frightening experience for a man who once had relished the pulpit.
"While some church 'general authorities' are retired at 65, the
granting of emeritus status does not extend to the faith's 12
Apostles or three-member First Presidency, the belief being God
will choose his leaders and the length of their service.
"Steve Benson sees the practice as needlessly impractical.
"'I don't think God would expect us to be bound legalistically
or structurally to a system that obviously isn't working,' he
"Gordon B. Hinckley, Benson's first counselor, has taken pains
in recent sermons to stress the church does not face a leadership
"A request to interview Hinckley or an apostle about the church's
pattern of succession was declined through spokesman LeFevre...
Steve Benson, 39, said it has been some time since his grandfather
has been capable of participating in any way in the administration
of the church's affairs, although that is 'an image that people
deeply, almost desperately want to believe.
"'And I'm not demeaning or ridiculing that desire to believe.
I'm just saying that what the church is presenting to the members
to believe is not factual,' he said." (Salt Lake
Tribune, July 10, 1993)
The Arizona Republic, July 13,1993, published
an article containing the following:
"The grandson of the Mormon Church's president
is being battered and praised by Mormons for revealing last week
that the aged Ezra Taft Benson cannot physically or mentally lead
the Church... The Arizona Republic's political cartoonist,
has received numerous telephone calls from Mormons, who clearly
are split on the issue....
"One woman left a message for Benson saying that although he spoke
the truth, he never should have made his opinions public.
"Some members in wards... prayed Sunday for their church leader,
affirming their faith in his leadership despite Benson's statements
that his grandfather, at 93, is "not in the loop" and
cannot attend to church affairs....
"Don LeFevre, spokesman for the 9 million-member church, said...
that Benson's counselors review major church decisions with the
prophet at his home, where he must be tended with round-the-clock
"Steven Benson said the notion that the president's two counselors,
Gordon Hinckley and Thomas Monson, could review anything with
his grandfather is nonsense.
"'The debate is so emotional because it is a matter of trust,'
Benson said. 'If the church hides the truth about nonfunctional
prophets, members then may ask, 'What else is the church hiding?'"
In an article appearing in the Salt Lake Tribune,
July 21 1993, Steve Benson was quoted as saying:
"'The point I was trying to make is that President
Benson is the prophet in title only, not in role. President
Benson is not carrying out his role. He can't,' the grandson,
an active Mormon, said Tuesday."
The fact that President Benson's counselors did
not have a great deal of confidence in his ability to function became
evident when documents filed with the state of Utah were examined
by the Salt Lake Tribune:
"Documents on file with the state of Utah are
strong evidence that the parent corporation of the Mormon Church
no longer is being directed by its president, Ezra Taft Benson.
"It is the first time since the corporation was founded 70 years
ago that anyone other than the church president has obtained total
authority over Utah's most powerful corporation.
"The documents, at the Utah Department of Commerce, were signed
with a machine that duplicates the signature of 94 year-old President
Benson. They were filed six months before President Benson...
made his last public speech.
"Church leaders said this week the filings and the use of a signature
machine were routine, and done with President Benson's approval....
Today, the corporation owns all church assets--including a multibillion-dollar
portfolio of financial and property holdings....
"Entitled 'Certificates of Authority' and dated May 23, 1989,
the documents say Presidents Hinckley and Monson can keep those
complete powers--even if President Benson becomes disabled or
is determined by a court to be incompetent.... the church made
no announcement of the change. It has continued to portray President
Benson as the ultimate power behind church affairs....
"Fran Fish, notary public administrator for the state Department
of Commerce, said signatures written by machine are legal...
"Still, Ms. Fish... said use of a signature machine on state corporate
filings 'is certainly out of the norm.'... Steve Benson... has
said that his aging grandfather no longer possesses the mental
faculties to handle church affairs.
"'The church has misrepresented the condition of President Benson
and stated flatly that his role as prophet has in no way been
impeded,' Steve Benson said this week. 'My grandfather has become
a storefront mannequin while the business of the
store is conducted behind closed doors.'
