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LDS Leaders & Historical Issues (Part 2 of 5)

Let’s face it.  Many members have an incomplete knowledge of Church history and problematic historical issues.  Is it the leaders’ fault?  John Larsen of the Sunstone Podcast debates Rick Bennett as to where the blame should lie with regards to teaching Church history.

John:  There’s still stuff that gets me annoyed. For me, the higher they are up on the pecking order. I’ve said many times that they have a hard job, they have an impossible job, the brethren, but it’s their own doing, they’ve backed themselves into a corner. But the higher up you are in the organization, the less empathy I have for you, because you know what you’re doing at this point. There’s plenty of Bishops and Stake Presidents just trying to do their best. But if you’re in the Q15, you get no pass. You get no quarter from me.

Rick:  Wow.

John:  Is that too harsh?

Rick:  I know it is for some people. Some of my subscribers–in fact, one of them recently posted one of my podcasts on Mormon Stories. For one thing, I was grateful for kind of the publicity or whatever, but he was pretty harsh on Elder Snow and I was just like, “Wow, do you not give anybody the benefit of any doubt?” One of my things is I try to talk about this from kind of a non-polemical point of view, kind of an academic point of view. I don’t put up with a lot of anger. I know in Mormon Stories, at least from my experience, and, I’m sure people will disagree with me, but, it’s a very angry group. I know there’s a stereotype of bitter ex-Mormons, and I feel like that applies in that group, because there are so many angry people that won’t give anybody of faith, any benefit of the doubt. That bothers me. I mean, not that I agreed with everything Elder Snow said.  One of the one of the things that Elder Snow said that I knew was going to cause a lot of pushback, was when I said, “So was there anything that bothers you about church history?” And he said, “No, I think it’s inspiring.” I was just like, “Wow, there’s going to be a lot of people that will disagree with that.” And I was right. There were people that disagreed with that.

John:  That goes to my point.  Somebody who is a professional clergy, he doesn’t have a day job, like bishops and stake presidents do. He’s got access to stuff that you and I don’t have access to. For them, just to pretend that they don’t know what’s going–for him to say that, he loses empathy with me, because we only have two points. He’s either willfully ignorant, which he has no excuse at his age, or he’s lying. Tell me, is there another possibility? Please tell me, Rick, what am I missing? I have been struggling with that question since the day I left.

Rick:  Well, and I know that–I mean, I guess I would kind of fit in there. Not that I agree with Elder Snow. There are lots of things about church history that bothers me. So I would have never answered the question that way. I don’t want people to accuse me of being willfully ignorant, which I think I’ve demonstrated, I am not willfully ignorant. I’m very cognizant of all the major issues and try to talk about that.

John:  But you’re not calling the shots.

Rick:  Well, that’s true. I’m not calling the shots. But I think Elder Snow has been a wonderful advocate for the Church History Department.  One of the things he said later on in the interview, was that he’s trying to be transparent. He’s trying to get stuff [out.]  We’ve got the Gospel Topics Essays that came out under his tenure. It started under Elder Jensen, but he was the one that shepherded it through and he just felt like if we can get all this stuff out, we won’t be accused of hiding anything, and it’s going to be better for the church, which I agree with.

John Larsen, host of Sunstone Podcast, and I discuss role of LDS Church leaders in disseminating accurate Church history.

What do you think?  Check out our conversation….

Don’t miss our previous conversation!

Intro to Gospel Tangents

For as little as $5/month you can hear the entire interview uninterrupted at https://Patreon.com/GospelTangents

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Does the Church Hide Historical Documents? (Part 4 of 4)

The Church has long been accused of hiding unflattering documents. On the other hand, many documents are now available online at the Joseph Smith Papers website, and some other documents like the Council of Fifty minutes, which were previously restricted, have recently been published. Is it true that the Church has hidden documents with unflattering history? Has he seen documents in the First Presidency’s vault?  Elder Snow will answer that question, but it’s only available for those who sign up for the free newsletter at GospelTangents.com/newsletter to hear the conclusion to our interview with Elder Snow, Church Historian.

Does the Church hide historical documents? I asked outgoing Church Historian Elder Steven Snow.

 

Don’t miss our previous episodes with Elder Snow.

304: Snow on Journals, Issues of Church & State

303: Elder Snow & Gospel Topics Essays

302: “I Just Love Church History!”

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Elder Snow’s Role with Gospel Topics Essays (Part 2 of 4)

In 2013, the Church published a series of essays on controversial topics, such as polygamy and the race ban on black church members.  What was Elder Steven Snow’s role in that roll-out?

Elder Snow:  Well, it was something that when I was in the Presidency of the Seventy. I was aware for many years that this was something that the brethren felt like needed to be done. There had been some attempts in the past that had not worked out. They just hadn’t worked.

The renewed emphasis had been building under Elder Marlin Jensen’s tenure. He really wanted to do this, to really get it. So [it began] under his leadership, and I was apprenticing still.  There were six months when I got to work with Elder Jensen, after I was first called. So, I was called in December as Church Historian in 2011. Then I finally took over officially, August 1st of 2012. But during that six months I was with Marlin, we were stirring about that.  I think really, under his leadership, it was presented to the Quorum of the Twelve and to the First Presidency.  Twelve specific questions were identified. In May of 2012, the leading quorums gave the approval to move ahead. We had a committee of general authority Seventies and also scholars and historians from our department that reviewed all of the drafts that came in on all of these questions. Generally, the way it was done is we retained an outside historian to write the first draft–someone outside of church employment.

GT:  Now, why did you pick somebody outside church employment?  That’s interesting.

Elder Snow:  Well, we just felt it would [be best to] go to an expert, like Paul Reeve, for example, for Race and the Priesthood.  You can’t find anyone better than Dr. Reeve to do it. So, he was very helpful in getting us the first draft and the information we needed to go ahead. That’s just an example. So, that was the pattern for most of them and then they were reviewed by our department, the historians and scholars, as well as the general authority Seventies on the committee. And then they were gone through many, many times. Then, eventually were given to the Twelve and First Presidency for approval.

Was there a debate among the brethren about the essays?

Elder Snow:  Well, that’s very interesting, the debate. Just so I can give you a little context on what was happening was, “Do you advertise and make a big deal about a website that you can go to learn  everything weird you wanted to know about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? You can go here. Or should we just kind of quietly release them?” The decision was made, kind of quietly to put them out there so that they’re accessible. Then at a later date, we could publicize them more if we wanted. As it turned out, that wasn’t necessary.  Once Race and the Priesthood, and Nauvoo polygamy came out, it wasn’t necessary to publicize the Gospel Topics database. People began very quickly to learn about it.

GT:  Yes, yes. Well, and it doesn’t seem like, and I’ve heard anecdotally, and I don’t know how big of a deal this is. But it was kind of like what you said, “Do we tell the weird things about the church, or do we just let people find them on their own?” Have you heard that some people have lost testimonies?

Elder Snow:  That was that was the concern. We wanted to help a lot of people that were struggling on some of these questions. But you’ve got to understand that a large majority, a large percentage of the church could care less.  That really hasn’t been anything they’ve worried about. We have anecdotally understood that there have been a few that their world has been rocked by having learned in more detail some of these questions. Now, for the most part, I think they’ve been very, very positive.

Check out our conversation….

Elder Snow describes the thought process behind the Gospel Topics essays.

Don’t miss our previous conversation with Elder Snow!

302: “I Just Love Church History!”