Criticism of Mormonism/Books/One Nation Under Gods/Chapter 14

Table of Contents

Response to claims made in "Chapter 14: The Politics of Compromise"

A FairMormon Analysis of: One Nation Under Gods, a work by author: Richard Abanes
Claim Evaluation
One Nation Under Gods
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Response to claims made in One Nation Under Gods, "Chapter 14: The Politics of Compromise"

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Response to claim: 313 - "prosecuting polygamy would be virtually impossible given Mormon leadership’s willingness to lie under oath"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

 Author's quote: "prosecuting polygamy would be virtually impossible given Mormon leadership’s willingness to lie under oath."

Author's sources: Supreme Court Case Miles v. the United States

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The United States had no difficulty prosecuting polygamy under the Edmunds-Tucker legislation. Many members of the Church admitted their plural marriages, and went to prison as a result.



Response to claim: 313, 585n10 (PB) - "Such admissions, rather than coming from any sincere desire on Cannon’s part to be forthright, likely resulted from the excessive publicity engendered by the controversy"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:


  • George Q. Cannon said “I have taken plural wives, who now live with me, and have so lived with me for a number of years and borne me children…as a teacher of my religion in Utah territory, I have defended said tenet of said church as being in my belief a revelation of God.”
  •  Author's quote: Such admissions, rather than coming from any sincere desire on Cannon’s part to be forthright, likely resulted from the excessive publicity engendered by the controversy.

    Author's sources: House Misc. Doc. 49 (43-1), 1873, Serial 1617, 5.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

This is the author's conjecture.



Response to claim: 315, 585n12 (PB) - The First Presidency statement “They who fight against Zion shall be destroyed; and the pit which has been digged shall be filled by those who digged it" is contrary to the command in D&C 58:21 to obey the laws of the land

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

The First Presidency statement “They who fight against Zion shall be destroyed; and the pit which has been digged shall be filled by those who digged it" is contrary to the command in D&C 58:21 to obey the laws of the land

Author's sources: First Presidency (John Taylor, George Q. Cannon, and Joseph F. Smith). Quoted in James R. Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, 5 volumes, cited in Samuel W. Taylor, Rocky Mountain Empire, 13.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

LDS doctrine endorses the civil law, but does not grant the civil law supremacy over conscience or religious conviction.


Response to claim: 316, 587n15 (HB) 585n15 (PB) - Did John Taylor receive a revelation on September 27, 1886 that promised that “polygamy would never be abandoned"?

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Did John Taylor receive a revelation on September 27, 1886 that promised that “polygamy would never be abandoned"?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The revelation does not say that the practice of plural marriage will never be abandoned: It says that the law of the new and everlasting covenant (which includes monogamous and polygamous marriage) would not be altered or revoked. It enjoins obedience to commandments already received—including the command to practice plural marriage, which had not been rescinded in 1886.

John Taylor 27 September 1886 revelation


Response to claim: 317, 587n25 (PB) - Brigham said that “the only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Brigham said that “the only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy"

Author's sources: Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11:269.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

If you read the entire passage from which this quote is taken, you will see that Brigham is also acknowledging those who do not actually practice plural marriage. Critics of the Church, however, only extract this single phrase.

Question: Is plural marriage required in order to achieve exaltation?

Brigham Young said "The only men who become Gods, even the sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy"

Critics of the Church point to a statement made by Brigham Young to make the claim that Latter-day Saints believe that one must practice plural marriage in order to achieve exaltation: [1] Brigham Young once said,

The only men who become Gods, even the sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy" (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11:269.)

