A Moderate Proposal

I had the great good fortune of accompanying my wife to a session at MHA on race in the church. Alongside two other great presentations (one on a complex “branch” in Appalachia, the other on BYU student views of Civil Rights), was Stirling’s thoughtful consideration of race in Bruce R. McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine. In the discussion that followed after the presentations, several voices discussed why we continue to have Mormon Doctrine circulating among church members. A variety of reasons for the persistence of that text were proposed, not least the fact that the author is now dead and unable to edit out the offensive material for a revised edition and that the book is one of the best sellers for Deseret Book. As I reflected on the conversation, I wonder about the following proposal:

Issue a gently revised, highly abridged version of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. It would need to be one volume, would need to be written in easy to understand language, would need to cover the topics that Mormon doctrine covers and would need to bear a title like LDS Doctrines, or Doctrines of the Restoration, or equivalent.

What do people think? Is this a possible solution to the persistence of that highly problematic book?


  1. Yes, Sam, I think that would go far in negating the needs people have that lead them to pick up Mormon Doctrine.

    When we first joined the church, my own husband brought home a copy of MD, unaware of what it contained, because he was looking for a compendium of ideas to look things up…

    If there were another choice maybe we could get rid of that of that thing once and for all. (Ours was returned post-haste)

  2. The sad reality is that it doesn’t matter what we think. We don’t have the power to do much. I heard a number of proposals for getting the book off the shelves, but it comes down to who has the power to actually do it. It’s not bloggers. Would that it were. Darius Gray was the only black person in attendance at MHA, except for one guest who came to our film. That says something. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride–and I’d gladly ride Sam’s suggestion if I thought it had a snowman’s chance in Hell. What the heck; I’d ride it anyway. There MIGHT be a confluence of efforts which will actually work to bring about the greater effort, involving more than _MD_ and eventually reaching a clear statement of the official doctrine of Christ, which unequivocally revokes false teachings from earlier years and peels away cultural overlays from gospel truths.

  3. I have a hard time understanding why DB would pull Twilight from their shelves because of “customer complaints” and yet keep a book that has done so much harm to the black community in print and on its shelves. It can’t be a numbers game because Twilight was bound to sell more than MD. It is truly a tragic shame.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    The EoM was indeed supposed to supersede MD, but it hasn’t happened.

    Probably what it would take for whoever has the power to pull the plug on MD would be for the media to get ahold of and publicize its racist statements as representing “Mormon doctrine.” Only a major public embarrassment is likely to dislodge the book I imagine.

  5. Aaron Brown says:

    Various voices in the Bloggernacle periodically insist that DB will stop carrying MD as soon as the current printing runs out. Is this true, or has it been just wishful thinking? If it is true, what is the evidence for this claim?


  6. It appears to NOT be true. It was not available via internet for a month. Someone (I think Stirling A.) called the DB offices to ask about it and was told that the next printing would be available in May. It is now back on the internet. Has anyone checked to see if there have been any changes to “Races of Man” and “Caste System”? I’m away from any Deseret Bookstores for a little while. (No, I wasn’t excommunicated. I’m in Indiana. And excommunication doesn’t prohibit you from entering LDS bookstores; you just can’t buy any books except children’s fiction.)

  7. Matt W. says:

    The problem is that Mormon Doctrine has the name of an apostle on it. It’s been replaced twice, one by Byu with the EOM and once by the church with TTTF. Neither have superseded it. It was bold and upfront. However, the more we point out the problems in it, the more noise we make and the more we innoculate the whole church, it is my hope the bad will go the way of Paul Dunn, rather than the way of Adam God.

  8. Nick Literski says:

    The EOM has two problems here. First, it’s huge and expensive (a problem Sam proposes to alleviate by abridgement). The second problem, however, is at least as significant. The darn thing has some fairly serious errors in it! Just looking at my own field of expertise, I can tell you that the two Ken Godfrey articles relating to Freemasonry are fraught with easily-disproven factual errors, such as his claim that Joseph Smith only ever attended three masonic meetings (available records identify at least thirty he attended).

    Whatever problems may persist in current editions of Mormon Doctrine, the EOM isn’t a safe solution either.

  9. That’s the thing, is you want a book with the same format as MD, something where you can look a reference up, but something bold that addresses all of the “stuff” that no one ever talks about, your deep questions, and Mormon urban legends, etc. There’s just nothing else like it out there. The problem with the book, obviously are the problems previously stated.

  10. by the way, what did darius gray say about it?

