Subject: Personal "Prophet" Show and Tell Time: Unimpressive testimonies of the "Special Witnesses"
Date: Aug 20, 2007 
Author: steve benson


In another thread, poster "OnTheFence" asked what information I possessed regarding the expression of personal testimony from Mormon apostles illuminating their own status when it came to belief in Mormonism:

"Subject: To Steve Benson -- Testimony of General Authorities
Date: Aug 19, 2007
Author: OnTheFence

"I discovered this site about 5-6 months ago and, as you can guess, have found it and the various links I have followed to be quite injurious to my ever more fragile faith.

"While the historical information and analysis I have encountered (which obviously differs markedly from what I have been exposed to in the past) have had a significant impact, I have found the material supplied by Steve Benson to be the most intriguing.

"To be able to interview two apostles (especially Apostles Maxwell and Oaks) would be major fantasy for me. You indicated that the testimonies provided by these leaders were weak at best.

"What about similar experiences with your grandfather? Did he ever describe direct revelation or the basis of his devotion to the church? In your opinion, are most of the Quorum of the 12 solid believers or do you think that there are some closet doubters among them?"

Poster "OnTheFence's" inquiry is one often made by those re-examining their Mormon faith, as they question whether the General Authorities of the LDS Church genuinely believe the Church is true.

Let's put it this way: They may believe it, but do they really know it? And are they forthright with the Mormon membership about what they say claim either believe or know?

Based on my personal contact with some of Mormonismís highest leaders, obtained through direct conversation and correspondence with them, the answers to these questions is simply "No."

The evidence, as I have come across it in my own interaction with these men, is outlined below:


In September 1993, I held private conversations behind the closed Salt Lake City LDS Church office doors of Apostle Neal Maxwell, in which I asked both Maxwell and fellow apostle Dallin Oaks the following question:

"What personal spiritual experiences have you had which gave you your testimonies as special witness for Christ?"

In response, Oaks summoned up memories of his days as a college student at the University of Chicago. Back then, he said, he though he "knew a lot" about the gospel. He admitted, however, that he had "questions about the Church"--although he did not elaborate for us exactly what they might have been.

Oaks said a local LDS Institute teacher helped him work out the answers.

Maxwell hearkened back to his days as a boy, when he said he observed his father give a healing "priesthood blessing" to his sibling, whom Maxwell thought was dead.

This, was the sum total of their answers--answers that I did not need to travel 700 miles to Salt Lake to hear. I could have saved everyone a lot of time and trouble if I had just stayed home, gone to the next fast and testimony meeting at our local ward and listened to regular members bear personal witness to the same kind of experiences.

There was no testimony bearing from these modern-day Peters and Pauls of personal visits, in the Flesh, from the Father or the Son.

There was no telling of any "road to Damascus" story

There was no recounting of angelic visitations.

There was no description of rushing winds or flames of fire.

In short, there was "no there there."

During these conversations I had with Oaks and Maxwell, Oaks also told me that the basis for his personal testimony about the truthfulness of Mormonism took the form of a warm spiritual witness which he felt in his heart.

From what Oaks told me, this witness had particular meaning for him with regard to the truthfulness of official Mormon scripture.

Oaks admitted, for instance, that critics of the Book of Abraham seemed to presently have hold the upper hand in arguments against its authenticity.

Oaks told me, however, that the truthfulness of the Book of Abraham ultimately came through a personal, spiritual witness.

Oaks further said that the Book of Mormon could neither be proven or disproven by evidentiary examination, but in the end, also had to be accepted on faith.

In admitting that the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon could not be empirically proven, Oaks acknowledged that portions of the Book of Mormon (albeit insignificant, in his opinion) might have potential problems with plagiarism.

Specifically, he admitted that he, too, had wondered while composing his own sermons how the words of the Apostle Paul from his epistles to the Corinthians could end up, almost word for word, in the Book of Mormon, even though Bible prophets preceded their counterparts in the Book of Mormon by generations.

Oaks concluded that God must have inspired Bible and Book of Mormon prophets to speak using the same, exact language.

