The Education of a Blogger

Today is my last full day in Utah as part of my vacation; I fly home in the morning. My son is off to a wedding, so left to my own devices, I wandered around City Creek for awhile (my first time there), and then decided to tour the Beehive House. I’ve been through that tour many times, but it has been years since my last time through.

The tour guides were a pair of sister missionaries. They were both cute and multicultural, as temple square sisters tend to be. They showed me Brigham’s bedroom and his wife’s bedroom, among other rooms in the house. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought from the tour that BY was a monogamist.

As I chugged up the hill to my son’s apartment (where I”m writing this post), I reflected on that experience. I wondered whether the sisters knew much if anything about Brigham Young. Maybe they’re knowledgeable about the man and are just sticking to the script. Or maybe the script is pretty much all they know, perhaps all they care to know. I was curious about that.

And as I walked, I began to reflect on just how it is that I know about that subject, and these docents who were actually teaching it appeared not to. Part of the difference is one simply of age. These girls were younger than my own children, and I seem to recall that the tour in the old days used to acknowledge Brigham’s polygamy (just as the Carthage Jail tour a long time ago used to feature an example of a pepperbox pistol; being old has its privileges!) But I decided it’s probably more than just being (relatively) old. I have a reputation in my ward and stake for being extremely knowledgeable about the Church, and while I am very much aware of my own ignorance on so much that I would like to know, I do think it’s fair to say that I have more background knowledge than the average member. It’s probably fair to say that of most participants in the Bloggernacle. And as I continued to chug up the hill, I wondered, why is that? How come I know more about this religious tradition than the average member? These are some of the reasons that came to mind:

1. Enthusiasm for learning. I’m embarrassed to acknowledge this, but I think I picked up my enthusiasm for learning about the Church in the first instance on my mission from the Dead Sea Scroll tapes of Einar Erickson. He was really, really excited to learn stuff, and he modeled that really well in his lectures. He would go camping with his boys and they would sit around the campfire reading the Book of Enoch, that kind of stuff. And you know, it had never occurred to me that learning Church stuff could be fun, interesting, even exciting! I think to this day when I teach I reflect an enthusiasm for the subject that people appreciate and find engaging. If one is self-motivated to learn, one will learn.

2. Books, not Tapes. On my mission, it was the culture for missionaries to collect, trade and listen to tapes. Lots of GA talks; also the aforementioned DSS tapes, and that sort of thing. I listened to a few, but for reasons I don’t even understand myself I did something radical: I began buying and reading books, not listerning to tapes. And reading books is a very different experience. I began schlepping a huge, heavy trunk of books on transfers. (I don’t think we had a rule against reading back then on my mission, or if we did I either didn’t know about it or conveniently ignored it.)

3. Reading the Ensign (believe it or not!). On my mission, each apartment had large, dusty stacks of old Ensign magazines. Most hadn’t been touched in ages. I made it a practice to read through the old issues, and in the early days there was actually substantive material in that magazine, and one could learn a lot simply by doing that.

4. Finding the Right Teachers at BYU. Somehow I happened to fall into the classics department at the Y. And that was great; my professors tended to be pretty progressive sorts by BYU standards, but since they were teaching classics and not religion, no one particularly cared and they were left alone. My undergraduate education was fantastic.

5. Finding Like-Minded Friends. This past week I spent one of my vacation days with my old friend Mike Hicks. I will use him as one of many examples of a friend who modeled for me what being a gospel scholar was all about. When we moved to Urbana to start my law school education, he was the EQP, and he and his wife came over to our married student apartment, kitty-corner from theirs, to welcome us into the ward. It was immediately apparent that we had a lot in common and we quickly became fast friends. We spent one summer working together out in the fields on the University research farm, and what I wouldn’t give to have an mp3 of those conversations! The whole student ward was filled with people like that. Sunday evenings while the kids played on the playground behind our apartments the adults would all gather together and talk about this, that and the other thing, everything under the sun. It was idyllic.

