The Wandering Mind

Dealing With Controversial Church History

Posted in Mormonism by wandren on 6 September 2007

This post contains excerpts pasted from Mormons Talk in which a question was asked as to whether or not the LDS Church should openly and honestly address some of the uglier points in its history. My thoughts on the subject are posted in this article’s first comment.

At the latest Sunstone Symposia there was a panel of LDS apologists talking about the idea of exposing members to hard facts in LDS history. Most stated that Sunday school would not be the appropriate place for such discussions. One suggested that an institute class be established for open discussion of difficult issues. Still another stated that we should slowly inform members when appropriate during lessons.

Members of the LDS Church should be able to defend their beliefs. If they are not aware of what was taught or practiced in the past, they may be taken off guard when confronted by anti-LDS information. I believe it is essential that members young and old be given the whole story. That they be allowed to wrestle with the facts. If they do not their expectations of the Church remain sky high. When they find out the Church is no different from others (i.e. it lead by imperfect men that make mistakes) their expectations fail to be met and their testimonies crash. A lifetime of trust between the Church and member will be compromised. If they are able to climb free of the wreckage, they must slowly rebuild their testimony from the ground up, reevaluating their expectations of what a Church led by God would look like.

The LDS Church needs to provide a place to facilitate discussion and to allow members struggling with their testimony the opportunity to work it out in a safe environment. If it fails to do this the only recourse of a questioning member is to go online where anti-Mormon sites out number apologetic sites 10 to 1 (not an actual figure, but I propose it is close). The information on many of these sites is faulty and biased, but without good alternatives members are left little other option.


3 Responses to 'Dealing With Controversial Church History'

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  1. wandren said,

    We are all human. We are all here to learn; we learn by making mistakes. If we did not make mistakes, there would be nothing for us to learn, and we wouldn’t be here, in this existence.

    Organizations are comprised of individual humans, so organizations are subject to the same dispositions and qualities as their individual members.

    Biblical prophets did not possess God’s full enlightenment. Biblical prophets neither lived pure lives, nor remain in God’s favor for their entire lives. The human condition has not changed.

    Prophets of the Restored Gospel, though wiser and closer to the Lord than many Church members, are also subject to the dispositions and qualities of the human experience.

    I really wish The Church would just admit that it learns and evolves over time, rather than glossing-over its history. The mistakes it (and its prophets) has made were positive because they made The Church better and stronger.


  2. wandren said,

    Mistakes in scriptural interpretation have also occurred historically, and that has not changed, either. Our understanding (read interpretation) of scriptures changes over time as our collective intelligence grows.

    The Church does tell us that our purpose here is to become god-like, does it not? Which means that no church or religion or theology should adhere to its interpretations so tightly that it cannot grow and become more enlightened.

    What I love about the LDS Church, is that it is, in theory, a living, growing (read evolving – changing) church. What I dislike about the LDS Church, is that while its human leaders recognize the problems of human interpretation, they refuse to admit that they are fallible themselves, then try (unsuccessfully) to hide their mistakes. Church leaders do a disservice to the Lord’s Church by distorting the truth (read lying – breaking one of the ten commandments).

  3. wandren said,

    Yes, Joseph Smith’s versions of his First Vision changed in time… So what?? It doesn’t change the fact that he was God’s instrument in restoring The Gospel.

    (Do I believe that the LDS church is the only one in possession of God’s Truth? No. But I do believe that the current LDS Church is, as evidenced by its fruit, the one with the best understanding of Jesus and his ministry of love and service. I came to the LDS Church for many reasons, among them disgust with the pedestal that mainstream Christianity has put itself on, spewing forth condemnation, and living in contradiction with the faith they claim to have.)

    Humans are incapable of fully comprehending Gods plan, His words, His reasons, or His science. When humans receive divine inspiration, whether as a common Church member or as The Church’s prophet, this information has to go through a filter in which the receiver interprets the information based on what s/he is familiar with. The interpreted information therefore, has been formulated into something that fits within the human construct.

    Although many Church leaders may have a better understanding of God’s Word than most people, they must take the inspiration they received from God (as they understood it), and further modify it to fit within the framework that most members understand and are comfortable with.

    Some members have feeble minds and, if faced with the truth, might crumble, so I understand why The Church struggles with this issue. I wonder though, if these feeble minds are a product of The Church’s practice of revising history and “protecting” its members from truth. If members had been taught all along, that mistakes are OK because we learn from them, I think the membership would be stronger.

    I am absolutely certain that the higher-up Church leaders are in possession of revelation that the majority of Church members are not ready to hear, and that The Church can help prepare the membership for that revelation by coming clean about its history.

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