Missing Essentials

July 11, 2007 | 75 comments
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Once upon a time, there was a book called Essentials in Church History. It was first published in 1922 and authored by Joseph Fielding Smith, who was made Assistant Church Historian in 1906 and an Apostle in 1910 (then President of the LDS Church from 1970 to 1972). For many years, this book (in one of its many successive editions) was part of every ward library and was found in most LDS homes. It was sort of expected that Mormons would read the book and know their history. It may have been faith-promoting history, but at least it spent 500 pages telling the story.

For example, there was a full chapter devoted to the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Contrast that with the recent discussion in a T&S post about how many active Latter-day Saints seem to be entirely unaware of Mountain Meadows. It appears that the recent PBS documentary “The Mormons” was the first exposure to that event for many Mormons. But don’t blame Helen Whitney. And don’t blame Joseph Fielding Smith. I won’t fill in that blank, but I think it’s clear that the Church needs to fill the gap created by the fading of Essentials with an updated one-volume history of the Church.

The Our Heritage booklet used in LDS Sunday School classes is not the solution. In fact, it’s part of the problem, omitting, for example, any mention of Mountain Meadows (which I’m just using as an illustration). But there are two full pages (out of 146) on Haun’s Mill. The primary themes of the booklet are persecution, perseverance, and proselyting. There is no author listed (the book is published by the Church), but my copy does state: “English approval: 5/95.” I’m not sure the booklet is an advertisement for the virtues of “approval.”

Perhaps I am overstating the problem. On the other hand, a PBS documentary really shouldn’t throw people (meaning active Mormon people) into confusion. Maybe one of the new bright lights in the History Division (or whatever it is called these days) has a plan. But you don’t plan a response until you recognize there’s a problem. Maybe The Story of the Latter-day Saints can be dusted off and sent into the breach. But it was published in 1976 and last revised in 1992, fifteen years ago. It may have missed its chance to garner the sort of implicit endorsement that (for example) Rough Stone Rolling seems to be getting. And without some sort of endorsement, no book can fill the role of Essentials.

I’ve heard that LDS PR people hand out copies of Mormonism For Dummies to reporters who need a short course in Mormonism. There are several chapters in that book on LDS history. I wonder if they could shrink it to curriculum booklet size?

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75 Responses to Missing Essentials

  1. Nate Oman on July 11, 2007 at 7:54 am

    Dave: The problem with having the Church qua Church step into the breach is that it is impossible to write history without offering an interpretation of it, so what the church publishes and promotes then becomes the official interpretation that people react against. Having a detail official interpretation can be very problematic. Indeed, if you look at the historiography of Mormonism in the twentieth century what you see is that it is largely a story of scholars reacting against the official history. (This, for example, is the central historiographic narrative in D. Michael Quinn’s work.) I actually see that absence of an essentials in Church history as a sign of progress. I think that the Church realizes that it is not in the best position to offer detailed interpretations of church history and prefers to leave that increasingly to historians who can speak for themselves rather than the church. The costs of historical error and errors in interpretation are thereby reduced.

    What is needed is not a new Essentials in Church HIstory produced by the Church, but rather a way of getting Mormons to pay more attention to work that has been done elsewhere. Furthermore, I don’t think that the story is nearly as bleak as you paint it. I think that members interested in Church history are likely to be much more informed than were members two or three generations ago.

  2. Steve Orton on July 11, 2007 at 8:59 am

    I wonder if anything can be done to make Church members more aware of their history. I\’m always amazed at how few members my age (67) know about MMM. It seems I\’ve always known about it. Coming from Parowan, Utah, it was part of my growing up. I read Juanita Brooks\’ book on it in my college years. As a Gospel Doctrine teacher over the years I\’ve discovered in any given class that only a handful of members have heard of it. I\’m not sure this was because there was no source material available (although I take your point that Essentials in Church History is dated), or if it\’s because the Saints just aren\’t into history. It\’s the latter I suspect. The other night I taught Abraham chapters 1 and 2 to an Institute class. I toyed with the idea of spending time discussing the verses relating to Blacks not holding the priesthood. I planned to tell about how dramatic it was when the announcement reversing the policy came out in 1978 until I realized that none of them were even born then. To them it would have been an historical artifact, which I suspect is exactly the case with MMM for most of today\’s members.

  3. Julie M. Smith on July 11, 2007 at 9:19 am

    I may be wrong, but I thought Our Heritage was a condensed version of something written by President Hinckley? Does anyone know its genesis?

  4. adcama on July 11, 2007 at 9:26 am

    I was talking to someone last weekend about Rough Stone Rolling. As I commented about how much I liked the book, I kind of flippantly added that I thought the book should replace the church history cirriculum for the D&C/church history study year. The person I was talking to thought that was a bad idea because GD is not the proper “forum” for RSR – everyone, they explained, is on such different levels when it comes to Joseph Smith and church history.

    As I thought about it more, I’m not sure that makes sense. Everyone is on such different levels now, but we continue to teach the watered down version. While I’m no scholar or intellectual, it seems to me that we have a better history now….why not teach it? The “those who have an interest in it will find it” argument doesn’t work for me, because we’re proclaiming absolute Truth in our doctrine – which is inextricibly linked with our history. We’re sending missionaries out to teach the world based on what they’ve learned in GD. We’re asking members to proclaim the gospel to everyone around, based on what they know of the restoration. Shouldn’t we be darn sure that what we’re teaching to our members is as accurate and detailed as possible? If the proper forum for RSR-like material isn’t church, what is the proper forum? The milk before meat argument only works if there is a forum for meat once we’ve heard the milk year after year after year, no?

  5. John Mansfield on July 11, 2007 at 9:35 am

    The institute manual Church History in the Fulness of Times is a worthwhile book that ought to be in every Mormon home. The thing is very readable, ample in scope, and it’s all from a pro-Church perspective. Many objections to the Church are at least raised before they are shot down. More important than the controversies that excite everyone is that members have a more solid grasp of basic Church history.

    Mountain Meadows receives a page and a half, not a full chapter, and leaves an impression that if there hadn’t been any Indians in southern Utah, there would have been no massacre. The book does have the virtue of placing MMM in the context of Utah War

  6. Nate Oman on July 11, 2007 at 10:13 am

    “Shouldn’t we be darn sure that what we’re teaching to our members is as accurate and detailed as possible? ”

    Accurate yes, but detailed no. Providing as much detail as possible implies unlimited amounts of time and no need to make choices about relative importance. Neither assumption is justified. We ought not to perpetuate inaccurate stories or perceptions, but it is simply unrealistic to assume that GD class can be turned into a seminar course on church history.

  7. adcama on July 11, 2007 at 10:28 am

    Don’t you think that lack of detail can lead to an inaccurate portrayal of our history? I’m not so sure I’d agree the detail should be discounted.

    Is unlimited time really an implication? The way things are structured now, most GD study should be done at home anyway. And, we have a seminar course on the Old Testament once every four years…..lots of detail there, but we do okay with deciding relative importance -couldn’t relevance could be directed the same way?

  8. Costanza on July 11, 2007 at 10:35 am

    Julie,
    I know that President Hinckley’s “Truth Restored” was published by the Chruch for many years and it is similar in size to “Our Heritage,” but I haven’t looked to see if the latter is derived from the former.

  9. Costanza on July 11, 2007 at 10:35 am

    Julie,
    I know that President Hinckley’s “Truth Restored” was published by the Church for many years and it is similar in size to “Our Heritage,” but I haven’t looked to see if the latter is derived from the former.

