Inoculation, Anti-Mormonism, and Me

When I was fourteen years old I had the best job I will ever have. I sold programs at Derks Field, home of Salt Lake City’s AAA baseball franchise. I walked up and down the stairs of the grandstands hawking my wares, just like the beer and hot dog vendors. “Programs here! Get yer program, just one dollar!” It was a great job for a young baseball junkie who was transitioning from baseball cards to the live game. After about the third inning, nobody bought any more programs, so I could get myself a hot dog and a (root) beer, find a place to sit somewhere along the first base line, and enjoy the rest of the game.

Although I didn’t appreciate it sufficiently at the time, I was aware that my father made the effort to drive into town twice, once to drop me off before the game and again after it was over to bring me home. Once, before a Saturday afternoon game, dad told me that he would be delayed for a while after the game, so we had to devise a plan for picking me up. As we neared the ballpark, we saw a storefront bookstore which promised to tell “The Truth About Mormonism!”. Dad suggested that after the game I just walk over to the bookstore and wait for him there. So it was under the direction of my father that I first encountered, as an 8th grader, the Kinderhook plates, Nauvoo polygamy, Mormon racism, and the problems with the Book of Abraham.

I think this move was pretty cagey on his part, and I am very grateful for parents who “got” me. They realized that sooner or later I would encounter these issues, so they chose to expose me to them at a time when they could still help me. I recall talking with mom and dad now and then as a teenager about the things I was finding out, but I don’t remember being unduly troubled by them. I was able to assimilate the information in a way that allowed me to keep my balance and grow into LDS adulthood with a system of belief that has served me well. The thing that impresses me now is the degree of trust they had in me. The had enough confidence in me to assume that I could use my head and figure things out. And it was not only trust in me, but also trust in the church and the Restoration. They clearly thought that it could stand up to investigation and that while there are certainly some troublesome patches in our history and doctrine, overall, the Mormon worldview is worthwhile.

I am very pleased that as a church we are now beginning to do a better job of understanding and explaining our history. The Joseph Smith Papers Project is a gold mine of useful information, and the recently released Revelations in Context is a really good online resource to use in conjunction with gospel doctrine classes this year. I think these efforts are most welcome, but long overdue. We have lived through decades where we have failed one another by encouraging ignorance, and we are now paying the price. We have raised a generation of Mormons on a dumbed down curriculum that discouraged questions, and we have acted as though we have something to hide. The result has been fragile testimonies that cannot withstand even the most trivial questions. By assuming questions and tricky issues are to be avoided, we have pathologized the process of growing a mature faith. Our “all or nothing” approach has created fundamentalists who see the world in very simple terms.

I think it is worthwhile to realize that another word for cognitive dissonance is complexity. We need to understand that the Mormon gospel is a pretty tough, muscular guy who can hold his own in the barroom brawls of religious history. Compared to Roman Catholics and Jews, our history is easy. And if Brigham Young’s racism and misogyny rock your boat a lot, well, you better never look closely at Martin Luther, the father of Protestantism.

I am convinced that latter-day saints are intelligent and reasonable people who can handle the details well. I am hopeful that we have turned a corner, and look forward to more developments that will validate that confidence.


  1. “We have lived through decades where we have failed one another by encouraging ignorance, and we are now paying the price. We have raised a generation of Mormons on a dumbed down curriculum that discouraged questions, and we have acted as though we have something to hide. The result has been fragile testimonies that cannot withstand even the most trivial questions.”

    Well said! Great post

  2. Larry the Cable Guy says:

    The human body can take plenty of hits, and plug along just fine. So long as trauma A can heal before traumas B and C come along, we are rarely crippled, but simply discomforted in the short-term. In many ways we are bolstered by small amounts of pathogens that bolster our immune system’s library, or gain strength as muscles repair from micro-injury. The average four year-old boy probably has a dozen bruises on his shins and head, a recent history of controlled inoculative diseases in his system, boogers all over his face, and is still a model of health.

    The internet can deliver such concentrated information to modern Mormons, who used to (maybe) get a relative trickle of anti-Mormon exposure by reading a book a page at at time. They feel much more like they got hit by a truck instead of spraining an ankle. As mentioned in the recent Dehlin video, upon encountering Troubling Issue #1, their investigations very quickly uncover Troubling Issues #2-20.

  3. LtCG–that’s true. But it’s also true when people go looking for information about Christopher Columbus, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson. Yet most people whether that shock to the system without deciding America is built on a foundation of lies and we should all move to Iceland. Why is it different when we discover troubling facts about the Church?

    (I’ll take a stab at answering my own question–I think it’s because we have an absolutely untenable notion of what prophets are supposed to be, a notion aided and abetted by Deseret Book hagiographies, but contradicted by all of ancient and modern scripture and the teachings of most modern prophets. Why we insist on buying the candy-coated religion DB offers is beyond me, as is being angry when the candy turns out not to be nutritious…)

  4. Larry the Cable Guy says:

    Yes, it’s the abrupt contrast. Like a hot tub soak that lasts for years, followed by a Polar Bear swim. People know about Washington and Jefferson’s slaves in elementary school, but we appropriately emphasize the positive and roll with it.

    For my part though, I don’t see a great way to change the way we teach these things to youth. Teenagers who feel icky thinking about their parent’s marriage relationships will not be better served by focusing more on JS and BY’s home situations. Seminary isn’t the place to spend a week or longer to dissect all of the dynamics that led to MMM, when we touch on the standard works so superficially anyhow, and it doesn’t fit into the scriptural narrative at all. I guess just hearing some of the terms once or twice before you’re an adult would help to avoid the abruptness of the information later on, and feel less “covered up.”

    We’d get better mileage out of supporting deeper understanding among the 18-25s IMHO, than by wringing our hands about how CES pulls the wool over our eyes in seminary.

  5. Left Field says:

    I spent some enjoyable hours in Derk’s Field, even sitting in those folding cultural hall chairs. I remember the Tanner Bookstore, though I never went in. ( I did meet Sandra Tanner once at the MHA meetings in the Hotel Utah.) Derk’s was a great place to watch a ballgame. I remember the Salt Lake Gulls, and I saw a few BYU-Utah games there. Weird indentation in the rightfield wall, but it gave the place some of its character. I was disappointed when they fenced across it.

  6. I saw a lot of games there too and loved the place. (There’s no apostrophe in Derks Field, BTW),

    In contrast to Larry, I think we can do a better job of teaching our children these issues very easily. We already teach Church History, we just need to do a more complete and honest job. Then it won’t look like a whitewash or a cover up when people find things out later in life. I’m not saying we stop teaching the BoM and substitute MMM, I’m just saying that instead of the fifteenth lesson on Lehi’s dream, or the thirteenth lesson on the first vision maybe we could talk about Joseph’s other wives and the priesthood ban just a little. It wouldn’t hurt to admit some of the things we don’t know, and give people permission to think maybe our prophets made a couple mistakes along the way while they were doing their best to restore the gospel of Christ and lead the people of God. It’s understandable.

