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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Artistic Interpretation--Mormon Style

During my tour of Temple Square in Salt Lake City last week I visited the LDS North Visitors Center. A friend pointed out a large painting (reproduction) on the wall at the stairway landing. It was a painting of Jesus as a boy teaching in the temple. I found it interesting so I took a picture of it thinking you might like to see it, too (please forgive the poor quality).

After I returned home I called the North Visitors Center to get some information about the painting. I learned the artist was David Lindsley; I emailed his studio with some questions. All of my questions weren't answered (e.g., Is he an LDS artist?), but I was told,
The painting you saw is based on a painting by [Heinrich] Hofmann, only much larger and with a few minor changes. It was commissioned by the [LDS] church several years ago.

Indeed, there is a resemblance to Hofmann's painting (below) in many respects:

But my friend and I noticed that the way Mr. Lindsley painted the portrait of Jesus was quite different from the Hofmann depiction. Mr. Lindsley's Jesus resembled another artistic rendering altogether. Take a look at the cover of a children's book published in 1975 by the LDS Church:

In particular, compare these close-ups of Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ as they are depicted, by or for the LDS Church, at 14 years of age and at 12 years of age respectively:

I suppose a family resemblance should be expected if the book by LDS author Vern Swanson is correct. Deseret News reports that "Dynasty of the Holy Grail — Mormonism's Sacred Bloodline," slated for release in September,
postulates that Mary Magdalene was an Ephraimite, while Jesus was of the tribe of Judah, and that Lucy Mack Smith, LDS founder Joseph Smith's mother, was a direct descendant of the supposed wife of Jesus on the maternal side. Joseph Smith Sr., on the other hand, descended directly from Jesus on the paternal side, making Joseph Smith Jr. a direct descendant of Christ from both sides, one of the reasons he was chosen to restore the Church of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Protestors at the Mormon Miracle Pageant

I'm back from a quick trip to Utah. While there I toured Temple Square, Brigham Young's Beehive House, and the cemetery where Mr. Young and several of his wives now lay. I went to Zion's Bookstore (which now has a nice coffee bar, by the way) and to Deseret Book. I went to the Church Administration Building and spent some time at the Church Library and Archives. Then I went to Manti, a couple of hours south of Salt Lake City, to participate in a Christian outreach at the Mormon Miracle Pageant.

The outreach continues through the end of this week, but I had to return home. The three evenings I spent on the streets of Manti were the purpose of my trip; a few dozen Christians gathered together to bring the good news of freedom in Christ to the Mormon people.

Many Mormons did not want to talk, but many others did. And each night there were little knots of Mormons dotting the streets gathered around Christians who had their Bibles open. There were Christians on the street assembled in prayer. There were Christians on the street singing and praising God. This Christian outreach truly honored and proclaimed Christ our King.

Some of the Christians carried signs announcing web site addresses (see photos). I wore a shirt with the Mormon Coffee address on front and back. Some signs quoted Bible passages. The signs were for the benefit of Mormons who did not care to engage in conversation, but perhaps wanted to know where to find information later.

Apparently, the signs struck a nerve. One evening a young man followed a Christian sign-carrier around with his own sign that said something like, "This man is a" When asked if his web address went to a real web site, the LDS youth admitted it did not. "So," he was asked, "who is the liar?"

On Saturday evening a group of LDS kids from Cedar City gathered together on one street corner. They were sporting several signs directed at the "protestors" (see photos). While the views expressed on the signs may seem harsh, the kids were really just having some fun. The Christians welcomed them, took pictures, and spent time throughout the evening talking with them.

Of course, the funny thing is that the Christians were not carrying protest signs; they carried informational signs. A protestor is one who takes action expressing disapproval or objection to something. While all the Christians at the Manti outreach do disapprove of certain LDS doctrines, their signs do not express that disapproval. The only ones actually protesting on the streets of Manti were the LDS kids. Which means the sentiments on their signs were really directed at themselves.

