Criticism of Mormonism/Books/The Changing World of Mormonism/Chapter 15

Table of Contents

Response to claims made in "Chapter 15: The Arm of Flesh"

A FairMormon Analysis of: Criticism of Mormonism/Books, a work by author: Jerald and Sandra Tanner
Claim Evaluation
The Changing World of Mormonism
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Response to claims made in The Changing World of Mormonism, "Chapter 15: The Arm of Flesh"

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Response to claim: 431-439 - There has been no new revelation since the time of Joseph Smith

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

There has been no new revelation since the time of Joseph Smith.

FairMormon Response

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

This is incorrect.

Question: If every President of the Church is a prophet, seer, and revelator, why have so few revelations after Joseph Smith been added to the Doctrine and Covenants?

Revelation continues in the Church even if it is not being added to the Doctrine and Covenants

Elder John A. Widtsoe explained that we still have revelation in the Church, even if it is not being added to the Doctrine and Covenants:

There is...need of continuous revelation. However, we must understand that there are two classes of revelation given by God to man. The first deals with the structure and content of the plan of salvation. Once given it does not need to be given again. Adam received it. *** Christ gave the same revelation to man in His dispensation. So did Joseph Smith in his dispensation. The foundation, or platform, once given does not need to be given again unless men forget the truth.

Then there are revelations that fit the changes in our lives, meet our new needs, help us overcome unforeseen conditions—revelations for our daily guidance.

This great country, the United States of America, has found itself in a great depression. We have the Gospel. What did the Lord do? He spoke to his Prophet, and we have what is known as the Welfare Program. It is the application of the eternal principles of the Gospel to present day needs. It is as revelation. We have that type of revelation continuously.

So, when people say: "We ought to have revelation now as we did in the day of Joseph," we must answer, "Open your eyes; we do have revelation every day; such as we need from day to day."

Revelations have been given to Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow, Joseph F. Smith and President Heber J. Grant. Every one of them has had revelation whereby the Church has been guided.[1]


Response to claim: 431 - The Church teaches that you must let the leaders do your thinking for you

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

The Church teaches that you must let the leaders do your thinking for you.

Author's sources: Improvement Era, June 1945, p.354

FairMormon Response

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

The cited article was specifically repudiated by the President of the Church.



"When the Prophet Speaks, Is the Thinking Done?"

"When the Prophet Speaks, Is the Thinking Done?":

It is often stated by critics of the Church that the LDS people are blind followers of the prophet, and that the Church expects and cultivates such blind obedience. A quote which they choose to offer in support of this misconception is that ‘when the prophet speaks, the thinking is done.’ This statement originally appeared in the Improvement Era, in June 1945, as the Ward Teaching message for the month....The appearance of this message caused much concern among many inside and outside of the Church. Dr. J. Raymond Cope, the leader of the First Unitarian Society in Salt Lake City, was one of those concerned. He decided to express his concerns about the impact of this message in a letter to President George Albert Smith in November of the same year. The letter was cordial, and expressed the feeling that such a message was “doing inestimable harm to many who have no other reason to question the integrity of the Church leaders… this cannot be the position of the true leaders.”

President Smith responded to Dr. Cope with a letter of his own, designed to clarify the point, at the first of December. The letter, reproduced in full below, should lay to rest any misconception about whether the Church or its leaders expect blind obedience in any degree.[2] —(Click here to continue)


Response to claim: 433 - Joseph F. Smith said that he never received revelation

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

Joseph F. Smith said that he never received revelation.

Author's sources: Reed Smoot Case, Vol. 1, pages 483-484

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 authors have distorted the source that they are using. President Smith denied presenting any revelation for sustaining vote at general conference, which was true as of that date. He did not deny receiving other forms of revelation

Question: At the Reed Smoot Senate hearings, did Joseph F. Smith tesify that he never received revelation?

President Smith denied presenting any revelation for sustaining vote at general conference, which was true as of that date, but he did not deny receiving other forms of revelation

To read the original documents of the Smoot hearings, see here.

