Firesides/28 November 2010 - Sweden/5

Table of Contents

Response to questions about "lying for the Lord"

1: BoM translation2: Polygamy and Polyandry3: Polygamy forced?4: Book of Abraham5: "Lying for Lord"6: Mark Hofmann7: Blood atonement8: First Vision9: Sanitized history10: "Not all truth is useful"11: Angelic affidavits12: Blacks and priesthood13: Temple concerns14: Evidence of Vikings15: Adam-God16: Kinderhook

The attendees of The "Swedish Rescue" fireside ask the following question:

I have a question that’s really related to polygamy.
  • When I was on my mission in London in the seventies, we were taught a very important principle called lying for the Lord. I mean, we were taught that.
  • And it’s supposed to have been coined, this phrase, by I think John Taylor.
  • Do you think that there are circumstances where it’s OK to withhold or manipulate truths just to defend or uphold the reputation of the Church?
  • Is lying for the Lord still alive?

  • Question: Was a "very important principle called lying for the Lord" a policy of the Church?
    Answer: No
    .
  • "Lying for the Lord" is not, nor has it ever been, a policy of the Church.

    Are there circumstances where lying is justified? The church teaches the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments say, don’t bear false witness, right? The book of Mormon says wo be unto the liars.... Was it practiced? In all societies, there are clashes of moral imperatives, OK? The Ten Commandments say thou shalt not kill. But countries go to war and people kill. If somebody attacks you in your home, you can defend yourself, OK? There are these clashes where sometimes one moral imperative or ethical imperative becomes superior to another. If you’re protecting your children and I’m a killer and I come to you and say where are your children, are you going to tell me? Probably not. OK? When people bring up this topic, what they’re usually talking about is during plural marriage time periods when people were asked about plural marriage and, again, it’s a complicated subject but basically, people were trying to decide, do I say something, or do I not? Do I tell the truth or do I not? Do we teach as a church that you should lie? No, we don’t. I was brought up on the principle of strict honesty and that’s what I try to follow.

    —Brother Turley's response to this question at the Sweden fireside
    • Question: Was "lying for the Lord" taught to missionaries in the 1970s, or at any other time?
      Answer: Not officially
      .
    Elder Oaks has, however, responded to this:

    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....

    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 judgement 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....

    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.

    —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).
    • Question: Does the Church teach "lying for the Lord"?
      Answer: No
      .
    The Church teaches and and continues to teach that honesty and integrity are character traits that we should develop in order to become more like God.

    We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things. (The 13th Article of Faith)

    • Question: Was the phrase "lying for the Lord" coined by John Taylor?
      Answer: No
      .
    The phrase was not invented by Taylor. The reason that the phrase is associated with John Taylor is because of a talk he gave in 1850. John Taylor stated that Latter-day Saints were not marrying multiple wives, yet he himself had already done so. Polygamy would not be publicly announced for another two years. Elder Taylor stated:

    From the report of Elder Taylor's Discussion in France, as follows:—We are accused here of polygamy, and actions the most indelicate, obscene, and disgusting, such that none but a corrupt and depraved heart could have contrived. These things are too outrageous to admit of belief; therefore, I shall content myself by reading our views of chastity and marriage, from a work published by us containing some of the articles of our Faith. ("Doctrine and Covenants," page 330).... Inasmuch as this Church of Jesus Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication and polygamy, we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife, and one woman but one husband, except in the case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again. It is not right to persuade a woman to be baptized, contrary to the will of her husband; neither is it lawful to influence her to leave her husband.

    —"Anti-Mormon Objections Answered," The Latter-Day Saints' Millennial Star, Volume 20, 381.
    • Question: What was Elder Taylor referring to?
      Answer: Elder Taylor's statement was a rejection of polygamy as an adulterous relationship called "spiritual wifery," rather than "plural marriage" (From the Latter-Day Saints' Millennial Star):

    Elder Taylor's Discussion in Boulogne took place in the year 1850, seven years after the Prophet Joseph had received the Revelation on Celestial Marriage, but two years before that revelation was published to the Church. Elder Taylor, therefore, had no authority to preach polygamy. He neither preached it, contradicted it, condemned it, nor publicly denied it. His controversial opponents adverted to certain absurd stories about seraglios of "spiritual wives," and sisterhoods of the "white vail" and "black vail," and other lying reports propagated by the apostate [John C.] Bennett fraternity and republished by Caswall [an anti-Mormon author]. Our objector, in making his extract from the Report, gives forth the notion that the speaker was "stoutly denying polygamy, and stigmatizing it" as "indelicate, obscene, and disgusting." But where the stout denial is to be found, we know not. His words are—"We are accused here of polygamy," (referring to accusations made even before the doctrine of polygamy was revealed, and which were false accusations,) "and actions the most indelicate, obscene and disgusting such that none but a corrupt and depraved heart could have contrived." The idea of his "stigmatizing" polygamy as "indelicate, obscene and disgusting," is an interpretation of his words which is altogether gratuitous on the objector's part. We do not so understand them. Such a meaning as that attached to them by the objector could certainly never have been intended by their author. Elder Taylor, instead of entering into a formal refutation of the charges cited by his opponents, which he considered as "too outrageous to admit of belief," contented himself with simply reading a passage from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants on the existing marriage-law of the Church....Polygamy was not then a revealed doctrine of the Church; and therefore the Saints, as a matter of course, adhered to the general monogamic law. If they had practised polygamy without "command" from God, their conduct would have been in that respect, as censurable as that of the ancient Nephites. It would have been a "crime" on their part; nor does the Book of Doctrine and Covenants intimate that it is.

    —"Anti-Mormon Objections Answered," The Latter-Day Saints' Millennial Star, Volume 20, (June 19, 1858) 395-396.
    • Question: Is it OK to withhold or manipulate truths just to defend or uphold the reputation of the Church?
      Answer: The truth may be withheld if the alternative is dangerous to the safety of others.
    When the early Church was under command to practice polygamy and Church leadership struggled against the legal persecution that was heaped upon the Church and the physical danger in which the practice placed the Saints, a similar moral choice was made. More correctly, this would be saying: My duty to obey God, and protect myself and other innocents from persecution and physical harm, requires me to withhold the truth from those perpetuating the persecution. There are times in our lives in which we must choose between conflicting moral choices. Such was the case when Abraham told Pharaoh that Sarah was his sister, rather than stating the she was his wife. Had Abraham told the truth in this instance, he would have been killed by those who desired to have his wife. Such cases are rare, and we know of none in the present-day Church.

    |extlink=http://www.fairlds.org/authors/smith-gregory/polygamy-prophets-and-prevarication |extsubject=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 (HTML) |extpublication=FAIR Publications, 2005 |extauthor=Gregory L. Smith |extsummary=Attacks upon Joseph Smith and the Church regarding polygamy have generally taken one or more of the following forms: Irreligious, Illegal, Lying, Lascivious, Implementation, Hiding history.