Definitions

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Criticism of the Latter Day Saint movement

Criticism of the Latter Day Saint movement encompasses criticism of the doctrines, practices, and histories of the denominations of the Latter Day Saint movement, including the largest denomination, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).

The movement has been the subject of criticism since its early years due to the doctrines taught by Joseph Smith, Jr., the movement's founder. Early criticism culminated in the 1838 Mormon War in Missouri. After Mormons were forced to leave Missouri due to the Mormon extermination order issued by Governor Boggs, they relocated to Illinois where a mob, fearing a Mormon takeover, murdered Joseph Smith in 1844. After Smith's death, the Succession Crisis ensued, and various movement denominations struggled for leadership levying criticisms against each prospective leader primarily regarding authority or doctrine. In the late 1800s, critics disapproved of the LDS Church's practice of polygamy. Federal legislators actively began passing laws designed to weaken the church.

Throughout the history of the movement, critics have questioned the legitimacy of Smith as a prophet and the historicity of the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price. In modern times, criticism focuses on claims of historical revisionism, homophobia, racism, sexist policies, and inadequate financial disclosure.

Notable 20th century critics include Jerald and Sandra Tanner, who published The Changing World of Mormonism, and Fawn Brodie, who published the first comprehensive biography of Joseph Smith, No Man Knows My History. In recent years, the internet has provided a new forum for critics, including sites such as Exmormon.org.

Notable apologists include Hugh Nibley, B.H. Roberts, the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), and the Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR).

Movement-wide criticisms

Criticism of sacred texts

Book of Mormon

Archaeology

The Book of Mormon contains an account of peoples who, in succeeding groups between 2500 BC and 600 BC, traveled from the Middle East and settled in the Americas. Evangelical lecturer and journalist Richard Abanes and author David Persuitte argue that aspects of the Book of Mormon narrative (such as the existence of horses, steel, and chariots in pre-Columbian America) are not supported by mainstream archaeology. Apologist Michael R. Ash, of FAIR, counters that obtaining archaeological evidence to prove or disprove specific ancient events is difficult. Dr. Joseph Allen along with other LDS scholars have found sites in Meso-America that they believe may represent ancient Book of Mormon cities. John L. Sorenson does not dispute that other peoples may have been present in the Americas concurrent with Book of Mormon peoples (see Limited geography model).

Genetics

A traditional Mormon hypothesis of the origin of Native Americans is that they are descended soley from Hebrews in Jerusalem. Scientist Yaakov Kleiman, Mormon anthropologist Thomas W. Murphy, and ex-Mormon molecular biologist Simon G. Southerton argue that this hypothesis is inconsistent with recent genetic findings, which show the genetic origins of Native Americans to be in Asia, possibly near the Altay Mountains. FARMS counters that testing and drawing generalizations from this hypothesis alone is an overly simplistic approach, and that the resulting conclusions would not stand up under peer review. In addition, the traditional Mormon hypothesis under test may itself be based on assumptions unsupported by the Book of Mormon narrative (see Limited geography model).

In an in depth review, David A. McClellan concludes it is not probable that "the genetic signature of a small migrating family from 2,600 years ago" can be recovered.

Linguistics

Critics Jerald and Sandra Tanner and Marvin W. Cowan contend that the Book of Mormon's use of certain linguistic anachronisms (such as the Americanized name "Sam and the French word "adieu) provide evidence that the book was fabricated by Joseph Smith, rather than divinely inspired. In addition, Richard Abanes argues that because the first edition of the Book of Mormon contained hundreds of grammatical errors (removed in later editions), the book was therefore fabricated by J. Smith and not divinely inspired.

Plagiarism
Abanes, the Tanners, et al. claim that Joseph Smith plagiarized the Book of Mormon, and that it is therefore not divinely inspired. Alleged sources include View of the Hebrews by Ethan Smith (published 1823, seven years before the Book of Mormon); The Wonders of Nature by Josiah Priest (published in 1825, five years before the Book of Mormon); The Bible; and the Apocrypha. LDS church authorities Bruce R. McConkie and Spencer W. Kimball counter that repetition from previous texts validates the Book of Mormon because it shows God's consistency and equal revelation to all peoples and fulfills prophecy. Moreover, they argue that warnings need be repeated in the face of ageless problems.
Credibility of witnesses
A set of three and eight witnesses testified as having seen the golden plates, the record from which the Book of Mormon was translated. Critics, including Jerald and Sandra Tanner, and the Institute for Religious Research note several pieces of evidence that they argue call into question the authenticity of the experience, including letters and affidavits in which Martin Harris stated that the Eight Witnesses never saw the plates, and that his own witness was more spiritual than physical. Additionally, each of the Three Witnesses (Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer) left the church during Joseph Smith's lifetime and considered Smith to have been a fallen prophet. Harris and Cowdery later returned to the church. However, the Institute for Religious Research disputes the sincerity of their conversion and return.

