KRCL Interview with Gena Edvalson
Listen to the interview here.
Grant Palmer appeared on RadioActive, December 9, 12:00 MST, KRCL 90.9 FM.
Gena Edvalson (GE): Welcome to RadioActive. I'm your host today, Gena Edvalson. In the 1960s, President Hugh B. Brown, a Counselor in the LDS Presidency, said the following quote. He said, "I admire men and women who have developed a questing spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas as steppingstones to progress. We should of course respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent—if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought and in that competition, truth emerges triumphant. [….] Only error fears freedom of expression. [….] This free exchange of ideas is not to be deplored as long as men and women remain humble and teachable. Neither fear of consequence or any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences. [….] We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it."
Well, that was in the 60s, and now, Grant H. Palmer, a three-time director of the LDS Institute of Religion in California and Utah, a former instructor at the Church College of New Zealand, and former LDS seminary teacher has heeded this call. In 1992 [sic], Palmer's book, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins was published, and now largely due to this book, Grant H. Palmer has been summoned to an LDS Church disciplinary hearing this Sunday. He is facing the possibility of excommunication. So one must ask, what is the state of dissent, what is the state of conversation in the largest church in our state? What is the meaning of belief and how do historians combines their religious beliefs with historical fact?
Fortunately for us, we have with us today Grant Palmer to talk about his research and his experience. Grant Palmer, welcome to RadioActive.
Grant H. Palmer (GHP): Thank you.
GE: Um, let's start before we get into your book and some of your ideas talking a little bit about how you personally experience being Mormon, and maybe that can set up how all this is happening for you.
GHP: I'm a fourth- to sixth-generation member of the Church on all sides; ancestors were pioneers. We've, um—my parents were very good friends with a number of the leaders: Joseph Fielding Smith, Bruce and Emilia McConkie who lived down the road from us. So, my background has been very, very staunch in the Church.
GE: And you, clearly, your vocation, as well, is very tied and has been very tied to your participation as a member in the LDS Church.
GHP: Yes, I've always been a very dedicated true believer, at least up until about 1985 when I had some suspicions about some of our, the Mormon past, but yes, I've been largely an LDS Institute Director for the Church Educational System in northern, southern California, Utah, New Zealand over that period of time.
GE: You talk about, well, you printed this quote in the introduction to the book, the quote I read from Hugh B. Brown….
GHP: And that's not just from Hugh B. Brown. That was given at BYU as a statement representing the view of the Church.
GE: Is that still the view of the Church?
GHP: I don't know that they've superseded it. So, I'm hoping it still is.
GE: You talk about, um, or, you just mentioned that it was, that you were a true believer up until a certain time when you started having doubts. What did that mean for you? What did that look like for you?
GHP: Well, I've always been open to ideas. As a teacher, we're always seeking for material and you come across things that you haven't learned before. You look into them. You study them. I've always shared things; I've always been open. And I suppose that's why I'm still that way. If it's true, and I think it's true, and it is responsible, I think, uh, I think, I think the LDS people, it's owed to them that we tell them the truth and try to be honest with our history and with all aspects of life
GE: And for you, it seems this honesty hasn't, um, changed how you are, that you want to participate in the LDS Church….
GHP: I still do, yes. I participate as much as I'm able to these days. I don't have any current church callings, but I still attend. I still take the sacrament at the worship service, and I pay my tithing, and things of that nature, which some people find hard to understand. The…I guess I'd like to see a shift a little, a shift in the Church that we talk more about Jesus Christ and less of just about everything else.
GE: And what is everything else?
GHP: Well, a lot of the meetings, we don't get into Jesus Christ, His ministry. So often in my experience over the years, the worship service—we're supposed to remember Him in that service, according to the Sacrament prayers. And the tendency is, we drop His name. We do sing about Him. We use His name, invoke it in prayer. But when it comes to the preaching, there's not much about Jesus Christ in the worship service.
Then if you move to the Sunday School, it's much the same way. Once every four years, we talk about the life and ministry of Jesus, maybe four months out of the year, and then move on to the Epistles. But that's just once every four years. And then in the Priesthood/Relief Society lessons for adults, um, the last eight years, they've been studying modern prophets two to three weeks a month. And I counted up those lessons, I think there were 192 of them, and maybe 20 of them directly relate to Jesus Christ. So, the three-hour experience at Church is—I'd like to see more emphasis on Jesus Christ at the local level. I think at the general level, that is im—that is certainly not as much a problem. But at the local level, we're all, where I go to Church, and throughout my life where I've gone to Church, I think we need a shift especially now, with some of the problems in our history.