  10. Kevin Barney on July 11, 2007 at 10:38 am

    I have twice taught an institute class on early LDS history, mostly NY bleeding into Ohio. With an entire semester to devote to one period of church history, we could really dig into it. I made spiral bound books with all of the First Vision accounts for my students. We dealt with folk magic and all of that stuff. Since I was the teacher I’m biased, but I obviously think it was a fascinating class.

    Each time I only managed to attract a very small number of people.

    This may be because I’m a bad teacher, but I don’t think so–I have ample evidence to the contrary. I think it more likely that most of our members are simply not big readers and don’t really care about history.

    Of course, this makes it difficult when someone finds out about something like MMM and loudly complains, “Why wasn’t I taught about this?” Any Mormon with even an ounce of gumption could find myriad resources on this subject, but people expect everything to be spoon fed to them in GD class.

  11. Mark IV on July 11, 2007 at 10:45 am

    I think it more likely that most of our members are simply not big readers and don’t really care about history.

    Kevin,

    You may be right, but how then do we account for the enormous popularity of the entire series of The Work and The Glory?

  12. adcama on July 11, 2007 at 10:47 am

    Kevin – you’re my kind of teacher.

    I find the notion that mormons should need gumption to find resources on “left out” historical issues a bit hard to swallow – especially since a lot of “born and raised in Utah, always follow the brethren, don’t question authority” mormons like myself were brought up and taught to be careful of non-church approved material – the literalist in me always took this pretty seriously.

  13. Nick Literski on July 11, 2007 at 10:52 am

    Part of the problem is that many Americans view history as the kind of name and date regurgitation they endured in high school. Sad as it may be, they want to be entertained, not educated. Look at the astounding success of the “Wreck of the Glory” series. Despite a minimal statement that the books are fiction, they are taken as an accurate representation of LDS history by those who wish to be entertained by a novel. I lived six years in Nauvoo, and the senior missionaries complained that tourists would often ask where the Steed family (the fictional protagonists of the series) home was located (though frankly, many of those senior missionaries didn’t know much church history either, beyond the scripts they were given to recite at various sites).

    The author of this series was soon called as a general authority. Meanwhile, those who write legitimate history of Mormonism engage in hazardous duty. Some manage to skirt the line and avoid condemnation, but many have had to deal with official and semi-official repurcussions for their failure to write “faithfully” enough. It’s a real challenge for all concerned.

  14. JKC on July 11, 2007 at 11:03 am

    “how then do we account for the enormous popularity of the entire series of The Work and The Glory?”

    Because TWATG is not history.

    But I think I see the point you’re making: that even if TWATG isn’t history, it is at least some kind of stand-in for history, so people buying it would be likely to have some interest in history. I don’t think it’s necesarily that Mormons don’t give a lick about history. Rather, I think it’s more likely that Mormons in general have a passing curiosity in their founding myths but don’t have the interest or the patience to seek read a serious academic study of them. The average Mormon would rather see Joseph and the saints lionized by the fake Steed family than berated by Hurlbut.

    I don’t have a problem with historical fiction per se, but it is a problem if people read it and forget that historical is just an adjective–it is still fiction. It’s a problem if it replaces history.

    (That, and I guess I still resent being asked at the Hill Cumorah by visiting Utahns if I know where the Steeds house was.)

  15. Ardis Parshall on July 11, 2007 at 11:30 am

    Teaching history as a goal for Sunday lessons seems a very distant second to teaching doctrine and faith through history.

    An officially produced or endorsed volume of history that offers interpretations and conclusions is problematic for the reasons Nate outlines. To that I add the experience of all secular history: each generation finds new questions to ask about the old stories that are relevant to the problems and concerns of the new generation — a church-sponsored volume would be just as static and just as much in need of periodic updating, if for no other reason than added perspective and newly discovered documents. And how many church members would read it as opposed to buying it and storing it in the bookcase?

    I prefer regular Ensign articles as a way to fill the church’s ongoing need to present history (which does not preclude the non-church-sponsored outlets for those of us who want more than the Ensign could ever dream of providing). Publication in the church organ gives the official endorsement that so many Mormons require before they will read history (who can blame them, considering much of what is out there?) Articles require relatively little investment in time and effort for casual consumers of church history. Periodic presentation of articles puts them in common discourse, along with conference talks and home teaching messages — when it’s reasonable to assume that most of your ward members have seen the same material you have, discussions and references during Sunday lessons are more likely. Old issues are archived and can be pointed to more easily than material found in private publications. And the ongoing nature of a periodical means that topics can be revisited as needed, either because significant new information is available or because the passage of time and the evolution of society require that new questions be asked.

    All reasons to cheer for the September publication of the Ensign article on Mountain Meadows, and to hope that such articles will continue.

  16. Ardis Parshall on July 11, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    The author of this series was soon called as a general authority. Meanwhile, those who write legitimate history of Mormonism engage in hazardous duty. Some manage to skirt the line and avoid condemnation, but many have had to deal with official and semi-official repurcussions for their failure to write “faithfully” enough. It’s a real challenge for all concerned

    In the interest of visitors to Times and Seasons who might misunderstand the nature of comments, I cannot let this go unchallenged. It is a gross distortion of the situation: No one has been censured for a “failure to write faithfully enough,” although numbers have been disciplined for vigorously teaching dissenting views. Those of us — including me — who work in legitimate Mormon history do not consider it hazardous and do not skirt any lines (by definition, that would negate the “legitimate” aspect of our work). Nor is there any reason to accept the commenter’s implication that an author’s call as a general authority was a result of his fiction series — we have here a splendid illustration of the “post hoc ergo propter hoc” fallacy.

    Nick, do not engage me on this in this forum. You will not win.

  17. adcama on July 11, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    “Teaching history as a goal for Sunday lessons seems a very distant second to teaching doctrine and faith through history.”

    Hmmm…I guess my point is that doctrine, faith and testimony have to be developed through accurate history. Too much harm (more harm than good) comes from using history as faith promoting at the expense of telling the whole story.

    And since the doctrine of the restoration (and the faith/testimony that flow therefrom) is so inextricibly linked to church history I’m not sure I’d agree that teaching this history is at the bottom of the list of objectives for Sunday School.

  18. Frank McIntyre on July 11, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    I agree with Ardis.

  19. Ardis Parshall on July 11, 2007 at 12:49 pm

    adcama, I agree with you. (Insert here the standard line about faith being possible only in truth, and that one’s belief in a falsehood is something other than faith.)

    I meant that the primary goal of Sunday lessons is not to teach history but to use history. Thinking back over my own T&S posts, I’ve never thought of an occasion where teaching about Hooper Young’s murder of a prostitute, or O.U. Bean’s failure on Broadway, would appropriately pop up in a Sunday lesson. Yet they’re both Mormon history. I meant that we select the parts of history that are directly concerned with gospel precepts.

    But you’re right — just because there isn’t time and space to teach “all the truth” doesn’t give an excuse not to teach “the truth” and “nothing but the truth.”

  20. Guy on July 11, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    #15… All reasons to cheer for the September publication of the Ensign article on Mountain Meadows, and to hope that such articles will continue. …

    I’ll be the first to admit that, even though I grew up in the church some 40+ years ago, the PBS Documentary earlier this year was the first I had heard of what had happened at Mountain Meadows. Learning of this event was discouraging to me.

    I’ve read the Ensign article on the event, and it has helped to put things in perspective. (Thanks for noting it Ardis). I was particularly moved by the statement of a descendent to one of the surviving victims – who is also now a member of the Church – “The people who did this had lost their way.” …… A very true statement indeed.