  7. This is a thought-provoking post. If they taught MMM, Joseph’s Wives, and The Best/Worst of Brigham (and more) in sunday school, you would have standing room only in class and no more hall-walkers.

  8. “We have lived through decades where we have failed one another by encouraging ignorance, and we are now paying the price. We have raised a generation of Mormons on a dumbed down curriculum that discouraged questions, and we have acted as though we have something to hide.” Amen, Mark. It’s time to repent, collectively.

  9. “The thing that impresses me now is the degree of trust they had in me. Theyx had enough confidence in me to assume that I could use my head and figure things out.”. I love this statement, Mark. And sadly, it’s something I still see glaringly missing in many church-member homes– the trust in the kids that you have brought up and confidence in their ability to “figure things out”. I see instead parents creating lots of “can’ts” and “not alloweds” (spending the night at a friend’s house, seeing a PG13 movie). I think it teaches teenagers, especially, that they are inherently “unrighteous” and can’t be trusted.

    And ditto those who are afraid of our history. We need to stop holding up our leaders as any more than “good but imperfect” people. To do otherwise is unfair to them, us, and those we teach. And makes us look like a bunch of brainwashed cultists, IMO.

  10. Chris Kimball says:

    There’s a critical assumption being made, expressed as “the Mormon gospel is a pretty tough, muscular guy who can hold his own in the barroom brawls of religious history”. What about people who don’t have that confidence? Imagine living with a firm testimony AND an unexplored but persistent fear that if you really looked at the history the Mormon gospel would not hold up?

    Perhaps you think that testimony+fear people don’t exist. Perhaps you think they exist but the answer is for them to get educated and settle their fear. But I think that such people exist–actually, I think they are quite numerous–and I’m pretty sure that many will not face their fears (human nature and all . . .)

    In a gospel that presents the possibility of saving ordinances one halfway rational response is to [try like heck to] shepherd your children through the teenage years onto a mission and into a temple marriage, with blinders if necessary, on the hope and at least some folk gospel support that that will be sufficient for salvation and even exaltation. Let them deal with history and questions afterward.

    Possible answers, in no particular order:
    > This is a demeaning disrespectful way to view children and will backfire as often as not. (This is one way to read the OP.)
    > Don’t act out of fear; get smarter.
    > The folk gospel is wrong–the checklist of ordinances is not sufficient. (Bring out the “endure to the end” quotes . . .)
    > In the interconnected internet world of the 21st century, it won’t work (if it ever did).

  11. I heartily agree with the general thrust of nearly all these comments. Most specifically (or at least most problematic, IMO) I endorse what KerBearRN said in #8 “And ditto those who are afraid of our history. We need to stop holding up our leaders as any more than “good but imperfect” people. To do otherwise is unfair to them, us, and those we teach. And makes us look like a bunch of brainwashed cultists, IMO.”

    I am amazed by how common it is becoming to see “active” members “leaving” the Church because of something they have (finally) learned that shocks their “testimony” from them. They never learned enough to really see and value the baby–so they threw it out when they discovered the bath water needed to be thrown out. They believed in the near infallibility of their local and general authorities to the extent they never applied any critical thinking, never learned more than what was in the pablum (or the kool aid), is our Mormon version of ohm chants, spinning prayer wheels, or genuflecting.

    On the other hand, is it possible that most people need all the mysticism, hyperbole, and faith-promoting “God inspires our leaders constantly,” to develop the strength of belief/testimony necessary to motivate good behavior? The prevalence of belief–and in the case of the many cults–intense, unthinking, dedication among humans generally would seem to be evidence of that in our nature.

  12. you say you made sense of all those things, and kept your testimony. care to elaborate? I’d love to hear how you synthesized it all in a faithful way

  13. re #9: Chris, I think you address a critically important part of this issue: fear. Fear drives many parental decisions, and many parents will say that fear is an effective motivation. Perhaps in the short run, but you are really gambling if you try the “Just get them on a mission” strategy.

    Somewhat related, I think fear in the church creates an artificial sense of urgency for our teens and young adults. Deep scholarship and rich experiences are sacrificed to the fear of their unknown consequences. Kudos to Mark’s parents for giving him the experiences of exploring a bookstore and working AAA baseball.

  14. Left Field says:

    I wondered about the apostrophe as I typed it, but didn’t bother to look it up. By the time I decided it probably didn’t have an apostrophe, I’d already hit Post Comment.

    To me, the most troubling aspects of Mormonism by far, is all that stuff that came before 1820. If I can find a way to deal with all the racial issues in the Bible, then the more benign racial passages in the Book of Mormon are just (a little) more of the same. If I can imagine God working through some of the yahoos we read about in scripture, I can also imagine God working through Joseph or Brigham or Thomas no matter what their bad behavior or personal shortcomings. Perhaps some might see that as a reason to just discard the whole thing, but I’ve never understood people who don’t bat an eye at the complicated and thorny legacy of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and somehow focus on the post-1820 Restoration as the part that is problematic and devastating to faith.

    If we really believe that this is just the latest dispensation of the Gospel, we need to own the whole thing. We need to stop treating the Restoration as its own religion and start believing our own teachings about how God works with humanity. It’s an inspirational, troubling, noble, knotty, honorable, and problematic conglomerate of flawed people occasionally hoping to become better than we are and occasionally succeeding.

  15. Hit Streak Qustioner says:

    Exactly, Left Field.

  16. Kevin Barney says:

    Good stuff, Mark. My experience is that our youth can absorb an awful lot, and our long standing practice of correlated minimalism has done them no favors.

  17. Since Joseph Smith’s time, we have told our story from a perspective that echoes Lorenzo Snow’s estimate of human cognition and religious learning.

    The idea that there is a “true” story of Mormonism is false. There is an intended story. That is the one we have told so imperfectly and traditionally, but with good will. It is the one we need to tell more meaningfully and more fully. But the true story is simply unavailable in any reasonable sense.


  18. Meldrum the Less says:

    I think if you really want to know what shakes people up enough to leave, you need to talk to people who have left. Too often we trivialize their experiences.When I have tried to talk to them as an active LDS member, they often think I am insincerely trying to persuade them of their folly and the walls go up. Other than a couple of very close friends or family members, I have to browse the more critical halls of the bloggernacle to comprehend what is going on in their heads.

    I think that trauma A, trauma B, and trauma C can be coming from different sources.
    Common examples I have noticed seem to be: finding out that the sugar-coated version of the church is inaccurate on multiple fronts; being treated badly, ignored or even abused by church members and leaders repeatedly especially during a crisis; thinking that you have a testimony (truth of all things) of something important like marrying a nice girl/getting a great job, calling etc. and then getting dumped; watching your children not fit in, be ostracized or misjudged; finding something else that seems better to do.

    Until we fix another problem, (what one inactive friend calls “the true but crappy church”) we are going to be more vulnerable to many traumas. For me this includes better music, more sincere heartfelt prayers, inspiring and motivating sermons, relevant lessons, better youth programs, more opportunities for community service and most important -more centeredness on Christ. In addition to hiding our colorful history, we have been living off the power of our history too much.