GE: Well, it sounds like, to some people, it could sound like what you're looking for is a more mainstreamed Christian, Christian church or experience in Christianity.
GHP: Well, I certainly think the Church is making overtures to mainstream Christianity. We had a speaker in the tabernacle for the first time in 160, 106 years. I understand a chair is being set up at Claremont Theological College in California. There's a Thursday night program on Channel 20 here locally that that invites LDS and Protestant pastors to discuss areas of unity and understanding and so forth. I hope and I think the Church is moving in that direction, and I think it's a very healthy one, but I'd just like to see more Jesus Christ in the in the experience.
GE: You talked about your book and the ideas in your book as being part of the New Mormon History. Maybe you can explain that, what you mean by that, and maybe, and then we'll follow up with talking about some of your ideas in the book.
GHP: Okay. New Mormon History kind of arrived with Leonard J. Arrington, the new church historian. He was a professional. This was in 1972, and he brought a professionalism. And they catalogued documents and provided a more professional way of handling and keeping documents, preserving documents. But he also had a cadre of Ph.D. candidates in history and a lot of good history was done. The archives were opened up and a lot of good history came out. So a lot of that was written by professionals and a good amount of it, I guess you could say, or a certain amount of it was written for professionals.
What my book is, is to take that 35 year period, roughly since 1972 when Leonard Arrington came along—we kind of called that the "New Mormon History"—and my book is a distillation of what they basically found. And I put it in one book, and I made it more understandable for a layman's audience. So it's reached a broader audience. It's penetrating the grass roots. And I think that's probably the main reason that, the book's been out two years but now they're going to take some action on me. It's because, well, professionals know about the historical problems, but the layman does not because they're never taught it anywhere in the Church system. I know I certainly didn't and was, would not have would not have taught the things that are in my book to my students because that just wouldn't be appropriate to the employer.
But I think that's what's happening and so a lot of people are or a number of people are reading this book and say, "I've never heard this anywhere and I'm disturbed by it," and some of them have had, I guess, damage to faith. The Church wants to, I think, discipline me primarily over that influence.
GE: And why has it taken two years? 'Cause the book has been out for two years.
GHP: Yes, I think it's taken that long to do, in their mind, a suitable damage to faith, that now they're going to move on it. I don't see…this book was on the waning. After two years, you can imagine, it was waning in sales. And now, they've just, they'll sell another thousand or two copies by Christmas. So, thanks to this court action.
That's too bad. I've made every effort to keep this out of the media and I wanted to solve this privately, but unfortunately, it is very much in the media.
I said to my stake president that there was interest in this case beyond our neighborhood, and that's kind of all I said, but I think he's beginning to understand, or perhaps he anticipated this. But there is now beginning to be a great deal of media.
But as I'm saying, I don't—this book was in the waning stages and now it's been kind of revived because of the court action. But I don't think this is the problem. I think if by throwing me out….the Church is hemorrhaging over these issues and throwing me out is like putting a Band-Aid over the problem, because the internet is here, and it's going to be here tomorrow, and it's going to be here in 40, 50 years from now.
GE: Well, we've interviewed a couple of times Thomas Murphy, the anthropologist, up in Washington state who's done the DNA research—well, he's done a paper on DNA research that shows clearly and scientifically that Native Americans are not from Lamanites which goes against Mormon stories in the Book of Mormon. And, you know, it's interesting talking to him that when he was being threatened with excommunication, it was a very painful experience for him. He wants to participate in whatever level he wants to participate. And because he tells the truth, it's for him to think about being kicked out, being forced to leave. I'm wondering how that feels to you, that idea that you may be asked to leave.
GHP: Sad and very, very painful. Religion shouldn't be this painful. I went through—I buried a sweetheart wife who was 47. I know what grief is. I counseled thousands of inmates at the Salt Lake County Jail and saw their grief because they didn't know their future until a judge told them. So I know what grief is. I went through a year of cancer where I had three surgeries in 2002. Six months of chemo and six weeks of radiation and three surgeries, I know what that kind of pain and grief is, but I think this one's the most difficult of all. And it's an emotional thing with me.
