Thursday, May 14, 2015

It's Not the Church's Job to Teach Me Church History

      
       “We only have a few minutes to teach about Church history in Sunday school. We can’t deal with everything. We don’t talk about all the issues, but it’s there and it’s not being hidden. Unfortunately we spend more time in video stores, in many cases, than we do reading about our history. But that’s our fault.” - Daniel C. Peterson1



       Everyone remembers the shouts of opposition made during the sustaining of Church officers in the last general conference, but not everyone knows the reasons given for those objections. The people who gave opposing votes belonged to a group called "Any Opposed?", and they gathered outside the Conference Center afterwards for a small press conference. Among other concerns, the group's spokesperson, a middle-aged man from Utah who has been a member all his life, said that after reading some historical essays posted on LDS.org, he realized "that I and all members of the LDS Church have been lied to for decades regarding some pivotal claims of our church and its leadership."2 

       There are several problems with this statement (like how someone could feel the Church was deceiving him when the issues were brought to his attention by the Church's own website), but there's one error that stands above the rest. While it doesn't usually prompt people to go so far as protesting in general conference, it is a prevalent notion in Mormon culture. The idea is that we can sit back and have all our Church knowledge spoon-fed to us in Sunday school. We think it is the Church's job to teach us about every historical aspect of Mormonism. This idea is false. It is not the Church's job to teach us Church history. It is ours. 

       Some of you are probably thinking I'm off my rocker at this point, so let me explain. Would it be better if more of the troubling issues of our past were made known and discussed in our curriculum? I think so. Are there issues in our past that can cause legitimate questions of faith? Absolutely. But Church programs are generally vehicles for teaching the gospel, not history. Look at the four-fold mission of the Church. (By the way, don't feel bad if you don't recognize the last one. It was only added to the Church Handbook a few years ago.) The mission statement of the Church says the Church is dedicated to:

1. Proclaiming the gospel.
2. Perfecting the Saints.
3. Redeeming the dead.
4. Caring for the poor and the needy.3

       Where does it say the Church is to teach its members all of its history? Where does it say we can expect a detailed, chronological outline of everything that's been said and done in the Church to be taught from the pulpit? Nowhere. You might try to shoe-horn it into the "proclaiming the gospel" category, but it really doesn't fit there, either. The Church is constantly trying to bring new members into the fold through missionary work, and pamphlets like "The Polygamy of the Prophet Joseph Smith" wouldn't do the job very well. 

       As the apostle Paul taught, members must have milk before meat, and so we can't expect the Church to insert its most difficult issues into a curriculum designed to fit lifelong members and new converts alike. Instead, they stick to the plain and precious truths of the gospel, where everyone can glean something from the lesson and where the Spirit can most easily be felt. So don't be surprised when you find out Church manuals ignore some really big issues. The curriculum is only going to focus on stories that teach clear principles and that are easy for members everywhere to understand.

       This is not to say that learning Church history isn't important. It's vital, now more than ever. The internet changed everything. While Church history has always been available in printed form, the internet has made it available far and wide, and our critics are spreading it rapidly. No longer can we ignore the issues and expect everything to be fine. It is almost inevitable that each of us will encounter the anti-Mormon version of Church history at some point, and it will happen with increasing frequency as time goes on. While we used to be able to sweep this material under the rug, the internet age has made it apparent that much of what our critics point out is actually true! They have historical evidence to back up their claims, and when we happen upon this stuff unprepared, it's easy for us to be thrown completely off-kilter. So we have to do our homework.

       There are two reasons we must all become a little more knowledgeable about Church history. The first is credibility. I remember talking with a non-member friend in high school about the Church. She said she'd heard that the Book of Mormon couldn't be true because it was altered several times after its original publication. I assured her this was false and anti-Mormons made up lies like that to sully our image. Little did I know she was actually correct. The Book of Mormon has indeed been altered several times, but most (if not all) of the changes were minor clarifications in wording (a fact the critics conveniently leave out). In this day and age, if we don't know at least some of the big issues in our history, we can lead investigators astray, and actually end up diminishing their faith rather than increasing it. After all, if the critics of the Church seem to know more about Church history than the members themselves, who are investigators more likely trust? Granted, you don't need to have a PhD in Mormonology to preach the gospel. Nor do investigators have to have every question answered before they can know the Church is true. But the greater your expertise in a subject, the easier it is to persuade your audience.

