August 17, 2004
Dear President Hinckley and the First Presidency,
This letter is being sent to you as a follow-up to my letter of 3/29/2004. As the article that was copied and sent to me was of no value to the questions that I had posed, I am sending this letter.
I am simply amazed at the changes that I have seen in the church leaders from the time I honorably served and fulfilled a mission in the mid 1970's to today. At that time the church leaders were accessible and open and now they are behind a glass wall. Would this be acceptable to Jesus who was always out amongst the masses answering their questions and teaching them?
My parents joined the church when I was nine and so I was basically raised in the church. Until I found some very troubling aspects of the church that have been hidden from the church membership I was a fully active, temple attending, tithe paying member. I currently read the scriptures and other early Christian writings throughout the week and am a spiritual person. With this I have to ask about the following problems:
-Why do church leaders lie?
We have documented proof that Joseph Smith and other early church leaders lied about polygamy. We also have irrefutable proof that you President Hinckley, our prophet, prevaricated about church doctrine. As an example, you stated that you think plural marriage is “not doctrinal” yet the original text of D&C 132 makes clear that plural marriage is “the new and everlasting covenant” and is the earthly and celestial law of marriage. I’ve read the original transcripts. I have read that the reporters simply misquoted you, the Prophet, yet in reading the official transcripts and viewing the tapes this is not so. How can the membership trust church leaders if they are known to have lied or hidden the truth in the past?
-Problems with Joseph Smith’s character?
The papyrus that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Abraham from was found to be a common funerary text dating 2000 years after Abraham. Modern and past Egyptologists maintain that the translation of the text accompanying the figures in the Book of Abraham has nothing to do with what Joseph Smith indicated that the text said. They maintain that Joseph could not read Egyptian. Apologists for the Church maintain that we do not have the full set of papyri that were used for the translation or that the Book of Abraham was given by inspiration. However, this does not jive with Joseph Smith’s journal. How does one reconcile this with Joseph’s journal entries that he was translating the papyri?
Joseph Smith married other men’s wives. The women stayed married to and lived with their first husbands while secretly receiving Joseph Smith. He also married girls as young as 14 years old as well as a mother and her daughter. All the while, early on, lying to his wife about the practice. Apologists say that he was not married for time and did not have sexual relations with the women, yet diary entries and birth records show the opposite. How can I reconcile this?
Joseph Smith was known as a treasure hunter and was convicted of this in 1826. He and his brothers would convince local farmers that they could find buried treasure on their properties for a fee. They never found any. He was even convicted of a crime relating to this. Hugh Nibley said it was not true and that if the actual record could be found it would be damning. The record was found. How can I accept the use of magic by the founding prophet of the church when it has been my understanding that magic and magicians are denounced in scripture?
Joseph Smith was given a set of forged brass plates called the Kinderhook plates and he said it was a true record of a descendant of Ham through the loins of Pharaoh. These plates were a fraud, as was claimed by the men who made them, and later this was proved by church historians themselves. If Joseph mistook these fakes as real how do we know that anything else he translated was bonafied?
According to various scribes, Joseph never once looked at the gold plates during translation. He dictated while staring into his hat and used the seer stone from his treasure hunting days. If he divined the translation why doesn’t the church state that instead of saying he translated the work?
There are several versions of the first vision: many angels, only God, only Jesus, and then both Jesus and Heavenly Father. The final version that the church uses was not written until decades later. Also, the nature of god and the godhead as taught by Joseph changed through time. If Joseph really saw God the Father with a body in 1820 why later in the lectures on faith did he say that God was a spirit?
Joseph Smith had a printing press destroyed, which had been used to expose his polygamous relationships. This led to his death. Why would Joseph illegally destroy a printing press? To hide his guilt? It is said that when he was taken off to Carthage, he was taken like a lamb to the slaughter. Apologists and the church ignore the fact that he was armed and shot, wounded and killed men at Carthage. Is this like a lamb to the slaughter? Lambs are not armed.
-Problems with the Book of Mormon?