In some ways, I think I've loved my Church too much, because I can't just sit by and just watch what we're saying and doing. Only the truth is good enough for Latter-day Saints and this is the truth as I see it. And I stand ready to repudiate anything that is found wrong. But what I've found is that the response has pretty well been to just attack you. They won't…ad hominem arguments, character assassination. I'm a pretty straight up-and-down guy, they don't really have much on me, I don't think.
But that's not the way we should be doing, that's not the way the Savior'd do it. He'd put your arm around you and say, "Hey, we need to talk about some of these issues, and let's sort them out." So far, that has not been done.
And I don't know how to repent from something that's true, or probably true. I don't know how to do that. I shouldn't have to.
GE: I guess, what I see, and we can get into talking about some of your ideas, but just talk about, I guess a movement within Mormon intellectuals to talk about facts and how they relate to the stories that people have been told, either through the Book of Mormon, or through Church leaders, Sunday School, that kind of thing.
Is that….it seems like a different way of dealing with religion, that a lot of LDS people may not be ready for, which is talking about that, things don't have to be factual to also be true. They can be true in a metaphorical way without being factual.
That you can look at things and….I mean, it's a different way of looking at it. The kind of straitlaced Mormon has been told to just accept these stories and what the party line is as factual.
GHP: Well, you've…the Church is in my opinion at kind of at a crossroads. There are various ways of looking at scripture and various degrees of orthodoxy, various degrees of views on different subjects. The question is: are they going to extend the umbrella? How far are they going to extend it to accommodate different kinds of people? I hope that they will extend that umbrella. I think right now, the Church is hemorrhaging and I just don't know that throwing the Mormon liberal out of the Church is the answer at this point. But maybe they do. I don't know. We'll find out Sunday at seven in the morning.
GE: Well, and, I mean, lots of churches who are much older than the Mormon Church have had to deal with dissent and have factions within their religions that disagree with the party line and openly disagree and they aren't thrown out. I mean, is it some of this has to do with such a young religion trying to maintain its power and its central point.
GHP: Well, I don't know that but you're right, Notre Dame, a Catholic university accommodates a great variety of thought. The professors feel safe, much safer than the ones at BYU that I've talked to. You just….I guess there's a certain amount of a learning curve here, yes.
GE: Well, we're going to take a break. We're talking with Grant H. Palmer, a former Church Educational System employee. He's been an Institute of Religion teacher and he wrote a book about two years ago, "An Insider's View of Mormon Origins," talking about some of the myths about Mormonism in the Mormon experience. And he's facing a Church disciplinary court this Sunday, the possibility of being excommunicated. We'd love for you to join the conversation. Give us a call, 303-6050. 303-6050. 1-888-404-6050. Or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org . We'll be back in a minute.
GE: [The author of "An In]sider's View of Mormon Origins, Grant Palmer, is facing a Church disciplinary court this Sunday over his writings and we're discussing his writings and what is going on with him and how that's affecting him. We have a call from John in Sacramento, California. John, go ahead.
John (caller): Hi! Grant?
John: Hey, this is John out here in California. I've spoken with you before.
GHP: Yes, go ahead.
John: It's good to hear from you, good to see you're getting attention on this matter. I wanted to personally thank you, in public, for the work that you have done. For it has brought much needed knowledge to us garden-variety Mormons.
John: Now, when I hear the faith-promoting stories in Church and when I hear the cherry-picked and polished portions of history in Church, with the information I've gotten from you and many authors I can now make a discernment for myself as to whether or not those stories are true.
GE: John, can I ask you a question?
GE: So, part of the fear for some people is clearly that this information will shake people's faith, make them less faithful. What has your experience been?
John: I was born and raised in Utah. I no longer live there. Both my wife and I were raised in the Church. And the thing that shocked us was some of the things we didn't know about Mormon history. And the first thing that we didn't know was that Joseph Smith was indeed a polygamist. That was…
GE: Has this shaken your faith?
John: It has. I feel like I have been lied to my entire life. I feel like my faith in God and Jesus Christ has been based on a story that was started by Joseph Smith.
GE: Would it have been different for you, if you had known that information, if this stuff had just been part of what you learned?
John: If all of this had been known to me earlier in my life, I probably wouldn't be a member today. [GE: Hm.] Because the story for me just doesn't hold water.