Those who make this claim do not disclose that the Smoot hearings were an antagonistic proceeding in which LDS apostle Reed Smoot was being investigated to see if he should be able to take his seat in the U.S. Senate.

During this exchange, then, Joseph F. Smith was essentially being examined as a "hostile witness." President Smith was not likely to "cast pearls before swine," by discussing the revelatory process, and the legal requirements of the situation likely made him reply as little as possible to the questions posed.

Any attempt to judge Joseph F. Smith's complete beliefs and experiences about revelation from these hearings are, then, doomed to being incomplete.

Despite these limitations, the cited material make it absolutely clear that President Smith's reference to revelation was in the sense of revelation "has been submitted by you and the apostles to the body of the church in their semiannual conference, which revelation has been sustained by the conference through the upholding of hands?" (p. 483). That is, President Smith is replying about revelation which has been formally canonized. Although obviously reluctant to speak about the details of other revelation, he insists that he has it (see images of Smoot hearings on the right).

Smoot Hearings, Vol. 1, p. 483 (Entire Smoot hearings are on-line here.)
Smoot Hearings, Vol. 1, p. 484 (Entire Smoot hearings are on-line here.)


Response to claim: 434 - The Church chose to canonize two "new" revelations in order to counter claims made by the Tanners

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

The Church chose to canonize two "new" revelations in order to counter claims made by the Tanners.

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 authors have too high an opinion of themselves. Church leaders have long insisted that new revelation comes frequently to the Church, and this long pre-dates their anti-Mormon crusade:
So, when people say: "We ought to have revelation now as we did in the day of Joseph," we must answer, "Open your eyes; we do have revelation every day; such as we need from day to day." (John A. Widtsoe, 1939) [3]



Response to claim: 435 - The Church has never produced a copy of the revelation granting Blacks the ability to receive the priesthood

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

The Church has never produced a copy of the revelation granting Blacks the ability to receive the priesthood.

FairMormon Response

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

Those involved described the receipt of the revelation.

Question: Were there witnesses to the revelation that ended the priesthood ban?

Many witnesses described the 1978 revelation on the priesthood

Wrote the past LDS Church Historian:

As a historian I sought to learn the particulars and record them in my private diary. The following account is based on dozens of interviews with persons who talked with church officials after the revelation was announced. Although members of the Twelve and the First Presidency with whom I sought interviews felt they should not elaborate on what happened, I learned details from family members and friends to whom they had made comments. . . .

Those in attendance said that as [President Kimball] began his earnest prayer, they suddenly realized that it was not Kimball's prayer, but the Lord speaking through him. A revelation was being declared. Kimball himself realized that the words were not his but the Lord's. During that prayer some of the Twelve -- at least two who have said so publicly -- were transported into a celestial atmosphere, saw a divine presence and the figures of former presidents of the church (portraits of whom were hanging on the walls around them) smiling to indicate their approval and sanction. . . .

At the end of the heavenly manifestation Kimball, weeping for joy, confronted the church members, many of them also sobbing, and asked if they sustained this heavenly instruction. Embracing, all nodded vigorously and jubilantly their sanction. There had been a startling and commanding revelation from God -- an ineffable experience.

Two of the apostles present described the experience as a "day of Pentecost" similar to the one in the Kirtland Temple on April 6, 1836, the day of its dedication. They saw a heavenly personage and heard heavenly music. To the temple-clothed members, the gathering, incredible and without compare, was the greatest single event of their lives. Those I talked with wept as they spoke of it. All were certain they had witnessed a revelation from God.[4]

Elder David B. Haight said of the same experience:

I would hope someday that our great-grandson Mark and others of our posterity would have similar spiritual experiences and that they would feel the spiritual power and influence of this gospel. I hope that Mark and others will have opportunities such as I had when I was in the temple when President Spencer W. Kimball received the revelation regarding the priesthood. I was the junior member of the Quorum of the Twelve. I was there. I was there with the outpouring of the Spirit in that room so strong that none of us could speak afterwards. We just left quietly to go back to the office. No one could say anything because of the powerful outpouring of the heavenly spiritual experience.