       The second, more important reason to study Church history is to keep our own testimonies strong. When we learn about the issues from trustworthy sources, it's a lot harder to be shaken by those who are untrustworthy. Dr. Daniel C. Peterson of BYU has said, 
"Besides prayer, and scriptures, and service, and all those sorts of things, there is something else to be said for inoculation... Many people that I’ve encountered seem to be particularly vulnerable to claims about LDS history because they don’t know any LDS history. And so someone comes to them, often a hostile person...that comes to you and says ‘Well, what about this?’ Now, you probably should have known about ‘this.’ At least, if you’d been reading Church history you might not be so caught by surprise."4 
Although critics will always to try to twist the facts and blindside you, if you've done your research you can see through anti-Mormon rhetoric and your testimony will come out on top. 

       "Well thank you for the lecture, Provo Mormon Dude. So, what, I'm supposed to go out and read the Joseph Smith Papers cover to cover? You think I have time for that with my busy schedule?" No, rhetorical heckler, I don't. That is unrealistic. What we need is to get a general overview of the subjects, not to try and be experts on everything. Here are a few resources you can use to get started on your own journey through Mormon history:

       "Gospel Topics"
       If you go to the LDS.org taskbar and click on "Scriptures and Study" you will find a drop-down menu. In that menu under "Learn More," there is a link to "Gospel Topics." This takes you to the Gospel Topics webpage, which contains several thorough, well-written essays about the most frequently cited "problems" from Church history and doctrine. Titles range from "Are Mormons Christians?" to "Race and the Priesthood." Because the Church realizes the impact these issues can have on members, they are increasingly providing resources like these to demonstrate greater transparency and provide answers to serious questions. 

       FAIR (Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research)
       This website is specifically designed to answer critics of the Church and set the record straight. If you ever encounter a thorny Mormon issue, odds are it's been addressed by FAIR. Just head over to the Topical Guide and find the subject you want. The arguments and answers are laid out in wiki format for convenient browsing. I've often gone there with questions and found them answered to complete satisfaction. I've even come away wondering why I didn't see the answer myself. 
(Warning: FAIR is like medicine - it's best taken in doses. You can use it to answer specific questions or learn more about interesting issues. But there are tons of criticisms laid out there, and even though they're all addressed, it's tempting to just read the short criticism and not the long rebuttal, which can ultimately do your testimony more harm than good.)

       The Work and the Glory
       "Wait, you mean those old Mormon novels my mom used to read?" Yup. For younger members, or those who find straight, textbook history to be a little boring, the Work and the Glory is a masterful blend of fiction and fact. While most historical fiction blurs the line between history and entertainment, each chapter of these books has endnotes explaining what is real history and where the author used creative license. Besides being excellent storytelling, Gerald Lund's vivid writing will put you right in the middle of Church history and help you imagine how the early Saints felt watching these events unfold. 

