Editing the Official History

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Jason Bourne
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Post by Jason Bourne »

I am still interested in hearing from other LDS defenders about the wholesale editing of the official Church History. I have found as I have explored this further that there are many other, what I view as egregious, changes. Many of them were made to make Joseph Smith look better (Deletions of references to his use of liquor is one example), defend plural marriage and to substantiate the succession of the Quorum of the 12 and BY after the prophet's death.

Another example is that comments that were allegedly made regarding Joseph's attempt in 1843 to put Rigdon out of the FP. The comments have Joseph Smith saying (and this is not an exact quote as my sources are home) that he had put Sydney off his back but the church had put him back on, but Joseph was through with him. However, Joseph Smith never said that and it was put in by BY to make Rigdon look less favorable in the prophet's eyes. It seems that Joseph Smith and Sidney were fairly reconciled that day.

I wish I had my source but there was an assistant church historian at the time the Documentive history was being compiled that was very upset about the insertions and deletions. As I have studied this more it does not seem to me that this was just normal procedure for the day and readily accepted like Plu theorizes. There were objections to the editing to make the history look better and more supportive of BY and crew.

I don't know. It seems one defender basically says it is ok to do this if it further the Kingdom of God. Is this lying for the Lord? Is it taking a position that evil speaking of the Lord's anointed is a worse sin the lying, even if the thing that may be perceived as evil speaking is true? What does this say about the truth claims then?

Am I overreacting to this? This really bugs me. It seems that some of what I read as a missionary in the seven volume church history may have been outright fabrication? Does the end justify the means?

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Post by Runtu »

rcrocket wrote:Nonetheless, although the Church may publish its histories as its sees fit, with few exceptions its archives are completely open to researchers to challenge and contest the Church's publications. This is completely different, for instance, than the canonical libraries of the Vatican and its U.S. churches, which are generally closed to researchers. When I have been in the archives, looking for sensitive material, I have never been asked to display my temple recommend or even affirm that I am a member of the Church. Whereas I dislike the policies in place against copying material, I have had complete freedom to transcribe on a computer what I have been provided. (I note that these policies are similar to those of the Huntington Library.)


My job back in the early 90s required me to go down to the Historical Library on several occasions and look at materials that were not available to the general public. If I recall correctly (and I do), I had to sign in at the desk downstairs and then wait to be escorted through a locked door and upstairs to a microfilm viewing room. I had to show my employee ID and my temple recommend.
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Post by harmony »

My job back in the early 90s required me to go down to the Historical Library on several occasions and look at materials that were not available to the general public. If I recall correctly (and I do), I had to sign in at the desk downstairs and then wait to be escorted through a locked door and upstairs to a microfilm viewing room. I had to show my employee ID and my temple recommend.


What on earth is so sacred in the Historical Library that you'd have to show your temple recommend?

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Post by Trinity »

I'm no apologist. But you must remember that this church leadership (particularly ones who have invested their entire life to the church) feel that not all truth is useful and that the end justifies the means. As long as God's putting his stamp of approval on it, anything goes regardless of whether or not it goes against every moral and ethical impulse by the little humans.

God's stamp of approval is a bit hard to discern. It would be nice if He/She would etch their signature in lightning jags.

It should bother you. That is the little voice inside your head reminding you that you should always question authority against your own moral compass to ensure your own integrity.
"I think one of the great mysteries of the gospel is that anyone still believes it." Sethbag, MADB, Feb 22 2008

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Post by Runtu »

harmony wrote:
My job back in the early 90s required me to go down to the Historical Library on several occasions and look at materials that were not available to the general public. If I recall correctly (and I do), I had to sign in at the desk downstairs and then wait to be escorted through a locked door and upstairs to a microfilm viewing room. I had to show my employee ID and my temple recommend.


What on earth is so sacred in the Historical Library that you'd have to show your temple recommend?


Beats me. None of the stuff I was doing was particularly sensitive.
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Post by harmony »

Runtu wrote:
harmony wrote:
My job back in the early 90s required me to go down to the Historical Library on several occasions and look at materials that were not available to the general public. If I recall correctly (and I do), I had to sign in at the desk downstairs and then wait to be escorted through a locked door and upstairs to a microfilm viewing room. I had to show my employee ID and my temple recommend.


