Episode 104: The Poelman Conference Talk

Glenn Ostlund leads a discussion with Jesse, James, and Rock Waterman about the 1984 redacted talk by Elder Ronald Poelman.

Side by side versions of the original talk and the revised talk.

Rock Waterman’s post at Pure Mormonism.

Video of the original talk:
Part 1
Part 2

Episode 104

51 comments on “Episode 104: The Poelman Conference Talk”

  1. Gail F. Bartholomew Reply

    This is the only conference talk I clearly remember before my mission. I did not remember who gave the talk. I was 16 I do not think I knew who Poelman was. I listened to this in my home on the radio. This effected me so much that it became central to my faith and testemony. I remeber trying to find this talk after my mission and not finding it. this makes me very saad.

  2. Gail F. Bartholomew Reply

    As think more about the differences between the two talks, I see that when I centered my faith on the first talk I embraced the concept that being loyal to the Gospel was never the same as being loyal to the Church or every thing its leaders have said. This talk is was has given me the ability to question and examine.

  3. Gail F. Bartholomew Reply

    I believe that the freedom this talk gives to not be loyal to the church is the very reason it was changed. When we miss place our loyalty do we not misplace our efforts. If we value the church instead of the gospel instead of valuing the church as it supports and enhances the gospel do we not also miss the whole of the Gospel?

  4. Scooptaylor Reply

    Just read the side by side. This is my concern and has been for years. The church tells us we have free agency and that we have the right and responsibility to receive spiritual witness of the truthfulness of church teachings. But yet, there is only one right answer when receiving the personal revelation, and the right answer is always to confirm what the brethren have said. That land when we don’t it is out failing.

  5. Jesse A. Smith Reply

    The church historical archives denied a request to provide audio or video copies of the talk (redacted or original). They said we had to get Elder Poelman’s permission before they would release anything. (“At the present time the Church History Department cannot copy the talks of living general authorities (including emeritus) without their express written permission. If permission is granted, by Elder Ronald E. Poelman, the letter is to be sent to Christine Cox, Director Library Services, Church History Department, 15 East North Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150-1600.”) Memory hole anyone?

    The audio of the redacted talk was digitized directly from an officially published conference cassette tape. There is a very clear “beep” sound where the splicing begins, I’ll upload the file and put a link to it.

    HUGE thanks to Glenn for taking the time to splice in all the audio clips, in addition to his regular editing work. I love the insertion of that memory hole-remix-tape-rewinding sound between the clips.

    • Rock Waterman Reply

      My yes, my kudos also to Glenn for that neat audio trick. It really enhanced the thing. Plus Glenn’s insertion of the clips was so smooth I thought they had been played during the discussion and I had just forgotten. Now that I realize they were entered after the fact, I tip my hat again to Glenn for all his good work.

    • Fanson Reply

      This Mormon Critic could and will cynically ask how long it would take Boyd K. Packer, or another “Iron Rod” GA to pressure Mr. Poelmann’s Bishop to convene a “Court of Love” and begin dis-fellowship or excommunication hearings for Mr. Poelman should he ever grant his permission to have the original audio and video copies released.

  6. Wes Cauthers Reply

    It does not surprise me at all that this talk was redacted. It’s just another example of LDS, Inc. doing what they always do as an authoritarian organization that is ultra concerned with image and appearances. I understand why Rock and others like the original talk but the fact remains that it was redacted from the top. So here is my question for those in that camp: Do you think the COJCOLDS is in apostasy? If so, when did that first occur? Is it possible that so-called “fringe” or “extremist” groups like the FLDS or others are purer forms of Mormonism? Do you really think that the only true church on the face of the earth would engage in such censorship, especially if the original talk was so good?

    I’m glad Glenn mentioned the need for another podcast distiguishing the “church” from the “gospel” because that was the question that kept running through my mind as I listened. Isn’t it logical to conclude that if a delivery system is corrupted, then the message being delivered will also be corrupted?

    • Rock Waterman Reply

      To answer your questions, Wes, I think there is little doubt that the institutional Church is in apostasy. But I don’t think the fundamentalists represent a purer form. I’m now of the opinion that the entire emphasis on polygamy was the beginnings of the apostasy. declaring that plural marriage was a requirement for exaltation is probably the point when Mormonism ceased to be ‘pure’. I address this at my blog, Pure Mormonism. Don’t miss the follow up piece, “Why Mormon History Is Not What They Say” for my reasons for doubting the women who claimed to have been married to Joseph Smith.

