This entry is part 10 of 13 in Leav­ing the Church — Eric Nel­son.

1. Overview: Church mem­bers are taught that the prophet speaks for the Lord and will nev­er lead the church astray (even when they are wrong). Pres­i­dent Heber J. Grant said: “Always keep your eye on the Pres­i­dent of the church, and if he ever tells you to do any­thing, even if it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it but you don’t need to wor­ry. The Lord will nev­er let his mouth­piece lead the peo­ple astray.” (Con­fer­ence Report, Octo­ber 1960, p. 78.) I don’t expect prophets to be per­fect, but I am uncom­fort­able blind­ly fol­low­ing mod­ern-day prophets in light of the numer­ous false­hoods and dis­avowed doc­trines taught by pre­vi­ous Church leaders.

2. Adam-God: Pres­i­dent Brigham Young taught a doc­trine now known as the “Adam-God the­o­ry.” He taught that Adam is “our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do.” Young not only taught this doc­trine over the pul­pit at the 1852 and 1854 Gen­er­al Con­fer­ences, but he also intro­duced this doc­trine at the Lec­ture at the Veil in the Tem­ple endow­ment cer­e­mo­ny. (Jour­nal of L. John Nut­tall, per­son­al sec­re­tary of Brigham Young, Feb­ru­ary 7, 1877 in BYU Spe­cial Col­lec­tions). Con­sid­er the fol­low­ing state­ments made by Brigham Young with regard to the Adam-God theology.

  • How much unbe­lief exists in the minds of Lat­ter-day Saints in regard to one par­tic­u­lar doc­trine which I revealed to them, and which God revealed to me — name­ly that Adam is our father and God ..Then he said, ‘I want my chil­dren who are in the spir­it world to come and live here. I once dwelt upon an earth some­thing like this, in a mor­tal state. I was faith­ful. I received my crown and exaltation…I want my chil­dren that were born to me in the spir­it world to come here and take taber­na­cles of flesh that their spir­its may have a house, a taber­na­cle …” (Brigham Young, Deseret Week­ly News, June 18, 1873, page 308; Deseret Evening News, June 14, 1873)

  • Who was the Sav­ior begot­ten by?… Who did beget him? His Father, and his father is our God, and the Father of our spir­its, and he is the framer of the body, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Who is he? He is Father Adam; Michael; the Ancient of Days.” (Pres­i­dent Brigham Young, Feb. 19, 1854, Brigham Young Col­lec­tion, LDS Archives; ; Brigham Young Address­es, 1850–1854, Vol. 2, by Elden J. Wat­son, sheet 179 (in chrono­log­i­cal order), His­tor­i­cal Dept. Church, Ms d 1234, Box 48 Fd. 11; also in Adam Is God???, pp. 9–10; Adam-God Maze, p.101)

  • Some have grum­bled because I believe our God to be so near to us as Father Adam. There are many who know that doc­trine to be true.” (Brigham Young, Octo­ber 7, 1857, Jour­nal of Dis­cours­es 5:331).

  • Some years ago I advanced a doc­trine with regard to Adam being our Father and God…It is one of the most glo­ri­ous reveal­ments of the econ­o­my of heav­en.…” (Pres­i­dent Brigham Young, in the Taber­na­cle, Gen­er­al Con­fer­ence, Octo­ber 8, 1861, 10:30 a.m.; Brigham Young Address­es, 1860–1864, Vol. 4, by Elden J. Wat­son, sheet 134 (in chrono­log­i­cal order), His­tor­i­cal Dept. Church, Ms d 1234, Box 49 fd 8)

Prophets and apos­tles after Young renounced the Adam-God the­ol­o­gy as false doc­trine. Pres­i­dent Spencer W. Kim­ball renounced the Adam-God the­o­ry in the Octo­ber 1976 Conference:

