In the last post we looked at the importance of being able to discern between what is true and false in our history. By looking at historical context, by comparing and exhausting various available sources, and by considering scriptural prophecies we can build the most accurate view.
Most members of the Church do not do this well at all. The small (but growing) body of members who do, though their conclusions may be varied, typically develop views that are not welcome by the larger body of Latter-day Saints. Why is this true? Why can’t we have open dialogue with each other about these things? Is it fear? Who planted that fear in our hearts (2 Tim 1:7; Moro 8:16)?
So now, there’s a growing disparity among the body of those claiming a belief in the restoration. There is a gap that has grown larger now than it has ever been before in the history of Mormonism. This gap gives rise to contentions, and neither side is innocent of fueling them. If it were for no other reason but this, we are far from being Zion (4 Ne. 1:15).
There are those who choose to maintain a casual disinterest in our history, and those who have undertaken an aggressive mining effort to dig up every last detail. Within both of these groups you will find faithful members of the Church. Within both of these groups you have folks trying to follow the counsel of the leaders, and trying to serve God and his children. In both of these groups you will find those who are kind, as well as those who are unpleasant.
Members of the Church have varied interests, motives, and comfort levels. You should recognize this and be slow to pass judgment upon others, regardless of the path you’ve personally chosen to pursue.
If you’ve chosen, say, in the past two years to become interested in Church history, your views about most things Mormon have almost definitely developed into something they were not before your undertaking. You will, at some point in this discovery, find that it is easy to look at others in your ward, family, or work place as uninformed, and uninterested. It will be easy for you to pass judgment. Your discoveries in Mormon history, though a blessing to you, will also put you on trial. Your tendency may be to revert to the same wretched, impatient, non-charitable fool you used to be before you worked on overcoming those natural tendencies the first time around, years ago. Your new understanding has made you proud (2 Ne. 9:28-29, 42). Like all trials past, you must learn to become more like Christ. Serve others and teach them with patience. Teach those who will hear your testimony (Mosiah 18:3).
On the other hand are those who have no interest in studying Mormon history. If you’re not interested in Church history, realize that there are other people who study it and know it better than you do.
You may consider how foolish it is that your Christian friend from work insists upon defending his ill-founded claims and creeds with an appeal to the Bible he’s hardly read. You should choose to be different than him. What you’ve learned about Church history in Sunday school manuals is often times only part of the story, and is certainly not as thorough a treatment as can be received through diligent personal study. Don’t proudly and angrily defend something you know nothing about. If you think you understand an issue, share your understanding. Help others come to a true understanding through persuasion, and long-suffering. You may choose to believe as you do, but there’s no need to fuel contentions. There’s no need to pass unwise judgment upon others, or to harbor ill feelings toward them.
Don’t judge harshly those who are interested in what you are not. Don’t view them as faithless because they temporarily entertain doubts about some of the difficult issues they have chosen to confront in their honest search for the truth of a matter, and because you find those certain aspects of history easy to believe. If you knew what they knew, you may be worse off than them – and you may find them coming to your rescue. Be kind, and seek to understand.
With the onslaught of information becoming available on the internet and elsewhere, you must realize that you are going to be confronted with issues that have heretofore been unknown to you. Others will face this challenge too. Your parents, children, and ward members are currently having this experience. The First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve are aware there are many people presently leaving the Church over matters of history (see Marlin K. Jensen interview). They are struggling to find a way to help present history in a more forthright manner. It shouldn't be from enemies to the Church that we get some of our most accurate retellings of events from our past.
Everybody reacts differently to the discovery of events that challenge their present assumptions, traditions, and beliefs. Some will fold and retreat into a private, lonely recess. Others will become highly critical, and vocal, and even mean spirited in their efforts to expose their discovery. Your acceptance of the truth will put you in a position to support the hands that hang down. You will be capable of providing comfort to those who stand in need of comfort (Mosiah 18:9). You’ve covenanted to do so.
As you see these things going on around you, remember that "we believe" God is going to continue to reveal "many great and important things," and you have an obligation to discover the truth of these matters (AofF1:9). The gospel of Jesus Christ welcomes ALL truth. Some truths will hurt your heart, and initially confuse you, because they will come into conflict with your present assertions, and expectations. People you love and respect will reject the truth, and will attempt to persuade you of their own views. Take the Spirit as your guide. Choose to not be destroyed by the truth, but to welcome it in humility.