Change, Censorship and Suppression
The fact that Mormonism is changing is very obvious to anyone who studies the history of the church. Things that were approved of when Mormonism first began are now condemned, and things that are now approved were once condemned. For instance, the Mormon church has made a major doctrinal change with regard to polygamy. John Taylor, third president, once declared: "...we are not ashamed...to declare that we are polygamists....that we are firm, conscientious believers in polygamy, and that it is part and parcel of our religious creed'" (Life of John Taylor, p. 255).
Brigham Young, the second president of the church, once stated: "The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, p. 269).
Today the Mormon leaders teach that "Plural marriage is not essential to salvation or exaltation" (Mormon Doctrine, 1958, p. 523). Bruce R. McConkie also stated that "Any who pretend or assume to engage in plural marriage in this day,... are living in adultery, have already sold their souls to satan, and... will be damned in eternity" (Ibid., pp. 522-23).
There are a number of different doctrines—for example, rebaptism, the law of adoption and plural marriage—which were so important in the early Mormon church that God had to give special revelations concerning them, yet they were later repudiated by the Mormon leaders.
Mormon leaders have made many important changes in the policies and doctrines of the church, but since they do not want their people to know that such changes take place, they have often altered the church records.
A prime example of a policy change that caused a number of changes in Mormon records is the attitude of the Mormon leaders
A photograph from the Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, page 269. Notice that President Brigham Young taught polygamy was essential for exaltation.
toward the "Word of Wisdom." The Word of Wisdom is a revelation given by Joseph Smith on February 27, 1833, forbidding the use of hot drinks, alcoholic beverages and tobacco. Mormon writer John J. Stewart wrote concerning the Word of Wisdom that "no one can hold high office in the Church, on even the stake or ward level, nor participate in temple work, who is a known user of tea, coffee, liquor or tobacco...
"The prophet himself carefully observed the Word of Wisdom, and insisted upon its observance by other men in high Church positions..." (Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet, 1966, p. 90).
In spite of this statement by John J. Stewart, the evidence shows that Joseph Smith did not keep the Word of Wisdom, and at times he would even advise others to disobey it. In a thesis written at the Mormon-operated Brigham Young University, Gary Dean Guthrie gives the following information:
"Joseph tested the Saints to make sure their testimonies were of his religion and not of him as a personable leader. Amasa Lyman, of the First presidency, related: 'Joseph Smith tried the faith of the Saints many times by his peculiarities. At one time, he had preached a powerful sermon on the Word of Wisdom, and immediately thereafter, he rode through the streets of Nauvoo smoking a cigar. Some of the brethren were tried as was Abraham of old'" ("Joseph Smith As An Administrator," Master's Thesis, Brigham Young University, May 1969, p. 161).
Because of the importance that is now placed upon the Word of Wisdom, most members of the Mormon church are thoroughly shocked when they find out that Joseph Smith, the man who introduced the Temple Ceremony into the Mormon church, would not be able to go through the Temple if he were living today because of his frequent use of alcoholic beverages. In his history, Joseph Smith admitted several times that he drank wine, and under the date of June 1, 1844, he stated that he had "a glass of beer at Moessers." The statement concerning the glass of beer was obviously very embarrassing to later Mormon leaders, for in recent editions of the History of the Church it has been deleted. When Joseph Smith's statement was first published in the Latter-Day Saints' Millennial Star, (vol. 23, p. 720), it read as follows: "Then went to John P. Greene's, and paid him and another brother $200. Drank a glass of beer at Moessers. Called at William Clayton's...."
When this statement was reprinted in the History of the Church (vol. 6, p. 424), seven words were deleted without any indication: "Then went to John P. Greene's, and paid him and another brother $200. Called at William Clayton's...."
Other important changes concerning the Word of Wisdom
A photograph from Latter-Day Saints' Millennial Star, vol. 23, page 720. The words "Drank a Glass of Beer at Moessers" were deleted when this was printed in the History of the Church.
were made in Joseph Smith's History. At one time Joseph Smith encouraged some "brethren" to break the "Word of Wisdom": "It was reported to me that some of the brethren had been drinking whisky that day in violation of the Word of Wisdom.
"I called the brethren in and investigated the case, and was satisfied that no evil had been done, and gave them a couple of dollars, with directions to replenish the bottle to stimulate them in the fatigues of their sleepless journey" (Millennial Star, vol. 21, p. 283).
