Three Meetings with an LDS General Authority, 2012/2013 ~ by Grant H. Palmer

The following very interesting memorandum was received on 5th April 2013 from Grant H. Palmer, and  is shared here with his permission.

grant palmer

Grant is a renowned LDS historian, and is author of “An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins”, which is referred to in the following memorandum. Further details of that book may be found here:

http://signaturebooks.com/2010/02/an-insiders-view-of-mormon-origins-2/

Three Meetings with a LDS General Authority, 2012- 2013

Grant H. Palmer

 

In mid-October 2012, a returned LDS Mission President contacted me to arrange a meeting. Several days later, he called again and said that a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy also wished to attend. He said the General Authority would attend on condition that I not name him or repeat any stories that would identify him. He explained that neither of them, including the GA’s wife, believed the founding claims of the restoration were true. He clarified that they had read my book, An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins, and had concluded that the LDS Church was not true; was not what it claimed to be. The GA often went to the MormonThink.com website for information and there discovered my book. The Mission President said he received my book from the GA.         

 

We have at this writing met three times. We first met on Tuesday, October 23, 2012 and again February 14, 2013 at my house. On March 26, 2013 we convened at the GAs house. Upon entering my home for the first meeting the GA said, “We are here to learn.” I recognized him. He has been a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy for a number of years. He has served in several high profile assignments during this period. The following are the more important statements made by the GA during our first three meetings. We now meet monthly.

 

He said that each new member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is given one million dollars to take care of any financial obligations they have. This money gift allows them to fully focus on the ministry. He said that the overriding consideration of who is chosen is whether they are “church broke,” meaning, will they do whatever they are told. He said the senior six apostles make the agenda and do most of the talking. The junior six are told to observe, listen and learn and really only comment if they are asked. He said that it takes about two to three years before the new apostle discovers that the church is not true. He said it took Dieter F. Uchtdorf a little longer because he was an outsider. He said they privately talk among themselves and know the foundational claims of the restoration are not true, but continue on boldly “because the people need it,” meaning the people need the church. When the Mission President voiced skepticism and named ___ as one who surely did believe, The GA said: “No, he doesn’t.” The one million dollar gift, plus their totally obedient attitude makes it easy for them to go along when they find out the church is not true. For these reasons and others, he doesn’t expect any apostle to ever expose the truth about the foundational claims.

 

When I asked the GA how he knew these things, he answered by saying that the Quorum of the Twelve today is more isolated from the Quorums of the Seventies now because there are several of them. When only one Quorum of the Seventy existed, there was more intimacy. During his one on one assignments with an apostle, conversations were more familiar. He said that none of the apostles ever said to him directly that they did not believe; but that it was his opinion based on “my interactions with them.” Also, that none of the Twelve want to discuss “truth issues,” meaning issues regarding the foundational claims of the church. He said that the apostle’s lives are so completely and entirely enmeshed in every detail of their lives in the church, that many of them would probably die defending the church rather than admit the truth about Joseph Smith and the foundations of the church.

The GA stated that my disciplinary action (which would have occurred on the final Sunday of October 2010 had I not resigned), was mandated/ordered/approved by the First Presidency of the Church. I said that if the apostles know the church is not true and yet order a disciplinary hearing for my writing a book that is almost certainly true regarding the foundational claims of the church, then they are corrupt even evil. He replied, “That’s right!”

 

            The GA said the church is like a weakened dam. At first you don’t see cracks on the face; nevertheless, things are happening behind the scenes. Eventually, small cracks appear, and then the dam will “explode.” When it does, he said, the members are going to be “shocked” and will need scholars/historians like me to educate them regarding the Mormon past.

 

The Mission President and the GA both said they attend church every Sunday and feel like “a hypocrite and trapped.” The GA said his ward treats him like a king and when he gives firesides and speaks to LDS congregations they have high expectations of him. He would like to do more in getting the truth out besides raising a few questions when speaking and gifting my book to others when feeling comfortable. Perhaps this is why he has reached out to me. The GA is a man of integrity and very loving. Upon leaving each time, he always gives me a big hug.

 

 

Do the Following Statements Support the Disclosures of the GA?

 

Apostle Boyd K. Packer said to Michael Quinn when interviewing him for a history position at BYU in 1976, “I have a hard time with historians because they idolize the truth. The truth is not uplifting, it destroys,” quoted in, Faithful History: Essays on Writing Mormon History, editor, George D. Smith, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 1992), 76n22.

Gregory Prince, who wrote a seminal biography of President David O. McKay, related to me that when he interviewed Hugh Nibley, a professor at BYU in 1995, that “At one point in the interview he [Nibley] asked that I turn off the tape recorder, which I did. He then related a curious anecdote relating to McKay and the Book of Mormon,” indicating that McKay did not believe in the historicity of the Book of Mormon (emails exchanged between me and Greg Prince on June 22, 2005. These documents are located in The Grant H. Palmer Papers, Accn 2071, Manuscripts Division, Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah).

Thomas Stuart Ferguson, a California lawyer, church member and avid amateur archeologist, took the Egyptian papyri that was gifted to the church in 1967 to several Egyptologists at Berkeley, and as I recall Brown University and had them independently translated. All said the papyri were common funerary rites from the Book of the Dead. Ferguson then took their statements to apostle Hugh B. Brown, and after reviewing the evidence “with Brother Brown he said that Brother Brown agreed with him that it was not scripture …. that Hugh B. Brown did not believe the Book of Abraham was what the church said it was” (Journal entry of Ronald O. Barney concerning Thomas Stuart Ferguson on 19 April, 1984. Barney, now retired, worked at the LDS Library and Archives at Church headquarters, in Salt Lake City). Ferguson also said the same to Gerald and Sandra Tanner on December 2, 1970: “Mr. Ferguson had just visited with Mormon apostle Hugh B. Brown before coming to our house, and said that Brown has also come to the conclusion that the Book of Abraham was false” (Letter of Gerald Tanner to Dee Jay Nelson, December 10, 1970, published by Modern Microfilm Co., SLC, Utah).

