Mormon Apologetics = Personal Slander and Misinformation

Landmark 'Mormon Doctrine' goes out of print

Religion » McConkie's Mormon Doctrine is popular but polarizing.

By Peggy Fletcher Stack
The Salt Lake Tribune
Updated: 05/21/2010

After more than 50 years, Bruce R. McConkie's Mormon Doctrine, one of the most influential LDS books of the 20th century, has quietly gone out of print.

The encyclopedic explanation of LDS teachings, first published in 1958, went through 40 printings, selling hundreds of thousands of copies. Deseret Book has decided not to reprint the classic volume, said spokeswoman Gail Halladay, because of "low sales."

"The demand is no longer there," said Halladay, managing director for marketing and communications.

From the day it came off the presses, though, Mormon Doctrine , was at once wildly popular to many and deeply troubling to more than a few, even at the highest levels of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Several passages about the Roman Catholic Church and McConkie's views of blacks were seen as especially offensive.

Although McConkie, an LDS apostle who died in 1985, took sole responsibility from the start for Mormon Doctrin 's content, it often was quoted over the pulpit and treated by members as quasi-official. The book, with its presumptive title, seemed to provide an answer to every question and left little room for ambiguity.

"Mormon Doctrine served two generations of the Mormon rank and file as the main authoritative source of LDS teachings," said LDS sociologist Armand Mauss. "With its authoritative tone and constant promotion from high places, it came to be regularly cited in the church curriculum, especially in [Church Educational System] materials, and soon took on almost a scriptural stature."

To assemble the volume, McConkie, son-in-law of LDS Church President JosephFielding Smith, drew on Mormon scriptures, prophetic sermons and commonly held beliefs. He put them together in alphabetical order and with a tone of certainty.

Still, many complained that it did not fairly reflect the diversity of opinion among Latter-day Saints and their leaders.

"The book would more accurately have been entitled, Mostly Mormon Doctrine ," Mauss wrote in an e-mail from his home in Irvine, Calif.

The book was even challenged by LDS President David O. McKay, who led the church from 1951 to 1970.

McKay asked two senior apostles, Mark E. Petersen and Marion G. Romney, to review Mormon Doctrine soon after its release and propose a list of corrections, according to David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism by Gregory Prince and Robert Wright.

Petersen recommended 1,067 changes "that affected most of the 776 pages of the book," the biography says.

McKay feared that if the corrections were made, it would seriously affect McConkie's credibility, so he preferred not to see the book republished at all.

"Nonetheless, McConkie audaciously approached McKay six years later and pushed for publication of the book in a revised form," according to Prince and Wright. McKay responded that "if republished," the book should be clearly marked as McConkie's work and not an official church publication.

McConkie took that as a go-ahead, Prince and Wright wrote.

"The book became one of the all-time best-sellers in Mormondom," they wrote, "achieving the near-canonical status that McKay had fought unsuccessfully to avoid, and setting a tone of doctrinal fundamentalism, antithetical to McKay's personal philosophy, that remains a legacy of the church to this day."

McConkie came to be viewed as a leading LDS theologian. He wrote many other books, including a series about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, the chapter headings in Mormon scriptures, even the words to the popular LDS hymn "I Believe in Christ."

Many Mormons forever will remember his tearful and stirring final testimony at the April 1985 General Conference just weeks before dying of cancer.

"I am one of [Christ's] witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears," he said. "But I shall not know any better then than I know now that he is God's almighty son, that he is our savior and redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way."

Prince said he "never saw anything in Bruce McConkie that was mean or un-Christian," but the LDS scientist nonetheless was "delighted" by news that Mormon Doctrine no longer would be published.

"His book," Prince said, "has done some serious damage."

In the first edition, Prince said, it was his "diatribe against the Roman Catholic Church that did the most harm, but subsequently, the real damage has been his statements about blacks."

After the LDS Church opened its all-male priesthood to blacks in 1978, McConkie deleted his previous statement predicting that never would happen. Even in the most recent edition, though, McConkie wrote that God cursed Cain with "a mark of a dark skin, and he became the ancestor of the black race."

