Major Anti-LDS Allegation #2: My Personal Reply

Antagonists’ Major Allegation: LDS Church Leaders Made Mistakes or Misstatements

The internet is full of anti-Mormon articles and videos. Some are by former members who left the church, but who cannot leave the church alone.

Most of the anti-LDS websites make the same allegations. They point to something a church leader said, or a mistake they made, and ask, “How can an infallible prophet/leader make such a statement or mistake?”

Personal Response

This Criticism is Based on a Fallacy

This criticism is based on the well recognized logical fallacy of ignoracio elenchi.   This is a logical fallacy of disproving something that the opponent has not even claimed. This is akin to the “straw-man fallacy.

We never claimed that church leaders are infallible. We never claimed that church leaders are perfect. Only Jesus himself led a sin-free or mistake-free life. Only Christ was infallible and perfect.

The LDS church repeatedly affirms that all of its leaders have and will continue to make mistakes. That is an inherent part of being human.

  • James E. Faust declared: “We make no claim of infallibility or perfection in the prophets, seers, and revelators.” 
  • Charles W. Penrose proclaimed, “We do not believe that his [prophet’s] personal views or utterances are revelations from God.
  • Spencer W. Kimball stated, “I make no claim of infallibility.

Everyone makes mistakes. This includes the biblical prophets and apostles and the modern prophets and apostles. But that does not mean that the apostles and prophets and church leaders are not great individuals who are inspired servants of the Lord. 

I would never want to be placed in the scales of judgment opposite any of the modern prophets or church leaders. Likewise, those making the accusations never measure up in stature to the church leaders they are criticizing. “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”

Most of the criticism focuses on two individuals: Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. We need to learn more about these leaders before misinterpreting or misjudging them. 

The Fallible Prophet Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith was the first to admit his many mistakes. He said that if the members of the church would put up with his mistakes, he would put up with theirs.

For example, Joseph Smith had a facetious and playful streak. His brother Hyrum rebuked Joseph for not “acting like a prophet.” Joseph Smith often responded to ridiculous questions with a facetious answer. 

For example, according to a third hand account, when someone pestered Joseph about whether there were people on the moon, he answered, in essence, “Sure, and they are about 6 feet tall and dress just like the Quakers.” (When Apollo 11 landed on the moon, and there were no Quakers, some people actually left the church. Inconceivable!) 

According to second hand accounts, Joseph gave similar facetious responses when someone pressed him about the location of the lost ten tribes. In one tale, he said the lost tribes were inside the hollow earth at the north pole. In another tale, he said they were on a “little twinkler” near the north star.

Just because Joseph Smith may have made mistakes does not mean he was not God’s prophet. (See: Amos 3:7)

(If you really want to learn about Joseph Smith, go to YouTube: Professor Truman G. Madsen’s, multi-part series: Lectures on Joseph Smith. I have read over a dozen biographies and books on Joseph Smith, and, despite his human flaw and mistakes, they have only increase my testimony of his prophetic calling.)

The Fallible Prophet Brigham Young

Brigham Young was also the first to admit his mistakes.  Brigham said all sort of crazy things. It was part of his culture and times.

For example, he said the ocean tides were caused by the earth breathing in and out. He one time insisted that the Salt Lake Temple should be built out of adobe instead of granite, because granite breaks down into sand, but adobe keeps getting harder. In general conference, other apostles sometimes contradicted Brigham’s off-the-wall comments, and Brigham often ended up retracting his statements. 

Importantly, Brigham Young was adamant that neither he nor the Lord wanted blind obedience:

“I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him.  I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, that they are led in the right way. 
Let every man and woman know, by the whisperings of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates or not.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p 135)

Just because Brigham Young may have made mistakes does not mean he was not God’s prophet.

(If you really want to learn about Brigham Young, go to Leonard Arrington’s classic book Brigham Young: American Moses. I have studied Brigham Young in depth. The more I study him, the more I recognize him as a prophet of God.)

All Prophets and Apostles Make Mistakes — Only Jesus is Perfect

A prophet is only a prophet when acting in his capacity as a prophet. Even then, all prophets and apostles have, and will, continue to make mistakes. (Look at the flaws and mistakes of the prophets and apostles in the Bible.)

Maybe leaders say something stupid. Maybe they don’t put their dirty clothes in the hamper. Maybe their socks don’t match. Everybody makes mistakes. So what?  Only Jesus is perfect.

I personally take great comfort when a church leader says something wrong or makes a mistake.  If the Lord does not reject them because of their mistakes, then there is hope for me.

(Sources: “Did Joseph Smith state that the moon was inhabited, and that it’s inhabitants were dressed like Quakers?” FairMormon Answers, fairmormon.org; “Did Joseph Smith believe that the lost Ten Tribes were living under the polar ice cap?” FairMormon Answers, fairmormon.org; Teaching of the Prophet Brigham Young, p. 241; “The temple is the heart of sacred work,” Church News, thechurchnews.com, Feb. 6, 1993)

(Other “Sunday Sermons” at londonedition.home.blog or http://www.londonedition.net)

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