Primary sources/Reed C. Durham on 1974 talk

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Reed C. Durham letter issued after his 1974 talk “Is There No Help for the Widow’s Son?”

Reed C. Durham wrote and circulated this letter after an address given at a Mormon History Association meeting on 20 April 1974.

To Whom It May Concern:

On Saturday, April 20, 1974, at the Mormon History Association Annual Meeting at Nauvoo, Illinois, I delivered the Presidential Address entitled, “Is There No Help for the Widow’s Son?” At that time I was gravely concerned that the presentation of my findings and conclusions, as a result of long months of research, would not be properly interpreted; and that regardless of what I attempted to say, misunderstandings would occur. My concerns were justified. I have been informed of instances where even my own colleagues in the Mormon History Association, and also some close friends within the Church misinterpreted what I said, and more important to me, in some cases even questioned my faith in Joseph Smith and the Church.

Of course, I assume the full responsibility for creating those questions, concerns, and misunderstandings. It was because I was not skillful enough, erudite enough, nor perhaps prayerful enough to make my personal position and feelings clearly known.

Therefore, regardless of what I said, or what interpretations were placed upon what I said, let it be known at this time, that:

1. I know that Joseph Smith was/is indeed a true prophet of God – the one called under direction of Jesus Christ to usher in this dispensation of the fullness of times.
2. I know further that Temple Work, with all its ramifications including Eternal Marriage and the Endowment ceremony is divinely inspired.
3. Because of the personal witness I have received by the Spirit (which has been complemented and supported by continual study and experience), the prime criterion or standard of judgment I am committed to employ as an explanation of any aspect of the Church – either of Joseph Smith and/or the Temple ceremonies – is that of divine revelation.

Had I delivered my address in Nauvoo, making sure that my knowledge and conviction of the above three statements was clearly reflected in the subject matter of my address, I am confident that fewer misunderstandings would have been occasioned; and my address would have more clearly approximated my honest feelings. I am deeply sorry that such was not the case.


Reed C. Durham, Jr.