This quotation is often used in anti-Mormon sources. They do not include the surrounding text which explains what Brigham Young had in mind on this occasion (italics show text generally not cited by those trying to worry modern-day readers):

Brigham Young also said "if you desire with all your hearts to obtain the blessings which Abraham obtained, you will be polygamists at least in your faith"

We wish to obtain all that father Abraham obtained. I wish here to say to the Elders of Israel, and to all the members of this Church and kingdom, that it is in the hearts of many of them to wish that the doctrine of polygamy was not taught and practiced by us...It is the word of the Lord, and I wish to say to you, and all the world, that if you desire with all your hearts to obtain the blessings which Abraham obtained, you will be polygamists at least in your faith, or you will come short of enjoying the salvation and the glory which Abraham has obtained. This is as true as that God lives. You who wish that there were no such thing in existence, if you have in your hearts to say: "We will pass along in the Church without obeying or submitting to it in our faith or believing this order, because, for aught that we know, this community may be broken up yet, and we may have lucrative offices offered to us; we will not, therefore, be polygamists lest we should fail in obtaining some earthly honor, character and office, etc,"—the man that has that in his heart, and will continue to persist in pursuing that policy, will come short of dwelling in the presence of the Father and the Son, in celestial glory. The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy. Others attain unto a glory and may even be permitted to come into the presence of the Father and the Son; but they cannot reign as kings in glory, because they had blessings offered unto them, and they refused to accept them.[2]

Brigham was stating that the command to practice plural marriage was from God, and it is wrong to seek to abolish a command from God

It is clear that Brigham was making several points which the critics ignore:

  • The command to practice plural marriage is from God, and it is wrong to seek to abolish a command from God.
  • To obtain the blessings of Abraham, the Saints were required to be "polygamists at least in your faith": i.e., it was not necessary that each enter into plural marriage in practice, but that they accept that God spoke to His prophets.
  • It was wrong to avoid plural marriage for worldly, selfish reasons, such as believing the Church would fail, and hoping to have political or monetary rewards afterward.
  • Faithful Saints cannot expect to receive "all that the Father has" if they willfully disobey God. When the people have "had blessings offered unto them," and if they refuse to obey, God will withhold blessings later because of that disobedience now.

Finally, it must be remembered that Brigham Young is speaking to a group who had been commanded to live the law of polygamy. There is no basis for speculating about what he would have said to a group who did not have that commandment given to them, as present-day members do not.


Response to claim: 319, 588n35-36(PB) - Did Joseph Smith promise in 1835 that most of the Saints then living would see Jesus’ return by 1890?

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Did Joseph Smith promise in 1835 that most of the Saints then living would see Jesus’ return by 1890?

Author's sources:
  • History of the Church, vol. 2, 182.
  • History of the Church, vol. 5, 324, 336.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

Joseph never promised that "most of the Saints then living" would see the second coming.



Question: Did Joseph Smith prophesy that Jesus Christ would return in 1890?

Jesus Christ stated that no mortals or angels would know when He would return

It is important to realize that while Jesus Christ resided on the earth he stated that no mortals or angels would know when He would return:

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only" (Matthew 24:36).

Because we do not know, we need to constantly be ready for his return, for "in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh" (Matthew 24:44).

In February 1835, Joseph Smith is reported to have said that "fifty-six years should wind up the scene"

Joseph Smith did make several interesting statements about seeing the Savior. B.H. Roberts in History of the Church notes the Prophet's remark in 1835 when he is reported to have said that,

...it was the will of God that those who went Zion, with a determination to lay down their lives, if necessary, should be ordained to the ministry, and go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time, or the coming of the Lord, which was nigh—even fifty-six years should wind up the scene.[3]

In Feb 1835, fifty six years in the future was February 1891. This would be shortly after Joseph's 85th birthday (he was born 23 December 1805).

Joseph made continuous reference to this date in light of a revelation which he reported. It is recorded in D&C 130:14-17, and it is clear that the revelation leaves the exact date of Christ's second coming much more uncertain. Whatever Joseph meant or understood by "wind up the scene," it must be interpreted in light of the revelation as he reported it, and the conclusions which he drew from it.

This particular revelation is a favorite of anti-Mormon critics. They have misquoted it, misreported it, misinterpreted it and misexplained it. Most often they simply do not complete the quote, making it appear that the Prophet said something he didn't.

Joseph acknowledged as he recorded this revelation that he didn't understand its meaning or intent

The revelation is reported in abbreviated form, and Joseph acknowledged as he recorded it that he didn't understand its meaning or intent:

I was once praying very earnestly to know the time of the coming of the Son of Man, when I heard a voice repeat the following: Joseph, my son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man; therefore let this suffice, and trouble me no more on this matter. (D&C 130:14-15).