Um, there's a lot of concern in the Mormon Church about pornography on the Internet. I feel that Mormon history is far more damaging to a Mormon than pornography. It is more prevalent on the Internet. I have spoken with many current Mormons and former Mormons that have been out on the Internet and are simply looking for information to do a lesson. And they type in "Mormon"-something in Google. And they get all these so-called "anti" sites—which in my opinion is not anti-Mormon—it's truth. So in other words, truth about the Mormon history has been called anti. In my opinion….
[** The caller at this point was interrupted by LDS music ("[...air]. A message of salvation unto the meek we'll bear."). **]
John: Are you there?
John: I had, I got some hold music.
GE: Yeah, so did we. That was…
John: It must be the Spirit, blocking…no, just kidding. So, um, what was my train of thought?
GE: Well, um, actually, that was really interesting and thanks for your call, John.
John: Okay. Thank you, Grant. Good luck to you.
GHP: Thank you.
GE: And that goes back to what you were saying about the Internet's not going to go away.
GHP: No, and one of things I think is challenging about the Internet is that there's just a plethora of material you can come up, if you put any combination of words together, that will come up. Unfortunately, a lot of that is kind of almost very anti-Mormon. And then you get nasty Mormon; you get nice critical Mormon. And on the other side you get kind of a nasty apologetical… And then you have the Church's website which is, uh, some people would view as kind of mild. And there's really nothing kind of in-between there, between nice-mild and critical-nice. And maybe someone…maybe there needs to be a little more in-between there. You can…maybe there needs to be a web master to direct people. 'Cause it's not all of equal value.
GE: Sure. Let's go to Jake in Salt Lake. Jake, go ahead.
Jake (caller): Hi, thank you. Thank you very much. I'm happy to be able to hear, to talk with Grant and support it. Similar to Grant I was a lifelong orthodox Mormon. And attending Harvard Divinity School years ago, I came across a bunch of information that was really ground-shaking to my faith and my testimony, and it really took me a long time to sort through issues and things that I had once believed and define myself in a comfort place to be still a member and a believing member of the faith, but in the same timeframe not accepting a lot of the mythology and things to have to be literally true.
I really just wanted to thank Grant for being able to find the middle ground. I thought his book was really well written in covering that. And I wanted to see how he sees a place in the Church for liberal and freethinking Church members, as opposed to dogmatic and very orthodox believing members.
GHP: Well, it's a really good question and I don't know that I have an answer to it. But I can tell you one thing, that in the 1960s under President David O. McKay, there was an era of good feeling in this valley. There was…they were generous. They would even accept a certain amount of misfits in the Church. And they didn't…it almost seemed to be more tolerant and what have you.
I know that a friend of mine has written a book on David O. McKay—it will be out this coming year—Gregory Prince. And in one of his chapters, he talks about eight—four conservative individuals and four liberal individuals that did damage to the Church. Or their books did damage to the Church. And David O. McKay in all eight of those examples did not publicly excommunicate anyone. In fact, it didn't even get to a public censure. It was a private censure. And somehow or another, I would like to see us return to that kind of attitude in the Church where we take a more Savior-like approach to how we deal with people who have questions and problems and even want to speak the truth.
GE: What does private censure do or look like? And I guess I'm wondering why that would be more valuable? If people are being censored…. [sic]
GHP: Well, I know that Bruce R. McConkie was a member of the Quorum of the Seventy at the time when he wrote Mormon Doctrine. And President McKay privately censured him and said, "Who gave you permission to use that title, Mormon Doctrine?"
And, of course, President McKay was concerned, because I think it was Bishop Hunt of the Madeleine Cathedral, the bishop of the Diocese in Salt Lake City—he talked with President McKay and says, "Do you really think we are the Great and Abominable Church mentioned in scripture?" And Elder McConkie had plainly said that they were.
And Bishop Hunt, of course, says, "Look, we've had a pretty good relationship here, but this is not going to do our relationship any good if you're going to stand behind this book." And then, I'm not sure of the next sentence or two, but the idea was that, "If we're not going to…if you really think this, then we're going to use"—Bishop Hunt said—"we're going to use our influence to get your missionaries out of Catholic-dominated countries in Central and South America that we have some control over."
Well, you can say that book did some damage or some potential damage. And President McKay is a very gracious person and he just went ahead and he did call him in and he did censure him. But it was never made public until quite, you know, in recent years.
GE: We have Paul, from Winnipeg. We're going global today. Paul, go ahead.