       These are just a few of the many tools out there with which we can educate ourselves. If we stay on top of the issues, if only a little bit, we will understand our faith so much better. But what about those who have already encountered troubling material; those who have discovered things that leave them seriously questioning their faith? First of all, all the logical answers in the world won't help you unless you're already reading your scriptures, saying your prayers, and attending your meetings. Remember, you have to be doing the Lord's will to know of the doctrine (John 7:17). But for those who are doing those things and still find themselves yearning for answers, the best advice I've ever heard  on this subject comes from Daniel C. Peterson's talk, Defending the Faith. Quoting Stanley Kimball, former president of the Mormon History Association, Peterson told his listeners about the "three levels of Mormon history." He said:
       “Level A history is essentially what you get in even junior Sunday school in the Church. The Church is always good, the members are always good (except where the scriptures condemn them), there are no ambiguities, everything’s just fine, we always get along just perfectly well, all is perfect harmony among Church members and so on and so forth, and there are no serious questions about our beliefs.
       Level B is the anti-Mormon version. It’s the mirror image. Everything you thought was good is evil. Everybody you thought was a good person is a bad person. The Church does nothing right. It’s constant strife, constant disagreement, everything we do is evil, and so on and so forth. This is the version you can get out of some professional anti-Mormons.
       Now, the difficulty with a person who’s been...seriously exposed to level B history, the really negative stuff, may not find it easy to get back to level A. You know, your innocence has been ruined. You’ve been exposed to something really negative, and the only thing you can do then is to work your way through to level C, and level C is the deeper history. It’s more nuanced. It turns out, yeah, we haven’t always been angels. Sometimes we’ve done things wrong. There have been disagreements among some Church leaders. Sometimes we’ve made mistakes, and so on and so forth. But you know what? My testimony is that the history of level C is really a lot like level A. It’s a little more nuanced, it’s a little more human, but fundamentally level A is right. Level B is wrong. I’ve spent my life studying history, and I wish, in a way, that everyone were at level C.”5 
       As a Church history geek, I love to study this stuff. I love learning all the stories and trivia and digging deeper into the issues to find out more about how the Lord has worked with his disciples in latter days. But I realize not everyone is like me. Learning about the Edmunds-Tucker Act doesn’t get many people pumped up. But I also believe learning Church history is important for every member of this Church living in the internet age. Besides preparing us for anti-Mormon attacks, it helps us understand the gospel more deeply. It lets us see our leaders as real people who made real mistakes, but kept trying anyway. We get to know our faith on a nuanced level and understand our LDS identity more fully. No, it’s not the Church’s job to teach me about Church history. It’s my privilege to learn it. I get to study it, grapple with it, and become enriched by it. There’s a treasure trove of knowledge waiting out there for each of us. Let’s dig in.


Notes:
1. Peterson, Daniel C. "Defending the Faith: Dealing with Criticism of the Church." Covenant Communications. Salt Lake City. 2008. Audio recording. 
2. Moulton, Kristen. "‘All Is Not Well in Zion,’ Says Small Band Who Voted against Mormon Leaders." The Salt Lake Tribune 4 Apr. 2015. Print.
3. Taylor, Scott. "LDS to Boost Emphasis on Helping the Needy; Salt Lake Temple Not Closing." Deseret News 11 Dec. 2009. Print.  
4. Peterson, "Defending the Faith."
5. Peterson, "Defending the Faith." 

44 comments:

  1. Thank-you! I enjoyed your perspective so much!

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  2. Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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  3. I've studied Church history for years, thanks to the JSP, discussion groups on all standard works and 14 yrs at Ed. Week listening to lectures by scholars, such as Daniel Peterson. Royal Skousen will provide answers to ANY question about Book of Mormon. Why would I listened to angry, confused anti mormons? Time is too precious to waste.

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    1. Thank you. It's good to hear of members doing personal research and those are great sources to use.

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  4. I've studied Church history for years, thanks to the JSP, discussion groups on all standard works and 14 yrs at Ed. Week listening to lectures by scholars, such as Daniel Peterson. Royal Skousen will provide answers to ANY question about Book of Mormon. Why would I listened to angry, confused anti mormons? Time is too precious to waste.

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  5. I've studied Church history for years, thanks to the JSP, discussion groups on all standard works and 14 yrs at Ed. Week listening to lectures by scholars, such as Daniel Peterson. Royal Skousen will provide answers to ANY question about Book of Mormon. Why would I listened to angry, confused anti mormons? Time is too precious to waste.

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  6. Great job! I heard that quote about the three levels of understanding, but wasn't able to find it again. Saved in Evernote now!!

