Criticism of Mormonism - Alleged Distortion of Its Own History

Alleged Distortion of Its Own History

Main article: Mormonism and history See also: History of the Latter Day Saint movement

An analysis of B. H. Roberts' work History of the Church when compared to the original manuscripts from which it is drawn, "more than 62,000 words" can be identified that were either added or deleted,. Based on this analysis, 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 there was a 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.

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 state 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"

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: " 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 Mormon 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.

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