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cdowis

Church whitewashing and hiding history

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RESPONSE

Elder Russell Ballard gave a talk to CES employees. We call this a watershed talk because in this talk he admits that the well-meaning curriculum of the past did not meet the needs of what our youth today need. There needs to be more transparency about our past, so the Brethren are making efforts to change what maybe past leaders thought was important.

They have made documents available on the Joseph Smith Papers project, the Mountain Meadows Massacre project was very transparent about what happened in an unfortunate incident. Then they brought forth the Gospel Topics Essays, where they talk about these hot button topics. They are making strides even incorporating these Gospel Topics Essays into our curriculum. So yes, perhaps they should have done more, earlier, but they’re doing the best they can right now to bring that information out.

http://www.ldsperspectives.com/2017/05/24/polygamy-questions-joseph-smith/

(copied from post on youtube forum)

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This is definitely wise and something I've been advocating for years. I just wish it had been started a decade or two earlier.

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I am glad to see the church moving in this direction.  Openness and transparency are good practices.

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Being open about Mormon history is bowing to the inevitable. Mormonism is a religion that began in the age of newspapers; its period of oral tradition consisted of the time it took for Joseph Smith's scribes to write down what he said. So although Mormonism has less history than older faiths, much more of its early history is accessible today. Older religions probably did plenty of whitewashing in their day as well. They've simply gotten away with it, and no-one will ever find the buried bodies now, after all this time. For anyone interested in the history of Mormonism, however, a lot of the truth is still out there.

If the Church is now bowing to the inevitable, it is at least bowing gracefully. Its various openness projects are not hurried, but they do get finished. The Church's writers do their best to put things in a favorable light—"several months before her 15th birthday" comes to mind—but one could hardly expect otherwise. My impression is that the official LDS publications do a pretty good job of defending the Church and its founders without stooping to the kinds of argument that give apologetics a bad name.

Will the tactic of taking all bulls by horns end up working, as a proactive defence of the Church? Or are the facts just too damaging, no matter how one positions them? I think that's a real question whose answer likely won't be clear for a generation. In remarks like the one by Mitt Romney, that when he grew up Joseph Smith only had one wife, I hear chagrin, but acceptance. How younger people will take this kind of thing still remains to be seen.

The quotation is attributed to President Reuben Clark: If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed. That seems to be the current principle, wherever it will lead. You have to give the LDS leaders credit for courage.

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Things are changing at the local level too. I was in ward council last week and the bishopric member gave a really good thought on doctrines vs. policies. He concluded by saying that generally doctrines don't change. The RS president pipped in to say that "sometimes they do." Everyone nodded and we moved on to the meeting agenda. The times are a changin'.

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1 hour ago, Buckeye said:

Things are changing at the local level too. I was in ward council last week and the bishopric member gave a really good thought on doctrines vs. policies. He concluded by saying that generally doctrines don't change. The RS president pipped in to say that "sometimes they do." Everyone nodded and we moved on to the meeting agenda. The times are a changin'.

Can she give a specific example where a doctrine was changed?  She is confused.

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I'm just reiterating stuff I've said for a long time, but --

The Church has a revelatory mandate to preserve a faithful history, but not one to publish one.  Keeping journals, clippings is relatively easy.   Locating and interpreting journals is far different.   What happens if there are three journals reporting on one event, and the Church only has two and thinks there are only two?  When the third journal later surfaces and paints a completely different picture of the meeting, so what?  (The Nauvoo transition meeting and the King Follett Sermon meeting are examples.) 

One might think the Church is filled with professional authors to publish about its history.  That just isn't the case.   When Leonard Arrington took over, there was no real writer of history employed by the church.  When he published his first book as church historian, he took some heat from church officials because archiving was his job, not publishing.  Even then, Arrington's books were not easy; it just wasn't the case that the archives were fully indexed and organized so that a professional history writer could have an easy time with it.

Earlier attempts of an institution to publish its history in a favorable light, deleting troublesome material, was completely consistent with history writing of the day.  Gibbon's Rise and Fall was somewhat of a ground-breaker, but even he couldn't help repeatedly sermonizing about morality and Christianity.  Bancroft, when he wrote his history of Utah, supposedly refused to refer to unfavorable history about the Church because he was gratified that the Church opened its archives to his researchers.  And so it goes on.

