Faith Promoting History vs. Factual History

I have recently had a very forceful Epiphany, a major paradigm shift, yea even a transient change of heart! See Disclaimer.

(Small envelop upper left corner non-cursive)

E. J. Watson
3007 Banbury Rd.
Salt Lake City, Utah

(post marked)


PM 28 JAN 1977


(address again in non-cursive)

Perry L. Porter
870 North 50 East
Provo, Utah 84601

(The address is my parents house where I lived after my mission for the first year while going to BYU.  In fact it appears to be less than a month after my mission. I had opened the letter from the top at some point in time and didn't have tape with me so I have used some  blank labels to seal the letter across the top, it is still slit open or cut open on the stamp end.)

(The rest of the letter is as follows in cursive)

Mr. Perry L. Porter
870 North 50 East
Provo, Utah 84601

Dear Mr. Porter

    You have inquired concerning my publication "Manuscript
History of Brigham Young 1846 - 1847." It is a reasonably
accurate copy of the journal kept for Brigham Young by his
scribes during the exodus from Nauvoo, and as such might
reasonably be considered a "Volume VIII of the history of
the Church edited by B. H. Roberts (documentary). A good
explanation of the book is found in it's preface and I have
listed all the editing I have done in a section entitled "Editing"
beginning on page 612. Of the 500 copies I published I have
none left for sale - when the bookstores sell their present stock
it will be "out of print."

    You might also be interested in my publication of "The Orson
Pratt Journals." It contains everything I could find either by Orson
Pratt, or about Orson Pratt, prior to his entrance into the Salt
Lake Valley. (I have lots of them left)

    I am sorry to hear your comment that you do not enjoy
"watered down versions," and that you like to read it the way
it really was." I can assure you that if you could "read it the way
it really was," you'd be bored stiff. It is the job of a competent
historian to weed out the mundane trivia to leave something worth
reading. If a historian concentrates upon the patterns of significant
historical events, then his history is called "watered down." If on the
other hand he dwells upon specific instances of emotional sensationalism,
then he's "telling it like it really was." History has a place for both, but
we need to keep them in proper perspective. You'll find that B. H. Roberts'
histories have been "watered down" considerably also, but don't throw
them away on that account - they are excellent.

    May the Lord bless you with a "watered down" life
Elden J. Watson
24 January 1977

(End of correspondence.)

Twenty years later these are my feeling on this subject.

This letter, at that time, was very humbling, actually very humiliating, for me as a inquisitive, youthful student.  I was young and inexperienced, and culturally felt ashamed that I had questioned Mr. Watson's motives or implied that he had a hidden agenda, to white-wash the gray areas of Mormon History.

After years of experience and study, my faith that the histories and historians of the Church were faithful to the facts, was greatly harmed as it became painfully obvious that my initial impressions were correct and that Joseph Fielding Smith, Brigham H. Roberts and even amateur historian, such as Elden J. Watson were white-washing the actions, policies, decisions and pronouncements of previous church leaders.  It was a bigger jolt to my belief system, than the original warts were.

I have learned from personal experiences as well as from Richard Poll and others that it is MORE damaging to believe in a wart-less Brigham Young, for many years, only to discover that you have been told a half-truth and deceived.  Mr. Watson did not take the time or effort to follow me through my studies at BYU and intercede or prevent me from reading footnotes and eventually the original sources, so that I could receive a completely "watered down" education of Mormon History.

I crossed a bridge early, where I came to the personal conclusion that,  justice would not permit me to enter the Celestial Kingdom by dogging the rocks and the hard spots of Mormon History.   I could easily imagine that Satan could cross-examine my testimony at the bar of justice, and confront my white-washed assumptions of Mormon History and that he could easily bring forth the original unedited manuscripts.  Then call up the as witnesses, to attest to their original form and content.  I would be faced with having to adjust my belief system while upon the witness stand before the judgment bar of God.

If asked by Satan,  if I indeed had believed in doctrines, policies changes, sequences of historical events etc., which had been confirmed by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and others, in the final judgment, to have been,  misleadingly recorded and taught as accurate Church History, when indeed they were NOT.  I would be compelled to accurately state that I had lived most of my life with a testimony based on inaccurate facts, as confirmed by the original participants.

I could just as easily be asked by Satan, the temple recommend question of whether I support and sustain the current leadership of the church, even though this very day in court, it was demonstrated by both Joseph and Brigham that the current leadership of the church perpetuates and promotes a white-washed version of Church History that is out of harmony with the original documents of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.  What is the correct answer to that? After all this is the dispensation of the fullness of times where the fullness of the Gospel has been revealed.   Satan will insist that all those converted during this dispensation, live up to all the laws and ordinances given to us, this day, in this dispensation.