Mauss, the sociologist, thinks the book is going out of print "none too soon, especially given the current public-relations preoccupation of the LDS Church."

The volume's continued availability after its wide distribution, he said, will "continue to provide critics of the church with an enduring basis for claiming, however unfairly, that 'Mormon doctrines' are non-Christian or anti-Christian, and that the church is a racist institution."

"Elder McConkie was an apostle and a good man but a man of his times," said Darius Gray, former president of the Genesis Branch for black Mormons. "Sadly his times included a period in this nation when not all men were judged by the content of their character but rather the color of their skin."

The gospel of Jesus Christ never has been a respecter of persons, said Gray, co-producer with Margaret Blair Young of a documentary film, "Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons."

"The LDS Church is a young church," he said, "and, as it has grown, it has become more inclusive, embracing of all God's creations."

The continual publication of Mormon Doctrine seemed to suggest an approval of the concepts and attitudes of a former time, Gray said. By not reprinting it, "a weight will have been lifted off the body of the church. We have thankfully moved on." 


Mormons strive to make the Internet FAIR

By Michael De Groote
Mormon Times
Monday, Aug. 03, 2009

It wasn't fair. (since anti-mormons had too many facts)

In the mid-1990s, Juliann Reynolds, Scott Gordon and other Mormons were under constant danger of losing their Internet provider privileges if they attempted to defend The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

They navigated the rough-and-tumble world of America Online message boards, places where people could post comments on various topics such as religion. AOL used volunteers to monitor comments. These volunteers could give out warnings for what they considered poor behavior. Three warnings and a person could be banned. (This webmaster was banned for giving out too many facts)

Mormons who defended their religion, however, were subject to warnings and electronic excommunication. (due to personal slander and defamation of others since Mormons could not refute any facts)

One of the boards even required people to electronically "sign" a creedal affirmation before they could post -- effectively banishing Mormons. "We're paying dues to AOL, and yet they are hosting a large message board system that some religions are not allowed on," Reynolds said. (since they were not Christian but wanted to pretend to be Christian for a Christian message board owned by AOL. Every religion had its own message board.)

Meanwhile, on the segregated Mormon message board, critics were allowed to post without warnings. Gordon, Reynolds and about 30 regular LDS posters defended against attacks, answered questions and built a community under siege. (with the facts)

Some opponents would post excerpts from the LDS temple ceremony. Others would stalk Mormons to other online places and attack them there. Many of the attacks were nothing more than cut-and-paste quotes from anti-Mormon Web sites outside the AOL world. (just posting facts about Mormon throat cutting temple exercises)

"It was just ugly. Very hateful," (about the dirty secrets of Mormonism being exposed) Reynolds said. "It was very discriminatory. They were pretty much allowed to run all over us and there wasn't much we could do about it." (since Mormons could not refute any facts)

After answering hundreds of posts about polygamy, the defenders started using humor to throw critics off balance. They posted over-the-top, silly replies claiming that Mormon men indeed had many wives -- but that the women all lived in the Bahamas. They told how the women's extravagant lifestyle was funded by creating a traveling exhibit for evangelicals that featured biblical artifacts such as Adam's fig leaf. (Mormons had to resort to silliness)

It was silly, but it broke the tension. Most of the critics didn't know how to respond to the spoofs. "Mormons are very funny people," Reynolds said. "(We'd post) anything we could think of just to throw them off." (Mormon posts are generally based on personal slander, gibberish, and silliness)

Even in the silliness, the group began to see a need for a place online where Mormons could go to scrutinize anti-Mormon attacks. They wanted a place where common criticisms could be counteracted by common sense. (as he said, Mormon posts are silly)

A place where the rules were fair. (for Mormon silliness)

They organized themselves as the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, or FAIR. (should be Bogus Online Gut Ugly Silliness, or BOGUS)

Reynolds purchased a Web URL and the software needed to run it. FAIR posted answers to frequently asked questions. Soon the Web site, now at, added its own message board. (and eliminated people who wanted to post just the facts)

It was still a strident place, but the FAIR crowd could set its own rules on behavior.