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Is Dissent Tantamount To Apostasy

Is Dissent Tantamount To Apostasy.

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Our Thoughts On The Monson Fraud Case

Our Thoughts On The Monson Fraud Case.

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Why?

Why are Steve Bloor and I supportive of Tom Phillips’ private criminal action against LDS Church President, Thomas Spencer Monson?

Our Joint Statement offers some clarification:

http://journeyofloyaldissent.wordpress.com/joint-statement-concerning-summonses-served-on-thomas-spencer-monson/

Here also are two current memes which offer further insight:

Steve Bloor re the summons

CHRIS ON CONFLICT OF THE MONSON SUMMONS [6]

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2009-2014: An Odyssey Without Answers in a Changing Church

The first time I attended an LDS church meeting was on 10th October 1971. I was 18 years old, and had been contacted on the doorstep five days previously by two young American elders, who were only a year or two older than me. They told me I would really enjoy their church meetings, and so, wearing jeans and a colourful shirt, I was escorted by them early on that Sunday morning to two meetings which they explained were called Priesthood and Sunday School. The local Branch President, in whose home I had been taught earlier that week, kindly provided the 10-mile lift for us to and from the meetings.

The meeting place was some rented rooms in a terraced Georgian house at Green Park, Bath. The congregation consisted of about 30 people, including four American missionary elders and three investigators. Half of the total congregation consisted of children or youth, and there were just four resident priesthood holders, the most senior of them, the founder member of the Bath Branch, having been a member for about 15 years. I was welcomed warmly.

During Priesthood time, the elders taught me a missionary discussion in a side room. That was followed by a special lesson for the investigators taught from a manual by the Branch President. I recall that lesson clearly. It was about the voluntary nature of priesthood service, and how a bishop, (translated for me as a branch president), might, in the course of his duties, receive a distress call from a member of his congregation at any hour of the day, and would respond to it. Apparently all service in the church was unpaid from top to bottom. It was a wonderful system emulating the service given by Jesus and his disciples. There was a clearly defined hierarchy, and they were all there to help me. If I had a question about something to do with the church I should take it first to my home teacher who would be assigned as soon as I was baptised. If he could not answer it, I could ask the branch president. If the question was too difficult for him to answer, then it could be referred to the stake president. Finally, if the stake president could not answer, there were apostles, and of course the prophet, who could ask the Lord on my behalf, and the answer would be provided. That sounded beautiful. The fount of all wisdom was at my disposal, and it felt very comforting.

Now I mention this early episode in my association with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by way of an explanation. My name was recently identified with a summons served upon Thomas Spencer Monson, and some have questioned how I came to be involved in any capacity with this private criminal action brought against the Mormon President by Tom Phillips. I have had many adjectives applied to me since this became public, ranging from ‘unspeakable’ to ‘heroic’. It might even be said that my name has been had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds and tongues. Well, perhaps not exactly all of them yet, but sometimes it feels a little bit that way.

Of course, this has not all happened spontaneously in a vacuum. There is a history, and underlying that history throughout has been my trust in the reassuring lesson I heard that very first Sunday I attended a Mormon meeting. Obviously I cannot place in the public domain specific evidence which I may later be required to give in court, but in order to facilitate general understanding I have permission to point to certain existing narratives and documents from the last five years, which are already part of the internet community’s record:

[1] To start with, this excerpt from my journal for 11th January 2009 details the final tithing settlement I attended:

Bishop A came at about 6pm to see Diana and me. He is a good man, and I like him, but he appears somewhat overawed by his responsibility, and even a little frightened of dealing with me. The three of us talked, and I was open about my feelings. I would have shared my specific concerns if he had allowed it. He said he feels I am on the edge of apostasy, and warned me not to speak to others about what I have discovered through my research, or he might have to take action against me, which he didn’t want to do because he admires me, and remembers how I welcomed him when he first moved into the ward. He hoped I would choose to become “a wise old owl”, someone who would learn to say not much at church if I knew differently from the rest of the congregation, and he hoped that what I did say would be aimed at strengthening people’s faith. I said I was not so sure that playing that role was on either my agenda or the Lord’s. I told him I really need further guidance and answers to my questions. He sympathised but admitted he knows really very little about church history and the things I have encountered, and did not want to hear any details. I told him that as far as I was concerned apostasy is not the act of confronting history, but is more commonly encountered in the kind of idolatry which places priesthood leaders on pedestals, so that their actions may never be questioned.

I decided then and there that I really can no longer associate with any of that carry-on. I simply cannot un-know what I know, and I cannot pretend; to do so would be a recipe for an implosion of the soul. I confess I am a little hurt at hearing that the Bishop wouldn’t trust me as I am “on the precipice of apostasy”, but those are only words to describe matters from his limited perspective. He told me some obvious things I have long known, like the church is not perfect, and no man in it is. That is self-evident from the history, but that isn’t the problem. I wish they would stop covering up. I just wish they would say it from the stand more often, and that the church would fess up to its besmirched history and repent like any decent organisation would do if it genuinely did stand for truth. Bp A could not answer me when I asked why the Lord’s church deals in lies, as it does. He would not discuss any historical anomalies with me. I could tell he was afraid of finding out what I know, and so the long and the short of it is that he cannot and will not be able to assist me.

We had tithing settlement. I am a full tithe payer at present, but I am seriously considering stopping that, as I feel the money is being used to mislead, and should be put to better use.

