Discussion of Joseph Smith's "Oliver Granger" Prophecy

Stan Barker <sdbarker@shields-research.org>, a prominent Mormon apologist who monitors the Exmormon e-mail list, wrote in response to some comments there by myself and Jeff Ricks:

Mr. Packham,

I note that in addition to Jeff Ricks, you believe you have a good argument against the LDS; yours in regards to Oliver Granger. Having discussed this issue with you previously (and not getting anywhere), I thought you might be interested to read the article I put up today, on SHIELDS, regarding the subject (and please feel free to share it with your friends). It is located at: <http://www.shields-research.org/General/Oliver_Granger.htm>.

May I remark that it never ceases to amaze me how poorly some critics read LDS literature or don't even bother to read answers to issues, but continue to tout their criticism as unanswerable.

Stan Barker

Since Mr. Barker's article is fairly short, I reproduce it here:

Oliver Granger; who is he?

Stanley D. Barker

One of the silliest arguments used by critics to try to "shut up" members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is the old saw about Oliver Granger and members of the Church not knowing who he is.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, section 117:12 we are told:

And again, I say unto you, I remember my servant Oliver Granger; behold, verily I say unto him that his name shall be had in sacred remembrance from generation to generation, forever and ever, saith the Lord.

Now, this writer is not old enough to have known Oliver Granger, but he is old enough to have read Section 117 of the Doctrine and Covenants.  Since Oliver Granger's name appears there, and has from the first time the Doctrine and Covenants was printed, it appears that in at least one respect Oliver's name is being remembered "from generation to generation."  Moreover, this writer can remember back some 40 years ago when a speaker in Sacrament Meeting in Logan, UT (the old Logan 14th Ward) gave a whole talk about Oliver Granger in reference to what section 117 says about him.  Further, critics keep bringing his name up again and again; so how in the world can we forget this man?

Oliver Granger is recorded in Church history as well.  For example:

Beyond that, however, is an even more rational approach to the meaning of this verse.  John A Tvedtnes (FARMS/ISPART) commented as follows:

More to the point, what does "sacred remembrance" mean? Surely not my memory.  How about God's memory?  The only way to have a "sacred remembrance" is to be remembered by God, isn't it? (e-mail dated July 7, 2003)

Also, in an article appear on this web site, by John A. Tvedtnes, he comments:

It seems unlikely that the memory of any mortal can be called "sacred," so the words "sacred remembrance" most likely refer to the fact that the Lord would remember him. After all, the verse begins with the Lord saying, "I remember my servant Oliver Granger."  (The Nature of Prophets and Prophecy - section titled:  Interpreting Prophecy - [bullet 2]

See also Mr. Tvedtnes' response to critic Dick Baer (item 35).

And in a humorous vein:  if nothing else, critics themselves provide the means for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to remember Oliver Granger, "from generation to generation," by simply bringing him up again and again.

I replied to Mr. Barker as follows:

Dear Mr. Barker,

Mr. Barker, I am forwarding your e-mail and my reply to the Exmormon list, as you suggest.

I must confess that I do not recall having discussed Oliver Granger with you. I remember discussing the matter quite a few years ago with Jeff Lindsay, who, as I recall, insisted that Granger was remembered, since there is a locale in Salt Lake County named "Granger." Lindsay abandoned that argument when I demonstrated to him that both the Utah Historical Society and the local historian explained that the name of the place had nothing to do with Oliver Granger, but was the former location of a "grange".

I don't think I suggested that the Oliver Granger mention in D&C 117 was a "good argument against the LDS"; it came up on the Exmormon e-mail list (which I presume you are monitoring) just as one suggestion of how to deal with a "pesky Mormon" without having a long argument. As Jeff Ricks said in his original post (and I agree with his sentiments here),

...Certainly there are other more serious issues that mormonism should address. I just find the issue an effective way of quickly shutting up a pesky mormon without having to dig into books and reference material to do it.
Your article (and Tvedtnes' arguments which you cite there) seem to overlook the point of the whole thing: If you were to ask a hundred Mormons "Who is/was Oliver Granger?" very few could tell you. I actually did that experiment. I asked several Mormons I know (temple-worthy Mormons, too!) that question, and not a single one had any idea.