  21. Nate Oman on July 11, 2007 at 1:28 pm

    Chuck-o-rama (do you mind if I call you Chucky?): Are your refrences to believers in the grand finctional narrative meant to describe those who identify church history with Gerald Lund’s novles, or those who identify Mormonism with authentic revelation and the Restoration of the Kingdom of God on earth. To the extent that your remarks are addressed to Lund-affianados, my response is a shrug. To the extent, however, that you are suggesting that I (and other believing Mormons) are engaged in some sort of gigantic self-deception based on a willful ignorance of “exhaustive and critically important work,” I find your comments condesending and unpersuasive.

  22. Nate Oman on July 11, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    re #17: What Ardis said…

  23. Dave on July 11, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    Nate (#1), I agree a book with the same degree of “official” status as Essentials won’t happen in 2007, but the new Mountain Meadows book forthcoming by Walker, Turley, and Leonard is an example of how “unofficial” endorsement can be effective. The Encyclopdia of Mormonism is another example.

    John (#5), the LDS Institute manual on Church History might work for some people, but it is really a reference, not a narrative. It’s not the sort of thing most people could actually sit down and read over a couple of weeks or months.

    Kevin (#10) and Mark IV (#11), I agree most Mormons don’t seem that interested in history, yet many seem attracted to historical novels (or films?). Somehow one should be able to combine the two into some form of entertaining but historical narrative.

    I won’t step in between Ardis and Nick, since I agree with both. In the past, writing history might have been hazardous duty; I’m not sure that’s still the case. In any case, I don’t think that concern (to the extent it is still valid) is a serious impediment to writing a new Essentials.

  24. k l h on July 11, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    Chuck-a-Rama said “…most members know that when you decide to believe in a grand fiction, and reap all of the benefits that belief in the grand fiction confer, facts and historicity are not that important. Heavily edited and redacted guides pleasantly illustrated to reflect the target audiences aesthetic sensibilities are more appropriate now days, rather than some exhaustive and critically important work….”

    Not just Mormonism, though! Every Grand Enterprise has some kind of inspiring narrative underpinning it – still, it’s in their nature for academics to question such narratives. Just as Republicans wouldn’t want their nominee at their Convention to give some soul-searching take on America’s ambitions and designs in the world (…or – for equal time! lol – the Democrats, their nominee to soul search over what limits there might be to the effectiveness goverment action to alleviate society’s ills), Mormons don’t want to go to church to get the same thing they would in a sociology-of-religion class.

  25. Ardis Parshall on July 11, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    Nick, don’t make light of my requests. The old conversation has been replaced by an increasingly Korihor-like sophistry which has no place here. Step back.

  26. JKC on July 11, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    “The fact that he was called to such a position *does* imply that his work met with no discomfort on the part of the First Presidency and the Twelve. If they had found his work disturbing, he would not likely have been called to such a position.”

    Unless, of course, they were doing it to stop him. Fill up all his time with assignments so he can’t write anymore. And also, now that he’s a GA, his stuff has to be approved before he publishes it, right? Maybe the brethren called Elder Lund because they wanted him to stop churning out TWATG volumes.

    I’d rather attribute the reasons for the call to the Lord and/or the brethren sharing my own literary tastes than to see it as a reward for Elder Lund’s books.

  27. adcama on July 11, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    Ardis – thanks for the clarification.

  28. bbell on July 11, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    I think its important to point out that few people are really that interested in History. Let alone Church history. So the Church puts out summarized and favorable small volumes to cater to the general population. That is to be expected.

    My view is that if you want to know what can be described as the “Warts” or less then flattering description of our history they have been usually available if one searches enough. Almost always you can find books that cover polygamy, polyandry, MM, JS etc at a well stocked LDS bookstore. My wife at one time managed a large LDS bookstore and commented commonly that the detailed in depth history books were quite poor sellers.

  29. k l h on July 11, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    Nick, Ardis might have been referring to the sudden appearance in the thread of Chuck-a-Rama’s sophistry (then my own about how inspiring narratives speak not of “academic” truth per se but of the kind that’s inspirational towards the accomplishment of some grand enterprise – which, by definition, LDS religion’s enterprise would be)? :^)

  30. Jim Cobabe on July 11, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    Guy said:

    …the PBS Documentary earlier this year was the first I had heard of what had happened at Mountain Meadows.

    Guy, I wish I could imagine how that could be possible. Circumstances must have been different for you growing up in the Church.

    I seem to recall having heard of Mountain Meadows well before I was high-school age. That would have been about forty years ago. It certainly wasn’t secret or hushed up.

    When I was at El Camino College Institute, I spent all my time there reading in the library, when I should have been attended class. Seems like there was ample reference material, though it wasn’t presented like it is now. I remember having discussions about Mountain Meadows and polygamy with the Institute director.

  31. Guy Murray on July 11, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    Please note that Guy in #15 above is a different Guy. ;-)

  32. Guy Murray on July 11, 2007 at 2:33 pm

    Sorry, I meant # 21 above

  33. Christopher on July 11, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    I wonder if a new book on the Church’s history would need to be written by a GA (maybe even an apostle) in order to become “part of every ward library and .. found in most LDS homes” like Joseph Fielding Smith’s EiCH did. Rebecca Olpin’s report at MHA on the survey of Mormons attitudes towards Church history reported that Church members prefer to get their history from the Church, but did not expound upon what exactly that means. One possibility is that they want history written by men they regard as prophets and apostles. This might explain Joseph Fielding Smith’s success.

    Then again, maybe Church-employed historians and BYU professors qualify, too, in many members’ minds. I guess the reaction to the forthcoming book on MMM will reveal whether this is the case or not.

  34. Kristine on July 11, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    “Guy, I wish I could imagine how that could be possible. Circumstances must have been different for you growing up in the Church.”

    Jim, I believe that was the point of this post.

  35. NItsav on July 11, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    I resent TWATG’s popularity purely on principal, but must defend the author.

    Lund is one of few GA’s (I’m unaware of any others) who has formal theological training- NT at Pepperdine, and OT at a small Jewish school in California. On my mission, I was introduced to such terminology as “axiom,” “epistemology,” and via his 1992 Ensign article on Korihor. That cancels out TWATG and then some in my book.

  36. NItsav on July 11, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    “axiom,” epistemology,” and “metaphysics” it should read…

  37. Mike on July 11, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    I think we do have a problem with young people and their sense of church history brought on by the neglect of teaching this subject at church and in the home. On a recent tour of the Beehive house the very polite and intelligent sister missionaries were shocked when I told them that my mother once lived in the Beehive house (when it served as a dorm for LDS Business college). After a moment they recovered and asked if my mother was one of the younger wives of Brigham Young? Now I am getting on a bit in years, but..

    When I served my mision Essentials by Joseph Fielding Smith was on the essential reading list, but not easily available. I might have been one of the few missionaries concerned since we had more than enough to do just learning a difficult foreign language. But I asked my native Japanese first-generation-convert mission president which church history book I could read in place of Essentials. He didn’t know but promised to find out for me and later he recommended I get The Story of the Latter-Day Saints by Allen and Leonard. I think he asked someone else above him, possibly Adney Komatsu, who recommended it. This I did and found it very useful. Members in Japan who read English well constantly borrowed it from me. My only regret is that I didn’t leave it there for more of them to read when it was difficult for them to get church books.

