A Closer Look

Intro Quote

Church’s Dishonesty, Censorship, and Whitewashing Over Its History

2013 Official Declaration Header #2 Update
CES Letter Core Question

2013 Official Declaration 2: "Early in its history, Church leaders stopped conferring the priesthood on black males of
African descent. Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this
practice." Is this "misleading" and "dishonest" as the CES Letter claims?

The CES Letter appears to misunderstand the definition of "origin" here. Merriam Webster defines it as "the point at which something begins its course or existence." The 1949 letter cited in the CES Letter offers an explanation justifying why the restriction continued but is not a record of at what point it began. What year was the ban implemented? Was it a bold revelation? All unclear things. Thus, Official Declaration 2 is correct in saying that "Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice." The documents are spotty surrounding the origin of the ban.  We don't even know what day the ban started.

Incidentally it was written by J. Reuben Clark and sent to Ernest L. Wilkinson and signed by the First Presidency.

The CES Letter cherry picks the 1949 letter but omits other statements that showing that the  brethren were divided on the nature and justification of the ban.


CES Letter Core Question

The CES Letter cites a 1949 First Presidency Letter calling the ban "doctrine." Were the brethren united that the blacks exclusion was a doctrine?

The CES Letter cherry picks the 1949 letter but omits other statements that showing that the  brethren were divided on the nature and justification of the ban. The letter was never released as a circular, officially read to congregations, or included in James R. Clark's comprehensive six-volume Messages of the First Presidency series (see For the Cause of Righteousness, p. 310). Contrary to the letter, President of the church David O. McKay told Dr. Sterlin McMurin in 1954 "As a matter of fact, there is no doctrine in this church whatsoever that pertains to the Negroes... it is a practice, not a doctrine and the practice will some day be changed. And that’s all there is to it.” McKay further added: "There is no doctrine in this Church and there never was a doctrine in this Church to the effect that the Negroes are under any kind of a divine curse." More details of this interaction can be found here.

Member of the First Presidency Hugh B. Brown, told the New York Times in 1963 "the top leadership of the Mormon church is seriously considering the abandonment of its historic policy of discrimination against the Negroes." (NYT, June 7, 1963). That said, there was division on the topic in the ensuing years and the ban didn't end up being rescinded until 1978.

That said, the ban is objectively a hard topic. One has to conclude, did the Lord inspire the prophets to institute a ban that by all respects seems racist? If one disavows the ban as an uninspired human weakness then one may ask: how do I know what is inspired? Faithful members sit on both sides of the fence here. The theological question about "what is inspiration" can be addressed in another section.

More updates coming

Zina Diantha Huntington Young
CES Letter Core Question

Why doesn't the LDS.org biography mention that Zina was sealed to Joseph and Brigham Young?

CES Letter Core Question

Did Zina Huntington practice sexual polyandry (sex with multiple husbands)?

The church continues to improve its history resources. One can find discussion about Zina's sealing to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young on the LDS Topics page about Zina and the Joseph Smith Paper's project page.

Brigham Young Sunday School Manual
CES Letter Core Question

The church Sunday School manual changed the word "wives" to [wife]. Is is an example of the the church hiding or downplaying Brigham Young's polygamy?

CES Letter, Page 115

Michael Ash responded to this claim:

The Sunday School manuals compile quotes and stories to help members improve their relationship with our Father as well as their relationships with fellow brothers and sisters. Each quote or story is selected based on its ability to speak to the generation and circumstances of the target audience. Stories of plural marriage might not have bearing on strengthening the faith of modern LDS audiences.

Bamboozled by the CES Letter, Page 83

CES Letter Core Question

Brigham Young said: "The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy." Does this mean we have to practice polygamy in heaven?

  • Not only is the manual deceptive in disclosing whether or not Brigham Young was a polygamist but it’s deceptive in hiding Brigham Young’s real teaching on marriage:

The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy.

CES Letter, Page 115

Brigham clarified in that same speech that one needed to accept the doctrine of polygamy in their heart, not necessarily be a polygamist.


CES Letter Core Question

With the advent of the internet has the church become more open with its history?

