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Prophets and Fallibility: A Record of Mormon Leader’s Reversals and Abandonment of Past Teachings

Bruce R McConkie, an apostle in the LDS Church, taught “Truth is eternal and does not vary. Sometimes even wise and good men fall short in the accurate presentation of what is truth. Sometimes a prophet gives personal views which are not endorsed and approved by the Lord”.  He then went on to explain that prophets are a mixed bag teaching truth and error.  The other trouble is the membership collectively seems to also go right along with errors and thereby we see that even by Mormonism’s standard there seems to be no real effective way to know when one is right or their leaders right or when one is wrong and their leaders wrong.  For example Brigham Young taught the Adam-God Doctrine and most members believed him.  Bruce R McConkie and Spencer W. Kimball disavowed the Adam-God Doctrine and most of the members of their day believed them.  Joseph Smith taught that “Mormon” meant more Good and Gordon B Hinckley  reiterated such and the members used the word Mormon with no reserve.  Russell Nelson says it is a victory for Satan, and the members are up in arms anytime someone uses it.  As a final effort to to set this project up I quote Joseph Smith, ““By proving contraries, truth is made manifest”   So with that I have put a list together of the contraries in Mormonism.  Ideas, beliefs, Doctrines, Practices that were once understood one way only to be reversed or abandoned.  Please review the list with an open heart and I will see you at the end and we can chat about it.

1.)   Exaltation as defined by the LDS Church in the past (and even some places in the present) meant that you would be like God and get your own planet.  Today the Church officially dismisses the idea. (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE Ch36)(SOURCE)

2.) We were taught previously in the Church that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri.  Today the Church claims to not know where the garden of Eden is. (SOURCE)(SOURCE)

3.) The Church used to instruct for its Leaders generally and locally to stay out of the Bedroom, then in 1982 The First Presidency instructed Leaders that “Oral Sex” was sin and then months later instructed Leaders to avoid asking about it. (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

4.) The Church was restored or near complete but now we are only in the beginning of an ongoing restoration.

5.) Birth Control used to be taught as “contrary to the teachings of the Church” and related to sin (in cases where the mothers health and well being were not in question).  Today members are instructed that “Decisions about birth control and the consequences of those decisions rest solely with each married couple”. (SOURCE)(SOURCE)

6.) The Prophets taught so many things about Homosexuality that have been disavowed, reversed, or abandoned.  Church leaders used to teach that Homosexual attraction was “unnatural”, that “masturbation leads to Homosexuality”, that entering a heterosexual marriage could cure it, and that being homosexual was a choice.  The Church no longer holds any of these positions. (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

7.) Tithing was once defined as 10% of surplus or 10% interest on surplus but was redefined as 10% of Gross income directly and today less directly. (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

8.) Church Leaders taught previously that the Earth was 6000 years old.  Today the Church no longer holds that stance and apologists easily acknowledge that the Earth is Billions of years old. (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

9.) The Church previously held that inter-racial marriage is sin and imposed that such is Doctrine.  Today the Church disavows those teachings claiming they were false theories.  (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

10.) Church Leaders have taught that the Earth incurred a Global Flood whereby Noah and his family were all that was saved.  The Church seems to have backed away from this and the majority of LDS apologists acknowledge that a Global flood is absurd when one takes the time to understand the science of such.  (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

11.) Church Leaders have taught previously that handicapped people were less valiant in the Premortal life which is what led to their disability.  Modern Leaders have suggested that they were instead the most righteous in the pre-earth life. (SOURCE)(SOURCE)

12.) Church Leaders previously taught that people of color of African descent were less valiant in the Pre-mortal life and carried the curse of Cain or Ham.  That these members could not hold the Priesthood or go to the temple.   These leaders named these beliefs doctrine.  Today the Church disavows these doctrines as racist and false theories.  These teachings were imposed as Doctrine.  Today the Church disavows these teachings as false theories. (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

13.) Church Leaders have taught slavery was good.  Today the Church disavows such teachings. (SOURCE)(SOURCE)

14.) Church Leaders have taught that Suicide was a Sin.  Today Church Leaders have denounced this teaching. (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

15.) Church Leaders have taught that Jesus was married and in fact was a polygamist.  The modern Church has distanced itself away from this teaching and no longer suggests such. In fact Dale Bills, spokesman for the Church in 2006 stated, “the belief that Christ was married has never been official church doctrine. It is neither sanctioned nor taught by the church. While it is true that a few church leaders in the mid-1800s expressed their opinions on the matter, it was not then, and is not now, church doctrine.” But when you consider the number of leaders who taught such repeatedly, it does bring to question how one can know what is true and what isn’t especially as we have seen Doctrines above turn out to be false.  (SOURCE)(SOURCE)