Paul (caller): Thank you very much. Grant, I want to comment on your book. I purchased your book soon after it came out, and I commend you for writing a layman's history of the LDS Church. I too felt concern about the true aspects of the LDS Church and I remember bringing it forward to my ecclesiastical leader at the time, the bishop. And basically brought these concerns and s I brought them forward found myself quickly released from my Young Men's calling. I was censured. In other words, told…he told the auxiliaries that I was not to speak in Church, give any prayers or comments. I later challenged that and that was retracted, but I again…private censure is not appropriate as well with regards to the truth.
I'm a twenty-year convert and have seen, because of my questioning was brought forward to the stake president and at that time was told, either I keep my mouth shut or I would lose my membership in the Church to protect the good name of the Church. And I chose to resign rather than to do that. And at that point I found my family fall apart, my wife leave me, a couple of my children not talking to me.
So it's put me in a very difficult situation in standing up for what I believe was true.
GE: Wow. And that's, you know, I have to say that's the story I hear from people—that it's a very painful process.
Paul: Oh, you know, I could not sleep for weeks after I discovered, in regards to— primarily it was the history of Joseph Smith with being married and sealed to married, previously-married women who continued to have husbands. Now that just struck a chord to me. Saying, "Now, hold on! This isn't what I was taught." And again, as I peeled apart the onion and tried to find out more and more, the more disturbed I became and concerned that this history isn't out there.
GE (to GHP): What do you say to someone, I mean, what do you say to Paul, when you hear a story like this?
GHP: I totally identify with him, that's because of my understanding of what can happen in these courts, in the process of these courts [indistinct]. That's why I've gone to such great lengths in my case to try to solve this privately. I've made three genuine efforts to stop this from coming to this point and I've failed. The last one I was trying to postpone the court for the Stake President to get to know me a little better, and….he doesn't know me very well. And he told me this morning that the answer's no, the court was going forward.
Yes, I think that's….I don't know. What….say a little more about his question that you would like me to answer.
GE: No, I was just wondering, what you say to someone when you hear a story like this….
GHP: It's sad. It's just a sad business is all it is. I guess the only that's comforting is that if this happened to you fifty years ago, you didn't have an Internet communication family and now you can….now we do.
Paul: Certainly. Grant, a question I have for you is: how are you treated from other members within your ward and your stake? Because I found, once I started questioning there was very much a standoff and almost people were and continue to be very, very afraid to even communicate or talk with you.
GHP: I think that's pretty much true. Although a lot of them will smile and shake your hand, but there's no lingering discussions with most of them, although they're very good people in my ward. And I did bear my testimony once about Jesus Christ, and afterward, the bishop told me that some members thought I was a hypocrite because I didn't….because I had written this book and even though I had spoken of Christ, they thought that was hypocritical.
Paul: Well, and certainly the gossip goes with that too. As I've had my good name really slandered by people making comments like that and in fact to my family, my children. I find it very, very difficult. And again, as you say, that handshake and smile, but otherwise, behind your back, you know that there's a lot being said.
GE (to Paul): Thank you so much.
Paul: Well, thank you for having me on.
GE: Sure. Well, and it's interesting because one of the things that you wanted from this book was a deeper discussion of belief and about your religion. And it seems like maybe it has the opposite effect almost, that you don't get as deep of discussion anymore as you did even before.
GHP: No, the trend has been in the local wards to, if you raise questions you're suspect. These questions are often viewed as inappropriate. But there's a lot of people who are reticent at Church and won't raise their hand—they will go home to the Internet and look around, and that's what's happening.
GE: Well, let's take a break. We're talking with Grant Palmer, the author of "An Insider's View of Mormon Origins." We're talking about his experience with this book, that's two years old and the fact that he's going before a Church disciplinary court on Sunday, early morning Sunday. We'd love to hear from you. Our number's 303-6050. 1-888-404-6050. email@example.com . We'll be back in a minute.
GE: You are listening to KRCL. This is RadioActive. I'm your host, Gena Edvalson. We're talking with Grant Palmer. He wrote the book,"An Insider's View of Mormon Origins.". He's going before a Church disciplinary court this Sunday.
I have an e-mail here from Annie, who says, "I'm very touched by your program today. When he said, I don't know how to repent for things are true, tears came to my eyes because I've lived through this too. There are thousands of us out there." I guess you're finding an extended family so to speak.
