There’s a remarkable story circulating the Net in which a prominent LDS General Authority allegedly lost his faith due to the teachings of Grant Palmer, the controversial ex-Mormon author who was teaching seminary for years while secretly circulating some highly implausible theories of plagiarism of the Book of Mormon. This General Authority has come to Palmer with the statement, “We are here to learn” and continues to learn the ways of anti-Mormon truth in his regular meetings with Palmer as his guide. This General Authority allegedly has said that all of the Apostles and many other leaders know that the Church is not true but just don’t have the courage to do the right thing (like, oh, keeping their Church job for years while sharing anti-Mormon materials with others).
In mid-October 2012, a returned LDS Mission President contacted me to arrange a meeting. Several days later, he called again and said that a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy also wished to attend. He said the General Authority would attend on condition that I not name him or repeat any stories that would identify him. He explained that neither of them, including the GA’s wife, believed the founding claims of the restoration were true. He clarified that they had read my book, An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins, and had concluded that the LDS Church was not true; was not what it claimed to be….
We have at this writing met three times. We first met on Tuesday, October 23, 2012 and again February 14, 2013 at my house. On March 26, 2013 we convened at the GAs house. Upon entering my home for the first meeting the GA said, “We are here to learn.” I recognized him. He has been a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy for a number of years. He has served in several high profile assignments during this period. The following are the more important statements made by the GA during our first three meetings. We now meet monthly….
He said that it takes about two to three years before the new apostle discovers that the church is not true. He said it took Dieter F. Uchtdorf a little longer because he was an outsider. He said they privately talk among themselves and know the foundational claims of the restoration are not true, but continue on boldly “because the people need it,” meaning the people need the church. When the Mission President voiced skepticism and named ___ as one who surely did believe, The GA said: “No, he doesn’t.” …
When I asked the GA how he knew these things, he answered by saying that the Quorum of the Twelve today is more isolated from the Quorums of the Seventies now because there are several of them. When only one Quorum of the Seventy existed, there was more intimacy. During his one on one assignments with an apostle, conversations were more familiar. He said that none of the apostles ever said to him directly that they did not believe; but that it was his opinion based on “my interactions with them.” Also, that none of the Twelve want to discuss “truth issues,” meaning issues regarding the foundational claims of the church.
The GA stated that my disciplinary action (which would have occurred on the final Sunday of October 2010 had I not resigned), was mandated/ordered/approved by the First Presidency of the Church. I said that if the apostles know the church is not true and yet order a disciplinary hearing for my writing a book that is almost certainly true regarding the foundational claims of the church, then they are corrupt even evil. He replied, “That’s right!”
The GA said the church is like a weakened dam. At first you don’t see cracks on the face; nevertheless, things are happening behind the scenes. Eventually, small cracks appear, and then the dam will “explode.” When it does, he said, the members are going to be “shocked” and will need scholars/historians like me to educate them regarding the Mormon past.
The Mission President and the GA both said they attend church every Sunday and feel like “a hypocrite and trapped.” The GA said his ward treats him like a king and when he gives firesides and speaks to LDS congregations they have high expectations of him. He would like to do more in getting the truth out besides raising a few questions when speaking and gifting my book to others when feeling comfortable. Perhaps this is why he has reached out to me. The GA is a man of integrity and very loving. Upon leaving each time, he always gives me a big hug.
Grant Palmer is blowing smoke. He talks about a current member of the First Quorum of Seventy (FQS) who was familiar with how things worked when there was only one quorum of seventy. Number of current members of the FQS who were members when there was only one quorum: 0
Based on Palmer’s memorandum, certainly this mysterious GA would have been a GA before the area seventy quorums were called in April 1995, right? FQS members called before April 1995:
Carlos Amado (based in Central America)
Claudio Costa (based in Brazil)
John Dickson (based in West Africa)
So which of these three GAs, based in far flung corners of the world, is meeting with Palmer on a monthly basis? And that’s before we even get to how on earth this GA would be able to discern it takes 2-3 years for a new apostle to discover the church is not true, but it took DFU a bit longer. It would be hilarious if he wasn’t serious.
Second Quorum of the Seventy formed
In 1984, some seventies were appointed to the First Quorum of the Seventy who were not to serve for life, but for terms of several years. In 1989, these limited-term members were separated into a new Second Quorum of the Seventy. At the same time, the general practice was instituted of retiring all members of the First Quorum at the October general conference following their 70th birthdays, or earlier in the case of serious health problems. Some flexibility on the terms of service has emerged in recent years.
Since 1989, members of the First and Second Quorums have continued as general authorities of the church. Sometimes members are called from the Second Quorum into the First Quorum.
Since the 1976 merger of First Quorum of the Seventy, seventies are the most usual candidates to become members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Since 1976, three have been called as apostles who did not serve as general authority seventies prior to their call, including Russell M. Nelson, Dallin H. Oaks, and David A. Bednar,Nelson and Oaks were ordained apostles in 1984 under church president Spencer W. Kimball, and Bednar in 2004 under church president Gordon B. Hinckley.
Area seventies and additional quorums of seventy
At the April 1995 general conference of the church, church president Gordon B. Hinckley announced the creation of a new leadership position known as the area authority. The area authorities were to replace the regional representatives who had served as bridge of leadership between the general authorities and the local stakeand mission presidents. In 1997, it was decided that area authorities would be ordained to the office of seventy. As a result, these area authorities were renamed area authority seventies, and the church announced that these new seventies would become members of the newly-created Third, Fourth, and Fifth Quorums of the Seventy. Later, the title “area authority seventy” was shortened to area seventy, which is the title currently in use.