16.) Church Leaders have taught that Heavenly Father had actual sexual intercourse in order to impregnate Mary with the Christ Child.  The Church today has abandoned this teaching.  (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

17.)  Numerous Church Leaders on numerous occasions have taught that Adam was in fact Heavenly Father and Elohim was Heavenly Grandfather.  Such was written into the presentation at the veil of the Temple Endowment strongly indicating this was a Doctrine of the Church.  Bruce R. McConkie and Spencer Kimball specifically and the Church more generally have denounced this past Doctrine as heretical.  (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

18.) Church Leaders have taught the Catholicism is the Great Whore and the Great and Abominable Church spoken of in the Book of Mormon.  The Church has always kept distance from directly claiming this though the Catholic Church matches very closely with the Church the Book of Mormon describes. (SOURCE)(SOURCE)

19.) Church Leaders have taught that Cain is Bigfoot or Sasquatch.  The Church today has distanced itself from this teaching.  (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

20.) Church Leaders have taught that Lamanites were the principle ancestors of Native Americans.  Because of the Science of DNA research the Church has had to compromise its position and now teaches that Lamanites are among the ancestors of Native Americans.  The reality is there is essentially no Israelite DNA in Native Americans that can be traced to those of Jewish descent during the right time period to even come close to validating the Book of Mormon narrative.  What this means is we now have zero ability to pinpoint any specific Naticve American and ensure he/she is a Lamanite.  This has deep repercussions for Mormon Theology and the stated purpose of the Book of Mormon. (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

21.) Church Leaders have taught that the Book of Mormon is absolutely an ancient text.  Today the Church’s scholars and apologists are moving to a framing that acknolwedges a significant amount of 19th century material in the Book of Mormon that has the Book of Mormon at least in part be a modern production and text.  (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

22.) Church Leaders have taught and the Official position of the Church was that the papyri connected to Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Book of Abraham was the very “writings of Abraham” and “written by his own hand”.  The papyri not only doesn’t match that concept but also the papyri compared with the Book of Abraham translation end up being two completely different items that do not come from the same author, same translation, same time period, etc…  They are two completely different things and hence the Church and its official scholars have abandoned the earlier official position. (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

23.) Church Leaders have taught that the Joseph Smith translation of the Bible is a restoration of the original text which had been corrupted over time.  In recent years the Church and its scholars have had to grapple with the discovery that the Inspired Bible Translation heavily plagiarized from “Adam Clarke’s Commentary”, a contemporary source to Joseph Smith. (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

24.) Church Leaders had imposed that the Book of Mormon was translated via the Nephite Spectacles that were alleged to be in the ground with the gold plates. In recent years we have transitioned over to the translation of the Book of Mormon was translated at least primarily and likely entirely via the means of a egg shaped rock that Joseph Smith used in his “treasure Digging”. All of this in spite of past leaders seeing the rock method as false and contrary to the truth claims of the Church since why would the Book of Mormon people and God prepare an instrument that Joseph simply wouldn’t need.  (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

25.) Church Leaders have taught that the office of Patriarch in the Modern Church was the same as the office of Evangelist in the New Testament.  This is simply false  (SOURCE)(SOURCE)

26.) Church Leaders have taught that Joseph Smith was a man of honesty and integrity.  In recent years the Church has acknowledged that Smith lied heavily to his wife Emma and the general public about polygamy and it is now part of the historical record that Smith used manipulation and coercive tactics to pressure teenage girls into intimate relationships and when some of the females turned down his proposals he sought to besmirch and tarnish their reputations.  (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

27.) Church Leaders have taught that the Devil had power over the water and seem to have abandoned this teaching. (SOURCE)(SOURCE)

28.) Church Leaders have taught that Joseph Smith only dabbled in Treasure Digging and gave it up quickly.  We now know his treasure digging was pervasive and wide spread and occurred over a decade.  (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

29.) Church Leaders have taught that temple ordinances could not be changed or altered.  “Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed…. He set the temple ordinances to be the same forever and ever and set Adam to watch over them, to reveal them from heaven to man, or to send angels to reveal them” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 4, p. 208 ). But the Church seemingly in response to how offensive and eye opening the penalties were and in response to how much sexism was prevalent have altered the ordinances numerous times.  Why would something given from God as unalterable need to be changed?  (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

30.) Church Leaders The temple Endowment was a restoration of an ancient ceremony that Masons happened to have a corrupted form of. (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

