It’s not just the Mormons

Among the assigned readings for my last historical methodology colloquium meeting was an article by Harry S. Stout responding to some things that fellow evangelical historians David White and Iain Murray had said of his writings on George Whitefield. As I read through the article, I was surprised to find myself recognizing the framework of a familiar debate. From Stout’s response:

What about Mr. White’s central complaint that I dwell on Whitefield’s foibles and shortcomings? I object to the word ‘dwell’ for I believe I pay considerable respect to Whitefield’s strength of character alongside the criticism, particularly the mature Whitefield. But beneath this issue is a deeper issue. In fact, there are two different models for Christian history-writing, each with its own legitimately theological justification . . .

[In the first] tradition of history writing, any historical fact or quality that is not salutary or praiseworthy is forgotten for the larger spiritual sake of propagating the gospel. This history-as-propagation is history in the service of witness, and secondarily, history in the service of theology . . . Early historians of the church dwelt on martyrs and the faithful, never acknowledging that there were cowards who renounced their faith . . .

This same perspective informs such works of hagiography as Cotton Mather’s Magnalia or of Mr. Murray’s biography of Jonathan Edwards. One reads Mather in vain for any ambivalent consideration of the Puritans’ expropriation of Indian lands, or wars of national extermination. In the case of Mr. Murray’s biography of Edwards, one reads in vain for any consideration of Jonathan Edwards’s bill of sale for Negro slaves, or Sarah Edwards’s purchase of a slave from the Rev. Joseph Bellamy. These do not reflect well on the subjects, so they are left out. The omissions are justified out of loyalty to the faith and its propagation. (Henry S. Stout & Iain H. Murray, “Reviewers Reviewed,” Banner of Truth March (1995): 8-9)

Stout goes on to talk about the second method of doing Christian history, by telling the entire story with “warts and all,” and he insists that this was the approach of the biblical writers, citing the Bible’s examples of patriarchs and prophets doing less than praiseworthy things. This is Stout’s preferred method of doing history, and the one for which he’s being criticized by those who would prefer to leave out the not-so-faith-promoting bits where possible.

This article took me somewhat by surprise. Evangelical critics of Mormonism routinely point out that LDS leaders are quite fond of leaving out and glossing over the objectionable parts of the church’s history—a criticism I wholeheartedly agree with. Yet this article leaves me wondering: how often have we bothered to point those fingers back at ourselves and examine the way we’ve been doing history? How often have we been guilty of the same “whitewashing” which we accuse Mormons of?

I have no idea, but I intend to find out. And I happen to be a big fan of “warts and all” history.

(I have uploaded the PDF of the entire article here if you would like to read the whole thing. It is only five pages long and includes Iain Murray’s reply).

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About Bridget Jack Jeffries

Bridget Jack Jeffries is a graduate student and human resources assistant living in Chicago. She holds a BA in classics from Brigham Young University with a minor in Hebrew and is finishing an MA in American religious history at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. She is a member of the Evangelical Covenant Church and a single mother of two. Her interviews on religion have appeared in *The Washington Post* and *Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.*

88 thoughts on “It’s not just the Mormons

  1. As someone who fails and fumbles in life, I am encouraged to read biographies of great Christians and learn that God made them great in spite of their sins. We have nothing to lose in boasting of God’s strength working through weak people. Woe to us if we whitewash the past of our forefathers. It’s an implicit way of rejecting the gospel of grace.

    On a related note (I said this on Facebook earlier), sometimes I read the Bible in search of forgiven men who have done things as bad as or even “worse” than I have done. It comforts me to know that God forgave Abraham, David, and Peter. How gracious of God to air their dirty laundry so I can smell it. If God forgave their sins then surely he can forgive mine?

  2. Jack, I appreciate the observation. I think this is one of the benefits of getting a broader look at approaches to religious history. We are able to perceive dominant themes that are common to more than one tradition.

    One of the themes I noticed while reading the article was the difficulties of writing for different audiences: the academy and the church. Stout seemed to feel that he was being criticized for writing to the community of historians drawing upon “the canons of evidence and interpretation that we all agree on.” He seemed to argue that he achieved success because the professional academy “respects Whitefield in ways they were not prepared to earlier.” On the other hand, Murray seemed to feel that explaining Whitefield solely as a product of his social or cultural environment misses the point of the whole enterprise of writing Christian history: “What is most important has all but vanished and the human and the cultural is made the key to it all.”

