Comments about ‘New Harmony: Foxes in the henhouse’

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Published: Thursday, May 1 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

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New Albany, OH

Criticisms of the church address it as though church leaders set the doctrine themselves and direct the church like a business - like other churches do. And when members respond, they address it in the same way - like a club or organization they really like. But the church really isn't a "Mormon Church" led by people who compiled a doctrine and then shopped it to the general public to see who would buy. It's God's church with imperfect humans called to lead it.

I wish members were better at redirecting criticisms of the church and its history to be criticisms of how God restored His church, how he refined his people and how he directs his servants to operate His church. I'm sure the leaders would love to comply with popular opinion and not cause so many waves, but it's not up to them. Critics miss the spiritual side of the gospel because they're critiquing a man-made church, not realizing they're actually critiquing the way God restored His gospel.

I'm grateful God didn't appear to Joseph Smith in a burning bush. Can you imagine the critiques of that?

Salt Lake City, UT

Well done, Mr. Johnston. One of your best. The apt observation by Ralph Waldo Emerson is a treasure. You employed it perfectly.

Not every decision of every leader of the Church is perfect and free from blemish. I am increasingly humbled to witness God's willingness to permit free agency to work through every aspect of mortality, even His Church, which benefits from continuous inspiration in so many respects. To the extent we can accept the subtle workings of free agency, doubt transforms to faith and scorn transforms to awe. The Church is wonderful, but God is overwhelmingly more.

John Marx
Layton, UT

In his article Johnston wrote,

"As a result, the only motive that makes sense to secular writers is self-interest, or delusion. Yet LDS history overflows with examples of sane people acting against self-interest. Joseph returning from the territories to be slain, the rescuers heading off to Martin’s Cove. Examples have filled histories."

I assure you that secularists can and do see the value in rescuing those in need of help. To say that secularists can't understand it in others implies that secularists themselves are incapable of acting selflessly. Not a fair comment to make in my opinion.

Spanish Fork, UT

nicely stated edit; thnx

i know how i define "prophet", "seer", "revelator"
i can look at many dictionary definitions of those words
i can't know what God defines them, unless He tells me

God and or Jesus Christ calls persons to be PSR then tells them what their job function is/are

i'm certain definitions don't state prophets, seers and revelators know everything abt everything all the time, are perfect, full of water-walking faith (peter), collective power to heal the sick (apostles asking Jesus why they were unable to heal.) did moses ? does Jesus Christ Himself know when His Father will send Him again at the 2nd Coming; neither He nor the angels. is moses not a prophet because he didn't say a single word abt caffeine (aka coke or pepsi) or tobacco but he said chickens and lobster/shrimp are not to be eaten.

Heavenly Father tells us what He decides to tell, when He decides. both tithing and and words of wisdom are anciently expressed, but have not had the same emphasis in The Church as they do today. little by little He reveals, line by line, precept by precept

Eldersburg, MD

John Marx

"To say that secularists can't understand it in others implies that secularists themselves are incapable of acting selflessly. Not a fair comment to make in my opinion"

Where does the author imply this claim beyond subjective bias? Human interpretation is a powerful gift but often evasive of the truth. All the more reason why we need spiritual guidance to know and live truth as it really exists, not how we want to see it.

Truth is free from human bias and unchanging. Science has many truths that no one can dispute because they govern the operations of what humans understand about the physical world. But, why do we as a whole and not just this example here, think we know best in ourselves and those who identify with our causes to think truth is completely in us?

We know nothing without God and it is by revelation from Him that we have any knowledge upon the world today. This is a powerful concept that will be known to everyone in life or death. All that can be done is invite people to seek for that which doesn't change with popular culture of the ages.

Phoenix, AZ

What a huge tent of rationalization one can defend whatever prejudice or believe under its cover, church, religion, politics, atheism, love, hate, personal feelings, or whatever.

Beaver Native
St. George, UT

My experience is that if any comment can be misinterpreted or taken out of context, some who disagrees on the issue will do it, and things meant as generalities will be taken as absolutes. John Marx response is a perfect example. I didn't see the intent of the author's comments as to say that secularists are incapable of seeing the value of the acts referred to. I think the intent was to state that people within the Church are imperfect and while some strive for perfection and fall short, there are others that fall way short. Perhaps the author's wording did not match his intent well, but that's because he is an imperfect being who makes mistakes just like the rest of us.

You can find faults and negative examples within any organization if that's what you're looking for. Conversely, you can find positives and positive examples within the worst of organizations if that's what you're looking for. Yes, some regrettable things happened in Mormon history and some things tried failed. What I think is trying to be communicated is that you can only truly understand the Mormon faith through faith.

Phoenix, AZ

Beaver Native, in general I agree with your thoughts, but what I don't understand, and perhaps someone can explain it to me, is: why is the Mormon church , or it's defenders, always trying to re-write the church history, or cover up and white wash so many facts, Why not open up the church archives and records to qualified researchers , Mormon and non-Mormon, and let the truth shine through . It seems it would be so much better than the constant cherry picking ,supposedly faith promoting, arguments and articles. Perhaps it is time for the church to grow up and take the members off the milk and junk food diet and give them the truth to chew on. They be surprising more intelligence and attuned than some may think.

Arlington, WA

This is a great article...so far. @John Marx, I only read that Mr. Johnston wrote, "the only motive that makes sense to secular writers...." I do not believe that Mr. Johnston was referring to all "secularists" beliefs, an idea that would be untenable.

layton, UT

RE:Ralph Waldo Emerson would say, they see only the needles, not the magnetism.

