Posted by: Jay | June 2, 2007

Having realistic expectations of God’s prophets

I am convinced that the LDS Church could prevent a lot of people from leaving if it would do one thing, create a realistic expectation of what a prophet is in the minds of converts. When we sit down and think about it it’s obvious, the only perfect person was Christ. Why do we expect perfection from a prophet (e.g. Biblical or modern day)? Growing up in the LDS faith I had a movie star image of Joseph Smith and other LDS leaders. No one ever told me they were perfect, but that’s what I came to expect. Most of this image was formed by the polished LDS Church literature and movies that I was taught from growing up. Leaders were always put in the best light creating the illusion of perfection.

Now I know that some LDS members would say that sounds like an attack on the church, but that’s not what it is. I understand that the LDS Church wants to promote a certain image and that’s why they do what they do. I’m not faulting them for that. I don’t believe they are intentionally deceiving as anti-LDS claim (the information is out there).

They want to promote a certain idea and image of LDS history. They downplay or ignore the controversy so that the focus will be on Christ and his teachings, not on how many wives early leaders had. But in doing this, I believe the Church is setting up members to be picked off by “anti-Mormons” and others that expose naive members (I include myself in this group) to parts of church history that were previously unknown to them. A simple reminder that even a prophet can put his foot in his mouth would help members realize what they already know and prevent them from leaving because of human weaknesses that even prophets are subjected to.



  1. It has been remarked upon that glossy profiles and stories about General Authorities are presented to children starting with ‘The Friend’ magazine and even before. While most me members would probably reject charges of a gradual deification of the GA’s, they are in effect presented to us as near perfect figures, and unambiguously good in nature, temperament, and council. They can not help but fail to meet these expectations, though occasionally some can come across as ‘buying into their own publicity’. While teaching children a more holistic understanding of human character, as it applies to authority is difficult, this should get less so as they age and progress. American’s don’t need to think that George Washington cut down the cherry tree to believe that he was honest, so a similar corollary would apply to depictions of church leaders past and present. The heavy mytholoigazation of real people is easily exposed now days, so realistic expectations, not idealizations, would surely be the best way to preserve faith.

  2. I guess this is foreign to me because all along during my talks with the Sisters they reiterated over and over that the Church leaders were mere mortals who could make mistakes and say things that weren’t doctrine.

    I read almost immediately from Church literature and D&C that Joseph Smith lost pages of the manuscript… plus several other things he was chastened for.

    Also, here is a quote from the Joseph Smith himself…

    “…Many persons think a prophet must be a great deal better than any one else. Suppose I would condescend–yes, I will call it condescend!–to be a great deal better than any one of you, I would be raised up to the highest heaven; and who should I have to accompany me? I love that man better who swears a stream as long as my arm yet deals justice to his neighbors, and mercifully deals his substance to the poor, than the long, smooth-faced hypocrite. I do not want you to think that I am very righteous, for I am not.”

    When I joined the Church I read everything I could get my hands on. The history, the discources, The entire BoM, D&C and Pearl of Great Price… I also checked out all the tapes in the Church library and watched all of them. Those tapes portrayed everyone as fallable, including and especially Church leaders in all capacities. But they showed how people could improve and grow and do better…

    Maybe lifetime members should spend some time listening to and watching and reading the literature that is available in all Church libraries.

  3. You know, I got a call as I typed that last paragraph and now that I read it again it sounds really snarky… That’s not how I meant it. Sorry!

    I just meant to say that some great stuff is available in the Church libraries and even though a lot of those tapes are done in the 80’s and are kinda 80’s style lame, they do have great messages and don’t gloss over anything. They show real people in real situations, but also show how they may have made different and better choices. I highly recommend them. There are usually around 6 stories per tape. I believe they have some on DVD now.

    Also, I got the DOS version of the history of the Church and the Discources and those CDs also had several LDS books on them. But they included tons of discources by not only Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, but many of the early, lessor known people from the early Church.

    I guess I’m just saying that a strong testimony doesn’t come by happenstance… it requires time and effort and work. But it’s a great deal of fun and interesting!!

    It’s definitely bedtime now…

  4. What is a testimony?

    Is it something that you have convinced yourself of?
    Is it the product of brainwashing?
    Is it the product of sure knowledge?
    Is it something that you believe even in light of overwhelming evidence to the contrary?

    What is the true origin of a testimony?

