Criticism of Mormonism/Video/Search for the Truth DVD/Distorted quotes


Misleading and distorted quotes—a selection

This page contains a sampling of misleading or distorted quotes used in various DVD sections.

The video makes much of a statement by Church President Gordon B. Hinckley:

No I don't believe in the traditional Christ. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak. For the Christ of whom I speak has been revealed in this the dispensation of the Fullness of Times.
—President Gordon B. Hinckley, Deseret News (20 June 1998): 7. Screenshot

It should be emphasized that the "traditions" alluded to by President Hinckley are the non-Biblical creeds. But, members of the Church do not reject the Biblical witness—it is partly because the creeds are not Biblical that the LDS do not use them.

President Hinckley continues to explain that revelation teaches more about God than philosophical speculation, and insists that he is a Christian, but the video does not quote this material:

[Jesus], together with His Father, appeared to the boy Joseph Smith in the year 1820, and when Joseph left the grove that day, he knew more of the nature of God than all the learned ministers of the gospel of the ages.
Am I Christian? Of course I am. I believe in Christ. I talk of Christ. I pray through Christ. I'm trying to follow Him and live His gospel in my life.

President Hinckley elsewhere made it clear that we differ with other Christians over the creeds, not over the scriptural witness:

As a Church we have critics, many of them. They say we do not believe in the traditional Christ of Christianity. There is some substance to what they say. Our faith, our knowledge is not based on ancient tradition, the creeds which came of a finite understanding and out of the almost infinite discussions of men trying to arrive at a definition of the risen Christ. Our faith, our knowledge comes of the witness of a prophet in this dispensation who saw before him the great God of the universe and His Beloved Son, the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. They spoke to him. He spoke with Them. He testified openly, unequivocally, and unabashedly of that great vision. It was a vision of the Almighty and of the Redeemer of the world, glorious beyond our understanding but certain and unequivocating in the knowledge which it brought. It is out of that knowledge, rooted deep in the soil of modern revelation, that we, in the words of Nephi, “talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that [we and] our children may know to what source [we] may look for a remission of [our] sins” (2 Nephi 25:26).
—Gordon B. Hinckley, "We Look to Christ," Ensign (May 2002), 90. off-site

To read more:

  • Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks, "Comparing LDS Beliefs with First-Century Christianity," Ensign (March 1988), 7. off-site
  • Stephen E. Robinson, "Are Mormons Christians?," New Era (May 1988), 41. off-site

From: Who is Jesus?

Claim: "Brigham Young, revealed that your godhood rests on the act of polygamy saying, 'The only men who become Gods, even the sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy.' (Journal of Discourses Vol. 11 pg. 269)"

Unsurprisingly, the video omits material which clarifies Brigham Young's meaning (material not included in the video is indicated by red italics):

We wish to obtain all that father Abraham obtained. I wish here to say to the Elders of Israel, and to all the members of this Church and kingdom, that it is in the hearts of many of them to wish that the doctrine of polygamy was not taught and practiced by us.... It is the word of the Lord, and I wish to say to you, and all the world, that if you desire with all your hearts to obtain the blessings which Abraham obtained, you will be polygamists at least in your faith, or you will come short of enjoying the salvation and the glory which Abraham has obtained. This is as true as that God lives. You who wish that there were no such thing in existence, if you have in your hearts to say: "We will pass along in the Church without obeying or submitting to it in our faith or believing this order, because, for aught that we know, this community may be broken up yet, and we may have lucrative offices offered to us; we will not, therefore, be polygamists lest we should fail in obtaining some earthly honor, character and office, etc,"—the man that has that in his heart, and will continue to persist in pursuing that policy, will come short of dwelling in the presence of the Father and the Son, in celestial glory. The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy. Others attain unto a glory and may even be permitted to come into the presence of the Father and the Son; but they cannot reign as kings in glory, because they had blessings offered unto them, and they refused to accept them.
—Brigham Young, "Remarks by President Brigham Young, in the Bowery, in G.S.L. City," (19 August 1866) Journal of Discourses 11:268-269. (emphasis added)

Brigham Young made several points:

  • the command to practice plural marriage is from God, and it is wrong to seek to abolish a command from God.
  • to obtain the blessings of Abraham, the Saints were required to be "polygamists at least in your faith": i.e., it was not necessary that each enter into plural marriage in practice, but that they accept that God spoke to His prophets.
  • it was wrong to avoid plural marriage for worldly, selfish reasons, such as believing the Church would fail, and hoping to have political or monetary rewards afterward.
  • if one were commanded to enter into plural marriage ("had blessings offered to them"), and if one refused, God would withhold blessings later because of disobedience now.