6. Reading the Journals. I’ve made it a practice to read the Mormon journals, because it’s a subject that I find fascinating. And I followed the Nibley practice of going back and reading the journals from the beginning. I’ve read (or skimmed in some cases) pretty much the entire print runs of Dialogue, Sunstone, BYU Studies, JBoMS, FR and JMH.

7. Attending the Conferences. No one has to attend conferences to become a knowledgeable member of the Church. But it doesn’t hurt. I find that I quite enjoy the conferences, and attend as many as I can. I went to MHA in Calgary earlier this year; my vacation revolved around Sunstone and FAIR; I’ll probably make it to JWHA in the Fall. Although it’s not Mormon, I’ve always wanted to attend the annual conference of the Society of Biblical Literature, but it is always in late November and that is a tough time for me to get away from work. But this year it’s in Chicago, so I might be able to attend at least some of it.

8. Reading the Blogs. Although it is less formal than books, journals and conferences, just regularly reading the blogs can be something of an education in the Church in its own right, and lets face it, most bloggers do at least some reading in other blogs.

What am I missing? What is it that moves you to learn about the Church to so great a degree? What practices do you follow toward that end? And should we really be teaching tourists that Brigham Young only had one wife!? Your thoughts appreciated.

Comments

  1. Kevin Barney says:

    BTW, in case anyone is interested, the latest information is that BY had 55 wives and 57 children. (When I was younger I thought those numbers were 27 and 56, respectively, but recent research has clarified those numbers.)

    Oh, and this is my 400th post at BCC! Where’s the cake?

  2. Excellent post Kevin. My experiences parallel yours a bit. I wonder how much this is simply a general paradigm for becoming informed, or if there are multiple paths and ours happen to overlap.

    Also gained great enthusiasm on my mission, where I ended up with 60 books. Not easy acquiring or hauling them around train transfers in France. Spent a lot of time in ward libraries while there hunting down Church magazines that went back to the 50s, which had lots of meaty stuff, like 50-page articles with footnotes, spread out over several months sometimes. I transferred to BYU, picked my teachers very carefully, and promptly went to the library to follow up on sources I’d seen in footnotes, like Jeremias’ The Eucharistic Words of Jesus and all the journals. It felt very edgy to be reading Dialogue or Sunstone down there in the library, or expanding into JBL. SBL is well-worth attending, particularly for the cheap books (the bookanalia/bachanalia!) and departmental gossip. (I won’t be there this year, in spite of it being near my alma mater.) And of course, the blogs.

    Congrats on producing so many good posts.

  3. M Dearest says:

    Oh dear. If this is what’s being offered to Beehive House tourists, we have such a long way to go.

    I have always been a fairly intrepid reader. It’s almost like a vice. I still have my old Dialogues and Sunstones from the late 70’s when I was a subscriber. I learned a lot about anti-mormon tactics and refutes from a chat room that is long gone. I have had a few (too few) really brilliant gospel doctrine teachers. But I learned more about the scriptures from having an assignment to teach Primary than any other way, though all my previous knowledge served as a foundation for that. I miss teaching primary. Most of what I learn these days is from poking around online. I probably would benefit from attending a conference. Church meetings these days are a real boneyard.

    Here is my congratulations on your 400th post. Quite a milestone!

    http://www.nga.gov/fcgi-bin/timage_f?object=72040&image=18388&c=collcomm

  4. I toured the Beehive house with some other (nonMormon) grad students from my university while we were at U of Utah for a math minicourse. This was 2006. It was very clear from the tour that BY had many wives.

  5. Kevin–I don’t know if you remember, but I had dinner with you once in Seattle (Steve Evans, Aaron Hall and I believe Jonathan Stapley were also there). It was my impression that you knew a lot about everything, not just church topics but it is fascinating to get a look into how you acquired that knowledge. I live in SLC now and if I had known you were here for so long would have invited you to dinner again as you are also a great conversationalist.

  6. Unauthorized books–meaning anything outside of the standard works and the missionary gospel library–weren’t permitted on my mission. (For whatever reason, or for no reason whatsoever, rules about music and most other matters were much more relaxed.) I read a lot of stacks of old Ensigns in desperation.