  11. Aaron Brown says:

    One of the reasons MD has been so popular is that it teaches its LDS readers that:

    1. There are knowable, correct answers to a huge number of “doctrinal” and scriptural questions that one might otherwise be tempted to think are relatively unimportant or unknowable.
    2. These knowable, correct answers MATTER to one’s salvation.
    3. McConkie’s answers to these questions are THE correct answers.

    Many LDS members like these messages; that’s a big part of why the volume is so popular. If a new volume is to meaningfully replace MD, it would probably need to meet these same needs. Yet in meeting these needs, it would end up perpetuating some of the very problems that MD exacerbates. (Even if the new volume lacked some of the most noxious entries re: race, etc.)

    So I don’t see how Sam’s proposal really helps us escape the conundrum.


  12. I recently received, as a gift, a book called Mormon Beliefs And Doctrines Made Easier by David J. Ridges – Which is in the same format as MD / EoM (encyclopedia style – brief definitions and descriptions with references and sources) and for all intents and purposes seems to be an updated version of MD.

    There’s not a lot about race in it, but there is 19 pages about same gender attraction!

    But I also don’t think Mormon Doctrine is pure evil. I don’t take every word as pure doctrine and I don’t use it as my end-all source, but I do find it a fairly useful quick reference for ideas and scriptures.

    And rumor has it, he did get some things right.

  13. #11 captures my view. The essence of Mormon theology, as I understand it, is that it is open-ended, evolving line upon line, not fixed. We may be better off without a catechism like MD or any replacement for it. We already have several good scriptural guides and references for personal study.

  14. In #11, Aaron captures my view. The essence of Mormon theology, as I understand it, is that it is open-ended, evolving line upon line, not fixed. We may be better off without a catechism like MD or any replacement for it. We already have several good scriptural guides and references for personal study.

  15. Haven’t MD, EoM and even TTTF been supplanted by Google, Yahoo et al? The number of people who turn to their bookshelves for answers or guidance about doctrine or topics like “blacks and the priesthood” is dwindling and the sources for information about such topics is more likely to come from a web search than an actual book(s).

    I agree that a revised EofM would be a welcome substitute for MD, but I think MD will fade into the ether of the internet and not a moment too soon.

  16. At some point, I’ll get around to blogging about what it was like to be with the only black person at MHA, listening to presentations about MD and about letters to the editor in the _Daily Universe_ during years when segregation was such a hot topic–and when Darius happened to be one of two black students at BYU. The _Mormon Doctrine_ issue is a hard one for him, of course. Several people approached him with ideas on strategies for getting the book off the shelf. He was open to every idea.

  17. Here is how I have responded in the past when Mormon Doctrine is brought up as support in a discussion about doctrinal points:

    The burden of proof and persuasion is on you when quoting from the book Mormon Doctrine. This is because Apostle Mark E. Petersen found at least 1,067 substantive doctrinal errors in the book. Our prophet David O. McKay lamented that it was ever published and would have preferred to require Elder McConkie to repudiate the errors that abound in it except that making such a demand would have destroyed all credibility that Elder McConkie had as a General Authority. Those are President McKay’s words, not mine. That is an extremely strong point and should not be overlooked when using the book Mormon Doctrine to portray your fellow Latter-day Saints as being doctrinally off-base.

    None of my words about the book Mormon Doctrine relate in any way to Elder McConkie’s testimony during Conference Talks. To my knowledge, Elder McConkie did not stray into the realm of doctrinal speculation and did not package personal opinion about obscure doctrinal matters as official Church doctrine during his Conference Talks. In other words, I fully endorse Elder McConkie’s calling as an Apostle and his testimony of Jesus Christ in that role. On the subject of the book Mormon Doctrine, however, I must side with the prophet David O. McKay and the united Brethren in regretting that the book got such wide circulation because of the severe flaws of the book.

    I think an abridged Encyclopedia of Mormonism is a fantastic idea. I agree with others that even that will not supplant Mormon Doctrine. The reason is the same reason that President McKay and other General Authorities of the period were uncomfortable with Mormon Doctrine in the first place — it is published under the name of an Apostle and carries a title that is full of implications. People will continue to look to that book as a source of an authoritative explanation of doctrine (despite the author’s own disclaimers printed in the book to the extent that the material is his opinion about certain matters and not an official statement from the Church) because of those two points — the name of the author and the suggestive title of the book.