Edited by Bob Crockett

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10 hours ago, Physics Guy said:

Being open about Mormon history is bowing to the inevitable. Mormonism is a religion that began in the age of newspapers; its period of oral tradition consisted of the time it took for Joseph Smith's scribes to write down what he said. So although Mormonism has less history than older faiths, much more of its early history is accessible today. Older religions probably did plenty of whitewashing in their day as well. They've simply gotten away with it, and no-one will ever find the buried bodies now, after all this time. For anyone interested in the history of Mormonism, however, a lot of the truth is still out there.

If the Church is now bowing to the inevitable, it is at least bowing gracefully. Its various openness projects are not hurried, but they do get finished. The Church's writers do their best to put things in a favorable light—"several months before her 15th birthday" comes to mind—but one could hardly expect otherwise. My impression is that the official LDS publications do a pretty good job of defending the Church and its founders without stooping to the kinds of argument that give apologetics a bad name.

Will the tactic of taking all bulls by horns end up working, as a proactive defence of the Church? Or are the facts just too damaging, no matter how one positions them? I think that's a real question whose answer likely won't be clear for a generation. In remarks like the one by Mitt Romney, that when he grew up Joseph Smith only had one wife, I hear chagrin, but acceptance. How younger people will take this kind of thing still remains to be seen.

The quotation is attributed to President Reuben Clark: If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed. That seems to be the current principle, wherever it will lead. You have to give the LDS leaders credit for courage.

During JS lifetime marriage to 14 year old girls was legal. It really wasn't until the Victorian Era that it started to become illegal. Anyone who has read the Bible knows about polygamy, and the LDS have long had D&C 132. That doesn't mean I want to see a return to them by the Church. Just that by a little bit of reading members and critics alike have no excuse for not knowing.

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It would also have been legal for Joseph Smith to have owned slaves, just as ancient Biblical patriarchs did. The facts that slavery would have been legal for Smith, and that it was approved in the Bible, have never led anyone to imagine, as far as I know, that Joseph Smith actually had slaves. In the same way, the legality of marrying 14-year-olds, and ancient Biblical polygamy,, are hardly enough to make people expect that Joseph Smith did those things himself. The fact that he did is pretty shocking, regardless of 1840 legality or Old Testament precedent.

How explicit is Doctrine and Covenants 132 about Joseph Smith himself marrying multiple women?

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49 minutes ago, Physics Guy said:

It would also have been legal for Joseph Smith to have owned slaves, just as ancient Biblical patriarchs did. The facts that slavery would have been legal for Smith, and that it was approved in the Bible, have never led anyone to imagine, as far as I know, that Joseph Smith actually had slaves. In the same way, the legality of marrying 14-year-olds, and ancient Biblical polygamy,, are hardly enough to make people expect that Joseph Smith did those things himself. The fact that he did is pretty shocking, regardless of 1840 legality or Old Testament precedent.

How explicit is Doctrine and Covenants 132 about Joseph Smith himself marrying multiple women?

Go to LDS.org "Scriptures" and look it up yourself

 

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3 hours ago, Bob Crockett said:

I'm just reiterating stuff I've said for a long time, but --

The Church has a revelatory mandate to preserve a faithful history, but not one to publish one.  Keeping journals, clippings is relatively easy.   Locating and interpreting journals is far different.   What happens if there are three journals reporting on one event, and the Church only has two and thinks there are only two?  When the third journal later surfaces and paints a completely different picture of the meeting, so what?  (The Nauvoo transition meeting and the King Follett Sermon meeting are examples.) 

One might think the Church is filled with professional authors to publish about its history.  That just isn't the case.   When Leonard Arrington took over, there was no real writer of history employed by the church.  When he published his first book as church historian, he took some heat from church officials because archiving was his job, not publishing.  Even then, Arrington's books were not easy; it just wasn't the case that the archives were fully indexed and organized so that a professional history writer could have an easy time with it.

Earlier attempts of an institution to publish its history in a favorable light, deleting troublesome material, was completely consistent with history writing of the day.  Gibbon's Rise and Fall was somewhat of a ground-breaker, but even he couldn't help repeatedly sermonizing about morality and Christianity.  Bancroft, when he wrote his history of Utah, supposedly refused to refer to unfavorable history about the Church because he was gratified that the Church opened its archives to his researchers.  And so it goes on.