  19. I don’t know that I’m convinced our curriculum necessarily produces “fragile” testimonies. Granted, you can find plenty of Ex-Mormons who are upset because they feel lied to after finding out this or that damning evidence, so that kind of black-and-white fragility does exist, but I think overall our curriculum tends to produce people with very strong testimonies, of a sort. That is, they’re extremely loyal to the church, are willing to stand up for their beliefs, and are comfortable with the language of certainty (they KNOW that it is true). In aggregate, I bet we have fewer people falling away than if we engaged with the problematic stuff more directly. Of course that’s not to say it’s not worth it anyway: The problem in my opinion is that a lot of Mormons (though certainly not all) tend to become incurious and suspicious of any rigorous examination of their own beliefs, including any sort of history or philosophy that isn’t explicitly church approved. They become like the students Hugh Nibley mocked who decline to seek after greater truth and knowledge because they already have the truth. So, maybe not fragile testimonies, but certainly one-dimensional ones, and that’s probably bad enough.

  20. Just last week I was thinking a lot about the potential merits of “inoculating” my children with the sticky parts of church history. I came to the conclusion that it’s important, and I wrote a blog post about it. I think it contributes to the discussion, so I’m pasting it here.
    “There’s a lot of sticky issues in LDS church history. Almost none are talked about in church. On some level I can understand this, and on another level I feel that the church curriculum needs a major revamp that includes more of it if we want to keep people from falling away. There’s too much out there on the internet for members to access that is or seems to be at odds with what they learned in church for us not to do something. I know many people who are aware that controversy over church history is a click away, but they are afraid to go there for fear it will affect their testimony. It’s understandable, and it’s why the status quo isn’t going to keep working. Some people do make those clicks and aren’t able to come to grips with what they find.

    The church may or may not change their manuals, but as a family we ultimately have the say in what gets taught to our kids in our home. We can and are even supposed to teach whatever we feel is necessary. And so, as our kids get older, I think we are going to teach them the sticky issues ourselves.

    I voiced this sentiment to an online LDS forum, and the response I received was generally negative. Some argued that it’s best to focus on Christ, that a foundation of faith and prayer is the best thing we can give to our kids to protect them. They said other things might end up being distractions, and the best inoculation we can give them against doubt is the teachings of Christ.

    I would agree that Christ and his teachings need to be the center of what we as parents teach our children. But I don’t see why we can’t inoculate our children with both the teachings of Christ and the sticky parts of history. It seems that some people argue that building faith alone is a strong enough vaccine to protect our children from troubling aspects of the church. In other words, that when our children have left home, their foundation of faith in Christ and prayer will be sufficient to withstand the fiery darts of historical facts that are or seem to be at odds with what is taught at church (Ephesians 6:16; 1 Nephi 15:24; D&C 3:8). Looking at the scriptures I just cited, I can see why one would say that. And ultimately, it’s probably the right answer if forced to take a binary view. Helping our children develop their own spiritual experiences might be the only thing they have to cling to when doubts creep into their life. Mine have certainly been a strength for me.

    However, an analogy that was made in the most recent general conference is helpful here. Elder Jensen talked about faith and reason being like two wings of an airplane. Both faith and reason are necessary for a person to function properly in the church. I have found this to be true for myself, and I don’t think it’s wise to only build our children wings of faith and ignore the wings of reason. In the talk, Elder Nash basically says that if the wing of reason seems to contradict the wing of faith, you shouldn’t cut off your wing of faith. Both wings are necessary, and it doesn’t make sense to cut either one of them off. Endure, and the Lord will open a way to understand how reason fits in. His analogy is far from perfect since he’s really just saying that we need to have faith even when things intellectually don’t make sense. Nonetheless, I haven’t found a better analogy. Faith is what we cling to, but the airplane still needs reason to keep going.

    For me, this means I am going to teach my children the historical facts as honestly as possible. Even if they are sticky. But I don’t think children will have such a hard time accepting the stickiness, especially if it’s done in the context of of love and the teachings of Christ. I don’t remember my parents specifically talking much about many of the concerns critics have about the church, but they did have lots of books lying around. Some were from critical authors. In hindsight, I am extremely grateful for this exposure. I don’t think most kids my age had access to those books. I read them, I knew that my parents had probably read them, and that was enough for me. Some things were a bit shocking, but I was young enough that my worldview hadn’t solidified yet. I’ve heard it said that one of the hardest things to get people to do is discard preconceived notions. This isn’t hard with children, but it’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks. For adults, it’s difficult to discard the preconceived notion that Joseph Smith fits the mold of the nearly perfect man we see in restoration videos. When they find out he wasn’t, sometimes everything crumbles. Teaching our kids when they are young can eliminate much of this difficulty.

    In the very least, it’s important not to fear these topics when they arise. Someone told me they don’t think we need to tell our children about every argument critics have against the church, and I think he’s right. But there are some things I will probably intentionally bring up. Getting down to specifics, I’m thinking one way to do this is include it in parts of a larger lesson. Most simple is to talk about issues as they come up in the D&C. For example, if we ever read D&C 132 as a family, we can’t help but be faced with the choice of whether or not to discuss polygamy. It’s easy to be scared and want to shy away from it, but I won’t. I’ll even mention the married women Joseph married. Another example — when reading JSH together, I might spend a minute describing how Joseph used a seer stone to try and find buried treasure, which may have been one of the things that he referenced as a weakness he was praying for forgiveness for. Another example — when reading the Book of Abraham with my family, I’m probably going to mention that scholars have found many similar pictures and have determined they are funerary texts. It will probably be a casual discussion, and then we’ll move on to the more spiritual aspects of the text. These are hypothetical situations, of course, but they help me think that it can be done.

    In the end, what I want to accomplish really isn’t that grand. I definitely won’t have the best answer to critics of the church. My kids are still going to go out and be confronted with issues that challenge their faith. But my hope is that they will remember their father was the first to tell them about it, that their father wasn’t afraid of the issues, and that their father has faith despite knowing about the controversies. If that’s all I can do to support the wing of reason, I will consider it enough.”

  21. #10: “I am amazed by how common it is becoming to see “active” members “leaving” the Church because of something they have (finally) learned that shocks their “testimony” from them. They never learned enough to really see and value the baby–so they threw it out when they discovered the bath water needed to be thrown out. They believed in the near infallibility of their local and general authorities to the extent they never applied any critical thinking, never learned more than what was in the pablum (or the kool aid), is our Mormon version of ohm chants, spinning prayer wheels, or genuflecting.”

    I am amazed by “active” members who think they “know” the experiences and thoughts of “other” members without actually having the experiences of those other members, and confidently post those ideas on message boards as if they are “truth.” The scare quotes make it extra true, I guess.

    For many of us, our ability to think critically made our shelf so heavy that finding out the truth about the Church’s history was actually a relief, because our logical brains were telling us that things weren’t adding up, but the indoctrination we’d undergone since childhood regarding the Church’s truth claims and the mantle of the prophet overrode what our brains were telling us. We’ve been told since we were very small children not to lean on our own understanding, to beware of non-faith-promoting sources, to trust “the Spirit,” rather than our own judgment. It’s pretty disingenuous to accuse people of never using their brains and having weak testimonies when we were told to base our testimonies on feelings rather than logic and to fear information that wasn’t Church-approved.

