Grizzly bear truth versus teddy bear truth trips up Mormonism

To see Cal Grondahl’s cartoon that goes with this post, click here: My friend and co-worker, Cal Grondahl, says there’s “grizzly bear” truth and “teddy bear” truth in Mormon history. Whether it’s the Prophet Joseph Smith, polygamy, the Mountain Meadows Massacre, Brigham Young, temple ceremonies, etc., one can either grab a teddy bear or a grizzly bear when wanting answers.

For a long time, teddy bear truth, which is designed to comfort people, was more prevalent than grizzly bear truth. But that’s changing now. The biggest reason is Mitt Romney’s run for the presidency; another is the LDS Church’s commendable efforts to make its appeal more diverse, with campaigns directed to single adults and families of color. But with more openness, and a Mormon who may occupy the White House in 2013, teddy bear answers on tough questions won’t cut it anymore.

The unfortunate remarks of a BYU professor that blacks not receiving the priesthood was in reality a “blessing,” or that the Lord was waiting to provide the priesthood, is an example of teddy bear truth, the lighter, happy version, that is promulgated. The grizzly bear truth is that trouble with violence in Missouri way back in the 1830s was the genesis of the Mormon policy discriminating against blacks. The church later piggybacked the old canard that Ham’s race was cursed doctrine to justify the ban, and so on.

Baptism for the dead is another doctrine, that while not discriminatory or objectional in my opinion, suffers from the teddy bear truth syndrome. It’s easy to say to the world that we baptize the dead, your non-Mormon ancestors, because we want them to have a chance to accept the Gospel. There’s no pressure, they can say no.

The grizzly bear truth, though, is that faithful Mormons believe that these dead spirits are eagerly waiting for faithful Mormons to do proxy baptisms for them. We believe that these people will confront us after death if we’re not valiantly helping them while on earth. (Try explaining that to Anne Frank’s relatives!) After they’re baptized, there are more ordinances to be done in proxy. Another grizzly bear truth is that the practice of baptism for the dead was preceded by the mostly forgotten LDS practice of “adoption,” which involved sealing multiple families and persons on earth into an eternal family headed by a prominent priesthood holder. There was competition to get persons into your family because of the idea that the larger one’s “adopted family,” the greater one’s glory eternally. The summer 2011 issue of the “Journal of Mormon History” devotes more than 115 pages on early Mormon adoption theology in fascinating articles by Samuel M. Brown and Jonathan A. Stapley.

Trying to explain elements of the last paragraph is not easy, but rarely is grizzly bear truth easy to explain. It will be a challenge in this century for the LDS Church and its members to make the transition from teddy bear truth to grizzly bear truth and make hard-to-understand doctrines easier to comprehend.

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70 Responses to Grizzly bear truth versus teddy bear truth trips up Mormonism

  1. tom says:

    Do you think the Church leaders will ever fully accept and promote “Grizzly Bear Truth” It doesn’t strike me as anything the LDS Church that I grew up in would do.

    Adoption of adult men for political purposes has a long tradition. At least several Roman Emperors passed on their throne this way, including the first two – Caesar and Augustus.

  2. Great analogy.
    The Mormon church’s own 13th Article of Faith starts out, “We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men.”

    Really? Is that why the Mormons maintain the world’s largest standing army of 50,000 missionaries to go around the world selling this ‘Teddy Bear truth’,

    Joseph and Emma Smith centered their marriage and family in the gospel of Jesus Christ—an example to all.which the church publishes on its official website, josephsmith.net.

    http://www.josephsmith.net/josephsmith/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=031f001cfb340010VgnVCM1000001f5e340aRCRD&locale=0

    rather than this grizzley bear truth
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_wives_of_Joseph_Smith

    • Wendell says:

      The worlds largest standing army is 50,000? Wow, and about a fifth are couples over 65, and about another fifth are young ladies? The worlds largest standing army? This is not only NOT grizzly bear truth, it just isn’t truth.

      • Zack Tacorin says:

        Wendell,

        I could be wrong, but I think Stan (in using the term “army”) was just referring to the large size of the Mormon missionary force when compared to the full-time missionary numbers of other churches. I also think it’s common to compare full time missionaries to an army. Speaking of missionary work, Elder L. Aldin Porterrter said, “Let all our youth prepare themselves to join the mighty army which the Lord is even now sending across the earth, calling out the righteous. (L. Aldin Porter, “Be Ready for the Call,” Ensign, Mar 1994, 12)
        This being the case, I’m not sure what your argument against Stan is. However, it wouldn’t be the first time I missed something. Let me know if I have in this case.

        Thanks,

        Zack

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  4. Leslie says:

    Doug, When you were missionary, did you ever take an investigator to church and cringe when someone brought up something that was a bit deep?

    Even as a member, there have been things I have had to ponder over, wrestle with, study about, pray about and come to an understanding about. I’m sure you’ve had the same experience several times.

    Explaining in one essay doesn’t necessarily provide the answer. It’s one of those, milk vs meat things. For the people who are interested, they’ll make the effort. For those who aren’t, they will pass and maybe even scorn.

    That’s called choice. It’s good we all have choice. We just all need to do better at not judging each other for those choices.

    What we really ought to be concerned with is whether or not that person (or candidate) stands for something good (according to the shared values of our society–ever changing as they may be) and if he basically is striving to be a good citizen and is a good member of the community.

    • Doug says:

      Leslie, I don’t disagree with you, particularly when missionaries teach the Gospel and members are developing personal testimonies. My concern is with how the culture and the media are responding and will respond to teddy bear explanations for tough Mormon-related issues and questions.

      • Leslie says:

        Doug, I agree that the church needs to be straightforward in answering these tough questions. In my opinion, they do a pretty good job of it. Perhaps it’s the members who need a little more PR practice and instruction, because we all tend to mix in our own take on things here and there that may not be appropriate or correct–an indication that we’re definitely as human as the next guy.

        I guess part of what I’m arguing is that there are some people and members of the media who simply will not accept ANY answer that is given–they are looking for something to be wrong with it.

        I remember when Newsweek put out their “grand” article “Mormons” in 2001 prior to the 2002 Olympics. I recall the buzz about it, how members anticipated reading it to see what the world thought of us and if the article got it right. Well, the tone of the article was critical to say the least. I really would challenge anyone who said it was objective reporting. It was opinionated. So be it.

        I remember being particularly struck by the following “evidence” the reporter presented that the church was trying to “alter” its image to be considered Christian: “Traditionally, Mormon teaching focused on founder Joseph Smith as God’s latter-day prophet whose revelations led to the restoration of the ancient Hebraic priesthood and of the one true church. Today more than one image of Smith is hard to find in the church’s magnificent new conference center in Salt Lake City. Instead, the walls are lined with huge murals depicting scenes from the life of Jesus. This change in iconography can also be seen in local chapels, called “wards,” where Mormons gather every Sunday for three hours. In 1971, images of Jesus appeared only five times in the church’s official monthly publication, the Ensign; in 1999, the Ensign published 119 of them.”

        What the…? How ridiculous was that? I don’t ever remember seeing any iconography of Joseph Smith in any chapels or the previously used Tabernacle. I wonder if that reporter took the time to catalog all the available images of Jesus in 1971 and determined which of those could be used by the church? And how ridiculous would it be to feature the same images over and over in the Ensign because that was all there was available. In fact, I know the church was very involved in commissioning new images of the Savior from that time forward.

        Anyway, you can lead a horse to water, but… You just can’t please everyone.

    • Zack Tacorin says:

      You mention that it’s good that we all have a choice. However, without full discosure, choices are made without understanding the options. Failure to provide full disclosure is not ethical in business, and I find it even more problematic where a church is involved.

      You also mentioned the milk-before-meat practice. Such behavior is a distinguishing factor of manipulative and destructive organizations as listed at:
      http://freedomofmind.com/Info/BITE/bitemodel.php
      Here’s a quote from that site listing this distinguishing behavior:
      “Compartmentalization of information; Outsider vs. Insider doctrines
      a. Information is not freely accessible
      b. Information varies at different levels and missions within
      pyramid
      c. Leadership decides who “needs to know” what”

      • Leslie says:

        To what are you referring when you mention full disclosure? A church and its history is a lot more involved than a corporation. If you want to learn all you possibly can about a church before joining it, I think you can do it. It will probably take you a very long time, though. But, it is likely possible.

        I know I wouldn’t object to someone attending and studying as much as they wanted without joining. Usually, the people who do join, want to. And those who join and find out there is something they can’t live with, usually leave it.

        In the LDS church, there really is no big scheme to deceive people. Really.

        • Erick says:

          I like the use of the phrase “full disclosure”, because it’s pretty much accepted ethics that a person should know what they are buying before being compelled to make a purchase. I get the argument that it is hard to draw the line on what constitutes full disclosure, but I think there are some key points that can be addressed.

