Confessions by Emeritus General Authority of the
Mormon Church Raises New Questions about the Origins of Mormonism
In 1989, we found ourselves faced with a very serious
decision with regard to a story that had been leaked to us concerning
charges that Paul H. Dunn, who had served as a General Authority
in the Mormon Church for many years, had been deceitful in his writings
and speeches. As some of our readers may know, this was not the
first time that we found ourselves sitting on a powderkeg.
Since we began publishing material regarding Mormonism
over thirty years ago, we have brought to light a number of documents
which have been suppressed and other important material relating
to the Latter-day Saints. Some of it has been extremely controversial.
We have, in fact, received letters from two Mormon apostles in which
we were threatened with lawsuits if we did not desist from printing
certain documents (see photographs of their letters in Mormonism
Shadow or Reality? p. 13-14). Although we continued to publish the
material, the suits were never actually filed. One Mormon scholar,
however, did attempt to sue us and even appealed the case to the
Supreme Court of the United States. Fortunately, however, he did
not succeed in his endeavor.
Some of the stories we have printed have seriously
affected people's lives and have caused some face-to-face confrontations
which have been anything but pleasant. For example, eighteen months
before Mark Hofmann murdered Steven Christensen and Kathy Sheets,
we suggested that his "Salamander" letter may have been
plagiarized from E. D. Howe's anti-Mormon book Mormonism Unvailed,
(see Salt Lake City Messenger, March 1984). Not surprisingly, this
led to a weighty discussion with Mr. Hofmann later that year and
another confrontation in 1985.
On many occasions we have had people try to persuade
us to print stories we did not feel were based on reliable evidence.
When we received the information regarding Paul Dunn, however, we
felt that it was probably true. Nevertheless, we realized immediately
that if we published this information, it could have a devastating
affect on Mr. Dunn's life and career. If the story should turn out
to be incorrect, we could find ourselves faced with a lawsuit for
libel and might have to make a public retraction.
Printing The Story
We investigated the matter and weighed the whole
situation very carefully. While we felt that Paul Dunn's deceptive
tactics were deplorable, we were even more concerned about the possibility
that church leaders were trying to cover up the matter. We, therefore,
decided to run a story concerning the matter in the October, 1989,
issue of the Salt Lake City Messenger. At that time we were working
on another story concerning the excommunication of George P. Lee,
who had been a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy since 1975.
On pages 4 and 5 of our newsletter we published a section entitled,
"Removing More Seventies." In that portion of the Messenger
we wrote the following:
"One would certainly think that the church
would have replaced George P. Lee and filled the two quorums at
the October 1989 general conference. Instead, however, 16 other
members of the two quorums were either 'excused from active service'--
i. e., put on emeritus status--or completely released.... Why the
church would cut down the number of Seventies at this time is certainly
"Another curious thing about this matter is the fact that Paul
H. Dunn, who once served as one of the seven members of the 'Presidency
of the First Quorum of Seventy was 'excused from active service'
because of age or health. Some people seem to feel that this was
not the real reason. They, in fact, believe it was for the 'health'
of the church. As far as age is concerned, there appear to be sixteen
Seventies older than Mr. Dunn who were not put on emeritus status,
and while he may have some problems with his health, many of the
other General Authorities are not in good health. Apostle Bruce
R. McConkie died of cancer, but was never put on emeritus status,
and President Spencer W. Kimball had cancer, heart trouble and other
problems but remained president of the church. The current president,
Ezra Taft Benson, is 90 years old and very feeble, yet he remains
"It is suspected that the church leaders felt that Dunn would
eventually become a liability to the church because of some investigative
reporting which had been done by Lynn Packer. Mr. Packer, a nephew
of Apostle Boyd Packer, at one time worked for the church's television
station, KSL. He was working with that station when the Hofmann
story broke but was later fired. Packer felt that his aggressive
reporting on the Hofmann affair and his earlier work on the Afco
scandal played a role in his dismissal. The church simply did not
want all the truth to come to light.
"Although he was never indicted for any crime, Paul H. Dunn's
reputation suffered because of the Afco affair. The Wall Street
Journal for Nov. 9, 1983 ,reported: '...Paul H. Dunn... whose church
salary is $40,000 a year, was a director of Afco Enterprises, a
real-estate venture until 1978. Afco collapsed four years later;
and its owner, Grant C. Affleck, was recently indicted for mail
fraud, securities fraud and bankruptcy fraud. Despite Mr. Dunn's
1978 resignation, records in the U. S. District Court civil suit
here show that he continued to have ties with Afco until it entered
bankruptcy proceedings in 1982.... and gave advice to directors
after he resigned.... A few days before Afco entered bankruptcy
proceedings, Mr. Dunn wrote a disgruntled Afco investor a letter
calling Mr. Affleck, a fellow Mormon, 'fair and Christlike.' U.
S. Attorney Brent Ward... says that about 650 investors lost over
$20 million through Afco investments.'
"From what we can learn, Lynn Packer continued to investigate
this subject after he was dismissed from KSL and found that Dunn's
involvement in Afco was far deeper than was previously reported.
In addition, he came to believe that some of Dunn's statements concerning
his earlier life were not true. We contacted Mr. Packer on Oct.
2, 1989, and he informed us that he could make no statement for
the Messenger concerning these matters. Packer also refused to discuss
a report that he had been threatened with retaliation if he published
"Notwithstanding Mr. Packer's refusal to confirm these matters,
we have very good reason to believe that he has been investigating
Mr. Dunn. We do not know whether the charges can be proven, but
we are very concerned that there may have been an attempt to suppress
the truth concerning the Afro scandal. In any case, the church's
release of Paul Dunn from active service at this critical time does
look suspicious. If the charges should prove true, it would raise
another question: is it fair to merely retire Dunn with full honors
while publicly humiliating George P. Lee with excommunication?"
(Salt Lake City Messenger, Oct. 1989, pages 4-5)
Unlike the Mormon apostles mentioned above, Paul
Dunn did not send us a letter threatening litigation. He, in fact,
did not respond in any way to the questions we had raised. Although
we thought that members of the press in Utah would be interested
in this story, there seems to have been little interest in getting
to the bottom of the scandal. Almost a year and a half passed before
we heard more about the matter. As is often the case with important
stories regarding the Mormon Church, the news finally broke in a
paper published outside of Utah. On Feb. 16, 1991, the Arizona Republic
published an article written by Richard R. Robertson which contained
"SALT LAKE CITY -- Among Mormons, Elder Paul
H. Dunn is a popular teacher, author and role model. As a prominent
leader of the Church... for more than 25 years, he has told countless
inspirational stories about his life:
"Like the time his best friend died in his arms during a
World War II battle, while imploring Dunn to teach America's youth
"Or how God protected him as enemy machine-gun bullets ripped
away his clothing, gear and helmet without ever touching his skin.