I want to go on record right now: I strongly disagree with the protest signs at the Manti Pageant. I don't want these kids hated or sent to hell. Instead, I support the mission of the Christians who have sacrificed much to be in Manti during the pageant: Love 'em and give 'em Heaven.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Polygamy vs Democracy

During the summer, faithful Mormons put on musicals (or pageants) as a way of illustrating their religious history, as well has encouraging the seeker to convert to their uniquely American faith. The early Latter-Day Saints were among the pioneers who trekked into the American West, carving out a place for themselves within the mountains of Utah and in the surrounding territories. Their sacrifice, bravery and perseverance are part of their heritage, and one they are justifiably proud of. Yet there is an incovenient truth about their faith which dims the glory of this often told story, which is this: when the pioneers moved into the western territories, they were leaving a democracy for a theocratic kingdom, which quickly became the greatest anti-democratic force of that era - with polygamy the most visible manifestation of that force. How the United States government broke that power is discussed in a recent Weekly Standard article by Stanley Kurtz. After outlining the complete economic and social control that the Church wielded, he goes on to note:

The 12-year federal drive to enforce Reynolds was far more than a quest to root out polygamy. In effect, the fight against polygamy was a slow, frustrating, expensive, ultimately successful campaign to democratize Utah. (The parallels to the war on terror are eerie.) As federal agents descended on Utah, the Mormon leadership went underground, sleeping in hay ricks, hiding under floorboards, dispersing to remote mountain valleys, communicating in code, and depending on early warnings from a sympathetic populace.

Given the demonstration effect of the Civil War, polygamists knew that armed resistance was futile. Yet by evading capture and withholding the evidence needed for conviction, the Mormon leadership hoped to win a legal war of attrition. Still, Mormon resistance was limited by the fear of provoking a full-fledged military occupation, and by the thirst for statehood.

For the better part of a decade, polygamist resistance seemed unbreakable. The railroads were supposed to bring civilization (a nineteenth-century version of globalization and the Internet). Instead they brought more Mormon converts. Elections and the female franchise were supposed to sweep polygamy aside. Instead, pious women and unlettered men voted to solidify the church's power. Then the outlines of a demographic nightmare emerged. With a fertility boom fueled by four decades of polygamy, Utah's population was spilling into Idaho, Oregon, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming. Mormons bragged that, with the admission of the territories, they would hold the balance of power in a politically divided America.

Back East, these threats provoked a tougher line. Attending to the social and economic foundations of Mormon power, Congress set out to break polygamist rule. By 1833, the disestablishment of churches in the American states was complete, and it had been accomplished partly by state legislatures' setting limits to the churches' business and property holdings. Congress now applied these standards to the Utah Territory, modeling its legislation on the original "mortmain" laws that had curbed church power in England. In this way, church control of Utah's economy was dissolved, and erstwhile church property was used to fund public education, with a curriculum designed around democratic values.

The result was capitulation. With the economic and social foundations of theocracy destroyed, a shooting war unwinnable, and the quest for statehood hanging in the balance, the Mormons renounced polygamy and set themselves on the path to democracy.

It's to the LDS Church's credit that once that power was broken, it became an enthusiatic defender of American democracy, but that doesn't negate the unpleasant reality of its early ambitions. It should trouble Mormons (and seekers) that an analogy can successfully be made between our government's current fight to democratize the Middle East and its effort to democratize Mormon dominated territories - and that the early LDS church embodied everything that is in opposition to what they today believe to be a divinely inspired document, the United States Constitution. This unfortunate history calls into question the spirit which motivated and controlled early Church leadership, and reduces its glorious story of pioneer faith to a pious fantasy.

Monday, June 12, 2006

I've got a busy season of travel ahead of me this summer. When I'm away my friend Stacey will be filling in for me here on Mormon Coffee. Look for Stacey's contributions starting this week and continuing off and on over the summer.

Thanks, Stacey!

Ministering Angels of Mormonism

At last April's General Conference, President James E. Faust (Second Counselor in the First Presidency) talked a bit about ministering angels (see "A Royal Priesthood").

To understand President Faust's comments, it's important to first recognize that the LDS view of angels is different from the historic Christian understanding. According to the Bible, angels are created by God as angels--a specific created creature (see Psalm 148). Mormonism, on the other hand, teaches that angels are the spirits of human beings. Generally speaking, according to Mormonism, the angels who interact with people on earth are the spirits of human beings who have died and now reside in the Spirit World (see LDS Bible Dictionary, "Angels"). For example, in Mormonism the angel Michael is Adam, and the angel Gabriel is Noah.

