LDS Historian: Internet Changed the Way Church Handles History

10 August

I read an article on the Wheat & Tares’ website that so intrigued me I thought I’d share it for our daily post today. Woo-hoo!

The Wheat & Tares’ site is pro-Mormon that provides the latest info on the Church, including controversies. Although I don’t agree with their ideologies, I like perusing it to see what’s going on in the world of Mormonism.

The article I read was written by a staff member who said she extracted 9 tips on how to deal with church history from a forum held on Reddit. The forum hosted the Church’s well known, and beloved church historian, Richard Bushman.

Two of the questions and answers make my head, and heart hurt. I know what the Lord said in Ephesians 6:11-12 that it’s not about flesh and blood, and I believe this with everything I am.

With that being said, I will always marvel at how it happens. How do super-intelligent people not see the forest for the trees, if you will? How do they justify what the Church says with their own logic, and make the decision not to move on? The consequences of such behavior saddens me to the core.

One of the questions posed to Mr. Bushman touched on the drastic changes seen in the way the Church is rewriting its various manuals, in addition to omitting material altogether. Everything from the Relief Society, to Priesthood Manuals, are silently being rewritten.

Even their essays have flown under the radar. While you can easily access them, as they’re posted on their site, they’ve not publicly  announced them in their weekly Sunday school, or other church meetings. Each essay has tried to rewrite historical accounts of what really happened, and what was left untouched, was glossed over. The Church has stumbled over itself making up excuses for their history, which in turn has made their public reputation most unbecoming.

I suppose it’s their way of dealing with their own problems while trying not to upset the proverbial apple cart. The following excerpt is from Mr. Bushman’s response to omitting material in their teaching manuals:

“Bushman:  We are in a period of transition with regard to our history. The narrative is in the process of reconstruction.”

Did you catch that? The Church is admitting they’re rewriting history books. Nice…

“Right now that means there is the standard, comforting story, and then a series of controversies. Teachers are wondering how many of the surprises can be brought up in Sunday School without disrupting the spiritual purposes of the class. In time I think this problem will go away…”

Therein lies the problem. They say it’ll go away. However, when/if someone questions the writings, they’re told to accept it on faith. If they leave the Church, they’re labeled apostate. Their own writings, and the whispers in the hallway tell other members those who left either had weak faith, or they were sinning in some way; either sexually, or breaking the word of wisdom.

Bushman went on…

‘…We will explain that Joseph Smith looked in a hat to translate just as now we say he looked in a stone box to find the gold plates. There are already lots of surprising things in the standard narrative. We will simply flesh that out. We must, however, not relent in getting all this material included. We want the story we tell each other to be based on the best possible historical evidence. Any shrinking from that mandate will only lead to more problems down the road. I think the Church is trying to create that kind of comprehensive, accurate narrative. In a few years there won’t be any more surprises…’

I have an idea. Why not just fess up now and get it over with? Another novel concept: follow what God says in His word so you won’t have to remember, or make excuses for, the lies  you’ve told?

‘Question:  As a follow up question, what do you think is spurring this change in focus for including the more controversial aspects of the history when it has previously not been a priority?

Bushman:  Doubtless the blast of information on the internet changed the situation drastically. The Church had to face that fact that information of all kinds was now in the public realm. But I would like to think it has something to do with maturation as well. Many church members have enough confidence in their belief that they feel they can take the facts straight. They want to know the reality. I think secretly they felt their belief would have to get down to the full story before they could be secure. I can say that many General Authorities, perhaps not all, feel much better about telling it all.’”

Well, at least he acknowledged the internet is the reason. The other excuse of people ‘maturing’ over time is yet to be told. We have seen people who won’t leave no matter what the Church has said, or done. This leads back to my confusion over the biblical scenario mentioned earlier…

You can read the transcript in full by clicking on the embedded link above, or get it here.

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