          First, Stan shows a dichotomy in Joseph Smith’s marriage. If you didn’t know anything about Joseph Smith you would have no idea about polygamy from reading the information contained in the Church’s link. You cannot have a serious discussion about Joseph Smith’s marriage to Emma without talking about polygamy, because it was a big issue to her. She struggled with it immensely. Additionally, anybody who has read Mormon Enigma knows that their marriage was incredibly strained by the issue. The Church’s link gives no indication of this, but instead offers some vague “everything was perfect” view of things. I would see that as a violation of full disclosure.

          So somewhere between telling everything, and telling a completely flattering version of things, is a reasonable position of full disclosure.

        • Zack Tacorin says:

          Leslie,

          Thank you for your question. This provides me the opportunity to provide some needed clarification.

          Investopedia’s second (more general) definition of “full disclosure” is:
          The general need in business transactions for both parties to tell the whole truth about any material issue pertaining to the transaction.
          (http://www.investopedia.com/terms/f/fulldisclosure.asp#axzz1oYmYGt5z)

          The key here is telling the whole truth about any *material* issue pertaining to the foundational truth claims of the LDS Church. I think you’ve hinted at the impracticality of learning all things about a particular organization. If that is the case I agree with you on that point. However, there are many issues about the Church that I find very material that I only learned after being a member for more than 20 years. And I didn’t learn of these things from the Church itself. Here are just a few examples:

          – Joseph Smith’s inability to translate ancient text as demonstrated in the mistranslation of the Book of Abraham.

          – Though the Church’s prophets and apostles are defended as being fallible, there words are treated as if they could make no mistake. For example, “When the Prophet speaks, … the debate is over” found at http://www.lds.org/ensign/1979/08/the-debate-is-over?lang=eng. Another example is the 14 Fundamentals in Following the Prophet in which we are taught “The prophet will never lead the Church astray,” found at http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/10/obedience-to-the-prophets?lang=eng.

          – The Church teaches that we can ask God to know if the LDS Church is His only true and living church. Unfortunately, “A common technique among religious cults is to instruct people to ask God what He wants them to do. Members are exhorted to study and pray in order to know God’s will for them.” (Combatting Cult Mind Control, p. 70, Steven Hassan) Often the result of such prayers is for individuals to think they have been inspired by God to join groups like the Moonies or Jehovah’s Witnesses which are clearly destructive, manipulative, overly-controlling groups.

          – That the foundational event of Joseph Smith’s First Vision wasn’t commonly known even in the Church until the 1840s. In addition, the current official version written in 1838 (I believe) contradicts earlier versions Joseph produced.

          To me these are very material. If you’re interested in further material issues that I knew nothing about, please see http://www.mormonthink.com. Some may be concerned about the bias of this site, but it includes Church sources and apologist sources, and they will make corrections if you can demonstrate that they have erroneously stated something.

          Thanks,

          Zack

          • Guy Briggs says:

            “… mistranslation of the Book of Abraham …”

            Pretty bold statement, considering we don’t have the entire Book of Abraham, nor do we have the source.

            Still the BofA is doing pretty good, thankyouverymuch. Consider “Traditions about the Early Life of Abraham” (Tvedtnes/Hauglid/Gee) which takes details about Abraham not found in the Bible, and compares them to “100 ancient and medieval stories from their original Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Persian, Coptic, and Egyptian sources.” It turns out that Smith scored an amazing 100% accruate – and if it was anybody BESIDES Smith, the book would be considered authentic.

            “… contradicts earlier versions Joseph produced …”

            Actually, when you take all of the versions which are ACTUALLY First Vision accounts (anti-Mormons are fond of including Angel Moroni accounts to bolster the claim that the accounts are different) and line them up side-by-side, they harmonize quite nicely. At least as well as the 4 Gospels.

            “… we can ask God …”

            In other words, we shouldn’t pray. There’s a good Christian message!

            “… when the Prophet speaks …”

            Ah, yes. The old “thinking has been done” canard. Ironically, the two articles you cite are based on the June 1946 Ward Teacher Message – which was corrected by the Church within a few months of its original publication.

          • Zack Tacorin says:

            Guy,

            I thank you to for the opportunity to further clarify.

            You wrote that my claim that the Book of Abraham was a mistranslation was a, “pretty bold statement, considering we don’t have the entire Book of Abraham, nor do we have the source.” I don’t think it’s bold at all when you look at Joseph’s translation of the facsimiles. If you disagree, please reference any non-Mormon Egyptologist that concurs with Joseph’s translation. I find the following interpretation particularly sadly ironic and demonstrative of Joseph’s inability to translate ancient text. Joseph interpreted Figure 7 of facsimile 2 as God the Father. According to Egyptologists, Figure 7 of facsimile 2 represents the ithyphallic god, Min. (See an apologist’s admission of this in item (7) on pages 11 and 12 at http://home.comcast.net/~michael.rhodes/JosephSmithHypocephalus.pdf). Please observe the figure in question and look up the definition of the word ithyphallic.

            Regarding the different accounts of Joseph’s first vision you wrote, “when you take all of the versions which are ACTUALLY First Vision accounts . . . and line them up side-by-side, they harmonize quite nicely. At least as well as the 4 Gospels.” Joseph’s 1832 account indicates that he knew before praying that all the existing Churches were wrong, but the official version indicates that this thought had never occurred to him before. This is just one point, and it seems very inconsistent. As far as the first vision account being as consistent as the four gospels, I’d agree with you there. I think that lends credence to my point though.

            Regarding my point of asking God not being a reliable way to find the truth you wrote, “In other words, we shouldn’t pray.” I never said you shouldn’t pray. I think a lot of good can come of prayer. Prayer is not very good at revealing the truth however. I know; I prayed on both sides regarding Mormonism. My testimony rested on the assumptions that the resulting feelings and perceptions were the Spirit telling me the LDS Church was true. With identical feelings and perceptions resulting from prayer about my conclusion that the LDS Church was just another organization of men, I realized I couldn’t rely on such an epistemology. If you don’t believe me, go to
            http://www.theamateurthinker.com/2011/02/how-can-we-find-truth-part-4/
            About a third of the way down the page you’ll find the following heading:
            “A Short Experiment – Comparing Descriptions of Spiritual Feelings from Different Religions”.
            The author describes:
            “I’ve collected a sample of people’s descriptions of religious conversion or spiritual revelation. The following twenty quotes are from practicing Atheists, Buddhists, Catholics, Hindus, Muslims, Mormons, New Agers, Protestants, and Universal Unitarians. Try to guess which quote comes from which religion.”
            Even as an former-Mormon, I was shocked to see this. I didn’t know how similar others’ spiritual experiences are to Mormons’ spiritual experiences.

            Regarding my references to Church teachings to follow the prophets regardless, you wrote, “Ironically, the two articles you cite are based on the June 1946 Ward Teacher Message – which was corrected by the Church within a few months of its original publication.” I’m not familiar with the message from 1946. The references I gave you were from
            1) a 1979 Ensign first presidency message in the Ensign and
            2) a 2010 General Conference talk
            The way I see it, you just made my point. According to you, someone in the Church taught to follow the prophets regardless back in June 1946, then the Church corrected it within a few months, only to present the same message again in 1979 and 2010 (and probably at many other times).

            Again, thanks for the opportunity to clarify,

            Zack

          • Guy Briggs says:

            @Zach:

            “… when you look at Joseph’s translation of the facsimiles …”

            But we were talking about the source for the Book of Abraham, not the facsimilies, no?

            Consider the following etewitness descriptions:

            Charlotte Havens, a non-Mormon visiting Nauvoo, stopped by Nauvoo House – where she was shown the scrolls. One purporting to be from Joseph of Egypt, the other from Abraham. The latter was unrolled on the table, it stretched from there to the floor, and into another room. The JS Papyri, on the other hand, even when pieced together in their proper order, do not exceed 3.5 feet.

            Another non-Mormon reports seeing the papyrus fragments, mounted under glass slides and hanging on a wall in a city some distance from Nauvoo. Thing is, this was the year BEFORE Ms. Haven saw the scrolls – in one piece – in Nauvoo.

            Then there are the 7 non-Mormon witnesses – all with the letters “M.D.” after their names – who examined the artifacts in Philadelphia, before they were delivered to Smith:

            “This record is beautifully written on papyrus with black, and a small part, red ink or paint, in perfect preservation.”

            That may describe a lot of things, but certainly not the papyrus fragments.

          • Guy Briggs says:

            @Zach:

            “… his is just one point, and it seems very inconsistent …”

            The 1831-32 Rough Draft was just that – a never-intended-for-publication rought draft. This is evidenced by the fact that the pages were razored from the Ledger Book in which they were written, so that the remainder of the book could be used for copies of official Church documents.

            While it provides some interesting glances into Joseph’s personal feelings, it is the only one of the lot that doesn’t have him at 14, the only one that doesn’t mention two personages (it does not, however, limit the personages to one).