  38. Y Stephenson on July 11, 2007 at 5:07 pm

    I don’t much care for TWAG, but I wish I had thought of it. Meetinghouse libraries don’t really exist anymore. They have become Media centers. As the collections of various kinds of media, mainly visual media, grows more and more of the old books are given away or in some other way gotten rid of. People seldom check out any printed material other than manuals or handbooks. Still there are some historical books that one might expect would be kept, if only for historical reasons. The people I spend time with are all interested in history. But they are not average members I suppose.

    I learned about MMM when babysitting for a non member family who subscribed to a man’s magazine called Argosy. As a compulsive reader leafing through its pages I came across a graphic story relating to the event. B H Robert’s Comprehensive History of the Church has almost a chapter–haven’t counted the pages–on the subject. Of course that is in one of the later volumes so probably not many have read it. Frankly I find the whole thing upsetting and I haven’t heard anything new on the subject since college. I prefer not to deal with it. I feel this was a personal failing on the part of the participants who happened to be Mormons and I do not consider it a part of church history.

    How many people know Butch Cassidy was from Utah and that in Paiute county they call him the first adult Aaronic. Is that church history? No.

    Rough Stone Rolling would be too controversial to serve as any kind of official history. And I suppose that is just the problem. Faith promoting history is the only kind that could actually be appropriate for use in Sunday School. It is a difficult issue. For myself I want to know the less faith promoting stuff early so I don’t’ feet betrayed later, but not everyone feels that way. So I guess there has to be some kind of balance and perhaps that is what we have with both kinds of writing available. People can choose for themselves the kind of history that suits them best.

  39. Dave on July 11, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    Mike, that’s a nice point about availability in foreign languages. So Our Heritage might not be perfect, but it does (I’m guessing) get translated and made available for free to church members in their own language. Of course, there is very little historical context provided in that booklet relating LDS events to the contemporaneous events of US history or world history, which would seem especially helpful to a non-US reader trying to understand what happened in LDS history and why. So whoever writes “Essentials 2.0″ should keep the non-US reader in mind when writing.

  40. Kathryn on July 11, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    Mike -

    I completely agree with you, in that the foundation for learning the history of the Church should be first in the home and then in our Seminary programs with our youth. Let me just tell you my experience though in attempting to do this and just how difficult we as teachers find our task. This last year we studied Church History/Doctrine & Covenants as our cirriculum. I taught a group of sophomores in early seminary each morning, as well as an adult institute class once a week.

    As teachers in CES we are encouraged to focus on helping our students with identifying principles and doctrines as much as possible on their own. When teaching the Doctrine and Covenants, in particular, the historical background or incident is critical in many sections for them to be made aware of, in order for them to understand the full picture. Often times, it is necessary to determine if certain history will build faith or cause a student to doubt their faith.

    The way a teacher presents history can have a powerful effect on a student, and thus fear enters in on the part of parents and leaders. As teachers we have found this in particular with teaching church history. It is always something we must deal with doctrinally, but definitely when we add the history of the church into the mix. This last year was a concern because parents are not up on their history and their youth are being exposed to so much out and about.

    We worry about crossing the line as teachers and saying something a parent will not know how to discuss with their youth and be offended about, because possibly a student is confused or transfers information incorrectly, etc…. This also happens doctrinally. But as teachers our goal is to teach and yet we realize that they are their parents who want to be able to communicate with them also. But our desire is that our youth are armed with truth so that they are not taken off guard. Unfortunately, there are times when it feels as though there is not a trust that we all have the same concerns for these youth.

    The youth of the church today are so bright and they do not want to be in the dark. They want the truth and they are not happy if they find that it has been kept from them if they have asked for it. My concern is that if parents are uncomfortable allowing teachers at church to teach their children who have been called to do so, then they MUST take the time to study it for themselves and teach their children. It is not right to let them go forth uninformed and out into such a harsh world that is ready to take the rug right out from under those who are unarmed. I actually had parents get up and turn off their T.V.’s, after only a few minutes of watching “The Mormons”. Fear. What great discussions they “could” have had, but they missed because they were not prepared with simple knowledge and yet will not allow others to help them???

    I have read both Essentials in Church History, The Story of the Latter-Day-Saints and Rough Stone Rolling. I enjoyed them all. It is funny in comparing the first two, and how in Arringtons book he divulges much more of our “stuff” than the first. I remember having both books out and going “hey, wait a minute… he didn’t say that in this one”? It was very funny at the time. But now we do that from month to month when a new book comes out. lol I would highly recommend that these continue to be the foundation of every persons beginning study of the History of the Church. For a cheap price you can still grab these on ebay easily.

    Kathryn

  41. John Mansfield on July 11, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    As far as other languages go, http://www.ldscatalog.com shows that Church History in the Fulness of Times is available in Spanish and French. The catalog in other languages is not available online.

    Many of the comments give excessive attention to the cutting edge. If they were describing their ideal physics class, it would be full of string theory and dark energy and weak on the settled bulk of what physics really is. How many people in your ward could correctly differentiate Jackson County and Far West?

  42. adcama on July 11, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    John – I’m not sure I understand what you mean by “cutting edge.” Surely we’ve known about MMM, different versions of the first vision, BOM translation via something other than the U and T , etc for a long time (although as Jim Cobabe suggests, I must be one of the uberactive idiots that never knew about these things growing up). Others are saying this stuff has been “out there” for a LONG time.

    Doesn’t the fact that most can’t differentiate between Jackson County and Far West suggest something? As I said earlier, we’re proclaiming to the world that our foundational story is of paramount importance, but sadly many don’t really know the facts of that story or they have been taught through the church programme a version of the story that leaves out crucial context in order to make sure faith in that story isn’t shaken.

    In your physics/math example, it doesn’t do any good to teach a fundamentals class that leaves out or glosses over details, concepts, etc that build the foundation for your understanding of the topic. Seems counterproductive.

  43. Coffinberry on July 11, 2007 at 6:47 pm

    The other side of Kathryn’s coin: parents who have to un-teach junk gospel taught in sunday school. So annoying.

  44. Jim Cobabe on July 12, 2007 at 12:39 am

    …although as Jim Cobabe suggests, I must be one of the uberactive idiots that never knew about these things growing up

    I suggested nothing about idiocy, but certainly there must have been a remarkable difference in environment. I take no credit for knowing about Mountain Meadows, because as a topic it was just _there_. As I recall, it was much discussed, in after-class sessions, on dates, and in idle conversation. What I heard others say about the incident prompted me to read more about it. I’m sure that Juanita Brook’s book was in the Institute library. I read every book in the collection at least once.

  45. John Mansfield on July 12, 2007 at 8:15 am

    adcama, “cutting edge” isn’t really the right phrase. I spent half a minute trying for a better one, but just settled with “cutting edge.” A better word for what I meant would have been “edgy”–the idea that the measure of a history book is solely its tendency to address topics that some would rather not. Now, that is a measure that has some meaning; if Joseph Fielding Smith devotes a chapter even to MMM, then that’s a sign that he is covering a lot of ground, and covering a lot of ground is a good thing to me. It seems though that the history book that some want could be titled “Controversial Highlights from Mormon History” and would be little deeper than Our Heritage.

    The translation issue is an interesting one, and a good reason to wish for a history published by the Church. Independent Mormon publishers run their special issues in English on how the Church isn’t meeting the needs of Saints outside the United States. Meanwhile, the correlated Liahona is sent out in several languages every month. I don’t suppose there are plans to release Rough Stone Rolling in Brazil anytime soon. Ardis Parshall’s praise (#15) for history in the Ensign goes double for history in the Liahona.