Your memory of a sermon forty years ago, or the number of listings in a reference work's index, does not seem to be a very impressive kind of remembrance. Surely the names "Abraham Lincoln" or "George Washington" or even "Brigham Young" are the kind of names marked for remembrance for generation to generation. But is "Oliver Granger" in that category? In fact, your having to dredge up a memory from so long ago seems to prove the point that Mormons generally do not know who he was.

Tvedtnes argues that "sacred remembrance" implies that GOD will remember him (implying that he will be remembered even though mankind will forget him?). However, the phrase "from generation to generation" seems to be talking about HUMAN remembrance. Also, why would God, who supposedly remembers everything anyway, make a special point of mentioning that he is going to remember Granger?

Tvedtnes' argument also suffers from the fact that the term "sacred remembrance" has frequently been used to refer to HUMAN remembrance: B. H. Roberts, in a Pioneer Day address in 1886 said (emphasis added in all quotations):

"My Brethren and Sisters: We have met on this occasion to bear witness to the world that we hold in sacred remembrance the entrance of the Pioneers into this region."
Joseph Smith said:
". . . our circumstances are calculated to awaken our spirits to a sacred remembrance of everything, ..." (DHC, Vol. 3, p. 290).
Writing from Liberty Jail, he wrote to Bishop Partridge:
"Our situation is calculated to awaken our minds to a sacred remembrance of your affection" (Times & Seasons, 1:7:99).
Later in the same letter he wrote:
"... [we] send our respects to fathers, mothers, wives, and children, brothers and sisters, and be assured we hold them in sacred remembrance." (HoC 3:297-298)
In a letter to Major-General Law (August 14, 1842) he wrote:
"And will not those who come after hold our names in sacred remembrance?" (HoC 5:94)
Orson Pratt, in commenting on Ezekiel 37:11, said
"...in other words, our forefather, whose children we are, and whose names are held in sacred remembrance by us, are all dead." (JoD 20:17).

I notice, too, that you do not deal with verse 15, which says "...let the blessings of my people be on him forever and ever." If only God is going to remember him, how are the people going to bless him?

Your argument that "Since Oliver Granger's name appears [in the Doctrine and Covenants], and has from the first time the Doctrine and Covenants was printed, it appears that in at least one respect Oliver's name is being remembered 'from generation to generation.'" suffers first from the implication that merely being mentioned in a book is the equivalent of being remembered. That seems to be a rather empty promise, since to that same extent every child born since civilization started to keep birth records is "remembered from generation to generation." Also, if a mention in scripture is the equivalent of being "remembered", then God's prophecy that the Ammonites would be "no more remembered" (Ezekiel 21:28-32) failed because of their mention in the very prophecy that Ezekiel recorded. Which prophecy do you accept as fulfilled?

Your final comment, "And in a humorous vein: if nothing else, critics themselves provide the means for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to remember Oliver Granger, "from generation to generation," by simply bringing him up again and again" certainly does not fulfill the prophecy, since in no sense would former Mormons' remembrance of Granger qualify as "sacred." And the Mormons' remembrance would be limited to: "Oh, yeah, that's the guy mentioned in the D&C that God said we would always remember, but I had no idea who he was until that exmormon asked me if I 'remembered' him. (And I still don't know who he was or what he did)."

May I remark that I find it amazing that Mormon apologists must twist and strain to defend the absurdities of their religion and their scriptures. Tvedtnes' argument about "sacred remembrance" is such a good example: try to make the words mean something different. Why didn't Tvedtnes do a word search for "sacred remembrance" in Mormon writings (as I did) before making such a baseless argument?

Stan, I would be interested to know the results of your asking (without any preliminary warning or hint that would invalidate the experiment) a hundred individual Mormons in your ward or stake what they "remember" about Oliver Granger. If they recognize the name, then ask them what he did, or what they know about him (beyond his being mentioned in D&C 117).

Please pass this on to John Tvedtnes, if you like - I don't have his e-mail address.

Richard Packham

I had no response from Mr. Barker.

For a listing of more than sixty other failed "prophecies" of Joseph Smith, see "Joseph Smith as a Prophet".
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When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously..." Deut 18:21-22

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