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Do All Churches “Hide” History?


Mike Richards

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We’ve all heard that the LDS church hides its history. Frequently, but not always, this statement is made by thosewho’d like to destroy the faith of members. We’ve also heard from ex-mormons who feel they were “tricked” into thechurch by the missionaries not telling them everything and felt obligated toleave once they knew “the rest of the story.”

I don’t want to discuss whether or not this is a legitimateaccusation—I think we can all agree that there are many aspects of churchhistory that are not discussed in any of the church's regular meetings. My question is if this is hypocritical comingfrom members of other churches. I haveonly ever met with JW “missionaries” and they didn’t say anything about theirhistory. Do other Christians, when they evangelize,make it a point to address the less-than-ideal conditions under which certainof their core doctrines were decided upon? Do they sit down and discuss the problems with the Bible, the difficultyin determining exactly what it means, the variations in the manuscript, etc? Do these difficulties get brought up in theirregular meetings?

I’d really like to know if this is a case of hypocrisy when it comes from members of other churches or if I'm seeing something where nothing exists. I started to think about this when I read the following from The Hermeneutical Spiral by Grant R. Osborne (which I purchased on recommendationfrom Rob Bowman).

Unless the Bible used by those in the congregation has a different reading from that used by the preacher, or has a footnote indicating that there is a textual variant, it is probably best not to mention the uncertainty. If it seems necessary to introduce the matter, I would encourage that the preacher affirm every time this happens, that this does not affect the integrity of the original and that no doctrine would be left unsupported if a favorite reading must be abandoned because of a more valid variant. This does not mean, as one sometimes hear, that no doctrine is affected by textual variants. That would not be true. Rather, any doctrinal statements in theScriptures that are affected by textual variants are adequately supported byother passages. (pg. 63)

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The question can be framed in these statements: "Can one honestly criticize another's faith history?"

Sure. The Catholic church endorsed and encouraged the sale of indulgences in the 15th and 16th centuries. Jean Calvin authorized religious executions at Geneva.

"Can one honestly do that while recognizing his own faith's history?" Sure. The Church of England authorized the execution of Lutherans and other dissenters.

Apologists for any faith, though, will have problem with this issue. Mopologists are no different than apologists in other faiths.

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The question can be framed in these statements: "Can one honestly criticize another's faith history?"

Sure. The Catholic church endorsed and encouraged the sale of indulgences in the 15th and 16th centuries. Jean Calvin authorized religious executions at Geneva.

"Can one honestly do that while recognizing his own faith's history?" Sure. The Church of England authorized the execution of Lutherans and other dissenters.

Apologists for any faith, though, will have problem with this issue. Mopologists are no different than apologists in other faiths.

I don't really have a problem with criticism of a church's history (though I see it as an easy target for dishonest criticism). My question is if there is any church that meets the kind of standard critics seem to demand. If there isn't, when members of one church criticize another church for hiding their history, can that behavior legitimately be called hypocrisy?

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We may also review it along these lines.

Do people avoid discussing difficult subjects of their past? I think by and large the answer is yes, they do. Some go through greater efforts than others because they have less confidence in the understanding of others, or confidence that the nuance will be understood to demonstrate why something occurred.

People make up the church and follow much of the same reasoning. You are bound to see some of the slipping into the decisions being made.

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I think of a word and I think I know how to spell it but it is called, dilletante. A person can have virtually no interest in history or how history is done and then all of a sudden they learn something and they fall to pieces because they don't know how to process this information and assume it is right and now they consider themselves experts (one exception I know is my bro-in law, and to paraphrase what he said "who freaking cares what Brigham Young did or said, he is going to be judged just as I will") if you take a university class beyond first year you learn fairly quickly the methods, idealogies and philosophies of historians and how it is done or not done. I bet we all know people who read one book by Hugh Nibley and now they are historical experts or Nibley experts, and those who have read more then one of his works just roll their eyes in disgust. This is why I almost strictly read history by an actual PH.D. Historian, or Religion or another academic discipline, if It isn't I take it with a hundred lbs. bag of salt. So, I don't think the Church hides its histroy as people aren't interested and people SHOULD find out on their OWN we can't live on borrowed history! I remember that talk given By. Davis Bitton some eyars ago about not having a testimony of Church History. What Dr. Bitton said was almost exactly what one of my History Prof's had said two years earlier in a class I took in university.

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It depends on the issue. Not discussing history is distinct from hiding it. Given the church's openness re: Joseph Smith papers. One is hardpressed to accuse the church of "hiding something, when they are doing their best to be open .

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What if a church member recognizes and admits that his or her church hides its history? I would think such a person would not be a hypocrite.

How would you know they were hiding "it"? if they found it then it couldn't have been hid all that great. I just wonder if there is some master history of the Church somewhere we don't know about, perhaps it is in heaven where the angels are "silent notes taking" but unless the millenium is over I doubt it is done being written yet!