Oaks then attempted to minimize obvious Book of Mormon plagiarisms by drawing a comparison between the Book of Mormon and oneís marriage.

He said that one should not abandon oneís marriage because it is not perfect; likewise, Oaks argued that merely because 5% of the Book of Mormon (an estimation he came up with himself based upon a quick perusal of a paperback copy of the book which my wife Mary Ann had highlighted with examples of plagiarisms), one should not abandon it, either.

Regardless, Oaks informed me that he had received a spiritual witness that served as the basis for his personal testimony that the Book of Mormon was true.

Oaks's testimony regarding Mormonism's apostles and prophets was both illuminating--and conditional.

He admitted to me not being impressed with the antics of certain fellow members of the Quorum of the Twelve, notably his senior, Boyd K. Packer.

After it became public knowledge that Packer had improperly involved himself in the excommunication of Mormon dissident, Paul Toscano, Oaks, in referring to Packer, told me, "You can't stage manage a grizzly bear."

Oaks then lied on the record to the press about what he actually knew of Packer's inappropriate behavior and was forced to retract when caught.

Oaks told me that he would steadfastly stand by the President of the Church, with one notable exception:

Oaks would not defer, he said, to the President of the Church if the President were to come out and declare that the Book of Mormon was not true.

If that should happen, Oaks said he would look to the Quorum of the Twelve for a vote as to whether what the Church President had said about the Book of Mormon deserved support.

Oaks also did not seem all that certain with regard to the reliability of prophecies uttered by Mormon prophets.

He told me that Church members should not be keeping track of which prophecies had been borne out and, further, that prophecies made by Mormon prophets were for private, rather than public, application.

Oaks downplayed the prophetic role of Mormon Church prophets by asserting that prophesying was only a minor responsibility of prophets. Their major role, he declared, was to testify of Jesus Christ.

Oaks argued that the role of Mormon prophets had evolved over time.

He told me, for instance, that the basic doctrines of Mormonism were revealed by Joseph Smith early on in the history of the Church.

Oaks noted that the more modern approach of Church governance has been, since the time of President Joseph F. Smith, to "beseech his counselors in the First Presidency to help him, to watch over him, so that they could together make the right decisions that God wanted them to make."

Maxwell, like Oaks, seemed personally unsure as to the evidentiary proof for the Book of Mormon.

He told me, for instance, that God would not provide proof of the Book of Mormon until the end--thereby indicating that such proof did not presently exist.

Maxwell also told me that one of the purposes of FARMS was to prevent the General Authorities from being outflanked by the Church's critics.

As to how he personally regarded the pronouncements of president of the Church, Maxwell said it was his duty to be loyal to the Church president.

Maxwell added, however, that he not agree with everything President Ezra Taft Benson had to say on political matters.

This was a particularly interesting admission, given that Benson had earlier (albeit as an apostle) publicly declared that God's prophets could speak authoritatively on all matters, including those of a political nature.

Maxwell, like Oaks, warned me against keeping "box scores" when it came to tallying which prophecies uttered by Mormon prophets turned out to be turned--and which ones turned out to be false.

He further reminded me that Mormon prophets spoke as prophets only when they were acting as prophets--but that, for instance, the teachings about people living on the moon attributed to Joseph Smith were probably misreported.

Maxwell also instructed me as to how revelation for the Mormon Church was actually received.

He said that Joseph Smith's role as unilaterally revealing doctrine in behalf of the LDS Church was a practice not continued by subsequent Mormon prophets.

Maxwell claimed there are four levels of fundamental Church doctrine:

(1) doctrines revealed by the prophet speaking alone;

(2) doctrines revealed by the prophet in conjunction with his First Presidency counselors;

(3) doctrines revealed in First Presidency statements, with the words of the First Presidency assuming "a special status;" and

(4) doctrines revealed by official declaration.

Maxwell and Oaks, together, asserted that what the President of the Mormon Church said must be in compliance with the Standard Works of the Church in order to be accepted as scripture.

Maxwell and Oaks also told me that that when Brigham Young taught what Oaks called the "false" doctrine of Adam-God, it was because he was a young prophet who was in need of the help of some good counselors.