But just a few hours after the announcement was made to the press, I was assigned to attend a stake conference in Detroit, Michigan. When my plane landed in Chicago, I noticed an edition of the Chicago Tribune on the newsstand. The headline in the paper said, "Mormons Give Blacks Priesthood." And the subheading said, "President Kimball Claims to Have Received a Revelation." I bought a copy of the newspaper. I stared at one word in that subheading: claims. It stood out to me just like it was in red neon. As I walked along the hallway to make my plane connection, I thought, Here I am now in Chicago walking through this busy airport, yet I was a witness to this revelation. I was there. I witnessed it. I felt that heavenly influence. I was part of it. Little did the editor of that newspaper realize the truth of that revelation when he wrote, "Claims to Have Received a Revelation." Little did he know, or the printer, or the man who put the ink on the press, or the one who delivered the newspaper -- little did any of them know that it was truly a revelation from God. Little did they know what I knew because I was a witness to it.[5]


Question: What testimonies were offered regarding the revelation that ended the priesthood ban?

Testimonies regarding the revelation

The Spirit of God was there.... Every man in that circle, by the power of the Holy Ghost, knew the same thing.... The voice of the Spirit whispered with a certainty into our minds and our very souls.... We left that meeting subdued reverent and joyful. Not one of us who was present on that occasion was ever quite the same after that.
—Gordon B. Hinckley[6]
  • We were all fasting and had just concluded a meeting of some three hours duration that was attended by nearly all the General Authorities. That meeting also was held in the room of the First Presidency and the Twelve in the holy temple.... After this meeting, which was one of great spiritual uplift and enlightenment, all of the brethren except those in the First Presidency and the Twelve were excused. When we were alone by ourselves in that sacred place where we meet weekly to wait upon the Lord, to seek guidance from his Spirit, and to transact the affairs of his earthly kingdom, President Kimball brought up the matter of the possible conferral of the priesthood upon those of all races. This was a subject that the group of us had discussed at length on numerous occasions in the preceding weeks and months. The President restated the problem involved, reminded us of our discussions, and said he had spent many days in this upper room pleading with the Lord for an answer to our prayers. He said that if the answer was to continue our present course of denying the priesthood to the seed of Cain, as the Lord had therefore directed, he was prepared to defend that decision to the death. But, he said, if the long sought day had come in which the curse of the past was to be removed, he thought we might prevail upon the Lord so to indicate. He expressed the hope that we might receive a clear answer one way or the other so the matter might be laid to rest. At this point President Kimball asked the brethren if any of them desired to express their feelings and views as to the matter in hand. We all did so, freely and fluently and at considerable length, each person stating his views and manifesting the feelings of his heart.... This session continued for somewhat more than two hours. Then President Kimball suggested that we united in formal prayer.... It was during this prayer that the revelation came. The Spirit of the Lord rested upon us all; we felt something akin to what happened on the day of Pentecost and at the Kirtland Temple. From the midst of eternity, the voice of God, conveyed by the power of the Spirit, speak to his prophet. The message was that the time had now come to offer the fulness of the everlasting gospel, including celestial marriage, and the priesthood, and the blessings of the temple, to all men, without reference to race or color, solely on the basis of personal worthiness. And we all heard the same voice, received the same message, and became personal witnesses that word received was the mind and will and voice of the Lord. President Kimball’s prayer was answered and our prayers were answered. He heard the voice and we heard the same voice. All doubt and uncertainty fled. He knew the answer and we knew the answer.... In the days that followed the receipt of the new revelation, President Kimball and President Ezra Taft Benson–the senior and most spiritually experienced ones among us both said, expressing the feelings of us all, that neither of them had ever experienced anything of such spiritual magnitude and power as was poured out upon the Presidency and the Twelve that day in the upper room in the house of the Lord. And of it I say: It is true; I was there; I heard the voice; and the Lord be praised that it has come to pass in our day.[7]
  • The Lord in his providences poured out the Holy Ghost upon the First Presidency and the Twelve in a miraculous and marvelous manner, beyond anything that any then present had ever experienced. The revelation came to the President of the Church; it also came to each individual present.... The result was that President Kimball knew, and each one of us knew, independent of any other person, by direct and personal revelation to us, that the time had now come to extend the Gospel and all its blessings and all its obligations, including the priesthood and the blessings of the house of the Lord, to those of every nation, culture, and race. There was no question whatsoever as to what happened or as to the word and message that came.[8]