  18. Aaron et al, I respectfully disagree. Remember that you are not the audience for MD. Its audience does hope for some doctrinal clarity and are willing to adopt folkloric readings toward that end. You’re not going to change that audience, and maybe there’s no role for that kind of a change.

    What a Latter-day Saint Doctrines volume (abridged EOM) could do is provide such a tool for that audience that *can be revised* as needed.

    Nick–the point of such a work would NOT be final scholarship and would NOT be antagonistic to gentle apologetics. Remember its audience. 3 vs. 30 may be an order of magnitude (and inexcusable in scholarship) but I think it would be fine in something like this hypothetical LDS Doctrines volume.

  19. And Brother Matsby, as painful as BRM’s writings became on certain topics and for certain people, you’re right that there are actually some useful and beautiful things in MD. Maybe john’s compromise is a useful one that uses the necessarily respectful language.

  20. There’s actually a replacement in the works done by some professors at BYU, requested by Deseret Book. And these men are much more moderate and doctrinally correct than MD.

  21. The church needs to do a buy back program like the police do with guns. Turn in your Mormon Doctrine and get free tickets to the stadium of fire or some other churchy event. I could be bought for Twins tickets.

  22. Left Field says:

    Nick, I know that masonry is your thing, and I’m all for getting things right, but if the worst thing we can say about the EofM is that it has the wrong number of meetings Joseph attended, then I’d say that makes it at least 10,000 times better than MD.

    Deseret Book did publish EofM in five topical paperback volumes for $15-20 each. However, I have the impression that they’re not offered any more, and they didn’t seem to make it onto the shelves of many Latter-day Saints in my observation.

    Among the least of its many flaws, MD is just plain outdated. After the priesthood revelation, the article on “Negroes” was updated, but lots of other stuff was already out of date and was never revised. Anybody looking for information on disciplinary councils, seventies, assistants to the 12, the presiding bishopric, the patriarch to the church, area authorities, regional representatives, temples, dependent branches, Sunday School presidents, Relief Society, emeritus general authorities, MIA, sacrament meetings, etc. is going to get information that is at least 3-4 decades out of date. The church does seem to have some concern about past editions of the handbook being accessible as a source of outdated information. Perhaps the outdated information on church organization and procedures in MD might be raised as a concern in efforts to get the book off the shelves.

    McConkie was not an apostle when he wrote the book, and is not an apostle now. Unfortunately that hasn’t done much to diminish the perceived authority of the book.

    Although MD does clearly have its fans, it’s certainly not universally admired throughout the church. Among my crowd of friends in high school thirty-some years ago, it was disparagingly called McConkie Opinion. Whenever the book is mentioned in my rather conservative high priests group, there is a general consensus that it’s not authoritative and is full of errors.

  23. Left Field says:

    #21: I’ll turn my old black-cover copy in for Orioles tickets provided they come with air fare, lodging, and assurance that the book will be shredded.

  24. I find myself strongly in support of all sides. I see Mormon Doctrine like a hammer. Sometimes it drive the nail straight, sometimes it bends the nail, sometimes it cause great pain by hitting a thumb. But for many, it’s still the tool of choose.
    Two questions hang in my brain: Did McConkie write it alone? Are McConkie’s writing ‘notes’ still stored somewhere?

  25. #23 You would have to turn in your Paul H. Dunn books as well for Air fare

  26. Perhaps a long-term solution is to somehow change the general expectation that there are clearly-revealed doctrines on every topic under the sun.

  27. As time has passed, I see fewer and fewer people referencing MD. I think more and more people are getting their information off the internet.

    I believe that if we provide solid websites with information on-line, (LDS.org, FAIR-LDS.org, blacklds.org, lds.net, etc), including blogs and chat rooms, we’ll find that MD has less and less of an impact.

    I still keep a copy of MD on my shelf for reference on topics that I feel Elder McConkie was correct on. However, I find I only used it perhaps once in the last year for anything. Very different than how I used it pre-1978.

    With time, I think we’ll see it continue to diminish, especially as newer LDS thoughts supersede the teachings in MD, which has not been updated in 25 years.

    I think the same holds true with Miracle of Forgiveness and a few other older apostolic writings. I think more LDS sacrament talks quote Believing Christ by Robinson than MoF, for instance.

  28. Left Field says:

    What can I get for a “To Young Men Only” pamphlet?

  29. #28 Hairy Palms and early onset blindness

  30. I was in priesthood a few weeks ago and an older guy (read HP) pulled out a copy of MD from his book bag to “definitively” answer a question in class. He just carries it with him just in case. Pure awesomeness I haven’t seen for many a year.