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    1. Thanks a lot. The quote was shared in Professor Peterson's talk "Defending the Faith." I would highly recommend it.

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  7. Consider that for non English-speaking members and/or members who don't live close to places that sell materials not published by the Church, none of these options you've mentioned really work well. They are left with the Church-published materials, which in many cases omit important foundational information or even mislead. This is just beginning to be corrected by the Church on its own web site with the Gospel Topics section, but it has not been translated to all languages and has not trickled down through other curriculum materials. Much of this stuff is not just church history--it's also information about doctrinal origins and policies, and it's also content that is in our lesson manuals. These manuals often refer to historical details or scriptural interpretations that are no longer current or no longer reflect the wealth of knowledge that has become available.

    To sum up: it's a lot more complicated than you claim and these topics are a much more pervasive aspect of the lived experience of Mormonism. Church leadership is making important corrections that go more in the direction that you claim is not necessary to go. I would encourage you to stop and consider why they might be doing this rather than claim that they don't need to.

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    1. First of all, thank you so much for stopping to read my post. I agree this is a complex issue. To answer some of your concerns, the Church's essays have indeed been translated. You can find the Spanish translations here: https://www.lds.org/topics/essays?lang=spa
      As for those who are far removed from Church headquarters, there are many online resources like FAIR, which I mentioned in the post. But we do need to make sure more resources are created and shared with members far and wide.

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    2. Austin, notice I said " it has not been translated to all languages." The essays are only in five other languages or so at this moment, and of course the essays only cover a few salient topics.

      FAIR is only available in English. You are in a very privileged position that I don't feel you are fully acknowledging. Only a very small minority of the Church has the access or education required to be aware of the things you claim they should be.

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  8. LDS leaders haven't misled members about LDS church history? Really? Just this week the LDS church published--for the first time--photos of the "seer stone" it says Joseph Smith used to dictate the Book of Mormon. I've seen countless artistic depictions in official LDS sources, and NONE of them showed Joseph Smith gazing into a seer stone in the bottom of his hat.

    The author of this piece is really straining--beyond the bounds of credulity--in his attempt to let LDS leaders off the hook for deceiving the members.

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    1. Well said....thank you!!!

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    2. First of all, thank you for reading and commenting. I would remind you that it was the Church who released those photos, as you said, and while many will call this a late-in-the-game attempt at transparency, it's hard to argue that these things were covered up. Joseph Fielding Smith mentioned the Church having the seer stone in its possession in "Doctrines of Salvation," and while many artistic representations show the Book of Mormon translation without the seer stone (or the Urim and Thummim glasses), these are choices of independent artists, not the Church itself. While the Church chooses which images to buy and which to publish, they cannot be held responsible for all the choices of artists, who make many mistakes and whitewash things on their own. Many pictures depicting the translation show a curtain between Joseph and his scribes, even though there is no mention of such a curtain being present.

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    3. Austin, as an artist, working in the field for over a decade, and as one who was trained at a church-owned university, I have to respectfully say that to purport that the church does not exercise a great editorial influence upon the works created for/featured in it's publications is woefully naive. When works are commissioned, the church is involved from the first sketches to the finished painting, wielding creative influence and requiring revisions of things that do not fit with the desired narrative of the publication. Even in cases where the church is licensing art that was previously created, the church does not simply choose a piece because they like the artist's style, despite the fact that the content may be inaccurate. The church uses the same careful editorial discretion in selecting pieces that deliver the approved narrative. In the cases referenced by Mr. Ainsworth, you can bet your bottom dollar that the consistency of traditional, Urim and Thummim, Joseph-looking-at-the-plates imagery didn't happen by accident. It happened either because Church employees/authorities were ignorant themselves or because the traditional imagery of translation is more palatable than the seer-stone-in-a-hat-while-the-plates-lie-covered-on-the-table version. Probably some combination of both.