Apologists note that the witnesses in most cases affirmed their witness until their death, and claim that the aforementioned affidavits and letters are either fraudulent, or otherwise not reliable. In 1881 Whitmer, the one witness who never returned to the church, issued an affidavit reaffirming his testimony of the experience.

Book of Abraham

The Institute for Religious Research and the Tanners claim that Joseph Smith fraudulently represented the Book of Abraham, part of the church's scriptural canon, as a divine document. Richard and Joan Ostling note that non-LDS scholars have concluded that translations of surviving papyri which they believe are portions of the source of the Book of Abraham are unrelated to the content of the book's text. Joseph Smith states he came into the possession of several Egyptian papyri, from which he claimed to translate the Book of Abraham, part of the modern Pearl of Great Price. The papyri were lost for many years, but in the late 1960s, portions of the papyri were discovered. The extant papyri, as well as the facsimiles preserved by Smith in the Pearl of Great Price, have been translated by modern Egyptologists, and have been conclusively shown to be common Egyptian funerary documents unrelated to the content of the Book of Abraham. Mormon scholars Michael D. Rhodes and John Gee came to the same conclusion, but argue that Smith may have been using the papyri as inspiration.

Criticisms of Joseph Smith

Critics allege that Joseph Smith invented Mormonism in order to gain money, women, and power.

Allegations of Smith's Slander of Women Who Refused Plural Marriage

Joseph Smith has been critcized for slandering the reputations of women who refused to become his polygamous wives.Published allegations of adultery against Sarah Pratt and Bennett appeared in local and church publications with signed affidavits from her neighbors Stephen and Zeruiah Goddard and others. Dr. Robert D. Foster made the following allegation against Bennett and Pratt:
Alas, none but the seduced join the seducer [Dr. Bennett]; those only who have been arraigned before a just tribunal for the same unhallowed conduct can be found to give countenance to any of his black hearted lies, and they, too, detest him for his seduction, these are the ladies to whom he refers his hearers to substantiate his assertions. Mrs. White, Mrs. Pratt, Niemans, Miller, Brotherton, and others.
Pratt later claimed that Zeruiah Goddard told her these testimonies were made under threat from Joseph's brother Hyrum Smith:
It is not my fault; Hyrum Smith [Joseph's brother] came to our house, with the affidavits all written out, and forced us to sign them. Joseph and the Church must be saved, said he. We saw that resistance was useless, they would have ruined us; so we signed the papers.
The author Richard S. Van Wagoner concluded that the adultery charges against Sarah Pratt are "highly improbable" and could "be dismissed as slander." In addition to Sarah Pratt, Van Wagoner states that Nancy Rigdon and Martha Brotherton, "also suffered slanderous attacks because they exposed the Church's private polygamy posture. Orson Pratt stood by his wife Sarah in preference to the denials of Smith, who told his disciple Orson that "If [Orson] did believe his wife and follow her suggestions he would go to hell". Wilford Woodruff stated that "Dr. John Cook Bennett was the ruin of Orson Pratt". Van Wagoner and Walker note that, on August 20, 1842, "after four days of fruitless efforts at reconciliation, the Twelve excommunicated Pratt for 'insubordination' and Sarah for 'adultery'".

Sidney Rigdon wrote a letter to the Messenger and Advocate in 1844 condemning the church's Quorum of the Twelve and their alleged connection to polygamy,

It is a fact so well known that the Twelve and their adherents have endeavored to carry on this spiritual wife business … and have gone to the most shameful and desperate lengths to keep from the public. First, insulting innocent females, and when they resented the insult, these monsters in human shape would assail their characters by lying, and perjuries, with a multitude of desperate men to help them effect the ruin of those whom they insulted, and all this to enable them to keep these corrupt practices from the world.

Allegations that Smith Allowed Abortions for Plural Wives

Smith was accused by Sarah Pratt in an 1886 interview with "vitriolic anti-Mormon journalist W. Wyl of allowing John C. Bennett, a medical doctor, to perform abortions on polygamous wives who were officially single, which she alleged limited Smith's progeny from these wives. She based this on statements made to her by Bennett. Orson Pratt, Sarah Pratt's husband, considered Bennett a liar
J.C. Bennett has published lies concerning myself & family & the people with which I am connected....His book I have read with the greatest disgust. No candid honest man can or will believe it. He has disgraced himself in eyes of all civilized society who will despise his very name,
whereas Sarah Pratt herself said, "[I] know that the principle statements in John C. Bennett's book on Mormonism are true,

Different accounts of the First Vision

Richard Abanes and the Tanners note that ten differing accounts of the First Vision have been recorded, which they claim contain contradictory information about what beings were present and what they said. Grant H. Palmer points out evidence that Joseph Smith did not speak about the First Vision until a decade after it was said to have occurred. Furthermore, the first published account came 22 years after it was said to have occurred, in 1842, shortly before Smith's death. Some of the accounts only mention a visitation by an angel, while others detail a visit by God the Father and Jesus Christ as separate beings, as in Smith's 1838 account, which Palmer notes is coincidental with a crisis which then developed around the Book of Mormon. The 1838 version is the account which is officially accepted by the LDS church. The earliest known account written by Joseph Smith himself indicates a visitation by Jesus Christ, but does not mention God the Father. Other details of this account differ from the official version.