    I have read the BoM 10 times cover to cover. I have studied and prayed…and nothing.
    No testimony. This is growing increasingly more difficult for me in light of the DNA and lack of Archeological evidence…not to mention all the inconsistencies and stuff that just doesn’t make sense.

  5. Bishop Rick – I have read many of your postings at Mormanity over the last few years and quite frankly you’ve always sounded Anti-Mormon to me.

    Spiritual things are spiritually discerned… the natural mind can’t ‘get it’… which is why so many spend years studying the Bible and BoM and never get a testimony of either. They are looking with natural eyes and don’t have an open heart. Most are those who wouldn’t follow Christ regardless.

    It’s telling that when someone has no testimony of their own they love to pretend that those that do have one are just self-convinced or brainwashed or something believed in *light* of *overwhelming* evidence to the contrary (three of your four choices). Your *overwhelming* evidence isn’t *overwhelming* and it isn’t evidence. Only in your mind.

    The origin of a testimony is the Holy Ghost. It is only by the Holy Ghost that someone can claim Jesus as Lord and know it in their heart. And it is a sure knowledge. But that sure knowledge may be about only one thing to start with… and it is built on from there as one feeds and nourishes themselves with the words of God.

    My guess is that you know in your heart why you don’t have a testimony. Most do and if you ask them enough questions, they will tell you eventually.

    And clearly you are a person who would be swayed by perceived ‘facts’ (which are only unknowns at the time) and wouldn’t accept it as truth regardless, so why would you even expect to get an answer? Would you heed that answer if you got it?

    I look back at the time Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon and those people were amazing. They read something that at that time truly had no *proof* at all except the witnesses… but because of the powerful testimony given to them by the Holy Ghost they were willing to give up their lives for the Church and Jesus Christ. They suffered all manner of persecution.

    Since then MANY evidences have come to light. I’m grateful my testimony came to light prior to my knowledge of the evidences… because that kind of testimony can’t be easily shaken. Now the evidences are just intriguing… but they have no bearing on my testimony.

    You know, a good thing to look at is supposed eye-witness testimony of car accidents or robbings or such… I witnessed an accident once while at a light… I could see the car coming from the side was not going to stop and in that split moment when I looked back up at the light, just to confirm it was indeed green the accident happened.

    I thought the car hit one of the two cars that went through the intersection that were in front of me… but it turns out it hit someone coming through the intersection opposite me.

    My eye-witness account was faulty. But the accident happened none the less. I was able to say FOR SURE that the car ran a red light. I could say FOR SURE they hit another car. But the direction that other car came from that they hit I could not answer accurately.

    The point to me is that once again humans are imperfect. Do I care that a few things don’t line up in the New Testament? Nope… most does. Do I care that some things *appear* to not have evidence for the BoM? Nope… most of it does. But even in light of no evidence, I believe because I have a much surer source for my belief, that is the Holy Ghost.

    And prior to my testimony being received I told God I would follow Him wherever He led. If Joseph Smith were a true Prophet, I’d go with the Church, period. If he wasn’t, I just needed to know that and I’d still follow Christ as I knew Him down a different path. All I wanted was truth.

    I didn’t want to follow a false Prophet, nor did I want to reject a true one. Father knew my heart was sincere and He would never have handed me a scorpion in answer to a sincere heartfelt prayer such as I prayed.

  6. jayleen,

    If you have read my comments on Mormanity, you know how I feel about the Holy Ghost and prayer. Too subjective, in my opinion, to base eternity on. I mean, how do I know I got the right feeling about the right thing? You might think you know, but the reality is you can’t know.

    I used to feel as you do regarding the HG, etc. but I can no longer just base religion on warm fuzzies. I need more than that now. I have started breaking down religion as a whole (not as a Mormon) and quite frankly there are too many holes to make me feel comfortable. Religion as an institution starts to break down when you step outside of the LDS box, then the Christian box, then the Religion box. and look at the whole picture.

    This is really a topic for a paper, not a blog post, but just a sampling of things I struggle with:

    Why was there no religion for pre-Adam humans? (by that I mean humans that lived more than 6000 years ago). Were they not worthy, or were they too stupid? What flipped the switch?

    Why was Christianity (or any religion for that matter) only presented to such a small group of people, while neglecting others?

    Why, in the history of the world, would God only put the true religion on earth for 50 some odd years before letting it fall away, then not restore it for 2000 years, only to be around for a few hundred prior to the second coming? Doesn’t seem like enough people are given the opportunity to hear the “truth”.

    If it really needed restoring, why restore it to only a handful of people that are not capable of spreading it to a detectable percentage of the world population?