"Or how perseverance and Mormon values led him to play major-league
baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals.
"But those stories are not true.
"Dunn's 'dead' best friend isn't dead; only the heel of Dunn's
boot caught a bullet; and he never played baseball for the St.
Louis Cardinals or any other major-league team.
"Dunn acknowledged that those stories and others were untrue,
but he defends fabrications as necessary to illustrate his theological
and moral points.
"He compares his stories to the parables told by Jesus--acknowledging,
however, that Jesus' parables weren't about himself...
"Other Mormon leaders apparently were concerned about this
in September 1989, because, within weeks of investigating allegations
that his war and sports stories were fabricated, they quietly
placed Dunn, 66, on 'emeritus' status 'for health reasons.'
"As a 'general authority' since 1964, Dunn had been among
the top 90 men who govern the 7.3 million-member worldwide church.
"The church also pressured Salt Lake City freelance writer
Lynn Packer, a Mormon, not to publish stories about Dunn's fabrications.
In the fall, after the church had terminated Packer's teaching
contract at Brigham Young University for pursuing the story, he
provided information he has collected over the past four years
to The Republic.
"Despite Dunn's 'retirement,' his grandfatherly demeanor
and down-home, self-deprecating storytelling style continue to
make him a popular public speaker and author.
"He also remains the most prolific author among current and
former church leaders. He receives royalties from 23 inspirational
cassette tapes and 28 books... They are among the more popular
items in LDS bookstores....
"Dunn... said he doesn't consider it deceitful to exaggerate
or alter facts.
"He said his technique is to 'combine' elements of several
true stories to create a single story that will better convey
a message and capture an audience's interest....
"'The combining of stories seems justifiable in terms of
illustrating a point. My motives are pure and innocent,' Dunn
said during an interview in Salt Lake City attended by his attorney
and a friend.
"'I haven't purposely tried to embellish or rewrite history.
I've tried to illustrate points that would create interest,' Dunn
explained. 'Combining war stories is simply putting history in
little finer packages.'... Dunn's retirement occurred within two
weeks of the probe into his storytelling practices by top church
officials, who had been given copies of Packer's findings.
"Dunn said he cooperated with the church's investigation
but was not advised of its conclusions. He denied that it was
connected to his retirement, which he insisted was for poor health
that has since improved.... the university [Brigham Young University]
terminated Packer's teaching contract, in part because he wanted
to publish a story about his findings. "(Arizona Republic,
February 16, 1991)
On February 21, 1991, the Salt Lake Tribune ran
an Associated Press article by Vern Anderson which contained the
"Lynn Packer was serving a Mormon mission
in Germany in 1964 when he heard 39-year-old Paul H. Dunn had
been appointed to the church's hierarchy.... it was Packer's relentless
pursuit of Dunn over most of the 1980s that led to Saturday's
revelation by The Arizona Republic: the church man had fabricated
many of the personal war and baseball stories that had fed his
reputation as the faith's most spellbinding speaker and popular
"Packer himself paid a high professional price for the research
"He ultimately lost his teaching position at church owned
Brigham Young University and today, working on a one-year contract
at the University of Dortmund in Germany, feels beaten 'to a pulp.'
"Why did the story that Republic reporter Richard Robertson
calls the worst-kept secret in Salt Lake take so long to come
"The answer appears to lie in the church's effort to avoid
a scandal and in Packer's own vulnerability as a BYU employee
without tenure whose wife had been diagnosed with cancer early
"The combination led, on Sept. 30, 1987, to a 'deal' between
Packer and a 'high church official' in which he withdrew the story
he had submitted to United Press International in exchange for
a guarantee of continued employment at BYU, according to Packer.
"Packer declined to identify the official, but has told others
it was his uncle, Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve
"'Lynn claims he had an agreement with his uncle through
his father,' said BYU spokesman Paul Richards. 'That the agreement
fell apart when he continued to ask questions about Paul Dunn.
When he continued to ask questions, Elder Packer felt he had not
been true to the agreement.'
"Through spokesman Jerry Cahill, Boyd Packer said Wednesday,
'There was nothing ever stated. It never happened. There was no
such agreement that Lynn Packer would be retained in exchange
for no publication.'
"In 1986, Lynn Packer... decided to freelance a story on
Dunn's involvement with AFCO Enterprises... the biggest real estate
development in Utah history.
"Dunn... claimed his tenure as an AFCO director had ended
in 1978; Packer sought to prove it had lasted much longer. He
also began looking at the veracity of Dunn's stories...
"'There isn't a single significant baseball or war story
I could find that was true,' said Packer, who in September 1987
complied under pressure with a BYU administrative request that
he inform the church of his allegations.... Packer's department
chairman at BYU, Gordon Whiting, told him in a memo dated Sept.
30, 1987, that he should permit church leaders to deal privately
with the Dunn matter.
"'After providing the information, we accept the judgment
of those responsible. We will not take accusations against a General
Authority to the media,' Whiting wrote, adding that publication
'will damage the church, will damage the university and will damage
"Fearing for his job, Packer agreed to the deal he said was
offered him that night: don't publish the story and you can teach
at BYU as long as you want.
"Packer bridles at suggestions by BYU officials that he was
"'They can never give you a time or a place when I went to
anybody with that story and said, 'Do this for me or else,' '
he said. 'And I can show you the times and places and dates when
they, told it just the opposite: 'Do the story and you're history.'
"Packer maintains that Elders James E. Faust and David B.
Haight, Dunn's immediate superiors in the Quorum of the Twelve,
were aware of the arrangement. Like Boyd K. Packer, the pair declined
to be interviewed, but denied through spokesman Bruce Olsen there
was any deal....
"And yet, in a memo to church spokesman Richard Lindsay after
the alleged deal was struck, Packer wrote: 'I had received assurances,
prior to my decision, that my job at BYU would be secure for the
indefinite future if I withdrew the story.'
"At BYU, Whiting decided in early 1988 not to renew Packer's
contract for the 1988-89 school year...
"'I thought the decision was mine to make,' Whiting said.
"After Packer completed his teaching duties in August 1990,
he was given a year's salary as severance pay, a move that surprised
Whiting since it didn't come out of his departmental budget.
"'I think it probably looks to many people... like an effort
to bribe him not to go with the Paul Dunn story,' Whiting said....
"For his part, Whiting said he was pained by 'the degree
to which the university has been pulled into this situation. And
I guess I'm also pained at the church being pulled in.