Criticism that Prophecies of Joseph Smith have Failed

Abanes, the Tanners, and the Institute for Religious Research contend that Joseph Smith could not be a genuine prophet because certain statements he allegedly made that they interpret as prophecies did not come true. See Prophecies of Joseph Smith, Jr. for list of prophecies.

"Money Digging" activities

Dan Vogel claims that Joseph Smith's treasure hunting activities in his youth (couched by critics as "money digging") lend support to the theory that he fabricated the Book of Mormon. Smith was employed to find treasure using a variety of methods, including scrying and use of divining rods. In 1826, after a former business partner accused him of not coming through on a promise to find treasure, Smith was arrested, tried, and found guilty by a justice of the peace in Bainbridge, New York.

The Encyclopedia of Mormonism asserts that treasure hunting and divining practices associated with it were common during the life of Joseph Smith; and that it was a necessary part of his development in discerning good from evil. Additionally, apologist Jeff Lindsay claims that the account of the arrest and conviction was either fabricated or mischaracterized in order to defame Smith.

Kinderhook Plates

Critics, including Fawn Brodie, the Tanners, and the Institute for Religious Research call Smith's ability to translate into question by pointing to a hoax involving the Kinderhook plates, artifacts planted in 1843 in an Indian mound near Kinderhook, Illinois. Designed to appear ancient, the plates were a forgery created by certain men from Kinderhook who were hoping to trick their Mormon neighbors in Nauvoo. These critics cite the following statement to demonstrate that Smith attempted to translate the plates: page 372 of the History of the Church (DHC) reads: "I [Joseph Smith] have translated a portion of them, and find they contain the history of the person with whom they were found. He was a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the Ruler of heaven and earth".

Diane Wirth argues that the relevant portion of the History of the Church may have been ghost-written by William Clayton, Smith's scribe, despite being in Smith's voice, and cannot be fully attributed to Smith.

Criticisms related to Christianity

Mormonism claimed to be a cult

Richard Abanes and Walter Martin refer to Mormonism as a cult. Abanes claims the church employs what he defines as cult-like practices, such as an "us vs. them" mentality; authoritarian leadership; expulsion of dissenters; rigid controls over personal life; dismissal of all criticisms as persecution; withholding information contrary to church teachings; and deceptive recruitment techniques. Martin cites the Mountain Meadows massacre as evidence the church is a cult.

Kim Siever with FAIR argues that critics use subjective definitions of the term "cult" and that "many, if not all objective cult definitions" could be applied to Christianity as a whole, not just Mormonism, depending on how one approached the subject. Gene Sessions with FAIR acknowledges that the Mountain Meadows Massacre was "cold-blooded murder of innocent people" with "no justification" but argues that it does not reflect on the church as a whole but instead "was a bad decision made by local leaders. One recent Pew Research poll shows 52 percent of Americans say Mormonism is a Christian religion. Among non-Mormon Christians polled, only 57 respondents out of 1,461, or 3.9%, associated Mormonism with the word "cult.

Bible corrupted and incomplete

The Institute for Religious Research argues that Mormonism is not a legitimate Christian faith, because it incorporates other sacred texts in addition to the Old Testament and New Testament. They also claim that Mormons treat the Bible as incomplete and inaccurate, citing the fact that Joseph Smith called the Bible "corrupted" and produced his own version of the King James Bible, altering several thousand verses. The Latter Day Saints believe that the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price and the Doctrine and Covenants are sacred texts with the same divine authority as the Bible. Mormons also believe that current and past leaders of their denominations are prophets, and that their prophecies are the word of God.

Authority

Mormonism Research Ministry claims that Mormons are wrong to deny the priestly authority of other Christian denominations. Joseph Smith claimed that other Christian denominations do not have authority to act in God's name because of apostasy, which the church teaches occurred not long after the deaths of the original apostles, and that this was prophesied in the Bible (see and Great Apostasy). To demonstrate that "Mormons leaders have long criticized Christians, and oftentimes very harshly," MRM cites comments like those by church leader Bruce R. McConkie who wrote, "The gods of Christendom, for instance, are gods who were created by men in the creeds of an apostate people. There is little profit or peace in serving them, and certainly there is no salvation available through them.