            For these and many other reasons, it should not be considered definitive.

          • Zack Tacorin says:

            Guy,

            You wrote, “But we were talking about the source for the Book of Abraham, not the facsimilies, no?”

            Guy, there are a couple of problems with this. If you review what I wrote, you’ll see that I did not refer to the source of the Book of Abraham. Clearly if there’s a translation, there must be a source for that translation, but that’s not what I was talking about.

            The second problem is that you’ve referred to the facsimiles as if they were something separate from the Book of Abraham. I’m sure this was an honest mistake on your part, and I don’t disparage you for this because we all make such mistakes. I’m sure you’ll recall that the facsimiles are published as part of the Book of Abraham.

            As for the rest of your concerns about my stance on the Book of Abraham, I’ll refrain from the long explanations. If you or others are interested, you can read all about the problems with the Book of Abraham at:
            http://mormonthink.com/book-of-abraham-issues.htm
            The site is very thorough and list many resources if you want to dig deeper.

            By the way did you ever look up the word “ithyphallic”? Any ideas on how a symbol for an Egyptian god described this way would be interpreted as God the Father?

            Thanks,

            Zack

          • Zack Tacorin says:

            Guy,

            When addressing my contention that Josephs accounts of his first vision are contradictory, you indicate that the 1832 version was a rough draft. I’ve never seen it called such, but even if it were, your argument is a red herring. In fact, it seems to me that you’ve conceded my point, that Joseph’s accounts of the first vision are contradictory.

            Thanks,

            Zack

          • Guy Briggs says:

            @Zach:

            “… I’m sure you’ll recall that the facsimiles are published as part of the Book of Abraham …”

            Yes. The incredible Frieberg illustrations are published as part of the Book of Mormon (the blue, soft-cover editions, anyway). Yet they are not part of the inspired text.

            Consider a genuine ancient document, the Testament of Abraham. The basic story line goes something like near the end of Abraham’s life, God sends an angel to collect him. Abraham stalls, and asks to be taken on a sight-seeing tour. Everywhere Abraham goes, he witnesses evil, and demands that the evil-doer be slain. The scene then shifts to judgement: a judge seated upon the throne (Abel,) who judges men until the second coming, when all will be judged by the twelve tribes of Israel, and, finally, God himself – so that the judgment may be established by three witnesses. The angel tells Abraham that the angels on the right and left record righteous deeds and sins. The sunlike angel holding the balance is the archangel Dokiel, the righteous balance-bearer, who weighs the righteous deeds and sins. The fiery angel who tests the works of men with fire is the archangel Purouel. Everything is tested both by fire and by balance. Abraham is shocked by the torment which the judged souls have to endure, and finally understands why God allows evil persons to stay on the earth as long as he does – they might repent.

            Here’s the kicker: most experts (yes, the non-Mormon ones) believe that the writer of Testament of Abraham was looking at chapter 125 of the Book of the Dead and the “psychostasy scene” which accompanies it. Very similar to JS Facsimile 3. They disagree whether the Hebrews adapted it from the Egyptians or vicey-versa.

            Point being that critics claim Smith didn’t understand anything – when, in fact, he was doing the same thing the ancient authors did.

            Suppose had published Testament of Abraham rather than Book of Abraham. Along with it, he publishes an illustration which looks a lot like JSP III. For numbered figure 1, he writes “Righteous Abel, son of Adam, who Cain slew, sitting on the throne of judgement” – which would be a true and accurate translation of TofA, but if handed to an Egyptologist, would be dismissed as “bosh” because everyone knows that figure 1 is Osiris.

            IMHO, the facsimilies are to Book of Abraham the the psychostases scene is to Testament of Abraham: an Egyptian drawing interpreted in a Semitic context.

            Finally, yes as-a-matter-of-fact, I do understand what “ithyphallic” means. If you “walk like an Egyptian” the organ is question is a symbol of creative power. Of all the figures on the hypocephalus, that’s not a bad guess for the being known as God The Father in the Judeo-Christian world.

  5. Erick says:

    The “grizzly bear” truth is very accessible now to everybody. I can’t imagine a serious investigator in 2012 who wouldn’t spend at least thirty minutes on Google, in addition to their readings in The Book of Mormon. To those people, contrasts between a “teddy bear” and “grizzly bear” history, such as the examples provided by Stan, ought to be quite obvious.

    As for the “milk before meat” mantra, it always rubs me wrong when used to explain away the contrasting narratives in Church history. Are we to assume from that argument that the “grizzly bear” history is the “meat” of the gospel?

  6. Brian says:

    Teddy Bear Truth = Milk
    Grizzly Bear Truth = Meat

    Everyone chides the Mormons for the whole “milk before meat” thing, but it is biblical. Missionaries don’t go around knocking on doors saying, “Our founding prophet had 33 wives.” There are several reasons for this. First, the nuances of Smith’s wives is deep and complex. Did Emma know? Did he have sex with them? If so, why no children from them? He was certainly fertile with Emma. And so on. But more importantly, the fact is, it’s not really important to current Mormons. Who cares? It’s like debating whether circumcision is valid or important, or whether the “Sons of Levi” will literally sacrifice an animal at the altar of a temple. Fun, meaty topics to be sure, but important to the day to day lives of Mormons? Not s much.

  7. ErgoOne says:

    I hope you don’t mind a delurking non-Mormon who got to this blog by paths tortuous indeed. (That is, clicking links while doing some more research on Mitt Romney.)

    You need to be *very* *very* careful not to interpret the Apostle Paul’s statements about “milk” and “meat” as showing contempt for the ability of those who aren’t familiar with your beliefs to handle the truth. I don’t believe that St. Paul meant his words in that way, but as a teenager and young adult in an evangelical church that focused almost as much on “reaching out” as you Mormons do, that is the message that I took away from that passage of Scripture. That is also the attitude that many around me had about it.

    Frankly, that attitude made us manipulative twits towards those who were not in my old church, including (I am sorry to say) some of my Mormon friends. :/ I finally left when I realized that, if somebody approached me with the attitudes that I had in approaching others, I would have run the other way.

    I grew up around Mormons. I’ve read the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and am familiar with basic Mormon beliefs although by no means as a Mormon would be. I know how important family is to Mormonism — it’s central. Within the context of that understanding, “baptism for the dead” and other ordinances that you practice make sense. I was not offended when I found out that somebody (probably my sister-in-law’s devoutly Mormon mother) had baptized my own paternal grandmother and father for the dead, although I don’t share your beliefs. Believing as you do, it was a kind and loving act.

    I wouldn’t know how to take that discovery, however, if all I’d known about Mormonism was the pablum on the current official Mormon web sites. Much of it isn’t milk or meat. It’s cotton candy — sweet, unnourishing, and likely to give diabetes to the susceptible. :/ It reads like something that a corporate PR department would put out, not a church of people who both believe certain things to be true and trust other human beings to have the intelligence and integrity to deal with the truth.

    Both my experience of Mormonism as a child and the friends I have now who are Mormon suggest to me that you have something better to offer than cotton candy. Respect, integrity, and courage are all out of style with corporations. They’re not out of style with any religion that’s worth the time to learn about. So please tell your leaders to talk, write, and act like men of God and not men of Wall Street — okay?

    If you’re not sure what that means, try reading Orson Scott Card’s web site (hatrack dot com). He’s a science fiction writer, a believing Mormon, and definitely gets what I’m saying here. ;)

  8. Lang says:

    A lie by any other name is still a lie. Will one of you LDS-apologetics explain how a man in his 30-40′s marries a 14 year old girl and then gets his followers to cover up for his pedophilia? It’s obvious that Joseph Smith Jr. was a sex offender, its shame there is two versions of LDS history, but neither calls Joseph Smith out for his pedophilia or his adultery.

    • Erick says:

      I get why people are bothered by Joseph Smith’s marriage to Helen M. Kimball, in fact, I’m not even comfortable with it. Still, there are some problems with the assertion that Joseph Smith was a “pedophile”. Helen never stated, of which I am aware, that their marriage was conjugal. Many of his other wives did testify that they were conjugal with him. Secondly, there is no record of Helen ever becoming pregnant at the time she was married to Joseph Smith. In fact, what’s even more interesting is that there is no evidence that any of Joseph Smith’s wives were ever impregnated by him. There’s an old story that Eliza R. Snow might have been, and that she may have lost the baby as result of an altercation with Emma. Even so, the particulars surrounding that story cannot be confirmed. Still, with 33 wives and no birth control, you’d expect someone to get pregnant. I’d expect a lot of pregnancies, so this needs to be accounted for before we can get too carried away by over sexualizing Joseph Smith’s polygamy. Bear in mind that there has a good amount of genetic testing recently to trace an ancestor through these marriages, but as of yet nothing has been detected.

      So, while Joseph Smith’s marriage to Helen M. Kimball may cause some concern, if it wasn’t sexual then perhaps it really can be reduced to theology.