We warn you against the dis­sem­i­na­tion of doc­trines which are not accord­ing to the scrip­tures and which are alleged to have been taught by some of the Gen­er­al Author­i­ties of past gen­er­a­tions. Such, for instance, is the Adam-God the­o­ry. We denounce that the­o­ry and hope that every­one will be cau­tioned against this and oth­er kinds of false doc­trine.” (Pres­i­dent Spencer W. Kim­ball, Our Own Lia­hona)

Along with Pres­i­dent Spencer W. Kim­ball and sim­i­lar state­ments from oth­ers, Bruce R. McConkie made the fol­low­ing statement:

The dev­il keeps this heresy [Adam-God the­ol­o­gy] alive as a means of obtain­ing con­verts to cultism. It is con­trary to the whole plan of sal­va­tion set forth in the scrip­tures, and any­one who has read the Book of Moses, and any­one who has received the tem­ple endow­ment, has no excuse what­ev­er for being led astray by it. Those who are so ensnared reject the liv­ing prophet and close their ears to the apos­tles of their day.” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Sev­en Dead­ly Here­sies)

Iron­i­cal­ly, Elder McConkie’s June 1980 con­dem­na­tion asks church mem­bers to trust him and Pres­i­dent Kim­ball as liv­ing prophets with­out com­ment­ing on the applic­a­bil­i­ty of this instruc­tion to mem­bers liv­ing dur­ing Brigham Young’s day. Fur­ther, McConkie points to the endow­ment cer­e­mo­ny as a source of doc­tri­nal infor­ma­tion with­out men­tion­ing that Brigham Young imple­ment­ed the Adam-God the­o­ry into the endow­ment cer­e­mo­ny in his day. It is as if yes­ter­day’s doc­trine is today’s false doc­trine and yes­ter­day’s prophet is today’s heretic. Why should today’s Church mem­bers trust mod­ern prophets when past church mem­bers were taught false doc­trine by pre­vi­ous prophets?

3. Blood Atone­ment: Along with Adam-God, Brigham Young taught a doc­trine known as “Blood Atone­ment,” which was a con­tro­ver­sial doc­trine indi­cat­ing that mur­der was so heinous that the atone­ment of Christ does not apply to mur­der­ers. Thus, to atone for mur­der, the per­pe­tra­tor must have his or her blood shed as a sac­ri­fi­cial offer­ing. Brigham Young taught as follows:

There are sins that men com­mit for which they can­not receive for­give­ness in this world, or in that which is to come, and if they had their eyes open to see their true con­di­tion, they would be per­fect­ly will­ing to have their blood spilt upon the ground, that the smoke there­of might ascend to heav­en as an offer­ing for their sins; and the smok­ing incense would atone for their sins, where­as, if such is not the case, they will stick to them and remain upon them in the spir­it world.

I know, when you hear my brethren telling about cut­ting peo­ple off from the earth, that you con­sid­er it is strong doc­trine; but it is to save them, not to destroy them …

And fur­ther­more, I know that there are trans­gres­sors, who, if they knew them­selves, and the only con­di­tion upon which they can obtain for­give­ness, would beg of their brethren to shed their blood, that the smoke there­of might ascend to God as an offer­ing to appease the wrath that is kin­dled against them, and that the law might have its course. I will say further;

I have had men come to me and offer their lives to atone for their sins.

It is true that the blood of the Son of God was shed for sins through the fall and those com­mit­ted by men, yet men can com­mit sins which it can nev­er remit.… There are sins that can be atoned for by an offer­ing upon an altar, as in ancient days; and there are sins that the blood of a lamb, or a calf, or of tur­tle dove, can­not remit, but they must be atoned for by the blood of the man.” (Brigham Young, Jour­nal of Dis­cours­es, Vol. 4, p. 53–54)

The doc­trine of blood atone­ment was lat­er declared false by sub­se­quent prophets and apos­tles. Why should today’s Church mem­bers trust mod­ern prophets when past church mem­bers were taught false doc­trine by pre­vi­ous prophets?

