“Lied?” said my Mormon friend. “Name one instance.”
Without having to think hard or research, I came up with three:
1. When Hinckley served as an assistant to his predecessor, Ezra Taft Benson, he repeatedly assured church members that Benson was actively engaged in managing the affairs of the church. Benson’s grandson exposed the lie: Ezra was a vegetable, and had been for years. (Curiously, the reaction of church members was to reprimand the grandson, now no longer a Mormon, for stirring up trouble.)
2. During an interview on the Larry King Show, King brought up the Mormon doctrine that humans could attain godhood in the next life. Hinckley said, “I don’t know that our church teaches that.” Attaining godhood in the hereafter is central to Mormon theology. Hinckley of all people knew that.
3. During an interview held in Australia, Hinckley unequivocally stated that polygamy is “not doctrinal.” He knew better. Section 132 of the Mormons’ own book of scripture, Doctrine and Covenants, spells out polygamy as not just a doctrine, but a commandment.
In each instance, my friend defended Hinckley with, “You can see why he had to say that,” and invoked the tired old milk-before-meat argument.
Interesting. He began by denying that his leader lied, and finished by defending his leader for having lied.
Official lying is not new to the Mormon church. In 1838, when asked point-blank if Mormons believed in “having more wives than one,” founder Joseph Smith said, “No, not at the same time.” Smith had been practicing polygamy in secret since 1831. In 1890, Smith’s successor Wilford Woodruff publicly and officially proclaimed the Mormon practice of polygamy ended. It continued in secret, and not just by grandfathering already-performed plural marriages. For decades, new ones proceeded with official, albeit clandestine authority.
Not that the Mormon church is the exception. Dig through any church’s history and you’ll find lies, scandals and coverups. It’s just that I happen to live in Utah, where the Mormon Church is headquartered, and where Mormons quite naturally abound. And I was once a practicing Mormon convert myself, so I know the church’s doctrines and practices well.