    I’m not saying that some people can’t hear the thorny historical stuff and still find value in the Church, in the doctrine and community. That’s a fine choice for some. For others, the only thing keeping us in the Church was belief that it had “the truth,” and if it doesn’t, we don’t see a reason to stay in. For me, there’s nothing of value in the Mormon Church that I can’t find somewhere else.

    As to the OP, my view is this: I love when parents are honest with their children, and when they trust them enough to handle the truth. That is very wise parenting. I believe that all children, when they become adults, should get to make their own faith decisions, and that includes having the freedom to decide to leave the church without damaging family relationships or being judged. That’s the problem I have with some people’s approach to innoculation–if my parents or teachers had shared history with me, but then immediately chased the information with apologetics to make it okay a little bit at a time, I feel like my choice would be taken away from me, in a way. If you’re told why it’s okay that Joseph Smith had over 30 wives or why it’s okay that there was racism in the past, etc., before you have the life experience to decide for yourself whether or not it’s okay, that’s not really freedom to choose. I know Mormons always want their family members to remain Mormon, but they need all the facts, and they need to allow those loved ones to make an informed decision.

  22. JennyP1969 says:

    I can only say that 4 years ago I stumbled onto FARMS and FAIR, and began learning “truths” about our history I had never been taught, or was taught complete opposites. There was a strong absoluteness to our history and truths….our doctrines. I never heard fallibility in prophets until I went to those two websites.

    I am 58. I have almost always been an auxiliary president in my adult life. I’ve served in both ward and stake. When they said they wanted more women to become better scriptorians, I became one. I taught Seminary. I’ve taught, no subbed, in Institute. My faith, I once bragged, though I was very sincere, was not small, nor was it shakable.

    Please don’t say testimonies are weak when the restomper roes are learned. I walked in pure anguish for two long years because of the realities no one — no one — ever spoke of over any pulpit or during any lesson. My paradigm was rock solidly laid all my life by wonderful teachers and leaders, right up to the 8 prophets of my life thus far.

    And please don’t trivialize the depth of the things learned, nor the impact they have on what I once thought was fact, but isn’t, or isn’t the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Don’t be critical of critical thinking when you’re taught to follow and obey….to trust the prophets’ and apostles’ judgments and teachings before your own weaker and more flawed ones….or that your critical thinking IS to be faithful, trusting, loyal and obedient because they walk and talk with the Savior, as you’ve been taught.

    I walk alone. My husband won’t hear any of it for fear. He feels our grown children should not know, less they stumble and I be held accountable. As to the grandchildren, no way at all.

    So I study my scriptures — especially the Gospels. I trust Jesus Christ. But I no longer trust my church. I’m not sure it’s that true and living any more. But I love most of the people, and the church is a good facilitator of walking the talk of discipleship. I love my walk with God. I love learning more and more about Him, and Them. I strive to walk in the meekness of His spirit. I strive to seek the spirit, and in the past two years I have found comfort and a semblance of peace. I remain active, though the temple rites background and wording remains painful. During recommend renewal interviews I have honestly expressed my pain and sorrow, my disillusionment. These men know me well. They’ve wept with me, but asked not to know specifics, for if “one such as you is rocked, how can I not be?” They give me my recommend and pray for me.

    Never in my wildest imaginings did I ever think my greatest test would come from within and by my own church.

    Maybe you have not struggled as I, or maybe you have it all figured out. But please don’t demean those who aren’t where you are as fragile, or weak, or superficial. I’d rather you put an arm around me and say you understand and will help me hold on. And I’d really appreciate if you didn’t imply my pain is all my own doing.

    Till then, I stay close to the Savior, the spirit — and trust in Them alone. Maybe that’s as it should be, after all.

    But still, I wish I could unknow what I know, or still feel as happy in the church, anyway…..the church that fed me a paradigm built on sand. And the rains came down, and the foods came up…..

  23. Christopher J. says:

    Thanks, Mark.

  24. Just last night during family scripture study, we were reading about the Brother of Jared and his 22 children. I said, “How do you think he had 22 children?” My 16-year-old son said, “He must have had more wife.” I replied, “Probably. There were a lot of prophets of old times who had more than one wife. Even some of the modern-day prophets.”

    My 14-year-old daughter had a puzzled expression and said, “Wait, MODERN prophets?” “Yes,” I replied. “We all know about Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff. Joseph Smith also had other wives.”
    “Wait,” she said. “Did Emma die?”
    “No, he had other wives at the same time.”

    And then my wife talked a bit about how this is something that is only allowed at times in which God commands it, and it’s not something we can choose to do ourselves.

    And then they got bored with the topic and we moved on. Now, for the rest of their lives, when some critic of the church says something about “Joseph Smith had multiples wives,” they’ll say, “Yeah, I know.” We can get into the details (or not) as they’re interested.

    I think about church history and the “difficult” parts the same way I think about talking about sex and other weighty matters with your kids. If they get the scoop from you first and find that you’re a reliable resource, they’ll have a better context from which to view it when seeing sex treated in more unsavory ways from their friends and the media.

    The major thing about church history probably isn’t the thing itself, but the source and/or time from which you first hear it. The problem with hearing it first from unfriendly sources is that when you hear the info first from them, you’re also getting it in their context. It can be difficult to see it from any other angle from that point forward.

    I agree we can do a better job of betting ahead of the critics’ “discussion points” as a church and at church history in general, and I’m happy to see that steps are being made in that direction.

  25. @JennyP1969 I do not think your thoughts are fragile, weak, or superficial. I believe your thoughts and feelings, and those of other people who experience what you do are very reasonable.

    For a long time now, my part-time obsession has been going through church history and doctrine in search of a more complete truth. I am not an authority or true historian by any means, and I’m not really anyone of great consequence, but I feel I have come to reconcile most of the sticky issues you can find out there, with the truth claims of our church. It sounds like not many people have been willing to discuss with you the things that have been causing you trouble/pain, and that makes me feel bad. So if you would like, I’d be happy to discuss with you any particular issues or multiple issues that are troubling to you. I don’t feel the need to convince you of my views, and of course I cannot promise perfect answers, but if your interested in knowing how one regular member has reconciled some of these issues, I’d be happy to hear your thoughts and have a discussion. You (or anyone else in a similar circumstance) can reach me at – sfellows9 at gmail dot com.

    I believe there is a way to come to reconciliation and to be just as happy in the church as before coming across some of these historical/doctrinal issues. My best wishes!

  26. I think these discussions about addressing the difficulties of the church’s past often leave out a key element: The betrayal felt is just as strong over the anger of not being told the whole truth. The loss of trust is therefore two-fold, split between the past and the present: Joseph Smith isn’t what I was told, and those responsible for teaching me kept this hidden. An all-too common phrase is “I was lied to” and there’s a very real sense of “if we’re the true church, what are they afraid of?”