"But the church will have to fend for itself and do what
it can to rescue its reputation for honesty and integrity.'"(Salt
Lake Tribune, February 21, 1991)
Brigham Young University's student newspaper, The
Daily Universe, carried the story concerning Paul Dunn but later
reported there was some strong opposition to the publication of
material "which proved to be embarrassing to such a well-liked
leader": "...several communications students indicated
they were stunned by the number of people they encountered who thought
there should not have been any coverage of the information. One
writer was even physically hit by someone who objected to the newspaper's
coverage." (The Daily Universe, Feb. 21, 1991)
"A Tangled Web"
In his book, You and Your World, page 96, Paul Dunn
told of "a priests adviser" he had when he was sixteen
years old. According to Mr. Dunn, this man had a great influence
on him "for good": "We had a wonderful class....
as I went to leave... he said, 'Now listen very carefully and I
will teach you one that you'll always remember.' He said, ''Oh,
what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.''
I've never forgotten it." On page 24 of the same book, Mr.
Dunn taught that "honesty" does not always bring "material
reward." He warned, however, that "Envy, dishonesty, and
unfairness--all of these are excess baggage, and as such are not
worth what it costs to carry them with us."
Unfortunately, Paul Dunn did not follow the teachings
found in his book and became entangled in his own web. His baseball
stories, for example, provide ample evidence of his deceitful methods.
In his tape, World War II Experiences, which we obtained at the
Mormon Church's Deseret Bookstore, Paul Dunn boasted: "I used
to play with [the] Saint Louis Cardinals. That's true." In
his book, You and Your World, page 128, we find this statement:
"I used to play baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals. Now,
it takes a lot of preparation to become a big league ballplayer."
In 1973, the church's Deseret Book Company published
a book by Paul Dunn entitled, Discovering the Quality of Success.
On page 33 of that book, Mr. Dunn wrote that he went back to school
"after five years of professional baseball..." In the
Deseret News 1977 Church Almanac, page 74, we read that Dunn "played
professional baseball for four years."
Paul Dunn was obviously using his baseball stories
to increase his popularity and to sell more of his books and tapes.
The reader will remember that we have cited Lynn Packer as saying,
"There isn't a single significant baseball or war story I could
find that was true..." Richard R. Robertson gave this information
about the matter:
"Dunn's baseball stories are as legendary
as his war stories.
"He has written and told audiences that he signed a contract
to play for the St. Louis Cardinals after graduation from high
"But in truth, Dunn never played a game for the St. Louis
Cardinals or any major-league team.
"The closest he came was playing six weeks 'off-roster' in
several practice and exhibition games in 1942 for the Pocatello
(Idaho) Cardinals, a St. Louis Cardinal farm team. He was cut.
"Baseball records show that Dunn signed a professional player
contract in 1947 with the Ontario Orioles, in California's 'Class
C' Sunset League. But he practiced only a few weeks, played only
in the first regular game and then was released ." (Arizona
Republic, Feb. 16, 1991)
It is obvious, then, that Paul Dunn was never a
major league player nor did he have four or five years experience
as a "professional" baseball player. In the article from
the Arizona Republic, we find this information: "In the case
of his false claim to have played for the St. Louis Cardinals, he
said youngsters can relate better to a major-league team than to
the farm teams for which he briefly played."
Paul Dunn's war stories are even more fantastic
than his claims concerning his baseball career. In the Mormon Church's
publication, New Era, August 1975, Mr. Dunn related some of his
experiences. In this article we find the following:
"A testimony was born... I've had verification
upon verification that this church is true, that Joseph Smith
was called and ordained to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ....
"Before I went into combat experience, I had... a patriarchal
blessing given to me.... that patriarchal blessing stated in a
number of paragraphs that I would live... to a ripe old age...
And one of the paragraphs indicated divine intervention in time
"Now there were 1,000 of us in my combat team who left San
Francisco on that fateful journey, and there were six of us who
came back 2 1/2 years later. How do you like that for odds! And
of the six of us, five had been severely wounded two or more times
and had been sent back into the line as replacements. There had
been literally thousands of incidents where I should have been
taken from the earth by the enemy and for some reason was not."
(New Era, August 1975, page 7)
Paul Dunn went on to relate that on one occasion
his squad was caught behind enemy lines and took refuge in "a
deep shell hole." The situation was such that they could not
spend the night there and were forced to flee through enemy, fire.
His companions asked him to "lead them in prayer" before
they made their attempt to escape. We find the following on page
8 of the article in the New Era:
"Well, the zero minute came, and we shook
hands, and you never saw 11 men scamper like that before.... Three
or four of the others didn't get above the surface of the ground;
they were cut down with machine guns. One of my good friends was
almost cut in two with a burst.... I could tell I had a sniper
with a machine gun right on me because the dirt and the mud behind
me would just kick right up, move right around me and then I'd
move this way and then he'd pick me up again and move back. I
was going with all I had. By then it was everybody for himself,
and as I scampered within 50 yards of our hole, the sniper got
a direct beam on me, and the first burst caught me in the right
heel. It took my combat boot right off, just made me barefooted
that quick without touching me physically, and it spun me around,
and I went down on my knee. As I went down another machine gun
burst came across my back and ripped the belt and the canteen
and the ammunition pouch right off my back without touching me.
As I got up to run, another burst hit me right in the back of
the helmet, and it hit in the steel part, ricocheted enough to
where it came up over my head, and spilt the helmet in two, but
it didn't touch me. Then I lunged forward again, and another burst
caught me in the loose part of the shoulders where I could take
off both my shirt sleeves without removing my coat, and then one
more lunge and I fell over the line... I was the only one of the
11 who had even made it the first 100 yards.... A thousand such
incidents happened to me in two years of combat experience."
Richard Robertson commented as follows concerning
Paul Dunn's sensational claims:
"Elder Paul H. Dunn's exaggerated stories
mention that he:
"Was the sole survivor among 11 infantrymen in a 100- yard
race against death, during which one burst of machine-gun fire
ripped his right boot off, another tore off his ammunition and
canteen belt and yet another split his helmet in half -- all without
"Was one of only six in his 1,000-man combat group who survived,
and was the only one of the six who wasn't wounded.
"He has since acknowledged that only 30 soldiers in his unit
died during the entire war, but he said the exaggeration of numbers
is unimportant." (Arizona Republic, Feb. 16, 1991)
Another one of Paul Dunn's "exaggerated stories"
which Richard Robertson mentions in his article in the Arizona Republic
is his account of how he "Miraculously survived being run over
by an enemy tank, while others were crushed." We will have
more to say about this in our new book, What Hast Thou Dunn?
One of Paul Dunn's most stirring tales is the story
of the death of his good friend Harold Brown. It is found in Mr.
Dunn's tape-recorded message, World War II Experiences. Dunn claimed
that on the night of May 11, 1945, Brown, who was "50 to 75
yards" away, was wounded by a shell which landed in his foxhole:
"Well, it commenced to get daylight about
5:30... I scampered over to the hole where he was, and it had
almost filled up from the rain and... it's all he could do to
hold his head out of the water to stay alive.... Well, I pulled
him out of that muddy hole and got him up on seemingly dry ground,
and took off his helmet, loosened the bandoleers around his neck...
to give him what comfort you can under those conditions and I
took a clean canteen of water and washed his face. It was caked
with mud and blood. How in the world he lived that night I don't
know. I counted, after his death, 67 shrapnel wounds in him, some
large enough to where you could put your whole hand in. And yet,
somehow, he had held on, but I found out why. As he lay there,
his head limp back in my lap, he said, 'Paul, I know this is the
end,' and I'd say, 'Harold, it isn't. Just hold on. I'll get you
out of this' 'No, this is the end.'... He said, 'I've held on
as long as I could, cause I want you to do two things for me if,
you would.' 'Why, I says, you just name it. It'll be done...'
"He said, 'If you ever live through this terrible ordeal,
will you somehow get word to my mother... Will you assure her
that I was faithful to the end in the principles she taught me....
Will you do it, Paul?' Gosh, would I do it! How thrilled I am
to report to you that the very day I got back in this country,
before going to my own home, I took a plane back to Missouri and
reported to that dedicated family...
"And he said... 'If you ever have an opportunity... to talk
to the young people of America, will you tell them for me that
it's a privilege to lay down my life for them.' Now, with that
testimony on his lips, he died, as did thousands like him in order
that we could come and be like we are tonight. And do you know
what we placed over the 77th division cemetery on Okinawa... This
is the inscription we put for the Harold Brown's and the thousands
like him: 'WE GAVE OUR...TODAYS IN ORDER THAT YOU MIGHT HAVE YOUR
TOMORROWS.' And he did." (World War II Experience, a tape
by Paul H. Dunn)
Unfortunately, this moving story by Paul Dunn is
only a fabrication. Richard Robertson revealed the following:
"One of Dunn's most dramatic embellished
Stories... is about the combat death of his closest wartime buddy,
Harold Lester Brown...
"The problem with the story, Packer discovered, is that Brown
didn't die on Okinawa.
"In fact, he hasn't died yet.
"Brown said from his home in Odessa, Mo., that he was perplexed
by Dunn's story.
"'Maybe he got me mixed up with someone else,' Brown speculated,
although he noted that he and Dunn have stayed in contact since
the war--even visiting occasionally...
"Dunn never has mentioned the story to him, he said.
"Dunn didn't get mixed up. It's another one of those stories
he 'combined,' he said.
"He said he based the story loosely on the death of another
soldier, Phillip Cocroft, who was mortally wounded in a mortar
attack that Dunn said he witnessed.
"Cocroft didn't live through the night or die in his arms
"Military records confirm that Cocroft died on Okinawa on
May 15, 1945.
"'I came home many months later, talking to kids in teaching
situation,' Dunn said. 'All I did was take Harold Brown's relationship,
(with me) and combine it with Ralph [sic] Cocroft's dying.'
"Once he had told the fabricated version of the story Dunn
said, he couldn't change it.
"'Rather than go back and change something where it would
be deceitful, I just kept it the same,' he explained." (Arizona
Republic, Feb. 17, 1991)
Since Phillip Cocroft "didn't live through
the night or die in his [Dunn's] arms," this part of the story
could not have applied to him. The tale certainly could not relate
to Harold Brown because he is still alive. Moreover, Paul Dunn's
claim that "the very day I got back in this country, before
going to my own home, I took a plane back to Missouri and reported
to that dedicated family" the details of his friend's courageous
death has to be erroneous. According to the Arizona Republic, Harold
Brown lives in Missouri. It seems impossible to believe, however,
that Dunn would give a false report concerning Brown's death to
his family. While there may be some details in the story that are
true--e. g., there was a war in 1945; Paul Dunn fought in that war;
many soldiers were killed -- all of the important parts of the tale
concerning how God miraculously preserved a soldier with "67
shrapnel wounds" so that Paul Dunn could take an important
message concerning patriotism "to the young people of America"
have been fabricated.
While Paul Dunn would have us believe that his motives
for telling these tall tales were pure, a careful examination of
this whole matter does not tend to exonerate him. The Salt Lake
Tribune, Feb. 17, 1991, quoted the following from an apologetic
statement made by Mr. Dunn: "I have on some occasions changed
the names of people involved to provide confidentiality..."
This statement does not explain his use of the name "Harold
Brown" in his story concerning patriotism. Paul Dunn claims
that it was actually "Phillip Cocroft" who died on "the
island of Okinawa." Since Cocroft was dead, there would be
no reason to protect his confidentiality. It would appear, then,
that if Mr. Dunn was trying "to provide confidentiality,"
it would have been with regard to the fact that his story was spurious.
In the same statement quoted above, Paul Dunn wrote:
"...I have never intended to mislead or to aggrandize my own
circumstances, and I regret that such an impression may have been
given." (Ibid.) Mr. Dunn's claim that he has not attempted
to "mislead" the public is absolutely incredible. One
would wonder what he thinks the word "mislead" means.
If he was not misleading people, what was he doing?
His statement that he did not intend "to aggrandize
my own circumstances" is just as puzzling. It is obvious that
his stories concerning his participation in professional baseball
and his exaggerated yarns concerning World War II, were given to
make him more popular and consequently increase the sales of his
books and tapes. Furthermore, Paul Dunn has been promoting a new
business called "Sports-Value Training Centers." In his
article in the Arizona Republic, Richard Robertson observed that
Dunn was "Relying partly on his reputation as a former professional
athlete" in setting up this business. It is very doubtful that
his tape, World War II Experiences, which is marketed by Covenant
Communications, Inc., would have sold so many copies if Mr. Dunn
had told only the truth.
Since the evidence against Paul Dunn is so devastating,
one would think that the Mormon Church would have immediately stopped
all sales of his books at their bookstores. Instead, however, they
continued to sell Dunn's books and tapes. On March 18, 1991, we
went to an outlet of the church's Deseret Bookstore in Salt Lake
City and found large display of tapes and books by Paul Dunn. We
bough both books and tapes from the church's bookstore for our research
regarding Dunn's fabrications. One of the tapes we bought was World
War II Experiences. We were especially surprised to find the church
still making a profit on a tape which had been so completely discredited.
