What are the Church Essays?
The church has quietly published some essays discussing some hard-to-reconcile issues. There are multiple topics of these essays, such as: Multiple First Vision Accounts, Rock in a Hat Translation & Mormon Institutionalized Racism, a collection of essays about Polygamy referred to as Plural Marriage & even Heavenly Mother. Haven’t heard of them? Take a few days to catch up on the latest church history narrative spins. They are referred to the Gospel Topics Essays. The church sets the stage with an introduction as follows:
Recognizing that today so much information about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can be obtained from questionable and often inaccurate sources, officials of the Church began in 2013 to publish straightforward, in-depth essays on a number of topics. The purpose of these essays, which have been approved by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has been to gather accurate information from many different sources and publications and place it in the Gospel Topics section, where the material can more easily be accessed and studied by Church members and other interested parties.Gospel Topics Essays
These mormon gospel topics essays are hard to find, and even harder to find out about. These essays were not publicized or announced, they started quietly being published in 2013 on the church site in a “soft rollout”. There were “some members and even local bishops believed that the essays were anti-Mormon propaganda” (For Mormons in a faith crisis, the Gospel Topics essays try to answer the hard questions). They have since been moved around, redirected, and rarely included in main navigation where users could accidentally find them on their own without considerable digging. It seems the church was pressured into publishing the essays to help members who were struggling but were scared that the essays themselves would cause more issues if the reader wasn’t struggling. It’s as if they wanted to show that they have been honest, or at least “as honest as they know how to be” by publishing the essays, while simultaneously not actually sending many members to them. The essays are plausible deniability. But the church historically has denied so much of what the essays say. They are attempting to rewrite history in their favor. They call past doctrines “theories” of men (racism) and ignore so many real facts being preferential to comfortable half-truths.
Jeremy Runnells, the author of the CES Letter, faced excommunication from the church for sharing so many so-called anti-mormon lies in the CES letter. It was causing members to leave even faster than the internet, but much of what he wrote in his letter to a CES Director was what we now find in the essays. No wonder so many members can’t believe they are actually published and sanctioned by the church.
These are not anti-Mormon lies! It’s amazing to me what was yesterday’s anti-Mormon lies are now today’s gospel topics essays!Jeremy Runnells, Church Disciplinary Council/Excommunication trial
Who Wrote the Essays
The church also neglects to share who wrote the essays, all authorship is removed from them. Ideally, the authors would be shared and would be experts in their field. There are stories attempting to reconstruct the authorship and even discussions about the struggle from the authors to get the content approved by the church leaders.
The writing and content of the essays is very apologetic in that it twists words to support the faith-promoting claims only. They show that their only desire in creating these essays is to have readers come to their predetermined conclusion, that the church is true. They leave out many facts and damning details, they perform mental gymnastics to determine that what they are presenting is not evidence to deconstruct the dominant narrative. They use clever language for example, while admitting that Joseph Smith married Helen Mar Kimball at 14 years old, they refer to her as a few months shy of 15 (several months before her 15th birthday). They want users to see the number 15, because as bad as it is, perhaps it’s better than 14? So, while they do finally admit some scandalous anti-mormon “lies” as true, they still apply a hefty sugar coating. They wanted to have these published (although quitely) so that when a member struggles with a related topic, the member can be sent to the essays and the church proceeds to gaslight the individual. The content is specially prepared with a scalpel to be true, but not faith-destroying, at least not as faith-destroying as the actual truth is. The churc shows that these concerns are nothing now or disastrous while continuing to misinform readers. They will see that the church knows all about these concerns and that with academic attention show the concern is actually not a problem.
It also seems the church is hoping that readers do not actually look at the footnotes. They want to appease the casual reader that they have everything in hand. The problem is that the essays are not only dishonest and misleading, but they do include references. Following the references will stir up more trouble for those in a faith crisis. Meticulous readers see that the church knows the issues and continues to cover them up with poor academics and more lies. Looking at the footnotes for their claims (many of which are an unsavory mental stretch) we find so much more damning evidence.
I’m not discrediting the church. The church’s essays are discrediting the church. There’s an essay called “Race and the Priesthood”. Where the brethren who approved these essays, “Today the church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor, or curse.” So, today’s prophet’s, seers and revelators threw yesterday’s prophets, seers and revelators under the bus. We have a record of 130 years of prophets pointing to God for the priesthood ban and it was not just a priesthood ban, it was a temple/exaltation ban because black individuals and black families could not get endowed, or sealed in the temple for 130 years over what the church now calls “a disavowed theory.” A disavowed theory that began with Brigham Young in 1852. It wasn’t because the blacks were not valiant in the pre-existence. It wasn’t revelation. It was a disavowed theory. And the essay says that we disavow that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, yet that contradicts the Book of Mormon. In 2 Nephi 5:21 “And He hath caused a cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against Him that they had become like unto a flint, wherefore as they were white and exceedingly fair and delightsome that they might not be enticing unto my people, the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.” This is the church’s own essay, “Race and the Priesthood” it’s discrediting the church. It’s discrediting the Book of Mormon. It’s discrediting every prophet from Brigham Young all the way to Harold B. Lee. So, it’s not me that’s discrediting the church. It’s the church’s own essay! Its own facts.
Mormon history is discrediting the church. Joseph Smith’s actions and conduct of marrying other men’s wives and 14 year old girls behind Emma’s back is discrediting Joseph Smith. It’s not me that’s discrediting him. Its facts. These are not anti-Mormon lies! It’s amazing to me what was yesterday’s anti-Mormon lies are now today’s Mormon essays! What am I doing here today president? What am I doing here? What error or mistake have I made? Please correct me.Jeremy Runnells, Church Disciplinary Council/Excommunication trial
We must also note that many of the things the church admits in these essays were previously denied or at least hushed. The supporting evidence in these essays may not link to the original thinkers, but it is the same content that other scholars have been excommunicated for publishing in the past! The scholars were speaking supposed anti-mormon lies and persecution, but now the church comes forth with the truth. Look into the September 6 for details here.
Have you heard of the Gospel Topics Essays? Have you read the Gospel Topics Essays? Even though the leaders don’t want us to research or look too deeply, and claim they’ve been as transparent as they know how to be, these essays are a very weak scholarly attempt to dive into these complex topics. That is because they are not diving into them, they are only mentioning them while promoting faith in the church and its leaders. That’s because there’s no real way to explain these complex topics faithfully while being honest and willing to go where the evidence takes us. We’re not allowed to criticize the leaders, but can we be critical of their poor academics?
Some of the best and complete analysis of these essays is from the ldsdiscussions.com website, where most of the essays are reposted with comments: