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Daniel Peterson

Are All Truths Equally Useful For Everything?

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I am not trying to convince you that you are right or wrong. I understand the issues of the spirit and all that. I have been a faithful member all my life. So let me ask you, can the spirit testify of truth even if all the fact are known or do certain facts get in the way?

Facts only get in the way when you allow them to get in the way.

Any individual in history who has claimed to have a prophetic or spiritual calling has also demonstrated behaviors that have been "questionable". If you want to dismiss them as prophets, all you need to do is to give foundational precedence to those "questionable" behaviors.

Of course, such a course of action is highly subjective in nature. But it is done all the time.

Critics of the Church concentrate on behaviors in Joseph they claim are questionable. Faithful members of the Church concentrate on behaviors in Joseph that are good. The only difference between the two groups is the presence in faithful members of the witness of the Spirit that Joseph was a prophet.

That difference is foundational and and has a significant bearing on the discussion of the prophet and the acceptance of his calling.

There is no question that faithful members of the Church let that witness of the Spirit guide them in their perception of the character of the prophet. There is also no question that critics of the Church let other perspectives - the demonstrably fallible perspectives of men - guide them in their perception of the character of the prophet.

Which foundational perspective - from God or from man - has the potential to be most reliable? For those of us who have the very real perspective of the Spirit, the choice is obvious.

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Jwhitlock

I understand that all information is subjective both good and bad. My point is that at least in its missionary lessons, seminary, institute and SS school coursed anything that could be construed to be negative is left out. I am all for sharing as much info as possible in a healthy and respectful way and then letting people decide, pray and be influenced by the spirit in whatever way they may be.

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I understand that all information is subjective both good and bad. My point is that at least in its missionary lessons, seminary, institute and SS school coursed anything that could be construed to be negative is left out. I am all for sharing as much info as possible in a healthy and respectful way and then letting people decide, pray and be influenced by the spirit in whatever way they may be.

As much information as possible?

How much should be shared? What should be shared? What would be applicable or of concern to everyone? Who makes that decision? How much are we responsible for our own gospel study? How long should the missionary discussions take? Should it be the same for everyone? Should there be a comprehensive test on gospel understanding before someone is baptized so that they can't come back later and say they were "deceived"?

Who makes all of these determinations?

My point is that the foundational witness of the Spirit and its ongoing nurturing is what the mission of the Church is all about. The Church is not responsible for providing a "balanced" view of Church history. Since the definition of "balanced" is extremely subjective, there is no possible way that the Church could ever do so. It is entirely up to the individual to pursue his / her own course of gospel study.

I do not have to limit my study to what the Church provides. I have never been counseled to do so. In fact, I have been counseled to not limit my study to just what I learn in Sunday School or any of the other organized venues available to the average member of the Church.

What the Church does provide is a place where I can go and hopefully get nurtured by the Spirit through the basic study of the scriptures that is provided there. I can then go out and study history or people on my own (if I so desire) and gain a better understanding of those things. I can also go and study what anti-Mormons put out (if I so desire) and understand the very unhealthy perspective of where they're coming from.

The Church as an official organization purports to be nothing more or less than the vehicle to help people be strengthened through the Spirit. Understanding of other aspects of the gospel, both doctrinal and historical, is very much an individual undertaking.

That point has been made very specifically and clearly over time on this board. I don't know how to be any clearer than that. The Church has a particular defined structure in which it operates. I don't see that as changing, because there is no real need to change. I can go and learn anything I want on my own.

I'll emphasize this again. The Church's only responsibility for teaching is to strengthen us in the Spirit so we can better go forth and progress in whatever individual ways we deem appropriate. Its curriculum is geared towards doing that very thing. I suggest that when we are armed with the Spirit and our own agency, the Church has then done its part and it is then up to us to proceed further in our accumulation of knowledge as we see fit.

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Prophets in the Bible have engaged in behavior far more "questionable" than anything Joseph is alleged to have done - and yet they were still prophets, designated as such by the Lord.

Does the fact that Joseph made mistakes have any bearing on his prophetic calling? If so, what kind of "mistakes" would be acceptable and still allow someone to believe in him as a prophet? Is there any objective rationale in making such a distinction concerning those "mistakes", especially if many of Joseph's actions (including polygamy and polyandry) may have been directed by God?