With that background, let's look at President Faust's General Conference talk. He spoke about ministering angels (deceased human beings) and how they have appeared in both ancient and modern times to give "instruction, warnings, and directions, which benefited the people they visited." President Faust continued by quoting sixth Prophet of the LDS Church, Joseph F. Smith:
"In like manner our fathers and mothers, brothers, sisters and friends who have passed away from this earth, having been faithful, and worthy to enjoy these rights and privileges, may have a mission given them to visit their relatives and friends upon the earth again, bringing from the Divine Presence messages of love, of warning, or reproof and instruction, to those whom they had learned to love in the flesh."

President Faust then commented to his LDS congregation, "Many of us feel that we have had this experience."

Indeed, there are many stories within Mormon circles that relate appearances of the dead to the LDS living. Many of these experiences take place in Mormon temples; Latter-day Saints consider each one sacred.

Christians have long been concerned over the way Mormons welcome and treasure communication with their deceased friends and loved ones, for God makes it abundantly clear that we are to have absolutely nothing to do with communing with the dead. He calls this behavior--and anyone who practices it--an "abomination" (see Deuteronomy 18:9-14). He says that by engaging in this forbidden pursuit people "prostitute" themselves, become "defiled," and cause God to set His face against them (see Leviticus 19:26, 31; 20:6).

So the Mormon belief that it is a good thing to communicate with the dead raises red flags for Christians. But wait; there's more.

As expressed above by President Smith, Mormons are taught that the dead who appear to them are sent by God, to complete a God-given mission; to bring them messages from the Divine Presence, messages of warning and instruction. Jesus' parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19ff) casts doubt on God's willingness to allow visits between the dead and the living. The parable says, "They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them." Nevertheless, Mormon doctrine continues to encourage communication between the living and the dead.

But wait; there's still more.

In his conference talk, President Faust went a bit further. He said,
"Many of us feel that we have had this experience [communicating with dead loved ones]. Their ministry has been and is an important part of the gospel."

For Bible-believing Christians, this raises the question: What "gospel" is this?

How can something so emphatically denounced and forbidden by God in His Word be promoted as "an important part of the gospel"?

A bit further in the sermon quoted by President Faust (but not included in his conference talk), President Smith said,
"These are correct principles. There is no question about that in my mind. It is according to the Scriptures; it is according to the revelation of God to the Prophet Joseph Smith;…" (Gospel Doctrine, page 437)

The Scriptures say,
And when they say to you, "Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter," should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. (Isaiah 8:19-20)

So is communing with the dead an "important part of the gospel"? Is it a correct principle according to the Scriptures? You be the judge.

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Friday, June 09, 2006

LDS Apostle Accused of Deception in Defense of Marriage

Last April I blogged about the recent temple wedding of LDS Apostle Russell M. Nelson (see Wedding Bells for LDS Apostle). I made note of the fact that Mr. Nelson, whose first wife died in 2005, was on his second temple marriage (for time and all eternity) and asked,
So the question is, according to LDS beliefs, doesn't this mean Mr. Nelson will be a polygamist in heaven?

Furthermore, isn't he a polygamist now though he is currently only living with one of his two wives?

Therefore, I was struck by yesterday's news report from KUTV out of Salt Lake City: "Petitioner Angry Over 'Celestial' Polygamy."

Apparently, there is now an online petition calling for the elimination of Apostle Nelson's name from the Letter from America's Religious Leaders in Defense of Marriage produced by the Religious Coalition for Marriage (see Mormon Church Joins Coalition in Defending Marriage).

The basis for the protest is this:
The petition is posted on a web site started by a gay, ex-Mormon activist, whose objection is based on a section of church doctrine that says Mormon men can have multiple wives in heaven. According to the web site, Russell M. Nelson – a widower who recently remarried – believes in religious polygamy and therefore has no business promoting monogamy…

“It is deceptive of Elder Nelson to sign a petition that defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman when he practices a theology that extends the name ‘marriage’ to a union between a man and multiple women,” [Connell] O’Donovan’s petition states.

After giving a brief history of polygamy within the LDS Church, the KUTV report included comments from an excommunicated LDS historian:
As a religious doctrine,…the principle remains unequivocally in place, said Mormon historian and author D. Michael Quinn, who has written extensively about polygamy.