[2] After more than 37 years of being a full tithe payer I cancelled my standing order later that same month. I continued to live what I considered to be a good and moral life, but my attendance at church of necessity also dropped off, and by 2010 it was a rarity for me to attend at all. When I did go it was to support my son or his family. One such occasion was on 25th April 2010, when I recorded:

The sacrament meeting was mostly a dirge. In fact Diana said to me, “it’s boring but at least it’s not controversial”, as if to reassure me. Afterwards Bro. B, (our new home teacher now that I am off the bishop’s own list), walked out with me to the car, and chatted with me in the car park. We have known each other for more than 25 years, and he is someone I truly respect. I told him I was happy to speak with him but warned him that I might be taking him into topic areas he doesn’t like. He said that I should have had someone to talk to. I told him I was told 15 months ago by Bp A that I must not speak outside my family to anyone about my feelings, upon pain of facing disciplinary action, but more recently he had relented and said I should be very selective if I talk to friends about my concerns. I said I don’t blame Bp A for leaving me alone because he is inexperienced and doesn’t want to know these things himself.

I told Bro. B I care only about the truth, and will support it wherever I find it. If I find I am in error I will change and admit it, even after 38 years, and it seems he is of the same mind, so with these caveats duly issued we will meet and talk soon.

He also said that he thinks our experience with certain leaders in recent years hasn’t helped. I said that what I am presently feeling should not be seen as the cumulative effect of indifferent leadership, although that experience has certainly encouraged me to question all things. We had a brief discussion about what he termed “the kinks in Joseph Smith”. I told him frankly that I didn’t care whether JS had 33 wives, or even if he, (Bro. B), did, because that is between them and the Lord, but I do care about the foundational claims of the church. If the Lord spoke to JS in the First Vision as reported and taught, then that is all that matters in determining that JS was the Lord’s mouthpiece.

He told me he is not worried about talking with me because he knows the gospel is true. I told him that I also know a gospel which is true, but its truthfulness doesn’t automatically mean that the institutional church’s claims are founded, and it is these which are under scrutiny. It has taken strength, not weakness, to reach a point at which I am strong enough to be able to admit I have been wrong on some things. When you find out you are wrong there are only two choices: admit it and change, or deny it and pretend. I cannot pretend. I said I would be happy to be part of “all this” again, (gesturing towards the chapel), if truth were Master, which would require some major changes, but until that time I would not be able to be involved, as it would require pretence on my part. Bro. B finished as he had started by saying that he wanted to meet with me, because he likes me, and wants to allow me to air my feelings, not because he is required to do so, but simply as a friend, and without any agenda of re-converting me.

[3]Unfortunately the promise of a more open dialogue which this conversation had seemingly offered did not materialise. Some months later we learned indirectly that Bro. B’s wife had been instrumental in dissuading him from getting involved. I do not know her reasons, but it was by now apparent that avoidance of open discussion about historical concerns was fast becoming the norm within modern LDS culture.

It was perhaps an opportunity missed, but in any case the next 18 months proved to be a time of poignant personal reflection. Our second son, aged 28, unexpectedly died in September 2010. The trauma of his passing caused me to analyse not only my deepest inner feelings, but also the past actions of my life which had served to frame and direct his short mortal experience. With a very tender heart, there were certain things I deeply regretted. One of those was my acquiescence in the racist attitudes of the church I had joined back in 1971. The church had changed its policy regarding Blacks and the priesthood in 1978, but it had never actually apologised for the racism which had become part of my worldview for at least two decades.  I had had several Black friends over the years, and while I trust I never actually showed it, in my time I had felt them to be spiritually inferior because of the teachings I had received during the first seven years of my membership. My moral antennae had told me that they were my equals in every way, but the church had taught me something else, and I had of course believed the church. I needed to apologise, and I was unwilling to wait longer on the church to act for all of its members, and so I decided to do it unilaterally. I knew it might upset some LDS members who were friends, but it was important to me to express my regret: and so in March 2012 I published online “A Public Apology”, http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/apology

My younger daughter, Sophia, publicised fairly widely what I had done. This immediately drew fire from some conservative quarters of the LDS community, including from some members of my own ward, who decided to make a complaint to the Stake President about my initiative. Soon afterwards I received an invitation to meet for a discussion with the SP, Pres. J., and also Bp A. The executive secretary’s email explained:

They have invited you to meet with them to discuss your personal thoughts and feelings about your testimony, the Church and its teachings. In recent weeks a number of members of the… Ward have expressed concern about a message posted on Facebook relating to the 1978 declaration by the President of the Church that all worthy male members should be entitled to receive the priesthood and have access to the associated ordinances and blessings. The item was posted by Sophia and accessed by many who are Facebook friends. From a later communication that appeared on Facebook, there is a suggestion that you may have had some personal involvement in writing the statement.”

Sophia and I duly met with Pres J. and Bp A. on 25th April 2012. We conceded no ground over the Public Apology, and stated that it was the moral right of any individual to apologise for himself, regardless of what others might think of it. That was not challenged and was all dealt with in two minutes. Sophia, later that same evening, summarised the rest of the meeting as follows:

It went really well. I think they’re pretty confused as to why we might want to remain cultural Mormons, for our love of the people and for the identity that it offers, despite rejecting the doctrines of the church. But Pres. J was very accommodating, letting us discuss some issues that we had, and nodded along, even volunteered some issues himself (e.g. he brought up polygamy of his own accord, which allowed Dad an opportunity to discuss historical records of polyandry, etc.).

We were well listened to, and there were a couple of times when there were some shocked expressions and quiet moments, in particular regarding the Book of Abraham, which I’m not sure even Pres. J. was aware of (we showed him copies of the original papyrus against the BoA’s image and the image of Anubis and the mummy, which Dad ran them through, said that it was being taught in schools now, and was available in children’s books from the local library – I showed them a children’s book from the library with Anubis and the canopic jars – and I explained how I’d travelled to Egypt and sought out these things in person, at the Egyptian museum, papyrus museum, a man who studies comparative religions, etc.). So I don’t know what will be the outcome of that, but it was interesting to see and hear the reaction, at least.