    Therefore, I saw the accusation of suppression of facts to be more rhetorical than actual. The real debate is the goal of history and the role of the historian. Murray seems to say that ultimately Christian history must show the “triumph and of God’s purposes and grace in our lives.” For Stout, such a purpose seems outside the domain of the discipline: “Christian historians writing for the academy are not invited to speak about what Christ means to them in an ultimate sense as a force in history.”

    I thought Stout’s rebuttal technique of couching his approach as, in fact, the “biblical” approach and his opponents as the approach taken by Christian historians since Eusebius to be impressive. I think Stout answers your question by providing a rather long list of historians he feels have “whitewashed” Christian history. On the other hand, I do feel many of his examples of human failings in the Bible miss the mark. Especially in the case of the New Testament, it is true we see “Saul murdering Stephen and Peter running scared.” But I would argue that such stories are in service of theology. The point is that these characters develop through the narrative. Saul is born again as Paul through an encounter with Jesus, and the Peter who was so weak he denied his Lord thrice, becomes a pillar of the church, almost unrecognizable as described by the author of Acts on the Day of Pentecost.

    In fact, isn’t it the case that some biblical scholars do believe even the bible has been whitewashed and that certain things didn’t happen the way everyone thinks it did? A biblical scholar I need not mention by name argues that where the original text which read “Jesus became angry” was deliberately changed to say “Jesus was moved with pity” and probably in the service of theology. Even in the realm of the Old Testament, scholars argue that Israel’s military campaigns as described in the text are exaggerated or inflated and don’t correspond to what really happened.

    Rather, the more analogous example would be between the Jesus of Faith and the Historical Jesus debates. Explaining Jesus solely in terms of his social and cultural upbringing and explaining Jesus as a product of his times, may provide data that believers can incorporate into their beliefs, but ultimately most believers would not recognize such a Jesus and resist it. Explaining religion in merely sociological terms can never take into account the God factor. Ultimately, for believers, God must intervene in human history. God is the explanation, rather than human experience as the explanation.

    I see these debates to be between the Church and the Academy, where the issue may be framed as the discussion of the role of the historian of faith who is not only part of a faith community but part of a professional or academic community. These two communities have different needs and expectations and historians of faith have a very difficult time satisfying both communities.

  3. EV’s do this all the time, and it’s pretty obvious to outsiders. In fact y’all do this in EXACTLY the same way as Mormons, the beneficiaries of the whitewashing are just different. Mormons whitewash the lives, behaviors, and teachings of the presidents of the church. EV’s ignore biblical criticism and archaeology in the name of touting inerrancy or infallibility or whatever in-X you happen to support. Notice that both groups do this to protect what is absolutely essential to their authority system. No prophets = No Mormonism, No Bible = No Evangelicalism.

    Of course more liberal leaning members of both groups accept some degree of the criticisms leveled. The more liberal, the more criticism they accept. However at some point even the most liberal member of the respective group refuses to engage, cites faith over reason, circles the wagons, and starts whitewashing like crazy. Both groups point at the other group and start snickering at how obviously stupid those other people are. And they are both correct.

  4. Very interesting, Jack. Stephen waxed on in Acts 7 about Moses being mighty in word & deed, but Moses told the Lord he was slow of speech. The author of Hebrews (likely Paul) went on about the heritage of the Jews, yet Judah himself did some unwise things.

    People point fingers about the Mountain Meadows Massacre, yet where was Jacob the Patriarch when 2 of his sons slew a village to avenge Dinah? Can we blame Jacob of raising his children badly, or not being inspired, or aware of what was going to happen?

    Paul confessed to having hypocrisy in Romans, yet any hint of any LDS Leader being hypocritical in any way is “sign” of them being totally wrong?

    If an LDS missionary gets down about a lack of success, why is there the finger pointing that: 1. He must be unrighteous, to those LDS, or 2. He obviously is teaching the wrong things, to those not LDS. Yet, Paul seems to have been bouncing off the walls about the stretches of time in Acts where he had little or no success in his mission.

    So, yes, the “warts and all” is a part of virtually any history, if you are objective.

