Criticism of Mormonism/Books/One Nation Under Gods/Introduction

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Response to claims made in "Introduction: A Thread of Prophecy"

A FairMormon Analysis of: One Nation Under Gods, a work by author: Richard Abanes
Claim Evaluation
One Nation Under Gods
Chart one nation under gods introduction.jpg

Response to claims made in One Nation Under Gods, "Introduction: A Thread of Prophecy"

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Response to claim: xv, 477n2 (HB) ix, 475n2 (PB) - The author asserts that histories produced by the LDS church the "least reliable" of all

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

The author asserts that histories produced by the LDS church the "least reliable" of all.

Author's sources: *Boyd K. Packer, interview with D. Michael Quinn, 1976. Quoted in Smith, 105, endnote #22. (PB)
  • Boyd K. Packer, "The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect," Brigham Young University Studies 21 no. [3] (Summer 1981), 264-265. off-site (HB,PB)

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 assertion by the author that "some of the least reliable reports on Mormon history" are those "produced by the LDS church" is very interesting in light of the fact that some of the source documents used by the author in his book include the Journal of Discourses, the Messenger and Advocate, the Millennial Star, the Evening and the Morning Star, the Ensign, Conference Reports, and the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, to name a few.



Question: Are histories written by Mormon historians not reliable?

Ironically, those who criticize Mormon histories as being unreliable and incomplete use Church-produced documents as their source material

The author of the critical book One Nation Under Gods claims that "Mormon leaders, especially since the 1970s, have repeatedly called for LDS historians to 'tell only that part of the truth that is inspiring and uplifting.'" and that "some of the least reliable reports on Mormon history, especially with regard to its earliest years, are those that have been produced by the LDS church."

How does one define "least reliable?" The assertion by the author that "some of the least reliable reports on Mormon history" are those "produced by the LDS church" is very interesting in light of the fact that some of the source documents used by the author in his book include the Journal of Discourses, the Messenger and Advocate, the Millennial Star, the Evening and Morning Star, the Ensign, Conference Reports, and the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, to name a few. Each of these sources is viewed by members and non-members alike as being "produced by the LDS church." If they are so unreliable, why does the author cite from them? If there is a disagreement between two sources -- one from the Church and the other from someone viewed as an enemy of the Church -- how does the author know which one is more reliable?

The author of One Nation Under Gods castigates sources produced by the LDS Church, but then uses many of those materials in constructing and expressing viewpoints. He also cites material from people who have a professed grudge against the LDS Church and its teachings. Reliability of documents, then, becomes an issue of acceptability to each individual.

Elder Boyd K. Packer's comment: "Some things that are true are not very useful"

Elder Packer gave an address to religious educators called "The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect."[1] The quote "Some things that are true are not very useful" has become a favorite of critics as a way to demonstrate that the Church suppresses truth or intellectual thought.

Elder Packer said nothing about stopping historians or insisting that they not be objective

An examination of the reference provided above may prove insightful. There are two main parts to this reference. First, is the assertion that Church officials have "routinely" insisted LDS-authored historical materials be "faith promoting" at the expense of being historically accurate. To prove this assertion, the author provides the example of a talk by Boyd K. Packer that was published in BYU Studies. Elder Packer stressed four main points:

  1. There is no such thing as an accurate, objective history of the Church without consideration of the spiritual powers that attend this work.
  2. There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful.
  3. In an effort to be objective, impartial, and scholarly, a writer or a teacher may unwittingly be giving equal time to the adversary.
  4. The final caution concerns the idea that so long as something is already in print, so long as it is available from another source, there is nothing out of order in using it in writing or speaking or teaching.

The only mention of "objectivity" in the talk was in relation to the first and third points, and Elder Packer said nothing about stopping historians or insisting that they not be objective. He simply said that no treatment of LDS Church history could hope to be objective without consideration of the spiritual powers that attend the work. In other words, he was telling LDS historians that to leave out consideration of God's Spirit was to leave out an important component of why and how things were done in the Church.