    I would argue that any conversation about the “real history” needs to be accompanied with a frank discussion about the role and limitations of modern leaders. Is it an apostle’s job to know every nook and cranny of church history? Should the prophet be able to rattle off all of Joseph’s wives? The real role is to pastor; their time is spent traveling, ministering, and administrating. Correlation is a well-intended program that has had unfortunate unintended consequences. If people understand that they weren’t lied to, but that this is just the limitation and imperfect result of trying to run a worldwide church, I think that softens the blow.

  27. If I left a comment bearing my classic-style testimony to the truthfulness of the gospel as taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, noting how long and how deeply I have plowed through Mormon history and how sincerely I have considered the problems that bother so many people, some other commenters would try to shame me out of the discussion and insist that my hateful ol’ self was doubling their pain by trivializing their struggles.

    Those of you who bear anti-testimonies, who state as if it were an obvious, demonstrable fact, that “it is as plain as day that the Church was NOT true” and similar statements, who accuse believing members and Church leaders of lying, ought to have the decency to qualify your statements with “in my experience” or “from my point of view” or something. As it is, you come across as jerks.

  28. it's a series of tubes says:

    In my experience, from my point of view, Ardis comes across as awesome.

  29. Chris Kimball says:

    #27 beat me to it (not typing fast enough) so ditto #27 and #26 (except that my testimony would be somewhat different, being mine after all, and always based on my experience and from my point of view).

    I think the point of this whole discussion, or at least of the OP, is that hiding the history doesn’t necessarily work and providing information is better. In my opinion, neither does laying it all out necessarily work (in other words, I would quibble that “inoculation” in the title is a little too strong). If there was one sure way to a firm testimony with everything in place, we’d be having a different discussion. But there isn’t. We live in a world of uncertainty in the midst of people with brains and agency and we don’t dictate the outcome. In that uncertainty, even though there is no absolute guarantee of the outcome, isn’t the argument simply that early information is better, on balance, for more people more of the time, than no information? .

    If that’s the argument, I (for one) agree completely.

  30. CJ Douglass says:

    I find we’re curiously selective in what we think is weird or controversial. As if buried golden plates are so believable compared to peep stones. As if a priesthood ban based on race is so mush easier to explain than polyandry.

  31. This was a good OP and great topic for discussion. Here’s my question:

    For as much emphasis as the LDS Church puts on accepting Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling as the key to … well, everything … wouldn’t it be correct that the matter of the truth of the Restored Gospel — as we teach and understand it — was settled long before JS was even born? Beliefs such as the guaranteed salvation of little children, redemption of the dead, the Atonement being for all our pains as well as our sins, the Council in Heaven, pre-mortal existence and the doctrine of agency, if these elements are true, then they’ve always been true. JS was merely a vehicle through which they were revealed.

    Obviously, the above doctrines are found in the texts that are called into question for reasons of authenticity or historicity. Teaching the “sticky” historical issues is still important, IMO, even though I believe such issues should have no bearing on the question of the gospel’s truth.

    I hope I haven’t oversimplified (or overcomplicated) the issue. I’ve appreciated the many points of view represented in these comments.

  32. JennyP1969 says:

    Thank you, Steve #24, I appreciate your thoughts and offer. I studied for two solid years and just grew more disillusioned. Ironically, I didn’t go to anti cites. When I let the past go, and resolved that current leaders cannot explain the past away, I began to get back to the present and my own walk with God. This was the key for me.

    However, as you know, someone gives a teaching in a talk or lesson that you now know is partially or fully off-base. It stings. I feel bad for not clarifying, but can’t seem to say anything. What good would speaking up do?

    And finally, in the end, I’m troubled by beliefs I didn’t know of that I can’t accept….they just feel wrong, but were openly taught as true. They’re not taught today, but are part of the future. So the past and future are disquieting at best, devastating in reality. Thus, I try to stay anchored in the present and to the Savior. I love our leaders and their teachings of Christ. Grace has saved me from the rest.

    Thank you again. You’re very kind. Some are still grieving…still in the gall of bitterness lashing out in raw anger. It’s all part of mourning the loss of what you were taught and had such faith in. Let us be charitable, patient, long-suffering with everyone, lest they fall away. They need your strength and love, even if they come across as jerks. Ardis, Kevin, Jacob, and many others have helped me “see” better because of what they understand and share. I lurked for a long time in my grief, and you helped. So. Much. Your knowledge is dear to me. Even as you, yourselves, have become dear to one struggling to find my way through. My gratitude is deep and profound. I express it once again.

  33. Love this post Mark and wholeheartedly agree. I’m also with Ben S. in wanting us to change course and open a new chapter trying to get it right after having learned the hard way that the previous approach has been less successful than intended.

    I still think that “Inoculation” is perhaps the wrong metaphor. Truth is not a disease against which inoculation would be necessary. “Truth” might not always be faith-promoting, as Larry the Cable Guy notes with reference to general Judeo-Christian history and tradition. (It would be astounding, for instance, if one believed Brigham Young directed the Mountain Meadows Massacre and therefore rejected him and the Church but then held to a creedal Christian faith that embraced 1 Samuel 15:3 and other similar stories in the Old Testament.) But Truth is still worth knowing and pursuing for its own sake, even if it forces one to think long and hard about the implications of such unsavory episodes of Church history (Church history including not only events since 1820 but also going back to Old Testament times). Our constitution as Latter-day Saints takes this to be a fundamental principle: that all Truth can be and should be circumscribed into one great whole. The result certainly will not be harmonious in all details but no less beautiful for it.

    If a particular vignette in the Church’s history is not faith promoting (such as Brigham Young’s or Mark Petersen’s or Alvin Dyer’s horribly racist statements/worldviews), then it is understandable that a natural temptation would be to “cover it up” as a natural defense of men we believe had been called by God to fulfil certain callings. But we should resist that temptation! Instead, if we are humble about it, maybe there is something specific we can learn from the fact that they were unabashed racists and indeed thought their racist sentiments were not only in harmony with the Gospel but explicitly communicated God’s will. If we raise our children aware that men in these callings suffered from such context-specific cultural/historical failings (i.e. failing to rise above the worldly, socially acceptable/mandated racism of the times) and succumbed to the temptation to give their prejudices the imprimatur of God’s will, then perhaps that could actually fortify their testimonies against adversity that could arise when they learn of other similar instances.

    Perhaps a positive side effect of such openness would also be that raising our children with this awareness would fortify their actions against succumbing to such temptations themselves as they grow up and begin to serve in callings of Church leadership. It must be almost impossible to resist the temptation, once placed in such a position, to use such an office to promote your own aesthetic or philosophical preferences. Maybe instilling an awareness of this potential hazard from an early age would produce people capable of resisting such impulses. That alone could cause a lot less friction in the Church that results from impulses toward doctrinally unnecessary political, philosophical, or aesthetic conformity, completely aside from raw historical data.

