Sunday, October 07, 2007

White-Washed History : Is the LDS church responsible for leaving out "troublesome facts"?

Quote from October 6th General Conference session:

M. Russell Ballard

“Those who are curious in this general way deserve clear and accurate information that comes directly from those of us who are members. So they do not have to rely on the incomplete answers, half-truths, or false statements that may come from the media or other outside voices. The many misunderstandings and false information about the Church are somewhat our own fault for not clearly explaining who are and what we believe.”

This apostle is talking about the Mormon church getting a lot of spotlight these days because of Mitt Romney's candidacy. This talk he gave during conference was sort of a pep talk to members on how to teach non-Mormons about the church. Keep-It-Simple-Stupid method was discussed. Ballard's four points were facts, faith, family and fruits of the the restored gospel.

See this site for a review of Saturday's speakers.

In my case, I would take issue with the fact that the church doesn't even provide information to their own members about past issues like polygamy, for example. The only thing Ballard pretty well said about it was:

“Polygamy a, limited practice in the early pioneer days of the church, was discontinued in 1890, some 117 years ago.”

But that's not entirely true. Polygamy was still practiced as late as 1904, in secret, and in direct opposition to law enforcement officials who had to be brought into Utah to take over the courts and the governor's office. Men were imprisoned for continuing the practice, if they could be found and tried, and only when the judges were no longer faithful LDS members themselves did the church finally give up the underground rebellion of continuing polygamy. BUT, that does not mean that it is no longer the belief. It has never been removed from doctrine, it has merely been suspended from active practice. The church still maintains the belief that polygamy will be allowed again at some time in the future, that it is God's will, that it is the only way for complete exaltation in the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom. Men can still be sealed to more than one woman in the temple, even if secularly divorced from her and she is still alive married to someone else. She cannot be sealed to the new husband unless she gets permission from the first to cancel the sealing previously done. But he can go on to marry again without canceling the first. And it is still the belief that he can choose to call both of his wives forth from the grave on the day of the Resurrection, and he, knowing both of their names given to each in the temple, can choose to retain whichever wife or wives he so chooses. What wife would refuse to go with him, after all, if he does indeed hold the power to bring them into Celestial Glory if he so desires?

All the power rests on the husband, the priesthood holder, and all the women can do is hope that they are worthy to be called forth...

Anyway, my main issue here is that the members are led to believe that they possess all the knowledge of the past and present teachings of the church, and can adequately defend any negative position others may present. I would categorically state that this is false. Members I was acquainted with during my 20+ years as a Mormon, in my opinion, have no idea that Joseph was polygamous and had as many as 33 wives, according to (File Number: 9KGL-W2) Members that I grew up with, or have known me since childhood, would adamantly deny that Joseph sometimes used a seer stone in a hat to dictate scripture. And I would be hard pressed to find one member of my old ward who would be knowledgeable about Joseph's various vision accounts when speaking in public or recounting his experiences to converts, and that the 'official version' didn't appear in print until 1842.

These are the things that anti-Mormons will bring up against Mormons, to try to show them that they don't even know enough about the church's past teachings to defend against them with intelligent arguments. The only tool they have is, "My church never taught that, you are lying!" Then comes the day when they check out fairwiki, run by, an apologetic website promoting and defending the church, and they read article after article defending Joseph's polygamy practice with teenage girls, or the seer stone in a hat method of translation, or the various "First Vision" stories where Joseph first named the angel Nephi instead of Moroni. The church apologists are defending these allegations, but the regular members are unaware of the underlying history behind the accusations in the first place. And that's why the church is loosing
it's membership: failure to disclose the troublesome history themselves.

The Internet seems to be more of a challenge to the Mormon church than so-called 'anti-Mormons'. Before the arrival of the information age, any nay-sayers could be ignored and lumped together as ignorant of the beliefs. Now that Google has become a household word, it's unimaginable that there could be Mormons who have never heard of Joseph's polygamy, or the stone in the hat, but it happens. And that is mostly due to the second message that the church sends to its believers: "Correct" information comes from "trusted" sources. In other words, do not trust the Internet, for they are liars and deceivers. Yet I got MY information straight off of

Now the tactic seems to be: "We told you over and over, its been in our teachings forever, so why are you claiming you never heard these things? We've been teaching this stuff since Seminary, it's not the church's fault that you never paid attention in Sunday School! Why are you blaming the church for your ignorance? All you had to do is check out a few books from any LDS library, the information is right there! What do you think personal study is all about?"

Oh, yeah. That will work. Blame the uninformed. Tell them that if they had never heard of Fanny Alger or Helen Mar Kimball, it's their own fault. Insist that the head in the hat method of translation was taught in Seminary for years. Make them feel completely stupid for their shock at learning about the various First Vision accounts and that Brigham Young taught that blacks would never gain rights to the priesthood authority because they were of the race of Cain. Let's see how many members stay in a church that makes them feel completely lied to and tricked when they find out the rest of the story...