    • Eduard L. says:

      We must first overcome the desire to put Joseph Smith in 2012.
      Joseph Smith lived in the 1830s, not the 1900s or 2000s.
      This means he had a different set of rules, laws, social customs, etc.
      For men in that time, marrying in their 30s or 40s was not uncommon, to women half their age, or younger.
      With the mortality rate as high as it was, a woman needed to have 10 children for 6 to survive. If they married too late in life, the maternal and infant mortality rate increased.
      Marrying earlier was better for the woman.
      Across the USA, at the time, the “age of consent” was from 12-18. Women could get married as soon as they hit puberty. Arranged marriages were still common.

      It is a mistake to judge Joseph Smith and his polygamy by today’s social standards and laws.

  9. D. Michael Martindale says:

    It amuses me when people call goofy doctrine “meat” as opposed to reasonable doctrine, which is “milk.”

  10. disafected mo says:

    “First, the nuances of Smith’s wives is deep and complex.”

    Not so complex, really. He wanted sex with as many women as possible, so had a “revelation” that it was God’s will. He then threatened each woman or little girl that he wanted with damnation if they did not submit or eternal glory if they did. He was despicable.

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  12. Bob Becker says:

    Not being LDS, I generally avoid these discussions about LDS doctrine on grounds of not knowing enough about the topic to contribute anything worthwhile. But since Doug’s focus this time is on how Mormons are perceived by the general non-LDS population, and how LDS policy in explaining LDS beliefs to non-members affects those perceptions [teddy vs grizzly], I’ll venture in a short way.

    1. The Mormon Church has considerable credibility problems to overcome when explaining much of anything about its history to non-believers, because of a record of preferring to withhold and conceal the historical record, and to limit probing of it, even by LDS historians. I’m thinking of Leonard Arrington’s attempts to create a professional Mormon History office, and his efforts being throttled and finally shut down by LDS authorities who were unhappy at his his application of historical research standards to the writing of LDS history. That’s quite a legacy of opposing free inquiry to overcome. Things have gotten better recently and the Church hierarchy it seems has come to understand finally how it serves its own interests to have real historians researching and writing about LDS history from within the Church. The recently published book by LDS historians on Mountain Meadows [Oxford University Press] is one example. But it will take a while to overcome the legacy of suppression from the pre-Arrington days, and from the dismantling of Arrington’s history office, turning it again into an in-house church organ [teddy bear not grizzly].

    2. It might have been otherwise, which would have significantly improved the credibility of the Church when it spoke of its own history to the general public. I recall Juanita Brooks’ comment when she came under fire for writing the first serious historical investigation of Mountain Meadows… a project that did not please Church authorities and that brought some pressure on her from that direction. [Brooks was a card-carrying Mormon.] She said [and this may not be an exact quote, but it's close] when she was being criticized for writing an account that did not fit with the Church-preferred “the Indians did it” story: “Nothing but the truth is good enough for the church I belong to.” Feisty lady Ms. Brooks was. And a real historian, which of course got her into some trouble.

    As I said, things seem to be getting better of late, and the Church hierarchy seems to, finally, have understood that it serves its interests to have historians who are respected by non-Mormons, as historians, writing its history, and that for that to happen, those historians [and historians in general] have to have largely free access to the sources the Church alone controls. We shall see how long the openness lasts post-Romney campaign. I am [as a non Mormon historian] cautiously optimistic.

    Cautiously.

    • Dan Maloy says:

      One cannot accurately write a history of anything if they don’t FULLY understand what is happening.

      Sure, you can record the factual events but without understanding WHY it is happening and HOW it is happening, you are left with a woefully incomplete, and therefore inaccurate, history.

      • Bob Becker says:

        If historians waited on complete comprehension and absolutely total understanding of every facet of every topic they research, they’d never write a word. That kind of complete and total understanding of everything doesn’t exist and is impossible to achieve. Nor would scientists ever publish either, if complete and total understand of every conceivable aspect of their topics was required to publish. You’re setting an impossible standard for anyone but Flying Spaghetti Monster to meet.

  13. LindaSDF says:

    There’s just one problem that I can see in this.

    We, as a church, are DEMANDED to answer all these “problems”. But, when we DO give an answer, we are not believed, at best. At worst, we are told we are lying. It’s as if a certain specific answer is expected, but when it’s not given, WE are lying, we are prevaricating, or (stupidest of all) we don’t know what we believe!

    • Lang says:

      Linda,

      Then just for us, give us the explanation as to why Joseph Smith Jr. had ANY underage wives. Tell us why this isn’t pedophilia. The Mormon prophet Warren Jeffs had underage wives and that too was judged to be pedophilia. Same thing right? Joseph Smith Jr. and Warren Jeffs both had sex with little girls. We will most likely not believe you, as you will be making excuses for child molesters.

    • D. Michael Martindale says:

      The problem is, the answers Mormons give usually have been lying, or prevaricating, or disingenuous, or whatever nicer euphemism you want to use in place of lying.

      Mormons have cried “Wolf!” for a long time when it comes to their history. The boy who cries “WOlf!” has no business complaining about not being believed if he suddenly tells the truth.

      This is why the cover-up mode to answering hard questions about the church’s past was a bad idea all along–not just now when it’s impossible to hide the truth thanks to the Internet–and why they’d have been better off acknowledging the difficult facts from the beginning.

      The cover-up almost always causes worse problems than the thing being covered-up.

  14. Erick says:

    For example???

  15. Steve says:

    Baptizing after death is fine, but all dead Mormons are now gay also. See http://alldeadmormonsarenowgay.com/.

  16. Dan Maloy says:

    What to say when it’s necessary to reveal falsehoods perpetuated by disgruntled members (or even ex-members) of the LDS church?

    Easy. Go to God.

    I find it tragic that so many non-Mormons and even many Mormons (with, typically, fairly low levels of devotion to the faith at the time of their wondrous “discoveries”) look anywhere and everywhere about LDS teachings but typically NOT within the pages of the Book of Mormon and the words of the Latter-day prophets themselves as taught at General Conference and the Ensign, etc.

    If you want to learn about chemistry, you read a chemistry book and talk to chemistry professors. If you want to learn algebra, you study an algebra book and you talk to algebra teachers. (Gee, you may even have to do some homework to understand the concepts and truths.) If you want to learn how to read and write English with clarity and power you study the English language and talk with those that have mastered the language.

    But actually learning about Mormonism?

    Oh, in that case, we just read anti-Mormon books and articles.

    That is simply inexcusable.

    Far, far worse than this is the almost T-O-T-A-L neglect of the idea of asking God for wisdom in the matter. Moroni 10:3-5 works. It isn’t rocket science, guys. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be. Don’t like Moroni 10:3-5? Fine. Go by the admonition in James 1:5-6. Don’t like James 1:5-6? Fine. Use the common sense and wisdom of your conscience as your guide. Either way, a devout Christian who R-E-A-L-L-Y wants to know the truth knows deep in their heart they must always YIELD to God on whatever the matter or issue is and that the answer is merely an honest prayer away. The key word is “honest”, ie, “real intent”, for God will force no one to heaven.

    I literally get down on my knees sometimes and thank God for the knowledge I received from him regarding the truth of the Book of Mormon and the divine calling of his valiant servant, Joseph Smith. Not once, but TWICE, the answer came to my soul in a powerful, unmistakeable, calming way that the message of the LDS church is true: God lives, Jesus is the Christ and the Savior’s teachings and authority have been restored today in the form of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The price I paid for that knowledge (serious questioning, studying the Book of Mormon, deep reflection, repeated fasting and humble prayer) was a small, small price to pay for the priceless treasure I found.
    I didn’t always know that. At one time I even doubted it. But not now.

    Good luck to the honest seeker out there. Remember, study, ponder, ask, but in the end, take your question to the Lord. He will never lead you astray.

    • Zack Tacorin says:

      Dan,

      Not all of us non-believers only turn to “anti-Mormon” material to learn about the LDS Church. I actually find the material published by the Church and its apologists to me much more damaging.

      You also brought up asking God whether something is true. If this were a reliable method to determine the truth, then we are left with a conundrum, since many individuals pray with sincerity, real intent, and faith in Christ (or faith in their god of choice if not Christian), and they often get an overwhelming experience that convinces them that their religion is God’s one and only true religion. This type of experience is not unique to Mormons. An appeal to God results in conflicting results.

      Thanks,

      Zack

  17. Preston says:

    Pretty good column, up until you went loony about “in reality” we believe the spirits are all gonna be cheesed off if we don’t do the work. That isn’t how we see it. Those who DO want the work — same as the teddy bear truth — are obviously going to also be anxious for it. We don’t know which ones are anxious, and there’s never been a hint of a doctrine that they all will.

    And the fact that there are more ordinances than just baptism? That’s a grizzly bear truth? It’s just more of a complete non-issue.