Many critics end the quote at this point, and then they hope the reader will assume that the statement is a prophecy that the Savior would come in the year 1890 or 1891, since the Prophet Joseph was born in 1805. (Other critics do not even bother to cite D&C 130, and simply rely on the quote from the Kirtland Council Minute Book of 1835, reproduced in History of the Church.)

Joseph expresses his uncertainty: "I believe the coming of the Son of Man will not be any sooner than that time"

However, if the reader will continue further in that passage, they will see how Joseph Smith himself understood the revelation, unfiltered through note-takers or critics who wish to explain his meaning:

I was left thus, without being able to decide whether this coming referred to the beginning of the millennium or to some previous appearing, or whether I should die and thus see his face (D&C :130).

The actual content of Joseph's prophecy--if personal opinion can be said to be prophecy--does not occur until the next verse:

I believe the coming of the Son of Man will not be any sooner than that time.(D&C 130:17.)

Without a doubt, Joseph's belief proved correct. The Lord did not return to the earth for His Second Coming before that time.

At least twice, as is recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph saw the face of the Son of Man

But there are other aspects of fulfillment that should also be considered. We do not know when it was that the Prophet earnestly prayed to know the time of the Lord's coming. The context, (verse 13), shows that it may have taken place in 1832 or earlier. At least twice, as is recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph saw the face of the Son of Man. D&C 76:20-24 and D&C 110:2-10 both record appearances of the Lord Jesus Christ, either of which may constitute fulfillment of the Lord's prophetic promise. He may also have seen the Lord's face at the time of his death in 1844, as he pondered in D&C 130:16.

Joseph made reference to the incident on at least two other occasions, and indicated that his belief was not that the Lord would come by the time of his 85th birthday, but rather that the Lord would not come before that time, which of course was a correct prophecy.

In the History of the Church:

I prophesy in the name of the Lord God, and let it be written--the Son of Man will not come in the clouds of heaven till I am eighty-five years old.[4]

Again, Joseph Smith doesn't say the Lord will come then, but that He will not come before that time. The return to his age 85 shows that all these remarks derive from the same interpretation of his somewhat opaque revelation from the Lord, who seems determined to tell his curious prophet nothing further.

Joseph denies that anyone knows an exact date

Later, Joseph Smith again prophesied on the subject of Christ's coming:

I also prophesy, in the name of the Lord, that Christ will not come in forty years; and if God ever spoke by my mouth, He will not come in that length of time. Brethren, when you go home, write this down, that it may be remembered. Jesus Christ never did reveal to any man the precise time that He would come. Go and read the scriptures, and you cannot find anything that specifies the exact hour He would come; and all that say so are false teachers.[5]

This remark was made on 10 March 1844. It echoes a teaching given through Joseph in the Doctrine and Covenants in March 1831:

And they have done unto the Son of Man even as they listed; and he has taken his power on the right hand of his glory, and now reigneth in the heavens, and will reign till he descends on the earth to put all enemies under his feet, which time is nigh at hand—I, the Lord God, have spoken it; but the hour and the day no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor shall they know until he comes. (D&C 49:6-7, emphasis added)

Thus, from the beginning to the end of his ministry, Joseph Smith denied that a man could or would know the date of the second coming of Christ. (Joseph's remarks may have been instigated by the intense interest among religious believers in William Miller's prophecy that Christ would return by 1843.)


Response to claim: 320, 588n40 (PB) - Did Wilford Woodruff demolish the Church’s Endowment House in response to agreement with the U.S. to “cease practicing plural marriage"?

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Did Wilford Woodruff demolish the Church’s Endowment House in response to agreement with the U.S. to “cease practicing plural marriage"?

Author's sources: Samuel Taylor, 19.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The Endowment House was taken down because:

a work project was needed to employ new workers within Salt Lake City, who could then vote in civic elections the Endowment House was superfluous, since the Church had three operating temples besides Salt Lake a marriage had been performed in the Endowment House which achieved considerable notoriety in the Gentile press; Wilford Woodruff's decision to issue the Manifesto made it politic to do something to address this issue (for more details see Writing the Manifesto (non-wiki)). There is no evidence, though, that leaders of the Church agreed to stop plural marriage at any point prior to the Manifesto, or that the Endowment House was taken down as part of a "deal" with the government.