    I used mine a lot on my mission but it has been gathering dust for quite a few years now.

  31. Isn’t “True to the Faith” the official replacement for MD and similar books?

  32. I think the replacement idea is a good one. Over the weekend, I was looking at my parents’ collection of books and was horrified/surprised to discover an early edition of MD, with the horrible “Negroes” entry, et al. Problem is, it was given as a gift and has a handwritten dedication in the front covers. If this instance is indicative, it’s going to be a long time before MD is gone, figuratively and physically.

    So, yes, let MD die, but help it along with an abridged EOM.

  33. Velikiye Kniaz says:

    RE: Matt #7
    “The evil that men lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones.” Shakespeare, “Julius Caesar”
    I truly wish that those who never knew Paul H. Dunn would cease and desist on perpetuating the asassination of his character. I knew Paul Dunn and am well aware of his shortcomings. But on more than one occasion I witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit move him to give inspired counsel and to speak prophetically. He was an incredible mission president during whose tenure baptisms increased over 230% over his predecessor (Boyd K. Packer) in the New England Mission. I once took a not very religious Roman Catholic friend to the dedication of the Boston Stake Center where President spoke. After the dedication I asked her what she thought of the dedicatory service. She observed that the simplicity of the sevice was dramatically different from a Catholic Mass. When I inquired what she thought of the speakers she responded that the only one she thought was memorable was President Dunn. Then she made me promise to take her anytime President was to speak again stating, “I don’t care if all he has to say is, ‘Please pass the butter, Marsha’, I want to be there to hear it!” Of all of the General Authorities that I have had associations with I haven’t met one who cared more for each and every person he met and who in time of their need would always do what he could to help them. Paul Dunn was my friend and I am proud and honored to say that he was mine. And I hope, as well as most everyone else should, that in that day of judgement when the good that we have done is weighed against our failures and shortcomings, that I should fare was well as Elder Paul H. Dunn. The good that he has done for the Church and its members that he deeply loved and faithfully served vastly outweighs his shortcomings. Let him rest in peace.

    Apologies for the threadjack, but enough is enough!

  34. But if they replace MD with the EOM, where will people turn for a source to the important doctrinal teaching that it’s better that your child die than have premarital sex?

    Hmm, I guess there would still be The Miracle of Forgiveness for that point.

  35. Kristine says:

    #33–Amen!! There are very, very few people in a position to throw the first stone at Paul Dunn. It should end.

  36. I was being frivolous – please feel free to remove my PH Dunn comment. Or to write me off as a know nothing crank (because for the most part I am).

    But I disagree with the assumption that more baptisms equates to better missionary as a justification. That is simplistic thinking, and if you expect better of me, well then …

  37. I have comment on the defense of Paul Dunn.

    Did he inspire some folks? Sure.

    But, it was based on a tissue of lies. Reread any of his talks. Everyone of them is based on inspirational stories — and almost everyone was made up. Whether it was the baseball or the war stories, each one was a fabrication.

    That type of deception is utterly unjustifiable. That man misled an entire generation of church young people. I remember attending one of his firesides and feeling boosted by the stories. Learning that they were false was crushing.

    Paul H. Dunn was a man who did great evil. Downplaying it is a disservice to those who were deceived.

  38. Dr. Greg House: “Everybody lies.” (Of course, House is a fictional American doctor portrayed by a British actor.)
    I second the motion to quit dissing Paul H. Dunn. I would love to see a post by someone who really knew him telling about the good he did. He has been reduced to the label of “Liar.” I am certain that he was known to be of great worth when he met his maker.

  39. I met him once when I was just a little kid. I remember he told me that he had removed my nose and had it in his fingers. But I found out later it was just his thumb and that my nose was really still on my face.

    So count me as one of those who were deceived.

  40. To bring it full circle, I read the McKonkie biography and found it really nice and created warm fuzzies for him in my heart. I often suggest to my wife we get all our friends together and show up at someones house at 7am asking for breakfast. She always says no.

    Their are few stories which can equal McKonkie finally removing his suit and returning to his bed at the end of his life. Very touching.

    Again, I apologize for starting this whole PHD controversy through my flippancy. I found his stories of tanks parking on people’s heads very inspirational as a youth.

