The following first appeared in Public Square Magazine.

[This essay was recorded as a video message.  The transcript follows.]

Have you heard the biggest lie about Church history? Well, you’ve come to the right place—because the big reveal is just about to happen.

You thought you’d heard it all. But just wait. What you’re about to find out is something not even on the radar of most people—including those working hard to persuade all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people about other “scandalous” circumstances in the Church of Christ.

Not even they have been able to appreciate the scope of this lie we’ll be talking about. They haven’t. Because they are the ones popularizing it—shouting it from the rooftops.

A remarkable new faith. One of my dear friends used to beam with faith. He had lived many years blessing others with his love of the Lord and the Church that bears His name. Then, with a desire to “go deeper” in exploring his faith, he started to tune into some other videos and podcasts episodes served up on social media with shocking titles. 

When I saw him next, his countenance was no longer the same. “I have serious concerns, Jacob, about the ‘historicity’ of what I used to believe.” 

With some surprise, I said, “It’s the word of that one podcaster you’re trusting here?” 

Yes, it was. With remarkable faith, he was taking this individual’s word above that of hundreds of other witnesses—both historic and contemporary—that he had experienced personally to that moment. I was confused and shocked … and honestly still am.

If you found out that one of your neighbors had created many hundreds of videos over several years picking apart and disparaging Islam or another faith, what would you say?

Most people would reach the same conclusion: “This person is not well.”

I’m not attempting a cute insult here.  It’s the truth. It’s what most anyone—religious or not— would say about someone driven enough to target their own previous faith so relentlessly. There’s something compulsive about it. If you were at peace, would you really need to do this?

Of course, when real harm exists, we can agree that strong and persistent activism is valuable and needed to bring hard truths to light.  But is that really what’s happening here?

The big reveal.  I’ve wondered sometimes: for someone so intensely preoccupied with challenging the convictions held as precious by millions … what brings someone like this the peace of mind to be able to drift off to sleep at night? How about this: becoming convinced that someone else, maybe President Russell M. Nelson, or Gordon B. Hinckley, or Brigham Young—these are the real monsters.

If you could persuade yourself that these other men are doing something truly harmful to SO many, that might soothe your conscience in the difficult work of deconversion. The task here is a difficult one for any Influencer—persuading people who have actually known and listened to these faith leaders that something terrible is going on under the surface. Never mind all those sweet-sounding messages at Conference—and all that talk about the “Lamb of God who cometh to take away the pains, and heartache of each of us.”

Try to not think about how all that made you feel…because these Influencers, we can be grateful, have finally told us all “The Truth.” 

And what is that? That each and every one of these leaders, revered by so many as living prophets, has actually been “lying to you all along.”

We’re also told that those following these prophets—and giving their hearts and lives to the restored gospel—they’re actually just going along with a lie too.

All of this represents what some like to now promote as the “shocking real truth” about the Church of Christ. But I think it’s time to see this shocking truth for what it really is—giving it proper appreciation as The Biggest Church Lie of All.  

Faith attachment injury. “But hold on,” someone might say – “haven’t you heard about these other troubling things in history?”

Of course. They’re not really new.  But if you think these accusations are new revelations – that you’ve just been let in on something “shocking” or “scandalous”…then yes, don’t be surprised if something changes in your heart and mind.  And in your faith too.

That’s just what happens when we embrace-as-true an interpretive framework of such profound suspicion. None of this, of course, is ever really presented as an “interpretive framework” publicly. That would be a terrible podcasting angle – “come hear my take – one among many – on this obscure historical issue.” Far better to insist breathlessly that you’re revealing ‘yet one more piece of damning evidence that everyone is being bamboozled.’

Each time you get another hit from these podcasters, that ‘sheer weight of evidence’ only grows heavier on your back – along with your sense of frustration, shock and estrangement. No wonder so many come to insist that the “evidence has broken their shelf.”

But is that really what does the breaking?  Or is it something else?