My grandfather's testimony of Mormonism, as expressed to me repeatedly over the years in personal discussions and correspondence, was rooted in two basic beliefs:

The Book of Mormon

He fervently believed that the Book of Mormon was the revealed word of God and an actual historical document. From what I was able to observe, he never, for a moment, questioned its authenticity.

That said, however, I never personally heard or saw him analyze or critique the Book of Mormon in any real depth on issues relating to its alleged historicity, authenticity or reliability.

In private, his feelings about the Book of Mormon were not as resounding or convincing as they were when he was behind the pulpit.

My grandfather did admit to me, one-on-one, that even though he insisted the LDS Church was not neutral on the question of organic evolution, one could argue for or against it from the same Mormon scriptures.

In other words, for all his publicly-expressed confidence in the Book of Mormon, in this particular instance he was not nearly as emphatic or confident in private as he appeared in public about the surety of LDS scripture.

Nevertheless, his hesitancy on that question was not enough to shake his unbending faith in the authenticity of the gold plates.

To my grandfather, they were without question the translated word of God, serving as a pillar of unshakeable, personal, testimonial faith.

Ranking second only to revealed Mormon scripture in battling what he called godless Communism, he told me, were the publications of the John Birch Society--which he told me by letter every American should have access to.

The Ranking Leaders of the Mormon Church

My grandfather unquestioningly believed, and simply accepted, that the highest leaders of the Church--most notably, the LDS President and the First Presidency counselors, together with the Quorum of the Twelve--were inspired by God in leading the affairs of the Mormon Church.

He insisted that all must follow the Brethren devoutly--and without skepticism.

For example, when he called me one snowy, wintry day in Provo, Utah (at the behest of my distraught mother) to tell me to break off my engagement to Mary Ann, he introduced himself by saying, "Stephen, I'm not calling as your grandfather, but as the President of the Quorum of the Twelve."

He did, however, privately acknowledge to me that these Church leaders were human, that they made mistakes, that they did not always agree among themselves on doctrinal matters (such as on the official Church position on organic evolution) and that some matters about which they disagreed among themselves (again, such as with organic evolution) were not necessary to one's eternal salvation.

Still, he told me that obedience to the General Authorities--even if what they claimed to be true was, in fact, wrong--constituted a fundamental principle of the Gospel.

He assured me that God would bless those who followed the Brethren, even when the Brethren were in error.

My grandfather also told me that he did not want me to publish anything that would undermine faith or testimony in the leaders of the Mormon Church.

In short, he was more committed to the idea that obedience trumped truth than the other way around.

My grandfather never claimed to me (or anyone else of whom I was aware) that he had personally seen God, Jesus Christ or other divine beings.

He did, however, emotionally inform me that he had had an experience in the Salt Lake temple (regarding the announcement by President Kimball on Blacks and the priesthood) that was too sacred to talk about.

He told me that it was one of the most "spiritual" experiences of his life but that he would not delve into it at all, even though I requested that he do so.

He also informed the assembled Benson family at a Nauvoo, Illinois, reunion that there were other matters which he was not at liberty to discuss, either.

What those were, he never did say.

He was never specific with me in revealing any particular personal experiences of his that formed the basis for his testimony of the truthfulness of Mormonism--other than to bear witness to knowing that truth of LDS claims through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.


In a lengthy face-to-face conversation I had with McConkie at his home while doing a BYU research paper on the official Mormon Church position on the subject of organic evolution, McConkie strongly emphasized what was an obvious and fundamental basis for his belief in the truthfulness of the Mormon Church.

That foundation was that the Standard Works of the Church served as the ultimate authority in determining LDS doctrinal truth--even more so than the words of the so-called "living prophets."

McConkie said that the canonized LDS scriptures superceded anything that living Presidents of the Church had declared, or might declare.

He said that the Standard Works served as the final test--the pre-eminent standard of measurement--in ascertaining the validity of any claim made by Mormon Church leaders, including teachings of both living and dead presidents of the Church.