How can we, with the very subjective way we have of looking at historical evidences, understand at all what Joseph Smith is all about - just by looking at history? Very intelligent people who do so come to diametrically opposed conclusions concerning Joseph Smith's prophetic calling.

I agree with what what say, however, the issue to me is that the "questionable" behavior of previous biblical prophets is something we are privy to, and yet because such behavior of Mormon prophets is deemed not faith promoting, there are decisions made to not share the true history. I think it should really be up to us individually how we interpret the truth, whether or not it is something we feel we can still have faith in. The Bible, with such stories, has stood the test of time. Why not allow the same for us?

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Free Agent:

You said:

I agree with what what say, however, the issue to me is that the "questionable" behavior of previous biblical prophets is something we are privy to, and yet because such behavior of Mormon prophets is deemed not faith promoting, there are decisions made to not share the true history. I think it should really be up to us individually how we interpret the truth, whether or not it is something we feel we can still have faith in. The Bible, with such stories, has stood the test of time. Why not allow the same for us?

What we have in the Bible is only a small fraction of what was recorded about the actions of prophets. Most of what was recorded has been lost. We as Latter-day Saints have far more available to us of the recorded journals of early Church leaders. We have much, much more that we have to pick and choose through.

I wouldn't characterize it as a decision not to share the true history. The Church's purpose appears to be more of a desire to share those aspects of Joseph Smith that assist in its mission - which is to spread the gospel and equip its members with the Spirit and scriptures needed by them to come to all truth - on an individual basis.

No one has ever indicated that it is not up to us individually how we approach Church history. In fact, that is the whole point - it is up to us as individuals to be responsible for our own study. The Church provides a particular framework and perspective for the gospel. That framework is meant to be conducive to experiencing the Spirit, based on how well individual teachers and leaders present it.

I listen to General Conference, for instance, for a particular purpose. That purpose does not include looking for a comprehensive seminar on Church historical events. That can be done either individually or in other venues. I listen to General Conference to gain personal, spiritual instruction and insight. I do the same thing in Sunday School. Sometimes that leads to other things that I explore further in my personal reading - depending on what my interests are. But it is not the responsibility of the Church to structure my personal historical study.

There is a limited amount of time available in Church settings to pursue the primary mission of the Church - which is to strengthen us in the Spirit. I have never been counseled to limit the scope of my studies in my own time.

As an aside to biblical study, I think that other churches in their scope of biblical study also pick and choose what aspects of the lives of the prophets and Christ they want to study. They have to, because of the limited amount of time and the amount of material available. I know of an evangelical women's bible study group that spent 6 months on Hebrews and felt they didn't even scratch the surface of what could have been discussed.

Dealing with "questionable" aspects of Church history would take a significant amount of time - even if there was agreement on limiting which aspects would be discussed. Such further digging should be done on an individual or group basis as the desire and need arises.

I see the whole issue of what is being taught vs. what is not being taught is merely an effort to not dilute the time needed to strengthen members in the Spirit.

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Of course not all truth's are useful.

Excellent. Now, if Mocnarf could just be brought to admit that, he might be on the road to recovery.

It's a simple preliminary point, and, I think, a transparently obvious one. But if agreement can't be reached even on it, then there's no point in trying to proceed further.

(Those here who think it's a straw man need to study Socratic style of reasoning found in Plato's dialogues, and the kinds of analogies found not only in Plato but in Aristotle. There is method in my apparent madness, even though I don't claim to pull it off on the level of the great Greek philosophers. [Who does?])

However some truths are.

Obviously.

So the question really becomes are the historical truth's that surround the life of the founding prophet important to know in determining whether his claims were true?

And, obviously, they are.

Is it the task of seminary instructors, or of institute instructors, to act as neutral discussion-group leaders and to put the question up for grabs of whether Joseph's claims were true? That could be discussed, I suppose, but I'm inclined to think that that is not their task.

Does the fact that he used a seer stone in failed treasure digging that was later put in a hat an used to translate the plates have an impact on whether one decides that the Book of Mormon was really from God?

Assuming all those items to be true as stated, it might. Or it might not. This would be a subject for discussion.

Should that discussion be a focus of seminary or institute curriculum? I think a good argument can be made that it should not.

Do the events surrounding polygamy, the early alleged marriage to Fanny Alger and the polyandrous marriages impact how one might view the revelation in D&C 132 as from God or not?

Possibly.