31.) Church Leaders have taught Church Leaders shared the 1838/ Wentworth version of the First Vision as an isolated framing and as the only account we knew about andsuch portrayed that Joseph’s story about that vision was consistent.  In 1965 Joseph Fielding Smith and the Church under pressure acknowledged that another First Vision account considered “strange” was being held by the Church.  This account along with another released in 1967 had contradictions and dissimilarities with the official account.  Also added is a source regarding others contemporary to Smith who had similar visions, some of whom Smith would have been aware about before writing the details of his own.  (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

32.) The Book of Mormon teaches that You can lose your virtue in the act of being raped (Moroni9:9).  Past Church Leaders have reiterated said teaching  (SOURCE)(SOURCE)

33.) Church Leaders have taught Garments have supernatural protective power.  The Church has officially abandoned this teaching and now hold that “There is nothing magical or mystical about temple garments”. (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

34.) Church Leaders have taught that a women’s place was in the home.  In recent decades the Church has backed off significantly from this teaching.  (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

35.) Church Leaders have taught that Polygamy ended with the 1890 Manifesto.  The Church now officially acknowledges that polygamy continued long past the 1890 manifesto.  (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE pg xii)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

36.) Church Leaders have taught repeatedly that “As Man is God Once Was as God is Man may become”.  Gordon B Hinkley retreated from this teaching when in response to whether Latter-day Saints believe in that couplet, “I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it. I haven’t heard it discussed for a long time in public discourse. I don’t know. I don’t know all the circumstances under which that statement was made. I understand the philosophical background behind it. But I don’t know a lot about it and I don’t know that others know a lot about it.”  (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

37.) Church Leaders have taught that Native Americans’ skin changes from dark to white  (SOURCE)(SOURCE)

38.) Church Leaders have taught that Polygamy or plural marriage is an essential Doctrine that can’t go away within the gospel (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

39.) A few Church Leaders have taught that the Civil Rights Movement was a communist plot. The Church and it leaders no longer share such views.  (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

40.) Church Leaders have implied Leaders are not paid and the Church operates on a “lay ministry”.  What was actually true was that the local leaders were a lay ministry while the top leadership was paid a significant salary that now is in the amount of approximately $150k and there is some evidence they are paid $1 million dollars upon entry into the Quorum of the 12.  (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

42.) Church Leaders have taught that Single sisters could not take out their Endowment.  This is no longer the case.

43.) Church Leaders have taught that Speaking in tongues was a manifestation of the spirit in early Church history.  Today this has been reinterpreted as the skill of learning a foreign language quickly (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

44.) Church Leaders have taught that Women had access to Priesthood power and could perform Priesthood Blessings.   The Church today has taken such away and does not copndone females giving blessings (Outside the Second Anointing) (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

45.) Church Leaders have taught that cremation is not the appropriate burial method and such was discouraged.  The Church has abandoned this teaching.  (SOURCE)(SOURCE)

46.) Church Leaders have taught in the past that one could enact violence on another and murder them and help them atone for their sins.  This doctrine was known as “Blood Atonement”.  The Church has abandoned this teaching.   (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

47.) Church Leaders have taught that the Nauvoo Expositor was full of Lies.  It is now understood that its points were essentially entirely true.  (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

48.) Joseph Smith stated that the word Mormon is half English and half Egyptian and means “More Good” and Church Leaders have reiterated such and suggested we be proud of the term.  The Church currently teaches that using the word Mormon is a victory for Satan and should not be used.   (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

49.) Church Leaders have taught that the president of the church can actually translate and prophesy and see.  There seems to be little to no evidence of any of those three occurring in the modern Church (SOURCE)(SOURCE)

50.) Church Leaders have imposed that an oath of vengeance take place in the temple.  They have abandoned this practice.  (SOURCE)(SOURCE)

51.) Church Leaders have taught that Faith to be healed was a greater faith than not having the faith to be healed.  The modern Church teaches that Faith not to be healed is now the greater gift  (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

52.) Church Leaders have taught that Missionaries should invite people to be baptized in the first discussion and current Leaders have abandoned this teaching.  (SOURCE)(SOURCE)

53.) Church Leaders have taught plural marriage.  The Church today teaches that the only acceptable marriage is between one man and one woman.   (SOURCE)(SOURCE)

54.) Church Leaders in the past have imposed that the Hill Cumorah/Hill Ramah from Book Of Mormon is the hill in Palmyra New York.  Today the Church has distanced itself from that belief though they seem highly suggestive Cumorah is in Central America (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

55.) Church Leaders have taught that Masturbation is a “great sin and would prevent marriage and lead to insanity and an early death”.  That it was a “”damnable and pernicious practice” and a “reprehensible sin.”  Today the Church has removed the degree to which such is seen as sin and in the current handbook “stated that masturbation is not grounds for holding a church membership council”  (SOURCE)(SOURCE)