Just hear me out: No data point in the history of the world ever spoke for itself. Each and every piece of evidence requires an interpreter—someone to make sense of it. The key question is this: who is doing the interpretation and telling the story of what the data means? Is it someone we experience as fair-minded? Generous? And deeply honest?

And how does one specific interpretation of the data (compared with another) ultimately influence us, and shape our lives? This is what we have to answer for ourselves…with so much on the line. Because we don’t just tell stories—we live them. Everything else flows from them.

If, for whatever reason, I come to believe-as-true a Story that my wife has, in fact, been actively deceiving me from the beginning, no one would be surprised if it affected our relationship profoundly,  right? This would likely cause what marriage therapists call an “attachment injury”—wounding the easy trust we used to have. And those who come to believe they’ve been betrayed by their faith experience a similar “attachment injury” towards the Church (see “Irreconcilable Faith Crisis? Or Faith Injury to Heal?“)

Messing with our heads. So, where do these kinds of strong suspicions and accusations that “you’ve been lied to all along” come from in the first place? 

Well, it’s complicated. The other day, I got frustrated with my wife. You probably know what that feels like in your own family relationships. But what was interesting about this moment was that I was aware of specific ways my thoughts were distorted in connection with my frustration. It was very apparent to me that not only was I not seeing my wife truthfully—I could not. Not in that moment. It’s like those harsh feelings had a kind of magnetic pull on my thoughts. 

We see, of course, something similar happening in American society today.  Lots of harsh and hard feelings. And lots of distorted, exaggerated, even ridiculous portrayals of Those People on the other side of the political spectrum. We know these outrageous pictures are not true.  And yet so many loud voices in American politics work so hard to insist they are sharing The Real Truth—tapping into this kind of anger as a way to reach a wider audience. 

Can you see the pattern? It’s exactly the same thing happening here—with the number of growing podcasts and social media influencers promoting a “new message” about the Church of Jesus Christ to all the world. One filled with: Outrage. Suspicions. Distortions—both subtle and blatant. And seething resentments.  

Always to showcase the same big takeaway: “It’s all a lie!  None of it’s true!”

The evidence within.  These evangelizers know full well how distressing that claim would be to so many if it were embraced as “true.” So many sweet experiences people believed they were having with the Spirit of the Lord … suddenly, ripped away. And so much you once thought precious and sacred and trustworthy—suddenly exposed as the opposite. 

Thankfully, these Influencers also generously provide discounts for their coaching and retreats on the side to help people navigate these difficult realities—and learn to thrive despite the agony of seeing your faith incinerated. 

I’m not exaggerating here: Isn’t that how this “real truth” about the Church lands for those who hear it (and believe it)? 

Shock. Horror. Tears and despair. Bitter anger.

Whatever it is their eventual experience becomes, it’s not uncommon for people to initially feel shattered, with whole lives turned upside down. Does any of that sound like the “fruits of the Spirit”? Or the internal evidence of having received something that is, in fact, true

No. Because it’s not a truth being confirmed at all. As Joseph Smith once taught, “truth tastes good.”

And he was right. 

Poisoning the people.  The sheer individual and family grief, heartache, and angst that so often follows in the wake of embracing this accusation against the Church—the force with which it turns entire lives upside down … that ought to say enough. 

It ought to scream the reality of what’s actually happening here. Not “deeper research” or “brave truth-telling” or “courageous activism.” Something else is happening here.  If this were an example of “heroic sacrifice to follow after truth,” then the pain would make sense—but you would deserve to at least feel real peace … something more than mere mental comfort.

Of course, not every right thing feels immediately good, or clearly peaceful. And plenty of very wrong things feel exciting—especially at first. It’s not always so easy to tell the difference, especially since that excitement can be manipulated.

But peace cannot.  You can’t fake peace. It’s that deep alignment in your gut—the kind of unshakeable assurance that led martyrs to their deaths, and that would make all the pain worth it.