The First Presidency of the Mormon Church has issued
statement which commends Paul Dunn for the "sacrifices he and
his family have made, often at the cost of their own comfort and
health." This same statement maintains that Mr. Dunn was given
emeritus status "In consideration of factors of age and health"
and skirts around the issue of Dunn's honesty by saying: "We
have no way of fully or finally verifying the accuracy or inaccuracy
of the current allegations or accounts that are now under challenge."
(Deseret News, Feb. 16, 1991)
Thinking's Been Done
The leaders of the Mormon Church are often referred
to as "the brethren." The president of the church is supposed
to be able to receive revelations directly from God. The LDS Church,
therefore, proclaims that it is the only true church led by a "living
prophet." President Brigham Young once boasted: "The Lord
Almighty leads this Church, and he will never suffer you to be led
astray if you are found doing your duty. You may go home and sleep
as sweetly as a babe in its mother's arms, as to any danger of your
leaders leading you astray, for if they should try to do so the
Lord would quickly sweep them from the earth." (Journal of
Discourses, vol. 9, p. 289) Mormons are encouraged to put all their
trust in the church authorities and try not to do their own thinking
if it conflicts with what the leaders teach. The ward teachers'
message for June, 1945, made the matter very plain:
"Any Latter-day Saint who denounces or opposes,
whether actively or otherwise, any plan or doctrine advocated by
the 'prophets, seers, and revelators' of the Church is cultivating
the spirit of apostasy.... Lucifer... wins a great victory when
he can get members of the Church to speak against their leaders
and to 'do their own thinking.'...
"When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they
propose a plan -- it is God's plan. When they point the way, there
is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark
the end of controversy." (Improvement Era, June 1945, p. 354)
After the General Authorities of the Mormon Church
discovered that Paul H. Dunn had been deceiving the people with
his stories, they decided that the matter should not be known by
the membership of the church. The people, they reasoned, must not
discover that a man whom they had trusted as a church leader was
guilty of fabricating stories.
Some newspaper articles contained information suggesting
that Mormon Apostle Boyd K. Packer was instrumental in the cover-up
of the story concerning Paul Dunn. While we do not have any independent
confirmation concerning these allegations, we do know that Apostle
Packer believes that negative information concerning General Authorities
of the LDS Church should be swept under the rug. In an article which
appeared in Brigham Young University Studies, Summer 1981, he warned
Mormon scholars against telling too much. Apostle Packer came down
hard on those who would point out the "frailties of present
or past leaders" and especially warned those "who are
employed by the Church" against criticizing the "brethren."
It is not surprising, then, that when Apostle Packer's nephew, Lynn
Packer, continued to pursue the story on Dunn, the church's Brigham
Young University decided to terminate his teaching contract. Richard
Robertson wrote the following:
"Gordon Whiting, then chairman of the BYU communications
department, had warned Packer in a memo that 'publication of the
Paul Dunn article will damage the church, will damage the university,
will damage the department and will damage you.'
"Whiting acknowledged that Packer's contract
was not renewed for the 1990-91 school year in part because Packer
was violating church and university policies that prohibit public
criticism of church leaders, even if the criticism is true."
(Arizona Republic, Feb. 16, 1991)
Even though Paul Dunn had fabricated stories, the
LDS leaders seemed to feel that it was important to suppress this
information because it would hurt the testimonies of church members.
Mr. Dunn's books, speeches and tapes apparently brought many people
into the church and strengthened others in their faith. An examination
of Dunn's teachings show that he continually bore witness to the
divine origin of the Mormon Church. He claimed, in fact, that he
had a special witness that the LDS Church is God's true church.
In his book, Discovering the Quality of Success, page 28, he wrote:
"...this is His Church that has been restored. Some of us have
been given a special witness. So while you struggle and fight and
even occasionally get discouraged, have faith in those who know."
In the Preface to his book, You and Your World, Paul Dunn related
that during his years "as a General Authority" he frequently
bore his witness that "the true Church has been restored in
this age and is guided by revelation and a living prophet."
Now that we know that Paul Dunn fabricated his stories
concerning World War II and his relationship with the St. Louis
Cardinals, his testimony to Joseph Smith and the Mormon Church has
a hollow ring to it. We can hardly understand why church leaders
did not immediately withdraw Dunn's tapes and books from the church's
bookstores when the truth became known. Their inability to deal
firmly with this issue leads to the conclusion that they believe
the end justifies the means.
Dunn Like Smith?
As we look back into Mormon history we discover
that the same type of deception which Paul Dunn used with regard
to his stories played a very prominent role in the formation of
the Mormon Church. There are, in fact, very strong parallels between
Paul Dunn and Joseph Smith. For example, Paul Dunn was not concerned
about the literal truth of his tales. He admitted that he did not
feel that it was wrong to "combine" elements of different
stories to catch the attention of his audience. He is quoted in
the article in the Arizona Republic as saying: "The combining
of stories seems justifiable in terms of illustrating a point."
Paul Dunn seems to have been very impressed with
Joseph Smith's story of his First Vision and referred to it in an
article published in the church's Improvement Era, June 1970, p.
70: "That beautiful spring morning in 1820, God the Father
and his Son Jesus Christ revealed themselves to a young boy whose
name will never perish. That boy was Joseph Smith, the first prophet
of this dispensation.... the Spirit whispers to us, 'He was indeed
This is a remarkable story. David O. McKay, the
ninth president of the church, maintained that the First Vision
is the very "foundation of this Church." (Gospel Ideals,
page 85) In his book Joseph Smith--Seeker After Truth, page 19,
Apostle John A. Widtsoe emphasized: "The First Vision of 1820
is of first importance in the history of Joseph Smith. Upon its
reality rest the truth and value of his subsequent work." Unfortunately
for Mormon apologists, some extremely important information concerning
this vision has come to light. The evidence clearly shows that the
story evolved and that Joseph Smith added elements which were not
in the first handwritten account of the vision.
Prior to 1965, Mormon writers always insisted that
Joseph Smith "told but one story" of the First Vision
(see Joseph Smith the Prophet, by Preston Nibley, 1944, page 30).
This was the account dictated by Joseph Smith to his scribes in
1838-39. It was first published in the Times and Seasons in 1842
and is the official account found in the Pearl of Great Price today.