  46. adcama on July 12, 2007 at 8:56 am

    Jim Cobabe – I know you didn’t use those words, I was trying to make the point that from my prospective (personal experience) a “normal” Utah raised youth who steps through all the available programs of the church, goes on a mission, etc, etc, is not all likely to run accross MMM or various other “difficult” issues I think kids should at least be aware of – because they are directly relevant to our story. I know many adults (probably most in my ward) who still don’t have the foggyist idea relative to most of these topics. That’s why I find it odd that some seem to think that those topics being _there_ was the “norm”. Sure, there are people (many who post here) who had family discussions about this stuff and grew up reading much beyond the GD lesson – I am simply saying that from my perspective, that’s really the exception, not the rule.

    John – I agree that covering a lot of ground is a good thing. And I’m not pushing for a book titled “Controversial Highlights from Mormon History”, I’m just asking that those controversial points not be left out of our history when they’re directly relevant.

  47. Y Stephenson on July 12, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    adcama said, I’m just asking that those controversial points not be left out of our history when they’re directly relevant.”

    The question is, who decides what is directly relevant? I got out my copy of Essentials printed in 1922. MMM is probably included because of something else that was going on that made it relevant at that time. Would it be relevant today if it weren’t for the PBS Documentary devoting fully 1/4 of the time in the first segment to that topic? Why didn’t the producers of the documentary think it was relevant to include the Mormon Battalion in that segment? Why did they think it was appropriate to flatly state that Joseph Smith returned to Nauvoo alone in 1844 and for unknown reasons; when in fact, he was accompanied by Hyrum and others and the reasons are well known? My feeling is that an accurate unfolding of the events leading to and immediately following the martyrdom would have been more directly relevant to the full story including what happened at Mountain Meadows.

    There has been a lot of history since 1922. Essentials is over 600 pages long. How many young people or even old people are willing to tackle a book of that length? A new survey history would surely have to leave a lot of things out that might have been more relevant in the past in favor of things that are relevant to the 21st century reader. How else could it fit in one volume?

    Besides, all of Utah history is not LDS history and vise versa. Lets put MMM where it belongs in Utah history books.

  48. adcama on July 12, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    Y Stevenson -

    For purposes of making my point here, I don’t know that I’d necessarily include MMM because it’s not a historical issue from which restorational doctrine flows (although I think the lessons learned are probably very relevant and important for all members today). I think most everything that is referenced in the D&C and P of GP, on the other hand, (including different versions of the first vision, BOM translation via something other than the U and T, a real glimpse of polygamy, Book of Abraham, etc) are directly relevant to our doctrine. Doesn’t seem like too tough of a decision…and it’s really not that much more information – just a little more detail, precision and context to our foundational claims.

  49. Ray on July 12, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    “To everything there is a time and a season.” Why does that sound familiar?

    I agree that there we should not shy away from difficult or controversial aspects of our theology and history, but, as someone who has taught Primary, Sunday School (Youth and GE and GD), Seminary, MP Prep, Temple Prep, etc. (even RS once!), as well as my own children and their friends (ages 5-20), I would like to make two points – one basic and one more difficult to say properly. I make these points solely because some of the comments have referenced what they were taught or not taught “growing up” in the Church:

    1) I will refer back to Ardis (#15) and Nate (#1). I would welcome more good, balanced works dealing with MMM, First Vision narrative differences, etc., but I don’t want them to be published by the Church. I want more RSR, not more detail in Sunday School and Seminary lessons. I want the Church to teach the Gospel and its sociality; I want groups and individuals to address specific interesting aspects of its history. I want other materials to supplement the manuals, used by individual teachers under the guidance of the Holy Ghost for the divergent needs of individual students.

    2) Our lay ministry is an incredible and brilliant aspect of the Restoration, but it also is one of our greatest challenges. Often, a ward’s “scholars” and “skilled teachers” are not available to teach Sunday School and Seminary to those “growing up” in the Church – BIC youth or recent converts, alike. Most of those who fill these roles are sincere, dedicated members, but many of them feel inadequate to supplement the manuals and lesson plans with material from non-scriptural sources. Many of them have a deep and everlasting impact on their students despite their trepidation and lack of professionalism. They offer a profound service to the Church, and, in our desire for perfect teaching, we should recognize the need to honor that service – no matter how flawed we might think it is.

    As a Church organization, we are bound by the organizational structure of the Restoration – and freed and empowered by that same structure. Rather than demand the Church be comprehensive and unbiased in its publication of study materials for youth, I prefer to put that responsibility where I believe it should be – on parents and/or other influential adults outside the constraints of formal instruction.

  50. Guy Colwell on July 12, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    #31… Please note that Guy in #15 above is a different Guy.

    Sorry, I thought my first name was unique enough that I could use it alone.

    #30… Guy, I wish I could imagine how that could be possible. Circumstances must have been different for you growing up in the Church.

    I have no doubt that the event was not intentionally kept under-wraps where I grew up. I just don’t ever recall it being a topic of discussion amongst the members. After leaving school, I spent many years inactive, so I didn’t hear about it during that period.

    When I first heard of the event, I found it so alarming that I felt a need to discuss it privately with my Bishop. That discussion helped my understanding some. The Ensign article Ardis referred to did so as well – but so much more!

    Knowing Church history is vital. And an accurate account of church history is what’s so important.

  51. adcama on July 12, 2007 at 3:56 pm

    Ray – the problem with relying on parents and/or influential adults outside of the constraints of formal instruction is that not everyone has parents/influential adults that are versed in these things. Many of the kids I teach are the only member in their families, or their parents are first generation mormons, or their parents are not members of the church. As for other influential adults, you know as well as I do how it is frowned upon by the church to teach some of these things….first, they are not in the manual (we’re encouraged not to teach things that aren’t church approved, specifically in the manual) and second many view the discussion of these things as dangerous. Do you suggest like a mentoring type relationship? Who, exactly, are these influential adults you refer to? I can’t imagine young men’s leaders, for example….without direction/sanction of the church, teaching some of this stuff (unless of course Kevin Barney is your teacher :)). My kids will certainly get it growing up, but as a general “parents/influential adults policy” it leaves a lot to chance in my opinion.

    I know a number of people who have left the church when these things are discovered later in life who accuse the church of dissimulation – I don’t think their feelings are completely baseless – they built testimonies on the historical/doctrinal version they got in church….testimonies didn’t last because, in part, what they learned later was so divergent from what they learned growing up. Besides, it seems off base for any institution that takes teaching and indoctrination (not used pejoratively) so seriously to selectively pick history that will build faith while ignoring and not mentioning not so flattering yet contextual history that is directly relevant. Again, I know some who make good arguments as to why this could be construed as deceptive.

    Finally, I agree with you relative to the lay ministry and good intentioned teachers. Heaven knows I’m not perfect. But it seems to me that by not formalizing some of these things, we’re leaving an already imperfect and sometimes burdened teaching pool with even more responsibility.

  52. Ray on July 12, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    adcama, I agree with everything you said, but I just don’t have any clue how to cover everything I would like to have my kids know in published class manuals. I honestly don’t.

    I know this is an inexact comparison, but it points to the basic dilemma: I knew a family years ago whose daughter got pregnant as an unwed teenager. The parents (one active, one not active at all) blamed the Church for that – rationalizing that the Church failed to teach her adequately to avoid unprotected sex. Both parents were good, sincere people, but that conclusion?