What on earth is so sacred in the Historical Library that you'd have to show your temple recommend?


Beats me. None of the stuff I was doing was particularly sensitive.


That seems like an abuse of the temple recommend to me.I can think of nothing in the Historical Library that would require showing a temple recommend in order to enter the doors. If there is something of a sacred nature in there, like the original temple endowment or something, then either move it or restrict access to a small area, but to restrict the whole library seems pretty extreme.

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Post by harmony »

Trinity wrote:I'm no apologist. But you must remember that this church leadership (particularly ones who have invested their entire life to the church) feel that not all truth is useful and that the end justifies the means. As long as God's putting his stamp of approval on it, anything goes regardless of whether or not it goes against every moral and ethical impulse by the little humans.

God's stamp of approval is a bit hard to discern. It would be nice if He/She would etch their signature in lightning jags.

It should bother you. That is the little voice inside your head reminding you that you should always question authority against your own moral compass to ensure your own integrity.


All this does is emphasize once again that this church is led by men, not God. God doesn't fear history.

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Post by Runtu »

harmony wrote:That seems like an abuse of the temple recommend to me.I can think of nothing in the Historical Library that would require showing a temple recommend in order to enter the doors. If there is something of a sacred nature in there, like the original temple endowment or something, then either move it or restrict access to a small area, but to restrict the whole library seems pretty extreme.


It wasn't the whole library. The open stacks are available to the public. It was the special collections stuff that required the added information.
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Post by harmony »

It wasn't the whole library. The open stacks are available to the public. It was the special collections stuff that required the added information.


So what's in the special collections? Private correspondence? Journals? Official papers? Because I'm having a hard time understanding what would require a temple recommend. Are they trying to verify that the person entering is a member? Or an active member? Or that they are worthy? Because I don't see why a person would be required to be a member to see the special collection, and I sure don't see what a person's worthiness to enter the temple has to do with the Historical Library. Sounds like our leaders are making up the rules again, instead of letting God do it.

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Post by SatanWasSetUp »

rcrocket wrote:
harmony wrote:1. That our modern leaders either don't care enough to set the record straight or consider it okay to leave it as it is shows an arrogance that is highly suspect and a lack of integrity about our leaders today.

2. That our past leaders felt it appropriate to change the official record shows that the faults of our leaders today are no different from the faults of our past leaders.

3. Overall, what it shows to me is that the church is led by men, not God. Not that that's a surprise.


Of course, this argument is completely undercut by your repeated statements that you hold a current temple recommend and that, you indeed, attend the temple. To secure a temple recommend you must state your affirmance that the Church is led by God. So, either you are lying today; you are lying about your recommend status; or you are lying to your bishop and stake president.


Not necessarily. I told my bishop that I didn't believe the truth claims of the church and he still wanted to give me a temple recommend. He thought I needed to go to the temple to help me with my testimony. For about a year he practically begged me to get a temple recommend and go to the temple. So it depends on the bishop.
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Post by Runtu »

harmony wrote:
It wasn't the whole library. The open stacks are available to the public. It was the special collections stuff that required the added information.


So what's in the special collections? Private correspondence? Journals? Official papers? Because I'm having a hard time understanding what would require a temple recommend. Are they trying to verify that the person entering is a member? Or an active member? Or that they are worthy? Because I don't see why a person would be required to be a member to see the special collection, and I sure don't see what a person's worthiness to enter the temple has to do with the Historical Library. Sounds like our leaders are making up the rules again, instead of letting God do it.


What I was looking at: journals and correspondence, meeting minutes, stuff like that.
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Post by Mercury »

harmony wrote:
My job back in the early 90s required me to go down to the Historical Library on several occasions and look at materials that were not available to the general public. If I recall correctly (and I do), I had to sign in at the desk downstairs and then wait to be escorted through a locked door and upstairs to a microfilm viewing room. I had to show my employee ID and my temple recommend.


What on earth is so sacred in the Historical Library that you'd have to show your temple recommend?


I think recording the information of whom is looking at what limits the dissemination of said information. If journal entry X is released into the wild they know who to put pressure on in order to punish the "transgression" of disillusionment of faithful history.
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Post by harmony »

I think recording the information of whom is looking at what limits the dissemination of said information. If journal entry X is released into the wild they know who to put pressure on in order to
punish the "transgression" of disillusionment of faithful history.