In November 2013, Church Historian Elder Steven E. Snow acknowledged the Church’s censorship ("censorship" - a loaded term Elder Snow didn't use.) and pointed to the advent of the internet as the contributing factor to the Church’s inability to continue its pattern of hiding information and records from members and investigators:

I think in the past there was a tendency to keep a lot of the records closed or at least not give access to information. But the world has changed in the last generation — with the access to information on the Internet, we can’t continue that pattern; I think we need to continue to be more open.

CES Letter, p. 116

The CES Letter harps on the notion that the church traditionally hasn't been as open with its history. There is some truth to this. 

Remembering a Personal Story Exercise

Both sides have a point here. Let's do a little exercise for minute. I'd like you to think of a time when you shared something personal that you did wrong with another person. It could be a family member, a friend, a co-worker, or even a person at church. Have you ever had a case where someone couldn't let go of that piece of embarrassing personal information you shared with them? They brought it up again and again and seemed to hold it against you despite your best attempts to fix the situation and move forward. That happens to nearly all of us at one point or another. How did that experience affect you? How likely were you to share a personal flaw with that person again?

How the Story Relates to the Church

Similarly, think of the church. It's made up of human beings with personal experiences. Our history is full of real people who had weaknesses and tendencies like all of us. Those members of the early church dealt with a lot. Probably more than most of us could image. Joseph was tarred, feathered and nearly castrated. Saints in Missouri were legally "exterminated" from the state.  The were also driven from Ohio, Illinois and had an Army come pressure them in Utah. Additionally, newspapers regularly mocked and misrepresented church members since its very beginning. Even now members of the church are often ridiculed and looked down upon. One need to look no further than the highly acclaimed Book of Mormon musical that mocks the church. The Atlantic magazine addressed this in a 2017 article titled "The Ignorance of Mocking Mormonism." In that article 

Now let's look at the church in the mid-twentieth century. Leaders like Joseph Fielding Smith, who was the head of the church in 1970, was grandson of Hyrum Smith. No doubt, he grew up hearing stories from his dad about those early trying experiences. Other leaders of that generation also have similar ties to the early church.

Thus, one can see why they might be guarded about sharing information with people who will use it against you. Only with time have the wounds started to heal. 

Now we have a new generation of leaders that is more open to sharing things. The CES Letter cherry picks old quotes to perpetuate this anti-intellectual view. Additionally, Dallin Oaks was a founding member of the editorial board of Dialogue Magazine from 1968 - 1970, a magazine that most would agree doesn't censor church history.

That said, one can see the point of the CES Letter. Our generation wants openness and that's what the church is giving us with things like the Joseph Smith Paper's project, essays, videos, updated history books, etc.

LDS Bigotry

Church Finances

CES Letter Core Question

Why doesn't the church publish its finances for the world to see?

There is zero transparency to members of the Church. Why is the one and only true Church keeping its books in the dark? Why would God’s one true Church choose to “keep them in darkness” over such a stewardship? History has shown time and time again that secret religious wealth is breeding ground for corruption.

The Church used to be transparent with its finances but ceased disclosures in 1959.

CES Letter, p. 116

The church disclosed its finances in 1959 and since has chosen discontinued doing so. Notice how much of the loudest criticism comes from the opposition party? Elder Maxwell said it best, "they criticize the use of Church resources to which they no longer contribute. They condescendingly seek to counsel the Brethren whom they no longer sustain." (Maxwell, 1996 "Becometh as a Little Child"). The plea here is much like the political candidate who demands to see their opponents tax returns out of desire to stir controversy even in cases where there is none. It serves as more ammunition for the opposition to speculate and point fingers.

It's possible the church may choose to open more details about their finances again. Michael Quinn said of the church finances, "I think it's a faith promoting story." (Michael Quinn, Interview with John Delin 1:46) Alan Blodgett, who previously served as managing director of church investments, said, "It has always puzzled me why the Church doesn’t tell its own financial story rather than being subjected to the speculations and guesses of outsiders. In my mind, it is a very positive story, of which [local] Church leaders and members could be justifiably proud. Why then doesn’t the Church tell its financial story? I can only guess that Church leaders fear that individual members may not understand the vastness of Church resources and operations[,] and having this information might negatively influence their faithfulness and support of Church leaders …Personally, I believe these factors are manageable[,] and more good than harm would come from the Church leaders offering an accounting of Church finances to the membership of the Church." (Quinn, Mormon Hierarchy. Ch. 3)

Estimated $1.5 Billion Luxury Megamall City Creek Center
CES Letter Core Question

Did the church spend more on the City Creek mall than 26 years of humanitarian aid?