If asked if I believe that new "sanctioned" plural marriages stopped with Wilford Woodruff's manifesto in 1890?  How should I answer?  Do I give the church approved / correlated, Sunday School  answer, as it has been presented in at least 4 rotations of Sunday school lessons since 1979?  Or do I give the seemingly more informed and apologetic answer that there were more plural marriages after the 1890 manifesto, but attribute it all to the over zealous  Mathias Cowley and John W. Taylor?  Would Satan have no evidence that the involvement went way far beyond Cowley and Taylor?  The September 9th 1899 issue of the Salt Lake Tribune, contains a report of Heber J. Grant pleading guilty and paying the fine for breaking the laws of the land by cohabitation with more than one wife. This is 9 years after the 1st Manifesto and 3 years after Statehood.  Cohabitation was against Utah law and plural marriages were forever forbidden and irrevocable as per the Utah constitution, as a requirement for Utah to become a state. According to a genealogical listing of the decedents of Joseph Fielding Smith, 5 of his wives had children after 1890, for a total of 14 children born after 1890 to him.  Most list the place of birth as Salt Lake City Utah.

In Essentials in Church History, by Joseph Fielding Smith page 496.

This "understanding" was not reflected in the laws of Utah!  Smith goes on to state:

This begs the question, that if polygamists married before November 1st 1890, were granted amnesty, then under what law as Apostle Grant pleading guilty to and paying a 100 dollar fine?

If I answered that the majority of the 12 took additional wives after 1890, and had children from them as well as their previous plural wives, which was contrary to the laws of the land and the simplistic reading of the Manifesto, I would be out of harmony of the beliefs of the majority of the members living during my life time. Satan could produce a host of uninformed witnesses to state that I am out of harmony with one of the long standing temple recommend question: "Do you affiliate with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or do you sympathize with the precepts of any such group or individual?"  Any statements of facts about post 1890 polygamy, immediately labels a person as being a fundamentalist and out of harmony with the church.  Such a label, in regards to me,  is inaccurate, but would surely be created in the minds of uninformed members.

If I were allowed to pass the bar of God and enter the pearly gates, the general membership would object that I held opinions that are contrary to or opposed to those accepted by the church.  If I sought after accurate knowledge, during my life and passed on through the gate, justice would demand that anyone else entering the gate, be like-wise informed and of the same mind set.  Whatever the case may be at the judgment bar, someone has a lot of adjusting to do to their testimony at the very last moment.

If death bed repentance is of no use at the judgment bar of God, how much retracting and re-construction of our testimonies can occur while we are yet at the bar, and justice still be served, compared to those that spent their entire life wrestling with the warts of human kind?  Mercy applies to sin, not self imposed ignorance.  How can the scales balance when comparing those that chose a the path of least resistance and chose blind and comfortable conformity over complex struggles that included conflicting historical facts?

Mr. Watson, 20 years ago you wished upon me a "watered down" life.  I took the road less traveled. It has been a bumpy ride.

At the judgment bar of God, I wish for you Mr. Watson, a quick and speedy trial, but if subpoenaed, I will appear and testify to the best of my informed knowledge, with a clear conscience.

May all of us be prepared to do the same.

In essence, Mr. Watson your "watered down" histories has delayed me on my path to ultimately useful knowledge, rather than supplemented me with more factual knowledge.

Perry L. Porter
December 6th 1997

"The chronicler of important events should not be deprived of his individuality; but if he willfully disregards the truth, no matter what his standing may be, or how greatly he may be respected, he should be avoided.  No historian has the right to make his prejudices paramount to the facts he should record.  For such a writer, to record as truth that which is false, and to palm off as facts that which is fiction, degrades himself, insults his readers and outrages his profession."

                                                    -Joseph Fielding Smith Jr. (1906)

Note: JFS Jr. was Sustained as Assistant Church Historian 8 april 1906.

Assistance Church Historian at age 30, ordained an apostle 4 years later.  Sustained as Church Historian in 1921 and remained  Church Historian for 49 years.  Released as Church Historian when he became President of the Church in 1970.

JFS Jr. was the LDS Church Historian for more then twice as long as any other Church Historian, and was the only Church Historian to be a concurrent member of the First Presidency.

JFS Jr. son of JFS and Julina Lambson. Ordained an Apostle 7 Apr. 1910 by JFS,  1950 acting Quorum of the 12. 1951 President of the Quorum of the 12. Councilor in the 1st Presidency 1965. Sustained President of the church 1970.

I have recently had a very forceful Epiphany, a major paradigm shift, yea even a transient change of heart! See Disclaimer.

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All opinions on Mormon Church History and Mormonism in general are mine and mine alone, and represent my thinking at this point in time, (subject to change based on better information).

All original writings of mine are just that, to reproduce, forward or use, parts or whole, you need to get permission from me first.

Spellings constructed for effect and to confound the ridged. ;)

©1996 by Perry L. Porter.  All copyrights are maintained by any parties (individual or corporate) which may have originally created any of the information or artwork contained herein.  If you see your work, and I've mistakenly not given you or your company credit, please E-mail me.  I'll gladly add the appropriate credit, if you feel it is necessary.



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