4. Polygamy: Brigham Young taught that polygamy is required for exal­ta­tion: “The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy.” (Brigham Young, Jour­nal of Dis­cours­es 11:269.) Like­wise, sev­er­al prophets after Young, includ­ing John Tay­lor, Wil­ford Woodruff, Loren­zo Snow, and Joseph F. Smith taught that the New and Ever­last­ing Covenant of plur­al mar­riage was doc­tri­nal and essen­tial for exal­ta­tion. The impor­tance and eter­nal nature of polygamy is fur­ther sup­port­ed by Doc­trine & Covenants 132:4: “For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an ever­last­ing covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be per­mit­ted to enter into my glo­ry.” Note that the entire sec­tion deals with the prac­tice of polygamy and that the rev­e­la­tion was giv­en to Joseph Smith to answer his inquiries into polygamy (D&C 132: 1–2).

In a Sep­tem­ber 1998 Lar­ry King Live inter­view, Hinck­ley was asked about polygamy:

  • Lar­ry King: You con­demn it [polygamy]?
  • Hinck­ley: I con­demn it. Yes, as a prac­tice, because I think it is not doctrinal.

Notably, Doc­trine and Covenants 132 is can­on­ized scrip­ture. The Church is, in essence, still prac­tic­ing plur­al mar­riage in the Tem­ple. Apos­tles Elder Oaks and Elder Nel­son are mod­ern exam­ples of LDS polyg­a­mists in that they are sealed to mul­ti­ple women.

So, some prophets claim that polygamy is doc­tri­nal. Oth­er prophets appar­ent­ly claim it is not. Again, why should today’s Church mem­bers trust mod­ern prophets when past church mem­bers were taught false doc­trine by pre­vi­ous prophets?

5. Race and the Priest­hood: For close to 130 years, those of African descent were banned from hold­ing the priest­hood and black men and women were pro­hib­it­ed from par­tic­i­pat­ing in tem­ple endow­ment or seal­ing ordi­nances. All prophets from Brigham Young through Harold B. Lee kept this ban in place. Joseph Smith, how­ev­er, per­mit­ted at least two black men to receive the priest­hood, Eli­jah Abel and Walk­er Lewis. In oth­er words, Joseph Smith gave African Amer­i­cans the priest­hood. Brigham Young banned the prac­tice. All 10 prophets from Brigham Young to Harold B. Lee sup­port­ed the ban, which Spencer W. Kim­ball referred to as a “pos­si­ble error” (Teach­ings of Spencer W. Kim­ball, p. 448–449). Final­ly, the ban was lift­ed in 1978.

Today, the Church teach­es that no expla­na­tion has ever been giv­en as to why the ban remained in place for 130 years. Addi­tion­al­ly, the Church recent­ly released an essay, enti­tled Race and the Priest­hood, in which it dis­avowed “the the­o­ries advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine dis­fa­vor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a pre­mor­tal life; that mixed-race mar­riages are a sin; or that blacks or peo­ple of any oth­er race or eth­nic­i­ty are infe­ri­or in any way to any­one else. Church lead­ers today unequiv­o­cal­ly con­demn all racism, past and present, in any form.”

The prob­lem with the Church’s pre­ced­ing state­ment is that it direct­ly con­tra­dicts the Church’s offi­cial dec­la­ra­tions on the mat­ter from past prophets. For exam­ple, on August 17, 1949, the First Pres­i­den­cy issued an offi­cial state­ment relat­ing to race and the priest­hood. In so doing, the Church made the fol­low­ing declarations:

The prophets of the Lord have made sev­er­al state­ments as to the oper­a­tion of the prin­ci­ple. Pres­i­dent Brigham Young said: ‘Why are so many of the inhab­i­tants of the earth cursed with a skin of black­ness? It comes in con­se­quence of their fathers reject­ing the pow­er of the holy priest­hood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the chil­dren have received their bless­ings in the holy priest­hood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and pos­sess the priest­hood, and receive all the bless­ings which we now are enti­tled to.’
“The posi­tion of the Church regard­ing the Negro may be under­stood when anoth­er doc­trine of the Church is kept in mind, name­ly, that the con­duct of spir­its in the pre­mor­tal exis­tence has some deter­min­ing effect upon the con­di­tions and cir­cum­stances under which these spir­its take on mortality .…”