Pres. J. said he understood Dad’s predicament, and expressed it was a very difficult problem for him to have to deal with. He said he’d need to go away to think and pray about what to do, followed by an hilarious moment when he said “And I want you to go away… [and think about what had been discussed]”, whereupon Dad, Bishop A and myself all burst out laughing, and Dad said “I bet you do! Where would you like me to go? Onto Pres. M’s patch perhaps?”, whereupon Pres. J. laughed and said “No, I wouldn’t wish that on the man”. One of the few light moments of the evening, but a positive experience, I think.

Dad feels Pres. J. will have to go away and talk to the Area Presidency. He was obviously quite concerned by the thought of Dad publishing more papers, and the media involvement should disciplinary action be taken against Dad for telling the truth.

The nice thing was that Pres. J. did tell Dad that he knew that Dad was a man of integrity and honesty, and he respects him for that, regardless of whether we have different attitudes towards the doctrines of the Church. So that was really good: after years of Dad being badmouthed in certain quarters, accused of being corrupted or unrighteous, it was good that this was said, and Dad was very grateful for that sentiment. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens, I suppose.

[4] On 12th June 2012 I received an email from the Stake President. It was couched in friendly terms, which I appreciated, informing me: “Having had a little time to reflect on the recent meeting… I would welcome the opportunity to meet again to talk about your feelings towards the Church and its teachings.”

I responded with similar cordiality, and an appointment on 12th July was arranged for us to continue our discussion. Before that meeting I decided that in order to be fair I should provide some academic findings which fundamentally challenged the LDS position on one important issue. I did not wish to force this information upon Pres. J. against his will, and so attached a file to my email, leaving him to decide whether or not he would look at the information. I wrote:

“Some time ago I prepared some notes on how I felt about one particular issue which deeply affects my understanding of things LDS. I drafted it because a couple of well-intentioned persons had asked me to share my concerns with them. You are the first however actually to receive it. The document comes with a caveat, which is that it does contain information which I believe would severely challenge anyone in their existing LDS belief.

It is something of a catch-22, because if you are looking to get a good handle on how I might present my case, you will need to have a working understanding of the contents, and yet that understanding might possibly lead to you being in my position yourself before long. So I attach it with that warning, and it’s your choice. I have always taken the view myself that truth cannot be harmed by investigation, but that no longer appears to be the orthodox LDS outlook, and you may take a different position. If your current assignment is merely to monitor rather than to engage with the root causes of my dilemma, I fully accept that you may choose not to read it.

As I say, you are the first to receive this, so to date I have not shared it with anyone else, and only with you after issuing fair warning. I’d like to emphasise that point in order to establish that this document is not in itself evidence of actionable LDS apostasy, but rather is just an indication of the awkward juxta-positioning of scholarly evidence, (i.e. demonstrable truth), with my allegedly heretical stance. This will be the focal point perhaps of further discussion about my standing.

I look forward to seeing you on 12th. It’s a pity it has to be about this though.”

Pres. J responded four days later:

Hi Chris – thanks for confirming the date and time. I look forward to seeing you at 10.00 on 12.07 at your home. I appreciate you sending the document but have chosen not to open at this time.

The meeting on 12th July 2012 seemed really to be more of a social visit than anything else, and passed pleasantly without anything of note being resolved. That was the last time that my feelings were discussed with the Stake President. It was apparent that he was not prepared to engage in the subject areas where I needed support and answers. Although that was not helpful to me, I respected him for taking that position, since he was after all just a Stake President, with a family and other everyday concerns, and not a General Authority who was paid to represent the church.

[5] It was now becoming very apparent that I would need to take my concerns to a higher level of church authority, since my bishop, home teacher, and stake president had all, in one way or another, been unable to assist me. I knew though, that any letter sent to the Area Presidency or other General Authority would, as a matter of routine, be returned to my Stake President to deal with, and he had already chosen not to become involved with the issues. I therefore considered how I might actually be heard by the Area Presidency. It occurred to me that an open letter, published on the internet, and also posted in hard copy to the office of the Area Presidency, would bring to their attention my questions, which I knew were also the questions of many others. In choosing this method, I felt it would be in the LDS Church’s public interest to respond in some meaningful way, even if it was only in the form of instructions conveyed to me through my Stake President. I duly published my first Open Letter to the Europe Area Presidency on 28th August 2012.

http://journeyofloyaldissent.wordpress.com/2014/02/23/chris-ralphs-first-open-letter-to-the-europe-area-presidency-28th-august-2012/

[6] This was ignored, and so a few weeks later, on 4th October 2012, I gave them a second opportunity to respond, when I published my second Open Letter to the Europe Area Presidency.

http://journeyofloyaldissent.wordpress.com/2014/02/23/chris-ralphs-second-open-letter-to-the-europe-area-presidency-4th-october-2012/

[7] To my disappointment this too was ignored. My father, aged 89, felt this discourtesy was not befitting men who claimed to serve God, and so took it upon himself to write to the Area Presidency in an Open Letter of his own on 29th October 2012.

http://journeyofloyaldissent.wordpress.com/2014/02/23/ted-ralphs-open-letter-to-the-europe-area-presidency-29th-october-2012/

[8] When that was also ignored, it became clear that the policy was to avoid answering these serious questions. However, one last opportunity was extended to the Europe Area Presidency on 3rd December 2012, when twelve British members of the church, (including my father and my two daughters), wrote a further open letter urging them to answer my two earlier communications:

http://stevebloor.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/twelve-members-of-mormon-church-plead-for-honest-answers-to-two-open-letters/