    Favorable outcomes all around, I would think. And I agree that a lot of recent developments seem like positive steps in that direction. Ultimately, all each of us can do individually is commit ourselves (and teach our children) to behave a certain way towards our fellow Latter-day Saints should we ever find ourselves in an influential leadership position. Following President Kimball’s and Benson’s advice to decide beforehand, each of can can decide right now that if placed in such a position, we will not cave in to the temptation to use the position to implement our own preferences (just thinking one relatively recent example could be the initiative by a Phoenix area Stake President a few years back to outlaw flip flops on women in his stake because, apparently in his opinion, the exposed space between the toes vaguely resembled cleavage and so women were not appropriately policing men’s thoughts by continuing to wear flip flops — his aesthetic preference was to think that women wearing flip flops was “immodest” and he had a way to implement that in his stake because of his position).

  34. it's a series of tubes says:

    Flip-flop bans in Phoenix? Attendance would fall by nearly half! At least in my ward, in the summertime.

  35. If you’re saying that people in your ward are wearing flip flops then all I can say is you must be an exceptionally immodest bunch.

  36. Thank you JennyP1969 for so eloquently expressing many of my own thoughts and experiences. I’m fairly certain I would come across as a level 10 jerk if I tried to explain the metamorphosis of my beliefs over the last two years. I am about your same age and have not found much understanding among my peers, so, I too am very grateful for the wisdom I have found at BCC

  37. It is confounding to me how very little so many people practice prudent logical thinking, and how so many simply avoid or refuse to look any deeper than at the surface of the gospel and the church. Far too often they simply accept at face value anything either pro or anti-mormon that they may come across. I wonder, for example, what is so difficult to get that prophets are not puppets and God is not a ventriloquist? What is so difficult to get that it is quite unfair and dishonest to judge people in the distant past by today’s morals and standards? Why is it so hard to conceive that the truth is often far more complex and more nuanced (and is often incomplete), than what we read or hear about? Why do people get so fixated on a few particular trees while missing and not taking into account the rest of the forest?

    Part of the Book of Mormon translation process apparently involved Joseph looking at a stone in the bottom of a hat. OH! HOW HORRIBLE! It’s just WEIRD! It’s not what I was taught or always thought–so therefore the Book of Mormon and the rest of the gospel and the church must not be true!…. Seriously? Wow, good thing the translation didn’t involve putting a bucket over his head while holding Emma’s hand mirror up in the air over the top of bucket–now that REALLY would have proven the hoax, right?

    It makes me wonder about the intelligence of those who are often so fickle and dismissive in their convictions of truth. Sometimes, when a piece of the puzzle of truth presents itself–and perhaps even a shocking piece of truth–and we are at a loss as to where or how that particular piece fits into the bigger picture, instead of summarily declaring all the other pieces of truth we have gathered as invalid (throwing the baby out with the bath water, as they say), it may just serve us best to lay that piece aside until at some future point in time, more pieces of the puzzle, and thus further light and knowledge, illuminates how that piece of truth gets to fit in with all the rest.

    So many so sadly are so easily deceived and convinced one way or another by the slick and cunning words of men and women who have their own sometimes well-intentioned agendas. Now, haven’t I read something about that scenario in the scriptures somewhere? Maybe even in the Book of Mormon?

  38. CJ Douglass says:

    Greg D, to be fair, Church authorities perpetrate the idea that these things are “weird”, by omitting them from official teaching. Not that we have discuss polyandry every week, but the exact mode of translation of the BoM, for example, is completely removed from reality and a pretty important detail to know about. As the OP suggests, if these things were all out in then open, we would have a lot less people feel deceived (which is half the battle).

  39. Elder Nelson’s 1993 Ensign article about the miraculous translation of the Book of Mormon, which specifically referred to the seer stone in the hat as quoted from Whitmer and Emma, was a great start. But then it pretty much went quiet on that point, so much so that I’ve experienced scandals within the last few years in which people have literally left the church stating as part of their reason that the Gospel Art Kit portrays JSJ translating the Book of Mormon directly from the plates with no interpreters (either U&T or seer stone + hat) whereas South Park clearly shows JSJ translating using the seer stone in the hat.

    This kind of thing is completely avoidable and I cannot see how anyone can make a credible argument that we have anyone but ourselves to blame for this crisis.

  40. >the exposed space between the toes vaguely resembled cleavage

    Wow. That bloke had some weird issues.

  41. Foot fetish, apparently — but imagine the chutzpah in responding to your own foot fetish by imposing a new standard on an entire body for which you have presiding religious authority. Easier, I guess, than just policing your own thoughts?

  42. @Steve (24): I was touched by your offer. So very nice.

  43. TooLateNow says:

    Mormon censorship is alive and well. Comments deleted that goes directly against the point of the OP. Too bad.

  44. FYI: this is a Mormon blog and we’re going to delete comments that contain blatant animosity towards the church. So yeah, your amazing thoughts that NOBODY in the history of all Mormonism had ever thought of before have been relegated to the recycling bin. C’est la vie.

  45. #37 CJ Douglass and #38 john f: I simply question the depth and the breadth of the convictions of those who would leave the church merely because they encounter such trivial pieces of the puzzle with which they were previously unfamiliar. Is teaching in Sunday School or from the pulpit that the Book of Mormon translation method evolved from Joseph using the interpreters (U & T) to his using the stone in the hat method really such a primary, foundational pillar of all that is or is not true concerning the church? Is that the keystone and not the Book of Mormon itself? Why is such a relative triviality given such seemingly enormous weight by so many? I don’t get it.

  46. MikeInWeHo says:

    Oh how I long for the days of ‘yore, when Evans held firm to the reins.
    He hesitates not, to delete on the spot.
    And woe unto those without brains.

  47. Meldrum the Less says:

    My son at age 16 was over 6 feet tall with a hard body and the most beautiful golden curly blond hair spilling down onto his shoulders I have ever seen. One hot rainy Georgia summer night he showed up to MIA wearing a t-shirt and a pair of cargo pants that went almost to his knees and a pair of sandals. An overweight guy in a white shirt and tie told him that kind of foot wear was not allowed in the church. My son quickly hopped out of both sandals and in an instant he stuffed them down the front of the pants of this fashion cop. Without saying a word he smiled bemused and pointed to a picture of Jesus hanging on the wall wearing a nearly identical pair of sandals as he bound away barefoot. I think that was the end of the foot fetish in our ward.

    A member of the high counsel did have a word with me over this later and insisted that I punish him. I told him, “train up a child….” that my son was no longer a child and the days of me punishing him were long past. I wanted to remain on good terms with him since he was much bigger and stronger than me and I had to live with him. He is old enough that you can deal with him.

  48. Meldrum the Less says:

    Quit yer dag-burn cryin’ about comments being deleted. It hain’t yer blog.
    (Except the poetry, that was sweet, #45).

    I probably have more comments deleted than just about anyone and I don’t care. I don’t think I am really out there on the cutting edge unless a few comments get deleted.Even deleted comments have been read and considered. That is enough.

    I find it especially interesting what gets deleted. I am a Mormon original. I am the church and don’t consider any of my remarks to be anti-Mormon, but more along the lines of speculation or suggestions or observations. Nothing that some of my relatives would find disturbing. Apparently some disagree.

