"From the outset the Church had an unpopular public image that was added to by apostates and nurtured by the circulation of negative stories and articles in the press. People gave many reasons for apostatizing. For example, Norman Brown left the Church because his horse died on the trip to Zion. Joseph Wakefield withdrew after he saw Joseph Smith playing with children upon coming down from his translating room. Simonds Ryder denied Joseph's inspiration when Ryder's name was misspelled in his commission to preach...
Ezra Booth, a former Methodist minister, was an influential apostate during this period. He joined the Church in May 1831 when he saw the Prophet heal the lame arm of Elsa Johnson. Booth, along with other missionaries, was called and set to Missouri in the summer of 1831 (see D&C 52:3, 23). Upset about having to walk and preach the entire journey, he began to criticize and find fault with the leadership of the Church. He was disappointed to arrive in Missouri and not experience manifestations of the Spirit, such as miracles and the gift of tongues, which he expected would increase his religious fervor. He returned to Hiram, Ohio, full of suspicion and faultfinding. The Prophet observed that Booth had become disappointed 'when he actually learned that faith, humility, patience, and tribulation go before blessing, and that... he must become all things to all men, that he might peradventure save some.' Booth arrived in Hiram on 1 September, and was excommunicated five days later. Soon he and Simonds Ryder publicly renounced their faith at a Methodist camp meeting at Shalersville, a few miles southwest of Hiram.
"Hoping to impede the progress of the Latter-day Saints in Ohio, critics in Portage county sought to capitalize on Booth's influence and encouraged him to publicize his criticisms. Booth believed that his conversion had influenced others to accept the gospel, and he wanted to reverse that affect as well as dissuade others from joining the Church. He published nine letters in the Ohio Star in Ravenna, from 13 October to 8 December 1831, detailing his objections to the Church.
"These letters posed a challenge to the Church. They were circulated extensively and later became a major section of the first anti-Mormon book, Eber D. Howe's Mormonism Unvailed, published in 1834. Late in 1831 a number of missionaries were called to counteract Booth's influence, and in December the Lord called Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon to join the effort. They were to meet their enemies 'both in public and in private,' and the Lord promised them that 'no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper' (D&C 71:7,9). The two men labored about five weeks, and Joseph reported that their work 'did much towards allaying the excited feelings which were growing out of the scandalous letters then being published.'" (Church History in the Fulness of Times, 1989 Institute Manual, 113-114)
Extract from an Ezra Booth Letter
If God be a God of consistency and wisdom, I now know Mormonism to be a delusion; and this knowledge is built upon the testimony of my senses...
When I embraced Mormonism, I conscientiously believed it to be of God. The impressions of my mind were deep and powerful, and my feelings were exerted to a degree to which I had been a stranger. Like a ghost, it haunted me by night and by day, until I was mysteriously hurried, as it were by a kind of necessity, into the vortex of delusion...
Since my return [from Missouri], I have had several interviews with Messrs. Smith, Rigdon and Cowdery, and the various shifts and turns, to which they resorted, in order to obviate objections and difficulties, produced in my mind additional evidence, that their's is nothing else than a deeply laid plan of craft and deception...
There probably never was a plan better suited to lead the sinner and the conscientious, when in an unguarded hour they listen to its fatal insinuations. The plan is so ingeniously contrived, having for its aim one principal point, viz.: the establishment of a society in Missouri, over which the contrivers of this delusive system, are to possess the most unlimited and despotic sway. To accomplish this, the Elders of the Church, by commandment given in Missouri, and of which I was both an eye and an ear witness, are to go forth to preach...It shall be my endeavor to undo as far as possible, what I have done in this case, and also to prevent the spread of a delusion, pernicious in its influence, and destructive in its consequences to the body and soul -- to the present and eternal interests of men. (The Ohio Star, Oct. 13, 1831, Vol. II. No. 41) (http://www.lavazone2.com/dbroadhu/OH/miscohio.htm#060231)
From this time until the 8th or 10th of January, 1832, myself and Elder Rigdon continued to preach in Shalersville, Ravenna, and other places, setting forth the truth, vindicating the cause of our Redeemer; showing that the day of vengeance was coming upon this generation like a thief in the night; that prejudice, blindness and darkness filled the minds of many, and caused them to persecute the true Church, and reject the true light; by which means we did much towards allaying the excited feelings which were growing out of the scandalous letters then being published in the Ohio Star, at Ravenna, by the before-mentioned apostate, Ezra Booth. (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1: 241.)