The second main part of the ONUG reference is the claim that the Church historical department staff were required to "sign a form" regarding the Church's right to censor anything the staff might publish. It appears that the author feels such a form is an example of ways in which the LDS Church suppresses scholarly work. The author never addresses the issue, however, of whether the Church has a right to control (a) access to their own historical records, and (b) how those records are used. If this were a discussion about business corporations, there would be no question that the businesses have the right to do both — control access and use of past business records.

Does The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or any church, for that matter) have the right to control its own records and how they are used? If businesses and governments do, why not churches?


Response to claim: xvii (HB) - The "White Horse" prophecy predicts that the U.S. government will become a "Mormon-ruled theocracy"

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

The "White Horse" prophecy predicts that the U.S. government will become a "Mormon-ruled theocracy"

Author's sources:
  • John J. Roberts, Journal of John J. Roberts http://www.helpingmormons.org/white_horse.htm http://www.2eternity.com/mormon/whitehorse.html
  • Orson Hyde, Journal of Discourses 6:152.
  • James Burgess, James Burgess Notebook, LDSCA, vol. 1 cited in Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph, p. 279.
  • Sandra Tanner, "Joseph Smith's 'White Horse' Prophecy," http://wtlm.org/onlineresources/whitehorseprophecy.htm

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: Are the "Mormons" secretly planning to eventually take over the U.S. Government?

Such accusations are ridiculous: Latter-day Saints have no secret plans to take over the U.S. Government

The White Horse Prophecy has been used extensively by critics to imply that Latter-day Saints have a "secret agenda" to take over the United States government. These accusations have been made for years, particularly when a Latter-day Saint runs for president.

Some of the accusations have even bordered on the ridiculous. Consider this bit of absurdity from William Schnoebelen:

He told me that there was a council room up there [in the Washington Temple] which was an exact replica of the Oval Office of the White House. He told me they even had all the radio and telemetry equipment in place, hidden beneath a dome on top of the temple. He said that from this council room, the prophet could run the nation just as easily as he could from the White House itself. He also claimed that these electronic devices on the roof were so strong that airlines had to avoid flying right over the temple or their instruments might be thrown off.[2]


Response to claim: xviii, 475n5 (HB) - The "White Horse" prophecy is a "dominant element" of Latter-day Saint belief

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

The author claims that the "White Horse" prophecy is a "dominant element" of Latter-day Saint belief because LDS believe they will be "officers and administrators" during the period of Christ's millennial reign.

Author's sources: Fred Esplin, "Mormon journalist and University of Utah spokesperson", "The Saints Go Marching On," Utah Holliday, June 1981, 34.

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 "White Horse" prophecy is not a "dominant element of the faith"...it isn't even discussed in Church!



Question: What is the "White Horse Prophecy"?

Joseph Smith is alleged to have uttered a prophecy in 1843 alluding to the four horses in the Book of Revelation

Joseph Smith is alleged to have uttered a prophecy in 1843 alluding to the four horses in the Book of Revelation. This was recorded by two Church members, Edwin Rushton and Theodore Turley approximately ten years after Joseph's death. There is no contemporary account that was recorded during the Prophet's lifetime. According to the Book of Revelation:

1 And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. 2 And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer. 3 And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. 4 And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword. 5 And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. 6 And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine. 7 And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. 8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth. Revelation 6:1-8

Alleged text of the prophecy

The following is an excerpt of the journal of Elder John J. Roberts. Roberts apparently entered it into his diary on Sunday, March 2, 1902 after returning, on February 4, 1902, from a mission to Samoa. He reported receiving it from Robert Pierce (sometimes incorrectly noted as Pace) on Friday, February 28, 1902. Thus, this account is at least second or third-hand:

...While this conversation was going on we stood by his south wicket gate in a triangle. Turning to me, [Joseph] said, “I want to tell you something of the future. I will speak in a parable like unto John the Revelator. You will go to the Rocky Mountains and you will be a great and mighty people established there, which I will call the White Horse of peace and safety.” When the Prophet said, “You will see it,” I said, “Where will you be at that time?” He said, “I shall never go there. Your enemies will continue to follow you with persecutions and they will make obnoxious laws against you in Congress to destroy the White Horse, but you will have a friend or two to defend you and throw out the worst parts of the law so they will not hurt you so much. You must continue to petition Congress all the time, but they will treat you like strangers and aliens and they will not give you your rights, but will govern you with strangers and commissioners. You will see the Constitution of the United States almost destroyed. It will hang like a thread as fine as a silk fiber.” At that time the Prophet’s countenance became sad, because as he said, “I love the Constitution; it was made by the inspiration of God; and it will be preserved and saved by the efforts of the White Horse, and by the Red Horse who will combine in its defense. The White Horse will find the mountains full of minerals and they will become rich (at this time, it must be remembered, the precious metals were not known to exist in either the Rocky Mountains or California). You will see silver piled up in the streets. You will see the gold shoveled up like sand. Gold will be of little value then, even in a mercantile capacity; for the people of the world will have something else to do in seeking for salvation. The time will come when the banks of every nation will fall and only two places will be safe where people can deposit their gold and treasure. This place will be the White Horse and England’s vaults. A terrible revolution will take place in the land of America, such as has never been seen before; for the land will be left without a Supreme Government, and every specie of wickedness will be practiced rampantly in the land. Father will be against son and son against father; mother against daughter and daughter against mother. The most terrible scenes of bloodshed, murder and rape that have ever been imagined or looked upon will take place. People will be taken from the earth and there will be peace and love only in the Rocky Mountains. This will cause many hundreds of thousands of the honest in heart of the world to gather there, not because they would be Saints, but for safety and because they will be so numerous that you will be in danger of famine, but not for want of seed, time and harvest, but because of so many to be fed. Many will come with bundles under their arms to escape the calamities for there will be no escape except only by escaping and fleeing to Zion... [3]


Response to claim: xix (HB) - The author claims that various Church leaders have reiterated the "White Horse" prophecy over the years

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

The author claims that various Church leaders have reiterated the "White Horse" prophecy over the years.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

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

The "White Horse prophecy" isn't discussed at church, nor is it even common knowledge.



Question: What do critics of the Church say about the "White Horse Prophecy"?

Critics claim that "Mormons" have a secret plan to take over the government

It is claimed that the "White Horse" prophecy predicts the "transformation of the U.S. government into a Mormon-ruled theocracy," and that the "White Horse" prophecy "continues to be a dominant element of the faith espoused by Joseph Smith's followers" because they believe that they will be "officers and administrators" during Christ's millennial reign. It is also claimed that "Mormons thereafter will reign with Christ, and every American citizen, along with the rest of the world, will be forced to recognize Mormonism as the one true religion."[4]

Unfortunately, the only accounts of the alleged prophecy were provided second-hand years after the Prophet's death, and cannot be corroborated with other contemporary sources. However, based upon the information that is extant, one can see that the prediction is that Latter-day Saints would support and uphold the government, not take over the government. It is absolutely clear that this is not a prophecy that is considered in any way true or binding on the membership of the Church. Those who would try to hold the Church to their interpretation of this so-called prophecy do so improperly and without any verifiable reason to do so. This so-called "prophecy" has been repeatedly disavowed by the authorities of the Church and it is not a common topic of discussion among the members today.


Question: Will the U.S. Constitution eventually "hang by a thread"?

This concept of the Constitution "hanging by a thread" has been improperly associated with the White Horse prophecy

Occasionally heard among Church members are references to the Constitution "hanging by a thread' during the last days. This concept of the Constitution "hanging by a thread" has been improperly, and sometimes uniquely, associated with the White Horse prophecy. The implication is that the Constitution will be close to destruction and that the "White Horse" and the "Red Horse" will step in to save it. This is often misinterpreted to mean that a man on a white horse will step in to save the Constitution. [5] This was the reference that was often applied to Mitt Romney by his detractors during his run for the U.S. Presidency in 2008.

So what references have Church leaders made to the Constitution "hanging by a thread?" Brigham Young said:

Will the Constitution be destroyed? No: it will be held inviolate by this people; and, as Joseph Smith said, "The time will come when the destiny of the nation will hang upon a single thread. At that critical juncture, this people will step forth and save it from the threatened destruction." It will be so.

