John Taylor, the third President of the church, would not recognize the church today. He invites discussion and investigation on even trivial matters. He’s not afraid of research or whack-a-mole. When there was speculation and disagreement about a certain plot of land which Brigham Young was reimbursed for after having personally purchased for the church which became Ogden City Union Square, John Taylor didn’t want to silence the discussion. He thought discussing it was valuable and would help avoid misunderstandings and misconceptions about it. He explained that “a right needs no excuse, and an excuse will not make a wrong right” and that he wanted “no association with things that cannot be talked about and will not bear investigation”.
I think a full, free talk is frequently of great use; we want nothing secret nor underhanded, and for one I want no association with things that cannot be talked about and will not bear investigation. I wanted to hear Brother Farr’s statement about this affair, and I wanted you to hear it, because out of such things, unless properly understood, a great many misunderstandings arise.
A right needs no excuse, and an excuse will not make a wrong right. We want facts, and when we get them let us appreciate them, and lay aside our nonsense which so frequently arises from our misconception of things.John Taylor, as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Journal of Discourses, v. 20, p. 264
He invited a “full, free talk” and understood that “out of such things, unless properly understood, a great many misunderstandings arise”. This sounds like wisdom, but today, this sounds like the exact definition of what the church has been doing for decades. Through whitewashing its own history, and the effort of correlating all church material into organized controlled church manuals and lessons, the church ended up making many things secret, seemingly in an underhanded way. And now, out of such things, there are a great many misunderstandings.
A simple example of this is the first vision account that was removed from Joseph Smith’s journal and hidden away for decades until it was reluctantly released for examination and is now part of the Joseph Smith Papers project. It became secret and hidden in an underhanded way. The church will then, once it is pressured into admitting the facts, claim it has always been honest and never hid anything. They claim they are as transparent as they know how to be, which in effect, is not transparent at all.
This stands as a sign to many members who leave that the organization lacks integrity today. The fact is that church history and the dominant narrative have both been so whitewashed and controlled. Members have been excommunicated for speaking about uncorrelated topics or in ways that challenge the dominant narrative. What may have been had the church followed a philosophy closer to John Taylor rather than those who wanted to hide uncomfortable history. It wouldn’t make it true, but it could have made it better.
Did you find anything in the church to be secret or underhanded? What about the recent trouble the church was in for cheating on filings and being slapped with a 5 million dollar fine because of it? What about when they publish essays that still mischaracterize church history and whitewash church history? Please share your experience by creating a profile on this site to tell your story of struggling with Mormonism.