6. THE CHURCH'S WOUND
The Lord Almighty leads this church... You may go home and sleep as sweetly as a babe in its mother's arms, as to any danger of your leaders leading you astray... (President Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 9, page 289)
The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as the President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. (President Wilford Woodruff, Essentials in Church History, page 609)
It now seems incontestable that Mark Hofmann set out to weaken faith in Mormonism through forgery. His attempt was rather successful for a number of years, but eventually he was overthrown by his own selfishness and ambition. In the end he brought disgrace on himself and on his family. But, even though Mr. Hofmann's designs against the Mormon Church did not pan out as he had hoped, he did administer a wound to the church which may never be healed. His close involvement with church leaders has clearly revealed that the church's claim of latter-day revelation is without foundation in fact. Apostle Dallin Oaks and other Mormon leaders are now fighting desperately to save the concept that the church is run by revelation. The Apostle Bruce R. McConkie once made these claims concerning revelation in the church:
"Our Lord's true Church is established and founded upon revelation. Its identity as the true Church continues as long as revelation is received to direct its affairs.... without revelation there would be no legal administrators to perform the ordinances of salvation with binding effect on earth and in heaven.... Since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord's true Church; and since the Lord's Church must be guided by continuous revelation if it is to maintain divine approval;... we could safely conclude... that the Church today is guided by revelation.... the Spirit is giving direct and daily revelation to the presiding Brethren in the administration of the affairs of the Church.... The presence of revelation in the Church is positive proof that it is the kingdom of God on earth.... For those who reject these revelations there awaits the damnation of hell." (Mormon Doctrine, 1979, pages 646, 647 and 650)
Apostle McConkie also stated: "Members of the First Presidency, Council of the Twelve, and the Patriarch to the Church - because they are appointed and sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators to the Church are known as the living oracles." (Ibid., p. 547) Mark Hofmann has put the claim of revelation in the church to the acid test and found that the so-called "living oracles" are just as fallible as other men. Apostle Oaks and the other Mormon leaders find themselves in a very embarrassing position. At a time when revelation was really needed, they seemed to be completely oblivious to what was going on. Not only did they fail to foresee the threat to the church through revelation, but they ignored the many warnings which appeared in the Salt Lake City Messengera publication which they feel is printed by "apostates" or "anti-Mormons." Robert Lindsey wrote the following:
"In a newsletter that he publishes with his wife, Sandra, Mr. Tanner began raising questions about their authenticity, in some cases comparing the texts with known Mormon writings.
"But if senior Mormon officials were aware of his warnings, they apparently paid little attention. Several of the church's highest officials have acknowledged negotiating to acquire documents from Mr. Hofmann until the day of the first two bombings." (New York Times, Feb. 16, 1986)
Apostle Dallin Oaks tried to explain the complete failure of the church's revelation system in the following manner:
"B. Some have asked, how was Mark Hofmann able to deceive Church leaders?
"As everyone now knows, Hofmann succeeded in deceiving many: experienced Church historians, sophisticated collectors, businessmen-investors, a lie detector test and analysis by national experts, and professional document examiners,... But why, some still ask, were his deceits not detected by the several Church leaders with whom he met?