GHP: I think so. The Internet is really buzzing unbelievably.
GE: I imagine that's how people who are out of state are hearing this program today even—is over the Internet.
GHP: Well, not only that but the Deseret News, Salt Lake Tribune, Ogden Standard-Examiner, the LA Times broke a big story this morning. The Associated Press will go national with it Saturday and Sunday. So, there's a lot of media out there. Sixty Minutes is very interested in this program, and I'll know when I get home, whether they're coming this weekend.
GE: That's interesting. You know, we have the fax number here for Gordon B. Hinckley. And I want to give that out, because this is a fax, where he will see your fax if you send him one. If you have an opinion about this, if you have some idea about what you think should happen here, you can give him a call. I'll give this now and I'll give it at the end of the show too. The number is 801-240-2033. Address it to Gordon B. Hinckley. Um, you know, I think the hierarchy of the Church needs to hear from the rank-and-file, and that's not a bad idea.
GHP: In this case, I don't think the First Presidency of the Church has initiated this action. This is lower down than that and sometimes they don't know about it, I think. I think they probably know about my case, and I don't know what will happen.
I really, I've dedicated my life to this. If I'm tossed out of the Church, because….I'm a rue believer in Jesus Christ and I think, I think we should be evaluated by our actions in that regard and not whether we accept all of what Joseph Smith had to say. And by tossing me from the Church, should they do that, they're really forbidding me to take the sacrament on Sunday, which in a strange way subordinates Jesus to Joseph Smith in my view,. And to the outside world, it really asks the question: "Are Mormons really Christian?" Or, "Are they as Christian as we've been hearing they say they are?" I think that's a sad state of affairs when they….is there room in the Church of Jesus Christ, for someone who's morally and spiritually centered in Christ? I hope so.
GE: Let's take a call from Justin, who's in Virginia. Justin, go ahead.
Justin (caller): Hi, Grant, and I'm glad we have the chance to ask you some questions here. You mentioned some private censorship [sic]. Obviously going on the radio kind of removes any notion of private censorship [sic]. Could you ask me….answer just a few questions? Do you know who leaked this information to the press? And I'll let you answer that real quick….
GHP: It wasn't me who leaked it to the press I'll just leave it at that. I think it was my publisher, Signature Books.
GE: Were you upset that it got leaked?
GHP: No, because we had the discussions and we kind of agreed that if a court date was set, we would go ahead with the publicity and they wanted to do that. But like I say, before that occurred, there had been three genuine attempts to shut this down, on my part. So far, they have not worked.
GE: An interesting thing you talked about is how a lot of the discussion that we have in Church or about Church stuff we direct toward children and toward people who are potential converts. And so that keeps us from delving very deeply into things that might be [un]seemly or controversial because we don't want to upset kids and we don't want to put off people who are potential converts. And you talk about having a different arena for like maybe the more mature member who's a few generations in, an arena to discuss…. But why do we need, why would we really need to, you know, a different discussion for that?
GHP: Well, what I had in mind when I mentioned that in my preface is that I counseled thousands of inmates in the Salt Lake County Jail. And they've got four or five problem fires to put out in their life. And if they're battling with drugs and dysfunctional families and criminal activity and a number of other fires or problems in their lives, the last thing I want to do is put a book in their face and say well….assuming, a lot of them wanted to look into the Church, because they recognized they need spiritual help. And the Church I would say is very good at helping those kinds of people. They come under a lot of concern and more. LDS people are very good people and help them a great deal. And so, the last thing in the world, I want to do to some inmate who wanted to join the Church or come back into Church is to stick this book in their face.
But, for those who've been around three or four generations, I think we should take a look at this. If you buy this book in the bookstore, for those of you have, you'll notice that it comes in a shrunk plastic container. You cannot open the book and decide whether you want to buy it. You can see the front cover and the back cover, and that's it. There's a reason for that.
GE: What is that?
GHP: Well, just the reason I'm saying, it's….I guess it was our effort to protect children and the innocent. I'm [surprised?]….I got a call from a father and a sixteen-year-old daughter, and she loved the book. Obviously quite precocious. And she says, "They're thinking of holding a disciplinary council on Grant Palmer." She, on her own, wrote a letter to the Los Angeles Times, saying a person shouldn't be thrown out of the Church for what they think.
GE (interjecting, laughing): Go! Go! Good for you.
