Mormonism and history

Table of Contents

Mormonism and history

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Accuracy of Church history

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The Church's Gospel Topics essays on LDS.org

Summary: The Church has posted a series of Gospel Topics essays on LDS.org which discuss a variety of issues related to Church History and belief.

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How the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has responded to issues related to Church history

Summary: Elder Dallin Oaks discusses the issue of church history and facts that are not discussed frequently in church approved curriculum during an interview with Helen Whitney (HW) for the PBS documentary, The Mormons.[1]

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Artistic depictions of the Book of Mormon translation

Summary: People are sometimes troubled when they see artists' depictions of the Prophet and Oliver sitting at a table while Joseph views the plates as they sit in plain sight. Obviously, the plates never sat exposed in plain view, and these artistic interpretations originate purely in the mind of the artist. Some accounts indicate that the plates sat on a table covered with a cloth "in plain view," with Emma indicating that she actually moved them around in order to perform her household chores.[2]

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How the Church has handled issues related to publications related to Church history

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The History of the Church, though credited to Joseph Smith, was not actually authored by him

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Censorship and revision of Church history

Summary: Some claim that the church has "whitewashed" some of the information about its origins to appear more palatable to members and investigators. Some feel that this is done intentionally to hide negative aspects of church history. Others feel that it is done to focus on the good, but that it causes problems for believing members when they encounter these issues outside of church curriculum.

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Has the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) "whitewashed" its history?

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Artistic depictions of the Book of Mormon translation

Summary: People are sometimes troubled when they see artists' depictions of the Prophet and Oliver sitting at a table while Joseph views the plates as they sit in plain sight. Obviously, the plates never sat exposed in plain view, and these artistic interpretations originate purely in the mind of the artist. Some accounts indicate that the plates sat on a table covered with a cloth "in plain view," with Emma indicating that she actually moved them around in order to perform her household chores.[3]

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Does the Church excommunicate scholars who publish historical information?

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Brigham Young and plural marriage

Summary: It is claimed that the Church's manual, The Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, attempts to "hide history" by portraying Brigham Young (a well-known polygamist) as having only one wife.

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Hiding the facts of Church history in plain sight using Church publications

Summary: The Church is routinely accused of suppressing and hiding uncomfortable facts from its own history. Yet, the very same people quote Church sources in order to provide proof of their claims. This concern often rests on a misunderstanding. It is true that the Church's teachings are primarily doctrinal and devotional—Church lessons are neither apologetic nor historical in scope or intent. It is remarkable, however, how many of the issues which some charge the Church with "suppressing" are discussed in Church publications.

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Brigham Young's attempt to destroy all copies of Lucy Mack Smith's biography of Joseph Smith

Summary: Did Brigham Young attempt to suppress and destroy all copies of Lucy Mack Smith's Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith because it contained information which would embarrass the Church? It is claimed that Brigham Young inserted the reference to Joseph Smith's First Vision into Lucy's book. Critics also try to prove that the silence of Joseph's mother and siblings in her history prove that the First Vision did not take place, and is a later fabrication by Joseph, and not well known to the early members of the church.

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Attitude of the Church toward historians

Mormonism and history: Statements attributed to Boyd K. Packer

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Church discipline of scholars: The "September Six"

Summary: Some claim that the Church excommunicates or disfellowships scholars who publish historical information that is embarrassing to Church leaders. Despite the fact that these disciplinary actions are carried out by local leaders, some critics insist that they are in reality instigated by general authorities.

Telling only part of the truth

Summary: 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.'"


"Magic" in Mormon history

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Joseph Smith's family and "folk magic"

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Notes

  1. Helen Whitney, interview with Dallin H. Oaks, "Elder Oaks Interview Transcript from PBS Documentary," LDS.org.
  2. Interview of Emma Smith by her son Joseph Smith III, "Interview with Joseph Smith III, 1879," Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 1:541–542.
  3. Interview of Emma Smith by her son Joseph Smith III, "Interview with Joseph Smith III, 1879," Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 1:541–542.