    I like the idea here, about grizzly and teddy truths. That’s a clever insight of Cal’s. But how you equate this storm in a teacup over proxy ordinances with something serious and personal like blacks and the priesthood — c’mon, have some perspective. And get your doctrines right.

  18. Phillip C Smith says:

    Speaking as a social scientist, I can see at least three approaches to history as related to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Since the Church is controversial for many, great care should be taken to use accurate sources and draw fair and balanced conclusions.

    First, there are indeed historical accounts that ignore or glass over any aspects that might be controversial. The purpose of these accounts is to build faith among those that are weak in the faith.

    Second, there are many accounts that focus on the negative, distort the positive, misrepresent, in effect try to embarrass the Church. These accounts are of less worth than the sweetness and light accounts for they are efforts at trying to defame. I would think that comments and accounts of this nature, and there are many, are beneath the level of decent human beings.

    Third, this approach seeks to find balance and fairness. They do not gloss over weaknesses and troublesome episodes but they seek to put them into context. They give credit where credit is due where positive actions are involved. One comes out of such accounts with a feeling that the author has tried to be objective and fair. An example of this third, far better, approach is the book Rough Stone Rolling by the distinguished historian Richard Bushman.

    Which approach is the most rewarding?

    Phillip C. Smith, Ph.D.

  19. Phillip C Smith says:

    ← Book Game Change smeared a terminally ill Elizabeth Edwards
    Grizzly bear truth versus teddy bear truth trips up Mormonism
    Posted on March 6, 2012 by Doug Gibson

    My friend and co-worker, Cal Grondahl, says there’s “grizzly bear” truth and “teddy bear” truth in Mormon history. Whether it’s the Prophet Joseph Smith, polygamy, the Mountain Meadows Massacre, Brigham Young, temple ceremonies, etc., one can either grab a teddy bear or a grizzly bear when wanting answers.

    For a long time, teddy bear truth, which is designed to comfort people, was more prevalent than grizzly bear truth. But that’s changing now. The biggest reason is Mitt Romney’s run for the presidency; another is the LDS Church’s commendable efforts to make its appeal more diverse, with campaigns directed to single adults and families of color. But with more openness, and a Mormon who may occupy the White House in 2013, teddy bear answers on tough questions won’t cut it anymore.

    The unfortunate remarks of a BYU professor that blacks not receiving the priesthood was in reality a “blessing,” or that the Lord was waiting to provide the priesthood, is an example of teddy bear truth, the lighter, happy version, that is promulgated. The grizzly bear truth is that trouble with violence in Missouri way back in the 1830s was the genesis of the Mormon policy discriminating against blacks. The church later piggybacked the old canard that Ham’s race was cursed doctrine to justify the ban, and so on.

    Baptism for the dead is another doctrine, that while not discriminatory or objectional in my opinion, suffers from the teddy bear truth syndrome. It’s easy to say to the world that we baptize the dead, your non-Mormon ancestors, because we want them to have a chance to accept the Gospel. There’s no pressure, they can say no.

    The grizzly bear truth, though, is that faithful Mormons believe that these dead spirits are eagerly waiting for faithful Mormons to do proxy baptisms for them. We believe that these people will confront us after death if we’re not valiantly helping them while on earth. (Try explaining that to Anne Frank’s relatives!) After they’re baptized, there are more ordinances to be done in proxy. Another grizzly bear truth is that the practice of baptism for the dead was preceded by the mostly forgotten LDS practice of “adoption,” which involved sealing multiple families and persons on earth into an eternal family headed by a prominent priesthood holder. There was competition to get persons into your family because of the idea that the larger one’s “adopted family,” the greater one’s glory eternally. The summer 2011 issue of the “Journal of Mormon History” devotes more than 115 pages on early Mormon adoption theology in fascinating articles by Samuel M. Brown and Jonathan A. Stapley.

    Trying to explain elements of the last paragraph is not easy, but rarely is grizzly bear truth easy to explain. It will be a challenge in this century for the LDS Church and its members to make the transition from teddy bear truth to grizzly bear truth and make hard-to-understand doctrines easier to comprehend.
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    This entry was posted in The Political Surf and tagged Baptism for the Dead doctrine, Cal Grondahl, Grizzly bear truth, Journal of Mormon History, LDS Church, LDS Church policy on blacks, Mormon doctrine, Teddy bear truth. Bookmark the permalink.
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    25 Responses to Grizzly bear truth versus teddy bear truth trips up Mormonism

    tom says:
    March 6, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Do you think the Church leaders will ever fully accept and promote “Grizzly Bear Truth” It doesn’t strike me as anything the LDS Church that I grew up in would do.

    Adoption of adult men for political purposes has a long tradition. At least several Roman Emperors passed on their throne this way, including the first two – Caesar and Augustus.
    Reply
    Stan Zielinski says:
    March 6, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Great analogy.
    The Mormon church’s own 13th Article of Faith starts out, “We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men.”

    Really? Is that why the Mormons maintain the world’s largest standing army of 50,000 missionaries to go around the world selling this ‘Teddy Bear truth’,

    Joseph and Emma Smith centered their marriage and family in the gospel of Jesus Christ—an example to all.which the church publishes on its official website, josephsmith.net.

    http://www.josephsmith.net/josephsmith/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=031f001cfb340010VgnVCM1000001f5e340aRCRD&locale=0

    rather than this grizzley bear truth
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_wives_of_Joseph_Smith
    Reply

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    Leslie says:
    March 6, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    Doug, When you were missionary, did you ever take an investigator to church and cringe when someone brought up something that was a bit deep?

    Even as a member, there have been things I have had to ponder over, wrestle with, study about, pray about and come to an understanding about. I’m sure you’ve had the same experience several times.

    Explaining in one essay doesn’t necessarily provide the answer. It’s one of those, milk vs meat things. For the people who are interested, they’ll make the effort. For those who aren’t, they will pass and maybe even scorn.

    That’s called choice. It’s good we all have choice. We just all need to do better at not judging each other for those choices.

    What we really ought to be concerned with is whether or not that person (or candidate) stands for something good (according to the shared values of our society–ever changing as they may be) and if he basically is striving to be a good citizen and is a good member of the community.
    Reply
    Doug says:
    March 6, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    Leslie, I don’t disagree with you, particularly when missionaries teach the Gospel and members are developing personal testimonies. My concern is with how the culture and the media are responding and will respond to teddy bear explanations for tough Mormon-related issues and questions.
    Reply
    Leslie says:
    March 6, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    Doug, I agree that the church needs to be straightforward in answering these tough questions. In my opinion, they do a pretty good job of it. Perhaps it’s the members who need a little more PR practice and instruction, because we all tend to mix in our own take on things here and there that may not be appropriate or correct–an indication that we’re definitely as human as the next guy.

    I guess part of what I’m arguing is that there are some people and members of the media who simply will not accept ANY answer that is given–they are looking for something to be wrong with it.

    I remember when Newsweek put out their “grand” article “Mormons” in 2001 prior to the 2002 Olympics. I recall the buzz about it, how members anticipated reading it to see what the world thought of us and if the article got it right. Well, the tone of the article was critical to say the least. I really would challenge anyone who said it was objective reporting. It was opinionated. So be it.

    I remember being particularly struck by the following “evidence” the reporter presented that the church was trying to “alter” its image to be considered Christian: “Traditionally, Mormon teaching focused on founder Joseph Smith as God’s latter-day prophet whose revelations led to the restoration of the ancient Hebraic priesthood and of the one true church. Today more than one image of Smith is hard to find in the church’s magnificent new conference center in Salt Lake City. Instead, the walls are lined with huge murals depicting scenes from the life of Jesus. This change in iconography can also be seen in local chapels, called “wards,” where Mormons gather every Sunday for three hours. In 1971, images of Jesus appeared only five times in the church’s official monthly publication, the Ensign; in 1999, the Ensign published 119 of them.”

    What the…? How ridiculous was that? I don’t ever remember seeing any iconography of Joseph Smith in any chapels or the previously used Tabernacle. I wonder if that reporter took the time to catalog all the available images of Jesus in 1971 and determined which of those could be used by the church? And how ridiculous would it be to feature the same images over and over in the Ensign because that was all there was available. In fact, I know the church was very involved in commissioning new images of the Savior from that time forward.

    Anyway, you can lead a horse to water, but… You just can’t please everyone.
    Reply
    Zack Tacorin says:
    March 6, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    You mention that it’s good that we all have a choice. However, without full discosure, choices are made without understanding the options. Failure to provide full disclosure is not ethical in business, and I find it even more problematic where a church is involved.

    You also mentioned the milk-before-meat practice. Such behavior is a distinguishing factor of manipulative and destructive organizations as listed at:
    http://freedomofmind.com/Info/BITE/bitemodel.php
    Here’s a quote from that site listing this distinguishing behavior:
    “Compartmentalization of information; Outsider vs. Insider doctrines
    a. Information is not freely accessible
    b. Information varies at different levels and missions within
    pyramid
    c. Leadership decides who “needs to know” what”
    Reply
    Leslie says:
    March 6, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    To what are you referring when you mention full disclosure? A church and its history is a lot more involved than a corporation. If you want to learn all you possibly can about a church before joining it, I think you can do it. It will probably take you a very long time, though. But, it is likely possible.

