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Grant H. Palmer (born 1940) is an American educator best known for his controversial work, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins, which ostensibly led to his disfellowshipment in 2004 from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).
Palmer received his M.A. in American history from Brigham Young University (BYU) in 1968, writing his thesis on the Godbeite movement. He pursued doctoral studies from 1974 to 1975, but did not complete them. During his career Palmer was active in the Mormon History Association.
Initially Palmer was hired to teach history at the Church College of New Zealand. Shortly later he began teaching religion, which led to a 34 year career in the Church Educational System (CES). He was director of the LDS Institute of Religion in Whittier, California (1970–73) followed by Chico, California (1975–80). Returning to Utah, he then taught LDS seminary at East High School in 1980 and at Brighton High School from 1980 to 1988.
During this time the infamous Salamander Letter surfaced, challenging the orthodox story of Mormon beginnings, though the letter was eventually found to be a forgery. As an ardent student of LDS history the letter caused Palmer to consider the influences of American folk magic on Joseph Smith's religious practices. In 1985 Palmer's research on this issue led him to write and circulate a manuscript called "New York Mormonism" under the pseudonym "Paul Pry, Jr." which became the first draft of An Insider's View of Mormon Origins. As he grew uneasy with some aspects of LDS history, Palmer approached his CES supervisor about changing positions to teach adults at the Salt Lake County Jail. Teaching more general Christian and Biblical lessons of faith and ethics to all inmates, he was the jail's chaplain and director of its Institute program from 1988 until his 2001 retirement. He also served on the board of directors of the Salt Lake Legal Defenders Association.
After completing his long-coming manuscript, he published the controversial book An Insider's View of Mormon Origins with Signature Books in 2002, in which Palmer challenged the orthodox teachings of Mormonism's beginnings. Palmer's prison teaching led him to write another book, The Incomparable Jesus, published by Greg Kofford Books in 2005.
In 2003 An Insider's View was criticized by BYU's Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) in reviews written by Daniel C. Peterson, Davis Bitton, Steven C. Harper, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Louis Midgley. These were published in the FARMS Review alongside an official statement from BYU's Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History disagreeing with Palmer's conclusions. In the following Review issue, historian James B. Allen published another critical review.
Palmer asserts that he was disfellowshipped from the LDS Church in December 2004 as a result of his book, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins, which was skeptical of Mormonism's claimed origins (being disfellowshipped results in probational loss of some church privileges without being forced to leave the church).
Palmer concluded that while he liked many of the teachings of Joseph Smith, "the foundational events in church history are too problematic to ignore". He found that much of what Latter Day Saints take for granted as literal history has, over the years, been modified to emphasize certain aspects over others. This, he believes, has resulted in an inaccurate picture of LDS Church history.
Palmer argues also that the Mormon Jesus is very different to the current Christian Jesus due to the modern practices of the LDS Church such as forced tithing, avoidance of wine drinking and use of special clothing.
Palmer has been quoted as saying that he still loves the church, and was pleased he wasn't excommunicated. He has also stated that he no longer attends church specifically to avoid offending other members with his opinions as well as due to his rejection of standard LDS beliefs.
In May 2006, a four-part interview of Grant Palmer was featured on John Dehlin's podcast Mormon Stories. This interview was followed in January 2007 with a five-part interview of Richard Bushman, historian and author of Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, with Bushman's LDS-believing views presented in contrast to Palmer's skeptical take on Mormon origins. Palmer and Bushman were also among the wide range of people interviewed in the 2007 PBS documentary The Mormons.
In 2008 Palmer wrote an article in The Salt Lake Tribune comparing the Mormon and Catholic Churches to the Pharisees, whose observance of strict laws and oral traditions was decried by Jesus. Palmer believed that, instead, a true belief in Christian religion is centered in individually becoming good and loving people.
Palmer stated in a Mormon Stories interview in 2012 that due to the publication of a two and half page article in 2010, "Religious feeling and truth", for an obscure Baptist journal in Kansas City, a second disciplinary council was scheduled but Palmer handed in his resignation before the hearing was held. Several reasons led to his decision, mainly, that the first disciplinary council lasted an exhausting seven hours and he did not want to repeat that experience and also that the presiding authority of the second council let him know beforehand that to stay a member and avoid excommunication he would need to repudiate all of the details from his book and also regain his testimony of the church.