Emerson was a transcendentalists, some have claimed to be Christian; however,the idea that a human, intuitive understanding of “the transcendental” can bring us to the truth is misguided. Transcendentalism directly conflicts with the biblical command to “lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).

But the transcendentalists did more than trust their feelings.
They also received guidance from Romantic poets like William Wordsworth and from the sacred texts of Hinduism. Thoreau, in Walden, spoke of how “in the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmological philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita.”

The Bible is truth (John 17:17). The heart of man is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). Those who rely on their own intuition and “good sense” to lead them to spiritual truth will find themselves being led astray (Isaiah 53:6).

Eldersburg, MD


I've seen you write previously with respect to hiding history and cherry picking what Church leaders want to reveal.

Could it be that instead of focusing on the mistakes of imperfect individuals, the message is not about what was done wrong, but how members can more fully serve God each day?

If you dwell in negativity and criticism, then the Spirit of God is not with you. If Church leaders who serve tirelessly dwell upon these things, how are they following Christ who taught we must go on and improve, constantly relying upon Him for strength beyond our own?

It is the naysayers, unbelievers, and those who feel the need to expend so much effort to tear down the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who act in this type of negativity. Jesus said to take the 'beam' out of our own eye before attempting to remove the 'mote' from another's eye.

For all who do harbor anger and criticism for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, yet choose not to understand it by firsthand immersion, ask yourselves, who do you care so much?

Karen R.
Houston, TX

"...many writers today are like the guy who gazes at a rose in a bell jar, hoping to catch a whiff of its scent."

I think this more closely describes believers. Believers gaze upon the rose in the bell jar and convince themselves that they smell the scent.

Skeptics open the jar to determine if there really is one. What we've found is that, not only does the rose have no scent, it is artificial and man made.

orem, UT

Many critics of the church find it unacceptable that others believe differently than they do and that intelligent people who are members of the church not only believe but have strong convictions. Critics are not content to disagree. Church teachings and doctrine often go against what they want and therefore must not be merely tollerated but taken apart and silenced. In my opinion this is why many care.

orem, UT

Excellent article. Thank you Mr. Johnston.

The Wraith
Kaysville, UT

Sorry Mr. Johnson but simply because people have provided evidence that the church isn't true and yet the church goes on does not support in any way the actual truthfulness of the church. Every church on earth has critics. The history of the Catholic church is filled with awful episodes, much worse than anything in Mormon history. Crusades, inquisitions, abuse, and much more - yet the Catholic church is still thriving. Does that mean the Catholic church is true? Does it mean it's even more true than the Mormon church because it's gone trough worse and still survives?

I don't expect the Mormon church to "fold up like a homemade canoe" even as more and more evidence comes to like about it's fraudulent start and and clearly faked scriptures. No, the church will go on just like so so many of the churches around the world that Mormons consider false.

UT Brit
London, England


Yes people make mistakes etc, but then again we have seen examples of church leadership leading the church down the wrong path. This needs to be explained and talked about.

I think the church would be best suited to give us a non whitewashed history of the church in our lesson manuals. The truth is always best.

clearfield, UT


What would be the point? Unless you suspect that in Church history there is some story hidden that betrays everything the restored church is founded upon. Namely, the first vision, and subsequent visions by Joseph Smith and many others. Restroration of Priesthood, The coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Those are the foundation of the LDS Church today. Unless you have a real reason to think that all of those things can be refuted by church history, looking at the warts of church history is just voyeurism.

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

@donn – “Transcendentalism directly conflicts with the biblical command to “lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).”

So the Transcendentalists, and pretty much all the eastern traditions they found affinity with, are wrong because the Bible (at least how you interpret it) says so. Got it…

You do realize this is wholly unconvincing to anyone other than Bible literalists, yes? Not to mention it elevates (to a transcendental realm?) a form of logic used by all religious authorities regardless of tradition (i.e., the Imam extolls his fundamentalist followers in precisely the same manner, substituting the Quran in place of the Bible).

@Karen R. – “Skeptics open the jar to determine if there really is one. What we've found is that, not only does the rose have no scent, it is artificial and man made.”

Will you marry me?

Phoenix, AZ

@ Eternal Perspective,
Thank you for your response, I agree with you for the most part. However, I don't believe because a skeptics does not wish to be led by blind faith that he harbors anger or criticism. If there is a god, then I believe he sheds his light and truth universal. It is mans politics that hides the truth to deceive others and lead them blindly. The same as with Communism, religion, politics capitalism and all other isms, etc. Demand the truth, learn the truth, because if there is a personal god then that is where he, she it must be. It may be nature and Mother Earth are our only gods, I don't know, and I don't believe any one knows. We all just have believes or feelings. You believe you have found your god, then be honest about it, the same for the Muslims and Allah, and all other believers . Incidentally, I share positive feelings with some of the Mormon doctrine and I believe JS was a genius in is own right.

Bountiful, UT

There are none so blind as those who refuse to see! Spiritual truth can only be discerned by those with eyes to see, can only be heard by those with ears to hear, and can only be known and understood by those with a heart that feels and obeys.

The secular critics of the spiritual-minded simply can't relate; they can't see, can't hear, can't feel what can only be seen, heard and felt by the Spirit. This may not be their fault, because these abilities are spiritual gifts that are not given to all, and which must be sought after in order to obtain.

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