Response to claim: 323, 589n51-52 (PB) - The Manifesto was not a revelation because it was re-written and edited many times before it was released

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

The Manifesto was not a revelation because it was re-written and edited many times before it was released.

Author's sources: Joseph F. Smith, letter to Sarah E. Smith, September 24, 1890, Joseph F. Smith Papers (Letterbook). Quoted in Edward Leo Lyman, Political Deliverance, 138.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

That's why it is labeled "The Manifesto" and not included in the D&C as a revelation. Pres. Woodruff insisted that he had "been struggling all night with the Lord about what should be done under the existing circumstances of the Church. And [a draft of the Manifesto] is the result."



Response to claim; 324-325, 589n53 (PB) - Did the Manifesto included "blatantly false statements" since over 200 plural marriages were performed after the Manifesto was issued?

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Did the Manifesto included "blatantly false statements" since over 200 plural marriages were performed after the Manifesto was issued?

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

On p. 325, the author tells us that "countless" post-Manifesto marriages were performed. Yet, the best evidence suggests the number is 262. See also p. 328.

The Manifesto stated only that it was Pres. Woodruff's "intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise."

Response to claim: 325, 591n54 (HB) 589n54 (PB) - Brigham Young said "I live above the law, and so do this people"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Brigham Young said "I live above the law, and so do this people"

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The statement about "above the law" comes in the context of Brigham asking what would happen "for argument's sake," if the Saints' plural marriage was practiced but unannounced—they would be then bound or in jeopardy to no law, because they were harming no one else by their actions. They would be "above" (i.e., uncondemned by) law. Only the hypocrisy of others, in Brigham's argument, has put them in legal jeopardy.

Brigham also heaps scorn on "the law" later in his remarks, but this is at a law that condemns polygamy while winking at or endorsing infidelity, adultery, and prostitution—a "law" he believes is not worthy of the term.

Response to claim: 325, 589n55 (PB) - Did "countless" plural marriages occur in Utah, Canada, and Mexico after the Manifesto, as the author claims?

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Did "countless" plural marriages occur in Utah, Canada, and Mexico after the Manifesto, as the author claims?

Author's sources:
  • Joseph F. Smith, letter to Reed Smoot, April 1, 1911, Reed Smoot Correspondence. (The first letter mentions Canada and Mexico)
  • George Gibbs, letter to Reed Smoot, April 12, 1911, Reed Smoot Correspondence. (The second letter states that inclusion of Canada was a mistake)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

On p. 324-325, the author tells us that "over two hundred" post-Manifesto marriages were performed. On p. 328 we learn about 262 known marriages. How does this become "countless"?

The first of two letters referenced by the author mention Canada and Mexico, with the second letter stating that "Smith's inclusion of Canada in the telegram was a mistake." The author further states regarding the second letter that removes Canada that "the certainty of this claim is questionable since no record exists of Smith correcting himself."

How does the author convert this to "countless" plural marriages in "Utah, Canada and Mexico?"




Response to claim: 326, 590n58-59 (PB) - "Lying, either to bring about a 'greater good' or to protect the church, has always been an acceptable practice within Mormonism"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

 Author's quote: "Lying, either to bring about a 'greater good' or to protect the church, has always been an acceptable practice within Mormonism, and continues to be an unspoken tenet of the faith."

Author's sources:
  • Matthias F. Cowley, minutes of Council of the Council of the Twelve, May 10, 1911. Quoted in Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), 151.
  • Abraham H. Cannon. Quoted in Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989), 150.
  • D. Michael Quinn, "LDS Church Authority and New Plural Marriages, 1890-1904," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, vol. 18, no. 1, 61.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

This claim is nonsense.



Question: Does the Church teach that it is okay to "Lie for the Lord"?

There is no Church doctrine related to "lying for the Lord": Honesty and integrity are foundational values to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Some insist that Church leaders believe that deceiving others in a "good cause" for the sake of the Church is not a sin, and may even be laudable. Critics of Mormonism have long charged the LDS with organizationally and systematically “lying for the Lord,” equating such with a policy of using any means necessary to achieve some “good” goal. This claim is false, and a biased reading of Church history. One must not use ethically questionable tactics because one believes the “end justifies the means.”