  5. The only person to ever live and die on this earth without making one single mistake, small or large, was Jesus Christ. Other than Him, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”. As Christians, we profess to believe this. Further, we profess to believe that we sin daily, and therefore need the grace and mercy of Christ daily. If we truly do believe this, then we must accept as a basic premise that our non-Christ leaders are included in this list. What do we gain by noting the foibles and failings of these people?

    Essentially, one must inquire as to the purpose of any history. My father-in-law, an historian by trade, would argue that the purpose of history is not to be objective. In fact, he feels that objectivity is impossible. Nor is history intended to give a full accounting of details. There is always too much going on. So an historian must pick an audience and a purpose, and write to that end. (Sounds a lot like the advice given to primary school kids who are learn how to write persuasive papers – and it is!)

    With that as the premise of writing an historical account, I see that not only are both methods described as a legitimate approach, but also that both approaches are necessary, especially within the religious community. We need some accounts of concise, faith-promoting experiences, that allow for meaningful anecdotes to reinforce basic principles, and we need accounts that show the follies along with the successes, to keep us from elevating our religious leaders to more-than-human-but-less-than-God levels.

    We know that this happens from time to time within the LDS community. I’m interested to see what Jack finds within the Evangelical community.

  6. The situation is a bit difference for Protestants, because they don’t see their leaders as special in the way we Saints see ours. Also, it’s pretty easy to distance oneself from others in a slightly different religious traditions (like a Baptist saying that some Pentecostals’ follies don’t apply).

    I’m not defending whitewashing, just suggesting why I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s more common among Mormons than others.

    To see an example of how some evangelicals might whitewash history, see how much criticism of Aimee Semple McPherson you can find coming out of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.

  7. Not whitewashing the people or events IN the Bible Todd. But whitewashing the PROCESS of how we got the Bible?

    You can bet your bottom dollar Evangelicals do.

    It’s the not contents of the Bible Evangelicals are necessarily whitewashing (although, I must say, they often do whitewash the contents). It’s the book itself they whitewashed.

    David Clark is absolutely right.

  8. I second alextvalencic – audience and purpose are important.

    Sunday School is not a history class. I’m ok with whitewashed history being presented in Sunday School.

    In religion classes? In history classes? In historical books? Give it to me warts and all.

  9. Okay, Evangelicals whitewash their Scriptures… and Mormons don’t?

    Mormons are open enough to the possibility that the Bible contains errors because Article of Faith VIII practically says that it does. But how often do Mormons discuss the problems with the BoM, D&C and PoGP?

    When was the last time your Gospel Doctrine class discussed the fact that Charles Anthon contested the LDS account of his examination of the characters and translation as presented in JS-H 1:64-65 in the PoGP? (That one sort of double-counts as an LDS history problem, but bear with me.)

    When was the last time your BoM class focused on the anachronisms or archaeological problems with the text? Neither of my BoM classes at BYU did.

    And my PoGP class at BYU completely danced around the issues presented by the BoA papyri.

    The point of this post was to encourage a little introspection when it comes to what each of us accuses the other party of doing. Do I have to do a second “It’s not just the Evangelicals” post on whitewashing scripture to really drive that point home?

    For the record, I do agree that evangelicals have a tendency to gloss over biblical problems and not wrestle with the issues surrounding the composition and transmission of the text. I guess I would have classified how each group treats its own scripture as a separate (but related) issue.

    aquinas ~ I’ll get back to you in more detail tomorrow (hopefully).

    Tomchik ~ There’s a guy who posts under the handle of consiglieri over at the Mormon Apologetics & Discussion Board and occasionally at MormonDiscussions.com. He has posted some really interesting lesson plans for how he teaches his Sunday school classes. He tries to work “the warts” into his lessons compassionately. I’ll have to try to find links to his lesson plans sometime, he’s quite good.

    I think teaching the warts (or at least some of them) in Sunday school is entirely possible and even preferable.

  10. On second thought, I take it back…

    I don’t think you can draw a neat dividing line and say “Mormons whitewash their historical figures while Evangelicals don’t.” Nor can you really say “Evangelicals whitewash their Bible, but Mormons don’t whitewash their scriptures.”

    We probably have to go back to saying both groups probably do varying amounts of both, depending on the group or person.