  41. Bruce and I sang “I Believe in Christ” at his sister’s funeral. I find it a stirring testimony. I am sad for the ways Elder McConkie’s book has damaged or detoured people, but I am certain it did not comprise the fulness of his welcome into the next life. I’d guess he did actually kneel (if spirits can kneel) and kiss his Savior’s feet. The atonement covers sins I personally might not want to forgive. If I can’t forgive what the Savior can and does, where does that leave me?

  42. Yikes! Enough On Paul Dunn.

    Interesting to point out that my copy of MD is the pre-1978 version with all the bad stuff still in it. I should point out that the only time I have opened it in the last 20 years was to read the objectionable content, shake my head, and put it away.

    But someone investigating the church, or a new member, not familiar with the history of this volume, could easily see it in Deseret Book and pick up a copy innocently. If it were a small handful of errors, I could cut it some slack; but the egregious nature of the errors that remain truly merit shredding.

    The difficulty of nailing down a volume of specific and enduring doctrines makes a reliable replacement a difficult task. I look at the reverence currently being placed on “Preach My Gospel”, that it almost gains scriptural status amongst some members, and take that as an indication of the need for a supplement to the scriptures that is available to a mass audience. Bishops and Stake Presidents have the Handbook of Instructions, and it is updated if not frequently at least regularly. But even that publication is more about polices and practices than doctrinal pronouncements. We need to understand that our doctrine has a few concrete/absolute points of reference, and much of the rest is still left up to the individual to find out for himself. I suspect even trying to fix an even half dozen doctrinal statements we could all agree with might prove to be more than we are capable of.

    So, by definition, MD should go. It’s like trying to nail jello to a wall.

  43. An addendum to my comment # 42. I have always found much to admire and respect in regards to Bruce R. McConkie, not the least of which was his public pronouncement that he was wrong about the priesthood restriction. He certainly deserves our respect for the humility to so publicly admit his errors. I get the sense that he did a very specific change to MD, but figured that in his life he had moved on, and expected others to do so as well. His testimony of Christ still moves me, so many years later.

  44. Aaron Brown says:

    john f. (#17),

    Do you really want to hang your hat on the MD vs. Conference talk distinction? I ask because I’m genuinely curious as to whether one can confidently proclaim that McConkie’s conference addresses don’t also contain problematic material. You say “to my knowledge,” so I don’t know what knowledge you have on the subject. But surely McConkie’s “Seven Deadly Heresies” talk is one of the most doctrinally problematic talks ever given; I don’t think it was a conference address, per se (was it?), but it certainly suggests McConkie wasn’t inclined to hold back in public fora.


  45. AB, I’m not as conflicted as all that. I sustain Elder McConkie as an Apostle/GA. I don’t sustain Mormon Doctrine. If that’s incoherent, oh well.

  46. I think the talk you’re referring to was a BYU Tuesday morning devotional.

  47. I think it’s important to keep in mind this is not about Bruce R. McConkie, this is about Deseret Book. He was a child of his times just as we all are. But DB stands as a gatekeeper for something that should have been long ago retired. Elder McConkie, changed his mind and discourse when the revelation on the priesthood was given. That DB continues the publish what he himself had given up on is the shame.

  48. Nick,

    You’ll be pleased to know that the long term plans for EoM are to put it online and allow for collaborative editing. You’ll be able to list the date and time of each Masonic event that Joseph Smith Jr. attended.

  49. The perpetual popularity of Mormon Doctrine is due at least in part to the fact that those reading it like what they read and believe that it is correct and that it justifies their own viewpoints. If it didn’t resonate so well with Mormons it wouldn’t sell so well.

    While I’d love to see it simply go out of print, it would still take decades for its influence to decline. Part of this is due to our culture of not confronting mistakes head-on. Instead we simple stop hearing the mistaken doctrine from the pulpit, which does little to diminish it in the eyes of those that love it.

  50. Kristine says:

    Steve (#37), you’re simply mistaken as to the facts. A few of Dunn’s stories were exaggerated, but only one has ever been demonstrated to be an outright falsehood. You need to do your homework before you go accusing people of “great evil.”

  51. #42:( Mormon Doctrine) “But the egregious nature of the errors that remain truly merit shredding”. But were these errors when the book was written, or mainline Mormonism?
    Before laying such heavy blame on this book, we should ask if it was out of hand for it’s time. Clearly “No Man Knows My History”, was openly hated. “Mormon Doctrine” was not.

  52. Kristine,

    I hope you are kidding. . .