Which is why I sometimes refer to history as "His-story".

Totally objective history is not possible.    Even if we went back in time machines, we might agree on major facts of events, but questions of motivation, the causes and psychology of the actions taken would still remain just as much subject to interpretation.  One cannot erase the human element.

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1 hour ago, Physics Guy said:

How explicit is Doctrine and Covenants 132 about Joseph Smith himself marrying multiple women?

As one scholar pointed out, section 132 was explicitly addressed to Emma, not to JS or the church in general.  Also it was published without his editorial changes, as was in the other revelations.  It is based on the assumption that he is practicing polygamy and addressing the Law of Sarah with Emma.

 

Edited by cdowis

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7 hours ago, Physics Guy said:

It would also have been legal for Joseph Smith to have owned slaves, just as ancient Biblical patriarchs did. The facts that slavery would have been legal for Smith, and that it was approved in the Bible, have never led anyone to imagine, as far as I know, that Joseph Smith actually had slaves. In the same way, the legality of marrying 14-year-olds, and ancient Biblical polygamy,, are hardly enough to make people expect that Joseph Smith did those things himself. The fact that he did is pretty shocking, regardless of 1840 legality or Old Testament precedent.

How explicit is Doctrine and Covenants 132 about Joseph Smith himself marrying multiple women?

Agreed as to slavery.

Polygamy has a much more convoluted history. Martin Luther allowed for it, while wanting it kept  secret. There are Christian Sects even today that allow it. I would say that in a modern Western culture it is frowned upon, and largely illegal to the state. Public acceptance of Extramarital Affairs waxes and wanes, however.

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Over and over all of you on here that had problems with people like me for apparently not knowing my church history...there is a reason.

Hopefully, I don't ever read on this board how some in the church never read enough church history books because it was all in them. I guess you were wrong...everything but polygamy might have been.

Since according to this podcast...Leonard J. Arrington, a church historian, was told by the brethren, to skip putting anything to do with polygamy, in his book.

Bravo to Daniel Petersen and the Hales for their honesty in reporting this. I'd say it to the church leaders too, but it's too painful yet...or maybe just to Pres. Uchtdorf, since his relative by marriage is Michael Ash...I bet it made a difference for his comment that everything, or nearly everything is to be made available and transparent in church  history. He knows it's a losing battle with the internet to keep it from the members, especially the youth.

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Never mind

Edited by Calm

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6 hours ago, thesometimesaint said:

Martin Luther allowed for it, while wanting it kept  secret.

Luther did indeed allow bigamy as a potential exception, in cases of necessity, to the general law of monogamy. His ideas of necessity included things like having a wife contract leprosy; but he did also concede that Philip of Hesse might bigamously marry his mistress just because he was otherwise unable to control himself. Luther's wingman Philip Melancthon also suggested that Henry VIII resort to bigamy, rather than divorce, under the royal necessity of producing a male heir. Neither Luther nor Melancthon was in favor of polygamy as a good thing for everyone. They were only willing to allow it as an exceptional dispensation in special circumstances—and that's not just my spin on what they said: it's what they wrote quite explicitly. 

And it was a great scandal ever afterwards that Luther went as far as he did. His Catholic opponents made masses of hay out of Luther's concession to Philip, and Luther's followers have spent the past nearly five hundred years trying to live it down.

I'm trying to stay on the narrow point of whitewashing, and on whether it is reasonable for people to be surprised by Joseph Smith's own polygamy. Regardless of whether polygamy is actually good or bad, then, my point is that there is no way anyone should have been thinking all along about Joseph Smith that he might well have had multiple wives because that was a Lutheran thing. People could know Luther forwards and backwards and still be shocked that Joseph Smith had so many wives.

Edited by Physics Guy

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I did look up Doctrines and Covenants 132. It doesn't actually seem to me so explicit that Smith himself was marrying multiple women.

It starts off with two verses about patriarchal polygamy, but then goes on for 31 long verses to talk about eternal marriage without mentioning how many wives might be involved. It comes back to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David as exalted patriarchs, and then speaks in general terms about Smith's office as prophet.