      • Wes Cauthers Reply

        I checked out the follow up piece but there are still too many unanswered questions for me to buy what you’re selling. I agree with you that the best we can conclude about any given event is that it was more likely to have happened one way, and less likely to have happened another and I just don’t see the Price’s theory as more likely in light of everything that took place when Joseph was alive.

        So what do you accept as legitimate or “pure” Mormonism? The Book of Abraham? The Book of Mormon? The History of the Church? How do you determine what is legit and what is not?

        As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, I would bet my entire life savings that Joseph Smith had Narcissistic Personality Disorder. There’s just too much evidence against him on so many levels for me to believe he was called by God to restore anything, let alone the supposedly lost gospel of Jesus, which has been preserved just fine in the New Testament.

        • Rock Waterman Reply

          Well Wes, I’d suspect Joseph Smith of Narcissistic Personality Disorder IF I could find sufficient contemporary evidence that his reputation as a womanizer was warranted. All the testimonies I’ve seen were declared after he was long gone, and motivated by an attempt to legitimize what had come to be the central tenet of the religion.

          “Pure” Mormonism to me is the organic theology, independent of the method by which that theology came forth. You don’t have to accept stories surrounding the coming forth of the Book of Abraham or the Book of Mormon to recognize the validity of much of the teachings therein. Buddhists already accept much of what was once thought by Mormons to be facets of their own theology. New agers, too. It may be correct that Joseph Smith may not have actually “restored” anything that wasn’t already on the earth held in some form or another by various cultures. But such teachings as the attributes of God had been largely lost to western culture.

          Joseph Smith said that Mormonism is all truth everywhere. That’s what I mean. Of course I’m aware that Mormonism today means something much different to a lot of folks. Whatever this thing is that “Mormonism” has become under the aegis of the corporate church is not the “pure” version that I’m attracted to. The “Church” was already beginning to decay by the late 1830’s, in my humble opinion. And a good argument can be made that God never called Joseph Smith to start a church in the first place.

          • Wes Cauthers

            Here are the criteria for NPD:

            A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

            – Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
            – Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
            – Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
            – Requires excessive admiration
            – Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
            – Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
            – Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
            – Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her
            – Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

            While womanizing could definitely fit into some of those categories, it is not a prerequisite for diagnosis. From everything I have read about the life and times of JS, he fits the description very well, womanizer or not.

            You say that things like the attributes of God (described as an exalted human) according to JS have been largely “lost” to western culture. I’m not aware of which cultures have ever believed this, but it is not an idea found in the Bible.

            I guess I don’t understand what reason a person has to accept as legitimate anything that came from JS, considering all the overwhelming evidence against him.

          • Glenn

            Just for the sake of argument here… why is what you two are saying mutually exclusive? Why couldn’t JS have been a narcissistic revealelor of pure universal truths? I think, Rock, that you are open to that. But I think I think that you, Wes, would go back to the New Testament and say that it already has revealed everything, therefor JS, narcissist or not, couldn’t possibly have tapped in to any pure godly anything. So the whole narcissist argument is really just a MacGuffin — right?

          • Glenn

            Just for the sake of argument here… why is what you two are saying mutually exclusive? Why couldn’t JS have been a narcissistic revealelor of pure universal truths? I think, Rock, that you are open to that. But I think I think that you, Wes, would go back to the New Testament and say that it already has revealed everything, therefor JS, narcissist or not, couldn’t possibly have tapped in to any pure godly anything. So the whole narcissist argument is really just a MacGuffin — right?

          • Wes Cauthers

            I guess for me it comes down to what Rock said about what is more or less likely and the probability of JS being a “narcissistic revealor of pure universal truths” seems extremely low to me for a number of obvious (at least in my mind) reasons.

          • Fanson

            I agree with you Wes.

            It all comes down to this: Was Joseph Smith, Jr. credible?

            To me, the historical record clearly says, “No!” and the assessment of those outside of Mormonism at the time is consistent in this regard.

            The only people who found Smith credible were those in the Mormon Church and they could hardly be considered objective could they?

          • Wes Cauthers

            I just wanted to add that JS discredited himself on many levels that do not even involve the Bible. For me, it’s just one of the many pieces of evidence that demonstrate his lack of credibility.