    So much for categorical clarity…

  11. Jack,

    Yes, Mormons whitewash their scriptures. Note however how and why it is done. It is almost always done with an eye towards preserving the authority structure of the church. Hence, like you point out, BofA gets whitewashed like crazy because if Joseph couldn’t translate it goes to the heart of the restoration and hence the authority claims of the church. If Joseph wasn’t a prophet then Thomas Monson has no claims to being one and Mormons can just fold up their chairs and go home.

    This is also why John Gee is trying to now argue that BofA is not essential to the restoration. He’s essentially throwing in the towel but doing damage control at this point.

    As for complaining that we all need to be introspective, I fail to see how my accusation that both sides do this is somehow undermining the call to be introspection. My main point was “a pox on both your houses” which is about as evenhanded as one can get.

    EV’s do the same thing for the same reasons. You have no reason to whitewash history of say Martin Luther or other Reformation figures. You also have no reason to whitewash the lives of Evangelical figure because they play no role in your authority structure. However, failure to follow the procedures of historical research with regards to the Bible IS something EV’s do because it strikes at the heart of the sola scriptura claims upon which all Protestants, but EV’s especially, place their authority structures. That’s how and why you do the whitewashing.

    Again, I can’t stress too much that I am not claiming one group has the upper hand or can claim the higher ground on this issue. My claim is that both groups should be more introspective because neither can claim the high ground on this on.

  12. David,

    Could you please quote the passage you have in mind where John Gee argues that “the BoA is not essential to the Restoration?”

  13. Gee’s address was called The Larger Issue.

    The money quote is this (about 1/3 of the way down): The Book of Abraham is not central to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. The Church survived for the first fifty years of its existence without the Book of Abraham as part of the scriptural canon. So the first thing to remember about the role of the Book of Abraham in apologetics is that the Church does not rise and fall on the veracity of the Book of Abraham.

  14. Jack said:

    When was the last time your Gospel Doctrine class discussed the fact that Charles Anthon contested the LDS account of his examination of the characters and translation as presented in JS-H 1:64-65 in the PoGP? … When was the last time your BoM class focused on the anachronisms or archaeological problems with the text? … And my PoGP class at BYU completely danced around the issues presented by the BoA papyri.

    When I’ve taught modern-day scriptures (and the Bible, for that matter), I’ve done so fully aware of the problems they pose. And I have mentioned mentioned various textual problems without dwelling on them, and nobody has seemed concerned.

    Frankly, if I were in charge and preparing lesson materials, I would mention the various problems upfront without dwelling on them. I’ve mentioned the BoA issues briefly when teaching class, and nobody batted an eye. When teaching the martyrdom of Joseph Smith I went into the known detail about how he fired three shots (it’s in the teacher’s manual anyway), and nobody was fazed a bit. I repeated the accusations in the Expositor that led the Nauvoo City Council to order the destruction of printing presses, and nobody criticized me for it.

    Frankly, I think the issues that seem to bother some of our evangelical critics just aren’t that big of a deal. Like I said, there’s no need to dwell on them. But neither should be hesitant to shy away from history as best as we can determine it.

  15. I’ve done so fully aware of the problems they pose. And I have mentioned mentioned various textual problems without dwelling on them

    In other words you paid them lip service and moved on. That’s whitewashing.

    Frankly, I think the issues that seem to bother some of our evangelical critics just aren’t that big of a deal. Like I said, there’s no need to dwell on them.

    More whitewashing, you are making Jack’s point for her.

  16. David, I’m not sure what more you would have preferred.

    Is anything short of admitting anti-Mormon claims are true going to satisfy some people that we are doing anything other than “lip service?”

  17. An appropriate question, Seth.

    Maybe I have a different definition of “whitewash” than David Clark does. I don’t see how telling a class (as I did earlier this year) that the only Egyptian manuscripts we have that are tied to the Book of Abraham are funerary texts that don’t even mention Abraham is whitewashing. Anyone whose curiosity is piqued by that is free to ask questions or to pursue the information outside of class.