Should discussion of these matters be a focus of seminary or institute curriculum? I think a good argument can be made that it should not.

Does the later editing of previous revelations and the insertion of events that before hand were not in them lend any information that might help one in deciding whether the revelations and facts about the timing of some historical events impact how reliable the whole story really is?

Possibly.

Should discussion of these matters be a focus of seminary or institute curriculum? I think a good argument can be made that it should not.

It seems to me that you are saying that including such information may damage the testimony forming mission the CES is mandated?

It might, obviously.

But can that be good and right?

Given my conviction that the claims of the Church are true, no, damaging testimonies is neither good nor right.

Are you saying that by including these historical issues that those attending CES may not have faith an commitment fostered?

That's obviously possible.

If yes what does that say about the history of the Church?

It says that the history of the Church is not as clear-cut, not as black-and-white, as simple Sunday School portrayals often make it. It does not say that the claims of the Church are false, any more than the fact that American history is more complex and more ambiguous than Fourth of July rhetoric typically recognizes reduces the United States to moral equivalency with Stalin's Russia, Hitler's Germany, or even twentieth-century France.

But the Church is not a floating graduate seminar in Mormon historiography. And the simplistic interpretations of Church history routinely offered up by sloganeering anti-Mormons and ex-Mormons are no more adequate -- and, in my not entirely uninformed opinion, are often considerably less adequate -- than is Sunday School curriculum.

I continue to think of what have been called the "three levels" of Mormon historical understanding, so I repeat what I've said before:

Many years ago, while a graduate student in California, I heard the late Stanley Kimball (an LDS historian -- he actually published on both Mormon and European history -- who taught at Southern Illinois University) speak to a small group about what he termed "the three levels of Mormon history."

He called the first level "Level A." This, he said, was the Junior Sunday School version of Church history, in which Mormons always wear the white hats, nobody disagrees, and all is unambiguously clear.

"Level B," he said, was the anti-Mormon version of Church history -- a kind of mirror image of Level A. On Level B, everything that you thought was good and true is actually false and bad. The Mormons (or, at least, their leaders) always wear black hats, and, to the extent that everything is unambiguously clear, Mormonism is unambiguously fraudulent, bogus, deceptive, and evil.

The Church, he said, tends to teach Level A history. The trouble is that, like someone who has been kept in a germ-free environment and is then exposed to an infectious disease, a person on Level A who is exposed to any of the problems that are the fodder for Level B will have little resistance and will be likely to fall.

The only hope in such a case, he said, is to press on to what he termed "Level C," which is a version of Church history that remains affirmative but takes into account any legitimate points from Level B. Those on Level C are largely impervious to infection from Level B. Level B problems simply don't impress them.

He said that he and his fellow historians operate on Level C, and that, on the whole, that's where he (as a professional historian) would prefer members to be. He was deeply convinced, he said, that Level C was essentially like Level A, except that it is more nuanced and somewhat more ambiguous. (He emphatically denied that Level A is "false," or that the Church was "lying" in teaching it.) He acknowledged, though, that, were he himself a high-ranking Church leader, he would be hesitant to take the membership as a whole to Level C by means of Church curriculum and instruction, for the obvious reason that getting people from Level A to Level C entails at least some exposure to some of the elements of Level B, and that such exposure will unavoidably lead some to lose their testimonies. Still, he felt that those who make it through to Level C are more stable and resilient in their faith than those who remain on Level A.

I agree with him. I thought it a wise and perceptive talk, even though, had I myself given it, I would have spoken in Hegelian terms (of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis) rather than in terms of Levels A, B, and C.

So-called "value-neutral" or "objective" historiography is a recent innovation. A specialist on Islam and a specialist on ancient and medieval China, both of whom happened also to have training in classical Greek, once teamed up to write an article on the topic, applying their knowledge of Greek, Chinese, and Arab/Islamic historical writing to a theoretical discussion of Mormon historical writing. They termed the kind of history that Church curriculum typically teaches "exemplar historiography":

David B. Honey and Daniel C. Peterson. â??Advocacy and Inquiry in the Writing of Latter-day Saint History.â? BYU Studies 31 (Spring 1991): 139-179.

It seems to me that if faith and commitment towards the Church, and we know that the commitment is large and demanding. is to be expected, and appropriate disclosure of the history and what we know about it is only right and fair.

What is "appropriate"? People get doctorates in Mormon history, and they still disagree.