[9] When this was also ignored it confirmed the opinion of many observers that not only could the Area Presidency not answer, but they were probably under specific instructions from higher up the hierarchy not to do so. The inference was that it was well understood at the highest levels of church authority that there were insurmountable problems with LDS truth claims, and that the policy was to disguise that fact from the tithe-paying membership at all costs. The twelve British signatories next published a Proclamation to The First Presidency & Quorum of The Twelve on 21st December 2012.

http://stevebloor.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/proclamation-to-the-first-presidency-quorum-of-the-twelve/

[10] I supported their initiative by adding a heartfelt letter of my own two days later, addressed to the same governing bodies of the LDS church.

http://journeyofloyaldissent.wordpress.com/2014/02/23/chris-ralphs-open-letter-to-the-first-presidency-quorum-of-twelve-23rd-december-2012/

Needless to say, no answers were forthcoming to any of these attempts to engage the LDS church leadership in a constructive, honest dialogue, and so the possibility of developing greater understanding and a working relationship between those who claimed to be Jesus Christ’s representatives, and those who incrementally had felt deceived and rejected, was dismissed out of hand by the former.

Every avenue of enquiry had been tried from the lowest to the highest authority, and all had been found to be lacking in ability and willingness to deal with the situation. Our experiences has not been in isolation. It is now apparent that this has been the experience of others also, when they have sought substantive answers to their reasonable questions from a church which had demanded so much from them as followers.

Avoiding the difficult questions has not solved anything. A policy which conveyed only contempt for truth seekers, inevitably also ensured a rising tide of dissent within the ranks. It is unsurprising that respect has all but evaporated, and alternative, less conciliatory approaches are now resulting; Tom Phillips’ private criminal action against Thomas Spencer Monson, (as sole owner of the LDS church corporation), which was initiated in London on 31st January 2014, should perhaps be viewed as just the first of many which will keep recurring until genuine openness, accountability, and inclusiveness are demonstrated within the LDS organisation.

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Chris Ralph’s open letter to the First Presidency & Quorum of Twelve: 23rd December 2012

Dear First Presidency & Quorum of Twelve,

I am sorry I am writing this letter.

That is not an apology; it is a plain statement of fact. I sincerely am very sorry. It is regrettable that such a letter as this needs to be written at all.

However, when bishops and stake presidents find themselves unable to answer members’ basic concerns, and the Europe Area Presidency pointedly refuses to respond to crucial questions about the church’s foundational claims, it becomes obvious that something is very worryingly amiss. In such circumstances, what other option is there for troubled truth-seekers, than to refer the same unanswered questions to the fifteen men who are periodically sustained as prophets, seers and revelators, and who are sometimes reverentially termed “the living oracles”?

These matters are profoundly important, potentially influencing the daily lives of millions. Accordingly, answers are required from the governing body of the church. Whatever apologists, (self-appointed or otherwise), may have to say on the subject is irrelevant, unless of course, you, as that governing body, decide to endorse their ideas officially. In other words, a response needs to come directly from the horse’s mouth, and not from the mouth of just any aspiring stable-boy currently left to sweep up; stable-boys are hired and fired, and so their words carry no weight or authority.

You will, I assume, have some familiarity with my two Open Letters which were published earlier this year. If not, then they may be found here:

http://mormonisminvestigated.co.uk/2012/08/28/an-open-letter-to-europe-area-presidency-by-chris-ralph/

and here:
http://mormonisminvestigated.co.uk/2012/10/04/second-open-letter-to-area-presidency/

or alternatively here:

http://stevebloor.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/open-letter-to-europe-area-presidency-of-the-church-of-jesus-christ-of-latter-day-saints/

and here:

http://stevebloor.wordpress.com/2012/10/04/a-second-open-letter-to-the-europe-area-presidency/

For the sake of brevity, I will not at this point repeat the full content of those letters, but ask for your considered responses when you have read them. Please answer honestly and openly, and please do so without further undue delay.

We have clearly arrived at an important crossroads in the evolution of the church, and history will almost certainly not judge you kindly if the content of those letters continues to be ignored. They represent the questions of many thousands already conversant with the uncensored historical information which is increasingly available to inquiring minds.
In the UK it is becoming apparent that we are nearing tipping point. The proclamation just published by twelve British members is the clearest evidence that disengagement is well underway. They represent thousands in this land who might now be properly described as “closet doubters”.

And who is to blame for that doubt? Are the members themselves culpable, or the local leaders perhaps? Hardly so. Those now leaving in significant numbers had, in many cases, been stalwart defenders of the faith for many years; they are not luke-warm converts of a few weeks’ duration, who have turned away for lack of understanding of gospel principles or church government. The current local leaders in many cases find themselves placed in the unenviable position of trying to advise men and women who are more knowledgeable than they themselves are about the issues. It is not the bishops’ and stake presidents’ faults that they soon find themselves in retreat, incapable of answering and unable to help. Blame for this situation rests squarely with the institutional church itself.

In an age of rapid information exchange, the practice of serving up sanitized history and empty spiritual placebos to the overworked and under-valued members, is without doubt poisoning the whole body of the church. The physician can hardly blame the patient for this perilous mis-judgment.

The tide is rising rapidly, and millions more who have yet to awaken to the uncomfortable facts, (usually because they have been actively discouraged from looking for them by church leaders and teachers), will before long also find out. And then the fairytale must give way to an era of post-fairytale reality. That means pain, and fear, and a sense of the deepest emptiness for many who are undeserving of such traumas, but it is a process which cannot be halted, because surely the God of Truth has willed it this way.

