This post comes from man_without_wax on reddit. He picked up on this, and it was too good not to share:
“I’ve been thinking a lot about the phrase ‘by your fruits ye shall know them’ and how it is used in the church. In my experience the phrase is basically a cop-out/cover-up whenever a person (or entity) of some authority or standing commits a questionable act. This phrase has been used to defend Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and the church itself. One such example is this talk by Dean L. Larsen of the presidency of the seventy” (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1985/10/by-their-fruits-ye-shall-know-them?lang=eng). He states that some documents had surfaced (in 1985) that may cause people to question Joseph Smith. He says:
In my remarks today I do not wish to make any assessment of the validity of the newly discovered documents nor the extent to which they might, in the eyes of some, affect the reconstruction of Church history. I would like, instead, to point to some ultimate tests that can be applied to determine the divine nature of any religious work.
“Translation: ‘Let’s just ignore any negative evidence and only look at the evidence in our favor.’
“That’s so infuriating and sickening that it’s hard for me to even continue typing. The statement and its intent are so flawed it’s laughable. And yet, it’s still commonly used and believed as a defense.
“Here’s the issue. If I do 29 good things and 1 evil thing in a month, am I good or evil? Most of us would likely say good. What about 20 and 10? Still good? What about 15-15? By this statement I’m… neutral? Then, what about if I’m at 29 good things and 1 evil, but that 1 evil thing is REALLY evil. Then what? Which fruit are we to judge by? The statement oversimplifies things to the point of uselessness. If an evil tree can’t bring forth good fruit and vice versa, no one can be judged reliably by this statement except for Jesus and Satan, amirite?
“I’m sure Hitler did good things for people at some point in his life. I’m also sure Elder Holland has been a dick to people at some time in his life. Yet, when we talk about Joseph Smith, when we question his life/history/motives, we are told to judge by his fruits. WHICH FRUITS?! Bringing about the Book of Mormon gives you carte blanche for the rest of your life?! I’m sorry, that doesn’t fly with me. In fact it’s quite the opposite. I still find it hard to explain away the Book of Mormon, but when I look at the rest of Joseph’s life, all the other damning evidence, I can’t bring myself to believe that a man that terrible (or anything produced by him) can legitimately be of God.
“Same goes for the church. I know no person or organization will be perfect, but I’m not going to just ignore anything negative because ultimately the church has good teachings.
“The ends do not justify the means.”
I would like to add, that “I’m judging him by his fruits” is a great rebuttal to “That’s not doctrine, why waste your time with it,” or “That isn’t important to your salvation.”