If someone is using a stolen or bootlegged temple recommend to gain access, and then using the information in an anti-Mormon campaign, then obviously using a temple recommend to gain access isn't working. And punishment for the transgressor would have no effect, since they'd be beyond the reach of the church anyway.

It sounds like our leaders are simply expanding their iron control to things that don't need to be controlled. If something in the special collection is detrimental to the church, you can bet someone has already found a way to get it out. My issue is with the use of the TR as an admission ticket. It seems like that's an unintended use of something that has a very specialized use. As policies go, that one sucks.

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Post by Jason Bourne »

harmony wrote:
It wasn't the whole library. The open stacks are available to the public. It was the special collections stuff that required the added information.


So what's in the special collections? Private correspondence? Journals? Official papers? Because I'm having a hard time understanding what would require a temple recommend. Are they trying to verify that the person entering is a member? Or an active member? Or that they are worthy? Because I don't see why a person would be required to be a member to see the special collection, and I sure don't see what a person's worthiness to enter the temple has to do with the Historical Library. Sounds like our leaders are making up the rules again, instead of letting God do it.



Seems to me they want some assurance that whoever they let in is a member in good standing. I think they have had problems letting anyone in and then havings stuff show up in critical writing.

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Post by Trinity »

harmony wrote: Sounds like our leaders are making up the rules again, instead of letting God do it.


God, in his infinite wisdom, is a mute. I probably would be too if I created such a disaster as this world and didn't want to deal with it.

;)
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Post by truth dancer »

Hi Jason...

Am I overreacting to this? This really bugs me. It seems that some of what I read as a missionary in the seven volume church history may have been outright fabrication? Does the end justify the means?


No, you are not overacting.

If this happened in any other organization or company, the perpertrators would be thrown in jail, and there would be no question of inappropriate behavior and dishonesty.

The reason you are bothered is because it SHOULD bother people who have a conscience and who believe in honesty.

Why is it that, the "God said" excuse seems to trump all sense of goodness, integrity, morality, decency, and honor?

Seems in the church, people can do whatever they want, claim "God said", and they are good to go.. no one questions or doubts and wonders.

I do not think it is a healthy way to exist.

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Re: Editing the Official History

Post by Ray A »

Jason Bourne wrote:Does this trouble you?

What does this imply?

Does it give ammo to the RLDS that Joseph Smith really did not teach plural marriage and BY added it?

Does it create distrust in the written record? What else has be tampered with?

Does it show that Joseph Smith was really lying when we wrote it and BY wanted it to look like he did not lie?

What other issues does it present?


It troubled me when I first read the 7 volume History in the early 80s. At the time I was quite naïve. After reading the History I read Madsen's bio of B.H.Roberts, who edited the History in the early 1900s. Madsen's bio was, itself, hagiography, not strictly a good biography. Perhaps something like the early disciples of Jesus only wrote "edifying things" about him, things which "promote faith". Roberts excised significant portions of Joseph Smith's imbibing in alcohol, among other things, but I doubt he would have done this in the 1920s, when he tackled the Book of Mormon and seemed to be taking a much more open approach. His early Book of Mormon studies were very apologetic, and done at around the same time he edited the History, but by the 1920s he wrote concerning Book of Mormon problems, "how shall we escape these difficulties?", and what would be the effects on the younger generation (we are seeing those effects right now all over the Internet). I don't believe any General Authority has equalled Roberts in being able to look at the problems. Whether not being able to look honestly at Book of Mormon problems, or editing portions of the History in order to "promote faith", this approach will lead to the sorts of expressions you write. Bewilderment, and lots of head-scratching.

Ray A

Post by Ray A »

Van Wagoner also commented:

The official History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was published in book form under the direction of the First Presidency in 1902. The introductory assurance that 'no historical or doctrinal statement has been changed' is demonstrably wrong. Overshadowed by editorial censorship, hundreds of deletions, additions, and alterations, these seven volumes are not always reliable. The official history is a partisan chronology, a flawed legacy for rank-and-file believers. Not only does this history place polygamy and Brigham Young's ecclesiastical significance in the rosy glow of political acceptability, it smooths out Joseph Smith's rough-hewn edges, tidies up his more disreputable adventures, and deletes unfulfilled prophecies. In the process of remaking Mormon history, a monumental disservice was done to Rigdon and others who challenged the Quorum of the Twelve's 1844 ascent to power.