"In order to perform their personal ministries, Church leaders cannot be suspicious and questioning of each of the hundreds of people they meet each year. Ministers of the gospel function best in an atmosphere of trust and love. In that kind of atmosphere, they fail to detect a few deceivers they meet, but that is the price they pay to increase their effectiveness in counseling, comforting, and blessing the hundreds of honest and sincere people they see." ("Recent Events Involving Church History and Forged Documents," pages 10-11)
Apostle Oaks has not really answered the question. Mr. Hofmann was not meeting with church leaders for "counseling, comforting, and blessing." He was meeting with them for the express purpose of deceiving them so that they would give him large amounts of money in exchange for his fraudulent documents. Furthermore, he had many visits with high Mormon officials. These meetings went on for years, yet church leaders could not discern the wicked plan that Hofmann had in his heart. While the Mormon leaders claim to have the same powers as the ancient Apostles in the Bible, their performance with regard to Mark Hofmann certainly does not match up to that of the Apostle Peter when he caught Ananias and Sapphira red-handed in their attempt to deceive the church with regard to a financial transaction: "But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?" (Acts 5:3)
The Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie claimed that church leaders did have the gift of discernment: "...the gift of the discerning of spirits is poured out upon presiding officials in God's kingdom; they have it given to them to discern all gifts and all spirits, lest any come among the saints and practice deception.... There is no perfect operation of the power of discernment without revelation. Thereby even 'the thoughts and intents of the heart' are made known.... Where the saints are concerned... the Lord expects them to discern, not only between the righteous and the wicked, but between false and true philosophies, educational theories, sciences, political concepts, and social schemes." (Mormon Doctrine, page 197)
The Book of Mormon has stories of how the servants of God used the gift of discernment in ancient America. For instance, in the book of Alma we read how Amulek "silenced Zeezrom, for he beheld that Amulek had caught him in his lying and deceiving (Alma 12:1) After Zeezrom began to tremble, Amulek informed him concerning the gift of discernment:
"Now Zeerom, seeing that thou has been taken in thy lying and craftiness, for thou has not lied unto men only but thou hast lied unto God; for behold, he knows all thy thoughts, and thou seest that thy thoughts are made known unto us by his Spirit.
"And thou seest that we know that thy plan was a very subtle plan, as to the subtlety of the devil,...
"Now when Alma had spoken these words, Zeezrom began to tremble more exceedingly, for he was convinced more and more of the power of God; and he was also convinced that Alma and Amulek had a knowledge of him, for he was convinced that they knew the thoughts and intents of his heart; for power was given unto them that they might know of these things according to the spirit of prophecy." (Alma 12:3, 4 and 7)
In Heleman 9:25-41 we read how a prophet named Nephi revealed by the power of God that Seantum was the one who murdered his brother Seezoram. He told the people that they would "find blood upon the skirts of his cloak." When Seantum was examined it was found that the words which Nephi said "were true" and "he did confess." Some of the people then felt that "Nephi was a prophet" and others said "he is a god, for except he was a god he could not know of all things. For behold, he has told us the thoughts of our hearts,... and even he has brought unto our knowledge the true murderer of our chief judge."
As I have already stated, the Prophet Joseph Smith claimed that God Himself warned him of a plan by his enemies to discredit him through forgery. When Smith was in the process of "translating" the Book of Mormon, he allowed Martin Harris to take the first 116 pages of the manuscript and these pages were lost. The pages were never recovered, but according to Joseph Smith he was warned in a revelation that the pages had been altered by his enemies:
"And, behold, Satan hath put it into their hearts to alter the words which you have caused to be written, or which you have translated.... I say unto you, that because they have altered the words, they read contrary from that which you translated and caused to be written;... on this wise, the devil has sought to lay a cunning plan, that he may destroy this work;... I say unto you, that I will not suffer that Satan shall accomplish his evil design in this thing.... yea, I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil." (Doctrine and Covenants, Section 10, verses 10-12, 14 and 43)
It would seem that if the same powers were functioning in the church today, the "Prophet, Seer and Revelator" would have received a revelation warning him concerning Mark Hofmann's "cunning plan" to defraud and disgrace the church. Spencer W. Kimball, who was President of the Mormon Church at the time Hofmann first began deceiving church leaders, was supposed to be a "seer" and have the power to "translate all records that are of ancient date" (Book of Mormon, Mosiah 8:13). The Book of Mormon also says that "a seer is greater than a prophet... a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have... a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light (Mosiah 8:15-17) When Mark Hofmann brought the Anthon transcript to the church leaders, President Kimball was unable to translate the characters supposed to have been copied from the gold plates of the Book of Mormon. Instead of using the "seer stone," he examined the characters which appear on the transcript with a magnifying glass. Not only did he fail to provide a translation, but he was unable to detect that the church was being set up to be defrauded of a large amount of money and many historical items out of its archives. Moreover, he entirely failed to see the devastating and embarrassing effect this transaction and others which followed would have on the Mormon Church. If ever revelation from the Lord was needed, it was on that day in 1980 when Mark Hofmann stood in the presence of President Kimball.
As President Kimball got older, he became less able to function and President Gordon B. Hinckley took over many of his responsibilities and became to all appearances the acting president of the church. Hinckley, who stood with President Kimball in the 1980 photograph, was deceived on a number of occasions by Mr. Hofmann. He, together with Apostle Boyd K. Packer (also shown in the picture), approved many of the deals the church made with Hofmann.