Unlike FARMS, BYU's Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, FAIR was a clearinghouse for information. It took research, classified it and applied it to specific questions. FAIR tried to make scholarship easier to read for laypeople. (by adding silliness)

FAIR had decided to hold its first conference on Mormon "apologetics," a term that has nothing to do with apologizing for but rather defending religion. The agenda was full, but attendance was sparse. There were more presenters than listeners. (since no facts were being presented)

As each year passed, the crowds at the conference grew. The crowds on the Web site grew as well. This presented a dilemma. (what to present besides silliness)

FAIR was born out of the confrontational world of message-board combat, where critics lobbed their bombs and defenders launched their rockets. As more people came to FAIR for information, many weren't interested in a contentious exchange. Although successful, the message board confused those who just wanted answers and information they could trust. (critics lobbed in the facts while mormons launched personal attacks)

FAIR had outgrown its roots. (of silliness?)

In 2006, FAIR's leadership made the difficult decision to divest the message board from the Web site and the organization. The board still operates separately at

"That was difficult for me, because that was my beginnings, and we had created a really successful, thriving message board," Reynolds said. (beginnings with silliness)

Today, FAIR embraces a less confrontational mission. Its goal is to provide reliable information from a faithful perspective. (less silliness and more biased wrong information for the uneducated Mormon)

FAIR has an "Ask the Apologists" service for people to send in questions to volunteer researchers, who number about 100. Answers are also posted on its wiki,, where updates can be made on an ongoing basis. (they could not answer my questions in 20 words or less; cult members will always have long answers using circular reasoning)

The FAIR blog,, keeps an eye on current issues and allows comments. The site recently began posting information, links and sources related to current gospel doctrine Sunday school classes. (such as where was Paul when he wrote the book of Galatians or other meaningless information)

The main site continues to have a host of articles, e-books, audio files and even an online bookstore. (to make money)

Articles from past conferences are also on the site. This year's Mormon Apologetics Conference, the 11th of its kind, will be Aug. 6 and 7 at the South Towne Exposition Center in Sandy, Utah. FAIR even held a conference last March in Germany.

Gordon, who became president in 2001, Reynolds and other FAIR leaders such as vice president Allen Wyatt and FAIR chairman John Lynch are excited about the future. (of Bogus Online Gut Ugly Silliness or BOGUS)

"So many have come in," Reynolds said. "And they bring such a variety of skills. It's been amazing to me that when we needed something, generally, somebody will show up that has that particular skill." (such as being a receptionist)

One challenge is the shift from defending against primarily religious-based criticisms to secular attacks. Strident secular criticism requires different responses than religious-based criticism. Information on FAIR is beginning to address this changing source of concern. (Yes, Mormonism is totally Bogus Online Gut Ugly Silliness or BOGUS for short that everyone has come to understand including non-Christians)

The small group of Mormons under siege on the Internet has come a long way. The defenders moved out of their isolated community and embraced a larger Internet world. They welcomed other volunteers to expand FAIR's expertise. They grew in their message and in their goals. (too expand with Bogus Online Gut Ugly Silliness or BOGUS)

"I'm really pleased with how we made that change," Reynolds said, "and we don't engage in any direct confrontations. We're just trying to take information that we see out there that we think is incorrect … and respond to it." (since Mormons cannot refute the facts)

It's still about making things fair. (and biasedly silly)


SALT LAKE CITY - The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR), will be sponsoring its annual conference at the South Towne Exposition Center located at 9575 South State Street in Sandy Utah on August 3 - 4, 2006 from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm each day.
Speakers will address various topics defending Latter-day Saint doctrine, history and practice including the legal trials of Joseph Smith, DNA and the Book of Mormon, Mark Hofmann's Mormon document forgeries, the Book of Abraham, New World evidences of Book of Mormon historicity, reflections on race and the restored gospel, linguistic connections between the Middle East and the Americas, and other issues (how can we get Mitt elected?).
The public is invited to attend the conference. More information is available at
FAIR is an independent organization dedicated to defending the LDS faith through sound research and logic. FAIR is not affiliated with nor do they receive support from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. FAIR is made up of independent researchers who are both members and non-members of the LDS Church.
Contact information
Scott Gordon
FAIR President

 Note: This webmaster was blocked from posting on their electronic bulletin boards.