Both LDS scrip­ture and mod­ern-day prophets per­pet­u­ate the idea that dark skin is a curse. The Book of Mor­mon teach­es that the Laman­ites were “cursed” with dark skin due to their iniq­ui­ty. 2 Nephi 5:21. By con­trast, the Book of Mor­mon teach­es that the Laman­ites’ skin was made white when they repent­ed. 3 Nephi 2:15. Like­wise, many prophets over many years made incred­i­bly racists com­ments from the pul­pit and pre­sent­ed such com­ments as doc­trine. For example:

  • Brigham Young uttered numer­ous racist remarks in his role prophet. “Should I tell you the laws of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the cho­sen seed mix­es his blood with the seed of Cain (those with dark skin) the penal­ty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.” (Jour­nal of Dis­cours­es, 10:110.)
  • John Tay­lor stat­ed: “And after the flood we are told that the curse that had been pro­nounced upon Cain was con­tin­ued through Hams wife, as he had mar­ried a wife of that seed. And why did it pass through the flood? Because it was nec­es­sary that the dev­il should have a rep­re­sen­ta­tion upon the earth as well as God; .…” (Jour­nal of Dis­cours­es, Vol. 22, pg. 304.)
  • Joseph Field­ing Smith stat­ed that Cain was the father “of an infe­ri­or race,” (The Way to Per­fec­tion, p. 101), and that black men could not receive the priest­hood because “those who were not faith­ful [in the pre-mor­tal life] received less.” (Doc­trines of Sal­va­tion 1:61.)
  • Apos­tle Mark E. Peter­son, in a 1954 address to BYU stu­dents, stat­ed: “If that Negro is faith­ful all his days, he can and will enter the Celes­tial King­dom. He will go there as a ser­vant, but he will get celes­tial glory.”

The LDS Church pro­fess­es to be God’s one true Church that is led by prophets that com­mu­ni­cate with God. How could near­ly every prophet since Brigham Young be so wrong about some­thing so impor­tant if they spoke with God? Why would this not be chal­lenged by any of the prophets since Brigham Young if they were real prophets? If the LDS Church was real­ly God’s one true church on earth, you would expect the lead­ers to pro­claim racial equal­i­ty in the 1800s, and not wait until 1978 to change their posi­tion on equal rights.

6. Doc­trine ver­sus Opin­ion: It is vir­tu­al­ly impos­si­ble to deter­mine when prophets are speak­ing as men ver­sus when they are speak­ing as prophets. For exam­ple, Church mem­bers are often told that Brigham Young was a man of his time and that he was act­ing as a man when he taught the Adam-God doc­trine. How­ev­er, this ignores the fact that he taught the doc­trine over the pul­pit in two Gen­er­al Con­fer­ences and intro­duced the the­ol­o­gy into the endow­ment cer­e­mo­ny. Addi­tion­al­ly, if a prophet (speak­ing in Gen­er­al Con­fer­ence) is mere­ly pro­vid­ing opin­ion and does not rep­re­sent the Church, what is the point of Conference?

Notably, Brigham Young made it clear that he was always speak­ing as a prophet dur­ing his ser­mons: “I have nev­er yet preached a ser­mon and sent it out to the chil­dren of men, that they may not call scrip­ture.” (Jour­nal of Dis­cours­es 13:95.)

How can we trust mod­ern-day prophets as speak­ing for the Lord when so many state­ments and doc­trines made by pre­vi­ous prophets have been dis­avowed by the Church?

Sim­ply stat­ed, the Church claims the ben­e­fit of two con­tra­dic­to­ry posi­tions. On the one hand, the Church pro­claims that its lead­ers are inspired in their teach­ings, and that the prophets will nev­er lead the Church astray. On the oth­er hand, when prophets’ teach­ings turn out to be false, embar­rass­ing, or out of vogue, the Church claims that such state­ments and doc­trines were mere­ly per­son­al opin­ions (even if they were made in Gen­er­al Con­fer­ence). These con­flict­ing posi­tions can­not both be true.