It appears that if the Mormon Church was ever led by revelation, it has been lacking since Mark Hofmann came into the church offices with the Anthon transcript. The inability of the Mormon leaders to detect the religious fraud perpetrated upon them raises the question as to their testimony with regard to the Book of Mormon. After all, if they could not determine that Hofmann's documentswhich were only 150 years oldwere forgeries, how can we trust their judgment with regard to a record which is supposed to be ten times as old? They have seen and inspected Mark Hofmann's documents, but they have never seen the gold plates the Book of Mormon was translated from. When it comes right down to it, the Book of Mormon reminds us a great deal of Hofmann's documents. It shows signs of plagiarism and has absolutely no provenance. No one ever saw it before it showed up in Joseph Smith's hands, and it was never quoted in any ancient record.
The reader will remember that Apostle McConkie maintained that "the Spirit is giving direct and daily revelation to the presiding Brethren in the administration of the affairs of the Church." One would think that if such revelation was in operation, Mark Hofmann would have been exposed years before the bombings. With regard to the inability of the Mormon leaders to detect that the Hofmann documents were fraudulent, a person might try to argue that these documents were not really important spiritual writings, and therefore the Lord did not see fit to intervene when the General Authorities examined them. The truth of the matter, however, is that they contain extremely important material directly relating to spiritual affairs. The Salamander letter, for example, changes the story of the Angel Moroni appearing to Joseph Smith to that of a cantankerous and tricky "old spirit" who transforms himself from a white salamander and strikes Joseph Smith. Moreover, some of the purported Joseph Smith writings which Hofmann sold to the church contain revelations from the Lord Himself. For instance, the Joseph Smith III Blessing document gives this message from the Lord: "Verily, thus saith the Lord: if he abides in me, his days shall be lengthened upon the earth, but, if he abides not in me, I, the Lord, will receive him, in an instant, unto myself." The 1838 letter of Joseph Smith to his brother, Hyrum, is in its entirety a revelation purporting to come from the Lord. It begins with the words, "Verily thus Saith the Lord," and ends with the word "Amen." The fact that the Mormon leaders were unable to recognize the spurious nature of these revelations casts doubt upon their ability to discern the truthfulness of the other revelations given by Joseph Smith. It has always been claimed that it is virtually impossible for a person to write a revelation that would compare with Joseph Smith's. It now appears, however, that there is someone who can write revelations comparable to Joseph Smith's and that it is even possible to get them past the scrutiny of the highest leadership of the Mormon Church.
That the Mormon leaders were unable to detect his iniquity even though they met with him from 1980 to 1985 seems to completely destroy their claim to special revelation. Mr. Hofmann believed that his "discoveries" would tend to liberalize the Mormon Church as scholars and church leaders came to accept them, and there is little doubt that this has turned out to be the case. Now that the documents have been exposed as forgeries, historians have suffered some loss of credibility with the average member of the church. This would probably tend to strengthen the orthodox position in the church if it were not for another factor i.e., the loss of credibility that the Mormon leaders have suffered. It is possible, in fact, that the exposure of Hofmann's documents as forgeries could do more harm to the Church in the long run than if the documents were proven authentic.
Although Apostle Dallin Oaks would have us believe that "Criticism is particularly objectionable when it is directed toward Church authorities," there seems to be no way to get around the fact that they must bear a great deal of the responsibility in the Hofmann affair. If they had been open and forthright about historical documents, Mr. Hofmann would not have approached them with his blackmail-like documents with the idea of obtaining large amounts of money. That Mark Hofmann knew they were suppressing important church documents and were anxious to keep anything embarrassing from falling into the hands of church critics set the stage for the tragic events which followed. While Mormon scholars have been blamed for not being more careful, it is the General Authorities of the church who are primarily responsible. For the most part Mormon scholars want an open history and would not have an interest in buying up documents to hide them. We feel that the scholars were honestly trying to learn the truth about the documents. They made no special claims of infallibility. The church leaders, on the other hand, who claimed to have special powers of revelation, played into Hofmann's hands time after time. As I have already shown, if it had not been for the suppressive policy of the church, its leaders could have brought Mr. Hofmann's career to an end long before the bombings.
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