"He said a signature machine has replaced his grandfather's hand
on all personal and family correspondence. 'Evidently,' Steve
Benson said, 'the signature machine had not been programmed to
sign, 'Grandpa.'"(Salt Lake Tribune, August 15,1993)
Mormon Church leaders appear to be on the horns
of a dilemma with regard to their non-functional prophet, Ezra Taft
Benson. On the one hand, it is maintained that only a revelation
given to the prophet could change this extraordinary policy of the
church. On the other hand, however, President Benson is obviously
incapable of giving such a revelation. Vern Anderson observed:
"The strict apostolic succession--which church
spokesman Don LeFevre said would require a revelation from 'the
Lord to his prophet' to change--has fostered a gerontocracy."
(Salt Lake Tribune, July 10, 1993)
While the present situation with regard to President
Benson must be very perplexing to the General Authorities of the
Mormon Church, a worse scenario might be if the apostle with the
most seniority were already mentally incompetent when installed
as prophet. In view of the way medical advancements are lengthening
people's lives, it is even conceivable that a "prophet" might live
for a quarter of a century without contributing anything to the
It is apparent that the Mormon Church's claim to
be led by a "Prophet, Seer, and Revelator," is not substantiated
by the facts. The Bible relates that the prophet Moses lived to
be extremely old, but it goes on to say that "his eye was not dim
nor his natural force abated." (Deuteronomy 34:7) We certainly cannot
say this of most of the recent prophets of the Mormon Church. While
it is claimed that these men are "living prophets," they seem to
become mere figureheads as they advance in age.
The Mormon forger Mark Hofmann put the "living prophet,"
President Spencer W. Kimball, to the acid test and demonstrated
that the so-called "living oracles" are just as fallible
as other men. At a time when revelation was really needed in the
church, Kimball seemed to be completely oblivious to what was really
going on. President Kimball was unable to detect that the documents
Hofmann was selling to the church were forgeries.
Two of the documents even contained revelations
purportedly written by Joseph Smith himself, yet Kimball had no
knowledge that they were spurious. After President Kimball died,
the prophet Ezra Taft Benson had no spiritual insight regarding
the matter. He failed to realize that the documents were forgeries,
and church officials made it very difficult for investigators to
examine the documents.
Moreover, during the criminal investigation that
followed after Hofmann killed two people, the Mormon Church discovered
that it had the real McLellin Collection in its vault. This would
have provided very important evidence of fraud on Mark Hofmann's
part because he was trying to sell them items they already had in
their own vault. Instead of coming forth with information regarding
the collection, church leaders decided to suppress this evidence
from investigators. Mormon Church official Richard Turley has acknowledged
that this matter was brought to the attention of the First Presidency,
and Apostles Boyd K. Packer and Dallin H. Oaks.
While one would assume that only the "living prophet"
could make such an important decision, we do not have any hard evidence
that Benson made the decision to cover up the existence of the collection.
If Ezra Taft Benson was responsible for the cover-up, it was a terrible
decision which caused embarrassment to the church. On the other
hand, if his counselors in the First Presidency and Apostles Oaks
and Packer did not consult him, it would tend to provide further
evidence that the "living prophet" is only a figurehead. For much
more information regarding this matter see our book, The Mormon
Church and the McLellin Collection, pages 1-16.
As we have shown, Mormon leaders tell their people
that "When the prophet speaks the debate is over. "We
feel that this type of absolute obedience can be very dangerous.
In Jeremiah 17:5 we find this admonition: 'Thus saith the Lord;
Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm,
whose heart departeth from the Lord."
As we were preparing this newsletter, it became more obvious all
the time that we would not have the room to include many significant
items concerning the purge that is going on in the Mormon Church.
It seems that new developments are occurring almost every day.
Consequently, we decided to do a book on the subject
which should be of great interest to our readers. A very important
part of this book will deal with the suppression of the 16-volume
sesquicentennial history of the Mormon Church. Extremely important
church documents--including a secret memorandum to President Gordon
B. Hinckley--have been turned over to us detailing the duplicity
Mormon officials used when they squelched the history which many
trusting Mormon historians had spent untold hours preparing.
Our book regarding the Mormon Church's attempt
to silence its historians and other dissidents is entitled, The