  • Total Church humanitarian aid from 1985-2011: $1.4 billion
  • Something is fundamentally wrong with “the one true Church” spending more on an estimated $1.5 billion dollar high-end megamall than it has in 26 years of humanitarian aid.

CES Letter, Page 116

This is an extremely misleading number. Reminds me of the book How to Lie With StatisticsThe church donates FAR more in time, money, and aid than represented by that number. Historian Michael Quinn, who authored the most extensive book Church finances ever written said of the $1.4 billion figure, "the accounting did not include the massively larger value for non-cash contributions of food, clothing, blankets, and other goods that the LDS Welfare Services provided for emergency relief during those decades." (Quinn, Mormon Hierarchy Ch. 3)

Times and Seasons blog does an excellent job addressing this misleading claim here. Fairmormon also does a good job at addressing the City Creek topic here

CES Letter Core Question

Is the City Creek expenditure a "moral failure"?

  • For an organization that claims to be Christ’s only true Church, this expenditure is a moral failure (Note: the letter seeks to make a moral argument here) on so many different levels. For a Church that asks its members to sacrifice greatly for Temple building, such as the case of Argentinians giving the Church gold from their dental work for the São Paulo Brazil Temple, this mall business is absolutely shameful. (CES Letter employs the appeal to emotion as well as spite -- a logical fallacy)
  • Of all the things that Christ would tell His prophet, the prophet buys a mall and says “Let’s go shopping!”? Of all the sum total of human suffering and poverty on this planet, the inspiration the Brethren feel for His Church is to get into the declining high-end shopping mall business?

CES Letter, P. 117

LDS Mormon Church Tithing Finances
President Hinckley's Dishonest Interview
CES Letter Core Question

Did President Hinckley lie and tell a German reporter that members of the church have access to the church budgets?

President Hinckley made the following dishonest statement in a 2002 interview to a German journalist:

Reporter:In my country, the...we say the people’s Churches, the Protestants, the Catholics, they publish all their budgets, to all the public.
Hinckley:Yeah. Yeah.
Reporter:Why is it impossible for your Church?
Hinckley:Well, we simply think that the...that information belongs to those who made the contribution, and not to the world. That’s the only thing. Yes.
Where can I see the Church’s books? I’ve paid tithing. Where can I go to see what the Church’s finances are? Where can current tithing paying members go to see the books? The answer: we can’t. Even if you’ve made the contributions as President Hinckley stated above? Unless you’re an authorized General Authority or senior Church employee in the accounting department with a Non-Disclosure Agreement? You’re out of luck. President Hinckley knew this and for whatever reason made the dishonest statement.

CES Letter, p. 117

The reporter asked President Hinckley why the church doesn't publish its budgets and President Hinckley responded by talking about "contribution" and how that information "belongs to those who made the contribution." One gets the vibe president Hinckley is talking about an individuals contribution amount or donation summary the Bishop provides individuals each year rather that church-wide budgets like the reporter asked.

Thus, it's an unclear answer. It could have easily been resolved if the interviewer asked a follow-up question. Unfortunately, the reporter jumped to the next topic and President Hinckley isn't around to clarify.

The whole argument hinges on what President Hinckley was referring to when he said "that information." Naturally, the CES Letter is quick to call President Hinckley "dishonest." This is an example of a hasty generalization, a logical fallacy.

See the full interview here

Tithing before rent, water, electricity, and feeding your family
CES Letter Core Question

Is it "despicably dangerous" and "disturbing" that the Church encourages all to pay a full tithe no matter their income?

