Criticism of Mormonism/Books/One Nation Under Gods/Use of sources/Advertising for the Tanners

Advertising for the Tanners?


A FairMormon Analysis of: One Nation Under Gods
A work by author: Richard Abanes

Author's Claims


One Nation under Gods, page 408 (hardback and paperback)

Another tactic utilized by Mormon leaders has been to revise Smith's revelations so as to make the church's history more palatable. Some of the most drastic alterations to the authoritative writings--e.g., paragraphs added/deleted, words added/deleted, wording changes to alter a meaning, phrases added/deleted--can be found by comparing sections of Smith's Book of Commandments with the text of the 1835 re-publication of these same revelations as the Doctrine and Covenants (Figure 18.1, 18.2, 18.3). Hundreds of changes were made to these revelations. In response to the discrepancies, famous Mormon scholar Hugh Nibley blithely stated: "Revelations have been revised whenever necessary. That is the nice thing about revelation--it is strictly open-ended."28

Author's Sources


Endnote 28, page 608 (hardback); page 606 (paperback)

28. Hugh Nibley, letter to Morris L. Reynolds, May 12, 1966. Quoted in Jerald Tanner and Sandra Tanner, Case Against Mormonism (Salt Lake City: ULM, 1967), vol. 1, 132, This three-volume work is available for purchase online from ULM:

Detailed Analysis

Superfluous references

The author lists a primary source for the citation, in this case personal correspondence between Hugh W. Nibley and Morris L. Reynolds, and then calls the reader's attention to two secondary sources. However, he crowns this endnote with what amounts to an advertisement for three books published by Jerald and Sandra Tanner's anti-Mormon Utah Lighthouse Ministry, only one of which actually contains the quote he mentions. The inclusion of the additional titles in the endnote has nothing whatsoever to do with the citation.

Context and source of the quote

There is nothing wrong with the author's use of personal correspondence as a reference; it's done fairly often. The only drawback for the reader is that it is sometimes difficult to access the original document to check up on the author's sources. The author of ONUG tells the reader that Jerald and Sandra Tanner quote the letter online. The Tanner's website does indeed show the Nibley quote, couched amongst commentary:

Strange as it may seem, Dr. Hugh Nibley, who at one time wrote that Mormon teachings are "FREE OF REVISIONS," has now written a letter in which he admits that Joseph Smith's revelations have been changed, In this letter he stated:

"1. REVELATIONS HAVE BEEN REVISED WHENEVER NECESSARY. That is the nice thing about revelation--it is strictly open-ended."

(Letter from Dr. Hugh Nibley to Morris L, Reynolds, dated May 12, 1966)


Without the entire letter written by Brother Nibley, or a fair portion of it, it is impossible to tell if the author has drawn the quote out of context, or if he merely repeats the Tanner's conclusions. He doesn't provide enough of the letter to make it possible to connect it to the Book of Commandments revisions, if there is any connection to be made. Was Hugh W. Nibley commenting on the Book of Commandments to Morris L. Reynolds, or is the phrase "REVELATIONS HAVE BEEN REVISED WHENEVER NECESSARY" something originally written by Morris, to which Nibley was simply responding?


External links

D&C articles with links
  • Stephen R. Gibson, "Why Did Joseph Smith Make Changes In the Doctrine & Covenants?," in One-Minute Answers to Anti-Mormon Questions (Bountiful, Utah: Horizon Publishers, 2005) ISBN 0882907840. off-site
  • Marlin K. Jensen, "The Joseph Smith Papers: The Manuscript Revelation Books," Ensign (July 2009), 46–51. off-site (Key source)
  • Boyd K. Packer, "We Believe All That God Has Revealed," Ensign (May 1974), 93. off-site; also in Boyd K. Packer, "We Believe All That God Has Revealed," in Conference Report (April 1974), 137.
  • Melvin J. Petersen, "Preparing Early Revelations for Publication," Ensign (February 1985), 14. off-site
  • Melvin J. Petersen, A Study of the Nature of and the Significance of the Changes in the Revelations as Found in a Comparison of the Book of Commandments and Subsequent Editions of the Doctrine and Covenants, master's thesis, Brigham Young University, 1955. off-site (Key source)
  • Robert J. Woodford, "Doctrine and Covenants Editions," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 1:425–427. off-site
  • Robert J. Woodford, "How the Revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants Were Received and Compiled," Ensign (January 1985), 27. off-site (Key source)
  • Robert J. Woodford, "The Story of the Doctrine and Covenants," Ensign (December 1984), 32. off-site

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