    Did Jesus really intend to start a new religion? He was a Jewish Rabbi afterall.

    Why does God have a chosen people? Which of your children are “chosen” compared to the rest?

    Why are there saving ordinances? – what difference does it make if learn the secret handshakes, am emersed in water by the right person or drink a cup of coffee? I believe that what matters is the intention of one’s heart, not the extent to which I follow a bunch of man-made rules and restrictions.

    BTW – I am just expressing you (and other readers) how I feel inside. This is not anti-Morman. I am Mormon. I am just no longer satisfied with the empty answers I get to my questions.

  7. The Ordinances can help us learn the Gospel… everything in them is symbolic. They are not for God’s benefit, it is for ours.

    And if you study your realize that all children are taken care of… just at different times depending on their obedience.

    The Restoration was necessary…. Read a Marvelous Work and a Wonder… and he chose a young farm boy for His wise purposes. My thoughts on that was that Joseph Smith wasn’t already brainwashed with other religions. And he had a willing heart and was called before even coming to earth.

    There is a reason for that generation to reject Jesus. It was prophesied that they would and they did. And the Church left the earth at that time as a result.

    And the Church is spreading around the World at a great rate. Tempes springing up all over the world… It truly is a Marvelous Work and a Wonder.

    It’s too late to answer all your questions. But one thing for sure… You are not Mormon and I don’t know why you keep calling yourself Mormon. You are anti-Mormon and show that with evey post you make that I have read.

    And as I said, I’m not following a warm fuzzy feeling. My conversion was Saul on the road to Damascus Powerful…. something absolutely undeniable. It happens to some of us who are called according to His purpose. I am currently working toward that purpose.

    I’ll try to address more tomorrow if you still want me to. I’m too tired tonight.

    I hope you find joy in life and joy in the Gospel. I have to wonder what your intent is when you don’t want to follow what Jesus said to do. But I’m sure you’ll work it out for yourself.

  8. The trouble with The Church Prophet is that he doesn’t communicate with God the same way the early Prophets supposedly did and it must worry him sometimes , although at 97 he has managed to keep up the facade ….

    Jayleen ….Temples springing up around the world is no more a marvelous work and a wonder than any other business which is expanding …. The more Temples you put up , the more pressure to keep Tithing coming in to maintain and run them .

    The way you get converts is the same way other businesses get customers by clever marketing and not telling the truth .

    Its an Honorable thing in belief to put up your Temples but the reality is they are not needed . They are just a continuation of Joseph Smiths wild Imagination …

  9. Jayleen,

    I am on the LDS church records as an active member. I am a card carrying Mormon complete with callings and a perfect attendance record. I am sealed in the Temple with 2 BIC children and one foster child. Whether you like it or not, I am Mormon.

    You are typical in your thinking that my lack of testimony is due to my unfaithfulness. I am totally sincere in my study and inquiry, and for the longest time, wanted the church to be true more than anything. I tried to live my life PERFECT in every way for years (and I mean perfect), because I knew that if I did I woudl be worthy to have the same testimony that every other member seemed to have. Never came. You have no right to judge me or label me when you know nothing about me.

    So Jesus appeared to you and asked you why you are persecuting his church? If you really had this type of experience I would love to hear about it.

  10. EJ, Temples and churches are not erected until there are enough members in an area to justify them. So the building of a new temple is a big deal. It means there are enough members in that area to sustain it. Volunteers are needed to keep it going.

  11. I think the issue here is that the LDS population of say 12 million is would not even show up on a graph of the 7 billion world population. When you start a zero, you can show exponential growth in Year to Year percentages, but in the overall spectrum, you don’t even register. This is just a snapshot of today. If you add all LDS members that ever lived to all Christians that lived during the time of Jesus, and compared that to the World population over the existance of the human kind, the number is devastatingly low.

    I’m sorry, but this is not a good plan for having the truth on the earth. Quite frankly, this plan is a total disaster.

    Jayleen says that all children will be taken care of. If this is true, then why bother because 99.999% of the world population will have to be taken care of by proxy anyway.

    Seems silly that .001% of the population get the truth and have to grandfather the remaining 99.999%. Should be that the truth is in the majority, or at least in a descernable minority rather than a rounding error.

    The World population is growing faster than the LDS church so the plan is actually losing ground even though it is one of the fastest growing.