    I toured the Beehive house with my in-laws a few years ago and had the same experience you did, Kevin. Congratulations on your 400th.

  7. Congratulations on 400, Kevin!!

  8. I think, in many cases, it just comes down to personality and “curiosity orientation”.

  9. Having said that, I don’t like it at all that anyone could take that tour and leave with the assumption that Brother Brigham had only one wife.

  10. I first tested the waters of Mormon history and scholarship through FARMS and BYU studies before my mission, especially the ancient history books and, yes, apologetics. It was comforting to know that there were educated people who seemed to have ready responses to all the “hard” questions (particularly as I later served in rural Tennessee and saw anti-mormon literature for the first time). By degrees I began suspecting that these defenders of the faith often obfuscated as much truth as they revealed, which, influenced by my evolving political views, led me to the dark side of Dialogue and blogs like this :)

    Unrelated to Mormon studies, but like some other commentors I read as widely as I could on the mission, from Mark Twain to 7th Day Adventist anti-Catholic books, whatever I could get at the Salvation Army. And also on whether my companion was likely to report me. Not that I wanted to be disobedient, but the mission library was too small and boring. One can only read Jesus the Christ so many times..

  11. I agree with Ray’s number 9. There is something about it that seems to me to be underhanded. I don’t know if that word is too strong, but the feeling just doesn’t feel right.

    What prompts me to seek out as much knowledge as I can regarding The Church is the drive to reconcile my faith to my religion. I struggle mightily with The Church, but I cannot get away from the doctrine. It is what I believe. Fitting The Church into it takes a great deal of effort for me believe it or not. I am glad I don’t go back to school again until 9/10 because I find myself seeking out this reconciliation pretty much every waking moment.

    I also love to learn a wide range of subjects and try to keep my brain engaged as much as I can tolerate. I spent too much of my childhood watching television that I have to fight off the mushification (is that a word?) of my brain often.

  12. I’d add:

    9. Breaking the fear barrier. A lot of members I know are afraid to learn anything beyond the sanitized version of Church history presented in the Sunday School manual, because they feel like that’s venturing into anti-Mormon territory, and thus “dangerous” ground. I recommended an article on Times and Seasons to a friend the other day, and she responded, “everything I’ve ever seen from that website is against the Church.”

  13. Kevin Barney says:

    No. 4 cowgirl, I too recall the tour being clear about BY’s plural wives. That’s why I was so surprised this time around. They showed us Brigham’s bedroom, and then “this is the bedroom of his wife,” and that was it. Let’s hope they just gave us a truncated version of the tour or something.

    Sarah Familia, excellent addition! I’m not afraid to learn anything new about the Church, just curious and interested. So I think Ray may be on to something with his comment.

  14. Kristine says:

    EOR–“underhanded” is not strong enough. It’s dishonest. And deceitful. And despicable.

    Also completely unnecessary and counterproductive.

  15. J. Stapley says:

    Kev., the cake is a lie.

    I think as you say, associating with people that know stuff is huge. For me, internally, I just don’t like not knowing about things that matter to me.

  16. Yup, EOR and Kristine are right, it’s deceptive. Polygamy happened, there is NO WAY we can brush it under the rug. I was recently driving home to California from Montana, and made two stops along the way at church-owned historical sites, the Paris Tabernacle (in Paris, ID) and Cove Fort. On my Paris tour, the docent was an older woman. She mentioned that the area founder was a polygamist, then said, “They were allowed to do that back then to build up the church, but we don’t believe in that anymore.”. The Cove Fort docent made zero mention of Ira Hinckley’s polygamy, but I can cut him a bit of slack on that as I believe only one of the wives lived there at the fort (I can’t remember which one – horrible of me).

    I don’t feel very educated, myself. I understand the fear barrier Sarah references in #12. My confidence in the church is already so tattered it may as well be a cleaning rag now, how much worse will it be if I push forward into the fires of truth? I still haven’t dared to finish Rough Stone Rolling; it sits on my bedroom bookcase and taunts me. And yet I know I will push forward into those firesl, because somehow I have to come to my own place of understanding. Sigh. Maybe I have to burn those last fragments of my old faith and wait for a phoenix to emerge. I suspect that will be my faith pattern for life, a series of burnouts followed by different phoenixes.