Honesty and integrity are foundational values to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In fact, the success which critics have in troubling members of the Church with tales of deception or supposed "lying for the Lord" is, in a way, a backhanded compliment to the Church.

If the Church as an institution typically taught its members to have a casual disregard for the truth, the charge that some Church leader had deceived someone else would be no great shock. But, because the Church (contrary to the suggestions of some critics) really does teach its members to aspire to live with honesty and integrity, accusations of deception can be troubling, especially if the critics can selectively report such instances without providing the context or difficulties which might have underlain such decisions.[6]


Question: Are there circumstances in which lying is necessary in order to avoid a greater harm?

Elder Dallin H. Oaks repudiated that such a doctrine as "lying for the Lord" exists within the Church, and specifically related such accusations to the context of polygamy

Some have suggested that it is morally permissible to lie to promote a good cause. For example, some Mormons have taught or implied that lying is okay if you are lying for the Lord… As far as concerns our own church and culture, the most common allegations of lying for the Lord swirl around the initiation, practice, and discontinuance of polygamy. The whole experience with polygamy was a fertile field for deception. It is not difficult for historians to quote LDS leaders and members in statements justifying, denying, or deploring deception in furtherance of this religious practice.[7]

There will be times when moral imperatives clash, and people who wish to make moral choices are faced with difficult decisions

Elder Oaks then reaches the key point: there will be times when moral imperatives clash. Sometimes, people who wish to make moral choices are faced with difficult choices. For example:

  • if a rapist breaks into your house, and demands to know where your teenage daughter is hiding, are you morally obligated to tell him?
  • if you are a French Christian hiding Jews from the Nazis in 1941, are you obliged to tell the SS about the whereabouts of the Jews if they ask? Is it wrong to lie to them?
  • if the government seeks to destroy families formed under plural marriage, is breaking up those families appropriate? Should one abandon wives and children without support, or avoid telling the whole truth?

In all these examples—and there are many more like them—one cannot be both completely honest when confronted with a hostile questioner and meet other very real ethical demands. Doing both is simply not an option. Elder Oaks notes:

My heart breaks when I read of circumstances in which wives and children were presented with the terrible choice of lying about the whereabouts or existence of a husband or father on the one hand or telling the truth and seeing him go to jail on the other. These were not academic dilemmas. A father in jail took food off the table and fuel from the hearth. Those hard choices involved collisions between such fundamental emotions and needs as a commitment to the truth versus the need for loving companionship and relief from cold and hunger.

My heart also goes out to the Church leaders who were squeezed between their devotion to the truth and their devotion to their wives and children and to one another. To tell the truth could mean to betray a confidence or a cause or to send a brother to prison. There is no academic exercise in that choice!

The actions of wicked people may place the Saints in conditions in which they cannot fulfill all the ethical demands upon them

In such difficult circumstances, only revelation—to the Church collectively and to individuals—can hope to show us what God would have us do. Judging such cases is extremely difficult; it is also hypocritical for Church critics to point out such instances without providing the context which underlay their choices, and which made them so wrenching. As Elder Oaks continued:

I do not know what to think of all of this, except I am glad I was not faced with the pressures those good people faced. My heart goes out to them for their bravery and their sacrifices, of which I am a direct beneficiary. I will not judge them. That judgment belongs to the Lord, who knows all of the circumstances and the hearts of the actors, a level of comprehension and wisdom not approached by even the most knowledgeable historians.

Each case must be judged on its merits

Did some Church members or leaders make wrong choices in such difficult moral choices? Probably—they and we do not claim any inerrancy. In the main, however, it seems clear that Church members did not “lie” or “deceive” because it was convenient, or because it would advance “the cause.” They lied because moral duties conflicted, and they chose the option which did the least harm to their ethical sense. Happily, they had personal revelation to guide them. Concludes Elder Oaks:

I ask myself, “If some of these Mormon leaders or members lied, therefore, what?” I reject a “therefore” which asserts or implies that this example shows that lying is morally permissible or that lying is a tradition or even a tolerated condition in the Mormon community or among the leaders of our church. That is not so. (emphasis added)


Question: How do critics of Mormonism define "lying for the Lord"?