When this was reprinted in the History of the Church, (vol. 5, p. 450), the twenty-three italicized words were deleted without any indication.
Another important change was made in the History of the Church under the date of June 27, 1844—the day of Joseph Smith's death. In the version that was first published, Joseph Smith recommended that Apostle Willard Richards use a pipe and tobacco to settle his stomach: "Dr. Richards was taken sick, when Joseph said, 'Brother Markham,... go and get the Doctor a pipe and some tobacco to settle his stomach,' and Markham went out for them. When he had got the pipe and tobacco, and was returning to jail,..." (Millennial Star, vol. 24, p. 471).
This has been changed to read as follows: "Dr. Richards was taken sick, when Joseph said, 'Brother Markham,... go and get the doctor something he needs to settle his stomach,' and Markham went out for medicine. When he had got the remedies desired, and was returning to jail,..." (History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 614).
Notice that the Mormon historians tried to make it appear that Joseph Smith was recommending "medicine" rather than "a pipe and some tobacco." It would appear from the reference as it was first published that Apostle Richards was accustomed to the use of tobacco, for tobacco would certainly not settle the stomach unless a person was accustomed to its use.
At any rate, recent Mormon leaders have been very embarrassed about the early leaders' disregard for the Word of Wisdom and they have made several important changes in the History of the Church and other publications to cover up this change in policy.
In another chapter we will show that thousands of important changes were made in Joseph Smith's History of the Church and that over sixty percent of this history was compiled after Smith's death. This fact is very important because Mormon leaders have maintained that it was finished before Joseph Smith's death and that it has never been changed or tampered with. If any legal
document had been changed in the same way that the History of the Church has, someone would be in serious trouble.
In the year 1855 the Mormon Apostle Parley P. Pratt published a book entitled Key to the Science of Theology. In 1965, the Mormon-owned Deseret Book Company printed the "Ninth Edition" of this book. We have compared the 1965 reprint with the original 1855 edition and find that many important changes have been made. Hundreds of words concerning the doctrine of polygamy have been deleted without any indication. Many of Apostle Pratt's statements concerning the Godhead were changed or deleted without any indication.
Joseph Smith's mother, Lucy Smith, wrote a book, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith, which was published by Apostle Orson Pratt in 1853. By the year 1865, however, Brigham Young began to frown upon this book. The first presidency of the church ordered that the book "should be gathered up and destroyed, so that no copies should be left" (Latter-Day Saint's Millennial Star, vol. 27, pp. 657-58).
Later Brigham Young ordered a "committee of revision" to go through Lucy Smith's book and change it to meet with his approval. Subsequently, a new edition was published by the church. In comparing the first edition with the edition printed in 1954, we have found that 2,035 words were added, deleted or changed without any indication.
Censorship seems to be a very important thing in the Mormon church. It is apparently felt that more converts can be won to the church with a bogus history than with a factual one.
For many years the Mormon church has encouraged the destruction of publications that are critical of Joseph Smith or the church. The Mormon-owned Deseret News carried an article in 1953 in which tacit approval seems to be given to book burning:
Good-natured Sven A. Wiman can manage a cautious grin when his married daughter relates...how when he returned home each evening from his part-time employment in various used book stores throughout Sweden he would produce an anti-Mormon book and then proceed to burn it. Sweden, you learn, has literally no end of anti-Church books, and Elder Wiman set himself up as a one-man cleanup committee to destroy as many of these diatribes against the Church as possible (Deseret News, Church Section, May 16, 1953, p. 10).
In 1965 we were visited by a student from Brigham Young University who had recently completed a mission for the Mormon
church in Texas. He related that while on his mission he was instructed to see that books critical of the Mormon church were removed from libraries. He said that he was told to take a set of new Mormon books—furnished by the church—to each library and offer them in exchange for their old books dealing with Mormonism. He said that the project was very effective in Texas, and that many of the critical books were removed from the libraries by this method. That such a project was actually carried out by some Mormon missionaries has now been verified by the Mormon writer Samuel W. Taylor. He stated:
...I wonder how many good-will tours by the Tabernacle Choir would be required to repair the damage done to the Mormon image when Playboy, with its enormous circulation and impact on young people, published the fact that Mormon missionaries were engaged in a campaign of book-burning? The item was a letter from a librarian of Northampton, Mass., Lawrence Wikander, published first in the American Library Association's Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom, May, 1963,...Wikander told of two Elders arriving at his library to inspect the index of Mormon material. They offered a list of "more up-to-date material" and after delivering it made the following proposition:
"Now that we had these books which told the truth about their religion, undoubtedly we would like to discard other books in the library which told lies about the Mormon Church. Other libraries, they said, had been glad to have this pointed out to them."