          • Glenn

            Just for the sake of argument here… why is what you two are saying mutually exclusive? Why couldn’t JS have been a narcissistic revealelor of pure universal truths? I think, Rock, that you are open to that. But I think I think that you, Wes, would go back to the New Testament and say that it already has revealed everything, therefor JS, narcissist or not, couldn’t possibly have tapped in to any pure godly anything. So the whole narcissist argument is really just a MacGuffin — right?

          • Glenn

            Just for the sake of argument here… why is what you two are saying mutually exclusive? Why couldn’t JS have been a narcissistic revealelor of pure universal truths? I think, Rock, that you are open to that. But I think I think that you, Wes, would go back to the New Testament and say that it already has revealed everything, therefor JS, narcissist or not, couldn’t possibly have tapped in to any pure godly anything. So the whole narcissist argument is really just a MacGuffin — right?

          • Michael Gonda

            One thing you have to say about Joseph Smith that distinguishes him from even our current prophets today, is even if he had narcissistic qualities and was and arrogant goon, he at least could admit he wasn’t perfect.

            I think that is one thing to think about in the revelations. Sure, it’s arrogant in one respect to say that God is talking directly to you and you are just writing down his words. And I realize there are problematic things in the D&C. But it is surprising to me that someone who was so confident in his communication with the almighty would be willing to write (fake) revelations that condemned himself on numerous occasions.

            I’m sure it is just another thing to argue about, but it is something I appreciate about JS as compared to our leaders today, who have no flaws and no human shortcomings that anyone can know about. Joseph Smith had flaws – he admitted it, and God told him as much, and he still wrote it down for the world to see.

          • Wes Cauthers

            I’m not sure what you’re referring to specifically but in my study of JS, humility was not one of his strong suits. The man actually boasted that he was better than Jesus! Consider the following from History of the Church Vol. 6, p. 408:

            In all these affidavits, indictments, it is all of the devil—all corruption. Come on! ye prosecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! for 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. You know my daily walk and conversation. I am in the bosom of a virtuous and good people. How I do love to hear the wolves howl! When they can get rid of me, the devil will also go. For the last three years I have a record of all my acts and proceedings, for I have kept several good, faithful, and efficient clerks in constant employ: they have accompanied me everywhere, and carefully kept my history, and they have written down what I have done, where I have been, and what I have said; therefore my enemies cannot charge me with any day, time, or place, but what I have written testimony to prove my actions; and my enemies cannot prove anything against me.

          • Michael Gonda

            I still think you’re stretching, but you can read it however you want. I don’t know the context of that quote, but he must have just been aquitted again or something. 🙂

            I’m talking mostly about the Lord’s response to Joseph after the loss of the 116 pages. You might argue that this is much earlier in his life, but it is still in the scriptures today, and I think you have to explain how someone so arrogant and narcissistic would have written it down. He was the prophet and a false prophet according to you. He could have written whatever he wanted.

            You can read more of section 3 if you want, but these two stand out:

            6 And behold, how oft you have transgressed the commandments and the laws of God, and have gone on in the persuasions of men.

            7 For, behold, you should not have feared man more than God. Although men set at naught the counsels of God, and despise his words—

            9 Behold, thou art Joseph, and thou wast chosen to do the work of the Lord, but because of transgression, if thou art not aware thou wilt fall.

            Here’s one from section 93:

            47 And now, verily I say unto Joseph Smith, Jun.—You have not kept the commandments, and must needs stand rebuked before the Lord;

            I just have an impression of what it may mean to be a narcissist – and certainly Joseph exhibits several of the traits you listed. But these scriptures fall in another direction. I just don’t see a person with that personality disorder ever admitting he was wrong, let alone recording a direct rebuke and chastisement from God.

          • Wes Cauthers

            JS’s actions spoke much louder than anything he wrote and called scripture. But hey, it’s a free country, man. If you want to believe JS was a true prophet, knock yourself out.

          • Walt

            I look at it another way. It takes a pretty high opinion of yourself to claim God himself is chastising you. He also needed a good cover story for not having the 116 pages, and not being able to re-translate them.