    Let’s just take two general areas — World War II and playing professional baseball:

    * Here is what Dunn said: “There were 1,000 of us in my combat team who left San Francisco on that fateful journey, and there were six of u.s who came back two and a half years later. How do you like that for odds! And of the six of us, five had been severely wounded two or more times and had been sent back into the line as

    * The facts were radically different. Records are not available for all of the unit Dunn referenced (a Division). But, of the 200 member battalion in which he served, only 5 were killed and 15 injured. Of note, his Division never played a major role in any battle. Remember all of his stories of fighting the Japanese and saving his comrades? All fake.

    * Dunn on baseball: “”When I was 18 years old, a rookie with the St. Louis Cardinals, I reported to spring training.”

    * The facts are that he played high school ball, a bit while in the Army and for a semi-pro team. He never got near the major or minor leagues. All of the stories of playing against Joe Demaggio, Ted Williams, Lou Gherig, etc. were made up. All of them.

    Here is a summary of what Lynn Packer, a BYU professor, found: https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/pdf/083-35-57.pdf

    It wasn’t one story. As Lynn Packer noted, he couldn’t find a single baseball or war story that was true. Not one. And, those were the majority of the stories.

  53. Bob, # 51. This gets to my point about our doctrine not being easily characterized, something of a moving target. Stapley’s post about Tripartite Existentialism from last month shows how difficult it is to exactly define and characterize a fairly important doctrine, the nature of our pre-existent spirits.

    I’m not sure what exactly the 1067 errors that Mark E. Peterson claimed to find, but John F’s comment in # 17 shows that there were questions and misgivings at the time that MD was published. Over time, it has been shown to be even more problematic. We know better now, we have learned, line upon line, etc…..

    In retrospect, the book merits shredding, now. And perhaps, the concept of any book by any author entitled “Mormon Doctrine”, becomes harder to visualize, unless we create an LDS.org Doctrinal Wiki (shudders in horror at the thought).

  54. I once attended a BYU fireside where we heard Elder Dunn speak. At the end of the meeting, many of us went up to meet him and have him sign our baseballs. He was very friendly and even told us a short story on the spot…

    “Knock knock,” he began. Those of us who had gathered around looked at eachother a little confused. Finally one of the men inquired as to who was there.

    To which Dunn replied “Little old lady”

    The story goes on from there with a clever twist (something about yodeling), but the point is, all of us who were there that night, including the man himself, knew very well that he was not a little old lady.

    It was very dissapointing.

  55. Steve Evans says:

    Steve, calling that a “great evil” is pretty funny. Darfur is a great evil. The Holocaust was a great evil. Paul H. Dunn’s yarn-spinning: not a great evil. Like, not even a good evil. It was at best a yawn-inducing evil. Upplaying it is an ironic disservice – when it comes to describing fakery, doesn’t it behoove us to be accurate?

  56. Mr. Evans —

    The issue was that he manipulated the members of the church for decades.

    I attended one live fireside with him. He made you think he had been a war hero, that he’d been miraculously saved when others had been killed. He used his baseball stories to illustrate moral points and fortify folks’ testimonies. You thought he was a great man who’d been prepared to serve the Lord through dramatic acts.

    That kind of playing with emotional states was simply cruel. Worse, he used the stories to profit from the many books he wrote (I had a half a dozen on my shelf as a teenager).

    Certainly, this ranks small when compared to incomprehensible evil that killed 6 million Jews. But, it was utterly wrong.

    I’m startled that some would defend such manipulation, such deception.

  57. Steve, your hyperbole is beginning to match his stories. Name one person here who has “defended such manipulation, such deception”. There isn’t anyone; there only has been defense of the man (and one mistaken comment about the number of his stories that were wrong) – which is a very different thing.

  58. Steve Evans says:

    (plays miniature violin)

  59. Left Field says:

    I think it was documented in Sunstone that Paul Dunn did play in one professional baseball game.

  60. Aaron Brown says:

    Well, all I know is, I made up this great story about the MTCs and enemas once, and everyone fell for it, but the fakery was worth it, since it brought joy and gladness to many souls.


  61. #53: I mostly agree with you.
    Most of what I know of the writing of Mormon Doctrine and Bruce R. McConkie comes from Prince’s book on McKay (51-53), Wikipedia, and having lived in those times. People should read Prince’s and come to their own view. But that is hard without making Judgments about the persons involved. All we know for sure, the book lives on, and still brings on passions.
    ( I personally was yelled at by my MP for having a copy in 1965! ).
    All I am trying to says is the issues of the writing of the book, are bigger than the Book itself.