  17. My dad, who as far as I know has never read an LDS journal or showed any great interest in a serious historical study of the church, recently visited the Beehive House. He thought the tour was utterly superficial and devoid of any useful information.

  18. I recently toured Kirtland and had a similar experience. Correlation had sucked all particularity from the content of the tour. The sweet sister missionaries testified of the importance of patriarchal blessings, temple work, missionary work, the Book of Mormon, the priesthood, and the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith, but they could not answer a single question about anything related to Kirtland itself. And I’m not talking about boobytrap questions on, say, the “transaction in the barn” or the Safety Society’s collapse, which we were all either too ignorant or too polite to ask. They didn’t know why the keeping room in the Whitney home was called a keeping room, or what building stood across from the Kirtland Temple on the diorama, or whether the Whitney store had been decorated to appear as it would have in Joseph Smith’s day. When my sister said she was a professional genealogist and asked for information on where our ancestors lived, she was advised to go to Deseret Book and buy an inspirational book. (Not even a particular book; an “inspirational book.”)

    What frustrates me isn’t just that they’re concealing relevant information, but that they’re making their tours—like Sunday School lessons—boring and devoid of actual content. A few days before I toured Kirtland I visited Plimoth Plantation, whose paid actors were fountains of interesting information. The contrast couldn’t have been more stark.

  19. Sharee Hughes says:

    Great post, Kevin. I also enjoy learning and, even though I am not of the caliber of he bloggers here, I keep reading and learning. I have been involved with Sunstone for many years (back to the Peggy Fletcher days) and have often volunteered at the Symposium) mainly at the registration table and then later listening to some of the papers on CD. This year I attended FAIR for the first time and found that I enjoyed it more than Sunstone. Although I will continue to do Sunstone when the dates don’t conflict, if I have to choose, I will choose FAIR. So, Kevin, why did you not blog about FAIR? Why has no one blogged about FAIR?

  20. I would be curious to know how long the sisters had been providing tours of the various sites that have been mentioned here. My experience has been that newer guides haven’t learned as many details and thus stick to the basic script, but those who have been there longer have picked up tidbits from members and other guests and fit them into the tour.

    I recall going to the Browning Gunsmith shop in Nauvoo with a non-LDS friend of mine who happens to know a LOT about the Brownings. He asked some questions and our guide, who had only been doing the gunsmith tours for a short while, wasn’t sure. About a year later we were there again and my friend asked the same questions of the guide who had been doing the tours for several months. He knew the answers and gladly shared them.

    I think it is important to realise that the missionaries giving tours are still learning, too, and may not even realise that they are leaving out information that we may consider critical. I know that I wouldn’t think to mention Brigham Young’s polygamy because I’d assume everyone already knows about it. Kind of like the Scriptures tend to leave out details we wish were in there because the authors probably assumed it was common knowledge, and why take up valuable time with that?

  21. I vaguely recall doing the Beehive house tour as a teenager, when I really could not have cared any less. I don’t remember much other than very nice sisters trying to make it interesting. I’ll have to go back sometime…

    As for knowledge, I’ve mainly gained knowledge from my parents (round-table type dinner conversation every now and again) and from books. My mission was strict about books, I read all the allowed books a couple of times plus The Miracle of Forgiveness because someone had left it in one of my apartments. I also read stacks and stacks of Ensigns, many of which were falling apart. In more recent years I’ve had the good fortune of like-minded friends. My husband especially is super smart and makes it really easy for me to want to learn more.

    Rarely do I learn anything from Sunday School or my religion classes up here at BYU-Idaho. Isn’t that where we’re supposed to learn a lot?

  22. I don’t know that Sunday School is supposed to be content-heavy. At least, not if one is strictly following the manual (whatever that means ).

    Sharee, FAIR conferences have been blogged about from time to time, though not on BCC that I recall. M* did a series on it this year, and I’ve plugged it in the past.