I am reporting this to you, but presumably you are already more than cognisant of these enormous challenges, and so you will also understand that this situation leaves you with a plain choice: either to continue to lead the people in a state of perpetual denial and ignorance, or to teach them to live by a new-found faith and trust in objectivity, which will permit truth to lead us where it will. It ought not to be too difficult for men of real integrity, men of God, to make an enlightened choice. Have we not sung together many times: “Do what is right, let the consequence follow”? The time is upon us when trust in that admonition needs to be expressed both in word and deed.

It is essential above all else to acknowledge that a brazen denial of the past has never been true faith, but just an avoidance of reality; and stubbornness has never been genuine strength, but just arrogance in disguise. This nettle before you must be grasped; this bullet must be bitten. It is for you to act now if you do not wish to stand condemned, not by history alone, but by all honest men and women throughout the world who value truth.

Take for example the case of the Book of Abraham. Scholars have been in no doubt about its true provenance for well over 40 years. However, the church hierarchy has in effect concealed the known facts from the tithe-paying membership. Why? Why are such vital historical discoveries not taught to the members as a matter of honour and integrity? Why is the myth of the Abrahamic papyrus still perpetuated even though it is proven to be false? After all, we read in church-approved manuals: “When we speak untruths, we are guilty of lying. We can also intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth. Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest.” (p. 181 Priesthood & Relief Society manual, see http://lds.org/manual/gospel-principles/chapter-31-honesty?lang=eng).

Why then the deafening silence over something so radically important to the issue of belief in the prophetic office of Joseph Smith? Brethren, as the manual properly affirms, this kind of concealment is dishonesty; it cannot be called anything else. That fact alone is deeply distressing, but there is worse, for when such dishonesty is coupled with soliciting donations from a membership which lives in fear of spiritual condemnation if it fails to comply, it might perhaps be argued that institutional dishonesty has crossed a line and has become deception with intent to defraud. Or at any rate that is what we would probably call it in the UK. That reflects shamefully on all of us, and so I urge you to address this issue, or risk your names being forever tainted.

In the UK, most members pay their donations with added tax relief, and that resulting relief is additionally solicited by the church. This means that if deception with intent to defraud were ever to be proved, the long list of victims would not be limited just to the donors, but might also include the UK government, and therefore, in some way, each citizen of the UK. Assuming that UK offerings annually amount to a conservative £50m, it seems likely that the UK government is surrendering £10m per annum to the church as a corollary of the process. How much, therefore, has the average UK citizen unwittingly “donated” to the church over the last 40 years? This must be viewed as a potentially significant issue.

For most of us though, the deepest concern goes well beyond the earnings we have handed over under questionable circumstances. It is the devaluing of our standing in the eyes of our families and friends, which is most injurious to us, and it seems to occur whenever we place honesty above ecclesiastical loyalties.

I have a son I love and cherish as much as anything God has given me. I know he loves me too, but following my sincere attempt to be open with him about real church history, he concluded I had “lost the spirit”, and that I was no longer the person I had once been, the one he had always looked up to for advice and moral support. That wounded me deeply.

Why would he take such a view? Am I less honest, less charitable, less moral today than I was when I taught him at an early age to “follow the brethren”, and encouraged him to prepare to serve a mission for the church? Not at all. I am sure I am as much the person I ought to be now, as I ever have been. I have not really changed, even though my understanding of reality has. His respect for me has waned because you, (and those who formerly occupied your seats at General Conference), have consistently failed us. It is not his fault that he is afraid to look at the historical evidences which have opened my eyes. Nor is it his fault that he lives in fear of losing his own precious little eternal family if he should discover that my concerns are actually well founded. You have taught him throughout his life to fear the consequences of discovering the truth, and now he and we suffer daily for it.

It grieves me to know that he undoubtedly lives in a state of constant sorrow over what he sees as the disaffection of his parents and his siblings from the only divinely approved vehicle of salvation there is in this world. His life is needlessly streaked with unhappiness because of the fear of uncorrelated spiritual discovery you have sown in him since he first attended Primary. The demonstrably false tenet that God will not permit you, the Brethren, to lead the church astray has insidiously interpolated itself between us and his full trust, and so we are all condemned to suffer, as he doggedly tries to live an existence of false hope, vainly longing for things to be as they once were, but not knowing, (and, through fear, not wanting to know), the scale of the problems you have kept from him.

Having striven always to be honest with my fellow men, and having constantly held up that kind of example to our children, I find that a hidden wedge, (sometimes referred to by others as the “invisible elephant in the room”), has now resulted, and I am sure it is because he cannot prevent himself from measuring my worth by my unwillingness to pay you lip-service allegiance. As I no longer feel able to be supportive of your chosen ethos, he perceives that the fault is in me, for he has been thoroughly persuaded that you would not lead him astray. This is ironic on multiple levels, isn’t it?

We are more fortunate than many however, who, finding themselves in similar circumstances, are no longer even able to bring themselves to speak civilly to one another, for so great is the animosity arising from this issue of leadership infallibility. Tragically, Voltaire has been proven correct many times over in his observation that “Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices”.

Many LDS families have suffered and continue to suffer such injustices because of this infallibility belief first promulgated by Wilford Woodruff. It is time therefore to de-commission that pernicious and destructive teaching, which is currently instrumental in destroying so many kin relationships and friendships throughout the world.

There is a great need instead to re-enthrone the liberating principle of honest inquiry that all may freely discover the facts for themselves. This has been advocated by various leaders in the past, such as James E. Talmage, who stated:

“The man who cannot listen to an argument which opposes his views either has a weak position or is a weak defender of it. No opinion that cannot stand discussion or criticism is worth holding… In general it is true that nothing which cannot stand up under discussion or criticism is worth defending”

and J. Reuben Clark, who said:

“If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed”

and Hugh B. Brown, who observed:

“Only error fears freedom of expression.”

