Countercult ministries/Institute for Religious Research

Table of Contents

Countercult ministries: The Institute for Religious Research

Quote manipulation

Many critics who write about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not content to portray the Church and its doctrines fairly. Some critics mine their sources by extracting quotes from their context in order to make the statement imply something other that what it was originally intended to mean. Other critics make statements that are self-contradictions—instances in which a critic says or writes one thing, and then makes another statement elsewhere that flatly contradicts their first statement.

These examples do not prove that these critics' arguments are without merit; they do suggest caution is warranted before accepting these authors or their works as reliable witnesses when they speak of their own experiences connected with "Mormonism." In particular, one should also be cautious about accepting their interpretation of primary sources without double-checking the original sources themselves.

Quote used... The rest of the story...
The implications of the evidence for our estimate of Joseph Smith's character are sobering. In the words of Lavina Fielding Anderson, editor of the Journal of Mormon History,
the [Newell and Avery] biography of Emma Hale Smith was deeply disturbing to me for the documentation it provided about Joseph Smith and the origins of polygamy...Let me be specific. I was shocked and disgusted to discover that Joseph Smith married a fourteen-year-old girl, fully consummated that marriage, and concealed it from Emma. My image of "prophet" did not accommodate this kind of behavior. I could not begin to find holy motives for such behavior.

“Let me be more specific. I was shocked and disgusted to discover that Joseph Smith married a fourteen-year-old girl, fully consummated that marriage, and concealed it from Emma, My image of “prophet” did not accommodate this kind of behavior. I could not begin to find holy motives for such behavior. I also felt deeply guilty, naturally, to feel this way about a prophet—not just a prophet, either, but the Prophet. I took my indignation and guilt to the Lord in prayer over a period time. I don't recall being particularly sophisticated or eloquent in my petition. It was more along the lines of, “If Joseph Smith did this—and it looks as if he did—then he was a real jerk. What do You have to say about it?” You know, on some level, I wasn't even expecting an answer. But I got one. From that attentive, loving Presence—gently, tenderly, and with finality—came the words, “Joseph is mine. He is in my hands.” God did not agree with me that Joseph was a jerk. He did not even agree that Joseph had made a mistake. He acknowledged my grief and upheld me in those same hands that were holding Joseph and that upheld Helen Marr Whitney, not only at age fourteen, but for the rest of her long life.
“I have the feeling, though, that if I hadn't acknowledged my outrage and hadn't protested it to the Lord, that I probably wouldn't have got that answer. As a result, my affection for Joseph Smith is, if anything, increased by this new information about him, and I want to know more. I want to know everything I can because I love him—not because I'm trying to decide whether he is worthy of my love. Freedom and diversity intersect—not in rules, not in regulations—but in relationships. The ultimate value of that experience for me was not what I learned about prayer or even about Joseph Smith, but what I experienced in that loving relationship.

  • IRR, "The Thorn in Joseph's Side," Review of Mormon Enigma (accessed 25 June 2006).
  • *Lavina Fielding Anderson, "In the Garden God Hath Planted: Explorations Toward a Maturing Faith," Sunstone no. (Issue #79) (October 1990), 26–27. off-site off-site

Commentary

  • IRR's Luke P. Wilson misrepresents Lavina Fielding Anderson's remarks—Anderson uses this example as something which initially challenged her understanding of prophetic behavior. Yet in her article, she indicates that through prayer over a period of time, God was able to satisfy her via divine revelation and that this enhanced her opinion of Joseph Smith. IRR lies through omission, since Anderson's conclusion in the unquoted part of her article does not match their desire to attack Joseph Smith.
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