Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Future of the Church


            Some of the enemies of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have predicted its demise over its stand opposing gay marriage and homosexual sin. They predict that within a few decades the Church will disintegrate and be no more.
            Below is what the prophets have said, to the contrary. Somehow I just don’t think we need strain our minds with great mental exertions and run about in circles suffering anxiety and panic to figure out which voices speak the truth. I think President Hinckley’s thoughts pretty well sum it up, and President Packer’s confirm:  

President Gordon B. Hinckley discussed this very question:
I noted from last Sunday’s papers that a new book is off the press, put together as a “history” of this work by two men who have spent much time gathering data. I have not read the book, but the conclusion, reported one reviewer, is that the future of the Church is dim.
Without wishing to seem impertinent, I should like to ask what they know about that future. They know nothing of the prophetic mission of this Church. The future must have looked extremely dim in the 1830s. It must have looked impossible back in those Ohio-Missouri days. But notwithstanding poverty, notwithstanding robbing, notwithstanding murders, notwithstanding confiscation and drivings and disfranchisement forced upon the Saints, the work moved steadily on. It has continued to go forward. Never before has it been so strong. Never before has it been so widespread. Never before have there been so many in whose hearts has burned an unquenchable knowledge of the truth.
It is the work of the Almighty. It is the work of his Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the gospel of salvation. Men and women may write now, just as Hurlburt and E. B. Howe and others wrote in those days, but the work goes on because it is true and it is divine. These are the best of times in the history of this work. What a wonderful privilege it is to be a part of it in this great era.

President Boyd K. Packer has declared: “Despite opposition, the Church will flourish; and despite persecution, it will grow.”


Will there be a sifting of the wheat from the tares as the years pass? Of course. Will the weak and even a few of the elect be deceived? The prophecies so state. But I think the above quotations speak for themselves, despite the gnashing of teeth by the adversary and his online spokespeople.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Gay Activism and the Gospel of Jesus Christ: Ruminations on Promoting Sin

Editor's note: an earlier version of this appeared here on February 13, 2016.

(Revised and Enlarged)

President Gordon B. Hinckley knew exactly what he was talking about when, in a 1997 general conference, he cautioned members of the Church, saying: “I hope you will never look to the public press [or bloggers/social media] as the authority on the doctrines of the Church.” His point was that most commentary from such sources fails to one degree or another to accurately represent or communicate Church doctrine, practice, and policy. The result is that many readers are given a false impression of the Church’s position and judge it falsely thereby. Of course, such a result—misunderstanding and confusion—is usually what the reporter or blogger—often a gay activist—seeks. They know there is nothing easier to sway than an outraged but misinformed audience.

The Position of the Church

The Proclamation on the Family, issued by the First Presidency, teaches that “All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”[1] The First Presidency has further stated:

We of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reach out with understanding and respect for individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender. We realize there may be great loneliness in their lives but there must also be recognition of what is right before the Lord. As a doctrinal principle, based on sacred scripture, we affirm that marriage between a man and a woman is essential to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. The powers of procreation are to be exercised only between a man and a woman lawfully wedded as husband and wife. Any other sexual relations, including those between persons of the same gender, undermine the divinely created institution of the family.[2]

During an occasion when activists and media were agitating, President Hinckley stated the following, which is the same thing he would say today if he still lived:

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #42: George D. Smith, An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton

Editor's note: This is the last of a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.


            George Smith, owner of Signature Books, is an atheist and critic of the Mormon Church who interests himself in issues and episodes of LDS history that he dislikes—polygamy being one of them. His publishing company’s ultimate purpose seems to be to reinterpret Mormon history so that the divine element is missing. On occasion he self-publishes his own works; hence his version of the journals of William Clayton. While most students of LDS history are grateful for those publications that make available new sources and documents, they do have an expectation, often disappointed, that what they buy will meet established scholarly standards. In this case, they are again disappointed.

            James B. Allen, former assistant church historian and BYU history professor, reviewed An Intimate Chronicle for BYU Studies with the eye of one who had already spent considerable time himself with the journals for his own scholarly works. He discovered that G. D. Smith was using purloined notes of the journals instead of the originals for his transcriptions, and that he was purposely omitting parts of the journals to make them seem more sensational. For example:        “Though editors have the right to determine what to eliminate, it is unfortunate in this case that some seemingly significant entries were excluded while some relatively insignificant passages were retained. Sunday, March 8, 1840, for example, was a very eventful Sabbath day for Clayton. In the morning, he prayed with a Sister Burgess, who had a serious infection on her breast. He also recorded where he had breakfast, who spoke at Church meetings during the day and evening; the ordination of certain men to the priesthood; some baptisms and confirmations; visits he made to members of the Church; gifts he received of oranges and money (he often recorded such thing as a reflection of his gratitude for people who supplied him with food and other needs while he was working without purse or scrip); and, finally, a cryptic comment about using ‘liberty’ toward Alice Hardman. In his abridgement, however, Smith kept only about one-sixth of the total entry: ‘Sister Burgess came. Her breast is very bad. I prayed with her…. Supper at Hardman’s. Used great liberty toward Alice Hardman’ (33). By including only the somewhat titillating material and leaving out the much more important information about Clayton and what he was doing as a missionary, this ‘abridgement’ does little but distort the day’s activity” (BYU Studies, Vol. 55, No. 2 [1995], 166).


            Because this distorted version of Clayton’s journals was published in paperback, it was more widely distributed than many other Signature publications—how many unsuspecting readers will be fooled, or at least misled, by this manipulated mess.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #41: David John Buerger, The Mysteries of Godliness: A History of Mormon Temple Worship

Editor's note: This is # 41 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.