Mormon advocates meet to defend their faith

By Peggy Fletcher Stack
The Salt Lake Tribune

    What began in 1997 as an Internet conversation about how best to defend the LDS Church from its critics is now a national nonprofit organization of Mormon apologists.

    A handful of participants, each with expertise in a different aspect of Mormonism, found each other on message boards that dealt with controversial aspects of LDS philosophy and history including polygamy, the banning of black men from the faith's all-male priesthood until 1978, the role of women in the church, homosexuality and problems with the historicity of the Book of Mormon. Writers in various states found themselves answering the same questions and criticisms over and over. So they pooled their respective research and thinking at one Web site, which became the nucleus of The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR).

    FAIR is not sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and takes full responsibility for its authors' positions and perspectives. But it does require that its writers refrain from calling their opponents names.

    "We ask them not to make negative comments or attack anyone personally," Scott Gordon, FAIR's president, said Wednesday, from his home in Redding, Calif.

    On Thursday and Friday, FAIR will hold its eighth- annual Mormon apologetics conference at South Town Exposition Center in Sandy. Organizers expect about 300 attendees, including people from as far away as New Zealand and Saudi Arabia.

    At the conference, many of the same topics hashed over on the Internet will be discussed face to face.

    Speakers will include:

   1) Renowned Mormon feminist and historian Claudia Bushman will explore the role of women in the church.

   2) Marcus Martins, chairman of the religious studies department at Brigham Young University-Hawaii and the first Latter-day Saint with black African ancestry to serve a full-time mission, will offer his thoughts on being ''a black man in Zion.''

   3) David Stewart will look at the charge that DNA research undermines the Book of Mormon claim that American Indians descended from a family that traveled to the New World from Jerusalem.

   4) George Throckmorton, a Utah forensics expert, will look at Mark Hofmann's Mormon document forgeries.

   "We are hoping these speakers will give us unique ways of looking at these same issues," said Gordon, a professor at Shasta College of Business and Technology. "And there are always new people who haven't heard this before, people who are encountering it on the Internet for the first time."

    But this year's program offers at least one new development - a look at the LDS Church's problems internationally.

    Kim Westman, a native of Finland who has studied Mormon history in his country, will explore its relationship to the Finnish society from the 1800s to the present.

   "Kim is a member of our FAIR volunteer list who spends a lot of time answering questions from people in Finland," Gordon said. "He has heard all the accusations about the church's CIA connections. The view that Mormon missionaries are spies is pretty prevalent in Finland."

    At the conference, FAIR will announce a new Web site to deal with issues that arise for the LDS Church in Germany - It will be staffed entirely of German members who will decide what issues are the most relevant to them.

   "Sometimes we get so myopic in our looking at Mormonism," Gordon said. "It's nice to get a different perspective."

Attend the conference and bring money!
   What: Eighth Annual Mormon Apologetics Conference
   When: Thursday and Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
   Where: South Towne Exposition Center, 9575 S. State St., Sandy
   How much: Fees range from $59.95 per person for the full conference to $34.95 per person for a single day
   For more: Go to


Documentary Film Seeks to Counter Mormon Stereotypes

January 14, 2007

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The filmmaker behind a new four-hour documentary about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said she hopes her work will debunk some myths about the Utah-based church.

"I hope that most of the stereotypes ideally, all of them will be blown away," Helen Whitney told The Deseret Morning News from a television critics gathering in Pasadena, Calif. Saturday. "Because so many of them are just based on ignorance. Ignorance about Mormon history, ignorance about Mormon theology. Ignorance." (cult members will always call you ignorant when they are confronted with the facts of their religion - webmaster note)

The two-part film called "The Mormons" is a joint presentation from public broadcasting's "American Experience" and "Frontline."

The "American Experience" segment is expected to air April 30 and cover the church's history, including its founding, persecutions leading to exodus and polygamy.

The "Frontline" broadcast is planned for May 1. Its focus is the modern church, including missionary work, family life, temples and the elevation of the faith to a mainstream religion.

"It is not exhaustive. It is not comprehensive. It is thematic," said Whitney, who spent three years on the project. "I have chosen what I felt to be the defining ideas and themes and events in Mormon history that would help outsiders go inside the church."