In 1965, however, a much earlier handwritten account was brought
to light in an unpublished Brigham Young University thesis by Paul
R. Cheesman. We were convinced that this account was written by
Joseph Smith and published it to the world in 1965 under the title,
Joseph Smith's Strange Account of the First Vision. Because the
document contradicted the official account, some members of the
church doubted its authenticity. Although the Mormon leaders would
make no public statement concerning the document, Professor James
B. Allen, who later became Assistant LDS Church Historian, confirmed
its validity and called it "One of the most significant documents
of that period yet discovered." He went on to say that the
"manuscript has apparently lain in the L.D.S. Church Historian's
office for many years, and yet few if any who saw it realized its
profound historical significance." (Dialogue: A Journal of
Mormon Thought, Autumn 1966, p. 35)
The Mormon leaders suppressed this important account
of the First Vision for over 130 years, but after we printed it,
thousands of copies were disseminated throughout the world. Finally,
four years after we printed it, Dean C. Jessee, who was "a
member of the staff at the LDS Church Historian's Office,"
made a public statement confirming the authenticity of the manuscript
and stating that the document was written in 1831 or 1832:
"On at least three occasions prior to 1839
Joseph Smith began writing his history. The earliest of these
is a six-page account recorded on three leaves of a ledger book,
written between the summer of 1831 and November 1832....
"The 1831-32 history transliterated here contains the earliest
known account of Joseph Smith's First Vision." (Brigham Young
University Studies, Spring 1969, pages 277- 78)
In an article printed in Brigham Young University
Studies, Summer 1971, p. 462, Dean Jessee made it clear that this
was not only the first extant account of the First Vision, but it
was the only account in "the actual handwriting of Joseph Smith."
Below is the important part of this account taken directly from
a photograph of the original document:
"...the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness
and while in the attitude of calling upon the Lord in the 16th
year of my age a piller of light above the brightness of the sun
at noon day come down from above and rested upon me and I was
filled with the spirit of god and the Lord opened the heavens
upon me and I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph
my son thy sins are forgiven thee. go thy way walk in my statutes
and keep my commandments behold I am the Lord of glory I was crucified
for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal
life behold the world lieth in sin at this time and none doeth
good no not one they have turned asside from the gospel and keep
not my commandments they draw near to me with their lips while
their hearts are far from me and mine anger is kindling against
the inhabitants of the earth to visit them according to this ungodliness
and to bring to pass that which hath been spoken by the mouth
of the prophets and Apostles behold and lo I come quickly as it
was w[r]itten of me in the cloud clothed in the glory of my Father..."
A careful examination of this document reveals why
church leaders suppressed it for 130 years. While there are a number
of contradictions between this account and the official account
published by the church, the most serious discrepancy involves the
number of personages in the vision. In the later version, which
is published in the Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith related:
"...I saw two personages." In the first account, however,
the Mormon prophet only mentions one personage: "...I saw the
Lord..." The context makes it very clear that the personage
was Jesus Christ and that Joseph Smith did not include God the Father
in his first handwritten account of the vision. Mormon historian
James B. Allen commented: "In this story, only one personage
was mentioned, and this was obviously the Son, for he spoke of having
been crucified." (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Autumn
1966, age 40)
In his thesis, "An Analysis of the Accounts
Relating Joseph Smith's Early Visions," p. 63, Paul R. Cheesman
tried to excuse the fact that the account which was suppressed only
mentions one personage by stating: "As he writes briefly of
the vision, he does not mention the Father as being present; however,
this does not indicate that He was not present. This explanation
does not seem reasonable. Actually, in the first account Joseph
Smith quoted the Lord as saying more words than in the official
version. If God the Father had really appeared in this vision, Joseph
Smith certainly would have included this information in his first
account. It is absolutely impossible for us to believe that Smith
would not have mentioned the Father if he had actually appeared
in the vision. The only reasonable explanation for the Father not
being mentioned is that Joseph Smith did not see God the Father,
and that he made up this part of the story after he wrote the first
manuscript. This, of course, throws a shadow of doubt upon the entire
Like Paul Dunn, Joseph Smith decided that the story
he had written in 1832 needed some new elements to impress people
with how important the vision actually was and to bolster up his
own role as a prophet of the living God. What could catch the audience's
interest better than to have both the Father and the Son come down
and personally visit him? Mormon Apostle John A. Widtsoe was highly
impressed with Joseph's final product: "It was an extraordinary
experience. Never before had God the Father and God the Son appeared
to mortal man.... The Father and the Son had appeared to Joseph
as persons, like men on earth in form.... Two personages, the Father
and the Son, stood before Joseph.... There was no mingling of personalities
in the vision. Each of the personages was an individual member of
the Godhead. Each one separately took part in the vision."
(Joseph Smith--Seeker After Truth, pages 4, 6-7)
While the Bible does not have any story concerning the Father and
the Son coming down in the form of two exalted men, Joseph Smith
was undoubtedly familiar with the account of the transfiguration:
"While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them:
and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved
Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him." (Matthew 17:5)
The first Mormon prophet must have decided that it would make his
story more soul-stirring if he incorporated this element into the
narrative. He, therefore, borrowed part of the story from the Biblical
"So, in accordance with this, my determination
to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It
was on the morning... in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty....
I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness
of the sun... I saw two personages, whose brightness and glory
defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them
spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other--This
is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!... I asked the Personages who stood
above me in the light, which of all the sects was right.... and
which I should join.
"I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were
all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their
creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors
were all corrupt; that: 'they draw near to me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the
commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny
the power thereof.' " (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith--History
By the time Joseph Smith wrote this altered account
of the First Vision he had decided that God the Father was an exalted
man. He, therefore, incorporated this new theological idea into
the vision by emphasizing that he actually "saw two personages."
Another element he added to the reworked version was that the vision
followed a revival which had just taken place in the vicinity. Wesley
P. Walters, however, has conclusively established that no such revival
took place in Palmyra in 1820. The revival actually began in the
fall of 1824 and continued into 1825 (see our book, Mormonism--Shadow
or Reality? pp. 156-162C).
In Joseph Smith's 1835-36 diary there are other
accounts of his First Vision which tend to add to the confusion.
For instance, in one account Joseph Smith told Erastus Holmes regarding
his "juvenile years, say from 6 years old up to the time I
received the first visitation of Angels which as when I was about
14 years old." (An American Prophet's Record: The Diaries and
Journals of Joseph Smith, 1989, page 59) The Mormon leaders were
apparently embarrassed that he did not mention either the Father
or the Son. Consequently, in the published History of the Church,
vol. 2, p. 312, it has been changed to read: "...I received
my first vision, which was when I was about fourteen years old..."
Another account in the same diary (page 51) has Joseph Smith saying
that he "saw many angels in this vision." For a thorough
examination of the many conflicting statements in Joseph Smith's
account of the First Vision see Mormonism--Shadow or Reality? pp.
