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Radio Free Mormon: 021: Make Way For Dodos

Today Radio Free Mormon, finds himself deep behind enemy lines, as he tackles the recent retraction of the faith promoting story told by Elder Jeffrey R Holland about one brother finding his long lost sibling while on his mission.  Take a deep breath, grab your ice cold herbal tea, and enjoy an intellectual walk though the history of this episode in LDS History.


Elder Holland Shares Account of “Missionary Speech of All Time” with New Mission Presidents – Google Cache

Deseret News – Elder Holland releases statement regarding missionary story

Desert News – Elder Holland withdraws Church News missionary story

Church News – Elder Holland Releases Statement Regarding Missionary Story  this link is now broken (site removed this page) –  here is cached version =


29 thoughts on “Radio Free Mormon: 021: Make Way For Dodos”

  1. Great information RFM!! Shouldn’t Elder Holland’s bishop ask Elder Holland to surrender his temple recommend to him since he may not be honest in his dealings with his fellow man?

    And maybe the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve should explore the possibility of censuring Elder Holland much in the same way that they did with Paul H. Dunn.

    1. I believe the entire point of this retraction is to distance Elder Holland sufficiently from the scaffold while Elder Clark’s neck is placed securely in the noose.

      1. Word is they have removed the link to the Texas mission president’s blog about Elder Holland’s story, though it has been cached elsewhere.

        At first, I thought that this seemed fishy because why are they trying to remove the evidence the story was told—and with significant variations. Remember, this is the account that has Elder Holland saying he has “kept track” of this young man.

        But then, I thought this could be explained as simply the church taking the steps they feel they need to retract the story so it does not continue to get told, in accordance with the wishes Elder Holland expressed in his retraction.

        But then, I thought—WAIT A MINUTE! Wouldn’t the proper way to make sure the retraction is effective is to leave the story up but put a notice in big red letters or something immediately above it that this story has been retracted and is not true?

        As I think about this, once the church scrubs the record of this story, what does the retraction amount to? The details in the retraction are slim to none. Unless you already know the story to which the retraction is referring, how could you know what story is being retracted?

        And once the record is scrubbed of the different accounts of the story, it would seem that the retraction itself has little to no value. Those who have heard the story and believe it to be true would not have the belief disabused even if they read the retraction, because the retraction does not give enough details about the story to identify it to the one who heard it and believes.

  2. Great stuff, I mean… I can’t thank you enough for digging this up for me, because I didn’t have the time to do so myself when I thought of the fishiness of the situation, but hey it’s Elder Holland so I’ll give him a pass.

    On the flip side, am I free of sin… or has there been stuff that I don’t want shared about myself. I like to think that I haven’t shared stuff that was exaggerated — besides every time I’ve preached about the restored gospel. Now, I have to think twice about doing so. Come to think of it, sometimes I preach the gospel and include the messiness of the situation in order to be objective and truthful.

    I guess what I’m saying well, no one is perfect, and we all have to things with a grain of salt. Including the Christ story.

    So where in shall we put our hopes? Who is the Christ? Where is our messiah? We had crowned Jesus… but should we be looking elsewhere?

    Looking back on the moment when I accepted my faith in the Book of Mormon, Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith… it was an incredible moment when I allowed myself to believe. From skeptic to believer, the switch of paradigm from Agnostic to Gnostic, Atheist to Theist. It was an incredible feeling, it would seem that my internal reward system wholeheartedly accepted it after reading 1 Ne 10:17.

    I’ve been both blessed and cursed by my faith, I’d like to think that more good has come out of it than bad.

    There are miracle stories in my life as well. Perhaps I shall recount them… and tell about them. I after determined that there might be a logical explanation to the incident, yet I am still surprised by it.

    1. Thanks for your comments, David!

      You are right that this incident should give all of us pause (including Elder Holland!) about how free we are in sharing the miracle stories of others.

      I do not mean to suggest that no miracle stories ever happen to anybody. They have happened to me, as a matter of fact.

      But I do think the apostles would be better served by telling only the miracle stories that happen to them.