Nature of God

Main article: Nature of God
The Trinity
Mormons have been criticized for adopting an interpretation of the Trinity that is not recognized by most other Christian faiths
and claim that Mormons believe that God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three different beings united in purpose, love, and perfection (See Godhead (Latter Day Saints).) In contrast, Trinitarian theology teaches that God is one eternal spirit subsisting in three aspects
God is flesh-and blood and was once a man
Main article: Plan of Salvation
Richard Abanes. the Tanners, Susan Wolverton, and CARM criticize the church because they claim it believes god(s) are an exalted man with a body of flesh and bone (citing Doctrine and Covenants 130:22, and citing The Mormon Doctrine of Deity by B. H. Roberts) which they claim is contrary to Christian doctrine. Richard Abanes, the Tanners, and CARM criticize the church because they claim it believes God was once as we are now (citing Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345) which they claim is contrary to Christian doctrine.

Salvation requires obedience

Richard Abanes and CARM criticize the church because they claim it believes that salvation can be obtained only by those who obey all of god's laws (citing Articles of Faith by James Talmage, p. 78-79) which they claim is contrary to Christian doctrine.

View of heaven

Other Christians criticize the faith's conception of heaven and immortality, arguing that the Bible only permits heaven and hell, and does not support the 3-kingdom system described by LDS teachings (the Celestial Kingdom, the Terrestrial Kingdom, and the Telestial Kingdom).

See Degrees of glory.

Criticisms specific to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Criticisms of doctrinal changes

Jerald and Sandra Tanner claim that the LDS church changed some of its core doctrines for political, rather than spiritual purposes.

Priesthood policy

The Tanners claim that the church's 1978 policy allowing all worthy male members, which included blacks, to hold the priesthood was not divinely inspired as the church claimed, but simply a matter of political convenience. Richard and Joan Ostling point out that this reversal of policy occurred as the LDS church began to expand outside the United States into countries such as Brazil that have large, ethnically mixed populations and as the church prepared to open a new temple in São Paulo, Brazil.

Polygamy discontinued in 1890

The Tanners argue that the church's 1890 reversal of its policy on polygamy was done for political, not divine, reasons, citing the fact that it happened in the midst of a lengthy battle with the federal government over property seizures and statehood. The Ostlings further point to the fact that soon after the church received the revelation that polygamy was prohibited, Utah again applied for statehood, and this time the federal government did not object to starting the statehood process. Six years later, the process completed and Utah became a state in 1896. The Ostlings also point out that soon after the church renounced polygamy, the federal government reduced its legal efforts to seize church property.

Mormons Ron Wood and Linda Thatcher do not dispute that the change was a direct result of federal intervention and respond that the church was left with no choice. The 1887 Edmunds–Tucker Act was crippling the church and "something dramatic had to be done to reverse [the] trend. After the church appealed its case to the U.S. Supreme Court and lost, church president Wilford Woodruff issued the Manifesto. Woodruff noted in his journal that he was "acting for the temporal salvation of the Church".

God was once a person

Critics such as Richard Abanes and the Institute for Religious Research criticize the church for changing the principle asserting that God was once a man, citing changes to the LDS publication Gospel Principles between the 1978 and 1997 editions, where "We can become Gods like our Heavenly Father" was changed to "We can become like our Heavenly Father" and "[O]ur Heavenly Father became a God" was changed to "[O]ur Heavenly Father became God".

Criticisms of past teachings

Polygamy used to justify immoral behavior

Sarah Pratt, first wife of Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt, in an outspoken critique of Mormon polygamy said that

[polygamy] completely demoralizes good men and makes bad men correspondingly worse. As for the women—well, God help them! First wives it renders desperate, or else heart-broken, mean-spirited creatures.
Pratt ended her marriage to husband Orson Pratt in 1868 because his "obsession with marrying younger women"; at age 57, Orson Pratt married a sixteen year old girl, his tenth wife, younger than his daughter Celestia, and lashed out at Orson in an 1877 interview,
Here was my husband, gray headed, taking to his bed young girls in mockery of marriage. Of course there could be no joy for him in such an intercourse except for the indulgence of his fanaticism and of something else, perhaps, which I hesitate to mention.

The Tanners argue that early church leaders established the practice of polygamy in order to justify behavior that would otherwise be regarded as immoral. The Ostlings criticize Joseph Smith for marrying at least 32 women during his lifetime, including several under the age of 16, a fact acknowledged by Mormon historian Todd Compton. Compton also acknowledge that Smith entered into polyandrous marriages (that is, he married women who were already married to other men) and that he warned some potential spouses of eternal damnation if they did not consent to be his wife, and furthermore that, in at least two cases, he married orphan girls that had come to live at his home.

However, Bushman notes that evidence of sexual relations in Smith's plural marriages is sparse or unreliable, and Compton argues that some were likely dynastic in nature. Compton also points out that Protestant denominations contemporary with early Mormonism also practiced polygamy, for example the early Anabaptists, and that Martin Luther himself sanctioned the practice.