GHP: She's my youngest supporter. Also had 80-year-old men [GE: Sure.] tell me the same thing.
GE: Um, let's talk to Ed in Springville. Ed, go ahead.
Ed (caller): Yes, Grant, I just want to wanted you to know, that as I was listening to you speak, I could feel how distressed you are about going up against, you know going to court. I had a similar experience about 12, 13 years ago. I just want you to know that everything eventually will be okay. That, you know, these last 12-13 years for me have been wonderful, as I have really learned to discover who Jesus Christ is on a personal level and have found the Godhead that I always knew was within me. I just want you to know that the day will come when you feel better about it, and you will have wonderful experiences that will make all of this just part of the process and of the plan and of the path that you have chosen for yourself, even before you were born.
GHP: I've already done that Ed. I think this whole ordeal has driven me closer to Jesus Christ and He hasn't disappointed me. In fact, I have a book coming out that I….is called "The Incomparable Jesus" which will be out for Easter. It should be, it's just ready to go to the printer.
Ed: Anyway, just good luck to you. You're gonna be just fine.
GHP: I feel the same. Thank you.
GE: Thank you. Well-wishers calling in, too. Let's go to an e-mail from Laura in California. She says, "I grew up in a Mormon home where information from New Mormon History such as Grant presents in his book was openly discussed and available. As I result of growing up in this open environment, I have a strong testimony of the Gospel that remains unhurt by new historical discoveries and,"—she puts "problems" in quotes—"With that experience in hand, I believe that only the truth is good enough for the Church. And if members are taught the complete truth, rather than a whitewashed truth, from the beginning, they would be able to move past the historical problems that some leaders are trying to hide so carefully and focus on the joy and love of Christ's promises."
GHP: That's a great statement, and if I had to raise my children over again, I would be more open with them. I know people who are and having better success.
GE: Let's go to Mark here in Salt Lake. Mark, go ahead.
Mark (caller): Yes, thanks for taking my call. I just wanted to say that I'll probably be one of the people who goes out and buys Grant's book just because it sounds fascinating. I'm, uh, atheistic myself, but I'm also a well-wisher for Grant. And I just wanted to say that people who hide behind religion and who hide behind dogma are going to be the people who he doesn't see in heaven, if there happens to be a heaven. And I don't mean that negatively or hatefully at all, but I'll just leave it at that.
And one quick question, Grant, I wondered if you, sort of, in the back of your mind hope that you are censured so that there's something to go forward with, something that you can use publicly to support your point of view? Not necessarily to sell more books, but just to use to make your point more strongly.
GHP: I would rather end it before Saturday or Sunday. What was his first comment? I wanted to make a comment on that. What was he saying?
Mark: My first comment was that I was going to go buy your book, that I was [Grant (intejecting): Oh that.] atheistic, but also a well-wisher, and um go ahead.
GHP: Well, I think the LDS people should take a look at books like mine. We haven't really taught our LDS Church history past very extensively in the Church in the last 35 years. And, "The Work and the Glory" seems to be the item, people like to go down to that cineplex and watch that movie. But I assure you, as exciting as that is, that's a fictional account of the Steed family. That the real history of the LDS Church is downright fascinating and I would encourage people to take the time and to read a book about our early history. It is truly a fascinating journey.
Mark: Well, it also really fascinates me that there's all these adults calling in who are just finding out that Joseph Smith was a polygamist. I mean it seems to me that the rest of the world sort of takes that for granted, and the ability of the Church to hide that from its own members is just astounding.
GE: Well, and Fawn Brodie, I mean, she talked about that and she was maligned her entire life. I mean you can't….you can't….you can get a Mormon congregation riled up any, you can't get a Mormon congregation riled up any faster than saying Fawn Brodie's name. I mean, she really….in the edition of "No Man Knows My History" that I read, she wrote a preface that talked about the pain of when she was excommunicated for just doing what she….just telling the truth as a historian the way she saw it and she actually was shocked when she did.
GHP: She was indeed. Well, I don't know what's going to happen in the future. There seems to be more and more closet doubters. They seem to be spilling out into the living room, dining room and kitchen, and I'd like to think that my book did not throw the baby out with the bath water, but it sure gave the baby a dang-good scrubbin'.
GE: Let's got to George in Ogden who has a different idea. George, go ahead.