“All of (Mormon church leaders) affirm that sealings that are between righteous men and women and where there has been a death, that those sealings triumph over death,” said Quinn. “There is no retreating from that position. That is an essential doctrine.”

Responding to the story, several people left interesting comments at Under the name of Logic please someone who appears to be a Mormon wrote,
Except for the fact that two concurrent marriages while both wives are still alive is currently not allowed in the LDS church. The protester seems to have forgotten this issue. Nelson and the coalition are attempting to define marriage "in this life" and "in this country" not for the eternities, which is in the realm of an altogether different government.

Keith Walker from Evidence Ministries responded to Logic please:
Logic, please look up an informal logical fallacy called, "missing the point." You just committed it. It is hypocritical for a man who believes he is married to two women *at the same time* to sign a petition to define marriage as something between ONE man and ONE woman. It matters not that one of those women is dead. Elder Nelson believes he is married to both of them now.

That is the point.

The LDS Church had no comment.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Playing God

On Tuesday I was listening to the Michael Medved Show on conservative talk radio. Because the date was 6/6/06 Mr. Medved was discussing the biblical number 666.

One person who called in to the program identified himself as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The caller said he'd researched a particular type of numerology (A=6; B=12; C=18; etc.) and discovered around 25 words in the English language dictionary that equal 666. "The Adversary has infiltrated the American language," he said, because all the English words that equal 666 are negative, evil or bad.

Perhaps anticipating a question from the show's host, the caller explained that the numerology theory was not popular in his church; but because Mormons believe America is the Promised Land, they understand why the devil would pay special attention to America in choosing this language for his nefarious work.

I haven't checked the math, but the caller provided a few examples of the evil 666 words. They include "computer," "slaughter," "disguiser," and "genetics." Mr. Medved asked, "What's evil about genetics?" The caller responded with a reference to genetic engineering and said that more and more we humans are "acting godly." I believe he meant to say that genetic engineering is "playing God," but by using the term "acting godly" it got me to thinking.

Mormons are taught that worthy human beings will one day become Gods. The LDS Church Student Manual Achieving a Celestial Marriage says on page 130,

"Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes, and even as the infant son of our earthly father and mother is capable in due time of becoming a man, so the undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable, by experience through ages of aeons, of evolving into a God." (The First Presidency [Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, Anthon H. Lund], "The Origin of Man," Improvement Era, Nov. 1909, p. 81)

On the same page of the LDS Student Manual is this teaching from Joseph Smith:
"Here then is eternal life -- to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves…"

Ensign Magazine, the official magazine of the LDS Church, contained the following teaching in the January 2005 issue:
"We are the children of God, and as His children there is no attribute we ascribe to Him that we do not possess, though they may be dormant or in embryo. The mission of the Gospel is to develop these powers and make us like our Heavenly Parent." (quoting LDS President George Q. Cannon)

So in the context of the LDS worldview shaped by Mormon doctrine, why would "playing God" be a negative thing, as the caller to the Michael Medved Show indicated? For a Mormon whose earth life is to be used for developing his powers and attributes of Godhood--learning how to be a God--wouldn't "playing God" be exactly what's called for?

Perhaps the caller's use of the phrase "acting godly" was what he meant to say after all.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Mormonism on

Over the past week Mike S. Adams, author of Welcome to the Ivory Tower of Babel: Confessions of a Conservative College Professor has posted a series of online columns about Mormonism at Dr. Adams' insights are really very interesting, as are the many comments about this series left by readers. Today's column, "Revelations of Joseph Smith," is outstanding. I encourage you to take the time to read it, as well as the previous two columns in the series.

Monday, June 05, 2006

LDS in the Weekend News

There are two things I'd like to draw your attention to today.

First is a story out of Massachusetts.
After a weeklong trial, [LDS member Kevin F.] Curlew, who acted as his own attorney, was convicted by a jury on charges that he sexually assaulted a then-9-year-old boy he befriended while volunteering at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Hill Street in Methuen [MA].

Mr. Curlew's assault of the boy began two years ago, in July 2004.
The abuse continued on several occasions at the church, while the boy's mother attended church meetings.

When questioned by Methuen police, Curlew confessed.

Saying Mr. Curlew is a "true danger to society," the judge sentenced him to nine to ten years in state prison, followed by ten years probation.