Whitney worked with Mormon and non-Mormon consultants while making the film. She said she interviewed "hundreds," from everyday members to church President Gordon B. Hinckley and those antagonistic toward the faith. She also traveled cross country and sent a film crew to Ghana.

"Mormons are everywhere, and I wanted to make that point," she said. "There are more Mormons outside of America than in this country. And even within America, there are many Mormons outside of Utah. So only a small part of it was shot in Utah."

Whitney, who won both Emmy and Peabody awards for her films profiling monks and Catholic Pope John Paul II, said Mormon church leaders, said the film's goal is neither to recruit new members to the church, nor discourage its believers.


Mormon Defender Skirts Christian Question; Instead Calls for Unity

By Michelle Vu
Christian Post Reporter
July 12, 2007

The chosen defender of Mormonism in a much talked-about online debate avoided the challenges posed by one of the nation’s preeminent evangelicals Wednesday on why Mormons cannot be considered Christians. Instead, well-known science-fiction writer Orson Scott Card called for unity among believers of Jesus in his latest blog.

The former Mormon missionary spent an extensive amount of his essay detailing how he was seen as an outsider by some Mormons who considered a good Mormon to be a Republican and someone that holds a steady day job. Card, a democrat and writer, noted that these Mormons were from a town in Utah where 98 percent of the population was Mormons.

However, when he moved to the east coast where Mormons are the minority, fellow Mormons there embraced him and accepted his differences.

The long personal narrative was given as a micro-example of how one’s point of view can change depending on if people feel they are in the minority or majority.

Card contends that the major Christian denominations view Mormons as the odd minority group and thus thinks they can afford to reject it. However, when these Christian groups consider the secular world as its opponent then it is the minority and therefore all believers of Jesus Christ should band together to confront the opponent.

“Instead of ‘mainstream Christianity’ seeking opportunities to shun and exclude and deny the Christianity of Mormons, it might be more helpful for us to admit our irreconcilable differences but then recognize that in this world, today, right now, we can gain more for the cause of Christ by treating each other with respect and honoring each other for the degree to which we do live up to his teachings,” wrote Card in his second blog entry.

The Mormon author and Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, have been engaged in an ongoing “blog dialogue” since June 28. The debate is sponsored by the Web site and confronts the question whether Mormons can be considered Christians.

Though Card’s long essay does provide points why Mormons should be considered Christians, it avoids responding to Mohler’s second blog, in which the evangelical scholar asked why Mormons now want to be considered part of mainstream Christianity when at Mormonism’s founding it declared itself as the only true church and denounced all other churches as corrupt.

“Why would Mormonism now want to be identified as a form of Christianity, when its central historical claim is that the churches commonly understood to be Christian are part of the Church of the Devil?” questioned Mohler.

In addition, Mohler had explicitly stated in his second blog that Beliefnet had asked him to debate whether Mormons can be considered Christians based on Christian orthodoxy. In other words, the arguments as set by the sponsor site should revolve around Christian orthodoxy and theology.

Mohler noted that if Christianity was defined in terms of sociology, the history of religions or other disciplines, then an expert from that field should take part in the debate rather than himself.

“The question could simply refer to common opinion – do people on the street believe that Mormonism is Christianity? But then the matter would be in better hands among the pollsters,” Mohler commented.

The Baptist theologian’s clarification of the debate was in response to Card’s challenge in his first blog of “Who Gets to Define ‘Christian’?”

Still, as debate spectators noted, Card’s latest response was also not based on Christian orthodoxy or theology but rather on general logic.

“Did you intend to walk out of the original debate? did,” wrote a person identified as “Dal” in the blog’s comment section. “It's nice and all that you posted a very qualified…essay, but it really isn't that relating to the topic at hand. Please qualify the question 'Are Mormons Christian' instead of qualifying your intended agenda.”

In addition, the Mormon defender also wrote extensively on former Massachusetts governor and presidential contender Mitt Romney, praising him as a faithful family man and a devoted religious follower that even evangelical Christians could be proud of.