Widows Mite Quote

Tithing is a spiritual principle and an act of faith and devotion for those who do it. Rather than have any respect for those who exercise great faith to pay tithing the CES Letter uses the an Appeal to Ridicule as a tactic here. This is both demeaning and a logical fallacy. To quote Elder Maxwell, there is an element of, "pointing fingers of scorn at the steadfast iron-rodders." (Maxwell, "Becometh as a Little Child")

Dishonestly Altering Lorenzo Snow's Words and Teachings on Tithing
CES Letter Core Question

Did the church curriculum department alter Lorenzo Snow's words to create a misleading impression of what he said?

Ironically, it's the CES letter that is misleading the reader in this case. Not the church curriculum department. Webster's 1886 dictionary, contemporary to Lorenzo Snow, defines Means in "resources, property, or revenue, or the like considered as the condition of easy livelihood." Means meant revenue and increase, not "ability" like one might think of today.  This is a case of presentism. The editors of the Lorenzo Snow manual were wise to remove the "means" term from the manual since modern notions of the term may have created a false impression about where the church stands on paying a full tithe.

Further irony can be found in using a quote by Lorenzo Snow to make it appear that paying a full tithe wasn't necessary. Paying a full tithe was  his signature revelation and a "renewed emphasis on full tithing payment" was a prominent theme during his three years as president of the church. (Horne, p. 143)

Lorenzo Snow on Tithing
How Much Tithing we Should Pay
CES Letter Core Question

The CES Letter cites a blog that says we pay too much tithing. Do we pay too much tithing?

In 2012, a Latter-day Saint (a low-budget blog that is largely critical of the church) published an eye-opening blog post that went viral among internet Mormons: Are We Paying Too Much Tithing? The article demonstrates how what is currently taught and practiced is contrary to how it was taught and practiced by the Prophet Joseph Smith and subsequent prophets, including Lorenzo Snow; whose above quote was deceptively altered (false accusation already addressed above) and manipulated for today’s tithe-paying members.

CES Letter, p. 119

Are we paying too much in tithing as this blogger and the CES Letter asserts? The answer is "no." Historian D. Michael Quinn does a far better job highlighting the history of tithing than this blog the CES Letter cites. 

Joseph Smith attempted the Law of Consecration and when that was unsuccessful he implemented tithing. Quinn describes Joseph's view below:

In July 1838, Joseph Smith dictated a revelation that required a more stringent financial sacrifice from Latter-day Saints. It defined the law of tithing as an initial donation of all "surplus property" and a tenth of annual income thereafter (D&C 119:1,4). The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles made the first liberalization of the 1838 tithing revelation in November 1841: the initial donation was reduced to only "one-tenth of all a man [possesses, and] 1/10 of increase afterward."

Brigham Young had similar views on tithing as well:

Brigham Young from 1841 to 1877. defined tithing as 10 percent of all one's belongings at conversion. And then 10 percent on arrival in Utah, 10 percent of annual income"

LDS CHURCH FINANCES FROM THE 1830s TO THE 1990s, D. Michael Quinn

Names of the Church

Hourse of the Lord Kirtland Temple

Michael Ash responded to this:

The name changed a few times until revelation was given for the current and full name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the early days there were competing churches that operated under the name, “Church of Christ” (the original name of the LDS faith). To avoid confusion, the official name was changed temporarily (until revelation directed otherwise) to the Church of the Latter Day Saints while still going under the name “Church of Christ” as the unofficial title.

Bamboozled by the CES Letter, page 83


There are numerous cherry picked quotes to convey the idea that the church is anti-intellectual. Additionally, the church has always emphasized learning and self will. 

Joseph Smith said, “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves. Additionally, President George A. Smith said:

Even to imply that members of the Church are not to do their own thinking is grossly to misrepresent the true ideal of the Church, which is that every individual must obtain for himself a testimony of the truth of the Gospel, must, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, work out his own salvation, and is personally responsible to His Maker for his individual acts. The Lord Himself does not attempt coercion in His desire and effort to give peace and salvation to His children. He gives the principles of life and true progress, but leaves every person free to choose or to reject His teachings. This plan the Authorities of the Church try to follow.

"Some Things that are True are Not Very Useful"

Elder Boyd K. Packer gave a talk to Church Educational System Instructors and faculty at a CES Symposium on August 22, 1981 entitled The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect.