Critics of Mormonism often accuse the Church (or its leaders, its missionaries, or its members) about not telling "the truth" about that which Mormons "really believe"

Generally, however, the 'truth' which the critic wishes the Church would spread bears little or no resemblance to what the Church teaches, believes, or practices. Cries for "honesty" from the critics are often nothing more than a claim that the Church must adopt the critics' perspectives, interpretations, or preoccupations.

Critics of Mormonism may portray Church members as "lying" when the critics have, instead, misinterpreted or misrepresented what the member intended

A common example of this tactic is the claim that President Hinckley lied about LDS doctrine in an interview. As the wiki link demonstrates, this claim is false and represents a misunderstanding. This particular claim is particularly ridiculous, since it supposes that President Hinckley would believe that he could deceive a national newsmagazine, interviewing him on the record!

Members of the Church are also bound by requirements of confidentiality, which is portrayed as "lying" when they meet hostile attacks with silence

Members will not discuss certain matters which they have covenanted to keep sacred, and some experiences are not to be shared unless the Holy Spirit directs. Members may be portrayed as "lying" when they meet hostile attacks with silence, or when they attempt to protect things they consider sacred by deflecting the conversation to other topics.

Church leaders who provide spiritual guidance to others operate under confidentiality rules (sometimes called a clergy-penitent relationship) which they will not set aside even if the member being counseled chooses to speak. This provides an environment in which leaders may be falsely accused or characterized by a disenchanted member, yet the leader remains unable to defend themselves. Often, charges of "lying" are one-sided reports from the disaffected, with the other party unable to respond. We should use charity and caution in judging such cases.

Church members and leaders have similar confidentiality duties as non-member counterparts in various fields. Physicians and attorneys must keep professional confidences, military personnel must keep national security secrets from the enemy, businessmen must keep trade secrets private, etc. Meeting these ethical duties is not always easy, and could leave one vulnerable to charges that one is being 'dishonest' or 'hiding the truth.' Those who seek to find fault will likely succeed.

A FairMormon Analysis of MormonThink page "Lying for the Lord"

The critical website MormonThink.com has a laundry list of 152 cases in which they claim that "lying for the Lord" was practiced. We respond to some of the more interesting or well-known issues (follow the links below for the full response to each issue).

Claim Evaluation
MormonThink
Chart lying for the lord.jpg

A FairMormon Analysis of MormonThink page "Lying for the Lord"

Summary: MormonThink concludes that "lying was the method the church used as standard operating procedure to keep from losing its members." MormonThink also notes that "The message from current leaders is clear. Pretend that the LDS leaders are infallible, blindly obey and conform." (FairMormon note: this is a standard position taken by many ex-Mormons after their disaffection with the Church).

Jump to Subtopic:


Response to claim: 326, 590n60 (PB) - Did Joseph F. Smith defy the Manifesto?

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

Did Joseph F. Smith defy the Manifesto by saying:

"Take care of your polygamous wives; we don't care for Uncle Sam now."

Author's sources: *Joseph F. Smith. Quoted in William Edward Biederwolf, Mormonism Under the Searchlight, 65.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The author fails to tell us that the leaders of the Church did not intend to have men abandon their wives and children. The government insisted that they had to abandon these families. Most members thus persisted in civil disobedience, refusing to leave wives they had married and children they had fathered in good faith without support.

Response to claim: 327, 590n62 (PB) - The author states that polygamy continued to "thrive" when Lorenzo Snow became Church president in 1898

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

The author states that polygamy continued to "thrive" when Lorenzo Snow became Church president in 1898. The endnote states the Snow said during his trial: "Though I go to prison, God will not change his law of celestial marriage. But the man, the people, the nation that oppose and fight against this doctrine and the Church of God, will be overthrown."

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

How does Lorenzo Snow serving jail time and making a statement 13 years before he became President of the Church prove that "polygamy continued to thrive?"