George (caller): Hello. Hello. Yes, I've read Mr. Palmer's book and am very familiar or at least familiar enough that I've read it and know what he says and I'm not a supporter of Mr. Palmer and what he has to say in that book. And it seems to me that with all the people who you've been listening to so far, you need to get a little different viewpoint
GE (interjecting): Sure.
George (caller): as to what is really going on with this book.
GE: What is really going on?
George: Well, first of all, Mr. Palmer doesn't have anything new to say in the entire book, except for one thing. He brings the same old anti-Mormon tirades out and considers them from one single point of view, does not take into consideration the other side of the question or the possibility he may be wrong. He just assumes that those are all correct.
And then at the end gives this absolutely fantastic tale about the entire Mormon Church and the entire experience of Joseph Smith being based upon a tale by Hoffmann called "The Golden Pot". Everybody seems to ignore or forget that one of the most fantastic parts of his whole presentation is that he seems to believe that Joseph Smith was told a story by an almost complete stranger. He believed, er, didn't believe this story, but applied the story to his life and concocted this fantastic tale of establishing the Church and then lived by this lie for his entire life through all that persecution. It's absolutely ludicrous to believe that anybody would believe what Mr. Palmer suggested in that tale.
GE: Well, let's go to Grant Palmer. What do you have to say?
GHP: Well, I've never made up my mind for my readers. They can reach their own conclusion. As for the Hoffmann piece, I would say that your representation of it is not very accurate. I'm saying that it….there were a number of influences on whatever experience Joseph Smith had. Treasure-hunting lore had an impact on him. His own experience had an impact on him, and yes, I believe, that the E.T.A. Hoffmann "The Golden Pot" had some influence on him. But I'm not saying he went and found this and sat in the corner and says, "Boy, I'm going to pull one over on the world." That's not what I'm saying at all. I'm saying it's an influence upon him. If you'll read the chapter carefully, you'll come to the same conclusion.
As for this being a one-sided book, it received a best book of the year award by my peers—actually, first runner-up to Will Bagley's book on Mountain Meadow Massacre—from my fellow historians. So I don't think it's a one-sided thing at all. .book at all. Yes, much of it is what has been found. The marks of the evidence in the last 35 years has not been very kind to the LDS tradition, I don't believe. I simply gathered up what's been done by the New Mormon Historians and distilled it into one book that's penetrated the grassroots of the Church. But I'm not telling people what to say in there. It has a very neutral tone, and I believe it's well-documented.
GE: Is it—do you hear a lot of this kind of criticism of your work?
GHP: Most of the criticism I hear is from people who work for the Church, and they're welcome to their own opinion. I mean, usually when people say "I don't like this or that", I'll say, "Well, which chapter of the book did you like?" and usually, they'll say something good about the book. So, let's just leave it at that.
GE: Well, it seems like you're not looking for total agreement or total that there has to be consensus.
GHP: No, in fact, at the onset of this discussion, you said that this book was written to generate some discussion and it has.
GE: So, let's talk again—what can people do if they want to support or not support you, but to get their opinion about the Church's decision to put you on trial in effect? What kinds of things can people give their opinion about? If it was someone else, if you heard that another scholar, maybe it was one of the scholars who have been run—I think of Steven Epperson from BYU who was run out of there. I mean what would you do?
GHP: To support them?
GHP: Well, that depends on what kind of person you are. I've never been really high on candlelight vigils or surrounding the stake center and singing hymns or placards at temples and so forth. That's not me and I don't like that approach.
I think the Internet and e-mails to perhaps President Hinckley or to my stake president. Or just to let him know that there's people whose faith have not necessarily been damaged at all by this in fact. Two white-collar convicts had called me and said, "You know, I really liked your book and the reason we did is because Joseph Smith had a lot of problems and we've been in prison and this really gave us hope."
I had another man from Virginia call me and say, "I've been inactive in the Church for years, and after reading your book, if you can stay somewhat active, so I think I'll come back."
So you have that, and I've never counseled anyone to leave the Church. In fact, I've tried to talk people into staying in the Church and try to become a more Christ-centered experience.
GE: Let me give our listeners the fax number for Gordon B. Hinckley. 240-2033. That's 801-240-2033. Grant Palmer, thank you so much for being on RadioActive today. Today's show was produced and directed by Troy Williams, executive producer Ryan Tronier, technical direction by Troy Mumm. Stream our shows at krcl.org