    I know other youth who faced things as young adults to which they had not been exposed who did not react the way you describe. They turned to parents or influential adults they knew and trusted for help in dealing with the issue. (I dare say the VAST majority of the Mormon kids I know, including my own children, fit this description.)

    As hard as we try to protect our kids from potential danger, we can’t do it fully – and I just can’t think of a practical way to address everything I want my kids to know within the time constraints of Sunday and Seminary classes. Would I like to have SS & Seminary lessons discuss MMM? Not necessarily, as long as the concept of falling from grace and not following others blindly down the path to Hellish actions is taught – and I believe it is. If youth don’t see their leaders as infallible and perfect, then they can analyze MMM, despise the actions of those who participated and not equate those actions with evidence that the Church itself is false because of those actions. I know discussing MMM will help teach this, but I also know you can teach it without discussing MMM. Again, I just don’t know what you would eliminate from which manual or course for the youth in order to insert everything that is MMM-like.

  53. Ray on July 12, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    BTW, I support FULLY the concept of the History Division publishing an updated tome on the history of the Church – sans theological elaboration. This, I think, could serve the purpose of providing an officially sanctioned source for consultation regarding MMM, First Vision narratives, BofM translations, polygamy, etc. Their recent work encourages me.

  54. adcama on July 12, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    Ray, please see my comment #48 re MMM – I don’t think MMM is very valuable for purposes of understanding what I’m trying to say – it’s not an historical issue from which restorational doctrine flows.

    To state my position again, thanks to Bushman (and I guess I should say many others before him dedicated to the study of mormon history) we now have a better historical grasp on the full context of the foundational principles of the restoration (i.e. BOM translation methods, first vision versions, BOA…and yes, polygamy). These facts are relevant because they deal directly with the origins of restorational doctrine – how doctrine came to be. We cannot continue to teach a version of this history (again, I’m only dealing with history directly relevant to the restoration) that excludes some of the facts because those certain facts aren’t necessarily “useful.”

    Again, faith and testimony have to be developed through accurate history. Too much harm (more harm than good) comes from using history as faith promoting at the expense of telling the whole story. What I’m proposing should not take volumes of lesson manuals. We’re already talking about the first vision, let’s just add that there are other versions. We’re already talking about the BOM, let’s just spend some time on what “translation” means.

    BTW, I do understand that there is a time and place for everything and that the forum for plural marriage and Fanny Alger may not be best for primary – but it’s directly relevant at some point for every member of the church. If nothing else, at least when it comes up later in life folks have already heard about it and accepted Joseph as a prophet despite the issue.

  55. Ray on July 12, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    I agree completely with that, adcama. Thanks for the clarification. Sorry I missed your #48; I was responding to #46 and earlier comments. (It took me a LONG time to finish my #49. [lots of interruptions] That definitely is a difficulty in a forum like this.)

  56. adcama on July 12, 2007 at 5:19 pm

    BTW Ray, I don’t know that I see any correlation in your example – maybe I’m missing something or reading too much into it. You compare one family who blamed the church for not teaching their daughter adequately re pre marital sex with a family who is rocked because they were not taught (never learned) a complete version of church history. For one thing, the first example assumes that a sin has occurred and those hurt blame the church for that sin. In the second example, I don’t see a sin in finding out things that you never knew about church history. And the church is responsible for teaching doctrine…which includes history, no?

    So I guess my question is did the “chastity family” argue that the fornication Sunday School lesson was taught using the historical lessons from MMM? I’m so confused……:)

  57. Ray on July 12, 2007 at 5:52 pm

    :-)

    My only point: Each is holding the Church responsible – to some degree – for what happened to the member in question. Sure, yours certainly is more defensible than theirs, but even you are saying that the Church “should have” done (or “should do in the future”) more to prepare its youth for exposure to things for which they might otherwise be unprepared.

    OK, one more point: If someone’s testimony is going to be shaken or broken by hearing about multiple First Vision narratives, for example, then that testimony is going to be shaken or broken by something else – given how many things that we never would consider addressing are twisted into stuff we don’t teach. I agree with trying to “immunize” as much as possible, but I still think the the primary line of defense is the family and/or church community – members who do the best they can to teach all they can and then can help those who are shaken understand a perspective that, as you said, helps them “accept Joseph as a prophet despite the issue.”

    :-)

  58. Y Stephenson on July 13, 2007 at 9:57 am

    I basically agree with what is said in #48. I have wracked my brain to figure out what might have been learned from MMM. I can’t come up with much except don’t do that again. It hurt the Church’s relationship with the Indians. John D. Lee was not an Indian Agent but he was in charge of one of the Indian farms down near Santa Clara where he had been sent to help teach the Indians how to farm rather live on the spoils of their depredations. After MMM the Indians refused to farm. Basically Lee lost his credibility. So the lesson I suppose is about what hypocrisy does to trust. We might also learn something about the dangers of looking at a situation out of context–it’s entire context. There has been a lot already written about the subject that one might consider official including an article in the Ensign. But, finding a lesson there is probably as difficult as finding a lesson in the story of Jephthah’s daughter.

    The Church and its auxiliaries is not here to replace parents and their teachings. It is here to supplement them and help them. If parent’s abdicate their responsibility then where does the buck stop? Over the years I have felt the need to correct some of the things teachers in various church classes have taught. I have felt the need to request certain actions be taken when possible. The answer has always been family comes first. If there is a conflict between church and family activities parents must make a choice. It is their right and responsibility. Perhaps the family who blamed the church for not doing enough to teach chastity are upset and didn’t understand that the church has never set itself up as a substitute for the family. I think parents sometimes think they have taught something and later they find out the child didn’t pick up on it. Whose responsibility is that? I found myself feeling rather embarrassed when I realized what I had supposed one of my children knew something because I knew it and believed that it had been passed on.

    But, ultimately each person including children of any age will decide what they are going to do. Some will learn from others but some want to learn everything for themselves. According to Francis Bacon “Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be true.”

  59. adcama on July 13, 2007 at 11:00 am

    I still don’t like the comparison of the family who blames the church for not teaching chastity and the folks who figure out tough historical issues later in life. The first example assumes someone takes an action directly against church teachings. In the second example if a person does everything the church says throughout their life – reads, prays, goes to church and seminary, they can still end up getting hurt through no bad choice or sin on their part. It’s one thing to blame the church for your bad choices or the bad choices of others. It’s a completely different thing to look to the church for leaving things out that were directly relevant to developing a testimony of the restoration.

    Finally, to deal with responsibility for a moment. I agree that primary responsibility for teaching our kids falls with parents. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would argue that this isn’t absolutely true when it comes to morals, standards, ethics, etc. But it rings a bit hollow to me when people say that parents should be primarily responsible for teaching restorational history/doctrine when many active/practicing parents have not even had a forum to learn these things through the normal church programme. Then to consider all of the youth without member parents, active parents, etc…..?

    Besides, it seems a little strange to me that some seem to hold the church completely blameless when we place such an emphasis on historical instruction in seminary, SS, etc., etc., etc. Since we (the church) emphasize these things in our teaching, the church has already taken responsiblity for what is taught. How then can anyone argue that the responsibility lies soely, or even mostly with the parents? I would venture a guess that a large percentage of kids learn of church history in large part through church instructional forums. How are lapses in these forums parental responsibilities (especially when parents are not versed, not active or not even members)? Sure, there will be a rogue teacher from timte to time, but general themes of what to teach and what not to teach come from the church. Again, my point is that if we’re gonna teach it, let’s do it right…..and let’s quit blaming parents and individual members.