What really got my attention in this story was the way the abuse came to light and was reported.
  • The abused boy told his mother.
  • The mother told an LDS Church staff member.
  • The LDS Church staff member told the Bishop.
  • The Bishop told an LDS Church councilor.
  • Finally the LDS Church councilor notified the State Department of Social Services.

I wonder why the abuse was reported through so many levels of LDS Church hierarchy before being reported to legal authorities…


The second thing worth noting is a story from the June 3rd LA Times. "Ex-Mormons Say Breaking Up Was Hard to Do" is a story about the Ex-Mormons for Jesus Information and Visitors Center in Orange, California.

Times staff writer David Haldane recently attended an Ex-Mormons for Jesus (EMFJ) monthly support meeting for those coming out of Mormonism. Reporting the stories of several former Mormons, Mr. Haldane also included information on the beliefs and purpose of the EMFJ Center and ministry, provided by the Center's director, Charlotte Pardee.

EMFJ believes
  • Mormons aren't true Christians;
  • Mormons follow false doctrines that preclude them from entering heaven;
  • Leaving Mormonism is a profoundly difficult and isolating experience requiring the support of fellow ex-Mormons.

Not surprisingly, Tom Thorkelson, director of interfaith relations for the LDS Church's Orange County Public Affairs Council, said none of that is true.
"First," he said, "as a Latter-day Saint, I believe in and accept Jesus Christ as my savior. We are Christians, though we recognize that there are some theological differences."

As for the alleged pressure on those who leave, Thorkelson said, it is no greater than that exerted by a member of any faith "who has deeply held convictions and finds somebody who shared those convictions leaving them and joining a counter group. I've seen lots of people whose families disowned them because they became members of the Mormon faith."

I don't think Mr. Thorkelson quite gets the point. The allegation that other faiths may be hard to leave does not bear on the truth or falsity of the EMFJ position: that leaving Mormonism is profoundly difficult.
"Our purpose," said Pardee, who has never been a Mormon, "is to help Christians understand Mormonism and to give Mormons a place to come when they start doubting their faith. I've shed more tears over Mormon souls than I did over my husband's, before he was saved."

Mr. Haldane reported that the EMFJ meeting opened and ended with prayer. One person prayed for the Mormons and the LDS Church, that God would intervene and "turn the hearts of the Mormon elders…turn that church around, Lord."

Clearly, the EMFJ ministry and the people involved care deeply about Mormons. Many have been hurt by the LDS Church, but rather than retaliate or seek vengeance they pray for those they believe are still lost.

Compare that attitude with the LDS spokesperson's response. Rather than expressing sorrow for those he believes have gone astray, rather than tender concern for their painful experiences, Mr. Thorkelson is defensive on behalf of the LDS Church and mildly rebukes the ex-Mormons:
"I invite anybody to examine the lives of friends and neighbors who are practicing Latter-day Saints to see if they are striving to lead lives consistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ," he said. "Rather than denigrate other faith traditions, we prefer to build relationships and let our lives speak for themselves."

Well, in my opinion the stories, lives and prayers of former Mormons speak volumes and should not be ignored.

For anyone seeking help--those doubting or wanting to leave the LDS Church--the Ex-Mormons for Jesus web site can be found here.

Correction on Mormon Handcart Companies

Last Friday I blogged about the Mormon pioneer handcart companies of 1856 (The Mormon Handcart Experiment). I wrote:
The last two companies, the Willie and Martin companies, met with tremendous tragedy. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 222 people perished due to equipment failure and early snow storms. Brigham Young's handcart plan was quickly abandoned.

I was wrong. The use of handcarts continued with five more LDS companies crossing the plains over the following four years. All of these crossings were successful. After this the handcart experiment was replaced by a sort of shuttle service. The LDS web site ("The story of the Handcart Pioneers") explains,
In 1861 the Church replaced the handcart system with what is referred to as the "down and back" wagon trains. A continuation of the Church’s commitment to help the poor, these wagons traveled east, hauling supplies, then returned with immigrants.

"It was a Church-operated system of teams and wagons donated by the congregations," says Glen M. Leonard, historian. "As the railroad was being built, immigrants would ride the trains as far as the trains went, then wagons would pick them up — like a shuttle service."

This operation continued until the completion of the railroad.