Glen Leonard, Richard Turley, and Ronald Walker are about to publish their first Oxford volume on the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Does anybody seriously believe that they're going to convince Will Bagley that Brigham Young doesn't have blood on his hands? Has Richard Lloyd Anderson convinced Dan Vogel to abandon Vogel's silly notions about the Witnesses? Has Richard Bushman won many militant anti-Mormons back to the Church? These questions will be debated until the End Times.

There is no evidence that the Lord has ever expected people to have graduate-level expertise in theology or history before he asked them to commit. When the Savior called the first disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he said "Come unto me, and I will make you fishers of men." He didn't say "Come unto the registration table and sign up for thirty-six credit hours of preparatory instruction, and then, at that point, consider whether you want to make a preliminary commitment to six-months of discipleship, your money back if you are not fully satisfied." They followed him immediately, and, ultimately, they went to their deaths.

Christianity is not a movement of graduate students. It expects the discipleship of Galilean fishermen, Bolivian peasants, Philippine taxi drivers, Idaho potato farmers, Arizona housewives, and people from every other level of economic status and education.

I think a wholesome level 3 or C needs to be the way to go. It will help protect people from later disillusionment and also give people more information to make a better decision as to what and how they want to commit their lives.

We certainly don't disagree that it would be better if people knew more and better history. I have devoted much of my non-Islamicist life to trying to raise the level of discussion of Mormonism and its claims. It sickens me when I occasionally see people lose their testimonies over historical issues that should not have surprised them and for which, I think, there are entirely adequate answers that are consistent with continued commitment to the Church. I've spoken with Richard Bushman at length, on several occasions, about the intent of his Rough Stone Rolling, and we both believe that faithful but honest discussions of Church history are among the very best ways to innoculate members of the Church against possible disillusionment.

That said, I remain unconvinced that the very limited time devoted to Church history in Sunday School, seminary, and institute classes provides an appropriate venue for discussion of all of the problem issues in our past.

Does Joseph's history, life, character, actions and behavior have any impact on whether we can trust his claims?

Of course they do.

But there will never be a definitive view of his history, life, character, actions, and behavior that will win universal acceptance. Fawn Brodie, Dan Vogel, Richard Bushman, Robert Remini, and many, many others have studied him and come to radically different evaluations. Very many of those who knew him personally venerated and loved him. Some decisively didn't. Accepting or rejecting Joseph will always be a leap of faith.

Dr Peterson you know I respect you immensely. Forgive me if I am wrong. But the OP here as well as others comments seems to say that only the good should be presented when attempting to build testimonies and that difficult and questionable should be left out. How can that be good and right?

I myself would love to see more history taught and understood. I myself don't shy away at all from discussing problem areas. I'm happy to discuss them in Sunday School classes. That's my personal approah. I'm not afraid of them in the slightest. I simply don't believe that it is the duty or responsibility of Church curriculum to pretend to be neutral about Joseph Smith's claims.[

And I certainly laud all these effort. When will these find their way to the average member , seminary or institute student or investigator? Or are these things not useful in developing faith and commitment? This is an honest question.

I think they'll be quite useful.

The Church museum and historical collections, the forthcoming Oxford books on Mountain Meadows, the massive Joseph Smith Papers project, and the thousands of works published by professional Mormon historians on the history of the Church will find their way to the average member, seminary student, institute student, or investigator when the average investigator, institute student, seminary student, or member decides to look at some of those thousands of works, search through the Joseph Smith Papers, read the volumes on Mountain Meadows, enter the new Historical Department building, or visit the Church museum. These things are publicly available. Entry to the museum is free. Entry to the history building will be free. The other materials are or will be accessible in print. Many are on line. They are a vast resource, and they are sadly neglected.

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Mocnarf seems to believe that all things that are true are very useful.

Is this the case?

I would have to say yes in that the answer to every question that someone asks is useful at least to that person.

Are all truths equally useful for all things? Are all truths equally important?

It seems that this idea is obviously false.

Agreed but with the above qualification. People are diverse and what matters more to one person, may matter less to someone else.

In the gospel context, one might argue (correctly) that all the doctrines and ordinances are equally useful to the salvation of mankind for every man and woman, but you also have to factor in that we all have diverse weaknesses and strengths (Ether 12:27 etc.).

