Ignorance Enshrined

A purported group of “over 260 active and disaffected Mormons” claims responsibility for a “95 Theses” document released recently. (The quotes in the preceding sentence are theirs. This is how they self-describe.)

Unlike Martin Luther, they choose to categorize themselves rather than to expose themselves by using their identities. There are only a few who identified themselves. For the most part, they remain unidentified. That betrays a weakness of character and leads to the conclusion they want to complain, but they do not want to be responsible for complaining. A “reform” movement must be made of sterner stuff. They appear only willing to whine; not to do the work or take the risk Martin Luther took when he wrote the document they mimic.

I’ve looked at the 95 Theses. They are largely based on upset stemming from astounding ignorance of our history, scriptures, doctrine and teachings. However, this is a relatively common condition we find ourselves.  As a community of believers in the restoration through Joseph Smith, we’ve neglected to teach and/or learn the very things that would benefit these “260 active and disaffected Mormons.” These people may well be of good faith and honest intent. I’ll assume that of them. But they are unable to reconcile some of the things from our past with the things they thought they knew about Mormonism. The problem is that what they thought they knew about Mormonism is not at all what I know and what they should have known about Mormonism. That may not be entirely their fault, but they must shoulder part of the blame.

I understand it from a different perspective because I’ve paid a price in study, prayer, practice and devotion. In The Second Comforter I said: “The truth will scratch your eyes out, and then scratch them in again.” I’ve been through both. These “260” have been only through the first.

They have 11 troubling points about the Book of Mormon. I’ve discovered many more. I’ve reconciled them all in my mind.

They have 5 troubling points on the Book of Abraham. I’ve discovered many, many more. This is a vital topic for study. I’ve gathered a library of materials on this text. When I was teaching the Priests’ Quorum in my ward, I took 4 weeks with them teaching on the Book of Abraham. I wasn’t going to let any of them get “poached” by critics because they didn’t have enough background information to understand the issues and history. Using the Documentary History of the Church, they were shown what Joseph described he translated as the Book of Abraham. They were shown the photographic reproductions of the papyri returned from the Metropolitan Museum of New York to the church. The difference between these scroll documents and Joseph’s description did not require a commentary. They saw with their own eyes the difference between the two. No one is ever going to convince them using an argument based on misinformation.

These “260 active and disaffected Mormons” have 11 troubling points about Polygamy and Polyandry. Again, it betrays a shallow understanding of our history and comprises only a fraction of what we should all know about this issue. Until we face this, discuss it openly, and put history and context together in a forthright and honest way, we are vulnerable to upset and distress anytime someone who knows a little more than we know comes along with a “fact” from our history we can’t put into context.

This raises enough to make the point:

We’re losing the battle with many of these souls. The more honest and intellectually open of our members are being taken in traps precisely because their greatest strengths (confidence and openness) allow the critics to show them our weaknesses. This should not be allowed to happen. Narrow-mindedness and dogmatism, as a result of fierce and unrelenting loyalty to an institution, should not rule the day. The winnowing out, if allowed to continue, will produce a frightening form of Mormonism akin to the more radical political movements currently underway in the world.

When Joseph Smith was alive, Mormonism embraced all truth. “The first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is, that we believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or without being circumscribed or prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of men, or by the dominations of one another, when that truth is clearly demonstrated to our minds.” (Letter from Joseph Smith to Isaac Galland, March 22, 1839; The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, Dean C. Jesse, editor; Deseret Book, p. 421-22.) I’d like to see that be the case once again.

I’ve never found a problem in the faith for which I could not ultimately find a solution or answer. The faith is quite resilient. But, oddly, some of the actual answers are thought to be so fearful that they must be ignored, suppressed or denounced. Fear is not only the opposite of faith, but it contains within it the bitterness of hell. (Moses 1: 20.) We have become too fearful.