Just after Thanksgiving, the latest issue of Dialogue showed up in the mailbox. Just having finished everything except the personal essays, fiction and poetry (nothing against those sections…really), I offer some commentary on this quarter’s offerings.
How Missionaries Entered East Germany: The 1988 Monson-Honecker Meeting
by Raymond M. Kuehne, pg. 107
This is, no question, the best article in the issue. A lot of members will remember that we had a Temple in Communist East Germany. I doubt, however, that many Saints understand how that came to be. Kuehne opens a window through the Berlin Wall and while the article is focused on the events that occurred after the building of the Temple, it gives a tremendous amount of information about the Church in those last years of Communism.
The Church publicly adopted communist rhetoric in support of the separation of Church and State and the mission of the GDR. Monson eventually met with the East German Chairman and won support for the introduction and exportation of LDS Missionaries. While the concessions were well received, the perceived support of the Communist State obviously upset some members who were used to the anti-communism of McKay and Benson and antagonized local religions that were overwhelmingly anti-communist. If you wonder about the future of the Church in China, here is a great start.
Grant McMurray and the Succession Crisis in the Community of Christ
by William D. Russell, pg. 27
Is Joseph Smith Relevant to the Community of Christ?
by Roger D. Launius, pg. 58
To Latter-day Saints, this is like a weird parallel universe. A world where a member and professor at the Church college is teaching the Book of Mormon, having never read it before. A Church where the young Sunday School student asks about Joseph Smith and the teacher doesn’t know what to say about him (and neither does the manual nor the Church hierarchy). A place where the Church hierarchy is uncomfortable with the title Prophet, Seer and Revelator.
Bill Russell (see his BCC interview on reorganite schismatics here) is an ardent progressive and cheers the transformation of the Community of Christ (formerly the RLDS Church) and their forsaking the pillars of presidential succession.
Roger Launius shares his presentation from an MHA panel. He doesn’t ever come out and say it, but the answer to his titular question is an emphatic “no.”
True to the Faith: A Snapshot of the Church in 2004
by Lavina Fielding Anderson, pg. 68
I was disappointed by this article. Lavina is the grand matriarch of Mormon Studies, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for her and her work…but this article simply isn’t as well researched as it should be. Last year, Justin had a great write-up that shows what sort of research could have been in the analysis (She didn’t even cite it…I know, probably too much to ask).
She also ends up grinding her axe a bit. She fails to recognize that True to the Faith is intended for an international audience, many of which don’t enjoy the protections and benefits of wealthy western societies.
Perseverance amid Paradox: The Struggle of the LDS Church in Japan Today
by Jiro Numano, pg. 138
Numano is a Japanese Latter-day Saint and professional academic. He presents a concise history of Missionary work in Japan as well as the general perception of Mormonism in the country over the last 150 years. This is a solid and well researched outline with many valuable sources.
The Church in Japan is not currently nor has it been in recent years burgeoning. Numano presents several factors that are likely contributors. It is difficult to be certain in such an analysis, but his arguments are persuasive. His chronology of availability of literature pertaining to Mormon History is eye-opening and highlights a grave problem that international saints face that we English-speakers do not. We take for granted decades of scholarly material and the maturity of having worked through it together. The Japanese Saints had no such blessing when one of their Bishops’ left the Church and started a website chronicling challenging history with antagonistic commentary. Heart breaking.
Last week, Molly posted on this article and the ensuing conversation is interesting.
King Benjamin and the Yeoman Farmer
by G. St. John Scott, pg. 1
Economic conservatives and liberals alike use the book of Mormon to champion their respective perspectives. Scott delivers an insightful analysis of Book of Mormon and Early American economy. Joseph lived in a time of drastic economic change, a result from increased transportation. There are many parallels to today’s globalization, actually. The Book of Mormon challenged the economy and so did Joseph. An insightful read.