So what may cause someone major problems as to belief or sin may be easy as pie for someone else to accept or do.

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No one has ever indicated that it is not up to us individually how we approach Church history. In fact, that is the whole point - it is up to us as individuals to be responsible for our own study. The Church provides a particular framework and perspective for the gospel. That framework is meant to be conducive to experiencing the Spirit, based on how well individual teachers and leaders present it.

I listen to General Conference, for instance, for a particular purpose. That purpose does not include looking for a comprehensive seminar on Church historical events. That can be done either individually or in other venues. I listen to General Conference to gain personal, spiritual instruction and insight. I do the same thing in Sunday School. Sometimes that leads to other things that I explore further in my personal reading - depending on what my interests are. But it is not the responsibility of the Church to structure my personal historical study.

I certainly appreciate your answer and your perspective. I see that it makes sense to you and works for you. I agree there is only so much time to focus on good, uplifting things during our 3 hour block. However, if we choose to study on our own outside of Church, so many of the sources that we would automatically turn would be Church published, i.e. RS/Priesthood manual, Ensign, Church websites. Unless we branch out to include other sources, we might not find out about the so called "questionable" even though we are taking it upon ourselves to study. I was just very disheartened this year when the new manual came out studying Joseph Smith and the opportunity to share just a small bit of historical issues that many members are having trouble with was lost. I would have liked to see an acknowledgement that these are things members are grappling with, things investigators may question us on, and that the Church chose to devote 1 of the 40 odd lessons to it.

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Dr Peterson, I agree with you that if would be great if we could teach the "C" type of history to members. However, not only does the Church not teach it, they don't even acknowledge to the average member that if one would wish to pursue individuallymore troubling aspects of our history then these would be good sources to turn to. You cite some of the sources, in addition to the museums and the new Historical Department. Not everyone has a chance to get to Utah, so that is not valid for the majority, and without some guidance it would be quite possible that the average member could read thousands of books, articles, lessons, etc and still not be face with the type of things that you agree people should be innoculated with.

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Here's the problem. The Church decides not only what truths are useful, it determines what questions are worth asking. If the question is "was Joseph Smith a prophet?" of course Smith's polyandry and fraud conviction and failed attempts at treasure hunting and failed prophecies and incorrect "divine" translations are useful facts to know.

But the Church has decided that whether Smith was a prophet is not a legitimate question--it has decided for its members and investigators that Smith was a prophet. Any fact suggesting Smith was not a prophet is not useful, as it contradicts known "truth."

That's an extraordinarily convenient excuse for the Church to disavow or distort its true history, and it's awfully arrogant for the Church to have determined for me, as I grew up, what questions I should bother asking. And I realize that other religions may be and probably are similar in this respect, and they are similarly wrong.

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Here's the problem. The Church decides not only what truths are useful, it determines what questions are worth asking. If the question is "was Joseph Smith a prophet?" of course Smith's polyandry and fraud conviction and failed attempts at treasure hunting and failed prophecies and incorrect "divine" translations are useful facts to know.

But the Church has decided that whether Smith was a prophet is not a legitimate question--it has decided for its members and investigators that Smith was a prophet. Any fact suggesting Smith was not a prophet is not useful, as it contradicts known "truth."

That's an extraordinarily convenient excuse for the Church to disavow or distort its true history, and it's awfully arrogant for the Church to have determined for me, as I grew up, what questions I should bother asking. And I realize that other religions may be and probably are similar in this respect, and they are similarly wrong.

CFR, RDL.

We see the spittle on the screen, we hear the foaming at the mouth, but you've offered NO evidence that any of the following is true:

1) The Church decides what truths are useful.

2) The Church determines what questions are worth asking.

3) The Church has decided that whether Smith was a prophet is not a legitimate question.

4) The Church has determined that any fact suggesting Smith was not a prophet is not useful, as it contradicts known "truth."

5) That the Church has decided for its members and investigators that Smith was a prophet.

6) That the Church has disavowed or distorted its true history,

7) That the Church determined for which questions you should bother asking.

As a corollary:

What fraud conviction?

What failed prophecies?

What incorrect "divine" translations?

There's a lot of assertion in your rant, but "facts" are few and far between.

You're done here.

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RDL:

It is your erroneous interpretation of how JS practiced polyandry that I question.