The mysteries of Godliness attempts the first historical treatment of the development of the endowment and other temple rites. The preface acknowledges the sensitivity of this theme and promises ‘to treat the ceremony with respect’ in order to ‘enhance understanding of the temple for both Latter-day Saints and others by providing a history of the endowment’ (vii, ix). Yet, ‘given exaggerated claims about the temple and its origin by some enthusiastic apologists’ [just who these persons are and what constitutes their exaggerated claims the author does not tell us], he argues that ‘a degree of specificity in detail is unavoidable” (viii). Using many unpublished primary sources and published exposes written by anti-Mormons, Buerger traces endowment history from its beginnings in 1831 to the present day. His narrative is specific enough to offend the sensitivities of most devout Mormons, despite his disclaimers.

            “All sacred texts and sacred ceremonies, when they become the object of historical analysis, should be treated with delicacy and care…. Buerger, attempting to speak through his sources, some of which are openly antagonistic to Joseph Smith and the ceremonies revealed through him, fails to pass the sensitivity test. Nevertheless, basing his history on a plethora of documents (many of which are restricted by the Church because of their sacred content and thus cannot be studied by general researchers to determine their meaning, veracity, or historical setting), he does create an interesting narrative. …

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #40: Bryant S. Hinckley, Daniel Hammer Wells and Events of His Time

Editor's note: This is # 40 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

            In his autobiography, the main author wrote:

“At that period [1939-42] I did considerable correspondence for the President [Heber J. Grant], and wrote a small book for the Beneficial Life Insurance Company, the title of which was, “Heber J. Grant, a Businessman.”

            “Then he had me write the life of Daniel Hammer Wells, explaining that Annie Cannon Wells, an experienced writer and author, would assist me. His brother-in-law, Genton Wells, had worked for a year in the Library gathering information for that book. All of this was turned over to me, and it took me about a year to write the book, working at it whenever time permitted. Mrs. Cannon died before doing much on it.

            “President Grant paid me $100.00 per month additional while working on it. My wife, May, was a great help in putting it together. She worked very hard at it. That first book was a big job. There was an edition of 3,000 copies which cost the President about $3,000.00. He died soon after it came off the press or he would have gotten all his money back and then some.” (Bryant S. Hinckley, The Autobiography of Bryant S. Hinckley, [unpublished], 44.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #39: George Q. Cannon, The Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet

Editor's note: This is # 39 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

The authorship of The Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet has been the object of some debate. While the book bears only the name of George Q. Cannon, historical sources inform us that it was actually a collaborative effort within the Cannon family. The reason for dispute is that some historians have named Frank J. Cannon, a son of President Cannon, as the principal or “real” author. This is provocative because silvery tongued Frank Cannon often did not live the standards of the Church, bringing public shame to his highly prominent father, and after his (George’s) death, became a bitterly apostate anti-Mormon who travelled the United States giving lectures seeking to harm the Church as much as possible.

The journals of Cannon family members reveal that Frank wrote a rough first draft, but that it was extensively added to and revised by President Cannon and his sons Abraham H. and John Q. For example, one entry from President Cannon’s journal reads; “Friday, September 1, 1888. I worked very hard at the message of my ‘Life of Joseph.’” Other journal entries from President Cannon speak of his work on various chapters. A journal entry from Abraham Cannon reads: “I got his [G. Q. Cannon’s] consent to get John Q. to revise the ms. of ‘Joseph the Prophet’ which Frank prepared, after which Father and Joseph F. Smith will review it and we can then print the same.” President George Q. Cannon had final approval of the finished product. Each of these Cannon family members were literary men, often earning their living as editors and publishers of newspapers and books. A parallel might be drawn with today’s college professor, who produces a book with his own name as sole author, when in reality one or more assistants have substantially contributed to the research and writing. Obviously, as a practical matter, President Cannon’s name would help the book sell better than his less prominent children. President Cannon’s biographer, Davis Bitton, wrote, “Of course George Q. Cannon had the final right of approval and was responsible for the final product” (Davis Bitton, George Q. Cannon: A Biography, 296 and 511 n.140.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #38: John A. Widtsoe

Editor's note: This is # 38 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

John A. & Leah D. Widtsoe, The Word of Wisdom:

            From Elder Widtsoe’s autobiography:

While on my long European mission assignment in 1927-33 it became very evident that there was too much illness among the people and that poor nutritional practice was partly responsible for much of it. …

            As the years increased we tried to find some competent and willing person to show how the general principles of the Word of Wisdom corresponded with those of the modern experimentally established science of nutrition. Several doctors (M.D.) desired to help, but found no time. Finally, an assignment to do some work at the University of Southern California gave me the opportunity. My wife joined in. I took the negative teachings of the Word of Wisdom, she took the positive aspects. The book was written as our crowded lives permitted. Then, unknown to us, before publication, the manuscript was recommended, after presentation to the First Presidency, (Heber J. Grant, President) and accepted by the Presidency and Twelve, as a year’s text for study by the priesthood quorums of the Church in 1939. This gave wide publicity to the cause of the word of Wisdom and gave its modern interpretation acceptance by the Authorities of the Church. This not only helped to establish the positive parts of the Word of Wisdom in the minds of people, but also furnished a guide in answer to the many food cults unsupported by scientific evidence. It is just as important to understand and practice the truths taught in the positive as well as the negative aspects of this law.

            When the book was being used in the priesthood quorums, an elderly man, a stalwart in the Church, a high priest, stopped me on the street to announce that woman’s work was not fit for priesthood study. After he was exhausted, I asked if he had read the revelation on the Word of Wisdom recently. ‘O, yes.’ Had he noticed that it was first given ‘to a council of high priests’? The conversation ended abruptly.