56.) The Doctrine and Covenants and past Handbooks of Instruction insists that a person has a right to 12 members of high council being present in a disciplinary court and that half of that 12  “to prevent insult or injustice” But the Modern Church has broken this law by changing it to “Members of the high council do not normally participate in stake membership councils.”  (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

57.) Church Leaders have taught that an eternal Principle of the Church was “Free Agency” and agency was defined as the idea that “God has told us through his prophets that we are free to choose between good and evil. We may choose liberty and eternal life by following Jesus Christ. We are also free to choose captivity and death by following Satan. (See 2 Nephi 2:27.) The right to choose between good and evil is called agency.”  And that “Agency Is a Necessary Part of the Plan of Salvation” and “Without the gift of agency, we would have been unable to show our Heavenly Father whether we would do all that he commanded us. Because we are able to choose, we are responsible for our actions (see Helaman 14:30-31).”  (SOURCE pg 17)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE Pg 21)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

58.) Church Leaders have taught that The definition of the Law of Chastity previously as “The Lord’s law of chastity is abstinence from sexual relations outside of lawful marriage and fidelity within marriage. Sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife. Adultery, fornication, homosexual or lesbian relations, and every other unholy, unnatural, or impure practice are sinful. Members who violate the Lord’s law of chastity or who influence others to do so are subject to Church discipline.”  The Church today has redefined the Law of Chastity as “Abstinence from sexual relations outside of a legal marriage between a man and a woman. Fidelity within marriage.”   (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

59.) in 2015 the Church created a policy that forbid the children of LGBTQ members from receiving the ordinances of the gospel.  three and a half years later they abandoned the policy and removed it. (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)
First for those who read through the list and thought of other issues that should be on it.  Please make not of the missing items in the comments below.  We will check this from time to time and add pertinent ones onto the list.

60.) The JST or Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible was put forward by Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and The LDS Church as a revelatory restoring of the Bible to its ancient form.  But modern scholarship has shown that the JST is anything but such. First it imposes adaptations that detract from early manuscripts, add incorrect words and meanings.  Second it is not supported by early manuscripts in a whole host of ways.  Third it has been demonstrated that much of the JST changes can be found in contemporary sources such as Adam Clarke’s Commentary.  Hence the Church and its affiliates have reframed the JST as a flawed unauthoritative commentary rather than a revealed restoring of ancient text. (SOURCE)(SOURCE)

61.) When the Doctrine of Leaders being presented for a sustaining vote was revealed from God according to Joseph Smith and early Leaders it was defined as the memberships right to “consent” to those specific people being leaders over them prior to their doing so. That was the Doctrine. The modern LDS Church has taken that away completely and made the Sustaining vote simply a formality where Leaders are ordained prior to a sustaining vote in conference. And rather than be a chance for the Members to consent to that person leading them instead the Church has switched it to a chance for the members to display their loyalty to support that leader. We know it doesn’t mean what it used to because new apostle Patrick Kearon was already ordained an apostle and is already performing his duties and now presiding where he goes. Consenting in a sustaining vote is now only a formality. Rather than a collective vote to consent to that person leading it has been reduced to only a chance to let those who extended the call to know the person is unfit. for example ““If a member in good standing gives a dissenting vote when someone is presented to be sustained, the presiding officer or another assigned priesthood officer confers with the dissenting member in private after the meeting. The officer determines whether the dissenting vote was based on knowledge that the person who was presented is guilty of conduct that should disqualify him or her from serving in the position” and this is NOT how the original Doctrine played out where “No Man can preside in this Church in any capacity without the consent of the people” & President J Reuben Clark, who said, “In the Church the nominating power rests in a group, the General Authorities, but the sustaining or electing power rests in the body of the Church, which under no circumstances nominates officers, the function of the Church body being solely to sustain or to elect.   (SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)(SOURCE)

Take a moment to think about this list.  First notice just how much changes in the LDS Church.  How members are taught that doctrine is consistent and everlasting and God is unchanging and yet even beyond this list, every single doctrine in this church has evolved and changed.  What is the chance these men who lead the Church are simply winging it with no real access to God or discernment?  What is the chance these changes simply come when the Church sees its expectations as outdated or offensive or beginning to lose tithing or active membership?  How many of the changes seem to indicate God is confused about truth himself or that the Church leaders are unable to hear him?  How many changes have come from surveys and pilot programs rather than God simply informing his prophet.  How many changes seem convenient when pushback begins to grow or when science and a changing world morality impose the old way of doing things is untenable?