    My main goal in teaching a scripture class is to help people understand what they can learn from the text, how it can be meaningful to them and how it can be something they can apply to their lives. If I were teaching a class in scripture origins, it would be different. Or if I were teaching apologetics, I would take a far different approach. And I’ve already said (if not here, then elsewhere) that I believe as an institution would should be more upfront about the “difficulties” rather than taking a defensive approach. We have no need to hide whatever is true.

    But I don’t see how spending my limited class time dwelling on what the critics have to say about documentary origins fits my purposes very well.

    David Clark said:

    … you are making Jack’s point for her.

    Even if true, so what? Did I ever say I disagree with Jack’s post?

  18. aquinas ~ I think those are great observations. As I was reading Stout’s defense, the thought did occur to me that some of the “warts” in the Bible were part of a theological narrative showing how God uses even fallen humans—so they may have been warts, but they were warts that had been crafted into a pro-Gospel purpose. The thought also occurred to me that we can’t actually say for certain that these authors didn’t “whitewash” the text. For most of these stories, the books in the Bible represent the only source we have on the matter. If we could cross 4000 years into the future and Mr. Murray’s biography of Edwards was all we had on the matter, how would we know whether or not Edwards was a slave-holder? And then there are the allegations that archaeological and extra-biblical sources contradict the biblical narrative, thus pointing to white-washing, which must be considered as well.

    I do agree that when it comes to doing history, it’s very difficult to please both the church and the academy. I lean towards Stout’s method of doing Christian history for the academy due to 1 Cor. 9:20: “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.” (TNIV)

    David ~ Thanks for clarifying. Between your comment and Seth’s, I was just worried that this thread was going down the path of attacking each other for perceived faults, which (regrettably) happens often enough around here, even when we try to be conciliatory.

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you say that each group does what it can to protect its authority figure(s). The Bible is our authority figure and so evangelicals do what they have to in order to protect it; the LDS leaders (past and present) are Mormonism’s authority and so Mormons do what they have to in order to protect them. Since most of the LDS scriptures come from Joseph Smith, protecting the BoM, D&C and PoGP is an extension of that. Does that sound like a fair summary of the situation?

    Of course, that does go back to the question of Edwards, Whitefield and other evangelical historical figures. However great they may have been, their authority in our tradition is much more limited than the authority of Joseph Smith or Brigham Young in the LDS tradition. Why, then, are authors like Murray (apparently) interested in crafting faith-promoting histories which protect them from their foibles? Shouldn’t evangelicals be more willing to let these flaws hang out? That’s what surprised me about the debate. I can understand Mormons moving to clean up the records of folks like JS and BY. I don’t quite understand why evangelicals would move to clean up the records of Whitefield and Edwards.

    This is perhaps a bit tangential, but I just wanted to say that I found Gee’s talk earlier this year fascinating. I agree with you, he seemed to be doing some damage control and laying some groundwork for a minimization of the Book of Abraham. I was intrigued by his list on the things that are essential to Mormonism and must be defended, which was reprinted by the Church News (a possible sign of official endorsement?):

    God exists; Jesus Christ is His Son; God talked and still talks with men through the power of the Holy Ghost; Jesus Christ atoned for the sins of the world; the Atonement is available to those who trust Jesus, turn from sin, make and keep sacred covenants, and follow the course throughout their lives; and the Book of Mormon is true, an authentic record of God’s interactions with actual ancient people.

    I don’t want to derail this topic by discussing Gee’s quote further, but I commented on it at Mormon Matters here.

    Eric ~ I don’t really have a problem with “not dwelling on” difficult areas of LDS history & scripture in a Sunday school class. The question is, where should we dwell on them at?

    You say if you were teaching an apologetics class, things would be different. But where can you take a course on Mormon apologetics? Not in Sunday school, not in Institute and not at BYU. Can you come up with your own apologetics curriculum and teach it in Sunday school or Institute?

  19. don’t get me started on Gee’s recent talk about the Book of Abraham. The Book of Abraham may not be essential to Mormonism, but Joseph Smith’s ability to translate ancient documents is.

    Oops, thread derailed.

  20. I just disagree with his notion that the Book of Abraham isn’t “essential.” I didn’t agree with how he ranked books of scripture in order of importance either. And I found the frequency of use in General Conference addresses to be a rather questionable barometer of a book of scripture’s importance.

    But I also didn’t view that limited passage as the central point of his speech. It seemed like more of a throwaway remark to me. Like he wasn’t being that careful on his way to making other points.