Response to claim: 328, 591n67 (PB) - "These were but a small portion of the documented 262 post-Manifesto marriages between October 1890 and December 1910 involving 22 different Mormon men"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

 Author's quote: "These were but a small portion of the documented 262 post-Manifesto marriages between October 1890 and December 1910 involving 22 different Mormon men."

Author's sources:
  • Hardy, 389-425.
  • D. Michael Quinn, "Plural Marriages After The 1890 Manifesto," lecture delivered August 1991 at Bluffdale, Utah. (The author includes a lengthy excerpt from this speech in the endnote.)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

p. 325, the author tells us that "countless" post-Manifesto marriages were performed. Yet, the best evidence suggests the number is 262. See also p. 324-325.



Gospel Topics: "The Second Manifesto. At first, the performance of new plural marriages after the Manifesto was largely unknown to people outside the Church"

"The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage," Gospel Topics on LDS.org:

At first, the performance of new plural marriages after the Manifesto was largely unknown to people outside the Church. When discovered, these marriages troubled many Americans, especially after President George Q. Cannon stated in an 1899 interview with the New York Herald that new plural marriages might be performed in Canada and Mexico.40 After the election of B. H. Roberts, a member of the First Council of the Seventy, to the U.S. Congress, it became known that Roberts had three wives, one of whom he married after the Manifesto. A petition of 7 million signatures demanded that Roberts not be seated. Congress complied, and Roberts was barred from his office.41

The exclusion of B. H. Roberts opened Mormon marital practices to renewed scrutiny. Church President Lorenzo Snow issued a statement clarifying that new plural marriages had ceased in the Church and that the Manifesto extended to all parts of the world, counsel he repeated in private. Even so, a small number of new plural marriages continued to be performed, probably without President Snow’s knowledge or approval. After Joseph F. Smith became Church President in 1901, a small number of new plural marriages were also performed during the early years of his administration.[8]—(Click here to continue)


Response to claim: 328 - "Smith, of course, like every other LDS president before him, would continue utilizing cunning prevarications to conceal his personal activities"

The author(s) of One Nation Under Gods make(s) the following claim:

 Author's quote: "[Joseph F.] Smith, of course, like every other LDS president before him, would continue utilizing cunning prevarications to conceal his personal activities and anything else that might embarrass the church."

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

President Smith was frank about his own actions; he preferred to sacrifice himself for the Church. See p. 339 in next chapter for more details.



Notes

  1. The following critical works use this quote from Brigham to claim that Latter-day Saints must accept polygamy as a requirement to enter heaven. Contender Ministries, Questions All Mormons Should Ask Themselves. Answers; Richard Abanes, Becoming Gods: A Closer Look at 21st-Century Mormonism (Harvest House Publishers: 2005). 233, 422 n. 48-49. ( Index of claims ); George D. Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy: "...but we called it celestial marriage" (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2008), xiv, 6, 55, , 356. ( Index of claims , (Detailed book review)); Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Changing World of Mormonism (Moody Press, 1979), 29, 258.( Index of claims )
  2. Brigham Young, "Remarks by President Brigham Young, in the Bowery, in G.S.L. City," (19 August 1866) Journal of Discourses 11:268-269. (emphasis added) See Quote mining—Journal of Discourses 11:269 to see how this quote was mined.
  3. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 2:182. Volume 2 link
  4. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 5:336–337. Volume 5 link
  5. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 6:254. Volume 6 link
  6. A thorough treatment of the historical, ethical, and moral issues surrounding "deception" by Church leaders in the practice of plural marriage is available: Gregory Smith, "Polygamy, Prophets, and Prevarication: Frequently and Rarely Asked Questions about the Initiation, Practice, and Cessation of Plural Marriage in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." FairMormon link PDF link. The interested reader is encouraged to consult it for a much more in-depth discussion.
  7. Dallin H. Oaks, “Gospel Teachings About Lying,” BYU Fireside Address, 12 September 1993, typescript, no page numbers; also printed in Clark Memorandum [of the J. Reuben Clark School of Law, Brigham Young University] (Spring 1994). All references to Elder Oaks in this wiki article apply to this speech, unless otherwise indicated.
  8. "The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage," Gospel Topics on LDS.org