This video discusses how some elements of church history have not been widely know and the various reasons for this. It also reviews the church’s new intensified efforts of pro-actively making church history details available, accessible and understandable through efforts such as Saints, Gospel Topics Essays, Joseph Smith Papers and the Institute & Seminary curriculum.
So the video today I’m going to be talking about the phrase: Why didn’t I learn this in church? This is a common frustration that people will have when they learn new things in church history or doctrine, various topics that give them pause or concern because they didn’t understand or know these things and wonder why they didn’t learn this growing up in the church.
We are entering a new era. If you were able to watch the recent Face to Face with Elder Cook, with the launch of the new church history called Saints. It’s absolutely phenomenal. I just finished listening to the book, and it is definitely transparent, unvarnished and it’s just beautiful. Very well told history. And like I said, it is a great narrative page-turner type format.
And the church is being very forthright and transparent with many things today. The Gospel Topics Essays, the Joseph Smith Papers, the new Foundations of the Restoration course in seminary and institute, which even requires the reading of Gospel Topics Essays.
So some have wondered if the Church withheld information or told the story of their history in a more faithful type of way. And historically, if you go back to the 1900s, this was really the tradition of the time. It started really with the Puritans. The English Puritans had a focus of faithful explanation of their events telling their history. I love this quote from the book Shaken Faith Syndrome by Michael Ash, he said “While it can be said that early LDS histories intentionally withheld challenging and non-flattering information, in the context of the time this was not unique to Mormonism and is to be expected.
He also then said, “The early faith-promoting histories, however, became the source of historical knowledge for many church members and launched similar popular works for decades to come.” Then as far as discussing church curriculum, when we go and attend church on Sunday, the three hour block. The purpose of going to church is to bring people closer to God and to Christ and salvation, to feel the spirit, and to focus on gospel principles. Not necessarily to go in depth into church history discussions.
There’s also the challenge of thousands of volunteer teachers throughout the world teaching every Sunday and with various levels of knowledge, and background, education, church history knowledge, so you have that dynamic as well.
Michael Ash continued, he said, In short, church is a place for worship, spiritual edification, and enlightenment, and not for in-depth historical discussions.” Then he does say, “Because of changing times, however, and the problem that such an approach is affecting modern educated members, it is possible that we may yet see changes in the presentation of discussions on these difficult issues.”
This is written in 2013. I’m a Gospel Doctrine teacher in my ward and definitely this last year, we had a lot of discussions in the Gospel Topics Essay areas. We talked about Doctrine and Covenants and the church history. And it was very refreshing to have a lot of these discussions and have the Gospel Topics Essays as a foundational aspect of that. Also I will say one aspect is the material has been out there, it’s just having a desire to seek it out sometimes can also be the case today.
So another problem is we’re not reading like we used to. Fact recent study said that 58% of US adults never read another book after high school. If you do it from the major after college, if you go to college, 42% never read a book again after college. So it’s a challenging environment. Another couple of interesting stats I’ll share is 60% of Americans cannot name five of the Ten Commandments today. Recent survey of high school seniors, 50% thought Sodom and Gomorrah were married, and another study claimed that one third of Americans polled believed that Evangelist Billy Graham delivered the Sermon on the Mount.
The church just did this Face to Face broadcast at the Nauvoo Temple grounds, introducing Saints, the new church history. I’d like to share just some of the great snippets out of that. Matt Grow from the church history department, he says “Information has always been available but has not been emphasized. Sometimes it’s because it’s uncomfortable, sometimes because it’s not the main purpose of church meetings, which is to preach the Gospel of Salvation.” But he said also that the last 30 or 40 years, the church has had huge strides with the church history department in gathering information, especially now with the Joseph Smith Papers. They’re not trying to hide or censor history. In fact their goal he says is accessibility, and understandability.
They did point out a great thing is this new reality they called it, of living in the social media age and how things can appear in social media feeds that are challenging to members of faith, and just understanding church history and so he says, “We have a heightened responsibility to provide good answers within the household of faith.”
So I really like this quote that Matt Grow also shared, he said “The message to me of this openness…” with the Saints and the Gospel Topics Essays and all of the things, Joseph Smith Papers etc., “…is that the history of the Church can withstand scrutiny. We don’t need to be afraid of it. It is inspiring. Sometimes we will have questions, but there are good answers.
And then lastly Elder Cook, I love his comment here he talked about that there’s always been a balance to try to balance out the things that are essential that will lead to exaltation with answering questions that are of concern to some in the church. In his 22 years as a General Authority, he said the desire has always been “to be as transparent as possible, both in terms of church history and doctrine.”
So I think we’re entering a new era today with the study of church doctrine. It’s exciting to see even seminary students that will be studying the Gospel Topics Essays in depth, and it will really I think lead to a new generation of in depth understanding of church history and practices.
So that’s it for today, I hope you enjoyed it and please subscribe to the channel.
Shaken Faith Syndrome by Michael Ash
New Church History book Saints: https://history.lds.org/saints?lang=eng
Fairmormon broadcast and article from Michael Ash “Shaken Faith Syndrome – Part-deux”: https://www.fairmormon.org/conference…
Face to Face Broadcast with Elder Cook about Church History and new publication Saints: Deseret News article covering the broadcast, “Elder Cook, historians tackle tough questions about Latter-day Saint history” https://www.deseretnews.com/article/9…
Link to full broadcast: https://www.lds.org/broadcasts/face-t…
Gospel Topics Essays: https://www.lds.org/topics/essays?lan…
Joseph Smith Papers: http://www.josephsmithpapers.org
Church History Website: https://history.lds.org
Latter-day Saints’ Q&A is a video series not produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but by me, an ordinary member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an independent voice, with a passion for studying Church history and defending the faith. In this series, I provide evidences for the restoration, and address tough questions posed by critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, offering faithful answers based on accurate research and historical references which will be posted at the end of each video.