  62. I tell all my youth Sunday School classes that M&Ms were invented by the church to celebrate Wilford Woodruff’s birthday. Then they were sold to an East Coast candy firm who just flipped them upside down to save money.

  63. It is hyperbole to label Dunn’s actions a great evil, yes.

    On the other hand, one should not downplay their seriousness. Dunn’s exaggerations had a serious effect on individual lives and on the testimonies of some people I know. The damage was exacerbated by the way that Mormon testimony is constructed. It’s common to build testimony around a multi-step process of reading a passage or listening to an account and then asking whether one feels the Spirit. The feeling is used as an indication of the truth of the account.

    Many people believed that they felt the Spirit listening to Elder Dunn’s accounts. Those accounts later proved to be factually incorrect.

    This potentially undermines the entire process of listening to an account, asking whether one feels the Spirit, and using that as an indication of the account’s truth. That is, if the good feelings from hearing Dunn’s account are not actually an indication of truth, then what about the good feelings from hearing Joseph Smith’s account?

  64. Steve Evans says:

    Kaimi, in my mind it’s somewhat analogous to receiving the sacrament or an ordinance performed by someone unworthy. Does the experience not exist somehow? Is the whole thing fake or invalid? I don’t think so. I don’t think that we need to entirely second-guess spiritual experiences because the underlying account was not truthful, because in the case of Paul Dunn the Spirit is not serving to testify as to the truth of the statements being given, but rather as to the principles and moral lessons involved.

    I agree that Elder Dunn’s exaggerations are problematic, but it serves little to keep beating him up about it as if he’d eaten babies. In other words, let’s not up-play or downplay, please.

  65. It is meant for Children, but what you are asking for is already out there by the church. It is very comprehensive and simple to understand. You can find it in Desert Books. It is called Mormon Encyclopedia or something like that…

  66. Thomas Parkin says:

    “This potentially undermines the entire process of listening to an account, asking whether one feels the Spirit, and using that as an indication of the account’s truth.”


    An experience with the Holy Spirit might feel good, depending on who you are. But, really, random good feelings have nothing to do with feeling the Spirit.

    I feel full of bloody joy when the Vancouver Canucks win. Or when I find money. Or when my toothache goes away.

    So, let it be undermined. If it isn’t undermined by this one thing, it will be another. Then our subject can start fresh, or not, and learn the gospel, or not, and live it, or not, and and get the companionship of the Spirit as something like a constant companion with the constant flow of revelation and sanctification that implies, or not. ~

  67. Aaron Brown says:

    “I don’t think that we need to entirely second-guess spiritual experiences because the underlying account was not truthful, because in the case of Paul Dunn the Spirit is not serving to testify as to the truth of the statements being given, but rather as to the principles and moral lessons involved”

    Well gee, Steve, if you say so. Problem is, lots of folks won’t see this distinction, so I think Kaimi has a point.

    Still, your call for avoiding both extremes is hard to argue with. I think that how seriously a lot of us look at Dunn’s fabrications may turn on the reactions of those around us at the time they were exposed. In my case, if I had a dollar for everyone who excused Dunn by saying he was “creating Mormon folklore,” as if we should admire his storytelling skills, I’d have like 37 dollars. And thus, the downplaying of Dunn’s fibs always grates more than the up-playing.


  68. Thomas Parkin says:

    “n the case of Paul Dunn the Spirit is not serving to testify as to the truth of the statements being given, but rather as to the principles and moral lessons involved.”

    I think in some instances with Paul Dunn, those in which he was exaggerating, or whatever, those who ‘felt the Spirit’ were often feeling enthusiasm because he was a great cheerleader for the side they wanted to see ‘win. While I’m sure he was in many ways an admirable man, and quite likely himself capable of hearing the Spirit and acting on it, the kind of emotional manipulation he wittingly or unwittingly used to get people on the right side has done no end of damage in the church. I view it as of a kind with other emotional manipulations, especially of the youth, that are fundamentally untruthful and demonstrate what seems to me can only be an underlying anxiety towards, or even lack of faith in, simple truthfulness. ~

  69. John Withers says:

    Hi Aaron — this reminds me of that missionary who defected with you from Trelew (whose name escapes me) who would get up and tell absolute lies in F&T meeting, leaving people in tears and talking about how strong the spirit was.