Thus, in the context of the speech, "enter into polygamy" does not mean that all members at all times are required to be actual polygamists, but that they accept the doctrine ["polygamists at least in your faith"] and be ready to practice it if so commanded without regard for worldly pressures.

It is beyond dispute that the Saints considered plural marriage to be a command from God. Even so, it was only practiced by a minority. Thus, it is troubling that a video claiming to search for the truth removes the portions of a quote making it clear that Brigham allows for faithful members who are polygamists in faith only.

To read more:

From: Polygamy

Claim: President Brigham Young "denied that the Lord came to Joseph Smith in the First Vision. Young stated that Joseph had actually been visited by an angel, [who] informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects of the day."

The edited version of Brigham Young's remarks that critics like to use read as follows:

the Lord did not come...but He did send His angel to this same obscure person, Joseph Smith...and informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects of the day....
—Brigham Young, (8 April 1855) Journal of Discourses 2:171. (8 April 1855)

Note the use of ellipses in this quote, indicating that information has been left out from the original source. A reading of the unedited quote indicates that Brigham Young was not saying that the Lord didn't come—just that the "Lord did not come with the armies of heaven, in power and great glory," to visit Joseph Smith. This is true; He did not. What did He do? He visited simply, along with His Son, and then He sent further messengers, just as Brigham stated.

It is clear from other sermons delivered by Brigham Young that he was well aware of the details of the First Vision as published by Joseph Smith in 1842—long before the 1855 address cited above. President Young taught:

Late in his life Brigham Young stated:

Why was Joseph Smith persecuted? Why was he hunted from neighborhood to neighborhood, from city to city, and from State to State, and at last suffered death? Because he received revelations from the Father, from the Son, and was ministered to by holy angels.
—Brigham Young, (17 September 1876) Journal of Discourses 18:231. (17 September 1876)

The charge that President Brigham Young said an angel inaugurated the last dispensation instead of Deity cannot be supported. Evidence suggests that President Young's 1855 sermon is closely paraphrasing distinct First Vision story elements that were publicly available to all of the Saints many years before in 1842.

To read more:

For further reading on the First Vision, please see:

From: The First Vision

Claim: "Joseph Smith said, 'I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam.... Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.'" (History of the Church, vol. 6, pg. 408, 409)

To contrast against the immediately preceding statement about "lest anyone should boast," the producers of the video include a purported statement of Joseph Smith's, wherein he does indeed boast. There is no explicit reason given for including this contrasting statement, other than to perhaps imply that Joseph was some sort of egomaniacal leader or someone who was stepping outside the bounds of propriety, and therefore not to be trusted. There are a couple of problems with such a comparison, however.

Joseph not the author

First, this statement is written as if Joseph was the author of it, but he was not. Scribes assembled this account from a "synposis" following Joseph's death. Trying to get insight into Joseph's character and intent from a statement put into his mouth after he was dead is poor history.

Quoted out of context

Second, the quote is taken out of context. In the original context, Joseph was facing intense persecution by many people, including some he had previously considered to be his friends. This statement was supposedly made about a month before he was killed. He made it after reading 2 Corinithians, chaper 11 to the congregation. Note the following statement by Paul, in this scripture:

Again I say, let no one think me foolish; but if you do, receive me even as foolish, that I also may boast a little. That which I am speaking, I am not speaking in as the Lord would, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting. Since many boast according to the flesh, I will boast also. For you, being so wise, bear the foolish gladly. (2 Corinthians 11:16-19, NASB)

Paul then launches into a literary tirade where he claims many things to make himself look the fool, to contrast himself with those who the Corinthians were listening to for their words of salvation, instead of to him. His words were meant to compare and contrast what the Saints at Corinth were doing against what he was offering.