Some Church leaders, after 1890 polygamy cessation, continue to condone marriages

Richard Abanes, Richard and Joan Ostling, and D. Michael Quinn note that after the 1890 Manifesto, church leaders authorized over 200 polygamous marriages and lied about the continuing practice.

Joseph F. Smith acknowledged reports that church leaders didn't fully adhere to the 1890 prohibition. After the Second Manifesto in 1904, anyone entering into a new plural marriage was excommunicated.

Adam and God are the same

The Ostlings criticize Brigham Young's teachings that God and Adam are the same being. One apostle, Franklin D. Richards, also accepted the doctrine as taught by Young, stating in a Conference held in June 1854 that "the Prophet and Apostle Brigham has declared it, and that it is the word of the Lord" (emphasis in original). However, at the time of its first introduction, several leaders disagreed with the doctrine, including Apostle Orson Pratt, who expressed that disagreement publicly. The church never formally adopted the doctrine, and has since officially repudiated it.

Some sins not atonable

Brigham Young introduced the doctrine that there are some sins that cannot be atoned for through Jesus Christ. He taught that the only way to atone for such sins, a person would have to give up his or her life. Bruce McConkie has asserted that "this doctrine can only operate in a day when there is no separation of Church and State and when the power to take life is vested in the ruling theocracy as was the case in the day of Moses.

Criticism of temple ceremonies

Critics find fault with the church's temple policies and ceremonies, which include an endowment ceremony, weddings, and proxy baptism for the dead, .

Temple admission restricted

Richard and Joan Ostling, and Hugh F. Pyle claim that the LDS's policy on temple admission is unreasonable, noting that even relatives cannot attend a temple marriage unless they are members of the church in good standing. The Ostlings, the Institute for Religious Research and Jerald and Sandra Tanner claim that the attendance rules are unreasonable because part of being a member in good standing includes declaring oneself a "full-tithe payer" (one who pays a tithe to the church). Mormonism Research Ministry calls this "coerced tithing" because admission to the Celestial Kingdom requires receipt of the ordinances administered in the endowment and marriage ceremonies, which are performed only within a temple. For a list of requirements for entering the temple, see Requirements for entering LDS Church temples.

Baptism for the dead

The church teaches that a living person, acting as proxy, can be baptized by immersion on behalf of a deceased person, citing 1 Corinthians 15:29; Malachi 4:5–6; John 5:25; and 1 Peter 4:6 for doctrinal support. These baptisms for the dead are performed in temples. Critics challenge this doctrine and the manner in which the church puts it into practice.

Doctrinal criticism
Floyd C. McElveen and the Institute for Religious Research claim that verses to support Baptism for the Dead are not justified by contextual exegesis of the Bible. In 2008 The Vatican issued a statement calling the practice "erroneous" and directing its dioceses to keep parish records from Mormons performing genealogical research.
Baptism of Holocaust victims
See also: Mormonism and Judaism: Baptism for the dead.

Holocaust survivors and other Jewish groups criticized the LDS church in 1995, after discovering that the church had baptized more than 300,000 Jewish holocaust victims. After that criticism, church leaders put a policy in place to stop the practice, with an exception for baptisms specifically requested or approved by victims' relatives. Jewish organizations again criticized the church in 2002 and 2004, claiming that the church failed to honor the 1995 agreement.

Endowment ceremony allegedly copied

Jerald and Sandra Tanner allege that Joseph Smith copied parts of the Mormon temple endowment ceremony from Masonic rituals (such as secret handshakes, clothing, and passwords), and that this undermines the church's claim that the rituals were divinely inspired. The Tanners also point to the fact that Joseph Smith was himself a Freemason prior to introducing the endowment rituals into Mormonism.

Endowment ceremony changed

The Tanners criticize the church's revision of the temple endowment ceremony over the years, claiming revisions were made to obscure provocative practices of the early church.

The Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research acknowledges changes to the endowment ceremony and points out that (according to Joseph Fielding Smith) Joseph Smith told Brigham Young the ceremony was "not arranged perfectly", and challenged him to organize and systemize it, which Young continued to do throughout his presidency.

Finances

Excessive secrecy

The Ostlings and the Tanners fault the church for being overly secretive about finances, such as not revealing salaries of leaders, and not publicly releasing financial statements which it has not done in the United States since 1959.

The church does disclose financials in the United Kingdom, where it is required to by law. In addition, the church employs an internal audit department that provides its certification at each annual general conference that church contributions are collected and spent in accordance with church policy. Moreover, the church engages a public accounting firm (currently Deloitte & Touche in the United States; PricewaterhouseCoopers in the United Kingdom) to perform annual audits of its not-for-profit, for-profit, and educational entities.

Excessive focus on wealth

The Tanners and the Ostlings criticize the church for being overly greedy and materialistic, citing the large amount of wealth accumulated by the church, and citing the strong emphasis on tithing, and suggest that the church is more like a business than a spiritual endeavor.