It has been stated that the Book of Mormon is the cornerstone of the Faith. I can accept that but I cannot accept the change in philosophy over the years in regards to it. When I was a youth I remember the statement from church leaders that archaeology would bear record of the truth of the Book of Mormon. However, that has not been the case. I studied archaeology in college to help prove the Book of Mormon. What I found were contradictions and disproofs. And now researchers have determined that the aboriginal American inhabitants are not descended from semitic bloodlines but from mongolian and asian. How can this be? Apologists at FAIR and FARMS show what they call evidence that the Book of Mormon is true. However, their claims are no better than Van Daniken’s proofs of alien visitors to the earth. If the Book of Mormon is a true history of indigenous American inhabitants then why don’t institutions like the University of Chicago or the Smithsonian use the book and all of the FARMS materials?
The concept that the Native Americans were of Hebrew decent was a popular idea during the time of Joseph Smith. A book called A View of The Hebrews authored by Ethan Smith, was published before The Book of Mormon was “translated”. The book contained a similar story structure and the same explanation of the origins of Native Americans as The Book of Mormon. The book detailed perceived evidences of Hebrew tradition in the Native American culture and speculated as to their Old World origins. How could the Book of Mormon be so close?
The eleven men who signed affidavits saying that they had seen the gold plates later said they had only seen them “in vision.” Why does the church intimate and teach that they actually handled the plates?
In the early days of the church in Utah, a part of the temple ceremony was a promise to avenge the death of Joseph Smith. This combined with the teachings of blood atonement created the atmosphere for the Mountain Meadows Massacre in which Mormon men killed a group of almost two hundred people traveling through Utah who happened to be from Missouri. This included men, women, children, the sick and the elderly. The men who carried out these murders claimed that the local church leaders gave them orders to do this. It is not clear if Brigham Young and other church authorities were involved. It is clear that they were involved in covering it up by blaming the Indians.
I was also very surprised to find out that the Temple ceremony is almost word for word the same as various Masonic ceremonies. And that these ceremonies were written in the 18th century. With quite a bit of thought about the ceremony and how it has changed, I was surprised that any changes could be made in light of what Joseph said about the ceremony. It is also quite abhorant to me to think that Christ would make people pay to get to heaven. And this is what the church does in requiring tithing to obtain a temple recommend. Apologists for the church state that the masonic rituals were corrupted from the original rites used in Soloman’s temple and yet the ritual was laid out in the 18th century. Why has the temple ceremony changed when Joseph said it shouldn’t and why is it word for word the same in sections to a ritual begun no earlier than the 17th century?
Legitimate historians have been excommunicated against their wishes for publishing truthful histories of the church that do not coincide with “faith promoting history.” As I stated in my prior letter it appears that at least Boyd K. Packer and perhaps all of the church leadership are involved in hiding aspects out of church history that they do not want the general membership to know. It this lying by omission?
The church says it is focused on the family, yet it asks its members to spend a significant amount of time away from home in meetings and church service only to spread guilt about how the members aren’t doing enough. How can parents build a strong family if they are taken away from their families because of the numerous church meetings and assignments during the week?
I have read that Utah has the highest use of antidepressants in the entire world. Why are the saints so unhappy? I thought we were supposed to be a happy, peaceful people. I have also read that Utah has the highest occurrence of bankruptcies in the US. Why would this be if the Lord blesses his saints?
These are just a few of the problems that I have noticed over the years and that I ignored until the list became too long. I have read the apologist answers to many of these questions and find them lacking in most regards and also find them full of circular logic that makes no sense. How can a person believe in a church that promotes hiding the truth and that has had leaders that are known to have taken part in lies and fabrications of information? How can I as a father teach my children to be honest in their dealings with their fellow men and to always tell the truth when the church that I grew up believing always told the full truth does not always do what it preaches? I would expect better out of prophets, seers and revelators and the self-proclaimed ambassadors of Christ. As others have “gotten in trouble” for questioning you, “the Brethren”, I fully expect to be censured as well. And if that happens I will ask where is the Christ-like behavior in that? How is distancing yourself from the membership and not giving all the truth Christ-like? Christ and his original apostles and the early Christians themselves were not ashamed of the truth. Are you ashamed of the early history and doctrines of the church? Is that why the information must be hidden?
William E. Wilson