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  9. The newly-unveiled seer stone was hidden in the church's vault for 185 years. Yes, it was hidden. There is no amount of research of church history I could've done to see that stone or even read a description of it. As soon as you can show me a church approved rendition of Joseph putting his face in a hat to "translate" then let's talk. Or even better yet, the church should produce a seminary or missionary movie that depicts the "translation" process as it actually happened. Until then the church IS hiding its true history.

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    1. First, thanks for reading. As to your concern regarding the Church covering up seer stones, Joseph Fielding Smith mentioned the Church having one of Joseph's seer stones in "Doctrines of Salvation." Richard Lloyd Anderson talked about them in his article "By the Gift and Power of God" in the 1977 Ensign (published by the Church), and Richard Lyman Bushman's book, "Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling" deals with the subject in detail if you would like to know more. As for an approved image of the hat and the stone, you can find it in a book recently published by the BYU Religious Studies Center (which is, of course, sponsored by the Church), "From Darkness Unto Light." Here's a link to a blog post containing the images: http://www.plonialmonimormon.com/2015/04/book-notice-from-darkness-unto-light.html

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  10. The author asserts that LDS leaders have no obligation to educate members about church history. If we accept that assertion, just for the sake of argument, that leads to another question: When LDS leaders publish information about church history, do they have an obligation to do so accurately? Of course they do. So, where in the introductory, explanatory pages published at the front of the Book of Mormon is there any mention Joseph Smith's using a "seer stone" while dictating the Book of Mormon?

    You'd have to deceive yourself to argue that the Brethren haven't been deceiving us.

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    1. Firstly, thank you so much for reading. It feels weird quoting myself, but here goes: "Would it be better if more of the troubling issues of our past were made known and discussed in our curriculum? I think so. Are there issues in our past that can cause legitimate questions of faith? Absolutely."

      I believe the Church definitely has to educate members about it history, as it has begun to do more fully with the release of the Joseph Smith Papers Project, which the recent photos are a part of, as well as the gospel essays. But the Church is an evangelizing organization, not a historical society. We learn doctrine in Sunday School rather than detailed history.

      The introductory pages of the Book of Mormon contain first, a title page taken from the golden plates (so of course it doesn't mention the translation process - it hadn't yet occurred!), second, an introduction written by a modern general authority which says only that they were translated by the gift and power of God and goes on to talk about the doctrine of the Book of Mormon rather than its history. Lastly, there are the firsthand accounts of the Three Witnesses who testify to seeing and handling the plates. The Church does not provide a detailed history of the translation in the first few pages because that would detract from the Book of Mormon's true purpose: to teach true doctrines.

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  11. I'd love to see you write an article about when Joseph Smith destroyed the printing press to the newspaper, The Expositor because of an article Josephs' 2nd Counselor, William Law wrote. Why was Joseph so angry? Is this why Joseph went to Carthage Jail? I want to learn from you how this can be done and not be considered 'Anti-Mormon'.

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    1. Thanks for being a fan of my work enough to want me to write that article. Maybe I will take up that subject at some point. It is a plain fact that Joseph Smith violated the First Amendment by ordering the printing press destroyed after its printing of the Expositor. I for one believe this to be the gross miscalculation of an imperfect man who was acting in a political capacity and not in the name of God. Many others disagree and I can live with that.

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  12. "Unfortunately we spend more time in video stores, in many cases, than we do reading about our history."

    Victim-Blaming Daniel C. Peterson really believes in the viability of Blockbuster Video.

    "It is not the Church's job to teach us Church history... the Church is dedicated to: 1. Proclaiming the gospel. 2. Perfecting the Saints..."

    See everyone, Austin has made it clear. Issues concerning how many women to marry, how God reveals scripture, the method of the appearance of God and Jesus, and which races get to go to the highest heaven - these are historical issues not at all related to proclaiming the gospel or perfecting church membership through instructions.