"Fraud Conviction" CFR

"Failed Prophecies" CFR

"incorrect "divine" translations" CFR

I don't know what church you grew up in. But mine has always asked me to check out with God if JS is a Prophet of God.

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â?¦ Here's the problem. The Church decides not only what truths are useful, it determines what questions are worth asking.
â?¦ [T]he Church has decided that whether Smith was a prophet is not a legitimate question--it has decided for its members and investigators that Smith was a prophet.

And of course, we all know that when â??The Churchâ? speaks, the thinking has been done! (You, too, will be assimilated! ;) Itâ??s only a matter of time, and resistance really is futile! :P)

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Here's the problem. The Church decides not only what truths are useful, it determines what questions are worth asking. If the question is "was Joseph Smith a prophet?" of course Smith's polyandry and fraud conviction and failed attempts at treasure hunting and failed prophecies and incorrect "divine" translations are useful facts to know.

But the Church has decided that whether Smith was a prophet is not a legitimate question--it has decided for its members and investigators that Smith was a prophet. Any fact suggesting Smith was not a prophet is not useful, as it contradicts known "truth."

That's an extraordinarily convenient excuse for the Church to disavow or distort its true history, and it's awfully arrogant for the Church to have determined for me, as I grew up, what questions I should bother asking. And I realize that other religions may be and probably are similar in this respect, and they are similarly wrong.

This is so foreign to my experience in the Church I really don't know what to say.

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This is so foreign to my experience in the Church I really don't know what to say.

Some hold out longer than others, but your assimilation too, Blair, is inevitable! Your assimilation, too, is inevitable.

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Some hold out longer than others, but your assimilation too, Blair, is inevitable! Your assimilation, too, is inevitable.

tinfoil-hat.jpg

I'm well protected.

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Dr Peterson, I agree with you that if would be great if we could teach the "C" type of history to members. However, not only does the Church not teach it, they don't even acknowledge to the average member that if one would wish to pursue individuallymore troubling aspects of our history then these would be good sources to turn to.

I don't see the Church as responsible for generating bibliographies. As it is, though, the Church supports three universities with history faculties, a historical museum, an extensive system of archives, and a professional Church historical department. BYU publishes BYU Studies, and Church-owned Deseret Book publishes biographies and histories -- not as many as I would like, certainly, but more than a few. (They would publish more if such books sold better.) The Church has been openly supportive of the Mormon History Association, which publishes the Journal of Mormon History. BYU professors have even headed up the predominantly-RLDS John Whitmer Historical Association, which publishes its own journal. There is the Mormon Historical Quarterly -- I subscribe; does anybody else here subscribe? -- and the Utah Historical Society, which publishes the Utah Historical Quarterly (is anybody here a member? I am).

You cite some of the sources, in addition to the museums and the new Historical Department. Not everyone has a chance to get to Utah, so that is not valid for the majority,

But the books and journals and on-line resources are available essentially without regard for geography.

and without some guidance it would be quite possible that the average member could read thousands of books, articles, lessons, etc and still not be face with the type of things that you agree people should be innoculated with.

I suppose that's possible, but it seems unlikely. How did I become aware of those things. Was it simply rare good fortune?

Here's the problem. The Church decides not only what truths are useful, it determines what questions are worth asking.

That's rather the point of a curriculum, isn't it?

Every teacher does that. When I teach Islamic Humanities, for example, I decide which examples of art and architecture to talk about, which literature to read, which music to concentrate on. There are literally tens of thousands of literary texts, mosques, palaces, mausoleums, miniature paintings, poems, songs, etc., from which to choose.

As I've said before, one chooses, necessarily. And one chooses, it is to be hoped, with reference to a goal.

If the question is "was Joseph Smith a prophet?" of course Smith's polyandry and fraud conviction and failed attempts at treasure hunting and failed prophecies and incorrect "divine" translations are useful facts to know.

Whether or not those assertions are indeed "facts" is useful to know if one is considering the question of whether or not Joseph Smith was a prophet.

And that's an entirely legitimate question in some contexts. I'm more than happy to address it, and do so regularly.

But should the curriculum of the Church treat that question as an open one on which the Church is neutral? I don't see any reason why it should.

But the Church has decided that whether Smith was a prophet is not a legitimate question--it has decided for its members and investigators that Smith was a prophet. Any fact suggesting Smith was not a prophet is not useful, as it contradicts known "truth."

Yes and no.