    I know I wouldn’t object to someone attending and studying as much as they wanted without joining. Usually, the people who do join, want to. And those who join and find out there is something they can’t live with, usually leave it.

    In the LDS church, there really is no big scheme to deceive people. Really.
    Reply
    Erick says:
    March 7, 2012 at 9:17 am

    I like the use of the phrase “full disclosure”, because it’s pretty much accepted ethics that a person should know what they are buying before being compelled to make a purchase. I get the argument that it is hard to draw the line on what constitutes full disclosure, but I think there are some key points that can be addressed.

    First, Stan shows a dichotomy in Joseph Smith’s marriage. If you didn’t know anything about Joseph Smith you would have no idea about polygamy from reading the information contained in the Church’s link. You cannot have a serious discussion about Joseph Smith’s marriage to Emma without talking about polygamy, because it was a big issue to her. She struggled with it immensely. Additionally, anybody who has read Mormon Enigma knows that their marriage was incredibly strained by the issue. The Church’s link gives no indication of this, but instead offers some vague “everything was perfect” view of things. I would see that as a violation of full disclosure.

    So somewhere between telling everything, and telling a completely flattering version of things, is a reasonable position of full disclosure.
    Reply
    Erick says:
    March 6, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    The “grizzly bear” truth is very accessible now to everybody. I can’t imagine a serious investigator in 2012 who wouldn’t spend at least thirty minutes on Google, in addition to their readings in The Book of Mormon. To those people, contrasts between a “teddy bear” and “grizzly bear” history, such as the examples provided by Stan, ought to be quite obvious.

    As for the “milk before meat” mantra, it always rubs me wrong when used to explain away the contrasting narratives in Church history. Are we to assume from that argument that the “grizzly bear” history is the “meat” of the gospel?
    Reply
    Brian says:
    March 6, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    Teddy Bear Truth = Milk
    Grizzly Bear Truth = Meat

    Everyone chides the Mormons for the whole “milk before meat” thing, but it is biblical. Missionaries don’t go around knocking on doors saying, “Our founding prophet had 33 wives.” There are several reasons for this. First, the nuances of Smith’s wives is deep and complex. Did Emma know? Did he have sex with them? If so, why no children from them? He was certainly fertile with Emma. And so on. But more importantly, the fact is, it’s not really important to current Mormons. Who cares? It’s like debating whether circumcision is valid or important, or whether the “Sons of Levi” will literally sacrifice an animal at the altar of a temple. Fun, meaty topics to be sure, but important to the day to day lives of Mormons? Not s much.
    Reply
    ErgoOne says:
    March 6, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    I hope you don’t mind a delurking non-Mormon who got to this blog by paths tortuous indeed. (That is, clicking links while doing some more research on Mitt Romney.)

    You need to be *very* *very* careful not to interpret the Apostle Paul’s statements about “milk” and “meat” as showing contempt for the ability of those who aren’t familiar with your beliefs to handle the truth. I don’t believe that St. Paul meant his words in that way, but as a teenager and young adult in an evangelical church that focused almost as much on “reaching out” as you Mormons do, that is the message that I took away from that passage of Scripture. That is also the attitude that many around me had about it.

    Frankly, that attitude made us manipulative twits towards those who were not in my old church, including (I am sorry to say) some of my Mormon friends. :/ I finally left when I realized that, if somebody approached me with the attitudes that I had in approaching others, I would have run the other way.

    I grew up around Mormons. I’ve read the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and am familiar with basic Mormon beliefs although by no means as a Mormon would be. I know how important family is to Mormonism — it’s central. Within the context of that understanding, “baptism for the dead” and other ordinances that you practice make sense. I was not offended when I found out that somebody (probably my sister-in-law’s devoutly Mormon mother) had baptized my own paternal grandmother and father for the dead, although I don’t share your beliefs. Believing as you do, it was a kind and loving act.

    I wouldn’t know how to take that discovery, however, if all I’d known about Mormonism was the pablum on the current official Mormon web sites. Much of it isn’t milk or meat. It’s cotton candy — sweet, unnourishing, and likely to give diabetes to the susceptible. :/ It reads like something that a corporate PR department would put out, not a church of people who both believe certain things to be true and trust other human beings to have the intelligence and integrity to deal with the truth.

    Both my experience of Mormonism as a child and the friends I have now who are Mormon suggest to me that you have something better to offer than cotton candy. Respect, integrity, and courage are all out of style with corporations. They’re not out of style with any religion that’s worth the time to learn about. So please tell your leaders to talk, write, and act like men of God and not men of Wall Street — okay?

    If you’re not sure what that means, try reading Orson Scott Card’s web site (hatrack dot com). He’s a science fiction writer, a believing Mormon, and definitely gets what I’m saying here. ;)
    Reply
    Lang says:
    March 6, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    A lie by any other name is still a lie. Will one of you LDS-apologetics explain how a man in his 30-40′s marries a 14 year old girl and then gets his followers to cover up for his pedophilia? It’s obvious that Joseph Smith Jr. was a sex offender, its shame there is two versions of LDS history, but neither calls Joseph Smith out for his pedophilia or his adultery.
    Reply
    D. Michael Martindale says:
    March 6, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    It amuses me when people call goofy doctrine “meat” as opposed to reasonable doctrine, which is “milk.”
    Reply
    disafected mo says:
    March 6, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    “First, the nuances of Smith’s wives is deep and complex.”

    Not so complex, really. He wanted sex with as many women as possible, so had a “revelation” that it was God’s will. He then threatened each woman or little girl that he wanted with damnation if they did not submit or eternal glory if they did. He was despicable.
    Reply

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    Bob Becker says:
    March 7, 2012 at 8:17 am

    Not being LDS, I generally avoid these discussions about LDS doctrine on grounds of not knowing enough about the topic to contribute anything worthwhile. But since Doug’s focus this time is on how Mormons are perceived by the general non-LDS population, and how LDS policy in explaining LDS beliefs to non-members affects those perceptions [teddy vs grizzly], I’ll venture in a short way.

    1. The Mormon Church has considerable credibility problems to overcome when explaining much of anything about its history to non-believers, because of a record of preferring to withhold and conceal the historical record, and to limit probing of it, even by LDS historians. I’m thinking of Leonard Arrington’s attempts to create a professional Mormon History office, and his efforts being throttled and finally shut down by LDS authorities who were unhappy at his his application of historical research standards to the writing of LDS history. That’s quite a legacy of opposing free inquiry to overcome. Things have gotten better recently and the Church hierarchy it seems has come to understand finally how it serves its own interests to have real historians researching and writing about LDS history from within the Church. The recently published book by LDS historians on Mountain Meadows [Oxford University Press] is one example. But it will take a while to overcome the legacy of suppression from the pre-Arrington days, and from the dismantling of Arrington’s history office, turning it again into an in-house church organ [teddy bear not grizzly].

    2. It might have been otherwise, which would have significantly improved the credibility of the Church when it spoke of its own history to the general public. I recall Juanita Brooks’ comment when she came under fire for writing the first serious historical investigation of Mountain Meadows… a project that did not please Church authorities and that brought some pressure on her from that direction. [Brooks was a card-carrying Mormon.] She said [and this may not be an exact quote, but it's close] when she was being criticized for writing an account that did not fit with the Church-preferred “the Indians did it” story: “Nothing but the truth is good enough for the church I belong to.” Feisty lady Ms. Brooks was. And a real historian, which of course got her into some trouble.

    As I said, things seem to be getting better of late, and the Church hierarchy seems to, finally, have understood that it serves its interests to have historians who are respected by non-Mormons, as historians, writing its history, and that for that to happen, those historians [and historians in general] have to have largely free access to the sources the Church alone controls. We shall see how long the openness lasts post-Romney campaign. I am [as a non Mormon historian] cautiously optimistic.

    Cautiously.
    Reply
    Dan Maloy says:
    March 7, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    One cannot accurately write a history of anything if they don’t FULLY understand what is happening.

    Sure, you can record the factual events but without understanding WHY it is happening and HOW it is happening, you are left with a woefully incomplete, and therefore inaccurate, history.
    Reply
    LindaSDF says:
    March 7, 2012 at 9:26 am

    There’s just one problem that I can see in this.