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    1. Thanks for reading, Phxer. You'll have to forgive that quote. It was given back when Blockbuster was still a thing. I do not believe disgruntled members are victims, nor do I believe we should blame others for taking issue with strange events in Church history. I do believe we have a responsibility to investigate things on our own and not wait until someone in Church or someone from the internet brings difficult problems to our attention. I think if you believe a church to be God's chosen sect you had better investigate it thoroughly. The Church has made it clear that polygamy was God's will at one time and according to the Book of Mormon God can permit it at times and forbid it at others. The Book of Mormon translation and First Vision accounts have been dealt with in Church publications, BYU publications, and FAIR Mormon, so I will not discuss them here.

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  13. Rather than discussing every issue in your article, I want to just focus on one. You wrote, "The Book of Mormon has indeed been altered several times, but most (if not all) of the changes were minor clarifications in wording (a fact the critics conveniently leave out)." Yes, minor changes such as adding the words, "the son of." Before those words were added in several places, the text said that Jesus was God. It supported a trinitarian view rather than the Godhead view that the LDS church teaches. Why were these critical words left out of the original text since it was given to Joseph Smith word for word from God? The Church has taught for years that if the scribe did not record everything correctly, that the translation would stop until it was corrected. Yes, it is true that many of the changes were corrections in punctuation, but to leave the statement there and not also admit that some changes were more integral to the doctrine is to lie by omission.

    It is claimed that the Book of Mormon is the most correct of any book on the earth and contains the fullness of the Gospel. Why then does it proclaim that the Lord found the practice of many wives and concubines as "abominable" and a "wicked practice?" (See Jacob) If it was abominable then, when and why did the Lord change his mind and then command the practice of polygamy?

    I submit that "anti-Mormons" are not anti-anything...they are honest members of the Church who are seeking the truth, like we have been commanded. And once they learn truth, they desire to share it so that others may be benefited. They're just continuing the "every member a missionary" standard that we've all been taught. It's just that what they have found to be true is not necessarily what comes out of the Church Office Building.

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    1. Thank you for your comment. First, let me say I agree that many critics, whether you consider them to be "anti-Mormon" or not, are sincerely trying to help their brothers and sisters and bring issues to their attention. As for the changes in Book of Mormon wording, most of the changes have indeed been minor clarifications, although some, like the ones you mentioned, appear to alter the doctrine. As far as the trinitarian issue, we don't know the extent of the Book of Mormon peoples' knowledge about the nature of God (the Brother of Jared didn't even know God had flesh and blood), nor is it improper to say that Jesus is God or even that He is "the Father," since He is the creator of the earth and, as Abinadi said, repentant souls become Christ's "seed." Adding "the son of" simply removes the ambiguity to modern readers.

      As far as polygamy and the Book of Mormon, notice that although Jacob condemns the practice among the Nephites, he adds that the Lord will command his people to practice it at times to "raise up seed" unto Him.

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  14. I would rather you not use this passive aggressive "anti Mormon" line, and if you are going to defend the church and the faith, then please take a moment to really consider the fact that faithful members honestly seeking the truth have been fired, ex'd, disfellowshipped and otherwise cast aside because of either asking questions about the very things the church is now revealing, or publishing the material, 99.99% of the time from church sources.

    It's not "anti Mormon" if it's from the church's own sources, scriptures, textbooks or apologetics, is it? In fact people like Dan Petersen have actually said and done things that have pushed people even further away.

    Please tell me how you would reconcile that.

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  15. I would rather you not use this passive aggressive "anti Mormon" line, and if you are going to defend the church and the faith, then please take a moment to really consider the fact that faithful members honestly seeking the truth have been fired, ex'd, disfellowshipped and otherwise cast aside because of either asking questions about the very things the church is now revealing, or publishing the material, 99.99% of the time from church sources.

    It's not "anti Mormon" if it's from the church's own sources, scriptures, textbooks or apologetics, is it? In fact people like Dan Petersen have actually said and done things that have pushed people even further away.

    Please tell me how you would reconcile that.

