Should the LDS Church really deal with the controversy surrounding its history? This is a question I have struggled with for many months. Should a Church that wants to promote faith introduce potentially faith-draining facts to its members, facts that could cause them to question authority? Would this be counterproductive to do?
It turns out that I’m not the only one thinking about this. At the latest Sunstone symposia there was a panel of LDS apologists talking about the idea of exposing members to hard facts in LDS history. Most stated that Sunday school would not be the appropriate place for such discussions. One suggested that an institute class be established for open discussion of difficult issues. Still another stated that we should slowly inform members when appropriate during lessons.
The Church seems to be taking a different view of how the problem should be approached. This year several publications in the Church News and Ensign have discussed issues that arise with LDS historical events. It appears that the LDS Church has decided to counter act the attention it has been getting with its own articles that explain the events and their interpretation of them. This is great! If Helen Whitney’s special “The Mormons” did nothing else it helped to spur interest in the general membership in some controversial subjects.
Members of the LDS Church should be able to defend their beliefs. If they are not aware of what was taught or practiced in the past, they may be taken off guard when confronted by anti-LDS information. I believe it is essential that members young and old be given the whole story. That they be allowed to wrestle with the facts. If they do not their expectations of the Church remain sky high. When they find out the Church is no different from others (i.e. it lead by imperfect men that make mistakes) their expectations fail to be met and their testimonies crash. A lifetime of trust between the Church and member will be compromised. If they are able to climb free of the wreckage, they must slowly rebuild their testimony from the ground up, reevaluating their expectations of what a Church led by God would look like.
The LDS Church needs to provide a place to facilitate discussion and to allow members struggling with their testimony the opportunity to work it out in a safe environment. If it fails to do this the only recourse of a questioning member is to go online where anti-Mormon sites out number apologetic sites 10 to 1 (not an actual figure, but I propose it is close). The information on many of these sites is faulty and biased, but without good alternatives members are left little other option.
Many will look to other Churches hoping that they will find one that is more in line with God’s teachings. Some will realize that this appears to be a futile search. Each individual theology requires an alternate interpretation of biblical text to prove its principles. It appears that the Holy Ghost really is the only way to know for sure. Study with the mind is not enough. Proof of this is shown by the fact that many religious traditions spring from such study. So what is to be done? How can one find the truth? How should the LDS Church introduce tough historical facts to its members without distracting from the most important of its missions, teaching about Christ?