Access to historical documents

The Tanners claim that throughout the 20th century the church denied scholars access to many key church documents, and in 1979 claimed that to date it had refused to publish Joseph Smith's diary. Apologists point out that The Joseph Smith Papers project will provide access to Smith's journals.

Suppression of dissent

The Ostlings claim that the LDS church retaliates against members that publish information that undermines church policies, citing excommunications of scientist Simon Southerton and biographer Fawn Brodie. They further claim that the church suppresses intellectual freedom, citing the 1993 excommunication of "The September Six", including gay LDS historian D. Michael Quinn, and author Lavina Anderson. The Ostlings write that Anderson was the first to reveal the LDS church keeps files on LDS scholars, documenting questionable activities, and the Ostlings claim that "No other sizable religion in America monitors its followers in this way.

The American Association of University Professors, since 1998, has put LDS-owned Brigham Young University on its list of universities that do not allow tenured professors sufficient freedom in teaching and research. Richard Abanes lists the following as church members excommunicated or censured for views unnaccepable to the church hierarchy:

  • Journalist Deborah Laake, for her book Secret Ceremonies: A Mormon Woman's Intimate Diary of Marriage and Beyond
  • BYU English teacher Cecilia Konchar-Farr, for her views on abortion laws
  • Writer Janice Merrill Allred
  • English Professor Gail Houston
  • Anthropologist David Knowlton

Church monitors members' critical publications

Richard Abanes and the Ostlings criticize the LDS church for maintaining a group called the Strengthening Church Members Committee, led by two church apostles. According to the Ostlings, the purpose of this committee is to collect and file "letters to the editor, other writings, quotes in the media, and public activities" of church members that may be publishing views contrary to those of the church leadership.

Distortion of history

Jerald and Sandra Tanner contend that the church distorts its history in order to portray itself in a more favorable light. Specifically they allege that when B. H. Roberts' work History of the Church is compared to the original manuscripts from which it is drawn, "more than 62,000 words" can be identified that were either added or deleted, including systematic removal of events that portray Joseph Smith in a negative light.

D. Michael Quinn responded to these charges by pointing out that methods by B. H. Roberts used in creating History of the Church—while flawed by today's standards—were not uncommon practices in the nineteenth century, even by reputable historians. (See article History of the Church.)

Jerald and Sandra Tanner cite the selective use of Brigham Young's statements, presented in a manner to give the illusion that he was in favor of blacks joining the priesthood. The Tanners also claim that the church attempted to discredit evidence that Joseph Smith was arrested, tried, and found guilty by a justice of the peace in Bainbridge, New York, in 1826. They highlight changes such as the title page of the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon that described Joseph Smith as "Author and Proprietor" of the book, which was revised in subsequent editions to be "Translator", and the description of Oliver Cowdery's skill at using the divining rod found in the 1829 edition of the Book of Commandments, which does not appear in the corresponding section of the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.

FARMS responds to the "author and proprietor" charge by arguing this title conformed to the governing copyright laws in 1830.

The Ostlings consider other omissions to be distortion, noting that the widely distributed church manual Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, omits any mention of Young's polygamy, and that the book's chronological summary of Young's life includes the date of his first marriage, the date of the first wife's death, and the date of the second legal marriage, but omits mention of Young's dozens of other marriages.

In 1842 Willard Richards compiled a number of records in order to produce a history of the church. Among the records examined were the various accounts related to Zelph. In the process of combining the accounts, Richards crossed out Woodruff's references to "hill Cumorah," and Heber C. Kimball's reference to the "last" great struggle with the Lamanites casting him as a generic Lamanite, rather than one who was involved in the final battle at the Hill Cumorah, which is in line with Joseph Smith's statements.

LDS historian D. Michael Quinn accuses LDS leaders of urging historians to hide "controversies and difficulties of the Mormon past". Mormon scholar Allen Robers says LDS leaders "attempt to control depictions of the Mormon past". Non-LDS professor John Hallwas of Western Illinois University says of LDS historians: "[they] do not mention Mormon intimidation, deception, repression, theft, and violence, or any other matters that might call into question the sacred nature of the Mormon experience.

Columbia University professor Richard Bushman, a member of The Joseph Smith Papers advisory board, responds to critics that those on the project "work on the assumption that the closer you get to Joseph Smith in the sources, the stronger he will appear, rather than the reverse, as is so often assumed by critics.

In 1969, the Western History Association published Jewish historian Moses Rischin's observation of a new trend among Mormons historians to report objectively. Quinn cites this as the origin of the term "New Mormon History", while citing previous efforts towards objectivity such as Juanita Brooks’ 1950 publication of "The Mountain Meadows Massacre" by Stanford University Press.