The nineteenth-century propaganda mill was so adroit that few outside Brigham Young's inner circle were aware of the behind-the-scenes alterations so seamlessly stitched into church history. Charles Wesley Wandell, an assistant church historian, was aghast at these emendations. Commenting on the many changes made in the historical work as it was being serialized in the Deseret News, Wandell noted in his diary:

I notice the interpolations because having been employed in the Historian's office at Nauvoo by Doctor Richards, and employed, too, in 1845, in compiling this very autobiography, I know that after Joseph's death his memoir was 'doctored' to suit the new order of things, and this, too, by the direct order of Brigham Young to Doctor Richards and systematically by Richards.

The Quorum of the Twelve, under Young's leadership, began altering the historical record shortly after Smith's death. Contrary to the introduction's claim, Smith did not author the History of the Church.


http://lds-mormon.com/history.shtml

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Post by Seven »

Trinity wrote:I'm no apologist. But you must remember that this church leadership (particularly ones who have invested their entire life to the church) feel that not all truth is useful and that the end justifies the means. As long as God's putting his stamp of approval on it, anything goes regardless of whether or not it goes against every moral and ethical impulse by the little humans.

God's stamp of approval is a bit hard to discern. It would be nice if He/She would etch their signature in lightning jags.

It should bother you. That is the little voice inside your head reminding you that you should always question authority against your own moral compass to ensure your own integrity.


What's tragic is when people ignore that voice and moral compass, which I believe comes from Christ, to reconcile their testimony of the church or idolizing of Joseph Smith. Until members can honestly believe LDS leaders are fallible, (not just say it) we will continue seeing defense of unethical behavior.

I for one am relieved to see a believer who is bothered by this. It should bother any person who values integrity.
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That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another." Joseph Smith

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Post by truth dancer »

The thing is though... :-)

How immoral, indecent, reprehensible, dishonest, repugnant can one be and still be a reliable conduit from God?

If a thirty year old married man has an affair with a sixteen year old girl, then lies about it, how can one truly trust him as a moral ethical leader, OR as a decent trustworthy human being?

I'm pretty sure if any other man engaged in behavior as did Joseph Smith, most of the apologists and believers would not be so eager to trust his word and would condemn him as being a very immoral and deceitful human being.

I just really don't see why Joseph Smith gets a free pass... he can do ANYTHING and it is all excused away.

IMO, a prophet of God should be held to a higher standard than the average guy not a lower standard where he gets away with anything and everything.

I understand people are human but really... it floors me how people can trust Joseph Smith when he is clearly untrustworthy, can hold him as a great spiritual leader when his behavior is clearly immoral and reprehensible, call him a prophet of God when he doesn't even hold the minimum standards of decency.

It baffles me.

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Post by Runtu »

truth dancer wrote:The thing is though... :-)

How immoral, indecent, reprehensible, dishonest, repugnant can one be and still be a reliable conduit from God?

If a thirty year old married man has an affair with a sixteen year old girl, then lies about it, how can one truly trust him as a moral ethical leader, OR as a decent trustworthy human being?

I'm pretty sure if any other man engaged in behavior as did Joseph Smith, most of the apologists and believers would not be so eager to trust his word and would condemn him as being a very immoral and deceitful human being.

I just really don't see why Joseph Smith gets a free pass... he can do ANYTHING and it is all excused away.

IMO, a prophet of God should be held to a higher standard than the average guy not a lower standard where he gets away with anything and everything.

I understand people are human but really... it floors me how people can trust Joseph Smith when he is clearly untrustworthy, can hold him as a great spiritual leader when his behavior is clearly immoral and reprehensible, call him a prophet of God when he doesn't even hold the minimum standards of decency.

It baffles me.

~dancer~


That's exactly how and why I left the church. I finally realized that I was giving Joseph Smith a pass for things I would never stand for in anyone else. It finally struck me that I was being an apologist for some rather reprehensible behavior, and what did that say about me?
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