With regard to the doings of our fathers and the Constitution of the United States, I have to say, they present to us a glorious prospect in the future, but one we cannot attain to until the present abuses in the Government are corrected.[6]

Orson Hyde said,

It is said that brother Joseph in his lifetime declared that the Elders of this Church should step forth at a particular time when the Constitution should be in danger, and rescue it, and save it. This may be so; but I do not recollect that he said exactly so. I believe he said something like this—that the time would come when the Constitution and the country would be in danger of an overthrow; and said he, If the Constitution be saved at all, it will be by the Elders of this Church. I believe this is about the language, as nearly as I can recollect it.[7]

Brigham Young and Orson Hyde both clearly state that the Constitution will be in grave danger of being destroyed. If the constitution is to be preserved it will be because the "Elders" of the Church will step forward and provide the support that will help to preserve the Constitution. The Elders of the Church will always be in support of the constitution, and will not ever be in a position to replace or supplant the constitutional principles in that document. Note that this belief has nothing to do with the so-called "White Horse" prophecy, but in fact preceded the date claimed for that prophecy.

The concern for the Constitution of the United States of America is a real and valid concern of the authorities and membership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Because it was included as part of the White Horse does not give the White Horse any sort of credibility. It is an entirely separate concern.


Question: How have Church leaders reacted to the stories of the White Horse prophecy?

Authorities of the Church have denounced portions of the account

Authorities of the Church have denounced portions of the account. In General Conference in October 1918 Joseph Fielding Smith made the following comments:

I have discovered that people have copies of a purported vision by the Prophet Joseph Smith given in Nauvoo, and some people are circulating this supposed vision, or revelation, or conversation which the prophet is reported to have held with a number of individuals in the city of Nauvoo. I want to say to you, my brethren and sisters, that if you understand the Church articles and covenants, if you will read the scriptures and become familiar with those things which are recorded in the revelations from the Lord, it will not be necessary for you to ask any questions in regard to the authenticity or otherwise of any purported revelation, vision, or manifestation that proceeds out of darkness, concocted in some corner, surreptitiously presented, and not coming through the proper channels of the Church. Let me add that when a revelation comes for the guidance of this people, you may be sure that it will not be presented in some mysterious manner contrary to the order of the Church. It will go forth in such form that the people will understand that it comes from those who are in authority, for it will be sent either to the presidents of stakes and the bishops of the wards over the signatures of the presiding authorities, Or it will be published in some of the regular papers or magazines under the control and direction of the Church or it will be presented before such a gathering as this, at a general conference. It will not spring up in some distant part of the Church and be in the hands of some obscure individual without authority, and thus be circulated among the Latter-day Saints. Now, you may remember this. [8]

The White Horse Prophecy, in any of its variant forms, has never been submitted, or even considered, for such a process that would be required to make it canon or binding on the Church membership. It simply has not occurred.

Joseph Fielding Smith's father and President of the Church, Joseph F. Smith, followed immediately after his speech and said:

The ridiculous story about the "red horse," and "the black horse," and "the white horse," and a lot of trash that has been circulated about and printed and sent around as a great revelation given by the Prophet Joseph Smith, is a matter that was gotten up, I understand, some ten years after the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith, by two of our brethren who put together some broken sentences from the Prophet that they may have heard from time to time, and formulated this so-called revelation out of it, and it was never spoken by the prophet in the manner in which they have put it forth. It is simply false; that is all there is to it. [9]

Elder Bruce R McConkie also comments on the “prophecy” in his book Mormon Doctrine:

From time to time, accounts of various supposed visions, revelations, and prophecies are spread forth by and among the Latter-day Saints, who should know better than to believe or spread such false information. One of these false and deceptive documents that has cropped up again and again for over a century is the so-called White Horse Prophecy. This supposed prophecy purports to be a long and detailed account by the Prophet Joseph Smith concerning the wars, turmoils, and difficulties which should exist in the last days. [10]

Note that the substance of the condemnation is that some thoughts or sentences from one source or another may have been put together to form this so-called revelation. The memory of the men involved may not have been sufficient to remember all that occurred in the short conversation they reportedly had with the Prophet. It is likely that they had parts from here and parts from there that formed the basis of their memory of the event. Note also that it is the descriptions of the various horses and what they represent that are condemned as false. In addition, the details of the last days are also declared false.