FARMS scholarship questioned

The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) is a research institute within church-owned Brigham Young University that publishes Mormon scholarship. Critic Matthew Paulsen faults FARMS for limiting peer review to members of the LDS church. He claims that FARMS's primary goal is to defend the LDS faith rather than to promote truthful scholarship. Molecular biologist Simon Southerton, a former LDS bishop and author of Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church said, "I was amazed at the lengths that FARMS went to in order to prop up faith in the Book of Mormon. I felt that the only way I could be satisfied with FARMS explanations was to stop thinking.... The explanations of the FARMS researchers stretched the bounds of credibility to breaking point on almost every critical issue".

FARMS supports and sponsors what it considers to be 'faithful scholarship', which includes academic study and research in support of Christianity and Mormonism, and in particular, where possible, the official position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Critic and ex-Mormon Steve Benson (grandson of Ezra Taft Benson) quoted church apostle Neal A. Maxwell as telling him that "one of the purposes of F.A.R.M.S. was to prevent the General Authorities from being outflanked by the Church's critics.

Parallelomania

Critics of Book of Mormon linguistic studies often reject the claims of Mormon scholars on the grounds that the parallels they draw between Book of Mormon and other sources amounts to "parallelomania", which is defined as the "over use or improper use of parallels in the exposition of a text."

In the independent journal Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, one scholar, Douglas F. Salmon, alleged that Mormon scholarship in drawing parallels between the Book of Mormon and other sources fits this classification. Salmon notes:

There has been an exegetical trend during the last several decades to draw endless parallels to text from the ancient Near East and beyond in an attempt to validate the writings in the Book of Mormon and Pearl of Great Price. The pioneer and leader in this effort has been the great LDS scholar Hugh Nibley. In recent years the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) has continued this legacy. The number of parallels that Nibley has been able to uncover from amazingly disparate and arcane sources is truly staggering. Unfortunately, there seems to be a neglect of any methodological reflection or articulation in this endeavor.

Sexual repression

Deborah Laake and Colleen McDannell claim that the church takes a repressive stance towards sexuality and that this may be psychologically unhealthy. Affirmation, a Gay & Lesbian organization, and Ed Decker, a critic of the LDS church, both claim that the repressive attitude of the church may - in extreme cases - lead to suicide, as in the case of 16-year old Kip Eliason, who committed suicide because of the stresses that resulted when his LDS bishop told him that masturbation was sinful. Affirmation.org has particularly criticized sexual repression of gays, both inside and outside of the church. Under no condition is homosexual sex ever acceptable. A letter dated June 20, 2008, sent to Mormon bishops and signed by church president Thomas S. Monson and his two top counselors, calls on Mormons to donate "means and time" to a California ballot measure designed to defeat the state's May ruling allowing gay marriage. Richard and Joan Ostling point out that the LDS church actively campaigns against same-sex marriage statutes, including donating $500,000 in 1998 towards a campaign to defeat such a referendum in Alaska. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is asking California members to join the effort to amend that state's constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman. The church view this as "tough love", and believe that "failing to teach and to warn and to discipline is to destroy.

In January 1982 the church presidency issued a letter to local leaders saying "The First Presidency has interpreted oral sex as constituting an unnatural, impure, or unholy practice." The letter was not distributed to the general membership. This letter also instructed local leaders not to inquire into the specifics of married members' sex lives. However, this portion of the letter was often ignored, and in response to letters of protest from members, another letter was issued to local leaders in October reiterating the prohibition on inquiring into specific sexual practices.

Apologists note that other faiths have similar proscriptions, such as the Roman Catholic Church, , , Eastern Orthodoxy as well as Judaism and Islam.

Homophobia

Scott Thumma and Affirmation.org contend that the LDS church is homophobic. Affirmation.org cites a faithful, celibate, gay Latter-day Saint who shortly before his suicide wrote: "Straight members have absolutely no idea what it is like to grow up gay in this church. It is a life of constant torment, self-hatred and internalized homophobia. Church leaders have agreed to meet with Affirmation to discuss these concerns.

God Loveth His Children, a pamphlet produced by the LDS Church, acknowledges that many gays "have felt rejected because members of the Church did not always show love." It criticizes those members, and challenges gays to show love and kindness so the members can "change their attitudes and follow Christ more fully.

Olin Thomas, Executive Director of Affirmation, criticized the church's opposition to gay marriage, saying "We are deeply dismayed that the Church ignored our request that they not meddle in California politics. This initiative will hurt so many people. Without marriage, a couple who have been together 30 years could be torn apart at the doorway to the emergency room. However, the purposed initiative will not affect domestic partnership in California, which already affords all the same rights, protections, and benefits as marriage. The church claims hospitalization rights are included in the phrase "all the same rights" and has stated they do not oppose hospitalization rights of same-sex couples.