In the parable of the talents, the Lord gave five talents to one servant, two talents to one, and one talent to the last servant (Matt. 25:14-30). When the Lord finds that the first two have doubled their investment while the third has buried his talent, He chastises the unprofitable servant and gives his talent to the servant who had ten talents. Have you ever wondered why the Lord gave the leftover talent to the servant who already had ten instead of the one who had only four? Wouldn't it have been fairer to give the extra talent to the second servant?
The first servant had proven his ability to be faithful and was blessed "more abundantly." Eventually, the saints are to be equal in temporal things, but when it comes to receiving light and truth, the principle of the parable of the talents applies. One will receive more than another because of greater receptiveness. You can pour a gallon of water into a small cup, but you can't get it all in. Similarly, it is a waste for the Lord to pour out light and truth upon us if we don't have the capacity to receive it.
"And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries" (Alma 12:10-11)
"For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath." (Matt. 13:12)
"He that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day." (D&C 50:24)
"In mortality the more light one receives, the more he can receive. We grow and glow not just by addition but by multiplication. Hence the promise, "For unto him that receiveth it shall be given more abundantly, even power" (D&C 71:6)... more a person increases in light, the more he gains access to truth and acquires intelligent consciousness of all that light penetrates. (Truman G. Madsen, The Radiant Life [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1994], 31.)
Joseph Fielding Smith
In obedience to this call Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon left Kirtland December 3, 1831, and went forth in Kirtland, Shalersville, Ravenna and other places preaching boldly the truth and calling on their traducers to meet them and face their falsehoods. This was rather an unusual condition. Quite generally the Lord counsels his servants not to engage in debates and arguments, but to preach in power the fundamental principles of the Gospel. This was a condition that required some action of this kind, and the Spirit of the Lord directed these brethren to go forth and confound their enemies which they proceeded immediately to do, as their enemies were unable to substantiate their falsehoods and were surprised by this sudden challenge so boldly given. Much of the prejudice was allayed and some friends made through this action. (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:269.)
"The 20 December 1831 Painesville telegraph stated that 'Sidney Rigdon, the vicegerant and champion of Jo. Smith, has thrown out a challenge, in the Ohio star, to Mr. Booth and Deacon Rider, who have renounced the Mormon faith, to meet him in mortal combat (of words) on the subject of the Gold Bible.' Ryder refused the invitation. Sidney Rigdon wrote a letter, published in the Ohio Star on 12 January 1832, in which he charged:
"'Simonds, like the worker of iniquity, has sought a hiding place. Let the public remember, when he goes forth again to proclaim his assertions against the book of Mormon, that he has been invited upon honorable principles to investigate its merits, and dare not do it.'" (Stephen E. Robinson, H. Dean Garrett, A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2001] 2:262)
"The Latter-day Saint practice of defending the church, its scripture, and its teachings against the attacks of its enemies has a long and venerable history... Early Latter-day Saint missionaries frequently responded to critics of the church. Many of the articles found in early LDS publications such as the Times and Seasons and the Millennial Star would even cite the criticisms of attackers along with Latter-day Saint defenses of the church...
"In an October 1923 conference message, Anthony W. Ivins of the First Presidency read excerpts from an article critical of the church, which contained inaccurate and biased information. After reading from this article he noted,
"'...It is not often that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pays attention to misrepresentations, but when their doctrines are ridiculed, when they are misrepresented, when they are spoken of with contempt, and when these things are published and sent broadcast to the world, by which men and women follow after falsehoods which are told, it becomes necessary, sometimes, to correct them, and expose the false basis upon which men reached conclusions in regard to the faith of the Latter-day Saints.'