It is clear that the text of the White Horse Prophecy as reported by Theodore Turley and Edwin Rushton and recorded in the diary of John J. Roberts is not accepted as verified, binding prophecy by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It has never been accepted and it has been soundly denounced. No authority of the Church has ever spoken in support of this document—not once.


Question: Does the "White Horse Prophecy" imply Church support for some candidates over others?

The Church has disavowed any belief in the validity of the so-called White Horse prophecy

The Church has disavowed any belief in the validity of the so-called White Horse prophecy, and the prophecy's authenticity is suspicious on numerous historical grounds.

In December 2009, Church Public Affairs released a statement which read:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is politically neutral and does not endorse or promote any candidate, party or platform. Accordingly, we hope that the campaign practices of political candidates would not suggest that their candidacy is supported by or connected to the church.

"The so-called 'White Horse Prophecy' is based on accounts that have not been substantiated by historical research and is not embraced as Church doctrine. [11]


Response to claim: xx, 479n10 (HB) xiv, 477n10 (PB) - Mormonism was perceived as a "radical, immoral, and un-American band of religious zealots"

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

*Did Fred Esplin say that Mormonism existed as a "radical, immoral, and un-American band of religious zealots" as the hardback edition claims? (HB)
  • Or, did Esplin say that Mormonism was perceived as a "radical, immoral, and un-American band of religious zealots" as the paperback edition claims? (PB)

    Author's sources: Fred Esplin, "Mormon journalist and University of Utah spokesperson", "The Saints Go Marching On," Utah Holliday, June 1981, 33.

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 simply propaganda on the part of the author and his source.



Question: Was 19th century Mormonism perceived as a group of "radical, immoral, and un-American band of religious zealots"?

Just because people may have viewed the early Church with a negative perception does not mean that the perception reflected reality

The author of the critical book One Nation under Gods provides a quote from Fred Esplin, and refers to "an era when Mormonism existed as a 'radical, immoral, and un-American band of religious zealots with a charismatic leader—a nineteenth century People's Temple sect characterized by polygamy, theocracy and economic cooperation.'" (emphasis added) The statement was corrected in the paperback version to read "an era when Mormonism 'was perceived as a radical, immoral, and un-American band of religious zealots with a charismatic leader—a nineteenth century People's Temple sect characterized by polygamy, theocracy and economic cooperation.'" by including an additional (and important) fragment of the source being quoted. [12]

The author's use of the quote in the hardback version of his book makes reference to "an era when Mormonism existed" in a certain way; a way he then quotes author Fred Esplin to support. When the paperback version came out a year later, this error was corrected. Unfortunately, the hardback version is still in wide circulation, and is available in public libraries.

The problem is that while Esplin wrote the words that the author quotes in the hardback version, he doesn't say what the author says with those words. Take a look at the original quote, from "The Saints Go Marching On: Learning to Live With Success," Utah Holiday (June 1981), 33:

Public opinion of Mormons has turned full circle. The early church was perceived as a radical, immoral, and un-American band of religious zealots with a charismatic leader--a nineteenth century People's Temple sect characterized by polygamy, theocracy and economic cooperation.

Do you see the difference between the way Esplin wrote his words and the way they were used by the author in the hardback edition? The author has criticized the editor of the hardback edition for making mistakes—was this one of them? Esplin speaks of a perception, whereas the author assures his reader of a reality.

Just because people may have viewed the early Church with a negative perception does not mean that the perception reflected reality. Esplin recognizes this possible "disconnect" between perception and reality with his carefully selected words. The author, on the other hand, fails to recognize the disconnect implicit in Esplin's original words, choosing to do away with the perception and presenting an image of reality.


Response to claim: xx, 479n17 (HB) - Everyone in the world will be forced to recognize "Mormonism" as "the one true" religion

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

Everyone in the world will be forced to recognize "Mormonism" as "the one true" religion.

