David Ostler is the author of “Bridges: Ministering to Those Who Question.” This book is designed for LDS Leaders to better understand a faith crisis, and how to help members in their wards and stakes to better empathize and maintain members who struggle with issues of faith. David has interviewed several hundred people to better understand their perspective and shares that knowledge with all of us.
David: When I started studying faith crisis, disaffiliation, my own background is in evidence-based medicine. So, you know, it’s like, what does the data say? It’s the first question we ask. So I spent time trying to understand what we knew about the problem, what people had written, what studies had been done, what data had been collected. Like most problems, we all have impressions about a particular area, but when we go in and study it systematically, sometimes we find those impressions are not entirely accurate. For my own life, that’s been the case often. But certainly with this topic, I found it to be the case. So I wanted to, as I learned about this for myself, and then ultimately, as I wrote the book, to make sure that I had the best information that can be brought on it, and where it wasn’t available to see what I could do to create more information there. So with regards to Leading Saints, and Kurt Francom, we were able to, using the leaders that subscribe to his newsletter, to be able to survey them and understand what local leaders thought about faith crisis, issues of faith, how they were responding and the like. So that’s been kind of a fun thing for me to get to know Kurt and that community a little better.
Check out our conversation…
And don’t miss our previous conversations with Kurt Francom!
There was a real economic rivalry between the cities of Warsaw and Nauvoo, Illinois. Is that the reason Thomas Sharp hated Mormons? Brian Stutzman will give us more information on this rivalry.
Brian: So the Latter day Saints come up and they come to Quincy, and Joseph Smith eventually joins them. They come up and they’re they are settling. As they come up, people in Warsaw are saying, “Why don’t you stop here?” See in 1837, there was this national depression. Half the financial institutions in the United States collapse, including our own Kirtland Safety Society. There’s these developers that have all this land, and they say, “Come settle here. So I don’t go bankrupt. I need to sell my land.” There were people in Warsaw that said the same thing and Joseph Smith and some of the other leaders, Isaac Borrow, some of these guys sit down. “We’re making this deal with Isaac Galland and we’re going to settle up here.” There were some good interactions between the two towns.
Brian: Not everybody in Warsaw at the time, was necessarily anti-Mormon…there were some political tensions that way, but also the fact that you could vote after six months of being in the States, even if you were an immigrant. So all of a sudden, you had bloc-voting going on. The people of Warsaw said, “We’ll never elect anybody with 6000, 8000, 10,000 LDS people when were at 400-500 down here.
GT 24:24 Because Nauvoo was really large.
Brian 24:25 It got really big, really fast. Those people could vote. If Joseph Smith came out for a candidate, they’re going to win, at least locally. You had some economic issues as well. People tended to trade amongst themselves. In 1842, I believe it was, Thomas Sharp wrote in his paper, he said, “It’s funny that the Latter-day Saints,” I’m paraphrasing, “up in Nauvoo don’t trade with us. We don’t have anything. You won’t find anything made in Nauvoo in Warsaw. You won’t find it.” He says, “We’re probably better off because of it,” as a joke. So economics also played a part in the expansion of the Church. Joseph set up what was called the hub and spoke idea of settlements. Nauvoo was going to be the hub, and then they’d have settlements. We did that in Utah with Salt Lake and all the little communities. So Nauvoo this is going to be the center and Montrose, which became Zarahemla and some of these other towns. Well, they were looking to put a Mormon settlement in Warsaw, just south of Warsaw.
Find out more about these early settlements. Check out our conversation….
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….
Don’t miss our previous conversation with Elder Snow!