Again, do you think that the Church is obliged to treat the prophethood of Joseph Smith as an open question, and to assume a neutral stance toward the matter?

I don't.

I also see no reason for the Catholic Church to be neutral about its claims, for the Democratic Party to be neutral about whether voters should choose Democrats or Republicans, for Ford Motor Company to be indifferent as to whether buyers should prefer Toyotas, or for the Sierra Club to be neutral regarding the value of environmental protection.

That's an extraordinarily convenient excuse for the Church to disavow or distort its true history,

But has it actually done that?

I see very little evidence for the idea -- particularly when compared to the fierceness of the dogmatic certainty with which certain critics and ex-Mormons assert that it has.

and it's awfully arrogant for the Church to have determined for me, as I grew up, what questions I should bother asking.

Did the Church really tell you that you should never ask whether or not Joseph Smith was a prophet? If so, you grew up in a radically different Mormonism than I've ever known.

Did it really control your mind such that you were unable to think or read?

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There is the Mormon Historical Quarterly -- I subscribe; does anybody else here subscribe? -- and the Utah Historical Society, which publishes the Utah Historical Quarterly (is anybody here a member? I am).

I haven't heard of the MHQ. Where is it? (BYU Studies and FARMS are the only two I've talked the budget master into allowing thus far).

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But the books and journals and on-line resources are available essentially without regard for geography.

Yes, but in order for someone to access those, they need to know they exist. I just did a Google on Mormon history and the first 5 sites that come up are either anti or non LDS. None of the ones you reference come up. So many people don't even realize there is a history in which to delve into or if they do study our history they don't come across the difficult issues. Mormon history is much richer than just the controversial things we discuss.

I suppose that's possible, but it seems unlikely. How did I become aware of those things. Was it simply rare good fortune?

I'm not sure how you became aware of the things you did. Honestly, a lot of people don't know about them. All it took for you to "light your fire" and make you aware could have been one certain teacher, or a grandparent or your own Mormon background. Many, many folks don't have that one tipping point that leads them to really study all the facts out there. That was me. I thought I had studied. I read all sorts of Deseret Book publications, but not on history or polygamy, etc. Other things interested me. However, if I had been aware that there was a "C" history, such as you refer to, and all it would have taken for me to know that was somebody or the Church telling me that, believe me, I would have ordered one of those books to see what was going on. I know you find that hard to believe, but in the midst of being a wife and mother and an active church member, you know as well as I do that life sometimes doesn't afford us the time we would like to perhaps read more than just our 15 minutes a day of scripture and an article in the Ensign. So, I don't find it strange that it took me so long to find out about the "C" history.

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Yes, but in order for someone to access those, they need to know they exist.

It's not impossible to learn such things.

Is it the responsibility of the Church to advertise scholarly meetings, launch membership drives for state historical socieities, or peddle non-Church magazines? I just don't think it is. And I don't think that the Church should engage in such matters.

I just did a Google on Mormon history and the first 5 sites that come up are either anti or non LDS. None of the ones you reference come up.

Google isn't the be-all and end-all, I'm afraid.

So many people don't even realize there is a history in which to delve into or if they do study our history they don't come across the difficult issues.

Mormon History Association meetings are often reported in Utah papers. Libraries have lots of books. Deseret bookstores and the BYU bookstore sell lots of books, and these books often feature bibliographies. Once one gets started, it's not that hard to keep going.

Mormon history is much richer than just the controversial things we discuss.

Very true, and important to realize.

I'm not sure how you became aware of the things you did. Honestly, a lot of people don't know about them. All it took for you to "light your fire" and make you aware could have been one certain teacher, or a grandparent or your own Mormon background.

Millions share my Mormon background.

I was interested. That's what started it.

The Church can't force its members to be interested. It can build museums and history builidings and all the rest, but it can't compel them to come or to read.

in the midst of being a wife and mother and an active church member, you know as well as I do that life sometimes doesn't afford us the time we would like to perhaps read more than just our 15 minutes a day of scripture and an article in the Ensign. So, I don't find it strange that it took me so long to find out about the "C" history.

I agree that it's a challenge. But the time constraints on young mothers, and so forth, are, obviously, not the Church's fault.

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and it's awfully arrogant for the Church to have determined for me, as I grew up, what questions I should bother asking.

Let's take a little responsibility for our own actions. If you didn't ask questions, you can hardly blame the church for that.

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