Finally in verse 52 it commands Emma Smith to "receive all those that have been given" to Joseph. You only have to read between the lines a tiny bit to see that this means accepting polygamous wives; but I think the earlier mentions of Abraham's test-command to sacrifice Isaac do give a small loophole for the interpretation that Emma was only being told to accept the principle that her husband might acquire other wives. "All those that have been given" might in fact have been zero.

Only in verses 61 and 62 does this revelation come right out and say that Mormon men might have up to ten wives—and by this point it has stopped talking about Smith himself. So is Smith's polygamy really made clear, here? Well, if you already know about it, this is clear confirmation—once you read far enough, and connect all the dots. If you don't already know, then the fact that Smith himself took many wives is kind of buried in the fine print.

Edited by Physics Guy

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1 hour ago, Physics Guy said:

Only in verses 61 and 62 does this revelation come right out and say that Mormon men might have up to ten wives—and by this point it has stopped talking about Smith himself. So is Smith's polygamy really made clear, here? Well, if you already know about it, this is clear confirmation—once you read far enough, and connect all the dots. If you don't already know, then the fact that Smith himself took many wives is kind of buried in the fine print.

Again this is directed at Emma, so the reference to 10 wives probably refers to the number of wives that JS had at the time of the revelation.

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What was maddening for the longest time, was that Church officials would either act ignorant or even deny something, like Joseph Smith's polygamy, or the multiple ways he translated the Book of Mormon, while Church History professors at BYU, that work to help write the official Church History, would say they have known for decades. So either the Officials were lying or they needed to take the very same classes of Church History that they told the youth (and adults) that they needed to take. 

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On 9/15/2017 at 6:53 PM, cdowis said:

RESPONSE

Elder Russell Ballard gave a talk to CES employees. We call this a watershed talk because in this talk he admits that the well-meaning curriculum of the past did not meet the needs of what our youth today need. There needs to be more transparency about our past, so the Brethren are making efforts to change what maybe past leaders thought was important.

They have made documents available on the Joseph Smith Papers project, the Mountain Meadows Massacre project was very transparent about what happened in an unfortunate incident. Then they brought forth the Gospel Topics Essays, where they talk about these hot button topics. They are making strides even incorporating these Gospel Topics Essays into our curriculum. So yes, perhaps they should have done more, earlier, but they’re doing the best they can right now to bring that information out.

http://www.ldsperspectives.com/2017/05/24/polygamy-questions-joseph-smith/

(copied from post on youtube forum)

Is there a transcript of Ballards talk to the CES?

 Never mind I found it...but isn't this old news...Feb '16?

Edited by Johnnie Cake

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3 hours ago, cdowis said:

Again this is directed at Emma, so the reference to 10 wives probably refers to the number of wives that JS had at the time of the revelation.

Actually, it is more likely a scriptural allusion to the parable of the 10 virgins.
The revelation came in parts over the years, and at the time of the original part he had only one wife.  And at the time of the recording in July 1843 he had far more than 10.

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On 9/16/2017 at 10:00 AM, cdowis said:

Can she give a specific example where a doctrine was changed?  She is confused.

You're kidding right?

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22 hours ago, Bob Crockett said:

I'm just reiterating stuff I've said for a long time, but --

The Church has a revelatory mandate to preserve a faithful history, but not one to publish one.  Keeping journals, clippings is relatively easy.   Locating and interpreting journals is far different.   What happens if there are three journals reporting on one event, and the Church only has two and thinks there are only two?  When the third journal later surfaces and paints a completely different picture of the meeting, so what?  (The Nauvoo transition meeting and the King Follett Sermon meeting are examples.) 

One might think the Church is filled with professional authors to publish about its history.  That just isn't the case.   When Leonard Arrington took over, there was no real writer of history employed by the church.  When he published his first book as church historian, he took some heat from church officials because archiving was his job, not publishing.  Even then, Arrington's books were not easy; it just wasn't the case that the archives were fully indexed and organized so that a professional history writer could have an easy time with it.

Earlier attempts of an institution to publish its history in a favorable light, deleting troublesome material, was completely consistent with history writing of the day.  Gibbon's Rise and Fall was somewhat of a ground-breaker, but even he couldn't help repeatedly sermonizing about morality and Christianity.  Bancroft, when he wrote his history of Utah, supposedly refused to refer to unfavorable history about the Church because he was gratified that the Church opened its archives to his researchers.  And so it goes on.

Sounds like the Church really is no different than any other organization.

Good to know.

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