Mormon Leader Fabricates; Reporter Fired: The Story of Elder Paul H. Dunn
by James Walker, Director
Elder Paul H. Dunn, a Mormon General Authority and a popular motivational speaker, role model and author, has told countless inspirational stories about his life for over twenty five years. New research has now come to light showing that these stories were untrue. Dunn's amazing stories were available in both book and cassette form in almost every Latter-day Saints (LDS) oriented bookstore in the country and Dunn was one of the best known and well respected leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
His stories included fantastic personal experiences: "Like the time his best friend died in his arms during a World War II battle, while imploring Mr. Dunn to teach America's youth about patriotism. 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" (Dallas Morning News Saturday, February 16, 1991 47-A).
Evidence now indicates that these stories and countless others filling over 50 books and inspirational cassette tapes are not true after all. "Mr. Dunn's `dead' best friend isn't dead; only the heel of Mr. Dunn's boot caught a bullet; and he never played for the St. Louis Cardinals or any other major league team. Mr. Dunn acknowledged to The Arizona Republic that those stories and others were untrue, but he defends the fabrications as necessary to illustrate his theological and moral points." (ibid).
Dunn never successfully explained how telling falsehoods can promote good morals. Instead, he compared his stories to the parables of Jesus and said, "I haven't purposely tried to embellish or rewrite history. I've tried to illustrate points that would create interest." Dunn added that he was, "...simply putting history in little finer packages" (The Salt Lake Tribune, Saturday, February 16, 1991 2B).
Dunn's theory that "theological and moral points" can be found in stories that have no basis in history is similar to the whole concept of the Mormonism itself. Like Dunn's stories, the foundations of Mormonism -- like the amazing account of the Book of Mormon and the story of Joseph Smith's first vision -- cannot be independently verified as historical events. Instead, evidence exists that the events that form the essence of Mormonism are no more actual historical events than Paul Dunn's tall tales. In fact, Dunn's stories may be closer to truth than Joseph Smith's! World War II did happen and there really is a St. Louis Cardinal's baseball team. The events and peoples of the Book of Mormon have no such independent verification.
The Paul Dunn affair is complicated by another development.
The unusual twist in the Paul Dunn saga is that the person who was most punished for Dunn's falsehoods was not Dunn but Lynn Packer, the Mormon professor at Brigham Young University who did the research and uncovered the problems with Dunn's tales.
When rumors of Packer's findings first surfaced, the LDS Church began its own investigation and immediately placed Dunn -- a general authority since 1964 and one of the top 100 leaders of the Church -- on emeritus status for "health reasons." However, Dunn was never publicly reprimanded neither has the Church admitted that his stories were not true.
Researcher Lynn Parker did not get off so easily. "At the same time [that they placed Dunn on emeritus status], however, the university [BYU] terminated Packer's teaching contract, in part because he wanted to publish a story about his findings. 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'" (ibid).
When Parker, himself a Mormon, decided to release his four years of research to The Arizona Republic in spite of the threats, his contract was terminated and he lost his job. Whiting explained that Parker violated, "church and university policies that prohibit public criticism if church leaders, even if the criticism is true. (ibid, emphasis mine). Mormon leader Dunn was not reprimanded for altering the facts, but Parker was fired simply for showing that these stories were not true.
When I witness to Mormons, I have often witnessed a similar experience. Mormon's are often upset with me when I show them some of the 4,000 changes in the Book of Mormon or some of Joseph Smith's false prophecies. I must sometimes remind my Mormon friends that I was not the one who made the changes or the prophecies. If they want to be angry with someone, why don't they complain to the one who made the change or issued the prophecy. I didn't do it -- all I did was find out about it! But like Parker, the Mormon response is often to "shoot the messenger" rather than deal with the problem. This same attitude is often found in many of the cults and false religions.
As Christians we have a responsibility to those lost in the cults. We must share in a loving way the error of false religion and contrast that with the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. No one is happy to find out they have been deceived. Often you and I will be blamed for simply pointing out the deception. But we must still make the effort and take that risk. It is better that they discover the truth in this life, than after it is too late.