It seems shocking that Joseph mith would so drastically
alter his story and then claim that it was written "in truth
and righteousness" (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith--History
1:2). Perhaps, however, we can learn something about his way of
thinking from Paul Dunn's confession regarding the falsification
of stories. Mr. Dunn seemed to feel that he was an important religious
leader who had a vital message for the world. According to the article
in the Arizona Republic, "he doesn't consider it deceitful
to exaggerate or alter facts." Dunn, in fact, was quoted as
saying, "The combining of stories seems justifiable in terms
of illustrating a point. My motives are pure and innocent..."
Paul Dunn, it would appear, sees nothing wrong with recasting his
stories if the modifications help people become better Mormons or
more patriotic. In Mr. Dunn's mind, therefore, the end justifies
In Joseph Smith's case, he seems to have considered
himself the greatest religious leader. He claimed that God specifically
chose him to restore the true church to earth. Shortly before his
death in 1844, Smith boasted: If they want a beardless boy to whip
all the world, I will get up on the top of a mountain and crow like
a rooster: I shall always beat them.... My enemies... think that
when they have my spoke under, they will keep me down: but the fools,
I will hold on and fly over them.... I will come out on the top
at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the
only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together
since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood
by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter nor Jesus ever did it. I boast
that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran
away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me
yet." (History of the Church, vol. 6, pp.408-409)
Like Paul Dunn, Joseph Smith modified his stories
to enhance his own image. While he criticized his enemies for being
dishonest, he somehow felt that he himself was above accountability.
He seems, therefore, to have had no qualms about stretching his
own stories. He could justify his story of the First Vision in the
same way that Paul Dunn rationalized his tales. Certain elements
in the story are undoubtedly true. For example, he claimed that
he "retired to the woods" to seek God's answer as to which
church he should join. Since this section of the country has many
trees, it seems plausible that he could have gone into the woods
to pray. In fact, just before Joseph Smith prepared his first handwritten
account of the vision, he informed his wife in a letter from Greenville,
Indiana, that he had "visited a grove" and had called
upon God in "pray[e]r." He claimed that he "Shed
tears of sorrow for my folly in Suf[f]ering the adversary of my
Soul to have so much power over me," but went on to state that
"God... has fo[r]given my Sins..." (Letter by Joseph Smith,
dated June 6, 1832; see photographs of pages from this letter in
The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, pp. 240-241)
It is interesting to note that this letter contains
similarities to Joseph Smith's earliest account of his First Vision
which was written sometime between July 20 and Nov. 27 of the same
year (1832). In both cases, Joseph Smith was convicted of his sins
and went out in the woods to pray. He diligently sought the Lord
and obtained forgiveness of his sins. In the letter he stated that
he felt that "God... has fo[r]given my Sins." In his initial
account of the First Vision Joseph Smith claimed that the Lord said,
"Joseph my son thy sins are forgiven thee."
The 1832 account, of course, maintains that Jesus
Christ appeared to Joseph Smith. Fawn Brodie, however, felt that
this might "have been the elaboration of some half-remembered
dream stimulated by the early revival excitement and reinforced
by the rich folklore of visions circulating in his neighborhood."
(No Man Knows My History, page 25) She also felt, however, that
the presence of deity could have been "sheer invention."
Joseph Smith was certainly not the only one claiming a vision of
Christ. In 1816 a minister by the name of Elias Smith wrote a book
in which he told how he "went into the woods... a light appeared
to shine from heaven... The Lamb once slain appeared to my understanding..."
(The Life, Conversion, Preaching, Travels, and Sufferings of Elias
Smith, by himself, vol. 1, pp. 58-59) Eight years before Joseph
Smith wrote his account of the First Vision (March 1, 1824), Alexander
Campbell noted that, "Enthusiasm flourishes... This man was
regenerated when asleep, by a vision of the night. That man heard
a voice in the woods, saying, 'Thy sins be forgiven thee.' A third
saw his Saviour descending to the tops of the trees at noon day."
(The Christian Baptist, 1955 reprint, vol. 1, pp. 148)
Joseph Smith could have decided to incorporate a
vision of Christ which someone else had into his own story about
obtaining forgiveness for his sins in the woods. This, of course,
would be the same type of method which Paul Dunn used. If Smith
had actually seen the Lord over a decade earlier, he undoubtedly
would have published that fact to the world. As far as we know,
no one, including his own family, seemed to know anything about
his claim that he saw Jesus in the woods.
In his 1838-39 account of the First Vision, Joseph
Smith added additional elements into the story. As we have mentioned
before, he linked the First Vision, which he claimed took place
in 1820, to a revival which actually occurred in 1824-25. While
the revival is an historical fact, Smith's claim that it took place
before the vision and that the dissension which accompanied the
revival caused him to ask the Lord which church was right plainly
shows that he was fabricating the story.
In the 1838-39 account, Joseph Smith also added
that when he asked the Lord which of the churches was right, he
was told that he "must join none of them, for they were all
wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds
were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all
corrupt..." This idea is very similar to a revelation which
Asa Wild claimed to have received many years earlier. It was published
in the Wayne Sentinel--the paper to which the family of Joseph Smith
apparently subscribed--on October 22, 1823: "It seemed as if
my mind... was struck motionless... before the awful and glorious
majesty of the Great Jehovah.... He also told me, that every denomination
of professing christians had become extremely corrupt... He told
me further, that he had raised up, and was now raising up, that
class of persons signified by the Angel mentioned by the Revelator,
xiv. 6, 7, which flew in the midst of heaven; having the everlasting
gospel to preach... he said that all the different denominations
of professing christians, constituted the New Testament Babylon...
We have already noted that Joseph Smith probably
appropriated the words "This is my beloved Son... hear... him"
from the account of the transfiguration found in Matthew 17:5. The
most sensational addition, however, was that God the Father was
actually physically present with Jesus Christ. There cannot be the
slightest doubt that Joseph Smith slipped this part of the story
in to promote his more recent theological views concerning God.
Marvin S. Hill, professor of American history at
the church's Brigham Young University, tried to defend the idea
that Joseph Smith had a religious experience in the grove, but he
had to admit that Joseph Smith's official 1838-39 account has some
real problems. He, in fact, suggested that the 1832 account of the
vision was probably more accurate than the official account and
that Joseph Smith may have changed his theological views concerning
"It seems to me that everybody has approached
the issue from the wrong end, by starting with the 1838 official
version when the account they should be considering is that of
1832. Merely on the face of it, the 1832 version stands a better
chance of being more accurate and unembellished than the 1838
account... I am inclined to agree that the religious turmoil that
Joseph described which led to some family members joining the
Presbyterians and to much sectarian bitterness does not fit well
into the 1820 context detailed by Backman.... An 1824 revival
creates problems for the 1838 account, not that of 1832.... if
Joseph Smith in 1838 read back into 1820 some details of a revival
that occurred in 1824, there is no reason to conclude that he
invented his religious experiences.... If initially Joseph said
one personage came to him in 1820, it became easier for Oliver
Cowdery to confuse this visit with the coming of Moroni than it
would have been a few years later when Joseph taught emphatically
that there were three separate personages in the Godhead....