  • All of us then present in the Holy Temple on that blessed occasion became living witnesses of the reality of the revealed word that then came to the one appointed to receive revelation for the Church and for the world. Each of us received a confirming witness in our souls–The Holy Spirit of God speaking to the spirits within us–so that we can and do testify to the world that the revelation came and that it is the mind and will and voice of the Lord.[9]
The outpouring of the Spirit in that room [was] so strong that none of us could speak afterward.... No one could say anything because of the powerful outpouring of the heavenly spiritual experience.... I was there. I witnessed it. I felt that heavenly influence. I was part of it.... It was truly a revelation from God.... I was a witness to it.
— David B. Haight[10]
  • There was a hallowed and sanctified atmosphere in the room. For me, it felt as if a conduit opened between the heavenly throne and the kneeling, pleading prophet of God who was joined by his Brethren. The Spirit of God was there. And by the power of the Holy Ghost there came to that prophet an assurance that the thing for which he prayed was right, that the time had come, and that now the wondrous blessings of the priesthood should be extended to worthy men everywhere regardless of lineage. Every man in that circle, by the power of the Holy Ghost, knew the same thing. It was a quiet sublime occasion. There was not the sound `as of a rushing mighty wind,’ there were not `cloven tongues like as of fire’ (Acts 2:2-3) as there had been on the Day of Pentecost. But there was a Pentecostal spirit, for the Holy Ghost was there. No voice audible to our physical ears was heard. But The voice of the Spirit whispered with a certainty into our minds and our very soul. It was for us, at least for me personally, as I imagine it was with Enos, who said concerning his remarkable experience, `And while I was thus struggling in the spirit, behold, the voice of the Lord came into my mind’ (Enos 1:10). So it was on that memorable June 1, 1978. We left that meeting subdued and reverent and joyful. Not one of us who was present on that occasion was ever quite the same after that. Nor has the Church been quite the same. All of us knew that the time had come for a change and that the decision had come from the heavens. The answer was clear. There was perfect unity among us in our experience and in our understanding. [11]
  • I was in that circle in that sacred room when President Spencer W. Kimball on a June day in 1978 pleaded with the Lord for direction on a matter fraught with tremendous consequences. It concerned the eligibility of all worthy men to receive the priesthood. I can testify now, as I have testified before, that the spirit of revelation was felt on that occasion, and that the fruits which have flowed from that revelation have been sweet and wonderful for great numbers of people across the world.[12]
  • Each Thursday, when we are at home, the First Presidency and the twelve meet in the temple, in those sacred hallowed precincts, and we pray together and discuss certain matters together, and the spirit of revelation comes upon those present. I know. I have seen it. I was there that June day in 1978 when President Kimball received revelation, surrounded by members of the Twelve of whom I was one at the time. This is the work of God. This is his almighty work. No man can stop or hinder it. It will go on and continue to grow and bless the lives of people across the earth.[13]
  • I was in the temple when President Spencer W. Kimball received the revelation regarding the priesthood. I was the junior member of the Quorum of the Twelve. I was there. I was there with the outpouring of the Spirit in that room so strong that none of us could speak afterward. We just left quietly to go back to office. No one could say anything because of the powerful outpouring of the heavenly spiritual experience. Just a few hours after the announcement was made to the press, I was assigned to attend a stake conference in Detroit, Michigan. When my plane landed in Chicago, I noticed an edition of the Chicago Tribune on the newsstand. The headline in the paper said, `Mormons Give Blacks Priesthood.’ And the subheading said, “President Kimball Claims to Have Received a Revelation.” I bought a copy of the newspaper. I stared at one word in that subheading–claims. It stood out to me just like it was in red neon. As I walked along the hallway to make my pane connection, I thought, Here I am now in Chicago walking through this busy airport, yet I was a witness to this revelation. I was there. I witnessed it. I felt that heavenly influence. I was part of it. Little did the editor of that newspaper realize the truth of that revelation when he wrote`... Claims to have Received a Revelation.’ Little did he know, or the printer, or the man who put ink on the press, or the one who delivered the newspaper–little did any of them know that it was truly a revelation from God. Little did they know what I knew because I was a witness to it.[14]
"This revelation and assurance came to me so clearly that there was no question about it."
—Spencer W. Kimball[15]
  • We experienced the sweetest spirit of unity and conviction that I have ever experienced.... We took each other in our arms, we were so impressed with the sweet spirit that was in evidence. Our bosoms burned with the righteousness of the decision we had made. Thank God for the inspired leadership and the great and enduring principle of revelation.[16]
  • Seldom, if ever, had there been greater unanimity in the council [He also referred to] the powerful witness of the Spirit last Thursday, and how this confirmed the divine origin of the revelation”.[17]
  • I can testify now, as I have testified before, that the spirit of revelation was felt on that occasion.[18]