The cover-up. Despite the initial anguish that so often immediately follows the adoption of this Mormon Story for so many, I’ve been struck by how all that awfulness gets explained away as not having anything to do with the uniquely cynical narrative they’ve been persuaded to suddenly embrace. Instead, all that angst gets redirected outwards, against what?

The monstrosity these people used to reverence as the restored Church of God on the earth. Can you see how this narrative—like all accusing narratives—has a ready answer for the very misery it invokes?! 

In this way, these accusers channel another ancient spirit that persuaded millions to believe “that they were wronged in the wilderness by their brethren, and they were also wronged while crossing the sea; and again, that they were wronged while in the land of their first inheritance.” 

Wronged. Wronged. Wronged. 

Is that what you believe?  About America, about your faith, or anything else? Then maybe it’s time to stop, and reconsider who you’re trusting to shape your reality. 

The Book of Revelation speaks of a set of “accuser[s] of our brethren” who went about their work “day and night” with dogged, incessant zeal. With quasi-missionary passion, modern-day accusers remain depressingly effective in ushering people towards a new kind of community and life … right after these people embrace a message that enrages. 

And empties. And doesn’t feel right.

Not in your quiet moments … when you’re alone with your own thoughts. 

The feeling. If you have any doubts, of course, maybe you can re-watch one of the latest Stories of Suspicion to reinforce your conviction even more.

But still, something’s not right. Not compared with some of what you experienced before.

Like midway through the first discussion, when you first heard yourself (or someone else) say: “I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description…” 

At that moment, what came into the room?  

Something you can trust. Something that shouldn’t just be explained away.  

A sweetness still available. If you really want to “go deeper” in your faith, you’ve got an incredible chance to do just that—as outlined plainly and powerfully by the last ten messages of our living prophet on the earth today. 

To all the rest who dedicate so much of their time and talents to tearing down the faith of those seeking to follow these leaders, I would simply say: Back off.  And stop poisoning our people. 

Do you really believe that we deceive this people, in sharing a message that causes such joy in their hearts?

To all those who have already been affected by these persuasive influencers—please hear me clearly:  It’s not the living prophets of God who were lying to you

It’s this handful of people podcasting and blogging from their basements. Despite what you’ve been told, it’s also not the evidence that broke your shelf. It’s the Story of Suspicion you swallowed whole.

Without realizing it was poison. And that you were embracing, yes, The Biggest Church Lie of All: That the Church of Christ has been lying to you all along. 

No, it hasn’t. The leaders of this Church are kind, sincere, and thoughtful people—who have given their lives to share a message of hope and healing with the world.

That doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes grapple with what they have to say. There’s a reason prophets were stoned in the past—they’re supposed to go against the grain. But do they really look and feel like “liars”… who are “motivated deep down by greed and power? 

Of course, they don’t. 

And what you used to feel in their presence was more than mental gymnastics confirming your own favored worldview. What you felt was from God—a personal assurance from His own Holy Spirit…that it’s true.

It really is!  All of it.  All the way back.

Are you really going to walk away from this all? This heritage of incredible faith. And a future full of so many promises?   

To my precious, amazing, beautiful brothers and sisters:  Yes, you really did used to feel Him.  And you can feel His presence again.

And that injury you’ve had to your own attachment to this faith can heal, just like it does in a wounded marriage. As long as you first do as Lamoni, and start pleading to have the “dark veil of unbelief” cast away from mind and heart. That happened to him, as it has to so many others. And it can happen to you too. 

But first, you need to see—really see—The Big Lie.  Do you?

**********

Thanks for hearing me out! See Part One in the Video Series here: “It’s Time to Stop Calling Your Grandpa a Liar.”  Also check out “Come Back, Come Back, Wherever You Are” to go deeper, especially: “Irreconcilable Faith Crisis? Or Faith Injury to Heal?” and this: “It Wasn’t the Evidence that Broke Your Shelf.”