  60. Ardis Parshall on July 13, 2007 at 11:55 am

    adcama, one area of responsibility shared by both parents and teachers in the institutional church setting is the teaching and strengthening of core doctrines and testimonies in children and young people. It’s a duty of the adults to teach kids how to recognize truth and respond to the spirit, and it’s an individual obligation laid on young people as well as adults to accept personal responsibility for preserving and cultivating one’s own claim on the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    When those opportunities are oftered — and I submit that the church presents a constant and consistent opportunity for individuals to learn and be supported in their efforts to accept individual responsibility — it seems to me that the church is filling its mission to perfect the Saints.

    When you have a satisfactory assurance of the key elements of the gospel — the reality of the Atonement, the nature of divinity, the purposes of mortality, and how to recognize and act with the gift of the Holy Ghost — the rest is peripheral. We use history to teach those core elements: the events of the Restoration are important because they demonstrate that the heavens are open; it is almost irrelevant whether a given even happened on a given date, or whether a given person was present for a given event. Mountain Meadows is significant for its morality lesson, or warning or chastening or whatever lessons you might identify; it is virtually irrelevant to the plan of salvation or the missions of the church.

    That’s a prologue for saying, first, that I think you’re calling on the church to teach and emphasize matters that are peripheral to the gospel except as illustrations of the central tenets. Second, when the church and/or parents have helped a young person reach the point where he has to accept personal responsibility for his own drawing on the powers of heaven, that’s about all you can reasonable expect from parents or institution. When that background, no matter how or where or when or even whether someone learns the history you are calling for, they have the tools for accepting the history without grave danger to their foundations. No event in this dispensation changes the reality of God, the Atonement of Christ, or the responsibilities of any individual.

    There’s a limit to the obligations you can fairly lay on the church.

  61. adcama on July 13, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    Thanks for your response Ardis. First, I just want to say AGAIN that I don’t consider Mountain Meadows relevant to this discussion. It’s not relevant to our claims of the restoration.

    Second, I agree that historical events of the Restoration are important because they demonstrate that the heavens are open, but I couldn’t disagree more that the historical completeness I’m calling for is in any way peripheral to the restoration. I’m fine in saying that I feel strongly about the fact that the heavens are open again….based on what I feel. But if I’m going to point to a specific event as evidence of that, I gotta have the facts straight. You can’t take a historical event and use it as evidence if when push comes to shove the facts don’t prove to be that useful or even contradict the assertion. Maybe it’s not so important if someone was or wasn’t there at a certain event, or that a certain event happened on a certain day – but let everyone decide for themselves. Don’t keep it away from people by saying it’s not important…..when in fact the whole story is imperative for testimony development in matters like whether Joseph was a prophet. Yes, we need confirmation from the HG on this point, but I think it’s fair to give people time to ponder on this with a complete version of why the answer to that is affirmative.

    Again, I’m not arguing to teach things that are peripheral to our tenets. Just asking that those things that are elemental to our teachings are not left out.

  62. Ardis Parshall on July 13, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    adcama, maybe I’ve missed an earlier comment — would you give an example? It seems you have a particular restoration event in mind that IS taught and used to illustrate some faith promoting principle while at the very same time IS NOT being taught, or is being taught in a distorted or incomplete manner, or is being taught without acknowledging its faith demoting aspects, or something like that. For the life of me, I can’t figure out what you have in mind. Joseph Smith’s polygamy? The date of the First Vision? Neither of those seems to meet your criteria, and I am at a loss to understand your frustration in connection with any event that has occurred to me.

  63. adcama on July 13, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    Date of first vision….maybe, but versions of first vision absolutely. Joseph Smith’s polygamy, absolutely. I think it’s fair to teach what the word “translation” means when describing how the BOM came to be (i.e. seerstones or peepstones or whatever you want to call them). Since we teach the BOA as scripture, we should not avoid teaching the unanswered questions surrounding it’s translation because doing so may unrightfully instill a sense of confidence, or an inaccurate picture of the events…..does that help?

  64. Ardis Parshall on July 13, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    Yes, adcama, it does help me understand you, thanks. Without getting sidetracked into a threadjacking debate about any specific issue (which you have courteously avoided by speaking generally until asked to do otherwise), I guess I’d have to say most of this list didn’t occur to me because they aren’t testimony-breakers or even challengers for me — My acceptance of the Book of Mormon is affected not at all by the specific way in which Joseph Smith translated the plates, or whether the word “translated” is even appropriate, and I don’t recall being disturbed when I read more early history. Ditto for the other matters.

    Now that I see your list, I can agree with you more strongly, in principle at least. I don’t know at what point it would be appropriate to teach, say, Joseph Smith’s polygamy: little children can understand the basics of Joseph Smith’s calling and history long before it is appropriate to present history involving sexuality and models of a family that they must not emulate — but at some point it would be suitable and, according to your experience, necessary. And no teacher should be teaching so as to deliberately conceal something.

    Thanks for clarifying.

  65. Ray on July 13, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    Amen to Ardis: “no teacher should be teaching so as to deliberately conceal something.” No matter how we might construct an “appropriate” instructional model, we agree on that foundation.

  66. adcama on July 13, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    Wheew. Thank you Ardis…..I appreciate your thoughtful and thorough input. Sorry that took so long to express.

    As for the proper forum for teaching Joseph’s polygamy….I agree. As I said in #54, I don’t think primary is the right place. But perhaps some inspired leaders and trained educators know how to treat this topic in a more frank way while not getting completely sidetracked.

    Frankly, while I have been advocating here a more thorough treatment of LDS doctrinal history in educational contexts, I sometimes wish that gospel instruction focused exclusively on Christ and His atonement…..and that we didn’t have to say a word about “church history” thus making my position here a big so-what. But that doesn’t make any sense doctrinally or practically.

    Anyway, thanks again…..

  67. adcama on July 13, 2007 at 5:31 pm

    Thanks Ray…..

  68. Y Stephenson on July 13, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    Probably everyone agrees with “no teacher should be teaching so as to deliberately conceal something.” It may be appropriate invite a class member to a private conversation about a particular issue or to refer them to a parent or some other adult like say the Bishop for answers.

    I am mystified that anyone might think that following the materials made available by the Church Curriculum department might in any way lead to concealment. In my experience it is teaching too far beyond what is given that causes problems. I have heard almost all of those issues discussed in one class or another.

    I also have it from a reliable source that some 10 to 15 years ago a decision was made to write Church materials at about the same reading level as the Reader’s Digest. The object in doing this is to make these materials more accessible and understandable to a growing body of church membership that doesn’t read on the level of a Hugh Nibly. Since the Gospel Doctrine lesson manual is used in both youth and adult classes the materials there must be appropriate for the youth. Adapting these lessons is one of the great frustrations of those who teach adults.

    I don’t want to talk more about controversial topics, there are just too many of them, and they are laden with minefields of information that is neither edifying nor appropriate for classes where there is a broad range of spiritual preparedness to hear them. Some of them might even be destructive one’s faith. That is why they are not going to become part of the curriculum any time soon if ever. D. & C. 19: 29-31 articulates the guiding principle of church curriculum writing. Verse 31 reads “And of tenets though shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and the remission of sins by baptism and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost.” The classroom materials are designed to awaken in class members an interest in and a desire to read the scriptures. A person is encouraged to learn as much as they want on any of these topics as long as they read the scriptures. But we do not teach them in church because we are not all at the same place and grounded in the same way.