“What I find myself puzzled by, as an evangelical Christian, is Mr. Card's penchant for skirting the issue and speaking in generalities, of spending so much time on Mitt Romney, etc,” commented another spectator.

“That said, the issue is not, ‘is Mitt Romney a good guy’, or ‘are Mormons moral, ethical people,’ or anything like that; it's simply, what does the Bible teach, and how does the Mormon church stack up with its teachings?”

Card concluded by calling on Mohler to accept Mormons as Christians, despite their theological differences, based on their merits done in Jesus name.

“But just as the Catholic Church has accepted Mormon help in serving the poor in the name of Christ, and just as ordinary Republican Mormons have found it in their hearts to accept me, a Democrat, as if I might be a real Mormon all the same,” wrote Card.

“I wish Dr. Mohler would take the tiny, tiny step of saying, not that Mormons are right, but that a person can believe as a Mormon does and still do good works in the name of Christ, that would be acceptable to Christ by that clear, bright standard: Even as ye have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”


FAIR conference defends LDS beliefs

BYU Newsnet

By Katie Roundy - 31 Jul 2007

As controversy around high-profile Mormons continues to swirl, questions have been raised about the doctrine and beliefs of the LDS church.

To answer these questions, the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research is holding its ninth annual conference this weekend at the South Towne Exposition Center in Sandy.

FAIR is a non-profit organization that focuses on providing answers to criticisms of LDS doctrine, belief and practice.

"The purpose of FAIR is to provide members of the church with responses to the critical questions about the church," said Scott Gordon, FAIR president.

The group is dedicated to giving information - not bashing or arguing, Gordon said.

"We are not a debate group," he said. "Our goals are to provide a forum to discuss the issues that come up."

Many well-known scholars and speakers have been invited to speak at the event, including two BYU professors: Daniel C. Peterson, a professor of Islamic studies and Arabic, and John L. Sorenson, a professor emeritus of anthropology.

"This is perhaps the most influential group of speakers we have ever assembled," Gordon said in a news release.

The presentations will address topics such as the Mountain Meadows Massacre, spiritual experiences, the Book of Mormon and controversies over the foundational stories of Mormonism.

More than 250 people have registered for the conference and more are expected to attend, said Mike Parker, FAIR conference registration.

"This is already our best year," he said.

There is more interest in the conference because the church is high profile right now, Parker said.

While the majority of those registered are from Utah, attendees are expected from more than 25 states, as well as from Canada, England, France and Sweden.

"Hundreds of attendees from around the world will gather to find out the truth about many misunderstood Mormon issues," Gordon said, in a news release.


Attacks on Islam, Mormonism spring from the same dark well

By Eric Dursteler

Salt Lake Tribune


    As a Mormon and a historian, I have watched with a certain fascination the maelstrom which has raged around Mitt Romney's presidential candidacy.

    While religion has been front and center throughout the campaign, Romney has assiduously avoided any substantive theological discussions of Mormonism's basic tenets, and generally his fellow candidates and the media have not delved too deeply into the doctrines and practices of his uniquely American religion.

    The gloves came off, however, in an apoplectic broadside delivered by liberal pundit and television writer/producer Lawrence O'Donnell during a McLaughlin Group debate of Romney's "faith of my fathers" speech. O'Donnell derided Romney's religion as "based on the work of a lying, fraudulent criminal named Joseph Smith who was a racist, . . . a slavery champion, [and] the inventor of this ridiculous religion."

    To O'Donnell's credit (or shame), he did not recant. Indeed, he expanded on his views in other forums. Of the Book of Mormon, he said "it's an insane document produced by a madman who was a criminal and a rapist," and he asserted that Mormonism "was founded by an alcoholic criminal named Joseph Smith who committed bank fraud and claimed God told him polygamy was cool after his first wife caught him having an affair with the maid."

    While the historical and logical flaws of O'Donnell's contentions are obvious, I was intrigued by the language of the attack. In describing Joseph Smith as a criminal, a fraud and a rapist, O'Donnell was drawing on deeply-rooted themes and images which medieval Christians used in the age of the Crusades, and which were revived in the 19th century by critics of Mormonism.