"Consequently, as others have remarked, 'Sometimes it is wise to ignore the attacks of the wicked; at other times it is necessary to meet them, fearlessly and with ability.' Those who respond should respond well. 'Let us be articulate,' advised Elder Neal A. Maxwell, 'for while our defense of the kingdom may not stir all hearers, the absence of thoughtful response may cause fledglings among the faithful to falter.'" (Jerald and Sandra Tanner. Answering Mormon Scholars: a Response To Criticism Raised by Mormon Defenders. (Matthew Roper), FARMS Review of Books, vol. 9, no. 1 (1997), .)
Harold B. Lee
We pray for our Saints everywhere, pray that they will hold steadfast. But, some of the greatest of our enemies are those within our own ranks. It was the lament of the Master, as He witnessed one of those chosen men, whom under inspiration He chose as one of the Twelve, betray Him with a kiss and for a few paltry pieces of silver turn Him over to His enemies. Judas then stood by and, realizing the enormity of what he had done, took the only escape out to sacrifice himself. And Jesus could only explain that of the Twelve, meaning Judas, he had a devil.
When we see some of our own today doing similar things, some who have been recognized and honored in the past as teachers and leaders who later fall by the wayside, our hearts are made sore and tender. But sometimes we have to say just like the Master said, "The devil must have entered into them."
I always remember the word of the Lord when I hear things said by those who are trying to tear down His work. The Lord has said:
Wherefore, confound your enemies; call upon them to meet you both in public and in private; . . .
Wherefore, let them bring forth their strong reasons against the Lord.
Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you-there is no weapon that is formed against you, shall prosper;
And if any man lift his voice against you he shall be confounded in mine own due time.
Wherefore, keep my commandments. . . . (D&C 71:7-11.)
What he is trying to have us understand is that he will take care of our enemies if we continue to keep the commandments. So, you Saints of the Most High God, when these things come, and they will come-this has been prophesied-you just say, "No weapon formed against the work of the Lord will ever prosper, but all glory and majesty of this work that the Lord gave will long be remembered after those who have tried to befoul their names and the name of the Church will be forgotten, and their works will follow after them."
We feel sorry for them when we see these things happen. (Stand Ye in Holy Places [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974], 380.)
Heber J. Grant
Our enemies have never done anything that has injured this work of God, and they never will. I look around, I read, I reflect, and I ask the question, Where are the men of influence, of power and prestige, who have worked against the Latter-day Saints? Where is the reputation, for honor and courage, of the governors of Missouri and Illinois...? Where are there people to do them honor? They can not be found... Where are the men who have assailed this work? Where is their influence? They have faded away like dew before the sun. We need have no fears, we Latter-day Saints. God will continue to sustain this work; He will sustain the right If we are loyal, if we are true, if we are worthy of this Gospel, of which God has given us a testimony, there is no danger that the world can ever injure us. We can never be injured, my brethren and sisters, by any mortals, except ourselves. (Stephen E. Robinson, H. Dean Garrett, A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2001] 2:262-263)
Neal A. Maxwell
True, the enemies and the critics of the Lord's work will not relent; they only regroup. Even among the flock, here and there and from time to time, are a few wolves, wearing various styles of sheep's clothing-ironically, just before the shearing season! A few defectors and "highminded" traitors (2 Tim. 3:4) even go directly to the "great and spacious building" to hire on (1 Ne. 8:26). There recruits are celebrated and feted until-like their predecessors-they have faded into the dark swamps of history. As President Heber C. Kimball said, divine justice will eventually require that they "pay all the debt of [all] the trouble that they have brought upon the innocent" (in Journal of Discourses, 5:94). ("For I Will Lead You Along," Ensign, May 1988, 9)