Do the producers of the video dismiss the words of Paul and deny his calling as an Apostle because he used such a literary approach that included boasting? No, they do not. Yet, they dismiss Joseph Smith when it is clear by his own statements, in context, that he engaged in the exact same literary approach. Consider the words of Joseph right after reading this chapter of Paul's to the congregation:

My object is to let you know that I am right here on the spot where I intend to stay. I, like Paul, have been in perils, and oftener than anyone in this generation. As Paul boasted, I have suffered more than Paul did, I should be like a fish out of water, if I were out of persecutions. Perhaps my brethren think it requires all this to keep me humble. The Lord has constituted me curiously that I glory in persecution. I am not nearly so humble as if I were not persecuted. If oppression will make a wise man mad, much more a fool. If they want a beardless boy to whip all the world, I will get on the top of a mountain and crow like a rooster: I shall always beat them. When facts are proved, truth and innocence will prevail at last. My enemies are no philosophers: they think that when they have my spoke under, they will keep me down; but for the fools, I will hold on and fly over them.
—Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 6:408. Volume 6 link

After giving the above explanation, Joseph then makes the statements that the video accounts to him, in the same way that Paul made outrageous "boasts" to contrast his position with the position of those who the Corinthians were starting to listen to. Paul starts the next chapter of 2 Corinthians with the statement "boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable." So, it would appear that Paul recognizes the necessity of boasting at times (though it may do little good, being unprofitable), yet the producers of the video do not allow Joseph to follow Paul's advice and, of necessity, boast at times.

Perhaps the producers are unaware of Paul's advice? Or perhaps they apply a double standard where Paul is allowed such literary and rhetorical license, but Joseph is not? Again, the producers never reveal their intent in including Joseph's Paul-like statements in their video.

To read more:

From: Eternal Life

Claim: "Joseph Smith's Doctrine & Covenants teaches that Joseph himself holds the keys to the kingdom of heaven (on screen) 'Verily I say unto you, the keys of this kingdom shall never be taken from you, while thou art in the world, neither in the world to come.... '(DC 90:3) (on screen ends) and if Joseph Smith holds the keys to heaven then how can Jesus claim, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth'? (Matthew 28:18)"

Jesus told Peter, the chief apostle:

And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:19)

Peter was told that he would hold the "keys of the kingdom of heaven." The power of these keys was to continue into the hereafter, since Peter's actions on earth would have validity in the world to come.

Jesus does not seem to think that giving Peter keys in the 16th chapter of Matthew affects His ability to hold "all authority" in the 28th chapter. Should we believe His understanding, or the critics?

If the president of a company gives responsibility for some part of his corporation, this does not mean that the president has lost authority—he has merely given an underling power to make some decisions on his behalf. Without the president, the underling has no power.

Are the critics offended that Peter was given keys?

To read more:

From: Eternal Life

Claim: "God's word tells us that 'there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.... ' (1 Timothy 2:5) In stark contrast, Brigham Young stated, '...that no man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith.' (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 7 p 289)"

Latter-day Saints embrace the doctrine taught in 1 Timothy. The Book of Mormon says likewise that

...[men] are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death.... (2 Nephi 2:27)

Ignoring the Bible

At the Last Supper, Jesus himself taught His apostles:

Ye [the apostles] are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:28-30; see also Matthew 19:28.)

Since the Latter-day Saints accept the witness that Joseph was called as an apostle and prophet (see D&C 21:1) with the same authority as that given to Peter, James, John, and others, they do not think it strange that he will likewise play a role in judgment.

The witness of a prophet will always be brought against those who did not accept his witness of Christ (see Matthew 10:40; John 5:45-47). Could first century Christians accept Christ while rejecting the witness of Peter or Paul?

Another incomplete quote

Not content to ignore a clear Biblical teaching, the DVD producers also failed to include the entirety of Brigham Young's quotation. Following the portion cited, Brigham said:

...I will now tell you something that ought to comfort every man and woman on the face of the earth. Joseph Smith, junior, will again be on this earth dictating plans and calling forth his brethren to be baptized for the very characters who wish this was not so, in order to bring them into a kingdom to enjoy...he will never cease his operations, under the directions of the Son of God, until the last ones of the children of men are saved that can be, from Adam till now.... It is his mission to see that all the children of men in this last dispensation are saved, that can be, through the redemption.
—Brigham Young, "Intelligence, etc.," (9 October 1859) [[Journal of Discourses/{{{vol}}}/45#289|Journal of Discourses {{{vol}}}:289]].>

Clearly, Joseph's role is to function under the "direction...of the Son of God," and the primary goal is the salvation of all who will accept any degree of Christ and Joseph's witness of Him. Joseph's role is not to condemn, but to do everything possible to encourage all to come unto Christ and be saved.