Elder Packer said the following:

There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful.

Next Relevant Quote

Joseph using a rock in a hat instead of the gold plates to translate the Book of Mormon is not a useful truth? (addressed in the Book of Mormon Translation section) The fact that there are multiple conflicting first vision accounts is not a useful truth? (addressed in the First Vision section) The fact that Joseph Smith was involved in polyandry while hiding it from Emma, when D&C 132:61 condemns it as “adultery,” is not a useful truth? (addressed in the Polygamy section)

CES Letter, P. 120

The audience Elder Packer is speaking to is the key to this quote. Elder Packer was speaking to CES employees such as seminary and institute teachers.  He wanted them to focus on things that are "useful" and to look for ways to increase the faith of the students -- not providing a history lesson. He said in the same talk:

You seminary teachers and some of you institute and BYU men will be teaching the history of the Church this school year. This is an unparalleled opportunity in the lives of your students to increase their faith and testimony of the divinity of this work. Your objective should be that they will see the hand of the Lord in every hour and every moment of the Church from its beginning till now.

He further went on to describe a historian who: 

seemed determined to convince everyone that the prophet was a man. We knew that already. All of the prophets and all of the Apostles have been men. It would have been much more worthwhile for him to have convinced us that the man was a prophet, a fact quite as true as the fact that he was a man.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks made a similar comment in the context of Church history at a CES Symposium on August 16, 1985:
The fact that something is true is not always a justification for communicating it.

CES Letter, P. 120

Jim Bennett, in his reply to the CES Letter, gave the best response here. "That is quite good advice. Telling a child that they are physically repugnant, for instance, is not a good idea, even if it is true."

Elder Packer continues:

That historian or scholar who delights in pointing out the weaknesses and frailties of present or past leaders destroys faith. A destroyer of faith – particularly one within the Church, and more particularly one who is employed specifically to build faith – places himself in great spiritual jeopardy.

If facts and truths can destroy faith...what does it say about faith? If prophets of the Church conducted themselves in such a way that it can destroy faith, what does this say about the prophets?

What’s interesting about Elder Packer’s above quote is that he’s focusing on history from the point of view that a historian is only interested in the “weaknesses and frailties of present and past leaders.” (Packer isn't criticizing all historians in this quote - only the historian who "delights" in pointing out weaknesses and frailties. Similar to this letter.) Historians are also interested in things like how the Book of Mormon got translated or how many accounts Joseph gave about the foundational first vision or whether the Book of Abraham even matches the papyri and facsimiles. (Agreed. Historians can provide a lot of wonderful insights. The church employs a lot of historians) 

Besides, it matters in the religious context what past and present leaders “weaknesses and frailties” are. If Joseph’s public position was that adultery and polygamy are morally wrong and condemned by God, what does it say about him and his character that he did exactly that in the dark while lying to Emma and everyone else about it? How is this not a useful truth? (This is ironically untruthful. Joseph wasn't an adulterer. Joseph shared polygamy and implemented privately with many men and women during his lifetime. Polygamy wasn't shared with the broader public until 1852 in Utah.)

CES Letter, Page 121

The key concept Elder Packer is hitting on is the scholar who "delights" in pointing out weaknesses and frailties. He's talking about distortion here. There are facts and there are interpretations of facts. The way one presents facts can significantly alter one's perception. One need to look no further than how vastly different Fox News and MSNBC cover the same "facts." Reminds me of the book from my undergrad days. "How to Lie with Statistics."

A relevant hypothetical example to further illustrate this point: The prophet or one of the apostles gets caught with child pornography on his hard drive. (an extremely unlikely hypothetical)  This matters, especially in light of his current position, status, and teachings on morality. Just because a leader wears a religious hat does not follow that they’re exempt from history and accountability from others. (Most would agree with these last two sentences)

Further, testimonies are acquired in part by the recitation of a historical narrative. Missionaries recite the narrative about Joseph Smith searching and praying for answers, about acquiring the gold plates and translating the Book of Mormon, about the Priesthood being restored along with other foundational narratives.