    Tim,

    If you believe in the Book of Mormon as valid, then Joseph’s ability of translation of the BoA becomes something of a sideshow. That much I agreed with.

    Gee actually brings up a relevant point to this discussion later in the article than what David quotes.

    He points out that virtually no one today has the degree of scholarly expertise necessary to contribute to the debate on the Book of Abraham in a useful manner – or to even really understand the debate. You might make a similar point about the debate over the Bible.

    Perhaps this is a reason for avoiding these debates among lay membership – none of the laity are even equipped to grapple with the issue responsibly, and there is no practical way to so equip them anyway. So why waste time and energy encouraging them to examine an issue that they aren’t even going to “get” anyway?

  21. Can you come up with your own apologetics curriculum and teach it in Sunday school or Institute?

    I assume that’s a rhetorical question.

  22. Does that sound like a fair summary of the situation? Yes, I am in agreement with your summary.

    Why, then, are authors like Murray (apparently) interested in crafting faith-promoting histories which protect them from their foibles? Shouldn’t evangelicals be more willing to let these flaws hang out?

    Absolutely. One of the strengths of Protestantism is the ability to be critical, make changes, improve, and reform. I especially see no reason to whitewash when one is dealing with ancillary issues, which the original article seems to be doing.

  23. Jack, I appreciate the response and I agree that human foibles can be woven to form a faith promoting narrative. The point is that not many people are going to be inspired if Paul continued to murder people after his encounter with Christ and if Peter continued to deny Christ and never gained any strength until the very end. Unless the characters who encounter Christ are transformed in some way (either by being healed, gaining strength, or overcoming some obstacle), the narrative tends to lose meaning.

    I also want to validate your concern with the thread “going down the path of attacking each other for perceived faults.” It’s almost like people are wired to do this, even where, as I attempt to point out here, the Stout-Murray debate is simply not analogous to the Mormon-Evangelical dialogue.

    Outsiders criticizing the way a faith community deals with its history is something that belongs to a different category in my view. The motivations are different. Evangelical critics aren’t arguing that Mormons need to employ more social, cultural or literary analysis, or that Mormon historians need to write for the academy, rather it seems to me they are questioning the underpinnings of that faith, that if LDS knew the real history, they would not be believers or would not trust their prophets or would lose faith or begin to doubt, or at least be less annoying or less naive. So, there is a goal of disaffiliation or some apologetic behind the criticism. Here, I don’t see the same dynamic in the Stout-Murray conversation. Both men claim to be believers. However, they have different ideas about the role of the Christian historian. I hope people can see the difference.

    I think the accusation of “whitewashing” is Stout’s defense strategy, which may have been successful. Murray’s rebuttal in my view seems to suggest that his main concern is telling the story of a religious figure without any reference to the divine. If the lives of religious figures can be explained solely by anthropology, culture, history and social inquiry, then again, there is no encounter with the divine. What’s then left of Christian history? It seems to me that this is Murray’s position.

    I also want to point out that Stout never argued that telling the story “warts and all” was good for believers. He made it clear he was not writing for believers but for the academy. However, there are scholars of faith who do believe that telling the story “warts and all” is actually good for believers and can be faith promoting.

  24. I guess I agree with that.

    The reason we find value in the stories of Paul, Peter, and others is because they were making progress in Christ rather than just throwing up their hands, and wallowing in existing sin while saying “Jesus loves me anyway.”

  25. When was the last time your BoM class focused on the anachronisms or archaeological problems with the text?

    Well, Mormon 9:32-33 speaks of imperfection in that record. I don’t know how many of the anachronisms were due to Joseph Smith translating things to what he understood them to be. But, if you want to get picky about that, there has been some detailed studies that show that Mark made some blunders in his writing of his book that don’t “jive” with the other gospels, or exact Jewish practices.

    So, what does that mean? He was trying to remember things that happened, but he may have had memory problems.

    Archeology can be tricky, for I understand some of the Old Testament battles & wars can’t be proved by it.

    Then, another possible “warts” moment: Peter announced that circumcision was not necessary. Yet, one of the early things Paul did with Timothy was to circumcise him!

    Was Paul caving in to pressure from Jews they would face if Timothy was found to be uncircumcised?