  23. Maybe the Church doesn’t want tourist visits to end up being a discussion about polygamy rather than discussions about what happened at a particular site, or maybe they found that it turned into too many discussions about polygamy. By too many, I’m referring to discussions that missionaries are not equipped to have. Who would want to go on a mission to discuss dead practices over and over again anyway? After reading Compton’s book, I know a lot more, but there still is so much that is unknown and/or can’t be known because it is lost to history. I think I can be sympathetic to that kind of position taken by the church.

  24. Restrictions on reading material is the one rule I regret not breaking on my mission. While this meant more scripture-reading, I was desperate for some variety and some depth beyond the missionary library. I’ll echo Kevin’s gratitude to those missionaries who left old issues of the Ensign in the apartments–it’s how I learned about multiple accounts of the First Vision, the Succession Crisis, and much more.

  25. StephenC says:

    I think crises of faith are a good catalyst for church-oriented learning. They force people to re-examine fundamental premises about the Church, which requires more data. Of course, there’s always the chance that they’ll fetishize the sensational issues of the church and miss the bigger picture.

    In my mission all reading material was banned except for the Preach My Gospel library, but I cherished contraband printed out Wikipedia articles on my country that my father mailed to me. The restrictions on literature forced me to savor the printed word more and permanently altered how I look at texts; It instilled a passion for reading and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

  26. I suspect that will be my faith pattern for life, a series of burnouts followed by different phoenixes.

    That’s definitely my experience. I’m constantly finding my faith inadequate to my life, and I suspect the discovery of deep inadequacies is almost the definition of a faith life.

  27. On my mission I read the NT in Italian three times, just for something to read. Unfortunately my grasp of nuance in Italian wasn’t good enough to discern anything interesting in the translation, so the whole endeavor might have been a waste of time.

  28. Brian T, failing to mention that Brigham Young had more than one wife is how things do get lost to history. Also, there is a huge difference to be had in wording. “This was the bedroom of his wife.” is a world apart from “This was the bedroom of one of his wives.” That doesn’t have to spark a whole discussion about polygamy, and it is at least honest. Also, maybe I am off base here (and someone can lend their 2 cents if I am please) but based on current Temple sealing practices I would say it is a bit rich to claim that polygamy is a “long dead practice”.

  29. it's a series of tubes says:

    failing to mention that Brigham Young had more than one wife is how things do get lost to history

    The hyperbole here is amusing. The script presented by a ~21 year old girl acting as a volunteer tour guide will cause the loss of a fact documented in hundreds of books, contemporary journals, etc, and truly immortalized by inclusion in an episode of South Park? OK, if you say so.

    despicable

    Fairly harsh words from a woman who recently “piously” posed behind 2 Nephi 26:33 to allegedly take a position of inclusion. But now, the actions of a sister missionary giving a tour are “despicable”. Classy.

  30. No, the sister missionaries act is not despicable. The scriptwriters’ is. And I’m certainly not saying they aren’t fit to be my hometeachers or that they’re enemies of the faith. Try again–I make lots of intemperate comments, so I’m sure you can easily find hypocrisy (and worse) to condemn.

  31. I understand the tendency to stick to the script as a tour guide. I noticed this when touring the Kirtland temple, and the guide was a lovely young woman from Africa. I knew more facts than she did about the temple, but it was her calling and experience to be there. It was my duty to be open to the spirit which is still very strong there.
    RE the Beehive house tour, I think it would be totally appropriate to put your comments on a comment card at the end of the tour to bring attention to the misleading nature of the script. It will do no good for us to just *talk amongst ourselves.*

  32. 29, The fact that it is included in journals, and books only helps if people read journals and books. News flash, a lot of people don’t. If even 1 person walks away from that tour thinking he had one wife and never bothers to seek further then it is damaging and a cycle starts. Misleading seeds are no more forgivable than a misleading garden. Said 21 yr old woman knows it isn’t true so script writer or not she is lying. The spirit doesn’t attend deceit–missionary experience fail.

