Two articles in the latest, Winter 2006, Dialogue dovetail nicely. Writing of the Church in Japan today, Jiro Numano treats challenges of cultural paradox and of historical information on the internet. He argues that the fact that only 25,000 of 120,000 Japanese members are active can be traced in part to the dissonance resulting from comparisons of official and online Mormon histories. Numano’s article is posted on the Dialogue website, dialoguejournal.com.
Challenged for printing 2 historically groundbreaking Dialogue articles, David John Buerger’s on second anointings and D. Michael Quinn’s on post-manifesto polygamous marriages, Jack Newell’s Personal Voices essay, unfortunately not available on our website, sets forth the criteria he and Linda used for publication when they edited Dialogue. They were three: “(1) Is the evidence unimpeachable? (2) Is the interpretation responsible? and (3) Is the issue important to a rounded understanding of the Mormon experience?
Long a gospel doctrine teacher occasionally released for discussing honest history in Sunday School and today very aware the mantra in my stake is still “Nothing arguably negative,” I wonder if the internet has at last tipped the scales. Many have argued, often under the guise of “milk before meat,” that we must not disillusion the new or weak with all-too-human history or the questioning of the Lord’s anointed–questioning being by definition under this theory, criticism, even heresy. Better the lie. Although I have never bought this argument, both because lies seem usually to be inherently wrong and because that presupposes the meat-eaters are more righteously sacrificed than the milk-drinkers, it was possible to function under the argument as long as few learned the facts. But has the internet fundamentally changed the landscape? Are Numano’s observations in Japan universal? Do any valid arguments for so-called “faith promoting history” remain? Must we assume any member, any investigator is as likely to learn conflicting information as to see only the official version? Are we now losing more members and potential members without an endorsement of meat than we gain on milk alone? Are Newell’s criteria for Dialogue the proper criteria for our leaders, historians, missionaries, manuals and teachers?