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How would you know they were hiding "it"? if they found it then it couldn't have been hid all that great. I just wonder if there is some master history of the Church somewhere we don't know about, perhaps it is in heaven where the angels are "silent notes taking" but unless the millenium is over I doubt it is done being written yet!

Remember, that the church does such a lowzy job of hiding it's history that it prints and talks about alot of it at one point or another.

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It depends on the issue. Not discussing history is distinct from hiding it. Given the church's openness re: Joseph Smith papers. One is hardpressed to accuse the church of "hiding something, when they are doing their best to be open .

Yep, the LDS Church hides stuff all the time... in the Ensign or in the Church History Museum... right out in the open where nobody would think to look for it... :rolleyes:

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I don't think the history is "hidden", but I do think a lot of important stuff is left out of Sunday School classes.

I felt like I should have been told about Joseph Smith's polygamy and the circumstances surrounding it, since polygamy is considered doctrine and he is the one who received the revelation. I don't recall any of that being discussed. I don't think I was even aware that he had other wives. I do remember being told that he had been sealed to many women (and even men) after his death. But, I don't recall ever hearing anything about any of his other wives, while he was living. I really think that should be discussed in Gospel Doctrine, at least. (Not my decision, of course...I just wish it had been, and everything hadn't been quite so "faith promoting"). It doesn't hurt to give us things to think about (and to prepare us for criticisms from the outside). The only preparation I got for outside criticisms was to tell me that they were all lies. But, they're not all lies.

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Remember, that the church does such a lowzy job of hiding it's history that it prints and talks about alot of it at one point or another.

Don't I know it! Dang Church History Museum, Library/Archives, people who have read primary source material, published books and articles in a variety of Journals! My word! Call the cops why don'tcha!

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I don't think the history is "hidden", but I do think a lot of important stuff is left out of Sunday School classes.

I felt like I should have been told about Joseph Smith's polygamy and the circumstances surrounding it, since polygamy is considered doctrine and he is the one who received the revelation. I don't recall any of that being discussed. I don't think I was even aware that he had other wives. I do remember being told that he had been sealed to many women (and even men) after his death. But, I don't recall ever hearing anything about any of his other wives, while he was living. I really think that should be discussed in Gospel Doctrine, at least. (Not my decision, of course...I just wish it had been, and everything hadn't been quite so "faith promoting"). It doesn't hurt to give us things to think about (and to prepare us for criticisms from the outside). The only preparation I got for outside criticisms was to tell me that they were all lies. But, they're not all lies.

Maybe the teacher(s) didn't know or care. Personally I don't give a flying fig about polygamy, A)it is illegal and, B) because it is illegal I don't like to be around when rules are broken. No one in my family ever practiced it, I personally don't know anyone who does it, I may know people who have ancestors who did it but they live there lives and let their ancestors live there's.

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I don't think the history is "hidden", but I do think a lot of important stuff is left out of Sunday School classes.

I felt like I should have been told about Joseph Smith's polygamy and the circumstances surrounding it, since polygamy is considered doctrine and he is the one who received the revelation. I don't recall any of that being discussed. I don't think I was even aware that he had other wives. I do remember being told that he had been sealed to many women (and even men) after his death. But, I don't recall ever hearing anything about any of his other wives, while he was living. I really think that should be discussed in Gospel Doctrine, at least. (Not my decision, of course...I just wish it had been, and everything hadn't been quite so "faith promoting"). It doesn't hurt to give us things to think about (and to prepare us for criticisms from the outside). The only preparation I got for outside criticisms was to tell me that they were all lies. But, they're not all lies.

Joseph did not have any other wives besides Emma. That is a lie perpetuated by Satan that comes from anti-mormon websites.;)

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We’ve all heard that the LDS church hides its history. Frequently, but not always, this statement is made by thosewho’d like to destroy the faith of members. We’ve also heard from ex-mormons who feel they were “tricked” into thechurch by the missionaries not telling them everything and felt obligated toleave once they knew “the rest of the story.”

I don’t want to discuss whether or not this is a legitimateaccusation—I think we can all agree that there are many aspects of churchhistory that are not discussed in any of the church's regular meetings. My question is if this is hypocritical comingfrom members of other churches. I haveonly ever met with JW “missionaries” and they didn’t say anything about theirhistory. Do other Christians, when they evangelize,make it a point to address the less-than-ideal conditions under which certainof their core doctrines were decided upon? Do they sit down and discuss the problems with the Bible, the difficultyin determining exactly what it means, the variations in the manuscript, etc? Do these difficulties get brought up in theirregular meetings?

I’d really like to know if this is a case of hypocrisy when it comes from members of other churches or if I'm seeing something where nothing exists. I started to think about this when I read the following from The Hermeneutical Spiral by Grant R. Osborne (which I purchased on recommendationfrom Rob Bowman).

I think that all institutions such as churches, governments, corporations, etc. hide their history to some extent....or maybe not hide it, but at least manipulate it to place themselves in the best possible light, through the use of half-truths, avoidance, etc.

