“Could I … ah …” The dark haired girl in front of me shifted awkwardly. “I mean, I was wondering … if we could talk.”
I had been teaching the 15-year-olds in Sunday School for only a month and had just finished my weekly lesson.
“How about right now?” I asked.
“It’s about …” she began. “Well, I have this friend see, and the other day we were talking and …” Her unusual seriousness puzzled me. This was the girl who always talked and laughed with her friends (even during my lessons). What could be so serious that she would now be this solemn? I tuned back to her words, “… and this friend said he doesn’t believe in Joseph Smith anymore because he was a gold digger and a thief and he drank a lot.” I smiled. She continued, “My friend has these books to prove it!”
So that was the big life-and-death matter. This 15-year-old had finally had her first taste of the cold and nutritionless dish called “anti-Mormon literature.”
She went on, “Those books—they say the Church isn’t true! They say Joseph Smith was a con man and that all he wanted was money and …”
“Hold it!” I stopped her. How many reading assignments had I given in the last month which had gone unfulfilled by my whole class? I had to turn cartwheels to even get these kids to skim the scriptures, and here this girl was reading entire books of her friend’s anti-Mormon publications. I faced her. “Not all that stuff you’re reading is true.”
“But it’s in a book,” she responded innocently.
I tried to explain, “Just because something is printed, sold, and even accepted and popular doesn’t make it true.”
“I know that.” She was embarrassed. “But how do you know when something you read or hear is true?” A very good question—and here is what we finally decided:
Anything heard or read about another person, idea, or belief needs to pass what we called the
H O G M E T test. Each letter stands for a question.
H. Is it hearsay?
“Did you know that Steve asked Amy out? I wasn’t there myself, but my friend’s aunt’s cousin’s elder’s quorum president said …”
It’s interesting to discover that many of the people who claimed that Joseph Smith and his family were “destitute of moral character” and “particularly famous for visionary projects” had never even met the Prophet (Hugh Nibley, The Myth Makers, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1961, p. 12). It seems these people were just passing on something they happened to hear someone say—hearsay.
O. Is it out of context?
It’s shocking to hear that the bishop said damn until we realize he was talking about a fishing trip to the reservoir (dam).
Even scriptures can be misinterpreted if we are not careful to understand the words within the setting.
G. Is it a generalization?
To believe that every member of Joseph Smith’s family was ignorant and that all the males were drunkards, blasphemers, liars, and thieves as some authors have stated, is as ridiculous as believing that all the cities of North America look just like New York, or that all Latter-day Saints sing like the Osmonds.
M. Is it mudslinging?
Competitors, each trying to look better than the other, often attempt to cover their opponents with “mud.” We see examples of this in politics, business, and even in high school rivalries. Many dig up any dirt they can find and sling it at those with different beliefs.
Were the ministers and intellectuals who so meanly attacked Joseph Smith innocent of any bias or prejudice? Or were they feeling threatened by the Prophet and the truth he bore? Enemies of the Church have always stood to lose if they couldn’t find or put a little dirt on LDS white shirts.
E. Is it an exaggeration?
“His complexion is like Mount Rushmore in reverse—instead of faces on the mountains, there are mountains on the face.” Exaggerating is magnifying the facts, making something out of nothing—shall we say, mountains out of molehills?
I was definitely taken aback recently to read that Brigham Young had over 400 wives during his lifetime. Four hundred? Brigham Young himself would probably be taken aback at that overstatement. We all know that as tales get passed along they get taller. We need to recognize the stretch marks.
T. Is it true?
“Joseph Smith must be a false prophet because he said he saw God face to face.” But Joseph did see God, as surely as Moses did (see Ex. 33:11). Joseph saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. It cannot be disproved.
“I had beheld a vision. I have thought since, that I felt much like Paul … ; there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad; and he was ridiculed and reviled. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. …
“So it was with me. I had actually … seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it” (JS—H 1:24–25).
To claim to see God and his son would be misleading, unless one had seen them, as Joseph had. To claim to be God’s son would be blasphemous, unless one was God’s son, as Christ was. Truth is truth, and men’s varying viewpoints cannot change it.
Is it hearsay, out of context, a generalization, mudslinging, or an exaggeration? Is it the truth?
H O G M E T is not a surefire weapon to wipe out all opposition. Rather, it is an easy-to-remember set of questions that will help us keep everything we read and hear about our Church leaders and doctrines in perspective.
My 15-year-old friend was ready to leave. She smiled, “Next time that guy ever says he has another book for me to read, I’ll have a few questions for him first.”
“Good luck,” I offered.
“Oh, I won’t need luck.” She started down the hall, “Now I have H O G M E T!”