      If they aren’t “too sacred to share,” of course. ;^)

    1. “Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness”

      D&C 123:13

  3. Well….I appreciate the level of analysis you did. I’ve been on various LDS sites out there that get, IMHO, fanatical about who had the latest dream, or what not–and how it spirals. I think its amazing that at that level, especially after the Paul Dunn stuff, thee are stories swirling still.

    And, what amazes me is the way in which the retraction happened. That seems a lot more concerned with a CYA than it is about honesty. Not taking responsibility for such a problem is an example of…<>…telling lies <>.

    Yep, its all about image management…

  4. RFM, I think I figured out how the ex-biker brother has 3 different sealing dates. He just keeps getting married/sealed, divorced quickly, then married/sealed again. We already know he embellishes, which can cause marital issues. See it makes sense. 🙂

    1. I think this one of the most problematic aspects of the story.

      I did note that, in an effort to make the de-miracle-ized story as miraculous as possible, Elder Holland’s retraction offers the additional detail (never mentioned before) that the returned member’s son has also served a mission.

      Which makes me start to wonder just how old this story is. Granted there are other ways to account for it, but the fact the ex-biker’s son has also served a mission tends to make this story look a tad long in the tooth.

      Which militates against the currentness of the story implied by the recent sealing of the ex-biker to his wife in the temple.

      I mean, he could have had a son before he left home, or maybe his wife is a biker-chick he met and married while on the road and they had a son somewhere in transit.

      But that doesn’t seem likely. I think this additional detail of the son who served a mission not only makes this story look old, but also serves to poke a few new holes in the original version.


  5. RFM…this apology thing is a thorn in my side.

    The church counsels…no DEMANDS…that its member repent, which includes admission of guilt and making necessary reparations, including apologies.

    As an organization, the message is pretty clear to me: “do as I say…not as I do”

  6. Thanks for the insights of this story. The most concerning issue to this whole story as I have followed it is the George Orwellian 1984 attempts by the church to “scrub” the story, which show the church continues to try to re-write history to fit their own agenda. I have heard this story in multiple venues told by local leaders, all desperate to show how the lord (and Holy Ghost) are personally involved in the churches missionary work. With the story disappearing everyone is casually disregarding the story and treating Elder Holland as the victim and moving on. What no one is talking about is, if God is so personally involved in the churches missionary program (with 70,000+ missionaries) why are similar stories not common, everyday, fact check-able events. Leaders tell us similar things to happen everyday, they are just too sacred to talk about publicly, however Holland has proven that given the chance the church would love to publicize any story that would further their agenda…and scrub any that does not.
    Thanks for all your research and keep up the good work.

    1. Good points, Trevor!

      I am interested in your statement that you have heard the story told in multiple venues.

      Could you detail when and where you have heard this story? I think that is important information to know if we are ever going to come close to getting a handle on this.

      My sense is that this story has been around for some time and told informally, perhaps, but that is had circulated enough to the point it gained currency sufficient to be adopted as fact by not one, but two, general authorities.



      1. When I stated the I had heard this story told by local leaders, all were recent, (since the telling by Holland at the mission presidents conference and then the viral propagation of the story via Facebook). I have heard a Stake President and Bishop both recount the story to different youth groups and have heard of the story being told by others in similar settings.
        Going back to my point in my original comment, the amount of shares about this story I personally saw om my Facebook feed was shocking, and the after hearing a stake president bear testimony about this story I realized how hungry, (or desperate?) members are for these types of stories.
        Rather than teaching and helping members to understand the subtle workings of the spirit (insight, inspiration, enlightenment) in peoples everyday lives, The church would rather promote an ideal the fantastic and miraculous. This sets a bar of spirituality so high none will ever achieve it.
        Members end up spending of lifetime of reading more, praying more, attending the temple more, serving more, and more and more, all while trying to ignore the cognitive dissonance being created and wondering if they are the only ones who do not have such miraculous experiences in their lives.
        I believe many TBM’s spend a good deal of time questioning where are the miracles in their lives and thinking that miracles are happening to everyone else around them, but they are just to sacred for them to share.
        When I heard a stake president relate the story to a group of young men, I watched those young men walk away with the belief that similar events is what they could expect as missionaries, if they are worthy, and willing to listen to the spirit…..and then the church wonders why many of those same youth will struggle “staying in the boat”

        1. Thanks for clarifying that point, Trevor.

          But you are right that this story is so fantastic and so faith-promoting that it has certainly been making the rounds, both in and out of the Internet.