  33. EOR, enough with the accusations of lying and deceit and despicableness, okay? Sometimes the powers that be have a little deeper insight into the needs of both public and Church than you do. Missionary guides *have* to stick to the script — and that’s a development that many bloggers have been saying for years is necessary, because when guides go off-script, they insert all kinds of weirdnesses — junk they heard from their Uncle Al or some random tourist who took the tour last week or what they half-remember from some seminary teacher desperate to entertain his sleepy class back in the day.

    Find fault with the scriptwriter and all the layers of editors the scripts passed through, if you must, but even then you really, truly, genuinely are not so fully aware of all the issues that you can fairly pass judgment with words like “lying” and “deceit” and “despicable.”

  34. I never said anything about this situation was despicable, so stop misquoting me. If The Church tells you to lie, it doesn’t mean you aren’t. Frankly, I couldn’t care about the reasons people have for lying when complete honesty is expected of the rest of us. Even giving the benefit of the doubt it is a lie by omission and whether it feels warm and fuzzy or not I will call a lie a lie. If you want to dress it up and take it to a dance that is your business but I am not bound by any personal rules that you live by.

  35. You’ve used that word in other discussions, EOR — I wouldn’t plead for more rational words if it were a one-time thing, but it seems to be your normal pattern. People have cut you a lot of slack for various reasons, but some of us are finally tiring of the hyperbole.

  36. Amen, Ardis.

    If we are going to be technical, the statement that mentions Brigham’s wife is 100% accurate. As I said, I’m troubled that the wrong impression can be gained from the wording, but, frankly, I am troubled more by the use of words like “lying” and “dspicable” – especially with regard to the missionaries.

  37. Btw, just for the record, it was Kristine who used the word “despicable”.

  38. In *this* thread, Ray. As I said, it’s a pattern, not limited to this thread.

  39. Kristine says:

    Ray, did you not learn in Primary that a lie is “any communication with an intent to deceive?” Failing to mention Brigham Young’s polygamy fits that description quite neatly. To be clear, I’m not condemning missionaries for doing what they’re taught to do. I think it is wrong that they are taught to deny a part of our heritage. It’s despicable because it needlessly makes a part of Mormon history unspeakable and therefore dangerous, both to members of the Church, and to the Church itself.

  40. Kristine says:

    And I accept the chastisement about language and tone. I am guilty as charged in this case, but I feel ok about it–I actually do feel strongly about this one, and chose my words deliberately.

  41. How about this for a brokered adjective—- unfortunate.

  42. Kevin Barney says:

    What puzzles me is that, as I indicated, I’m reasonably certain that Brigham’s polygamy used to be openly spoken of in an older version of the tour. At least that’s the way I remember it, and I used to take the tour almost every time I came to SLC. And I don’t recall any shocked gasps or anything; visitors took it all in good stride. If what I heard was the actual script (and not just a truncated version), I would be curious what the reasoning process was that led to the change. (Just like they no longer give visitors a piece of horehound candy, because hardly anyone liked it and they would all spit it out after they walked out the door. I can see the logic of that change, and I’m curious what the logic of this other change might be.)

  43. Mark Brown says:

    IASOT, (29)

    I think it is accurate to say that this is how polygamy gets lost to the historical consciousness of latter-day saints today.

    Last year I was at Nauvoo with a group of friends, all college graduates, all active in the church. About 50% of them were surprised to hear that Joseph Smith had more wives than Emma, and they didn’t want anybody else talking about such a controversial subject. You can be at Nauvoo for a week, visit every site, and the only mention you will hear about polygamy is from the Community of Christ. THAT is ironic!

    We have our own selves to blame for this kind of ignorance, and fear of our own story. Shame on us.

  44. This is a fascinating post, Kevin, and the comments are also enlightening. I especially agree with Ray #8 and Sarah Familia #12. I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but I like to learn and I’ve enjoyed learning about all kinds of things for a very rewarding first half of my life. I have a high tolerance for ambiguity but I’m a problem solver, so I gravitate to explorations that lead to solutions, and that has probably contorted my studies – another element of personality-driven learning, I suppose. Congrats on your 400th post – you’re one of my favorite bloggers to read.