    We, as a church, are DEMANDED to answer all these “problems”. But, when we DO give an answer, we are not believed, at best. At worst, we are told we are lying. It’s as if a certain specific answer is expected, but when it’s not given, WE are lying, we are prevaricating, or (stupidest of all) we don’t know what we believe!
    Reply
    Lang says:
    March 7, 2012 at 10:27 am

    Linda,

    Then just for us, give us the explanation as to why Joseph Smith Jr. had ANY underage wives. Tell us why this isn’t pedophilia. The Mormon prophet Warren Jeffs had underage wives and that too was judged to be pedophilia. Same thing right? Joseph Smith Jr. and Warren Jeffs both had sex with little girls. We will most likely not believe you, as you will be making excuses for child molesters.
    Reply
    Erick says:
    March 7, 2012 at 10:26 am

    For example???
    Reply
    Steve says:
    March 7, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Baptizing after death is fine, but all dead Mormons are now gay also. See http://alldeadmormonsarenowgay.com/.
    Reply
    Dan Maloy says:
    March 7, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    What to say when it’s necessary to reveal falsehoods perpetuated by disgruntled members (or even ex-members) of the LDS church?

    Easy. Go to God.

    I find it tragic that so many non-Mormons and even many Mormons (with, typically, fairly low levels of devotion to the faith at the time of their wondrous “discoveries”) look anywhere and everywhere about LDS teachings but typically NOT within the pages of the Book of Mormon and the words of the Latter-day prophets themselves as taught at General Conference and the Ensign, etc.

    If you want to learn about chemistry, you read a chemistry book and talk to chemistry professors. If you want to learn algebra, you study an algebra book and you talk to algebra teachers. (Gee, you may even have to do some homework to understand the concepts and truths.) If you want to learn how to read and write English with clarity and power you study the English language and talk with those that have mastered the language.

    But actually learning about Mormonism?

    Oh, in that case, we just read anti-Mormon books and articles.

    That is simply inexcusable.

    Far, far worse than this is the almost T-O-T-A-L neglect of the idea of asking God for wisdom in the matter. Moroni 10:3-5 works. It isn’t rocket science, guys. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be. Don’t like Moroni 10:3-5? Fine. Go by the admonition in James 1:5-6. Don’t like James 1:5-6? Fine. Use the common sense and wisdom of your conscience as your guide. Either way, a devout Christian who R-E-A-L-L-Y wants to know the truth knows deep in their heart they must always YIELD to God on whatever the matter or issue is and that the answer is merely an honest prayer away. The key word is “honest”, ie, “real intent”, for God will force no one to heaven.

    I literally get down on my knees sometimes and thank God for the knowledge I received from him regarding the truth of the Book of Mormon and the divine calling of his valiant servant, Joseph Smith. Not once, but TWICE, the answer came to my soul in a powerful, unmistakeable, calming way that the message of the LDS church is true: God lives, Jesus is the Christ and the Savior’s teachings and authority have been restored today in the form of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The price I paid for that knowledge (serious questioning, studying the Book of Mormon, deep reflection, repeated fasting and humble prayer) was a small, small price to pay for the priceless treasure I found.
    I didn’t always know that. At one time I even doubted it. But not now.

    Good luck to the honest seeker out there. Remember, study, ponder, ask, but in the end, take your question to the Lord. He will never lead you astray.
    Reply
    Preston says:
    March 7, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Pretty good column, up until you went loony about “in reality” we believe the spirits are all gonna be cheesed off if we don’t do the work. That isn’t how we see it. Those who DO want the work — same as the teddy bear truth — are obviously going to also be anxious for it. We don’t know which ones are anxious, and there’s never been a hint of a doctrine that they all will.

    And the fact that there are more ordinances than just baptism? That’s a grizzly bear truth? It’s just more of a complete non-issue.

    I like the idea here, about grizzly and teddy truths. That’s a clever insight of Cal’s. But how you equate this storm in a teacup over proxy ordinances with something serious and personal like blacks and the priesthood — c’mon, have some perspective. And get your doctrines right.
    Reply
    Phillip C Smith says:
    March 7, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    Speaking as a social scientist, I can see at least three approaches to history as related to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Since the Church is controversial for many, great care should be taken to use accurate sources and draw fair and balanced conclusions.

    First, there are indeed historical accounts that ignore or gloss over any aspects that might be controversial. The purpose of these accounts is to build faith among those that are weak in the faith.

    Second, there are many accounts that focus on the negative, distort the positive, misrepresent, in effect try to embarrass the Church. These accounts are of less worth than the sweetness and light accounts for they are efforts at trying to defame. I would think that comments and accounts of this nature, and there are many, are beneath the level of decent human beings.

    Third, this approach seeks to find balance and fairness. They do not gloss over weaknesses and troublesome episodes but they seek to put them into context. They give credit where credit is due where positive actions are involved. One comes out of such accounts with a feeling that the author has tried to be objective and fair. An example of this third, far better, approach is the book Rough Stone Rolling by the distinguished historian Richard Bushman.

    Which approach is the most rewarding?

    Phillip C. Smith, Ph.D.

  20. Guy Briggs says:

    Grizzly bear truth is to teddy bear truth as mountain is to molehill. Not that critics of the Church will ever stop trying to turn the latter into the former.

  21. Guy Briggs says:

    Joseph Smith did not have any underage wives. All had attained age of consent in the time and place in which they lived – even the one or two that were shockingly young by 21st century standards.

    Pedophilia is clinically defined as an unnatural sexual interest in pre-pubescent children. Three months shy of ther 15th birthday, Helen Mar Kimball, the youngest of the lot, did not qualify.

  22. Erick says:

    “Three months shy of ther 15th birthday, Helen Mar Kimball, the youngest of the lot, did not qualify.”

    But…..she was still only fifteen, and that’s the point that disturbs a lot of people. No one cares what the law was, what they care about is literature that promotes Joseph Smith’s happy marriage, and forgets to mention the other thirty some odd marriages, plus the fact that some of these wives were quite young.

    Any person with modern sensibilities would likely be concerned with the amount of distance separating those two respective narratives.

    • Guy Briggs says:

      “… she was still only fifteen, and that’s the point that disturbs a lot of people …”

      Mary, if she was following the custom of her people (and there is nothing in the New Testament to indicate otherwise) would have been betrothed to Joseph at age 12, and given birth to the Saviour at age 13 or 14.

      Does her youth take away credence from the Christian faith?

      • Erick says:

        Guy –

        This a very tired response to the argument. I suppose you would need to take into account Joseph’s age at the time he married Mary, if you are intending to make a comparison. Still, we can simplify this quite a bit. Guy, if you follow your logic through to conclusion you are advocating that it should be socially acceptable for grown men to have sex with teenage girls. You are on island dude!

        This is not the best defense for Joseph Smith. The best defense is that hopefully he never had sex with her.

        • Wendell says:

          Your comment is based in presentism and does not take into account the cultural shift that has taken place in the last two hundred years regarding marital age and for that matter the closeness of relations between marriage partners. The entire concept of “teenager” is a rather late development. In the 1840′s girls we would now call teenagers were married quite regularly and quite often to much older men.

        • Guy Briggs says:

          I agree this can be simplified quite a bit: All we need to do is avoid the chronocentric fallacy. We should judge 21st century persons by 21st century standards, 19th century persons by 19th century standards, meridian of time persons by first century standards.

          To do otherwise is like questioning why Napoleon didn’t deploy the Abrams Tank at Waterloo.

          Census data shows us that marriages to girls in their teens, by men 10-15 years their senior, were common in the time and place where Joseph Smith lived.

          But look how critics have turned the argument on its head. The word “underaged” has been used – but not one of Smith’s sealings was to an underaged female. The word “pedophilia” has been used – yet not one of Smith’s wives was pre-pubescent. In fact, the Kimball’s case, there isn’t a shred of evidence for any sort of physical relationship. Compton says that the marriage was “dynastic” – that is, served no other purpose than to unite to families in the hereafter.

          Molehills are being made into mountains.

          • Lang says:

            To Justify the rape of a 14 year old by a grown man is evil. God help America if Romney and his “pro-molestation” contingent of LDS members gets their hands on America. I can see the Slogan now…- Its only rape if we say so..Vote LDS– Vote Romney.

          • Guy Briggs says:

            @Lang~

            You can’t even demonstrate there was sex involved- much less forcible rape! You’re not even starting with a molehill to build your mountain.

  23. DanBl says:

    Re: “The grizzly bear truth is that trouble with violence in Missouri way back in the 1830s was the genesis of the Mormon policy discriminating against blacks. The church later piggybacked the old canard that Ham’s race was cursed doctrine to justify the ban, and so on.”
    Where do you find LDS Church doctrine – not practice, not Brigham’s decisions and not hearsay, but canonized doctrine – justifying your egregious opinion(s)???

  24. Eric says:

    Left the church because they refuse to address these issues IN CHURCH and use tithing on malls, etc. Made $20 mil last year (didn’t pay ~$2 mil in tithing). Wake up SLC!

    • Wendell says:

      I don’t think you can prove that tithing funds were used on the malls. That is just your opinion. Tithing is not the only source of Church funding.