    That is useful to know. I see myself as a messenger for my unique Mormon experiences and when my comments get deleted that tells me I am hitting a sensitive place. Sort of like probing a wound. When the patient jumps and screams there is the problem that needs explored.

    Lets see if this flies.

  49. More like taking out the trash, Meldrum.

  50. It is not understandable that any Mormon prophet that is supposed to have a direct line to god makes any mistakes at all. Seems like whitewash and a cover up to me.

  51. Left Field says:

    Worst whitewash and coverup in history.

  52. PS Hello to our friends visiting us from Hope you’re doing well. Please feel free to comment, but again understand that this is a mormon blog and we’re trigger-happy censors.

  53. #50 Hayduke: Hello. Your assertion–that because a Mormon prophet is supposed to have a “direct line to god,” he therefore is not allowed to make “any mistakes at all”–is known in the realm of logic and rational reasoning as a straw man attack. It is a criticism based upon a false premise. As I stated earlier, LDS Mormons do not believe prophets are puppets. God is not a ventriloquist. Prophets are allowed to learn just like the rest of us–line upon line. And, oh my, but they are even allowed to have their own opinions and speculations. Why do you insist on imposing YOUR definition and view of what a prophet is and does upon the LDS and then turn around and criticize what it is you say we are supposed to believe? This is a favored and very frequent tactic amongst those who speak against the church.

  54. *I find we’re curiously selective in what we think is weird or controversial. As if buried golden plates are so believable compared to peep stones. As if a priesthood ban based on race is so mush easier to explain than polyandry.*

    In a way this just makes the case for inoculation. We don’t think gold plates are weird because we’re used to them.

    I had an insight like that about polygamy recently. Most Church members know Joseph Smith and the boys were polygamist but aren’t aware that there is a good case to be made that he was marrying ’em pretty darn young in a few cases. Nubile, but still young. What I realized is that we’re almost straining at a gnat. The *really* shocking thing is that he married other women at all. But we’re all used to polygamy, so that’s not where the shock lies.

    The inoculation idea sticks in my craw but you may have (inadvertently?) persuaded me that it’s not all nonsense.

  55. I am in favor of limited (and I am certainly not sure what those limits should be) inoculation. I base that opinion on the premise that God (in his wisdom) is in favor, generally, of manipulating his children in order to increase the number that will behave well (righteousness-like) and hopefully gain strong (enough) faith to actually exercise their Agency and inculcate righteousness (“pure intent”) into their character, “precept upon precept.”

    That, in my theory, is the justification for Him not taking action to teach us truth–correct all the errors, half-truths (and ambiguities) contained in “scripture” and elsewhere. In other words–for example–does He purposely and by design want us to (at least initially) believe in the Creation and the Garden of Eden allegory? Does he purposely want us to believe (fear as a motivator) that we, as with the unprofitable servant that hide his one gifted talent in the ground, will be cast down… “And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 25:30)? etc, etc.

    I take the position that what we are taught and told by God (though any errors in translation aren’t His), in the scriptures, and by apostles contains personal opinion (put forward as inspiration), errors, purposeful ambiguity, and lies (defined as anything less than the full truth and nothing but the truth). Yet, I “support” the process/religion/society in which it occurs on the belief that God thinks that is the best way to positively affect most of us.

    “Lying” (in all its levels of white, gray, and black) has long been established within both religions and societies as justifiable when it is for the greater good. Clearly it is immensely over-used and excused via such justification, but I think we would be much worse off if only the full truth and nothing but the truth were spoken all the time.

    The intent is the thing. IF the intent of all these sources of error and false-hoods is well-meaning, and I can’t think of a way to have nothing but the truth out there and still engender the faith and belief that would motivate we humans to do all the work necessary to be righteous–and eventually even become perfect–I can logically support the general wisdom in the use of such less-than-pure truths. Emphasis on “general.”

    I think the majority of the indoctrination and manipulation is excessive and needs to be eliminated. I am aghast at the baloney promulgated continually within the church–by our “authorities,” our official curriculum materials, and by fellow members. But I am still convinced personally that the baby in the bath water should not be thrown out.

    If contemplating more than a moderate increase in truth, one must consider the consequences–especially to our currently clueless brothers and sisters that are all too prone to being shocked by such new truths into throwing out the baby with the bath water.

    That is how I cope and stay “active” in the church.

  56. Thanks, Ardis (no. 27).

  57. Steve Evans lives!!! My internet bishop!

  58. Also, I really like this post, Mark. You have some great parents.

  59. CJ Douglass says:

    fbisit, your summary of the messiness of scripture and of modern revelation reminds me why Mormonism has so much potential. When we say, “…we seek after these things” or “all things that are good cometh of God”, we need to mean it. How ironic that we tie ourselves down to the very fundamentalism that propelled Joseph into the grove.

  60. I like this post. I have four boys under 10 years old that I’m beginning to get worried about how to “inoculate.” I’d like to control it a bit more than dropping them off at an anti-mormon bookstore, but anything is better than simply going along like it’s all good (which was how I went through my youth).

  61. Rodney Ross says:

    Due to a time constraint, I haven’t read all of the comments, but I’ve read most. I think we are missing the point and pressures on those who develop the curriculum for the Church. Even just in the United States the Church cuts a wide swath through intellectual, social, cultural and spiritual levels. Having taught school for many years, I had to make things understandable for the lowest level students in the classroom, interesting to the vast average and challenging to the above average. I certainly don’t have any inside knowledge, but I guess that the Church shoots for average to low average members members. I don’t mean that strictly intellectually, but in many ways. It is essential to realize that the goal of the Church is to build faith, not teach history. I agree that more needs to be done to inoculate members, but I’ve thought a lot about it and have no idea of how to do it. All that being said, I really enjoyed Mark’s article.

  62. CJ Douglass says:

    It is essential to realize that the goal of the Church is to build faith, not teach history.

    Rodney, the Church promotion of history has always been with us. It is fair to say, though that we only receive that which is deemed “faith-promoting”. The puzzle for me is in which portions get that designation. I’ve known of the priesthood ban as long as I can remember – because of the moving narrative often told of how Pres. Kimball received that revelation. Likewise, we’ve found a way to make much of the OT faith promoting – in spite it its stickiness (Isaac?). Now, I’m not advocating a glossing over of the difficulties. But we do seem to be able to approach various complexities – that does not come across as hanging our laundry or “intellectual entertainment”.

  63. Thank you for your comments, everyone.

    Just a few responses. I agree with those who say that we cannot teach ever last detail, and that no matter how we choose to frame the story, we still have to be selective, leaving some details out. The problem, as I see it, is not that the church has done that with the curriculum, but that it has simultaneously also instilled an attitude that questions are unwelcome, or that some uncomfortable topics are off-limits for discussion.

    This has created a situation where people whose faith and testimony are undergoing some growing pains feel that there is something wrong with them, when actually they are doing it right. As I said in the post, the great tragedy is that we have pathologized the process of acquiring a mature faith. A sign of maturity, in religion or really anyplace else, is the ability to hold ideas in tension. Nothing in adult life is as easy or simple as we thought when we were children. Why should we expect religion to be an exception? To those who continue to struggle, you have my sympathies and best wishes. To the extent my experience is meaningful to you, I encourage you to keep trying, and sooner or later you will find answers that are right for you.