  45. Kevin Barney says:

    Perhaps I should also mention that, along the lines of Kiskilili’s comment, virtually all of the interesting detailed asides from previous tours had been removed. They no longer point out the little window at the top of the stairs where the little kids would watch as guests would arrive for parties. They no longer explain that the couches are made from horse hair. The older tour was filled with interesting detail like that; the current version is very much stripped down, to here’s a bedroom, here’s an office, with essentially no commentary on the artifacts in the rooms. It was just different from the older form of the tour I remember from my youth.

  46. As atonement, Kristine, you can go to San Diego and go on the Mormon Battalion whatever-it-is tour. It’ll make you feel as if you’ve wandered into chapel with Holden Caulfield for the lecture from the mortician about how important it is to always “pray to Jesus” and then escaped just in time to join Yossarian in the Great Loyalty Oath Crusade.

  47. “Ray, did you not learn in Primary that a lie is ‘any communication with an intent to deceive?'”

    Yes, I did.

    I didn’t agree way back then, and I don’t agree now.

  48. it's a series of tubes says:

    I think it is accurate to say that this is how polygamy gets lost to the historical consciousness of latter-day saints today.

    Mark, I understand what you are saying here, but I disagree. The in-person content on the tour of a single dwelling has limited reach compared to mass media – particularly as the church becomes more and more a non-US organization. And in the era of the internet, and with books like Compton’s selling widely, I’d submit that information on early LDS polygamy has never been more widespread, or easier to obtain.

    As to your friends, simply put – I believe that they are responsible for their own ignorance on a subject that can be easily confirmed on the church website.

    http://www.lds.org/topics/polygamy-plural-marriage?lang=eng

    If members of the Church don’t know what is clearly presented on the Church website, I can’t fathom how Nauvoo tours can ever rectify that with respect to the Church, particularly globally – even if the tour guides talk about nothing else but polygamy, to every visitor, all day long.

    As a descendant of polygamists on both sides, I’ll admit that my perspective may be slanted. I was never raised with “fear of our own story” as you describe it. Just gratitude that I don’t have the trial of it.

  49. Hmmm, my guess is Kristine won’t be voting for Bro Romney.

    I wonder if the tours have been seriously “correlated”, or if they’ve simply been adapted to the perceived capacity of the audience (or the staff, for that matter). In Nauvoo, I felt like the missionaries were constantly adapting the tours to their perceived audience, and once they had me figured out, some of them just couldn’t stop telling me stuff, they were so excited (oh, I love Nauvoo!) I also just did the Mormon Battalion tour, and it’s been theme-park-itized, so to speak. I’m too illiterate to make sense of Mark B’s comment, but I did find the tour kind of weird. My kids loved it, though, and it appeared the tourists did too.

    I agree with Kristine that withholding obviously relevant information is blatantly deceptive. If BY only had one wife living at the Beehive House, then I wouldn’t find “this is where his wife slept” problematic, but if there clearly were multiple wives on the premises, brushing over that fact is pretty bad.

  50. M Dearest says:

    I wonder how often, when they so briefly mention the (singular) wife’s room, they get asked, “Which one?” And I am really curious what the answer to that, and other follow-up questions would be. It’s possible that the docents have been better prepared than it appears, but they don’t bring it up until questioned by visitors. Somebody needs to do some research for the benefit of BCC commenters.

  51. Is there anyone who comments or blogs at BCC who is close enough to SLC that they can take the tour and see if they are told the same thing? Is it possible that this was a fluke? I’ve never been on a tour of any site in SLC, so I wouldn’t know, but I am curious to see if it is a consistent line or if it was just that one sister.

    On a different note, I collected various old church texts during my mission but, due to them not being approved, I boxed them up and shipped them home. One of my prized possessions was a copy of the first edition of “Mormon Doctrine” and a variety of other books from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. I also regularly go through the discard pile that our stake library has and collect books that way, too. But most of my church education outside Sunday School and Priesthood classes has come by chatting with friends in and out of the church and by frequenting blogs such as BCC and T&S. I’ve never gone to academic conferences or subscribed to the journals that others have.