"It seems to me that if the Latter-day Saints can accept
the idea that Joseph gained his full understanding of the nature
of God only after a period of time, instead of its emerging full
blown in 1820, then most of the difficulties with chronology can
be resolved." (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Summer
1982, pp. 39-40)
Since the Mormon Church has canonized the 1838-39
account of the First Vision in the Pearl of Great Price, it is doubtful
that the church will follow Professor Hill's suggestion concerning
giving "priority to the 1832 account" of the vision. At
any rate, Thomas G. Alexander, who is also a professor at the church's
Brigham Young University, has also suggested that a theological
shift in Joseph Smith's view concerning the Godhead caused him to
change his story from one to two personages (see Line Upon Line,
edited by Gary James Bergera, 1989, p. 54)
Joseph Smith did not hesitate to add new elements
into his stories and often altered or deleted things that did not
fit his current ideas. For example, he changed the name of the angel
who was supposed to have appeared to him and revealed where the
gold plates of the Book of Mormon were deposited. In the Elder's
Journal for July 1838, p. 42, Joseph Smith gave the angel's name
as "Moroni." Four years later, however, when he published
his history in the Times and Seasons, the Mormon prophet changed
his mind. He decided that the angel was really named "Nephi":
"He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger
sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Nephi."
(Times and Seasons, April 15, 1842, p. 753) In the original 1851
edition of the Pearl of Great Price, the name was also given as
"He called me by name and said unto me, that
he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that
his name was Nephi." (Pearl of Great Price, 1851 edition, page
In current printings of the Pearl of Great Price,
however, the name of the angel appears as "Moroni":
"He called me by name, and said unto me that
he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that
his name was Moroni;"
The original handwritten manuscript dictated by
Joseph Smith reveals that the name was originally written as "Nephi,"
but that someone at a later date has written the word "Moroni"
above the line. In our new book, Flaws in the Pearl of Great Price
we present evidence to prove this change was made after Joseph Smith's
Joseph Smith not only changed his stories concerning
his visitations from deity and angels, but he also went so far as
to alter the revelations which he claimed he received directly from
the Lord and dictated to his scribes (see photographic proof in
our book, Major Problems of Mormonism, pp. 106- 121). In a revelation
which now appears as Section 27 of the Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph
Smith added over 400 words.
An Extensive Forgery
In Major Problems of Mormonism, pages 82-91, we
demonstrate that after Joseph Smith's death, Brigham Young and the
other early leaders of the Mormon Church followed the same deceptive
path. They, in fact, committed one of the most extensive forgeries
we have ever encountered. This was what they claimed was the History
of the Church, by Joseph Smith himself. As early as 1965 we questioned
whether Joseph Smith was really the author of such a voluminous
work-about 2,200 handwritten pages. We suggested, in fact, that
large portions were probably derived from other sources and changed
to the first person to make it appear that Joseph Smith was the
author. This, of course, is the type of thing that Paul Dunn was
guilty of--e.g., attributing important patriotic remarks to Harold
Brown which Brown did not utter.
It is interesting to note that in his book, You and Your World,
page 16, Dunn pointed to the History of the Church as one of the
great achievements of Joseph Smith: "He... wrote like Paul...
His writings, letters, and spoken words are so extensive that it
seems almost impossible that one man could do so much in so little
time.... his own history, speeches, and minutes total over 3,200
In any case, after we published our theory that
Joseph Smith never finished his History, Mormon scholars were completely
silent concerning the matter for six years. In 1971, however, Dean
C. Jessee, of the Mormon Church Historian's Office published the
startling admission that Joseph Smith did not actually finish his
History of the Church before his death on June 27, 1844. Mr. Jessee
"Not until Willard Richards was appointed
secretary to Joseph Smith was any significant progress made on
the History.... At the time of Joseph Smith's death, the narrative
was written to August 5, 1838....
"By February 4, 1846, the day the books were packed for the
journey west, the History had been completed to March 1, 1843....
resumption of work on the History occurred on 'Dec. 1, 1853 [when]
Dr. Willard Richards wrote one line of History, being sick at
the time--and was never able to do any more'...
"The remainder of Joseph Smith's History of the Church from
March 1, 1843 to August 8, 1844, was completed under the direction
of George A. Smith....
"The Joseph Smith History was finished in August 1856, seventeen
years after it was begun." (Brigham Young University Studies,
Summer 1971, pp. 466, 469, 470,472)
Dean C. Jessee frankly admitted that the manuscript
was only completed to page 812 at the time of Joseph Smith's death
(Ibid., p. 457). Since there were almost 2,200 pages, this would
mean that over sixty percent of Joseph Smith's History was not compiled
during his lifetime! In an article published in the Journal of Mormon
History, Dean Jessee conceded that the bizarre editorial procedures
used by the leaders of his church in creating Joseph Smith's History
had a "distorting effect" on the work:
"The format gives the impression that the
history was written personally by Joseph Smith. A study of original
documents, however, shows that much of its content was not the
actual product of the Prophet's mind... One notes a marked difference
in style between those entries in the History that reflect Joseph
Smith's own thought and those that are the creation of his scribes....
since Joseph Smith's diary did not provide an unbroken narrative
of his life, gaps were bridged by using other sources, changing
indirect discourse to direct as if Joseph had done the writing
himself... by transferring other people's words and thoughts to
Joseph Smith, this editorial method produced a distorting effect
for those who would study his personality from his personal writings."(Journal
of Mormon History, vol. 3, p. 37)
In Major Problems of Mormonism, pages 85-88, we
show that two of Joseph Smith's most famous prophecies printed in
his History--the prophecy that the Mormons would become "a
mighty people in the midst of the Rocky Mountains" and the
predictions concerning Steven A. Douglas--were actually fraudulently
created after his death in an attempt to glorify Joseph Smith's
While many Mormons are disgusted with Paul Dunn's
pious forgeries, if they will take a closer look at their own history,
they will find that Dunn's methods are exactly like those used by
Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and others who helped establish the
LDS Church. The only difference between Dunn and these leaders is
that they depended on these methods to a far greater extent. The
idea that "the end justifies the means," of course, falls
far short of the Biblical standard. Colossians 3:9 admonishes: "Lie
not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with
his deeds;" and James 3:14 affirms that we should "lie
not against the truth."
More information concerning the Dunn affair and
its implications for members of the Mormon Church will be found
in our new publication, WHAT HAST THOU DUNN?