  12. Actually, if you think the way you say, the LDS Church makes the most sense. They are the only ones that preach baptism for the dead and thus a chance at salvation for everyone. If I’m wrong let me know. This doctrine shows the mercy of God for His children that just didn’t have a chance to hear about Christ or His gospel.

  13. Jay, I agree with you in this respect. Though I don’t know for sure, I believe the LDS church is the only one that practices Baptism for the Dead.

    This said, you have to admit that the workload is overwhelmingly daunting. Why not just give the word to the people up front rather than having to depend on such an enormous amount of damage control?

    Though this softens the plan to some small degree, it is still a poorly concieved plan.

  14. In my opinion that is.

  15. Rick, considering in theory we have a lot of time to do the work, I don’t think it’s a lost cause. But yes it is daunting.

  16. I understand that the completion is supposed to take place during the Millenium, but seems like an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure…in this case a ton of cure.

    I mean seriously, why are we even here if nearly none of us are to hear the truth?

  17. if i can drag catholicism and the happy protestants into the mix, i think ALL churches would have better retention of membership if they focused on christ as our sole example.

    christian is like christ, no?

    even biblical prophets, like david (yes i count him among them), abraham (likewise), moses, elijah, etc . . . the bible lays out their faults and foibles.

    sometimes the *example* to learn from with these men is the bad example.

    sometimes they are there to show us what *not* to do.

    good post.

    good discussion.

  18. Paul said that they without us cannot be perfect and we without them. I can’t think of a more beautiful way to help all generations learn to love each other and feel connected to each other. It truly is the spirit of Elijah. And it’s not just doing the work, it’s also the process of doing our geneology that links us to our ancestors in a way that not doing it wouldn’t.

    Bishop Rick – For 4 years I have been reading your posts at Mormanity and I don’t care if you claim to be a card carrying member or not, you do not believe what this Church teaches, therefore you are not Mormon. Do you not realize that God knows the difference? You can fool people, but you cannot fool God.

    Poorly conceived plan? Damage control? Are you kidding? And you want me to believe you are Mormon? LOL

    You could tell me you were a chair… it wouldn’t make it so, but it would be easier to believe.

    Good grief… I only have so much cyber time and can’t afford to waste it on people who are just plain prevaricators.

  19. and yet you just did :mrgreen:

    .*. again .*.

    hrmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm . . .

    (methinks the lady doth protest too much)


    seriously, i’m not even a mormon and i can see what this guy is

    at a glance

    it is indeed an utter waste of time to argue with proselytizers (one of the reasons i rarely argue with mormons)

    they are almost never willing to actually learn anything that doesn’t fit what they already believe

  20. brahnamin,

    Please tell me what I am?

  21. Jay,

    I saw your blog as a forum to discuss Mormon issues. My comments (referencing your posts) have tried to do that, but I feel that there are those that wish to attack me.

    If you would like for me to stop commenting on your blog, I would be happy to respect that and will delete your blog from my bookmark list.

    If you don’t mind me hanging around and offering a different view from within the LDS church, I would appreciate if you could ask some of the other posters to stop attacking me simply because they don’t share my opinion.

    I have opened up here and offered my true feelings on these topics only to be greeted with personal attacks. These attacks only serve to chase people with opinions like mine away, resulting in a pretty vanilla discussion.

    Your call.

  22. Jayleen,

    I was treated much the same way over at Mormanity. Except for Jeff.

    I wonder if you remember the times that I staunchly defended Jeff when true anti-mormons slammed him on his blog.

    You probably don’t remember those comments. You only remember the ones that you don’t agree with.

  23. Bishop Rick-

    You said: “I mean seriously, why are we even here if nearly none of us are to hear the truth?”

    I think one of the main points you are missing in all of this is the doctrine of Free Agency. I think in the perfect world everyone will have had the opportunity in this life to hear and accept the truth- the gospel as delivered to Adam & passed from generation to generation.

    Let me illustrate (I may be going out on a limb on this but here it goes). I suspect if Cain hadn’t murdered Abel, he wouldn’t have been cast out as a vagabond. He began a civilization that did not have the gospel.

    There are too many “Cains” in this life- too many people who are given the freedom to make choices that have a negative ripple affect throughout the progression of time. But that was the plan.

    You’ll recall- Mormon doctrine is that to force everyone to hear and live the truth so that not one person would be lost was the plan of Lucifer before the foundations of the World.

    The Infinite Atonement of Christ is just that- Infinite. It carries within it’s reach the saving power for all those who have not had the chance to hear and accept the truth. Or I should say, they are temporarily exempt until they hear the truth in the Spirit World. How it all happens, I just don’t know, but with God all things are possible.