    I guess I never really associated those kinds of feelings with the spirit. I remember someone bearing their testimony about some tear-jerker movie once — something to the effect that at the end, when everyone in the theater was crying, he wanted to stand up and tell them all that they were feeling the spirit. I’m not so sure about that. I think that being in that kind of vulnerable state can make someone more sensitive to the spirit, but that that feeling that isn’t the spirit itself.

    Or something like that anyway.

    John Withers

  70. Gee, I thought that Christ made it clear that only those who are without sin among us are qualified to cast stones…

    Using the same logic presented here, the Bible should no longer be printed and all copies of it currently in circulation shredded. How many errors in it? Can we unanimously agree on even half of the doctrines it contains?

    What happens when an unsuspecting newcomer to Christianity finds out that Solomon worshiped idols, or that David was guilty of both lust and murder? What damage is done to those who read the sexist statements of Paul? And if they do the math regarding the number of people who died horrific deaths by God’s will?

    The root of the problem is that some people base their testimonies on people, be they apostles or baseball or military heroes-rather than on the living God and His gospel. Those who view the Apostles as mere mortals who must also struggle with the flesh and ego might be disappointed when they learn of their mistakes, but it has no bearing on real faith.

    When members have done their due diligence, they know how the gift of the Holy Ghost works and comprehend their own role in revelation. They understand that his job is to bear witness of the Father and the Son, and to reveal and teach eternal, gospel truths if they are worthy and when they are ready for it. And they know that having fun or enjoying oneself at a fireside is not equal to obtaining a witness that everything the speaker said was “true”.

  71. I agree with Thomas-good-let it be undermined. All faith based on anything other than the Savior will fall, and the sooner it falls, the more time there is to rebuild on the proper rock.

    For cryin out loud people. The Church of Jesus Christ does not exist to give people warm fuzzies, or help them make friends, or to provide a happy, polite experience to everyone who comes into contact with it. It exists to bring human beings back into the presence of God through the Atonement of His Son. It exists as a means to “warn our neighbors” and cry repentance. It exists as a conduit to the covenants and ordinances that are required to obtain eternal exaltation. If the individual teachings of a handful of men could actually “hurt” it, or even register as speed bumps-well mates, we’d all be screwed AND stupid.

    If Paul H. Dunn’s stories or Brigham’s racism or BRM’s in-your-face opinions are enough to knot your knickers permanently-well then an eternity watching your own children lie, steal, molest and kill each other probably ain’t something you’d be very good at anyway. Good grief.

  72. Church!

  73. #52 calls Paul Dunn expose author Lynn Packer a BYU professor, when the cited article calls him an instructor. There is a difference. How easy it is to slip into exaggeration to bolster a case (or to teach a lesson).

  74. Just to second Matsby, Mormon Doctrine is not a KKK manual. There is a lot that is objectionable in there and a lot that isn’t. It is possible for people to find the diamonds amongst the rough. That said, editing of those two entries (Race and Castes of Man) to reflect a post-2000 understanding would be worthwhile.

  75. Here’s my canned response that I post whenever some opponent of the Church tries to harpoon us with MD:
    I noticed that you quoted from “Mormon Doctrine.” Please note that the author wrote in the Preface of this book, for both the 1st and the 2nd editions, “For the work itself, I assume sole and full responsibility.” He also wrote in the second edition’s Preface, “In publishing this Second Edition, as is common with major encyclopedic-type works, experience has shown the wisdom of making some changes, clarifications, and additions.”
    This book was published by Bookcraft, an independent publisher then.
    1) The book states that it is solely the responsibility of the author: it is not offered as authoritative for LDS doctrine
    2) The author himself views the content as flexible, subject to changes.
    3) It was not published by the Church nor by an entity controlled by the Church
    These being true, it never is appropriate to use “Mormon Doctrine” as an authoritative source about, well, Mormon doctrine.

  76. A couple 1-volume predecessors to MD were “Latter-day Prophets Speak” and “LDS Reference Encyclopedia.” I inherited both from an uncle in the early 1970s.

  77. #75:”Grant suggested that the magazine’s staff ( Era) should start a new LDS publishing company, separate from Deseret Book. In 1942, the Era’s business manager, John Kenneth Orton, started Bookcraft as a private publishing house in Salt Lake City, Utah”.

    Though independent, Bookcraft established itself as a quasi-official[3] publisher of conservative, faith-promoting works[4], and was very careful to follow church leadership[5]. Bookcraft eventually became large enough to compete with Deseret Book’s lower publishing costs[3], and become the second largest LDS publisher”. (Wikipedia)
    The Church is fully responsibility for the book now.

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