Area seventies serve in the various geographic regions of the world called areas in which the church is governed by area presidencies. An international area presidency is typically composed of members of the First and Second Quorums of the Seventy, while areas in the United States and Canada are directed by a member of the Presidency of the Seventy.In 2004, the Fifth Quorum of the Seventy was divided to create the Sixth Quorum of the Seventy.
So who is this mysterious General Authority who looks to a better Mormon future thanks to Palmer and his book (or rather, millions of copies of that soon-to-be best seller)? He had to be a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy back in the good ol’ days when life wasn’t so complicated with all those other quorums. 1989 is the key date, for that is when the Second Quorum was formed. So we just have to look at the list of current First Quorum members and eliminate all those who were ordained after roughly 1989, inclusive. Let’s see, that leaves, well, not exactly anybody. Nobody. So that’s looking like a problem. OK, I’m still going to give bonus points for very nice specific dates given for the meetings with the General Authority. That adds a nice granular feel of reality to the story. But the part about the good ol’ days of the First Quorum apparently adds a little too much granularity that can be checked to rule out–sigh–every candidate. That’s a step backward for the credibility of this story that so many are anxious to believe. But don’t give up yet.
- John B Dickson, sustained 06 Jun 1992
- Carlos H Amado, sustained 01 Apr 1989
- Claudio R. M. Costa, sustained 02 Apr 1994
One commenter elsewhere suggested that Jay E. Jensen could be a candidate, probably because he had been in the First Quourum of the Seventy and was serving in the Presidency of the Seventy when he was given emeritus status in October 2012. But as Wikipedia’s article on Jay E. Jensen explains, he was was “called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy in 1992 and transferred to the First Quorum of the Seventy in 1995.” That was after the other quorums were added so he would not have been reminiscing about his early intimate days in the First Quorum.
An apparent problem with these candidates is that they have been living and serving far away from Palmer’s territory of Utah. Carlos Amado is from Guatemala and has served and lived in various parts of Latin America. He was assigned as a counselor in the church’s Central America Area in 2011. Not likely to have been meeting with Grant Palmer in Salt Lake, nor to have invited Grant to his home (where, in Guatemala?). Claudio Costa was in the Idaho area for a while, but since 2011 has been assigned to Brazil. Not likely to have been having regular meetings recently with Palmer as his spiritual advisor in 2012.
So that leaves is with John B. Dickinson. I hope it’s not him. If it is, there are some curious details to consider. John is in the First Quorum now, but when he became a General Authority in 1992, he was called to the Second Quorum (same for the other two candidates considered here). It wasn’t until 1995 that he transferred to the First Quorum, and that’s when the other quorums were added, so it really doesn’t fit the story. Plus he’s been assigned to the Africa West Area since 2011. Seems hard to square his facts with the Palmer story.
The story from Palmer seems to imply an old-timer First Quorum member (not Second Quorum member who recently transferred to the First Quorum) who has a home in the Salt Lake City area and spends enough time there to meet several times with Palmer in 2012. Even if we generously reconstruct the story to cushion it with a few extra years after the time when the Second Quorum was added, I really don’t see that anybody in the current First Quorum could fit the very few details provided by Palmer. Even if we had scores of candidates to choose from, there are problems that could cause us to doubt its accuracy, but if we can’t even find a single candidate even with generous interpretations being applied, it would seem to raise legitimate grounds for putting this story on hold as potentially unreliable, pending further clarification. Grant, care to clarify? Give us a few clues? Am I missing something big and simple? Perhaps the next revision will make it more clear.
It is possible that some General Authority out there really is having testimony trouble and thinks Palmer and his book with its salamander-flavored Golden Pot tale offer unique insights into Mormonism that every Mormon should be taught one day. On the other hand, it’s also possible that the account, with no plausible candidate so far, is a tad delusional. A mean-spirited Mormon apologist might see a self-serving aspect to the story, with Palmer playing too grand a role and his questionable book being too powerful and important, all a potential red flag. I’d be more inclined to accept it if the story were promoting some other random book written by another insider to Mormonism such as, say, Conquering Innovation Fatigue. Hey, why not? That could shake a General Authority’s testimony as well as anything. Why, just the depressing chapter alone on Mormon inventor Philo Farnsworth could do the trick. No need to wait until the dam of truth bursts, either. But that’s another story.
Accurate or not, this story apparently from Palmer will increase publicity for his book and its claims. Here are some resources for you to better understand what Palmer has been up to:
- “Asked and Answered: A Response to Grant H. Palmer” by James B. Allen, FARMS Review, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 235-85. This is an excellent review of Palmer and also a good overview of many basic anti-Mormon criticisms of the Book of Mormon and the Restoration. Also points out some glaring deficiencies in Palmer’s approach.
- “Prying into Palmer” by Louis Midgley, FARMS Review, Vol. 15, No. 2, pp. 365-410. Important revelations about Palmer’s early work, and his fascination with the salamander-related documents from Mark Hoffman that were later exposed as forgeries. An interesting study in cognitive dissonance, perhaps, with an amphibian twist.
- “A Summary of Five Reviews of Grant Palmer’s “An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins” (with a Few Comments of My Own)” by George E. Cobabe. Valuable information about Palmer’s (or his publisher’s) claims to being a special insider and good background material to understand what Palmer is doing with his approach.