    The things you mention are not a problem for me. I don’t see Joseph Smith’s polygamy as a chastity issue. I believe the Book of Mormon to be true because I read it and became converted. I don’t want to deal with things in church that might undermine my faith or the faith of others. I want to talk about the wealth of doctrine that is to be found in the standard works.

  69. adcama on July 13, 2007 at 9:04 pm

    Y Stephenson, I’m a little confused. You said: “I am mystified that anyone might think that following the materials made available by the Church Curriculum department might in any way lead to concealment.” Later in your post you said “That is why they are not going to become part of the curriculum any time soon if ever.” Doesn’t the the second statement contradict the first? Doesn’t the second statement admit to concealment in church curriculum? Could you clarify?

    I’m glad the things I mentioned aren’t a problem for you – but if they aren’t a problem, why do you object to them being taught?

    Also, I was/am a little confused by your statement that “….we do not teach them in church because we are not all at the same place and grounded in the same way.” That is basically what my friend said last weekend (see my comment #4). Can you (or anyone else) explain what in the world this means? To me, when I hear this justification/explanation it is translated in my brain as “some people just aren’t ready or grounded enough for the whole truth.” What am I missing?

    BTW, I respect your position – obviously many in the church feel the way you do. I just have a problem when things are left out because they’re not convenient, useful, etc. I think it’s wrong – people get hurt, etc., etc…..

  70. Y Stephenson on July 14, 2007 at 11:57 am

    adcama, I guess it comes from a different perspective. I don’t think there is any concealment because there is no orchestrated plan to keep things secret. I think the curriculum is written with a particular goal in mind and the things that are selected for discussion are things that lead to that goal. I don’t object to the things you mentioned being taught, in fact I think that they are, if not in SS then in Seminary and other places. But, these are not the only areas that are controversial or on which the Church is criticized. I don’t think it is productive to try to answer all the critics.

    “we are not all at the same place and grounded in the same way.” Let me see if I can be more plain, not an easy task. It is kind of like the military. All the inductees or volunteers, as the case may be, go to the same basic training regardless of their background or experience. The 12 weeks or so are designed to be the same experience for every person. But, because some are college graduates and some are high school drop outs they have to use a language that all of them will understand and respond to because even though they might all have a different MOS when the chips are really down their lives depend on it. So the language that they choose is the language which the least educated man in the group will understand.

    One of my children was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes at an early age. This changed the lives of the whole family not just the one who was stricken. The whole household had to abide by the new regimen of meal times and changes in diet because the life of this child and the well being of the family depended on it.

    The Church is made up of people from all walks of life with different strengths and weaknesses. Some have little testimonies that haven’t been tried and tested and some have testimonies that might seem to be rock solid. The church needs to find a mode for reaching every person on the level where they are and that all of them will understand, one that will nourish them spiritually. Like the drill sergeant they speak to the weakest in an effort to build their strength, because their spiritual lives depend on it.

    Personally I would prefer to not be surprised by things being left out. But, if the left out thing is something that causes me to have to work something through and leaves me with ugly feelings, I have to say I would rather be fed. I don’t like feeling that way. I have already been there. I have already worked through some things that I found more troubling than Joseph Smith,s polygamy or the other two issues you mentioned. Still, it is a thorny problem because we are all different and some of us are less bothered than others by hearing things that might run contrary what they thought might be true. Some are more surprised than others. And of course, because of the Missionary effort there are always beginners in our congregations. 48 Gospel Principals lessons just doesn’t prepare one adequately for being in a Gospel Doctrine class geared to the level of say a lot of the people who post here.

  71. Y Stephenson on July 14, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    OK, I take it all back. You are correct about things left out. Someone mentioned to me the other day that the church she grew up with is gone. We aren’t taught the same things we used to be taught. I didn’t believe it, but I have had an experience this very day that confirms that things are left out and being taught them would be a good thing. Like my friend said, “I want my church back.”

  72. Ray on July 14, 2007 at 12:49 pm

    Threadjack warning:

    Y, I understand the group sacrificing for the individual and your example of Juvenile Diabetes. My second son was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes just over two years ago – at the age of 15. No one has any idea why, although there was some speculation that when his appendix burst 6 years ago and he almost died his pancreas was damaged by the poison in his system. He has taught me SO much about accepting trials without complaint and with humor. (For example, his friends have a money-less pool guessing which organ he will lose next and when.) His siblings and friends call him Diabeticus, and he shrugs off the fact that our insurance won’t pay for the pump – that he has to keep “stabbing himself” and eating around his injections. He is a legend at Children’s Hospital, where they use him as an example for others when they teach those who are newly diagnosed. It’s amazing to watch.

    End of proud Papa monologue. Back to our regularly scheduled program . . .

    It is interesting to watch how my son explains his condition and its effects to others. He talks very differently with different people, depending on their prior understanding of the medical foundation of Diabetes. He often omits certain details to those who have just been diagnosed, since they need encouragement rather than additional fear. I don’t see that as “concealment” – but rather as understanding their needs and addressing them.

    adcama, if someone goes through Primary, SS, Seminary and Institute without 1) being exposed to the things you list or 2) gaining a foundation testimony that will allow him to handle that exposure when it happens, then the Church and/or family has failed her. What I am saying is that #2 is more foundational than #1. I want a perfect balance, but if any error is made spending too much time on one over the other, I would prefer that error to be slanted toward #2 – on the principles of the Gospel over the history of the Church. (BTW, that is the product of the internal battle within a history teacher who would have chosen to be a preacher if that option were available. The teacher won the practical battle; the preacher wins the overall war.)

  73. k l h on July 14, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    (I’ll keep this short, since my bright-red tattered beret and dungerees might clash with the neatly-pressed greys and navy-blue solids, plaids, or tweeds hereabouts – but):

    Look people! “Faith-promoting history” never was/ never will be the same as academic history, period – end of story! (And while the Gospel and its religious Truths always has been/ is/ always will be faith promoting … [the never-endingly recursive delineations by us humans of] a philosophically advanced history of historical realities isn’t/ never have been … and maybe never will be except in the afterlife when someone comes to comprehend more of the understandings of God?)

  74. adcama on July 14, 2007 at 10:27 pm

    Y Stephenson – I liked your response….it’s an interesting way to look at the situation. I’d of course argue (because I can’t help myself) that while I understand the need to relate to the lowest common denominator – it would be inappropriate for the drill sergeant to leave out too much lifesaving (spiritually speaking) or pain avoiding details in the interest of making sure nobody feels uncomfortable with the resective topic – or the pace at which that topic is taught. My experience with the military is they bring everyone up to the level they need to be to survive – no pandering – no lollygagging (how I love that word).

    I guess my perspective is that we should have one goal in mind – teaching the whole truth and nothing but the truth, invite people to come to Christ and let the chips fall where they may. To me (and I say this gingerly) it’s evidence of an institutional lack of faith in the Lord’s work when we feel we have to “be careful” not to teach too much of certain things….

    Y – I wasn’t quite sure what to make of your second post….I couldn’t tell and I don’t know you well enough to ascertain whether you were being sarcastic.

  75. Belladonna on July 15, 2007 at 1:32 am

    I just finished reading a fascinating book about the Pilgrims who came over on the Mayflower that gave very carefully documented accounts of wide scale genocide practiced by those folks against their native neighbors. I began discussing the book with someone I usually consider to be fairly well informed and open minded. He was appalled that I would believe such sensationalistic claims. To him, the Pilgrims were sacrosanct. Mormons do not have a corner on the market of putting blinders on when it comes to history.

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