          • Wes Cauthers

            Great points, Walt. He absolutely needed a cover story for the lost 116 pages and whether God was chastising JS or “revealing” things to him, both affirm that God was supposedly communicating directly with him as the chosen “prophet of the restoration.” Also, in section 93, God is supposedly chastising JS along with several other people, which was a great way for him to manipulate those people.

          • Fanson

            Well here’s what a non-Mormon visitor to Nauvoo in 1843 wrote to her mother:

            “Joseph Smith is a large, stout man, youthful in his appearance, with light complexion and hair, and blue eyes set far back in the head, and expressing great shrewdness, or I should say, cunning… I, who had expected to be overwhelmed by his eloquence, was never more disappointed… his language andmanner were the coarsest possible. His object seemed to be to amuse and excite laughter in his audience. He is evidently a great egotist and boaster.”

            Elsewhere she described Smith as “the greatest egotist I ever

            (Charlotte Haven, “A Girl’s Letters from Nauvoo, 1843” Overland Monthly; 1890 & 1891)

          • Tammy Sheret

            Admitting fault or saying sorry, and especially meaning it, is not common of someone with NPD. But let’s say he has the position of prophet of God and needs to keep a huge amount of people in his control to maintain his power and financial gain. I’ve personally come to know someone with the disorder myself, and have researched it extensively… but even from just knowing someone like this for only 8 months, I can assure you that admitting any wrong and recording a rebuke from God is EXACTLY the kind of thing one with NPD would do… Not that they are actually admitting anything, it is just that they are master manipulaters. They will say what they know is the moral thing to say, but not because they mean it, it is only to look good and keep their control over people. It is such an awful and heartless disorder. They cause terrible pain in the hearts of every person they come in contact with, and there are plenty, like Smith’s followers, who don’t even know how immensely he has hurt them… see, these people are codependent… codependent people feel such a need what the narcissist provides, but unfortunately they are only in love with an image of someone and with his narrative…a narrative and a person who don’t really exist. Sad, so sad. Disgusts me…me probably more than others, as I was a former mormon and when hurt by the narcissist in my life, an unbelievable flood of pain and past hurts poured over me and I came to realize that Smith had hurt me this same way before in my childhood, so it was not fun at all to be fooled again. Never again though, I know that for sure, and now I know how to spot an evil person like this.

  7. Dave Sonntag Reply

    Does the church still conflate itself with the Gospel? Well, at least the editors of the Deseret News seem to do so. In this article, they describe a military couple. When courting, a woman who was a member of the church made it clear to her non-member fiancee that “The church would come before him.” http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/59450/In-love-and-war-faith-comes-first.html

    Would an ecclesiastical leader ever counsel a member not to marry a non-member? This article certainly implies as much. Yet this flies in the face of the 2010 Church Handbook of Instructions, Volume 1a, Section 7.2.5:

    “No priesthood officer is to counsel a person whom to marry. Nor should he counsel a person to divorce his or her spouse. Those decisions must originate and remain with the individual.”

    So it is a Gospel Principle that matters of eternal consequence are to be made by the individual? Wasn’t that kinda what Elder Poelman was saying in his unredacted talk?

  8. OuterBrightness Reply

    You guys do not cease to find extremely interesting things I’ve never heard of before. Obviously, if you’re getting your information from the correlated church material (like I had been my whole life), you will never come across this. It’s a shame they censor material like this. Thanks.

  9. Tol Reply

    it’s like the layers of an onion or the thread of a huge sweater! I keep thinking I’ve peeled back enough layers to be done and move on but a strange new layer is always revealed! Very slick editing and fx as well. TOP NOTCH!

  10. Walt Reply

    Another Awesome podcast! I think it speaks volumes that the church removed almost all “Free Agency” references from this talk. That is exactly what the church has done over the years as far as their policies!

  11. Hermes Reply

    Why silence Poelman? Even today I cannot understand why the people in charge feel threatened by committed members who read the gospel differently than they do. If they have God on their side (as they think), why do they have to do his work for him, shutting people down with crude human tactics reminiscent of totalitarian dictators? How does that help the cause of Christ (or even the cause of Joseph Smith)?

  12. James Reply

    I loved this podcast. Much more than I thought I would.

    I have known of the Poelman talk issue, but nothing about it in depth. I had the paradigm of thinking “he is just a seventy” so if the apostles need to correct him, so be it. But the original talk really is beautiful. It’s a mormonism that holds much more appeal to me. Thank you for putting this together.