I'm sorry for the error.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Mormon Handcart Experiment

On June 11th LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley will speak at The Handcart Pioneer Commemoration Fireside in Iowa City, Iowa. The event is to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Mormon handcart pioneers.

In 1856 Brigham Young instituted a plan, an inexpensive way for Mormon emigrants from Europe to travel across the plains to Utah: pushing or pulling their belongings in handcarts while walking the entire 1,300 miles. Five companies of Mormon pioneers crossed America pulling handcarts. The last two companies, the Willie and Martin companies, met with tremendous tragedy. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 222 people perished due to equipment failure and early snow storms. Brigham Young's handcart plan was quickly abandoned.

Because of the sesquicentennial, the handcart tragedy has been in the news lately. One of the more interesting articles was a Deseret News report on the recent 41st annual Mormon History Association conference held in Casper, Wyoming.
Contrary to common historical accounts among Latter-day Saints, a failure of leadership among top LDS Church officials was the catalyst for the tragedy that befell the Willie and Martin handcart companies in October 1856.

That's according to a panel of researchers, who discussed culpability for the tragedy before a crowd of about 600… Scores of pioneer emigrants from Britain died of starvation and hypothermia on the high plains of Wyoming after their companies took a major risk in leaving Iowa City, Iowa, several weeks later than church leaders knew they should, panelists said.

Lyndia Carter, a trails historian from Springville who is writing a book on the tragedy, said [LDS Apostle] Franklin D. Richards--who was then serving as the church's mission president in Britain--"was responsible, in my mind, for the late departure" because "he started the snowball down the slope" that eventually "added up to disaster."…

"Faith blinded him to reason and zealousness replaced common sense."

Indeed, in The Gathering of Zion by Wallace Stegner the story is told of Franklin D. Richards' 1856 return from his mission in Great Britain. Sometime in August Mr. Richards' group of returning missionaries overtook the Willie handcart company at North Bluff Fork. They camped with the pioneers for the night. The next morning Mr. Richards called a general meeting where he rebuked Levi Savage for his lack of faith; Mr. Savage had been the only Mormon pioneer to caution the Willie and Martin handcart companies against pushing trough to Utah so late in the season. As recorded by one of the handcart captains, John Chislett:
Richards gave us plenty of counsel to be faithful, prayerful, obedient to our leaders, etc., and wound up by prophesying in the name of Israel's God that 'though it might storm on our right hand and on our left, the Lord would keep open the way before us and we should get to Zion in safety.' (The Gathering of Zion, page 243)

So certain was he of his prophecy, before continuing the journey in their swift carriages Mr. Richards' group requested fresh meat from the pioneers. Captain Willie killed and gave the Apostle the fattest calf in the handcart company camp. Mr. Chislett later wrote, "I am ashamed for humanities sake to say [the group of returning missionaries] took it" for many pioneers would starve to death as they traveled the remaining 700 miles of trail toward Salt Lake City.

Apostle Richards' prophecy failed miserably; hundreds of pioneers in those handcart companies did not get to Zion in safety. The Deseret News article reported:
[Howard Christy, professor emeritus at Brigham Young University, said,] "In my opinion, responsible leadership at the outset could have completely averted the disaster." Several recorded comments by church agents that they supposed God would intervene to protect the emigrants "shows their knowledge of the dangers of starting late. They were throwing all sense to the wind that all would be well."

As is often the case with Mormon history, the story of the Willie and Martin handcart companies has changed from one of failed prophecy and negligent leadership into a faith-promoting legacy.
Termed by some "the worst overland disaster in the history of the American West," early Latter-day Saints tended to talk about it "in hushed tones, if at all," according to William G. Hartley, associate professor of history at Brigham Young University, who moderated the [Mormon History Association] panel discussion.

"Over time, the emphasis of the story became the faith and endurance" of the emigrants, rather than the decisions that led to the disaster, he said, adding that for modern LDS youths who re-enact the handcart trek, the experience "has almost become a rite of passage."

The deaths and hardship of the handcart pioneers were tragic; and the tragedy continues today. History's attestation to failed prophecies and negligent leadership should cause people to seriously question the validity of the LDS Church and its "one true church" claims. Instead, the carefully constructed spin on the Willie and Martin story is used to appeal to peoples' emotions and anchor them more firmly than ever to an organization proven to be led by false prophets.