    In the Middle Ages, European contacts with Islam through crusade and commerce produced an expansive, almost obsessive, literature treating the faith's history, beliefs and practices. Much of this polemical literature focused on Muhammad as a means to disproving and discrediting Islam, and a fantastical and fabricated pseudo-biography was invented to enumerate the myriad personal flaws of the Prophet.

    To this end, medieval writers such as Peter of Poitiers described Muhammad as a hypocrite, a liar, a sorcerer, a thief, a murderer and an adulterer. This latter charge was common, and authors made much of Muhammad's supposed libidinousness and lechery, evident to them in his own personal life and the Quran's validation of polygamy.

    These medieval views of Muhammad and Islam enjoyed long shelf lives. Variations on the same old themes resurfaced following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in statements by conservative evangelical leaders who described Muhammad as "a robber and a brigand," a "demon-possessed pedophile," and Islam as "a very evil and wicked religion."

    While the work of Edward Said and other scholars has familiarized modern readers with the historical distortions of Muhammad and Islam, the Mormon variation on this theme is much less well known. During the 19th century as Mormonism began to expand, American commentators dusted off the centuries-old rhetoric used against Islam and in similarly vituperative fashion equated the Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith, with the Muslim prophet, Muhammad. From the faith's earliest days, Smith was referred to as the "Yankee" or the "American" Muhammad, and newspaper editors included him in a long line of religious imposters, which included the Muslim prophet.

    One of the earliest anti-Mormon works, Mormonism Unvailed, likened Smith to "the great prince of deceivers, Mohammed." A later tract attributed to the Mormon leader a laundry list of bad behavior: He was "a low, vulgar, lazy, worthless, profane character; addicted to strong drink, and accused of sheep-stealing." His alleged revelations on plural marriage were intended as "a cloak to cover . . . [his] vileness . . . [as a] holy seducer."

    This last charge was particularly common, and here too writers drew explicit parallels between the Mormon and the Muslim prophets, especially after word of Mormon polygamy began circulating. One author wrote that Mormonism "bears in many respects a striking resemblance to Mahometanism, especially as to its sensual character." Another intimated that "both Joseph Smith and Mohammed used a word of God to settle their private needs and most intimate love affairs."

    As with medieval Christians writing on Islam, for 19th century American commentators on Mormonism, among the most compelling ways to prove the falsehood of these new, competing faiths, was to expose their founders as frauds, imposters and moral degenerates.

    The post-9/11 comments on Islam and O'Donnell's recent diatribe against Mormonism suggest that medieval modes of thought still resonate in contemporary religious dialogue. When the ill-informed, the provocateur, or simply those looking to boost ratings, they have a ready supply of well-worn, tried-and-proven polemical firebombs at their disposal to denigrate and marginalize individuals and communities that do not fit squarely into their intolerant models of society.
    * ERIC DURSTELER is an associate professor of history at Brigham Young University.



Faith in action (Mormonism = Don't run for President)

The Salt Lake Tribune

Article Last Updated: 08/01/2008

Defending religion
    The 10th Annual Mormon Apologetics Conference, sponsored by FAIR, is Aug. 7 and 8 at the South Towne Expo Center, 9575 S. State St., Sandy. The main discussion will be on Mitt Romney's failed presidential bid. The organization started as an Internet conversation from around the country about how to best defend the LDS Church from its critics about LDS philosophy and history, including polygamy and the role of women in the church, homosexuality and problems with the historicity of the Book of Mormon. For more information about the conference, visit


LDS historians claim Brigham Young fueled hysteria, but didn't order the attack on Mountain Meadows

(Brigham Young was guilty of second degree murder per Mormons)


Mountain Meadows Massacre book

By Peggy Fletcher Stack
The Salt Lake Tribune

   After six years of unprecedented access to LDS Church archives, hundreds of hours in the nation's libraries and thousands if not millions of dollars spent on research, three Mormon historians believe they can put to rest the question of what prompted a southern Utah Mormon militia to slaughter 120 unarmed men, women and children at Mountain Meadows on Sept. 11 1857.

