Criticism of Mormonism/Books/One Nation Under Gods/Use of sources/Thou Shalt Not Raise a False Report

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Thou Shalt Not Raise a False Report (Exodus 23:1): Mormons to turn "not to God, but to Joseph"?

A FairMormon Analysis of: One Nation Under Gods, a work by author: Richard Abanes

Author's Claims


One Nation under Gods, page 175 (hardback and paperback)

Such high regard for Smith has not diminished in the least among modern-day Mormons, who tend to view Smith as important to their spirituality as Jesus Christ. For instance, in an April 14, 1961, letter by Levi Edgar Young--an LDS official of notably high rank--the "grandeur of Joseph Smith's life" was noted as the all-important truth that the world needed to hear. Levi's prayer was that thousands would turn not to God, but to Joseph.21 [1]

Author's Sources


Endnote 21, page 543 (hardback); page 541 (paperback)

21. Levi Edgar Young, letter dated April 14, 1961. Quoted in Jerald Tanner and Sandra Tanner, Mormonism: Shadow or Reality? (Salt Lake City: ULM, 1987), 252.


Question: Did Levi Edgar Young state that his prayer was that "thousands would turn not to God, but to Joseph"?

The Levi Edgar Young quote is taken out of context - it says nothing about turning "not to God"

One critic of Mormonism asserts that "Levi Edgar Young--an LDS official of notably high rank--the "grandeur of Joseph Smith's life" was noted as the all-important truth that the world needed to hear. Levi's prayer was that thousands would turn not to God, but to Joseph." [2]

The Levi Edgar Young quote is taken out of context. The charge that Levi Edgar Young prayed "that thousands would turn not to God, but to Joseph" Smith is false.

First, let's look at the quote as it appears on page 252 of Mormonism: Shadow or Reality? (The bold text below is quoted by the critic.)

In a letter to us, dated April 14, 1961, Levi Edgar Young, one of the First Seven Presidents of Seventies, made this statement: "The granduer [sic] of Joseph Smith's life must become known to the people of the world, and I am praying daily that people by the thousands may turn to him." (Letter photographically reprinted in our Case, v. 1, p. 75.)

The primary source for this quote originates with a letter sent by Sandra Tanner to Church leaders in 1961

Now let's turn to the primary source for this quote: The Case Against Mormonism, v. 1, p. 75 (Salt Lake City: ULM, 1967), beginning with Sandra Tanner's letter sent to most all of the First Presidency, Twelve, and Seventy. The letter was the same in each case, and formed as follows:

April 7, 1961

Dear Mr. -----,

The Apostle John A. Widtsoe once stated, 'The best place to obtain information for and against the Church is the Library of the Church Historian.' (A New Witness For Christ in America, preface, p. vii.)

We are writing a book and we need some of this information. As we know that the Church makes microfilms, we would like the following things microfilmed.

  • 1. Joseph Smith's history of the church in the original handwritten form.
  • 2. All of Joseph Smith's journals.
  • 3. The Far West Record.
  • 4. The original handwritten manuscript of the Book of Mormon.

Enclosed is ten dollars for this work. We are sending this same letter to several other authorities in the church. Therefore, there should be enough money to cover the cost of this work.

If there is any possible reason why we cannot obtain microfilm copies, can we come to the Historian's Office and examine these manuscripts?

Sincerely, Mrs. Jerald Tanner

The following is Levi Edgar Young's reply to Sandra Tanner, in The Case Against Mormonism, v. 1, p. 75 (Salt Lake City: ULM, 1967). The bold text is quoted by the author of ONUG:

Levi Edgar Young Salt Lake City

April 14, 1961

Mrs. Jerald Tanner 319 North Fifth West Salt Lake City, Utah

Dear Mrs. Tanner

Your letter of April 7 was received and the content of it was very interesting. I am very glad to know that the Prophet Joseph Smith's history will be put into a form that the original handwriting of the Book of Mormon will be seen by people in general.

