Saturday, 1 February 2014
In November 2013 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints began releasing essays addressing controversial church history in its Gospel Topics section on LDS.org. This was done without any press release or notice and has come as a bit of a surprise to the wider church membership. Most people have only become aware of it through blogs and links on social media.
The first of these essays addressed the varying accounts of the 'First Vision' which caused a few ripples. But the statement that caught the attention of most people was 'Race and the Priesthood' which was a revolutionary departure from the usual subdued introspection of our past and its impact. Overnight blogs and podcasts sought to digest the material and make sense of it.
Why is this being done? With the effect of the Internet making historical documents available to everyone, it is easy to come across material which challenges the church's current teachings. Some very prominent members in high leadership positions have gone public with their doubts and the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney has highlighted some areas where the church is not very consistent.
Elder Snow, Church Historian and Seventy explains:
“My view is that being open about our history solves a whole lot more problems than it creates. We might not have all the answers, but if we are open (and we now have pretty remarkable transparency), then I think in the long run that will serve us well. I think in the past there was a tendency to keep a lot of the records closed or at least not give access to information. But the world has changed in the last generation—with the access to information on the Internet, we can’t continue that pattern; I think we need to continue to be more open. Fortunately Seminaries and Institutes and Curriculum have really stepped up and said in essence, ‘You know we really want to take this on, we would like to talk about these sensitive issues in our seminaries and institutes.’ It’s one thing to tell a fourteen-year-old some of these sensitive things and they say, ‘OK, that’s great.’ But sometimes when you are twenty-something, it comes across a little differently. I think we can build faith and better prepare people if we will weave some of the unusual threads in history into the curriculum.” - Elder Steven Snow (Also see this video)
In the absence of any official channels to ask more questions about these essays and also to help make sense of the information - this blog was created. I hope that it will provide a forum for discussion for each statement and its impact to our understanding of the gospel, the church and our faith. I invite you to participate.