Why should investigators and members not learn the correct (Missionaries are sharing the correct version. It's not a complete history though.) and candid version of that historical narrative, for better or for worse? Are members and investigators not entitled to a truthful accounting of the real origins of Mormonism? (The church has been working very hard to do this with Saints, Gospel Topics Essays, Church History videos, and The Joseph Smith Papers project)

The question should not be whether it’s faith promoting or not to share ugly but truthful facts. The question should be: Is it the honest thing to do? (This is a strawman argument based upon the Packer & Oaks quotes above.  As described above, the church is working at sharing it's history while not overly "delighting" in weaknesses.)

CES Letter, P. 121

Criticizing Leaders

Elder Dallin H. Oaks made the following disturbing comment in the PBS documentary, The Mormons:

It is wrong to criticize the leaders of the Church, even if the criticism is true.

CES Letter, p. 122

This is an unfortunate quote because it's so easily misconstrued. The full context helps:

I also said something else that has excited people: that it’s wrong to criticize leaders of the Church, even if the criticism is true, because it diminishes their effectiveness as a servant of the Lord. One can work to correct them by some other means, but don’t go about saying that they misbehaved when they were a youngster or whatever.” [Emphasis added]

This concept has Biblical roots. "If a believer does something wrong, go, confront him when the two of you are alone." (Matthew 18:15 - God's Word Translation) Additionally, "Why do you see the piece of sawdust in another believer's eye and not notice the wooden beam in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:3 - God's Word Translation)

Researching "Unapproved Materials" on the Internet

"Unapproved materials" is not a quote from the church or its leaders and is highly misleading. The CES Letter doesn't provide any quote where a church leader discusses "unapproved materials." The heading is a form of propaganda; creating the appearance that the church has a thought police in George Orwell's 1984 novel. This phrase is also relic of the snarky tone that the latest edition of the CES Letter sought to remove.

Note: the original CES Letter is rather disorganized in its points here so I lumped together the key points to keep a consistent theme. Editorial notes will show this.

CES Letter Core Question

Should members (and non-members) be cautious of falsehoods on the internet?

I bet most would agree with the sentiments conveyed by the quotes from Elder Cook, Uchtdorf, Anderson, President Smith, and Richard Bushman. The internet is full of misinformation and people should beware. One needs to look no further than this CES Letter to see that.

CES Letter Core Question

What if a member reads the official church essays and is disturbed by some information found in them?

Let the chips fall where they may. Any number of things can offend or upset someone. It will inevitably happen. Being open about our history is a good thing. The key is the church has been working very hard at taking historical questions head-on. Through the gospel topics essays, Joseph Smith Papers project, and new Saints volumes the church is helping empower the members with accurate and open history.

There is an element of irony here. The CES Letter bashes the church here for being open about the very things it complains its not open about elsewhere. 

CES Letter Core Question

Is doubting the new pornography? Does a member need to repent for doubting?

This point is just snarky and hard to take seriously.  Doubting is not a sin or something that needs repenting of. Doubting is the new pornography? Nobody said that. This is a straw-man argument. The apostle Hugh B. Brown referred to doubt as an apprenticeship on the path to belief. LDS members wrote an article titled Doubt Doesn’t Have to be Dangerous. 

Going After Members Who Publish or Share Their Doubts
CES Letter Core Question

Does the church go after those who publish or share their doubts?

The First Presidency released the following statement in 2014 about what constitutes apostasy:

We understand that from time to time Church members will have questions about Church doctrine, history, or practice. Members are always free to ask such questions and earnestly seek greater understanding. We feel special concern, however, for members who distance themselves from Church doctrine or practice and, by advocacy, encourage others to follow them.

Simply asking questions has never constituted apostasy. Apostasy is repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its faithful leaders, or persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine.

FairMormon addresses this here:

"The Church does not excommunicate people for "sharing their questions, concerns and doubts." The Church  excommunicates people who actively try to persuade other members to reject Church teachings."


“The September Six were six members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were excommunicated or disfellowshipped by the Church in September 1993, allegedly for publishing scholarly work on Mormonism or critiquing Church doctrine or leadership.”