Joseph's participation in the judgment (at the command and sufferance of Jesus) is no more or less than the role assigned to the Lord's apostles at the Last Supper.

No mortal's role in the judgment supercedes the role given to Jesus, as the Book of Mormon bears witness:

...the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name. (2 Nephi 9:41.)

Those who condemn Joseph on these grounds must also condemn Peter and the rest of the Twelve.

To read more:

From: Eternal Life

Claim: God has existed for eternity. But Joseph Smith taught "He was once a man like us, yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did." Dr. Phil Roberts says, "In Mormonism God is simply an exalted man. He was born as a man, he was conceived in a natural way and by adherence to a system of Mormonism in a previous world and a previous life through his good works in accordance with that system he became God."

Very little is known about these matters in LDS doctrine, but Dr. Roberts manages to distort what is known.

There is no official doctrine on the method by which Christ's mortal body was conceived—apart from that which we are told in scripture (see Matthew 1:, Matthew 1:20, and Luke 1:35)—despite speculation by some early members. Latter-day Saints do not deny that God has existed for eternity—they believe all intelligence is eternal and uncreated (see D&C 93:29). Latter-day Saints do not accept the late, non-biblical Trinitarian creeds. Thus, they see God the Father and Jesus Christ as separate beings, as described by a "plain reading" of the Bible.

Jesus Christ was:

  • born as a mortal
  • conceived with a literal, physical body to a literal, physical mother
  • lived as a man/mortal
  • died
  • was resurrected and glorified

Given that Christ was the only one to lead a sinless life, one might agree with Dr. Roberts that "through his good works," He completed His mortal life and was exalted to divine status.

In the non-canonical King Follet Discourse, Joseph Smith simply taught that the Father went through the same process as Christ.

Although Christ shared aspects of the mortal experience with us, to argue that He was "simply a man" who became exalted is to distort LDS teaching beyond recognition. Jesus Christ has divine status and exaltation by merit and right. By analogy, we presume—but do not know—that the Father proceeded similarly. Exaltation of all other mortals is through the grace, mercy, and atonement of Christ, following the Father's plan.

To read more:

From: Who is God?

Claim: The video quotes BYU professor Dee Green who said that unlike biblical archaeology, which can be studied because we know the locations of cities such as Jerusalem, "no Book of Mormon location is known with reference to modern topography.... After twenty years of research," wrote Dee, "Book of Mormon geography has left us 'empty-handed.' "

What the video producers fail to tell their viewers is that this statement was made in 1969. Forty additional years of Book of Mormon studies and New World archaeological research has added significantly to our understanding of both disciplines. For example, Dr. John Sorenson (anthropologist) and Dr. John Clark (archaeologist and director of the New World Archaeological Foundation) have shown that the Book of Mormon fits neatly (and, at times, in surprising ways) with what we currently know about ancient Mesoamerica during Book of Mormon times. Such studies are more realistic than the research of Dee Green's generation and they tend to confirm the Book of Mormon narrative.

To read more:

Claim: Not one coin "which were noted as being common in Joseph's writings" has ever been found in ancient America.

While twentieth-century editors (possibly James E. Talmage) mistakenly added the term "coins" to the chapter heading of Alma 11, the Book of Mormon text never mentions coins (let alone mentions them as "being common"). Interestingly enough, however, the Book of Mormon does mention a monetary system that has remarkable Old World parallels.

This has been frequently addressed, but anti-Mormons simply ignore the evidence and keep repeating the same claim.

To read more:

  • No coins in Book of Mormon
  • "The Numerical Elegance of the Nephite System": Table 1 and Table 2, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/2 (1999)
  • John W. Welch, "Did the ancient peoples of Mesoamerica use a system of weights and scales in measuring goods & their values?," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/2 (1999): N/A–N/A. off-site wiki
  • John W. Welch, "Weighing & Measuring in the Worlds of the Book of Mormon," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/2 (1999): 36–46. off-site wiki

From: Archaeology


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