    I continue to think that LDS history, convoluted as it is, is easier to handle than the history of most other religions, so it baffles me to see somebody leave Mormonism for another Christian faith. Sure, we can complain all we want that Joseph Smith married multiple women, but the Anglican religion was founded by a man who beheaded multiple women. THAT is what you call problematic history.

  64. Rodney,

    If there were good outcomes to point to regarding the Church’s past (and now evolving approach) then it would make sense. However, the issue is that all reports are that objectively it isn’t working very well. Defection rates have been increasing and there appears to be a particular spike in defections of otherwise practicing, faithful members when they discover this information.

    My experience is that rarely is it discovering new church history alone that leads to real problems. This usually has to be accompanied by at least one other factor. Cultural marginalization of the member for questioning, sincere concerns/disagreement about current church teachings/policies (mostly on gender or LBGT issues), an truly unfortunate unChrist-like family or ward/stake leadership incident.environment seem to be the prominent ones. You add one of these to the mix of feeling betrayed by church history and serious credibility and trust issues tend to spiral.

    Fortunately, these are all things that can be worked on and improved. These are also things which we as little local members can work to alleviate at least in our local wards. Are we providing safe spaces and listening, respectful ears for those who are confronting new information for the first time? Are we on the lookout for such people? Are we working hard to make our local wards as woman and LBGT friendly as possible – embracing the church’s call to live up to the equality and full inclusion of women and softened stance towards homosexuals? Do offer empathy and support for those that have a bad church experience? Do we try and help our leaders live up to their responsibilities, including helping them see blindspots when neccesary?

    In the end, it seems that for many people just knowing that there are active, believing members out there that hold a variety of different viewpoints about the difficult issues is so helpful. Just knowing there are active Mormons that reject polygamy as an eternal truth while others believe in it, that some see the priesthood ban as an outgrowth of human racism and others leave room for it as God’s will gives them permission to incorporate these issues in a way that leaves them with integretity and the feeling of spiritual agency. When we try and supress those parts of them in service of protecting the church or our own spiritual views then I think we do a great disservice to our fellow members and the church as a whole.

  65. “I continue to think that LDS history, convoluted as it is, is easier to handle than the history of most other religions, so it baffles me to see somebody leave Mormonism for another Christian faith. Sure, we can complain all we want that Joseph Smith married multiple women, but the Anglican religion was founded by a man who beheaded multiple women. THAT is what you call problematic history.”

    Mark, I would urge caution here. I left the Catholic Church for the LDS Church 12 years ago, and it had nothing to do with history. It had to do with church teachings, and the fact that I agreed with key LDS teachings where they differ with Catholic teachings.

    Sure, I could have found some problematic things in Catholic history to justify my choice, but I don’t believe history should be a reason to leave (or join) a religion. Just my opinion.

    I enjoyed your original post and the discussion that followed. Thank you.

  66. #63– awesome King H8 reference! lol. Reminds me of a biology professor I had (non LDS) who referred to the way people tend to go through partners as”serial monogamy”. He insisted that it is basically a form of polygamy. FWIW– guess its all in your perspective…

  67. rah, I would suggest a little fact checking research into activity rates among all Christian denominations and throughout the history of the LDS Church. You might be surprised.

    Absolutely, all is not well in Zion – but it’s nowhere near as bleak, collectively, as many people assume, being caught up in the emotion of their own struggles.

  68. >the Anglican religion was founded by a man who beheaded multiple women.

    Actually, no. Henry did not found a religion, he changed the ecclesiastical structure of ancient English catholic Christianity. Such a caricature of Anglicanism is akin to anti-Mormon descriptions of Mormonism. Come on Mark, you can’t expect me to let that go!

  69. Ha! Busted, Brown!

  70. Jonathan M says:

    Ben S: I would dearly like to hear that quote you extracted from the OP cited at General Conference by a courageous GA. Then perhaps the following Sunday I could once again (if with some trepidation) attend Sacrament meeting again at the Church I love-for the first time in more than 17 years.

  71. Mark Brown says:


    he changed the ecclesiastical structure of ancient English catholic Christianity.

    Come now. This is akin to saying Joseph Smith didn’t engage in polygamy, he just instituted the new and everlasting covenant. Henry certainly did change the ecclesiatical structure of English catholic Christianity. I’ll grant that it may not have been an entirely new religion, but it was different from the older interation and represented a clear break from Rome. And anyway, my point about problematic religious history in Anglicanism still stands.

  72. Mark Brown says:

    Maybe it is more accurate to say that he did not start a new religion, but he did start a new church. At least that is what is says on the official site of the Episcopal church.

    “The break with the Roman papacy and the establishment of an independent Church of England came during the reign of Henry VIII of England (1509-47).”

  73. There’s a small farm which abuts our subdivision with one bull and three cows. For years around my kids I have referred to the bull as Brigham Young. Recently, Brigham Young’s 3 wives/cows eached birthed a calf. This morning as I drove by with my 4 year old, she noticed the new calves and asked where they came from. After I explained she responded along the lines of wondering/questioning “So, Brigham Young has three wives and there are three mommies?!?!?” I replied “you got it.” At 4 yrs old, she is little confused by her discovery of the asymetry between boy cows and girl cows on the little farm. However, I consider it an introduction to inoculation.

  74. I love it — “he beheaded women and started a new church”, and RJH is riled by the assertion that he started a new church. How very English of you {smile}.

  75. rah #64 — well said chap.

  76. Ronan is right, Mark. Pay close attention to what the website said “establishment of an INDEPENDENT Church of England.” The Anglican belief was that every nation had authority going back to the apostles through their individual bishoprics. They asserted that the bishop of Rome (pope) had overstepped his authority by claiming to rule over other bishoprics. So in the Anglican view, Henry had simply reestablished the proper ecclesiastical structure in England. He simply freed the church in England from a grasping pope. But there had been a “church of England” going back to Augustine of Canterbury, if not further.

  77. Steve: Your argument is like saying that the United States were not really a new country after they fought the revolutionary war because the colonies always saw themselves as not bound by the King’s edicts. Of course it was a new church; just like the United States were a new country. The Church in England had one set of authority, rules and power structure before the king’s act and quite another after. The English may have believed that they were not subject to Rome before Henry VIII rejected papal authority regarding his divorces, but the fact remains that the English Church was in fact so subjected and the issue had to do with which authority the church would recognize in the issue.

  78. That’s not my argument, that’s the Anglican argument. The US did claim to be a new country, the Anglican church did not claim to be a new church. You’re right that the Papacy did rule the church in England before the split, but the Anglican argument was that it should not have, the pope had overreached. The issue Ronan brought up is that we should not make a caricature of other people’s beliefs, that’s bigotry. Instead we should try to understand them for what they are/were. We don’t have to agree with them, but we should at least try to understand them.

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