Response to claim: 437 - Brigham Young claimed that his sermons were the same as scripture

The author(s) of The Changing World of Mormonism make(s) the following claim:

Brigham Young claimed that his sermons were the same as scripture.

Author's sources: Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 13:95.

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 Tanners neglect to provide Brigham's detailed instructions about when and under what circumstances his sermons were scripture. Brigham explained his meaning, but the critics generally do not tell us what he means:

Brother Orson Hyde referred to a few who complained about not getting revelations. I will make a statement here that has been brought against me as a crime, perhaps, or as a fault in my life. Not here, I do not allude to anything of the kind in this place, but in the councils of the nations—that Brigham Young has said "when he sends forth his discourses to the world they may call them Scripture." I say now, when they are copied and approved by me they are as good Scripture as is couched in this Bible, and if you want to read revelation read the sayings of him who knows the mind of God, without any special command to one man to go here, and to another to go yonder, or to do this or that, or to go and settle here or there. (JD 13:264, 6 October 1870)


Notes

  1. John A. Widtsoe, "Modern Revelation and Modern Questions," The Deseret News, Church Section (28 January 1939): 6.
  2. "When the Prophet Speaks, Is the Thinking Done?," FairMormon.
  3. John A. Widtsoe, "Modern Revelation and Modern Questions," The Deseret News, Church Section (28 January 1939): 6.
  4. Leonard J. Arrington, Adventures of a Church Historian (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1998), 176-177.
  5. David B. Haight, "This Work Is True," Ensign (May 1996), 22.
  6. Gordon B. Hinkley, "Priesthood Restoration," Ensign (October 1988), 70.
  7. Bruce R. McConkie, "The New Revelation on Priesthood," in Priesthood (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981), 127-28.
  8. Bruce R. McConkie, "All Are Alike unto God," an address to a Book of Mormon Symposium for Seminary and Institute teachers, Brigham Young University, 18 August 1978, 4.
  9. Bruce R. McConkie, Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1982), 243. ISBN 0877478961. GL direct link
  10. David B. Haight, Conference Report (April 1996), 31.
  11. Gordon B. Hinkley, "Priesthood Restoration," Ensign (October 1988), 70.
  12. Gordon B. Hinkley, "The Salt Lake Temple]," Ensign 23 no. 3 (March 1993), 6.
  13. Gordon B. Hinkley, Ketchikan Alaska Fireside, 22 June 1995; in Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Co., 1997), 555.
  14. David B. Haight, Conference Report (April 1996), 30-31.
  15. Gerry Avant, “Pres. Kimball says Revelation was Clear," Church News (6 January 979): 15.
  16. Sheri L. Dew, Ezra Taft Benson: A Biography (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1987), 457.
  17. Howard W. Hunter, cited in Eleanor Knowles, Howard W. Hunter (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1994), 235-36.
  18. Gordon B. Hinkley, "The Salt Lake Temple]," Ensign 23 no. 3 (March 1993), 6.