This current “control neurosis” should cease. It is time to do as Jesus would do, and teach a gospel of inclusiveness once more, which emphasizes that nobody should ever be considered a lesser person for pursuing ultimate truth, even if their quest leads them in due course to the conclusion that such truth is not found within Mormonism.

As you consider the humble origins of this church, and of Joseph Smith junior its founder, on this his 207th birthday, please don’t allow yourselves to be deceived into thinking that the finery and sophistry purchased with accumulated wealth in recent times, will ever be sufficient to cover up the sins of the past. The eventual cost of misleading the people at this crossroads would prove far greater than any price you would pay for championing transparency and inclusiveness. And if your courage begins to fail you as you stand upon this momentous brink, then please exercise full faith, and do not attempt to count the cost as you cast off the worn and torn rags of misrepresentation which, to be truthful, have adorned Joseph Smith’s church throughout its history.

Provided your intentions are worthy ones, we, the many disillusioned members, are ready to help in every possible way if you will only begin to speak to us, and also listen to what we have to say, just as Elder Holland promised he would do on BBC television earlier this year.

However, your desire for realignment must be full and sincere. Half-truths will no longer do, for they are also half-falsehoods, and will be found out. The searing light of truth must be shone upon every concern. Full disclosure is the only hope there is that the patient may be healed of his otherwise terminal condition.

The time has come; this moment of opportunity may never return.

In hope,
Chris Ralph

Posted in Open Letters | 2 Comments

Ted Ralph’s open letter to the Europe Area Presidency: 29th October 2012

Dear Brethren,

I am in my 90th year; forgive me therefore if my senses are dulled, but I have always understood that courtesy is the watchword of our Church. Why therefore do we still await responses to my son Christopher’s open letters addressed to you on 28th August and 4th October?

My tired old mind can only surmise that your silence is either [a] sorrowful, [b] scornful, or [c] dependent upon the approaching fortune, or otherwise, of Brother Romney, with the election’s outcome determining the tone of your eventual reply. It has even crossed my mind that possibly you may not wish to risk jeopardizing electoral prospects by responding publicly prior to 6th November.

Should this all be fancy on my part, remember that I am in my dotage, and so, perhaps, may be allowed to muse that if the said Brother does not triumph, then a reply, if and when it comes, will nevertheless be couched in measured and considerate terms…

 

Lest we should meet a coterie

Of Danites at our door;

With nasal twangs, and muffled bangs…

And we shall be no more!

 

Yours, in continued patience,

Ted Ralph

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Chris Ralph’s second open letter to the Europe Area Presidency: 4th October 2012

Dear Area Presidency,

A little over five weeks ago I addressed an online open letter to you, posing some important questions relating to the founding claims of the Church. These questions, I suggested, required clear public answers if the growing tide of disaffected members was to be stemmed. I also invited you to open up a dialogue with me and others to consider these important issues. My intentions in doing so were honourable, for I am weary, (as I am sure many others also are), of feeling isolated from my local LDS community because I value historical truth. I am confident this letter must by now have been brought to your attention, as it is estimated that it has been viewed more than 15,000 times. However, in case you had by some misfortune not seen it, I also took the precaution of posting you a hard copy, explaining that my reason for going public was that there seems to be no other way of making ordinary voices such as mine audible to you.

In the last five weeks I have received many comments, mostly very supportive of my initiative. Some have been as hopeful as I, that my proposal to discuss these matters openly and honestly, would herald a new dawn for the LDS Church in Europe. However, others expressed cynicism over whether I would be taken at all seriously. One person wrote, for example: “The (LDS) corporation is run by businessmen and lawyers in love with Mammon and will do all they can to have the richest church in Babylon! Because of this they love good PR more than the truth! They will ignore the big issues of historical truth…” I sincerely hope that such views will be shown to be incorrect, but to date, as I have yet to receive any kind of response or acknowledgment from you, I admit to feeling growing concern.

Another observer warned me that I would probably be “jumped on” for asking searching questions publicly. However, my belief was that you would welcome an opportunity to set the record straight on the troublesome items which are currently causing disaffections. A recent statement on the official LDS newsroom blog, given in response to the David Twede issue, was reassuring, (see: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/mormonism-news-getting-it-right-september-25), as it made it clear that having, (and presumably therefore asking), questions is by no means considered anathema. The official statement announced: “It is patently false for someone to suggest they face Church discipline for having questions or for expressing a political view.”

That is exactly as it should be of course, and I trust the rest of the world will duly take note that asking questions is definitely allowed within the LDS Church community. This is indeed positive, as it infers that when questions are asked, answers will follow, thereby making the process of questioning a genuinely meaningful one. I do trust you will answer me therefore, as it would surely be preferable that a constructive open dialogue be seen to take place, than for my request to become as a voice in the wilderness, heard by many but answered by none.

In the spirit of the above-mentioned official statement, I will therefore adopt what I understand to be an acceptable formula of asking a series of questions by way of reviewing the key matters which arose in my first letter. I petition you with respect, apologizing in advance if some of the questions unavoidably appear to be accusatory, and trsut that it will be possible to move the situation forward positively by this means:

  • Is it true that those who actually witnessed Joseph Smith at work in the production of the Book of Mormon, stated that he recited the text while placing his face into a hat, in  which was located a peep- or seer-stone, and that the gold plates were typically absent during that process?
  • Are the missionaries trained today to teach prospective members an accurate account of this important historical event, or do they, and present-day LDS church publications, still indicate that translation was effected in another way directly from the gold plates?
  • If there is a major disparity of this kind between historical reality and what is being taught to the youth and non-members, why does the Church continue to support and encourage it?
  • Can it be credibly denied that Joseph Smith took other men’s wives as his own in polyandrous marriage unions, apparently without Emma’s knowledge?
  • Is it true, commencing with Fanny Alger in c1833, that Joseph had approximately thirty plural wives, the youngest, Helen Mar Kimball, being just 14 when they married?
  • Are we to accept as accurate the multiple sources used by respected historians, which indicate that some at least of those plural marriages were secured on the basis of Joseph representing that his life would be taken by an angel if the prospective wife refused him?
  • Have we any reason to disbelieve that Helen Mar Kimball was promised by Joseph that her whole family would receive exaltation in return for her accepting his marriage proposal?
  • Are stories of Joseph’s extra-monogamous activities, (some of the accounts resulting from a church-sponsored affidavit-gathering exercise later conducted by his nephew Joseph F. Smith), insufficient reason to consider that Joseph fell from grace?
  • Alternatively, would we be on firm ground as far as the present LDS Church leadership is concerned, simply denying the veracity of any of those stories, (as some members of the Community of Christ attempt to do), or should we perhaps admit that such      behaviour did occur, but was acceptable to God because Joseph was his chosen prophet?
  • How are we to respond intelligently to the charge that the Book of Abraham is dead, embalmed and in its canopic jars?
  • Are we to adopt and run with the dissembling arguments of LDS apologists?
  • Or are we to make up our own answers, or perhaps try to avoid the subject altogether?
  • Do we have to rely on obfuscating arguments which are diversionary, embarrassingly weak and often inappropriate?
  • Why are the apologists permitted, and seemingly encouraged to stand in the front line on such important issues as the Book of Abraham?
  • Do the Brethren not possess between them an authoritative voice capable of providing proper answers for those they routinely implore to support the LDS cause?
  • Is it not long overdue that the leaders, if they be the living oracles of revealed truth, provide the membership with clear, honest, inspired directions on addressing critical  questions relating to LDS founding claims, and the provenance of the LDS canon?
  • Does Elder Kearon, (who I understand is now a member of your presidency), remember me with even a small degree of the fondness with which I remember him, and does he perhaps recollect from times when we served together that I am a fervent supporter of the cause of truth, and will try to follow wherever it will lead us, because I believe that truth is freedom?
  • Does he sense as I do that certain of our shared past experiences foreshadowed this more important all-encompassing one?
  • Does he recall the very sad example of one brother, (he will know to whom I refer), who, driven by his fears, repeatedly refused to confront truth, until it proved disastrously late?
  • Does he appreciate the parallel I am compelled to draw now between that brother’s misfortune and the current dilemma of the institutional LDS church?
  • Do any of you believe that any of us can ever afford to be driven by our fears in the face of truth?
  • Are there not moral concerns of the most serious kind to be carefully weighed and considered?
  • Until all the questions have been answered openly and guilelessly, how may it be claimed that truth has prevailed?
  • Until whole answers are given in response to every heartfelt question, how might an enquirer be able to  judge the LDS message objectively and within an authentic context?
  • Is honesty not more precious than loyalty in the pursuit of spiritual fulfillment?
  • If honest answers would reflect the institutional LDS Church or the Brethren in a negative light, should lies ever be employed to conceal that reality?
  • Supposing a woman bought a motor vehicle, which the salesman assured her had been delivered new and in pristine condition straight from the factory, and she subsequently discovered it had a history of several former owners, hidden high mileage, and painted over rust, would she not be in her rights to question the      salesman who had seemingly misrepresented the facts to her for the purpose of obtaining her custom?
  • After all, isn’t it deception to misrepresent, and isn’t that unacceptable?
  • Wouldn’t she have cause to feel upset because the vehicle had been, in a very real sense mis-sold to her?
  • Would she have even greater cause for upset if the salesman, instead of admitting his error, and seeking a way to obtain reconciliation, attempted to maintain the original deception, and further compounded his error by casting aspersions upon the woman’s  character?
  • Are there not obvious disturbing parallels with this scenario, and should those parallels not be noted, confessed and acted upon without delay?
  • Is the LDS church not a parody of righteousness if it does not fully embrace the principle of truth?
  • And if so, then would the negative  consequences of failing to address these issues not extend far into the future to the shame of those who are presently able to make the necessary changes?
  • What of those to come, who may be misled unless they are fairly warned in advance of the full nature of the brand they are being asked to commit to?
  • Where, in all of these unresolved, unaddressed, unanswered issues, (and these are really only the small tip of a huge iceberg), may the half-truths generally to be found, of which you, as an Area Presidency, spoke in your April 2012 letter to local leaders?
  • And who is ultimately responsible for promoting and sustaining those half-truths?
  • Brethren, is it not time that we spoke further about all of these concerns?
  • Do the declining numbers, and the fabricated statistics, not offer their own warning?
  • Does making peace with historical truth have to be only “the final resort”?
  • Can it not be done now rather than as part of a future post mortem which will be held upon European Mormonism?
  • Is it not plain that there is a willingness today to address the painful realities which isolate the LDS church from the thinking world?
  • Is it not also clear as each day passes in non-response that this present willingness will become an ever rarer and diminishing commodity?
  • When will the nettle be grasped?
  • When will the bullet be bitten?
  • When will it finally be understood that entering into dialogue with those of us whose hearts are yet with the  Mormon community, but whose understanding of history has outgrown a milk-only diet of myth and dogma, would lead to a more open, honest,      robust and authentic organization, which courageously would embrace truth,      without constantly needing to spin and deceive, while looking in fear over its shoulder?

Some in the church apparently flatter themselves into thinking they lead the many, not realising that God is still well capable of leading the one; and for some reason they don’t seem to understand that unless truth is embraced, fully, unrelentingly, “warts and all”, then in time those many ones will be led away.

In all candour Brethren, is that not already happening?

You clearly need the support of all those who understand and care. Please, therefore, let us reason together.

Christopher Ralph

Posted in Open Letters | 1 Comment