  25. Wendell says:

    If you really want to get a good look at hidden Mormon truths, read the Ensign. The vast majority of the so called hidden doctrines have been discussed there in one issue or another. I wonder when people will start demanding that all Protestants must publish all the unsavory things said by John Calvin or Martin Luther about Jews or the Anabaptists. I wonder when every Catholic Priest will be compelled to give a long litany about the Holy Inquisition before answering basic questions of faith. When will every first date start off with a full disclosure of every past mistake in each person’s history? according to some bloggers any other approach by an individual or group is “disingenuous”.

  26. Erick says:

    Here is a good place to begin studying the question of age appropriateness of Joseph Smith’s marriage to Helen M. Kimball. It is not so cut and dried that a 37 year old man marrying a 14 year old girl(nearly fifteen, for you idiots who think that makes a difference) was a social norm. From other sources, it seems the early into US history you go, the younger the marriage gets for both sexes. Finding good data that supports the disparity between partners proves a little more difficult. The link below I think gives some good references to people who have addressed this subject specifically from different points of view.

    For me the issue is much more cumbersome when contextualized properly. Aside from the social context of the day, we have to include the theological context and it’s specific implications. In other words, you have to accept that God not only approves of these kinds of relationships, but in some cases sort of commands them. God should be timeless, so if you are going to defend this marriage, you have to believe that in God’s eyes, it is perfectly acceptable for grown men to have sex with young teenage girls, provided they get married. That’s too much for me to swallow. The best defense for Joseph Smith still is that the hope that they never consumated the marriage.

    http://www.mormonheretic.org/2011/06/19/the-latest-polygamy-controversy/

    • Guy Briggs says:

      “… finding good data …”

      US Census data is not good enough to “support[] the disparity between partners”? Or is it not considered good data because it does not support your point of view.

      “… God should be timeless …”

      Using that rationale, we should still be offering animal sacrifices, and clipping the tips of our schmeckels, right?

      • Erick says:

        Guy:

        You haven’t offered any analysis US census data to verify anything. As a casual observor, I haven’t come across any data that suggests that marriages like these were common. What I have found suggests that disparities tended to cap around ten year age differences, so if I am wrong show me how.

        As for God being timeless, you are trying to confuse the issue by derailing the conversation. So, the question to you is, do you believe that God deems it appropriate for men in their late thirties to have sex with 14 (nearly fifteen) year old girls? It’s really that simple. I don’t think there is anything appropriate about it at all, and I think it would be a major strike against Joseph Smith’s credibility.

  27. Mikeasell says:

    Lets say that JS married a 14 or a very mature 15 year old (sick) and that was ok back then. That is not the issue here. JS married multiple underage girls, most behind his CURRENT wife’s back, he married other men’s wives, please tell me how this was totally normal back then…because it wasn’t. In fact he lied about it in public because he knew he would be killed for it, this is why he instituted the temple, it was a way to use masonic rituals to swear secrecy among the participants and introduce the true order of heaven or celestial marriage. In fact this is why JS was killed by that mob, he slept with daughters and wives of masons, a direct violation of a blood masonic oath that had made. This is the reason he cried out the masonic distress signal when he came to the window- is there no help for the widow’s son? by the way he did have intercourse with these girls according to multiple witnesses, in fact this all began (the God told me to do it story) when someone walking in on him having ex with 14 year old Fannie Alger in a barn.
    Sorry this is too much “grizzly bear” for LDS folks, but its history, look it up. But where I come from truth is truth and anything short of it is not. No matter how well you split hairs. Doug is alluding to less detailed and more palatable accounts of history, this is not the real problem here, the LDS church history is filled with out right lies and fabrications, as we saw last week, than teddy bears to snuggle with.

    • Guy Briggs says:

      It’s not even truth, much less “grizzly bear truth.”

      “14 year old Fannie Alger in a barn”? Alger was not 14.

      It’s amazing to me that even when the subject is how well the Church tells the truth, critics of the Church cannot resist the urge to stretch, manipulate and alter the truth.

      • Erick says:

        her age was thought to be somewhere between 14-16. I don’t think her exact age was known, but again if you have more accurate information perhaps you could provide it?

        • Guy Briggs says:

          Alger turned 14 shortly after the Church was organized in 1830. Best information as to chronology of the Smith/Alger relationship comes from Benjamin Johnson, who cites 1835 as the year when he learned that “ancient polygamy would be restored” and repeats the “whisper[s]” that “even then … Joseph loved her.”

          Since Fanny moved out of the Smith home soon after the marriage, it evidently took place around 1835, the year when Fanny turned nineteen

          • Erick says:

            It looks like Fanny and her family joined the Church in 1830, moved in with the Smith’s in 1833, and then moved with her family in 1836. It would seem reasonable that their relationship probably began when she lived in the Smith home. According to years, that would mean somewhere between the time she was 17 – 19 years old. Most of the sources I am reading are saying 16, but that may be an account of how her birthday lined up with when she actually moved into the Smith home.

            This fairwiki link seems to address the census data you were referring to. Provided that it is accurate, down at the bottom there is a graph showing age disparities at the time of marriage. Only about 13% of marriages occured where there was a 10+ year age difference between bride and groom. Bear in mind that Joseph Smith had a 23 year difference between he and Helen M. Kimball, so the distribution is going to much less. My rough estimate using their information, and your US Census data, is that Joseph Smith would have been 3 standard deviations from the first (4 STD total) which has an 11.3 year variation (+/-). Anyway, long story short, his marriage would have been reflective of less than 1/2 a percent of the population. Interestingly, the Fairwiki article notes that 13% of marriages had an age disparity of greater than 10 years, and fails to acknoweldge anywhere in the article that Joseph Smith was more than twice that age. So, I don’t see how the US census data bears out that this was in any way “normal for the time period”.

  28. Zack Tacorin says:

    Guy,

    I’m glad you’re comfortable with the position that the facsimiles are just illustrations and include a symbol for the icthyphallic god Min who actually represents God the Father. I’m not sure most Mormons would be good with that, but if that’s how you want to represent your Church, best of luck!

    Thanks,

    Zack

  29. Zack Tacorin says:

    The discussion on whether Joseph should have been sealed to minors is interesting. I agree with those that think it inappropriate. However, I think it’s even more relavent that Joseph was committing adultery on a consistent basis, whether a pedophile or not. The purpose of plural marriage according to the Book of Mormon and the The Pearl of Great Price is to raise seed unto God (Jacob 2:27-30 and D&C 132:63). Clearly Joseph was seeking to raise seed, because if these were platonic relations, Emma had no reason to be upset about polygamy. So Joseph was committing adultery according to the law of the land. In addition, Doctrine and Covenants 132 is very clear that pygamy is adultery if an additional “wife” is not a virgin, is vowed to another, or if the first wife does not give her consent. Joseph crossed each of these lines. Therefore, according to the scripture he himself revealed, Joseph was also an adulterer under the laws of God.

    That’s kind of grizzly to me.

    Zack

  30. Zack Tacorin says:

    Correction:
    I mentioned the Pearl of Great Price above but meant Doctorine and Covenants.

    Zack

  31. Robert Nielson says:

    If you happen to read the book of Abraham you’ll notice that the facsimiles are referred to in the text by Abraham himself. So much for them being just some illustrations without connection to the text. Anyone who’s studied Egyptian art or mythology can readily identify Isis, Osiris, Anubis, and know that those are canopic jars under the embalming couch not gods. In plainer english, my sixth grade son can pick out all the above! What’s wrong with “God’s appointed restorer of the true gospel, prophet seer and revelator”? He couldn’t even get the damned gender correct! Looks like Old Joe was trying to get laid and make a profit rather than being a true prophet!

  32. Pingback: Grizzly bear truth versus teddy bear truth trips up Mormonism – StandardNet (blog) - images-of-jesus

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  34. DThomas says:

    Christianity and the Bible have remained unchanged. God does not change. So are we to believe the Mormon position that God couldn’t properly get His Word into the Bible or protect it from the manipulation of man? So He had to see Joseph Smith to tell him how all Christianity was evil and how good old Joseph Smith could make it right! The truth is that the Bible has not changed. There is more historical evidence for the consistency of this book than for any other in history. Attempts have surely been made to change it but they were unsuccessful. There are a couple of places where things were added years later, but these are noted as such in any good translation. It is no secret. However, the Mormon Church continually revises its doctrine to this day, as does the Catholic Church. But God’s Word does not change. When was the last time there was a revision to the Bible?

    So according to the Mormons, God was ineffective at getting anyone to understand His gospel, since all Christianity is wrong. Also, He could not preserve His Bible against the manipulation of man. So He sends an angel to a known con man to fix the situation. Makes God sound desperate huh? So the con man writes some books that supposedly are what God REALLY wants us to know. This time it is right and doesn’t need to be corrected. WRONG! The Mormon Church is still revising this trash as we speak.

    The Book of Mormon is nothing but a cheap ripoff of God’s beautiful Word. There isn’t even a comparison. Read the Bible and stay away from these cults.

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