Otherwise, McConkie told me, these scriptures would not be known as the "Standard" Works.

In making this claim, McConkie specifically criticized in my presence two LDS Church Presidents whom he said had made uninspired pronouncements while serving as heads of the Church.

Their pronouncements were false, he argued, because what they said was clearly contradicted by the LDS Standard Works:

--The first was President Brigham Young, for his teachings on the Adam-God doctrine (specifically, that Adam, of Adam and Eve fame, was actually our Heavenly Father and had sired Jesus Christ through sex with Mary).

On this subject, McConkie admitted to me that one could quote Young against himself.

--The second Mormon Church head to utter false doctrine in that capacity was, McConkie told me, President David O. McKay.

McConkie said that McKay delivered untruths to BYU students in a campus oration, in which he advised them to study the theory of organic evolution and the geologic history pointing to an ancient earth.

McKay told the students that organic evolution was a beautiful theory, as long as God was not divorced from it, and that the Earth was, in fact, millions of years old.

McConkie informed me that these claims of McKay had not been inspired by the Holy Ghost.

McConkie did not admit to having himself made any doctrinal errors himself.

In this area, his testimony seemed to rest on his own sense of doctrinal infallibility.

In fact, McConkie told me that his emphatic claim(published in the first edition of his book Mormon Doctrine but edited out of its second edition) that the Roman Catholic Church was the Church of the Devil was true.

When I asked him to explain its deletion from the books later edition, McConkie insisted that it was removed not because it was not true but because it was too difficult for people to accept.


During the course of my BYU research paper on the official LDS stand regarding organic evolution, I repeatedly corresponded with Kimball, who was then Mormon Church President.

Throughout the course of our exchanges, I had a difficult and increasingly frustrating time obtaining direct and clear answers from him on the subject, even though I made specific and detailed inquiries.

For instance, on the question of previous First Presidency statements on the physical origins of humankind, Kimball informed me in personal correspondence that he was not familiar with the First Presidency statements I had cited in my initial correspondence with him and requested that I mail them to him, which I did.

Clearly, whatever confidence Kimball had in the truthfulness of Mormonism was not always based on official Mormon positions enunciated by the Presidents of the Church, some of which he admitted to me he knew nothing.

However, in contradicting Kimball for whom he worked, Secretary to the Office of the First Presidency, Arthur C. Haycock, later told me in a phone conversation that Kimball was incorrect in confessing to me ignorance about the First Presidency statements he had asked me to send him.

In a discussion from his Church office in Salt Lake City, Haycock informed me that Kimball was, in fact, aware of those official First Presidency statements--but that he had forgotten he was aware of them.

When I asked Haycock for permission to reproduce Kimballís correspondence to me in a BYU undergraduate research paper I was doing on the subject, Haycock said I could--as long as I made it clear in my paper that the interpretations reached about Kimball's correspondence with me were my own.

Haycock did not offer me Kimballís explanatons of his owncorrespondence with me, assuming Kimball had any to give.

On the subject of organic evolution and faith, the only direction Kimball gave me was to ask if I had Henry Eyring's book, "Faith of a Scientist," in which Eyring asserted that science and religion both served as tools in the search for truth: the former in helping people avoid myth; and the latter in directing people toward God.

When I told Kimball that I had read Eyring's book and asked him to provide me with his own views on it, Kimball remained silent.

Over the course of several months I had doggedly pressed Kimball for answers but received nothing of substance from him.

Eventually, the First Presidency (consisting of Kimball and his two counselors, N. Eldon Tanner and Marion G. Romney) signed and sent a letter to my Arizona bishop, directing him to answer my questions in their behalf.

To assist the bishop in that effort, Kimball, Tanner and Romney included a 1909 statement from the First Presidency of Joseph F. Smith on the subject of organic evolution--a statement that Kimball had told me in his earlier correspondence with me that he was not familiar with and which had I ended up sending to him, at his request.

Although they included the 1909 statement for use by my bishop in explaining to me the official Church position on organic evolution to me, the Kimball First Presidency did not tell my bishop what that statement meant.