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  16. I would rather you not use this passive aggressive "anti Mormon" line, and if you are going to defend the church and the faith, then please take a moment to really consider the fact that faithful members honestly seeking the truth have been fired, ex'd, disfellowshipped and otherwise cast aside because of either asking questions about the very things the church is now revealing, or publishing the material, 99.99% of the time from church sources.

    It's not "anti Mormon" if it's from the church's own sources, scriptures, textbooks or apologetics, is it? In fact people like Dan Petersen have actually said and done things that have pushed people even further away.

    Please tell me how you would reconcile that.

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  17. You are correct, it is not the church's job to teach its history in detail. But every 4 years in Sunday School, seminary and institute it has a course called doctrine and covenants which covers church history. There is always mention of Emma smith the first rs president who compiled the first hymn book. They never mention that Joseph also married Eliza Snow who was far more important, mire faithful and brother of Lorenzo Snow. She is never referred to as Eliza Smith. Explain how this is not a lie of omission. I taught seminary and was a high priest on a bishopric. I found out about the real church history and knew it was all a scam.

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    1. I absolutely believe the Church should do more in their curriculum to teach the complicated matters of Church history. But as I said in the article, when something is focused on doctrines then it will not be able to cover everything regarding history. People can read about Eliza Snow in the sources I cited in the article, and I agree she should be referred to as Eliza Snow-Smith, since that was the name she had at the time of her death. I am sorry to hear about your disillusionment with the Church and hope you're still teaching young people in another capacity.

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  18. Thanks for this! BTW, u need to update your profile, kid. Fruit Ninja hasn't been available to play on Facebook for a while. *hug* Thanks for such encouraging posts!

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    1. Thanks for leaving a positive comment! I really appreciate it. I have the Fruit Ninja app on my phone, which is probably not something I should be proudly proclaiming to the world, now that you mention it...

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  19. http://www.i4m.com/think/intro/mormon_leaders.htm

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  20. http://www.i4m.com/think/intro/mormon_leaders.htm

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  21. http://www.i4m.com/think/intro/mormon_leaders.htm

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  22. https://youtu.be/9NK2SQqy4OI

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  23. LDS Honesty Cycle
    Church leader does something questionable
    Church leadership gives a different story
    Church leadership hides evidence
    Church rewrites history to omit or lie about event
    Evidence leaks
    Truthers ostracized / excommunicated
    More leaks
    More "Anti" rhetoric / excommunications
    Information dam starts to break (or damning information starts to break)
    Members who were steered away from information by gospel "scholars" find the "anti" history was actually the truth.
    Serious angst / questioning by TBMs.
    Apologists say it was common knowledge to people new to information. Apologists accuse people new to knowledge of being intellectually lazy.
    TBMs lose faith. Angst frequently turns to fury.
    Former TBMs accused of being contentious for telling the truth to others.
    Can't leave the church alone hypocrisy.
    Church "comes clean" in a "faith promoting" manner
    Apologists say the action was actually faith promoting
    Leaders say gospel doesn't change
    All is well in Zion with the new story

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  24. What a sad post to read....sad for all the Mormons who right now are confused and shocked when learning about the rock and the hat. If the church isn't going to teach us church history, why did we have so many series of lessons on church history in young women's when I attended? What about seminary? And Sunday school? Church history is taught throughout the entirety of our Mormon upbringings! On social media, Mormons with beliefs such as yourself, dear blog poster, are referencing a Children's Friend article from 1974, one in which the stone is mentioned, as proof that the church didn't hide this supernatural rock information. Really? One article from forty years ago in a children's magazine that not everyone subscribes to?

    Your blog post, plus references to the Friend article are obfuscations, and demeaning ones at that. You're saying that something is wrong with rank and file, obedient and devout members who didn't know this stuff. Not Christlike at all, IMO. We were taught about the urim and thummim, and shouldn't be ridiculed for believing what we were taught! Aren't we supposed to trust our leaders?