I am enclosing the $10 that you put in your letter, because I have not understood exactly why you sent it. I appreciate your thoughtfulness of me and hope that your desires may be realized.

The granduer [sic] of Joseph Smith's life must become known to the people of the world, and I am praying daily that people by the thousands may turn to him.

Again let me thank you for your thoughtfulness of me and hope that your ideas will be successfully realized.

Sincerely yours, Levi Edgar Young

LEY:sh

Levi Edgar Young was "very glad to know that the Prophet Joseph Smith's history" would be accessible to "people in general"

We now have the quote in context and can read for ourselves that Levi Edgar Young, 87-years old and senior member of the First Council of the Seventy, was "very glad to know that the Prophet Joseph Smith's history" would be accessible to "people in general". With this in mind, he closes his letter with "The granduer [sic] of Joseph Smith's life must become known to the people of the world" and that "people by the thousands may turn to him". This reader is left to wonder what, in this letter, is adverse in hoping that people will read about Joseph Smith? Indeed, Levi Edgar Young, a former university professor, esteemed books and inspired all to study and "to read better books than we could digest . . . raising us to ever higher levels". [3]

To support his opening statement -- that Mormons view Joseph Smith "as important to their spirituality as Jesus Christ" -- the author of ONUG embellishes Young's words by adding "was noted as the all-important truth that the world needed to hear" thus misrepresenting Levi Edgar Young's intent when he wrote the letter.

There is nothing in Levi Edgar Young's reply to Mrs. Tanner to support the author's claim that "Levi's prayer was that thousands would turn not to God, but to Joseph"

In fact the opposite is true. Time and again we read in Church literature the words of Levi Edgar Young admonishing the Saints to turn to God and to be mindful of our Redeemer: "May we turn to the glorious doctrines of the resurrection, and give our hearts to God, that He may give us life everlasting." [4] "As Latter-day Saints, we should know and keep ever in mind the teachings of the Savior of mankind, and let Jesus Christ be our Guide and our Light. We all realize that life is a struggle, and is filled with so many hardships and pains; so many sorrows and trials. So the supreme power in all this struggle is prayer -- the turning to God through Jesus Christ, and adding the force of the eternal to the petty cares of life." [5]

"Elder Young was appointed to represent the Church on the local ministerial association of the Protestants and Jews. His conciliatory attitude during these years gained many friends and served to reduce prejudice." [6] How disheartening that the author of ONUG would use Levi Edgar Young, a man who "was instrumental in cementing friendly and happy relations with many who had opposed the Church," [7] to further his countercult [8] agenda against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Notes

  1. The quotation is the same in both editions of One Nation under Gods. Page numbers provided here are from the first edition.
  2. Richard Abanes, One Nation Under Gods Endnote 21, page 543 (hardback); page 541 (paperback).
  3. S. Dilworth Young, "A Scholar, A Gentle Man, President Levi Edgar Young," Improvement Era, January 1964: 40.
  4. Levi Edgar Young in Conference Report, April 1920, Afternoon Session.
  5. Levi Edgar Young in Conference Report, April 1929, Afternoon Meeting.
  6. S. Dilworth Young, "A Scholar, A Gentle Man, President Levi Edgar Young," Improvement Era, January 1964: 19-20.
  7. Ibid., 19.
  8. From Hare Krishna to the Latter-Day Saints, and from Jehovah's Witnesses to the New Age, religious pluralism in North American presents evangelical Protestantism with significant challenges. Declaring newer religious groups "cults," "aberrant sects," and "heretical religions," the Christian countercult movement has warned that these groups represent a threat to society. [Douglas E. Cowan, Bearing False Witness? An Introduction to the Christian Countercult (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2003), book jacket.] "Countercult journalist Richard Abanes, for example, in Cults, New Religious Movements, and Your Family, writes of "ten non-Christian groups out to convert your loved ones"--among others, the Church of Scientology, the Church of Satan, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1998b)." (Ibid., p. 40.)