A few months before the September Six, Elder Boyd K. Packer made the following comment regarding the three “enemies” of the Church:

The dangers I speak of come from the gay-lesbian movement, the feminist movement (both of which are relatively new), and the ever present challenge from the so-called scholars or intellectuals. — BOYD K. PACKER, ALL-CHURCH COORDINATING COUNCIL, MAY 18, 1993

CES Letter, Page 124

CES Letter Core Question

Is the the Strengthening the Church Members Committee (SCMC) a secret organization that hunts down and exposes intellectuals?


The spying and monitoring arm of the Church. It is secretive and most members have been unaware of its existence since its creation in 1985 after Ezra Taft Benson became president. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland admitted it still exists in March 2012. The historical evidence and the September Six points to SCMC’s primary mission being to hunt and expose intellectuals and/or disaffected members who are influencing other members to think and question, despite Elder Holland’s claim that it’s a committee primarily to fight against polygamy.

CES Letter, p. 124-125

Michael Ash responds to this:

Rubbish. It’s an unfortunate fact that there will always be some who will try to hurt others. We have locks on the doors of our homes, and bars on the windows of our businesses. We see shootings at malls and movie theaters, and suicide bombings at sidewalk cafes. Not all threats, however, are physical. Some would like to destroy testimonies. One anti-Mormon website, for example, recommended that their followers put anti-Mormon place cards on the pews in their wards. The Church has an obligation to protect its members from spiritual harm—whether in the form of wolves, sincere but mistaken insurgents, or spiritual terrorists.

Bamboozled by the CES Letter, Page 85

When the Prophet Speaks the Debate is Over

N. Eldon Tanner, first counselor in the First Presidency, gave a First Presidency Message in the August 1979 Ensign that includes the following statement: (Statement was made by Elaine Cannon, the general president of the Young Women)

When the prophet speaks the debate is over.

CES Letter, Page 125

The phrase, "when the prophet speaks, the debate is over" comes from Sister Elaine Cannon, the general president of the Young Women at that time. N. Eldon Tanner repeats the quote. Interestingly, sister Cannon had a conversation with President Spencer W. Kimball the next morning about her statement. Sister Cannon's daughter and the Interpreter Foundation provide more detail about that conversation:

President Spencer W. Kimball corrected Sister Cannon for her public statement that “when the prophet speaks, the debate is over.” He worried that her expression risked suggesting that members do not have agency — that they are not free to decide on their own how to respond to prophets’ teachings. He didn’t want his status as prophet to suggest that members can’t question, explore, and find out for themselves. Of course they can — and should.

At the same time, however, President Kimball affirmed Sister Cannon’s actual meaning. “Yes, it’s true,” he said. While he wished for a better way of making the point, he affirmed that the point itself was accurate: he knew the Lord’s will and was reliable in speaking for him."

“Yes, It’s True, But I Don’t Think They Like to Hear it Quite That Way”:
What Spencer W. Kimball Told Elaine Cannon

CES Letter Core Question

Is the church a "cult"? The CES Letter makes the case that it's reasonable to think so.

Some things that are true are not very useful (already discussed)+ Censorship (already discussed)+ Deceptively altering past quotes (already discussed) + Prioritizing tithing before food and shelter (already discussed) + It is wrong to criticize leaders of the Church, even if the criticism is true (already discussed) + Spying and monitoring on members (already discussed) + Intellectuals are dangerous (already discussed) + “us versus them” rhetoric + When the prophet speaks the debate is over (already discussed) + Obedience is the First Law of Heaven = Policies and practices you’d expect to find in a totalitarian system such as North Korea or George Orwell’s 1984; not from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As a believing member, I was deeply offended by the accusation that the Church was a cult. “How can it be a cult when we’re good people who are following Christ, focusing on family, and doing good works in and out of a church that bears His name? When we’re 15 million members? What a ridiculous accusation.”

It was only after seeing all of the problems with the Church’s foundational truth claims and discovering, for the first time, the SCMC and the anti-intellectualism going on behind the scenes that I could clearly see the above cultish aspects of the Church and why people came to the conclusion that Mormonism is a cult.

CES Letter, p. 125

It's interesting how former members give a less charitable description of the church than those of different faiths do.