Views on homosexuality

Gay historian D. Michael Quinn has hypothesized that early church leaders had a more tolerant view of homosexuality, and that several early church leaders and prominent members, including Louise B. Felt, May Anderson, Evan Stephens, and Joseph Fielding Smith (1899-1964), may have either had homosexual tendencies or were involved in homosexual relationships. George Mitton and Rhett James do not dispute that some early members may have had homosexual tendencies, but they call Quinn's claim of tolerance a distortion of church history and it has little support from other historians. They deny any acceptance from previous leaders of homosexual behavior, and state the current leadership of the church “is entirely consistent with the teachings of past leaders and with the scriptures.”

In the early 1970s, Ford McBride did research in electro-shock therapy while a student at Brigham Young University on volunteer homosexual students to help cure them of ego-dystonic homosexuality. This was a standard type of aversion therapy used to treat homosexuality, which was considered a mental illness at the time. Brigham Young University is owned by the church, but conducts research independently of the church. Church critics Affirmation and The Salamander Society claim that the church was involved in these research initiatives.

Gordon B. Hinckley encouraged church members to reach out to homosexuals with love and understanding. This sparked criticism and protests from the Westboro Baptist Church at Hinckley's funeral.

Racism

Richard and Joan Ostling point out the church's former practice of denying the priesthood to blacks of African descent, which ended in 1978, as evidence that past LDS church policies were racist in nature. Before the change in policy, most other adult males in the LDS Church were given the priesthood and denying the priesthood to blacks prevented them from officiating in ordinances and from participating in LDS temple ceremonies. Jerald and Sandra Tanner cite quotes from church leaders such as Brigham Young who said, "You must not think, from what I say, that I am opposed to slavery. No! The negro is damned, and is to serve his master till God chooses to remove the curse of Ham...". The Tanners also illustrate church racism by quoting sections of the Book of Mormon which describe dark skin as a sign of a curse and a mark from God to distinguish a more righteous group of people from a less righteous group, and by citing passages describing white skin as "delightsome" while dark skin is portrayed as un-enticing (2 Nephi 30:6). Joseph F. Smith, president of the church, published his views that people with dark skin were less faithful in the pre-existence, and as such, did not warrant the blessings of the priesthood. The Tanners also cite other church leaders, historical and modern who have spoken in favor of segregation and restrictions of the priesthood for men of African descent.

Although the current LDS church policy now admits blacks to the priesthood, the church has not issued a written repudiation of racist doctrines, although Bruce R. McConkie told members "Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said [about Blacks and the priesthood]... We spoke with a limited understanding. Some black members have made formal requests to the church to issue a statement, while other black members have argued against that effort. One critical black church member contends that the church "refuses to acknowledge and undo its racist past, and until it does that, members continue to suffer psychological damage from it" and that "the church has not done enough to rectify its racist past". However, the large majority of black Mormons say they are willing to look beyond the racist teachings and cleave to the church. Gordon B. Hinckley has sermonized against racism. He has taught that no one who utters denigrating remarks can consider himself a true disciple of Christ, and noted the irony of racial claims to the Melchizedek Priesthood.

Richard Abanes contends that the church tries to hide past racial practices, citing the 1981 change in the wording of the Book of Mormon from "white and delightsome" to "pure and delightsome" (2 Nephi 30:6).

Gregory A. Prince and William Robert Wright state that these leaders were a product of their time and locale and that many leaders, including Joseph Smith, David O. McKay, and even initially Brigham Young, were not opposed to blacks receiving the priesthood. They further state that the policy was a practice supported by scriptural arguments, not a doctrine, and despite several church leaders throughout the 1950s and 1960s supporting its reversal, the policy was kept in place through 1978 because the Quorum of the Twelve felt a revelation was needed to change it.

Sexism

Richard and Joan Ostling argue that the LDS Church treats women as inferior to men. Claudia L. Bushman cites the absence of women in leadership roles, sexual abuse, lack of career opportunities, and poor family planning policies as evidence of sexism. She further claims that, rather than increasing the responsibilities of women, the LDS church has recently decreased the autonomy that Mormon women had in areas such as welfare, leadership, training, publishing, and policy setting. The Cult Awareness and Information Centre also point to comments such as those made by LDS leader Bruce R. McConkie, who wrote that a "woman's primary place is in the home, where she is to rear children and abide by the righteous counsel of her husband". The First Presidency and the Council of Twelve Apostles espouse a complementarian view of gender roles.

Jerald and Sandra Tanner point to comments by certain church leaders as evidence that women are subject to different rules regarding entry into heaven. They claim that 19th-century leader Erastus Snow preached: "No woman will get into the celestial kingdom, except her husband receives her, if she is worthy to have a husband; and if not, somebody will receive her as a servant".

The position that LDS Church takes towards women, i.e. not ordaining them to the priesthood and believing their primary role is to be a mother and wife, is also reflected by the majority of Christianity; specifically the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, and Protestant churches such as the Southern Baptists.

Criticisms specific to denominations other than LDS

See Criticisms of Fundamentalist branch.

Footnotes

References

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