Series Nav­i­ga­tion: Leav­ing the Church — Eric Nel­son« Leav­ing the Church, Part 9 — Book of Mor­mon Wit­ness­esLeav­ing the Church, Part 11 — Tem­ples & Freemasonry »






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LDS Watchman
5 years ago

So do you reject just the LDS prophets or the prophets in the bible, too?

For what it’s worth the bible sup­ports the idea of blacks hav­ing a low­er sta­tus before God than oth­er races. Go back and read what it says about the Canaan­ites. Remem­ber the sto­ry were Noah curs­es Ham’s son Canaan to be a ser­vant of servants.

There is some bib­li­cal sup­port for Brigham Young’s Adam God and blood atone­ment teach­ings as well.

Polygamy can also be sup­port­ed from the bible.

Of course all of these things are con­sid­ered non­sense to the world today, as is a lit­er­al inter­pre­ta­tion of the bible.

Have you stud­ied these things out in the word of God in the scrip­tures or are you rely­ing on your own wis­dom and the pop­u­lar views of the world.

In my expe­ri­ence peo­ple who reject Mor­monism for the rea­sons you have also reject the bible and a belief in Christ.

If you still believe the bible to be the word of God I’d be hap­py to try and rea­son these issues out with you. If you have reject­ed God’s word in the scrip­tures, then there’s not much any­one can do for you but pray for you and have pity on you.

Let me know if you want to rea­son these things out using the word of God in the scriptures.

LDS Watchman
Reply to  Eric
5 years ago

Well I guess it all comes down to what you want to believe. The only way to reject Mor­monism as a fig­ment of peo­ple’s imag­ined reli­gious expe­ri­ence is to reject the Bible as the word of God as you have done. The BOM, D&C, and Pearl of Great Price har­mo­nize extreme­ly well with the Bible. I think expect­ing the Bible to be per­fect is not rea­son­able any­ways since it has been trans­lat­ed and tran­scribed so many times. There’s bound to be a few things in there that are a lit­tle off. I’m not real­ly sure what prob­lems one could pos­si­bly have with the BOM. I sup­pose it is racist by today’s stan­dards, but if one looks at how screwed up and God­less the world is today, I don’t think it’s rea­son­able to con­clude that the moral­i­ty of today is bet­ter than the moral­i­ty of the past. Clear­ly you expe­ri­enced good fruit with the restored gospel at one point. Why reject it all because the moral­i­ty of today is not the same as the one in the scrip­tures? Do the scrip­tures not say that in the last days men will call good evil and evil good? Or that the world will turn it’s back on God before Christ’s return? Of course you can believe what you want. It will be impos­si­ble to rea­son with you if you insist on throw­ing out the scrip­tures and the morals of the past and judg­ing the past and scrip­tures by the very screwed up morals and prac­tices of today. I for one will not… Read more »

Reply to  Eric
5 years ago
LDS Watchman
Reply to  Diana
5 years ago

Well I guess that proves my point that one can­not reject Mor­monism with­out reject­ing the Bible.

Of course the scrip­tures explain all of this.

Many peo­ple will depart from their first love, the gospel of Christ. There will be scoffers. When men are learned they think they are wise and reject the word of God.

The word of God is incom­pat­i­ble with the wis­dom of the world.

We all have to choose what or who we will put our trust in. Will it be God and his wis­dom or will it be the philoso­phies of men?