          It is like a joke you hear that is so funny you just have to start telling it to everybody you see so they can get a kick out of it, too. And even though you are not the one the joke is about, because people laugh when you tell it, there is sort of a reflected glory in telling the joke and getting the laugh.

          In a similar way, I think there is a reflected glory for some people in telling miracle stories–the story may not be about them per se (as in Paul Dunn), but there is nevertheless the awe and hush that comes after telling a good miracle story that in some sense reflects well on the speaker.

          I think the fundamental problem is that we have a church which has as its foundation miracle stories, but also a theology that insists that these gifts of the spirit will continue with the church and be manifest in the church.

          In short, such miracles are signs of the true church, so if the LDS church does not have them, the LDS church can no longer be true.

          Hence the need to manufacture miracle stories as a sign of the church’s truth.

          It is a strange phenomenon–a church has at its foundation miracles, and teaches that miracles must be present for the church to be true.

          But then miracles peter out and disappear.

          A church can go two ways at this point–it can either say that miracles are no longer necessary and were present only at the inception of the religion; or it can make up miracles and peddle them to the members.

          And this, in brief, may be a history of the Christian church, as well as Mormonism.

          1. I agree this is a issue with most religion, including Christianity. In today’s world of understanding science, medicine, rational thinking, cellphones, YouTube. The fantastic stories of days gone by have seemed to quietly go away.

            Following you comments I agree people seem to cling to them as necessary for proof of truth or divinity and it gives the speaker credibility because he can claim personal knowledge of an event that most only dream of experiencing.

            Kinda like when you go to a MLM seminar and the 1% successful people speak to the 99% who can only dream becoming that successful someday in an attempt to motivate them.

            Oops I may have just compared the church to Multi-level marketing….my bad 🙂

            Thanks for you podcasts, love the perspective you have topics.

            Looking forward to the next one.

  7. Dear Trevor,

    Your comparison of this incident with MLMs is important, I think. I would push it even further into the realm of affinity fraud, which continues to be rampant in Utah.

    The naiveté required to believe this story from a church leader is not that dissimilar to the naiveté required to believe fanciful tales of promised wealth from a church leader.

    Which is likely at least part of the reason why Utah is the affinity fraud capital of the United States.

  8. Unfortunately I am able to draw way to many parallels with MLM, affinity fraud, leader worship, how lay leadership is called, and the ability to manipulate, deceive, misdirect, build trust, guilt shame, group think, gas-lighting, rationalize, and I could go on…but that is probably a discussion for another time.

    thanks again.

  9. Love what you are doing. Just a suggestion…the music in the background looping was very distracting and could be discarded altogether.

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  11. Hey RFM, Great story!

    Did you know that you let a Freudian slip leak out of your mouth? You called Jeff Holland “Elder Oaks” once!! ????????????

  12. RFM,

    Just listened to this podcast. I’ve listened to about 7 or 8 podcasts of yours so far. The most informative were the Coup d’etat podcasts. Thank you for your research.

    In this one, you insinuate that even the miracle of Jesus Christ’s resurrection could be a false story, that evolved just as the Hell’s Angel’s biker story evolved and was embellished over time and then shared as if true by Elder Holland.

    In the interest of full disclosure, what is your worldview now? What is the state of your faith? Do you believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, who died and was resurrected and who appeared to many eye witnesses in the Bible and BoM, as well as to Joseph Smith, Jr.? Are you jaded against any and all religion? Are you atheist?

    What is your end game? What are you trying to accomplish with these podcasts? Even if you’re now an atheist, I’d still listen to your podcasts, inasmuch as they continue to be filled with sound research and a pursuit of truth.

    I appreciate the time you’ve taken to research and record these podcasts.

  13. I enjoyed this episode, I stopped watching general conference in the 1980’s. I’m glad someone can analyze and debunk their treacly blather. Nowadays we can all benefit from your efforts thanks to technology.

  14. One thing that isn’t talked about on this is that missionaries wear name tags. Don’t you think that the older brother would have noticed the last name of the missionary?

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