  52. Swisster says:

    I live in the Midwest, but I took the tour in June of this year. The guides included some interesting details like the ones Kevin alluded to (e.g., pointed out items made from human hair), but indeed they always referred to Brigham Young’s wife. At the end, privately, I asked where the other wives and their children slept, and they pointed me to the Lion House, which doesn’t really give tours because they run a restaurant and cater parties and receptions in some of those bedrooms. I also asked whither the candy.

  53. Meldrum the Less says:

    “What am I missing? What is it that moves you to learn about the Church to so great a degree?”

    A late reply but I will attempt to answer this important question.

    9. The right callings.
    It helps to be called to teach a class like Gospel Doctrine in a place where going beyond the party line is both allowed and valued. The instructor is motivated to go out and learn things about the gospel to share with the class and thereby motivates them to go out and learn in order to enlighten the instructor and it can snowball from there. But more important is that you are not saddled with too many time and energy-consuming callings over the years, whether of crucial or dubious significance. I imagine some wards and quorums are so challenging to lead that there is nothing left in their leaders for learning anything. If you are shouldering this heavy burden for a couple of decades, the opportunity and inclination to pursue further learning very much erodes away.

    10. Humor
    Let me explain with an example. This week the instructor at the ward we visited asked the worn-out question: What are some of the things that other churches always say about us that are wrong? One answer offered was Mormons have horns. Everyone chuckled sleepily. Then I piped up: ” Yea, my kids all had horns. But I cut them off when they were about 3 years old.” They looked at me astonished, while I muttered something about being a Utah Mormon.

    I think that broke the ice. But the next answer offered was better, polygamy. I piped up again: “But we do practice polygamy, (Pause) at least some of us get to…. in the next life. And we never cancelled DC 132.” “And the Utah supreme court could declare the laws banning polygamy as unconstitutional. So under what circumstances does this practice return?” Still astonished at retaining the floor I continued: “What about all the mavericks who never gave it up and we have been kicking them out for generations? What are some of the things we always say about our polygamous cousins that might be wrong? ” Maybe this was going too far. But I did it in the spirit of humor and with the attitude of take-this-with-shaker-of-salt. It might hopefully cause a little bit of further research and thought. Who knows?

    11. Avoid getting your second annointing because it includes the gift of The More Sure Word of Prophecy. At that point you will have no use of any further learning. (See #10.)

  54. Meldrum, that comment was great! ^_^. For me (still too young to know much of anything, but not so young I don’t realize it), BCC has been good at helping me find out more. Church history and scripture classes from some good BYU teachers helped feed a fire that started in my early teens, but my emphasis has been more scripture than history. Read Bruce R. McConkie, Joseph Fielding Smith, B.H. Roberts, Royal Skousen, Hugh Nibley and some non-LDS like Bart Ehrman before the mission, and it was enough so that although I collected books while I was out, I basically read just the scriptures the whole mission. Admittedly, not in the usual fashion. I made detailed annotations of the differences between the 1830 and 1981 editions of the BoM, found as many cross-quotations between the BoM and Bible as I could, marked the differences between quoted texts and the KJV, and outlined where Mark was being quoted by Matthew and Luke, and where M and L shared “Q”, among other stuff. It kept me busy enough.

    So I guess nothing for me is missing from your list. My motivation, in the words of my first Mission President, would be that knowledge actuates me. It is what has given me self-confidence. Although it is only in precious few topics, I know what I know and can hold my ground on it. That gives somewhat the wrong impression – it’s hard to explain. I have associated probabilities and confidence levels in what I know on certain topics, and I know what discoveries it would take for me to change my mind, and to what degree, on conclusions I’ve already made. And I’m open to changing my mind, which is one reason I like the active search for more knowledge — it is exciting and enriching to adjust probabilities and change my mind on things. I hope some of the mathematically inclined can understand, and the rest can forgive the ramble =).

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,485 other followers