Author's sources: Orson Hyde, Journal of Discourses 7:53.

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

That isn't what Orson Hyde said. Orson Hyde was using a bit of rhetoric when he said, "What the world calls "Mormonism" will rule every nation. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young will be the head. God has decreed it, and his own right arm will accomplish it."



Response to claim: xxi (HB); xiv (PB) - Did Joseph claim in History of the Church that other governments and religions "must eventually be destroyed from the earth"?

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


  • Did Joseph claim in History of the Church that other governments and religions "must eventually be destroyed from the earth" as the hardback edition claims? (HB)
  • Or, did Joseph claim that all non-Mormon nations "must eventually be destroyed from the earth" as the paperback edition claims? (PB)

    Author's sources: History of the Church 5:212

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 quote from History of the Church says nothing about destroying "governments and religions."

Question: Did Joseph Smith claim that all governments and religions other than Mormonism would eventually be destroyed form the earth?

Joseph Smith stated that there "will be wicked men on the earth during the thousand years" of the millennium

The critical book One Nation under Gods claims the following:

"As for other governments and religions, according to Joseph Smith, they 'must eventually be destroyed from the earth.'" (page xx-xxi (hardback edition))

"As for all non-Mormon (i.e. heathen) nations, according to Joseph Smith, they 'must eventually be destroyed from the earth.'" (page xiv-xvii (paperback edition))

This quote is the closing sentence of a paragraph in which the author of One Nation Under Gods asserts that "Mormons [after the return of Christ] will reign with Christ, and every American citizen, along with the rest of the world, will be forced to recognize Mormonism as the one true religion."

Take a look at the full quote from the cited source (History of the Church 5:212), in context (the portion shown in bold is the portion of the quote that the author used):

While at conversation at Judge Adams' during the evening, I said, Christ and the resurrected Saints will reign over the earth during the thousand years. They will not probably dwell upon the earth, but will visit it when they please, or when it is necessary to govern it. There will be wicked men on the earth during the thousand years. The heathen nations who do not come up to worship will be visited with the judgments of God, and must eventually be destroyed from the earth.

In the hardback edition, the author asserts that Joseph Smith stated "other governments and religions" must be destroyed. In the paperback edition, this is changed to "all non-Mormon" nations." While the quote does say something about nations being destroyed, it says nothing about governments or religions or "non-Mormon nations" being destroyed. Note that the author must equate the term "non-Mormon" with the word "heathen" in order to make his comparision. The terms nations and governments are not always synonymous, particularly in a religious sense. A nation is best described as "a group of people," whereas a government is always political in nature. Thus, Jesus could refer to "nations" being gathered before the Son of God and being judged, even though a full analysis of the passage is speaking of an individual judgment of people, not a judgment of political bodies. (See Matthew 25:31-46, particularly vs. 32.)

Further, Joseph Smith does not speak of anyone being "forced to recognize Mormonism as the one true religion." That editorial assertion is made by the author of ONUG, without any support from the quote. In fact, Joseph Smith stated that there "will be wicked men on the earth during the thousand years." If religious recognition by force was expected by Joseph, it seems inconsistent for him to acknowledge that he expected wicked men to still live during the Millennium.


Response to claim: xxiv (HB) - The Church refuses to divulge "routine" financial data that other religions are "happy to provide over the phone"

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

The Church refuses to divulge "routine" financial data that other religions are "happy to provide over the phone."

Author's sources: Richard N. and Joan K. Ostling, Mormon America: The Power and the Promise, (New York:HarperCollins Publishers, 2000), 115. ( Index of claims )

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 simply a repeat of the Ostling's claim. The Church has no obligation to publicly disclose their finances.



Response to claim: xxiv (HB) xviii (PB) - Latter-day Saints believe that they are "morally, ethically, and spiritually superior" to non-members

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

Latter-day Saints believe that they are "morally, ethically, and spiritually superior" to non-members.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

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

Brigham Young praises the people not for being morally, ethically, or spiritually superior, but for being more obedient to the word of the Lord through prophets.