Following the expose...a friend of mine tried to find out how extensive the missionary book-burning campaign had been. A number of returned missionaries from both domestic and foreign missions admitted that they had participated in it, but data as to when and how and by whom the project had been originated was, understandably, unavailable.
Self-appointed Comstocks among us have for years been dedicated to the unholy quest of seeking out and destroying books considered unfavorable.... My brother Raymond was approached by a zealot offering a number of rare Mormon books bearing library stamps; the devout saint blandly admitted stealing them to protect the public, but said he was sure that Raymond, would not be harmed (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Summer 1967, p. 26).
Because of the fact that many church policies and doctrines have changed, and since many changes were made in the vital records of the church before they were published, it became necessary for the Mormon leaders to hide these records from members of the church. In 1961 we were denied access to Joseph Smith's diaries and a number of other documents which were
very important to our research. Even the most faithful Mormon scholars were often refused access to vital documents. Dr. Hugh Nibley, of Brigham Young University, was "refused" access to his great-grandfather's journal (see Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? pp. 11-12). Ralph W. Hansen, formerly manuscript librarian for the Brigham Young University, also complained of "the relative inaccessibility to scholars of the files of the Church Historian's Office" (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Spring 1966, p. 157).
After we were denied access to church records in 1961 we began a campaign to force the Mormon leaders to make these documents available. We felt that the documents belonged to the Mormon people and should be published so that all could read them. Many people criticized us saying that our efforts would only backfire and make the Mormon leaders even more determined in their policy of suppression. We hoped, however, that many members of the church would join with us in an effort to force the church historian's office to release the documents.
Although it has taken a long time, it now appears that this campaign has not been in vain. After Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought began publication in 1966, a number of Mormon writers began openly to denounce their church's policy of suppressing the records. Joseph Fielding Smith, who was church historian at the time, had been responsible for suppressing the records for many years. When, in 1970, he became the tenth president of the church, he turned the church historian's office over to Apostle Howard W. Hunter. This did not satisfy some of the more open-minded Mormons, who by this time had become very aroused over the policy of suppression. Sometime after Howard's appointment, a group of Mormon scholars presented the Mormon leaders with a list of suggestions on how they should run the historian's office. They wanted a trained historian to be appointed as church historian. They also wanted the records to be made available to scholars and for the church itself to start printing the rare documents.
When we heard of these requests we could not see how the church leaders could possibly comply with them without undermining the entire foundation of the church. Take, for instance, the idea of appointing a qualified historian. A true historian, if he were honest with himself, could never approve of the methods used by Joseph Fielding Smith and other church historians in the past. Besides, it had become traditional for a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to fill this position. It seemed very unlikely that the church would appoint a trained historian. But on January 15, 1972 we were surprised to
read the following in the Salt Lake Tribune: "Dr. Leonard J. Arrington, noted Utah educator and author, has been named historian of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints...." The thing that made the appointment of Dr. Arrington most surprising, however, was that he had been critical of the church leader's policy of suppressing the documents. Writing in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought (Spring 1966, p. 26), Dr. Arrington stated: "it is unfortunate for the cause of Mormon history that the Church Historian's Library, which is in the possession of virtually all of the diaries of leading Mormons, has not seen fit to publish these diaries or to permit qualified historians to use them without restriction."
Since Dr. Arrington's appointment, the church historical department has been more open to researchers. Nevertheless, the Mormon leaders are still not making all the documents available. For instance, a Mormon scholar told us that the journal of George Q. Cannon may never be made available because it contains so much revealing material concerning the secret Council of 50. Also, the church has still "not seen fit to publish" the diaries of Joseph Smith and other leading Mormons. We can only hope that the Mormon people will continue to exert pressure until the diaries are printed and all of the records made available to the public.