    Local Latter-day Saints' paranoia, poverty, miscommunication, isolation and greed - not a secret edict from Brigham Young - led to the Mountain Meadows Massacre, Ronald Walker, Richard Turley and Glen Leonard argue in their long-awaited volume, which hits bookstores this week.

    "It is true that [Young's] rhetoric during a time of war was part of the backdrop against which the massacre happened," Turley said this week, "but he was not the proximate cause."

    The LDS historians' approach in Massacre at Mountain Meadows (Oxford University Press, $29.95) will not satisfy researchers and critics who remain convinced Young ordered the execution of the Arkansas emigrants, at least covertly, in what many view as one of the darkest chapters in LDS Church history.

    "No faith-believing Mormon could ever acknowledge Brigham Young's complicity in the massacre and no 'gentile' could think otherwise," said Salt Lake City bookseller Ken Sanders, who will host a discussion with the three authors next week. "We are going to be arguing about the details for another 151 years."

    Sanders acknowledges there is no evidence for Young's involvement, but in the 19th century there was "a systematic effort to cover up and destroy records, diaries, and court records of the day."

    Still, Sanders thinks Massacre is a ground-breaking book, not a Mormon whitewash.

    "We have got to give a lot of credit to the LDS Church for stepping up and owning the Mountain Meadows Massacre," he said. "This is something that has been swept under the rug, denied and hidden for 151 years. This book represents a real paradigm shift and that's remarkable."

    Sanders points to the fact that though all three authors are or were employed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they insist that LDS authorities did not dictate or approve the book's direction.

    "We came up with the idea for the book ourselves. We were not assigned to do it," said Turley, assistant LDS Church historian. "We sought the cooperation of church leaders to get access to information [such as the First Presidency's confidential collection] but asked that we retain full editorial control and they've honored that."

    Massacre is a gripping narrative aimed at the general reader that fills in many missing details of the notorious crime, laying out an almost hour-by-hour account of frenzied discussions among the participants during the week leading up to the attacks. Complex and nuanced with a deep awareness of psychology and social systems, the book also weaves in recent scholarship on religion and violence, especially acts done in the midst of hysteria and war.

    Readers can sense the building anxiety about an army sent from Washington to unseat Brigham Young as territorial governor and can hear Young and others' war-like rhetoric as they prepared to defend themselves yet again. They can feel the anguish in the church councils as Mormon leaders in Cedar City wrestled with what to do to cover up their escalating violence against the emigrants. They can see the carnage of the innocents, strewn on the meadows.

    In the days before the final episode, the authors write, Mormon militia members attacked the Arkansas wagon train, killing several participants. The murderers became convinced that if any emigrants made it to California, they would report Mormon rather than Indian involvement and even more troops would arrive in Utah to wipe them out. They believed the church's very survival was at stake.

    "The trio of authors has properly tagged direct responsibility for the massacre on local church leaders and Nauvoo Legion officers, with Southern Paiutes playing a minor role," said William P. MacKinnon of Santa Barbara, Calif., author of the newly published At Sword's Point, a documentary history of the Utah War. "I give credit to the authors for this somewhat nontraditional view as well as their willingness to rescue the reputation of the victims from the appalling vilification that's taken place for 150 years. They have also identified the impact of Gov. Brigham Young's overheated rhetoric and provocative actions in helping to create a violent atmosphere in Utah leading up to the massacre.

    It may "make obsolete previous studies and without doubt will constitute the necessary starting point for all future ones," adds Kathleen Flake, author of The Politics of American Religious Identity.

    Walker, a retired Brigham Young University history professor who is now an independent researcher in Salt Lake City, said, "Our marching orders, as I understood them, were to find the truth and tell it. That's what we have tried to do."

    That sentiment may be the book's greatest contribution - giving a full, warts-and-all portrait of LDS history to the Mormon faithful, who would not likely read or believe any of the earlier accounts.

    "Many Mormons still don't know anything about it," Turley said. "My feeling is the best approach is to face it."

    The massacre was a "shameful part of Mormon history," said Leonard, former director of the LDS Museum of Church History. "It's a terrible, sad story and a hard one to read. We can't condone what they did, but we can try to understand it. Good history brings you into the story in a way that you can understand yourself. You should wonder, what would I have done had I been there?"