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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