The difference with the case of the LDS church, IMO, is that it is not supposed to be like other institutions....it is supposed to be gods true, restored church on earth, the most true of all belief systems. So when it acts like all those other institutions regarding it's history, well then, it is hard to distinguish itself as something different, something better, or something truer.

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It depends on the issue. Not discussing history is distinct from hiding it. Given the church's openness re: Joseph Smith papers. One is hardpressed to accuse the church of "hiding something, when they are doing their best to be open .

Sure--again, I'm not trying to argue whether or not the church hides stuff--like I said, I think we can agree that the church doesn't teach all of the details of its history. I personally believe it doesn't do so because those details have nothing to do with the churches purpose. So, the question is not so much whether the accusation is justified, but if there is any church against whom a similar accusation couldn't be made. I agreed with Melvin that if someone acknowledges that their church "hides" history, they are free to point out that others do to--but, for a person trying to undermine my faith and bring me to his, pointing out that both of our churches "hides" history isn't going to accomplish much.

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The difference with the case of the LDS church, IMO, is that it is not supposed to be like other institutions....it is supposed to be gods true, restored church on earth, the most true of all belief systems. So when it acts like all those other institutions regarding it's history, well then, it is hard to distinguish itself as something different, something better, or something truer.

Now, this, to me, is an interesting point of view. I agree that as the true church, it should be exceptional. I'll have to consider whether I believe that exceptionalness should include actively discussing the non-essential (for faith/salvation/etc) aspects of its history.

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Now, this, to me, is an interesting point of view. I agree that as the true church, it should be exceptional. I'll have to consider whether I believe that exceptionalness should include actively discussing the non-essential (for faith/salvation/etc) aspects of its history.

It's not just the non-essential aspects, why I could possibly see there being a point for.

What I am talking about is something such as the following: growing up, I heard a great deal about the Haun's Mill Massacre (in seminary and in classes). I never heard of the Mountain Meadows Massacre until late in my membership. It was never discussed growing up, and I didn't find out about it in church, but rather, outside of church. Now what do you think the point would be of emphasizing the Haun's Mill Massacre, yet hiding facts about the Mountain Meadows Massacre? This is just a bit of the type of selective history that I refer to.

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It's not just the non-essential aspects, why I could possibly see there being a point for.

What I am talking about is something such as the following: growing up, I heard a great deal about the Haun's Mill Massacre (in seminary and in classes). I never heard of the Mountain Meadows Massacre until late in my membership. It was never discussed growing up, and I didn't find out about it in church, but rather, outside of church. Now what do you think the point would be of emphasizing the Haun's Mill Massacre, yet hiding facts about the Mountain Meadows Massacre? This is just a bit of the type of selective history that I refer to.

I see the Haun's Mill Massacre as a story that can promote faith--that people died for their beliefs/rights. There's nothing faith promoting in the Mountain Meadows Massacre, no tie into the mission of the church, and therefore no reason to be discussed in church meetings. Why do you think it should have been discussed?

I also never heard about the MMM until I started reading church history a couple of years ago. However, I don't know that I was taught any church history (at least not much) from after the pioneers to the manifesto.

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I don't think the history is "hidden", but I do think a lot of important stuff is left out of Sunday School classes.

I felt like I should have been told about Joseph Smith's polygamy and the circumstances surrounding it, since polygamy is considered doctrine and he is the one who received the revelation. I don't recall any of that being discussed. I don't think I was even aware that he had other wives. I do remember being told that he had been sealed to many women (and even men) after his death. But, I don't recall ever hearing anything about any of his other wives, while he was living. I really think that should be discussed in Gospel Doctrine, at least. (Not my decision, of course...I just wish it had been, and everything hadn't been quite so "faith promoting"). It doesn't hurt to give us things to think about (and to prepare us for criticisms from the outside). The only preparation I got for outside criticisms was to tell me that they were all lies. But, they're not all lies.

Members from the 1950s and 1960s would be startled to learn that you were unaware of Joseph's marital life. That was one of things the LDS and Catholic kids at our schools fought over: Papish/Cardinal sin along with Joseph's wives.

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One thing that I like about the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) is the openness and even encouragement of dissecting negative historical aspects of the faith. Things such as historical racism among Quaker congregations is a commonly discussed topic. Other issues that are talked about and studied include schisms within the church, maltreatment of native americans, etc.. The purpose of these studies and discussions are to learn from the past and find ways to avoid mistakes in the future. Certainly, the historical focus is more often on the positive aspects of the faith, but the level of openness and self-reflection (as a faith community) contrasts favorably with other faiths that I am personally familiar with.

cacheman

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Members from the 1950s and 1960s would be startled to learn that you were unaware of Joseph's marital life. That was one of things the LDS and Catholic kids at our schools fought over: Papish/Cardinal sin along with Joseph's wives.

I'm 30 and grew up in the church. I don't remember when I learned the Joseph had multiple wives, but it must not have been a surprise to me. I do remember when I learned that some of his wives were already married to faithful men (about 2 years ago), and that surprised me a little, but not a whole lot.

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