Mormon History

Documented Dishonesty of Mormon Historian and Theologian Brigham H. Roberts


Per Deliberate Deletions, Additions, Alterations, and Omissions

            The official History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was published in book form under the direction of the First Presidency in 1902. The introductory assurance that “no historical or doctrinal statement has been changed” is demonstrably wrong. Overshadowed by editorial censorship, hundreds of deletions, additions, and alterations, these seven volumes are not always reliable. The official history is a partisan chronology, a flawed legacy for rank-and-file believers. Not only does this history place polygamy and Brigham Young’s ecclesiastical significance in the rosy glow of political acceptability, it smooths out Joseph Smith’s rough-hewn edges, tidies up his more disreputable adventures, and deletes unfulfilled prophecies. In the process of remaking Mormon history, a monumental disservice was done to Rigdon and others who challenged the Quorum of the Twelve’s 1844 ascent to power.

            Four examples of failed prophecies from Joseph Smith’s personal diary, which were never published in the History of the Church include:

1)     His 20 January 1842 prediction, after Orson Hyde had told of the “excellent white wine he drank in the east (Palestine),” that “in the name of the Lord he would drink wine with him in that country.”

2)     On that same occasion he prophesied that “from the 6th day of April next” he would accompany the Twelve on a “Mission through the United States and when we arrive at Maine we will take a ship for England and go on to all the countries where we are a mind for to go.”

3)     On 16 December 1843 in an address to the Nauvoo City Council Smith stated: “I prophecy by virtue of the Holy Priesthood vested in me in the name of Jesus Christ that if Congress will not hear our petition and grant us protection they shall be broken up as a government and God shall damn them. There shall nothing be left of them, not even a grease spot.”

4)     Finally, on 6 February 1844 “I prophesied (in the presence of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve) that 5 years would not roll round before the company would all be able to live without cooking.”

-SIDNEY RIGDON, A Portrait of Religious Excess, pages 322; 328.


Per a Mormon Historian 

            On Friday, 3 June 1831, the first day of the convocation, while Joseph Smith was prophesying to the congregation, “The Lord made manifest to Joseph that it was necessary that such of the elders as were considered worthy, should be ordained to the high priesthood.” He then laid his hands on Lyman Wight and ordained him to the “High Priesthood after the Holy Order of God.” Wight then arose and according to one account “presented a pale countenance, a fierce look, with his arms extended, and his hands cramped back, the whole system agitated, and a very unpleasant object to look upon.” He called upon those around him, “if you want to see a sign, look at me,” and then climbed up on a bench and pronounced “there were some in the congregation that should live until the Savior should descend from heaven, with a Shout, with all the holy angels with him.”

            Wight, still enraptured in vision, then ordained Rigdon, John Whitmer, and Joseph Smith to the High Priesthood even though Smith had previously ordained him. The official history compiled under Smith’s direction until his 1844 death records that on this date “the authority of the Melchisedek Priesthood was manifested and conferred for the first time” on twenty-three elders. Traditional Mormon history holds that Smith and Cowdery had been ordained to the Higher Priesthood in May 1829 under the direction of ancient apostles Peter, James, and John, though like other supernal events this detail was added later. It was first mentioned years later in a 7 September 1834 letter from Cowdery to William W. Phelps.

            Mormon historian and theologian B. H. Roberts later tried to clarify confusion on the matter in his edition of the official History of the Church. “A misapprehension has arisen in the minds of some,” he wrote, respecting the statement – “The authority of the Melchisedek Priesthood was manifested and conferred for the first time upon several of the Elders.” It has been supposed that this passage meant that the higher or Melchisedek Priesthood was now for the first time conferred upon men in this dispensation. This of course is an error … The Prophet (meant) … that the special office of High Priest was for the first time conferred upon men in this dispensation.

            But Roberts, despite his usually exact approach to Mormon history, put words in Smith’s mouth, and he was incorrect.  -SIDNEY RIGDON, A Portrait of Religious Excess, pages 96-97.