Question: Do Mormons actually believe that they are morally, ethically, spiritually superior to others?

Brigham Young praises the people not for being morally, ethically, or spiritually superior, but for being more obedient to the word of the Lord through prophets

The critical book One Nation under Gods claims that Latter-day Saints believe that they are "morally, ethically, and spiritually superior to non-Mormons." (page xxiv (hardback); page xviii (paperback)). The author cites Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 4:269. and Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56), 236. to support his claim.


Brigham Young praises the people not for being morally, ethically, or spiritually superior, but for being more obedient to the word of the Lord through prophets. Brigham Young's quote reads:

We are placed on this earth to prove whether we are worthy to go into the celestial world, the terrestrial, or the telestial, or to hell, or to any other kingdom or place, and we have enough of life given us to do this. And as I frequently say, and think more frequently, it is a disgrace for the Latter-day Saints to say, "Let us lay hold now, and have a reformation." We should never cease reforming and seeking to the Lord our God; and wherein we can better any trait in our lives, let us go to with our mights and reform ourselves, and not ask an Elder to come and preach reformation to us....

I remarked to brother Kimball last Sabbath, that this people are the best people that ever lived upon the earth; I am actually a good deal inclined to think so. Do not marvel at this remark. How long did it take Enoch to purify his people—to become holy and prepared for what we want this people to be prepared for in a very few years? It took him 365 years. How long has this people lived? It will be 27 years on the sixth of next month, since this Church was organized. What do you think about this people? I say that the virtuous acts of their lives beat the whole world. Were the children of Israel ever so obedient to Moses, as this people are to me? No, they never began to be; for obedience they could not favourably compare with this people. Moses led his people forty years in the wilderness in rebellion, fighting, stealing, whoring, and every manner of iniquity; and their evils where so great, that God cut every one of them off in the wilderness, except Caleb and Joshua. He did not suffer one of them to go into the land of Canaan, except the two I have named; they never revolted from Moses, but held up his hands all the time. They never turned away, not even when Aaron, his half-brother and right hand man, made the golden calf. When Aaron gathered up the earrings, and finger rings, and jewels, and made a calf, and led the children of Israel astray to worship an image, and say, "These be thy Gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage," while Moses was in the mountain talking to the Lord, Caleb and Joshua did not turn away; and if they were in that company, their souls shuddered while the people were making that calf.

Brigham Young praises the people not for being morally, ethically, or spiritually superior, but for being more obedient to the word of the Lord through prophets

He continues:

Were Enoch's men as obedient and advanced as far as this people in the same time? I think not. Let this people continue to make the improvement they have made, and it would not be 165 years before they could take this part of the country and go off, should it be necessary, until the earth is purified. Yet Enoch had to live and strive, and toil during 365 years, in order to bring his people under the principle of strict obedience. This contrast is encouraging to this people.

Now let me tell you that there are hundreds of men and women in this community that believe they ought to repent, but cannot find out for what, cannot tell wherein to do differently, from what they do, and do not know what to do. Do you do everything you know to be right and pleasing in the sight of God? Yes, say hundreds and thousands of the people. Do you do anything you know to be wrong? Hundreds may reply, "We do not know that we do, but we do not feel as though we enjoyed as much as we should." Hold on, do not get away from us. If you were now in the enjoyment of the things you have a presentiment of in your own feelings, that in the anxiety of your own hearts you are longing for, if you could get all that in your possession, you would not stay here; we should lose you, for you would be too pure to tarry in our society. Do not be in a hurry; let us stay together and fight the devil a little longer. Some of you think that by next fall you must obtain all that the Elders preach, if you do, you will go behind the vail, and we cannot have your society.

With many, a presentiment arises in their hearts like this, "We want something wonderful, or we must do something that we have not done. We must revolutionize our lives; we must reform," but they do not know wherein. Serve God according to the best knowledge you have, and lay down and sleep quietly; and when the devil comes along and says, "You are not a very good Saint, you might enjoy greater blessings and more of the power of God, and have the vision of your mind opened, if you would live up to your privileges," tell him to leave; that you have long ago forsaken his ranks and enlisted in the army of Jesus, who is your captain, and that you want no more of the devil.