  13. brandt Reply

    The biggest point that stood out to me (I forget whether it was Jesse or Rock) was the fact that there was no reasoning as to why the talk was edited and changed. I think the memory-hole was a good analogy, but I understand why they won’t put it out; what’s the purpose?

    I’m sure they thought they were doing best. I’m sure they thought that it was helping members. But the problem is when you do things like this AND IT COMES OUT LATER, you’ve got even more egg on your face. But if you were to make a statement, or have Poelman come out later and revise his words with an explanation, wouldn’t that be a better method for informing your members? I wish I had those answers…..

  14. Dave P. Reply

    I hope that one day you’ll be able to contact and invite Steve and Karen Davis to join in a podcast. They’ve been working for years to restore the original Book of Mormon and have been instrumental in weeding out corruption in the high ranks of the church.

  15. Oz Reply

    Great discussion…hope to see a link of the revised version of the audio/video up soon.

  16. Royek Reply

    In October 1984 my wife and I had been married 5 months. I was a convert of 5 years. We had both received our endowments the day before our May 4 marriage in the Washington DC temple.

    Obvious aspects of the endowment ritual were haunting me, though our new life together held these thoughts in abeyance. Being in a small New England ward and busy in a new career helped as well.

    I also found myself almost obsessively reading literature that had nothing to do with Mormonism. Orwell was one of the O’s. I remember joking, but seriously wanting, to read 1984 before the end of 1984. It is very possible I was reading it during the “Poelman Conference.”

    If I only knew then how close to home that novel struck.

    But on the other hand, life in our outlying ward was not Orwellian. They were just a group of people looking out for each other – people who had happened upon a comforting set of ideas that gave them reasons to be together and care for each other. At least that’s how I remembered it. There was not a strong Salt Lake presence.

    Big religion is a sad and strange phenomenon. Perhaps humans just aren’t wired to live and love properly in communities larger than a few dozen. You can’t work things out with broadcasts.

    This was a fascinating presentation. My thanks go to Glenn, Jesse, James and Rock for putting it together.

  17. Mormonstalk Reply

    Ok during the interview someone said that the person that went to Poelman in the last year found out some interesting stuff. Unfortunately, he never said what it was. I’m curious, what did he tell that guy about this incident?

  18. Jt4131 Reply

    Oct 1984 … Kimball hurting … Hinckley running the show … Benson on deck … The Strengthening Church Members Committee (aka Secret Combinations Manuscript Censors) on a practice run for their 1985 debut?

  19. Dreypie Reply

    I am the Relief Society president in a small New England branch despite having lost belief in the institutional church about five years ago. One reason I took this calling was so I could use my teaching opportunities to help others think beyond correlation. I give the first lesson of each month, which is based on a conference talk or Ensign article. Does anyone dare me to use the original Poelman talk for February’s lesson?

    I enjoyed this podcast immensely and will send it to my college-attending daughter (not BYU) who also does not believe but struggles to come to terms with her relationship with the religion of her childhood. The gospel of which Elder Poelman spoke was the one I always believed in and tried to teach my children. But others interferred and the resulting mixed-messages have confused and angered us all.

    • Glenn Reply

      How about this — I DON’T dare you to use Poelman’s original version for your next lesson. How irresistable is that?

  20. Fanson Reply

    Absolutely stunningly good podcast! Possibly the best of the lot so far – and there have been some great ones.

    Every panelist was prepared, knowledgeable, and articulate but I particularly enjoyed Rock’s insight and perspective and hope to hear a lot more from him in the future.

    And on that note, as I’m apt to do, I’m going to pitch Grant Palmer’s classic book, “The Incomparable Jesus” as validation and supporting documentation for everything that Rock said about how Jesus Christ, not ANY Church, should be the central focus of worship, emulation, and devotion for anyone claiming to be a Christian.

    Fantastic job to one and all! This one will definitely get more than one listen.

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    • Anonymous Reply

      P.S. I originally included a link to the side-by-side comparison of the two talks and then saw that it had already been included. Then I noticed I could edit my post so I edited it. I guess I’m as guilty as the Church on that one! 😉

  22. Joe Geisner Reply


    Any idea how I can get a audio or video file of the edited talk? I can’t seem to find one on youtube or lds.org.

    Thanks for the help.

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