Despite Kimball's, Tanner's and Romney's directive to my bishop to answer my questions on the official Church stance on organic evolution, the bishop felt unqualified to do so.

Therefore, the bishop advised me to write Kimball one more time, requesting further clarification on the subject.

I did so but Kimball never answered back.


In conducting my research on the question of the official Mormon Church position on organic evolution, I also corresponded with Petersen.

Petersen evidenced in personal correspondence with me a lack of firm belief in the seemingly official pronouncements of even unsigned editorials in the official LDS publication, the "Church News."

In pressing him, Petersen admitted to me the following:

--The unsigned "Church News" editorials written on the subject of organic evolution had actually been authored by him.

--These editorials represented his personal opinion only.

--Official statements on Church doctrine came soley from signed First Presidency statements.

Petersen then refused to tell me, even though I specifically asked him to so, what the official Mormon Church position was on the topic of organic evolution.



The above statements by Mormonism's supposed prophets, seers and revelators speak for themselves.

Based upon their own admissions, these men do not have persuasive, convincing or complete knowledge concerning the truthfulness of Mormon doctrine or scripture.

Nor do they have unswerving confidence in the ability of Mormon prophets, including the President of the Church, to speak the truth.

The Mormon Church is a consumate fraud, based upon myths perpetrated by its leaders in public and confessed by them in private.

Subject: Re: What LDS "prophets" shared with me: The unimpressive testimonies of "Special Wtnesses for Christ"
Date: Aug 21 00:53
Author: OnTheFence

Thanks for the information. Do you think that, like your grandfather, the current members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve are believers without doubts despite not having experienced divine visitations or dramatic confirmations? If not, who among them would you guess might be the doubters? Given the analytical skills and critical thinking that usually accompany a background in academia, do you think that Apostles Holland and Oaks might be suppressing their doubts? Or, do you think that some simply don't believe but, for whatever reason, continue the show? Thanking you again in advance.

Subject: I think some have doubts, some may even disbelieve and others accept on faith . . .
Date: Aug 21 00:57
Author: steve benson

In the end, it really doesn't matter, though.

The Mormon Cult consists of an upper hierarchy that is expected to go to bat for it with unwavering public consistency--and that delivers regularly on that expectation.

To be a General Authority requires nothing less--although GAs, like all other LDS humans, put their garments on one leg at a time and harbor their own inner, suppressed realities when it comes to Mormon belief--some of which is clearly not in harmony with the standard party line.

In this basic respect, the LDS General Authorities are no different than the LDS general membership.

Subject: It was great reading this!
Date: Aug 21 00:57
Author: JBug

I loved reading about your personal experiences with these people. To think I once thought they were Prophets and Apostles! Thanks for sharing.

Subject: For a church that has all the answers to life's important questions . . .
Date: Aug 21 02:23
Author: imaworkinonit

It sure is hard to figure out what the answers ARE.

Whatever happened to telling us WHERE WE CAME FROM? Not that I would accept their answer as fact, now, but it's an important question, dammit. And they don't dare answer it because they don't KNOW. Ya know . . . if they were really in so tight with God, they could just ASK him.

I remember the first time I started questioning if Gordon B Hinckley really had any special connection with God while I was reading his biography as a TBM. He sounded just like a regular guy trying to do his best, and making his best guesses when it came to church decisions about buying land for temples and such. It was disappointing. Real, but disappointing. (Gotta give him credit for being real).

It just wasn't what I grew up believing. I thought these guys met in the temple every week and chatted with God or something. I certainly thought every one of the special "witnesses" had actually SEEN GOD. Otherwise, how could they be called "witnesses for Jesus Christ"? My parents taught me that they had seen Him. But these experiences were "too sacred" to discuss.

What a crock. So any time church authorities mentioned "too sacred to discuss", I assumed they saw God. Great system. So each and every apostle doesn't have to outright lie, and the rank and file members assume amazing things.

What's the point in having a prophet if he doesn't have any answers? I don't need someone to tell me not to get a tattoo.

Recovery from Mormonism - The Mormon Church

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