    Additionally, this hubbub over the rock is only the tip of the "whitewashed history" iceberg, and the main reason that educated Mormons (active and disaffected) are piqued over the issue......what's next? Blaming Mormons who only know ONE of Joseph's many First Vision accounts and believing there is only one because that's what we were always taught (instead of being honest and teaching church members, yes, in church history classes!, that there are upwards of a dozen different accounts from JS of the first vision...none of them recorded until years after the events)? What about all the Mormons who never knew Joseph Smith lied to his dear wife Emma about already practicing polygamy, and hiding it from everyone, including her....will you blame Mormons for not knowing this tidbit, one that shines a harsh light on Joseph's character? Will you blame Mormons also for believing (just as I did until I dared to research in non church approved literature, because I couldn't get a straight story from my church leaders!) that the priesthood ban of African Americans came from God? Because of the supposed curse? Only to now find out that the church has admitted publicly (via the essays on lds,org) that it wasn't doctrine, there was no curse, the leaders were just products of their time and were racist.

    What does this kind of history revision do to folks who have been taught all their lives that the church wouldn't be led astray...that the prophets talk to God? What I was taught in church in the sixties and seventies regarding church history (yes, the church actually DOES and DID teach church history, regardless of what you claim) about racism, polygamy, first visions, the rock and hat, the Book ofAbraham, Joseph's murder (and the reasons for it), have all now been "debunked", and because of the availability of info on the Internet, the church must come clean with the real truth.

    And yet, who is "blamed" if they don't buy the latest version of church history? Yep, as shown in this blog post, church members who can't abandon their critical thinking skills, and sadly, begin to smell a rat when there is whitewashing upon whitewashing.

    All of the things the church is now admitting to are the very things that some Mormons have, in the past, been excommunicated for bringing up! Something's pretty fishy in Zion...

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    1. VERY well said Jana!
      I can appreciate the young, naive "dude"s passion in defending his church but find it amusing that he doesn't understand the consequences of doing one's own research and learning. ALL information that is contrary to the bretheren's message somehow becomes "anti". That anti-information will get you tossed from the church.
      And to say that information has always been there for anyone to see is disingenuous.

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    2. Wow! Thanks for leaving a well-thought-out comment. I'll try to address all of your concerns that I can.

      First of all, the Church not only mentioned the stone(s) in "the Friend" but there are also references to it in BYU publications and Richard Lloyd Anderson's article "By the Gift and Power of God" published in the Ensign in 1977. The Church published several articles about the various First Vision accounts in the Ensign. One came out in January 1985 and another in January 1986. The different accounts are all available now on LDS.org to read in full.

      I have to take issue with anyone saying Church members had to be blindsided by these problems when a visit to the library or a website could have helped them educate themselves on the issues. The Church does not forbid anyone from reading history outside of Church-published sources but simply cautions its members not to let these issues destroy their faith. I do not disagree that the priesthood ban was completely racist and I am very glad people like Bruce R. McConkie had to eat their words once the ban was lifted. But even back then there were those in the Twelve who did not regard the ban as doctrine but rather as policy, which in hindsight it was.

      While Church curriculum does omit important things, most of that is because they are trying to teach doctrines rather than history. The Church has now begun moving toward great transparency, and that is wonderful. Let's not get mad at the Church for telling us about these things now because we didn't know them before, and let's not victimize those who could have taken initiative to investigate issues outside of Church. Even if you believe the Church is false and corrupt, we should all be investigating our faith more actively than we now are. I wish everyone in the Church would study history rigorously and apply critical thinking to help build the kingdom of God.

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  25. There are specific lessons in primary books titled Joseph Smith Translated the Book of Mormon. Multiple lessons in primary focusing on the actual translation. And you are going to say the church doesn't need to teach history when whole lessons are devoted to the very subject? Doesn't fly with me at all. If we can teach that Joseph used the urim and thummin then we can add he also used a seerstone that he put in a hat. Be honest, be forthcoming, teach whole truths. And update the gospel art kit for heavens sake!

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  26. Austin is that how you live your life going around blaming the victims?

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