Wes T
Reply to  LDS Watchman
5 years ago

Anony­mous LDS Watchman,
You seem to be indi­cat­ing that you find val­ue or val­i­da­tion in the fact that your beliefs are orthog­o­nal to rea­son, log­ic, and sci­ence: “the word of god is incom­pat­i­ble with the wis­dom of the world.”
I think you would find inter­est­ing par­al­lels in to your Mor­monism with how peo­ple in oth­er fringe groups, such as Sci­en­tol­o­gists or flat-earth­ers, frame their beliefs…
Reject­ing mor­monism and then reject­ing the bible as “the word of god” is like learn­ing San­ta does­n’t real­ly bring Christ­mas presents and then under­stand­ing that the East­er Bun­ny prob­a­bly does­n’t lay choco­late eggs either. Mean­ing they are two works of sim­i­lar pur­pos­es to which sim­i­lar cri­tiques can apply.
I’m hap­py you feel so secure in your belief sys­tem, LDS Watch­man. You appear to be at a place that no amount of “world­ly” (even though that is the only type that exists) evi­dence or expe­ri­ence could shake your faith — there is noth­ing I or any­one else could show you that would change your faith. That makes for a sim­pler, straight-for­ward life. While you may see that as an asset, I would pro­pose you are just blind­ing your­self to real­i­ty and clos­ing your­self off to emo­tion­al and spir­i­tu­al growth that is avail­able when you open your­self to the com­plex­i­ties beyond the life-script set before you by your faith.

LDS Watchman
Reply to  Wes T
5 years ago

Wes, I’m not at all sug­gest­ing that the word of God in the scrip­tures is incom­pat­i­ble with true sci­ence and observ­able fact. I’m say­ing that the word of God is incom­pat­i­ble with the athe­is­tic reli­gion of sci­ence. Which is for all intents and pur­pos­es a religion. I’ll give you some examples. There is zero observ­able evi­dence for evolution. There is evi­dence that species adapt and change with­in a species, such as dif­fer­ent types of hors­es, wolves/dogs/coyotes, etc. There is no evi­dence what­so­ev­er that a dog and a cat share a com­mon ances­tor or that a human and an ape share a com­mon ancestor. There is zero evi­dence for the big bang the­o­ry and an earth that is bil­lions of years old. There is a ton of evi­dence for the great flood and that humans have only been on this earth for a few thou­sand years. How far back do the ear­li­est known civ­i­liza­tions and writ­ing date to? Answer, a few thou­sand years. Pret­ty much right in line with the Bible. Pret­ty much every cul­ture has a great flood sto­ry in their history. You’re right, there isn’t one so called “fact” that would shake my faith at this point. My faith is not ground­ed in blind belief. It is ground­ed very much in observ­able fact. What is your skep­ti­sism ground­ed in? On a side note, many if not most issues with the nar­ra­tive of the LDS church are due to the fact that the church has not stayed true to the word of God in the scrip­tures.… Read more »

LDS Watchman
Reply to  Wes T
5 years ago

Any­one out there care to help Wes out and attempt to show that there is no God just like there is no Santa? It can’t be done. When was the last time some com­plex sys­tem or struc­ture was cre­at­ed by chance or on its own? How many hous­es, cars, or boats have just come togeth­er on their own? These struc­tures are very sim­ple com­pared to the human body and the bod­ies of ani­mals, and yet the idea that these could hap­pen on there own is ridicu­lous. Even a child knows this. Seri­ous­ly how can any­one believe that these things evolved from pond scum? Just look at the com­plex­i­ty of an eye­ball. That came togeth­er on its own with­out an intel­li­gent cre­ator to design it? How does nat­ur­al selec­tion explain the eye­ball evolv­ing from no eye­ball at all? Evo­lu­tion is nonsense. So if life on this earth did­n’t come from evo­lu­tion, where did it come from? Aliens with a spaceship? Does any­one real­ly believe that the earth­’s per­fect dis­tance from the sun to sup­port human life, tilt­ed axis to cre­ate sea­sons, atmos­phere to repell radi­a­tion, etc real­ly hap­pened all by chance? Come on peo­ple, let us rea­son this out togeth­er. Though the Bible has some trans­la­tion errors it togeth­er with the oth­er scrip­tures is the word of God, our creator. The scrip­tures and true observ­able sci­ence fit togeth­er perfectly. There’s much we don’t know and Satan tries to use what we don’t yet know or even cur­rent­ly mis­un­der­stand to try to destroy our faith in God. It is tru­ly… Read more »

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