    BTW- Free Agency is one of the reasons why we are here.

  24. Austin,

    I’m not missing the free agency connection. In this case, free agency doesn’t come into play if you never have the chance to choose. I don’t believe in the doctrine that children suffer for the sins of their fathers (cain in this case). That makes no sense to me. It is not fair to the innocent child.

    I understand the whole thing about hearing the truth in the Spirit world with ordinances performed during the Millenium. My point is that not nearly enough people are hearing the truth during their lifetime under this plan. I’m not advocating forcing the truth on them as in Satan’s plan. I just think a good plan would have more people hearing the truth with the opportunity to accept or reject it.

    I just think it is a bad plan. I should not have to be afraid to say that if it is how I feel. It is an honest oppinion.

    I’m not mocking God by saying that, because I’m not sure that plan is God’s plan. I don’t think God would come up with such a flawed plan.

  25. you are an instigator, rick

    you delight in being the center of attention

    you delight in laying out arguments that *can’t be contradicted* – neatly replacing Faith with its shadowy stepchild Intellect

    you are a Proof monger with no real care for the topic at hand, regardless of what topic that might be, so long as you can snuggle up to the illusion of being *right* (or at least being unable to be proven *wrong*)


    how’s that?

  26. ps – you don’t need a question mark (?) at the end of a statement.

  27. Rick, I definitely do not want you to leave. It doesn’t matter to me if you are LDS or not, I value your opinion. I’m not here to say that you are or are not a member (I can’t verify it either way and it doesn’t really matter to me).

    I understand that strong feelings can very easily lead to a heated discussion, but I hope that everyone here knows to treat others with love and respect (that’s what Christ would do). That is what makes this kind of discussion possible. Asking honest questions and giving honest answers from different perspectives. In addition, we must be able to give and take in a little. Maybe we don’t agree with someone’s comments but we can always agree to disagree:)

  28. erm, love and respect notwithstanding, christ was also in the habit of calling a spade a spade and a den of vipers a den of vipers.

    you may be willing to compromise on this, and hey, your site and all, go for it, but in a medium where all a man is is his word, misrepresentation becomes the greatest of all offenses.

  29. OK brahnamin,

    I guess I asked for your opinion and you certainly gave. Now lets move on.

  30. fair enough

  31. though i think this particular topic has about played itself out

  32. Geez brahnamin – get over it already.

  33. I should have waited 5 more seconds before sending that one. Would retract if I could.

  34. “call a spade a spade” is that a racist comment? Someone told me it was, but I don’t think it is. Anybody know?

  35. To call a spade a spade is not a racist comment. The phrase is derived from an ancient greek saying, “ta syka syka, te:n skaphe:n de skaphe:n onomasein” which is to say, “to call a fig a fig, a trough a trough”.

    In 1542, the word trough was mistranslated into English as spade (trough and digging tool were close) and hence “to call a spade a spade” was born.

    This saying has been around since before Christ where the earliest meaning was to denote a rude person who spoke his mind tactlessly. Today, however, the phrase is used in a more positive light denoting someone that is not afraid to speak his mind without sugar coating it.

  36. get over what, #####?
    we were moving on, remember?
    you suggested move on . . . i said fair enough and offered the opinion that perhaps the topic was played out.
    what’s to get over?
    i haven’t said anything else since that.
    perhaps you could explain. use small words and big pictures. sometimes i’m slow

  37. edited by a mormon

    what a . . . surprise . . .

  38. Ok, here is the explaination

    My “Let’s move on” comment was referring to your posts at 1:15 and 1:16. They were pretty sharp but Like I stated, I asked for that.

    Then I read your post at 1:46 and thought that was over the line…hence my “Get over it” comment.

    I sent that comment at exactly the same time you sent your “Fair enough” comment, which prompted my “I should have waited 5 more seconds before sending” comment.

    If I had read your “Fair enough” comment first, I would never have sent my “Get over it” comment.

    Hope this clears things up.

  39. brahnamin, sorry about the edit, but I have to draw the line some where and that’s where I feel comfortable doing it. I very rarely edit because I don’t like to. I hope you are not too offended.

    brahnamin and rick, I don’t think that the conversation you two are having is helping anyone further on this particular topic so please don’t make any more comments to each other on this post or I will have to erase them. I hate doing that, but you guys just keep this thing going. I hope you both continue submitting comments on other posts. Thanks.

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