Brigham goes on to give comfort and encouragement—the Saints have many weaknesses and difficulties. Despite this, Brigham encourages steady, consistent Christian discipleship. He reassures the Saints that they are "in the army of Jesus," and by "serv[ing] God according to the best knowledge [they] have," they need not worry about their ultimate fate.

These are not words directed to those smug in self-satisfied assurance of their moral or spiritual superiority but to people who know their weaknesses but strive through Christ to serve God.

Joseph Fielding Smith does not praise the Saints because they are "ethically, morally, or spiritually superior," but because they have received the gospel of Jesus Christ, and followed it faithfully

We are, notwithstanding our weaknesses, the best people in the world. I do not say that boastingly, for I believe that this truth is evident to all who are willing to observe for themselves. We are morally clean, in every way equal, and in many ways superior to any other people. The reason is that we have received the truth, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not to us a dead letter, something perhaps to be followed on the Sabbath day and forgotten on the six other days of the week, but our religion is an everyday religion. We are expected to live in accordance with the principles of truth every day of our lives, for these principles are just as true in the middle of the week as they are on the Sabbath day (citing Conf. Rep., Apr., 1951, pp. 152-153; DC 6:6; DC 11:6; DC 12:6; DC 14:6.)

Note that Joseph Fielding Smith does not praise the Saints because they are "ethically, morally, or spiritually superior," but because they have received the gospel of Jesus Christ, and followed it faithfully—obedience is. The gospel transforms weak people into better people.

Elder Smith continues:

CONDEMNATION FOR SLOTHFUL SAINTS. The man who has received the truth and yet will not walk in it deserves the greater condemnation. A member of this Church who will indulge in the use of tobacco, who will violate the Word of Wisdom, who refuses to pay his tithing, to keep the Sabbath day, or who in any other way will not hearken to the word of the Lord, is not loyal to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints....These shall receive the greater condemnation. (p. 237)

Once again, a decision to accept the gospel and its precepts or not is the deciding factor, not moral, ethical, or spiritual superiority.


Notes

  1. Boyd K. Packer, "The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect," Address to the Fifth Annual CES Religious Educators' Symposium, 1981; see also Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1991), 101-122; see also Boyd K. Packer, "'The Mantle is Far, Far Greater than the Intellect.'," Brigham Young University Studies 21 no. 3 (Summer 1981), 259–278. PDF link Later references to this address refer to the BYU Studies reprint, since the PDF is available on-line. It starts on page 1.
  2. William Schnoebelen, "Mitt Romney and the Mormon Plan for America," Cutting Edge Ministeries, 2007. http://www.cuttingedge.org/news/n2226.cfm
  3. John J. Roberts, "Reminiscences and Diaries 1898-1902", Microfilm Manuscript, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah. For the complete text, see Cobabe, below.
  4. Richard Abanes, One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church (New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2003), xvii-xxi ( Index of claims ); William Schnoebelen, "Mitt Romney and the Mormon Plan for America," Cutting Edge Ministeries, 2007. http://www.cuttingedge.org/news/n2226.cfm
  5. George Cobabe, "The White Horse Prophecy," (Redding, CA: FAIR, 2004).
  6. Brigham Young, "Celebration of the Fourth of July", Journal of Discourses 7:15 (July 4, 1854)
  7. Orson Hyde, "Self-Government, etc.", Journal of Discourses 6:152 (Jan. 3, 1858)
  8. Joseph F[ielding]. Smith, Jr., Conference Report (October 1918). Note that Joseph F. Smith, Jr. is typically referred to as "Joseph Fielding Smith," to distinguish him from his father, the 6th president of the Church, cited in the next footnote.
  9. Joseph F. Smith, Conference Report (October 1918).
  10. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 835. GL direct link
  11. Kim Farrah, spokeswoman for LDS public affairs, cited in "LDS Church issues statement on Rex Rammell," Rexburg Standard Journal (17h21, 24 December 2009).
  12. Richard Abanes,One Nation under Gods, page xx (hardback); page xiv (paperback)