Per a Secular Historian

            The final formulation of the LDS version of the Mountain Meadows story came in the early twentieth century with Brigham Robert’s Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Originally published serially between 1909 and 1915 in the Americana, a non-Mormon historical journal, this official history was finally released in six volumes on the church’s centennial in 1930. A dedicated defender of the faith, Roberts was arguably the greatest intellect the LDS church ever produced, and by standards of his time he was an excellent historian. He admitted his bias but sought to portray the church’s history honestly, and he “steadfastly insisted upon recognizing the faults and foibles of the Saints.”

            Roberts’s better qualities failed him when he addressed what he termed “the most lamentable episode in Utah history, and in the history of the church.” The Mountain Meadows massacre was “the most difficult of all the many subjects” he had to deal with in his massive study. Roberts probably addressed this challenge as well as he could in his role as official historian. His work was perfunctory, containing little original material. Roberts knew much more about the massacre than his history revealed, but he simply repeated the Bancroft version with only a few additional comments on idiosyncratic details.

            Roberts claimed he had not written an argumentative history, but his account argued many debatable points, such as whether Brigham Young had forbidden the Saints to trade with emigrants. He gave preference to Young’s later statements denying he had restricted such sales while ignoring the evidence in Young’s 1857 letters showing that he did. He passed over the glaring inconsistencies in George A. Smith’s 1858 report and echoed some of the weakest claims of the Penrose defense. He noted Jacob Hamblin’s story of how he gave Young the facts about the massacre in 1858, but he claimed LDS officials remained ignorant of the details of the event until 1870. His chapter on responsibility for the massacre evaded the question. Roberts did not vilify Lee, but only exonerating the LDS church of any responsibility for the crime, he begged the question, if not John D. Lee, who? – BLOOD of the PROPHETS, Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows, pages 336-337.


Per Christian Historians

            Still another example of Sidney Rigdon’s willingness to distort the truth whenever it suited his purposes can be found in a notice To the Public published initially by Rigdon in the Kirtland newspaper in the spring of 1834 and elaborated upon two years later in a letter to the editor. Here, in a shameless and coldly calculated lie, Rigdon publicly accused his brother-in-law, Adamson Bentley, of having underhandedly influenced Jeremiah Brooks, their father-in-law, to divert Mrs. Rigdon’s share of the family inheritance over to Mrs. Bentley instead. After first accusing Bentley of having “malicious feelings” towards him, Rigdon went on to allege that Bentley had “exercise(ed) his influence over the mind of an old superannuated man, near eighty years of age, whose mind was so bewildered, that frequently he did not know his own children whom he saw every day; and has actually succeeded in getting him to alter his will, so as to deprive my family of their just dues.” Two years later, he clarified even further: “I think it is probable there will be no difficulty in engaging Bentley …,” he wrote, “seeing he has been so successful in his former attempt with old Mr. Brooks, my wife’s father, and got his own wife so-well fattened on other people’s property.”

            Rigdon and Bentley, it should be remembered, had been Baptist, Campbellite colleagues prior to Rigdon’s 1830 conversion to Mormonism, and were married to sisters. After Rigdon’s defection, there appears to have been considerable bad blood between the two families.

            Bad blood or not, an examination of Jeremiah Brooks’s will, dated December 3, 1832, and proved in Trumbull County Special Court on February 13, 1834, reveals Rigdon’s charge is untrue, and that if was Rigdon himself who had been deprived of the benefits of the will, and not his wife or family. According to the provisions of the will, Phebe Rigdon’s share of the estate was to be held in trust. Interest would be paid to her on a regular basis, until either she died, at which point the principal was to be immediately divided among her children, or Sidney died, at which point everything was to be immediately paid over to Phebe. This, of course, is quite different from Rigdon’s published assertion that his family had been deprived of their inheritance by Bentley, and that Bentley’s wife had been “fattened on other people’s property.”

            Ironically, Brigham H. Roberts repeats Rigdon’s story in his 1908 work “The Origin of The Book of Mormon,” holding it up as an example of how sectarian strife and bitterness render people like Bentley “incompetent to be reliable witnesses on the question at issue.” In this case, however, it is Rigdon himself who turns out to be both incompetent and unreliable. – Who Really Wrote The Book of Mormon?, pages 173-174.