Review: Dialogue vol. 39, no. 4 (Winter) 2006

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.

December_2006_39042How 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.


  1. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks for the overview, J. I’ve been carrying this issue around in my briefcase, but haven’t gotten to it yet. I’ll get there.

    I e-know Ray Kuehne’s brother, Wayne, who was in the military and served as a mission presdient in Germany in the late 90s. I understand from Wayne that Ray has a ton of material and wants to write a book about the German-Mormon experience. The book will, however, assuming it appears, be written in German.

  2. Just reread the Bill Russell thread. Good times.

    I’m not sure I buy the thesis that people (in Japan or elsewhere) are leaving the church over historical issues. Most people in most wards stop coming because it’s all just too much hassle. It is possibly true, however, that the visible apostasies of ranking Mormons often revolve around “intellectual” issues. So when a Bishop goes inactive because he started reading stuff on the net we all gasp at the scandal, all the time forgetting the masses who just don’t like church.

    As for Germany, it would seem that the church takes the Google road (internet in China). Do what you have to do to please your political masters. The ends justifies the means.

  3. Ronan, Numano actually gives many other reasons for the challenges in Japan besides the internet. Perhaps these other reasons are the greater contributors, but the internet is one that is very relevant to all of us.

    Kevin, that project sounds fascinating! Maybe we could get Fowles or Ronan to translate.

  4. Ronan: re: Japan

    I think the difference is that people who don’t like church are typically “innactive”, while people who have “intellectual” issues with the church are typically “apostate”.

  5. Kuehne has noted that the book may appear in English.

  6. I had forgotten about that post, Justin. That is a welcome insight. Thanks.

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    Justin, thanks for that excellent, detailed report. That was much more than I knew about the project.

  8. “Maybe we could get Fowles or Ronan to translate. ”

    No! Me, me!!
    /she yells, waving her hand wildly/

  9. Ray Kuehne says:

    Regarding comments that I intend to write a book about the Church in East Germany, it’s true. After three years of research, it is finished and will be published, in German, by the Leipzig University Press within next 2-3 months.

  10. Kevin Barney says:

    Excellent news, Ray! Thanks for letting us know.

  11. Ray Kuehne says:

    If anyone is interested (able) to read the German edition of the book about the Church in East Germany, the publisher is offering it at a pre-publication price of 19 Euro through the end of April. I will import a few copies into the USA. Interested persons may contact me at