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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 email@example.com . 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
John (caller): Hi! Grant?
John: Hey, this is John out here in California. I've spoken with you
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
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
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
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
[** 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
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
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
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
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
So it's put me in a very difficult situation in standing up for what I believe
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
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
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. firstname.lastname@example.org .
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Tomorrow, we're going to talk to lawyers from the Rocky Mountain Innocence
Center who are working to help overturn wrongful convictions. But stay tuned for