    Also, on the topic of origins of scriptures: How many books of the Bible do we have that are the original writings, the ones in the author’s hands? If none, how many years removed from writing do we have the earliest versions?

    When teaching the martyrdom of Joseph Smith I went into the known detail about how he fired three shots (it’s in the teacher’s manual anyway), and nobody was fazed a bit.

    Good question. Did any of the mob later claim to have been hit or killed by that? Speculation, but, I was thinking, wouldn’t it have been interesting if that gun had just blanks in it? Joseph Smith did do things to fool people after the plates when he had them.

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  27. David H.:

    Did any of the mob later claim to have been hit or killed by that? Speculation, but, I was thinking, wouldn’t it have been interesting if that gun had just blanks in it?

    The gun was no play prop. It was intended for his self-defense and was used accordingly very shortly after Hyrum Smith was fatally shot.

    The gun was a small six-shooter, and Joseph Smith apparently shot it six times but only three bullets fired properly.

    Those three bullets injured three men in the hallway. John Taylor wrote that he was “informed” that two of them had died, but the best historical evidence indicates that he was misinformed.

    What appears likeliest is that the three injured by Joseph Smith’s bullets were William Gallaher, John Mills and William Voras, and that they were among those charged with the murder of the Smith brothers. Because they were wounded, the wounds would have been strong evidence against them (the mob members were in blackface to keep from being recognized), and they apparently fled the state before the case could come to trial (which turned out to be a sham, but that’s another story).

    Not much of what the bullets did can be stated with certainty, but there is no historical doubt that Joseph attempted to defend himself (as he had every right to do) with a real gun and with real bullets.

  28. I think the pepperbox pistol is a good example of how whitewashing can occur and doesn’t need to.

    I’ve met ex-Mormons who actually make this an issue. And it’s completely idiotic.

    I mean, over one hundred men with rifles storm a jail with murderous intent where there are 4 men locked up and one of them has the audacity to shoot back.

    And this is controversial in America?

    I’d say about 70% of the population would say he was justified. And he even did it in defense of dear friends. I mean… what gives?

    Well, the problem is that all cultures have the impulse to idolize things, and Mormon culture is no exception. Some people grow up in the LDS Church idolizing its figures to an unhealthy degree. This isn’t something particularly unique to Mormons, but it still exists anyway.

    Then when Joseph Smith turns out to have been “just a person” after all, they flip their lid, and suddenly everything the guy did is now “evil incarnate.” In this new extremist paradigm, anything they didn’t previously know about Joseph Smith takes on sinister overtones. Like trying to get revenge on their idol for not being as perfect as they needed him to be.

    How dare he!?

    Thus a guy in a prison room shooting a pistol back against hundreds of murderers is magically transformed into a guy who went looking for a fight and died in a “blazing gun battle” – OK Corral style. Got what he deserved he did!

    Which might have been avoided by simply making Joseph’s pistol a regular part of the taught narrative of Carthage Jail.

    And the thing is, this story almost never bothers currently active and faithful Mormons – as long as you just present the facts without agenda. They just nod their heads, and the lesson moves on. Total non-issue.

    It’s only after exit, when a former Mormon has a vendetta to carry out, that this historical detail takes on any significance at all.

  29. I’ve never really been bothered by whether or not the Church teaches that Joseph Smith had a pistol in Carthage. It’s one of the more negligible historical details in the grand scheme of things.

    I am bothered by the creative history that is done around why Smith was in the jail in the first place.

  30. I agree that that is a tougher issue and not just “stupid.”

    But the point was that once the overarching narrative collapses, these petty details may suddenly be used as ammunition in revenge of a failed testimony.

  31. I agree, Seth. I’m sometimes amazed at the details ex-Mormons and certain critics will focus in on (though I’m not trying to make a statement about ex-Mormons in general).

    Seems that some people retaliate by swinging the pendulum way too far in the other direction after they exit.

  32. Eric ~ BTW, I should have said earlier, no, it wasn’t a rhetorical question. I suspected the answer is “no,” but I don’t know all of the ins and outs of LDS church policy where Sunday school and Institute classes are concerned. I didn’t want to say “you can’t take a class on apologetics anywhere in Mormonism” only to have someone interject that special interest courses are a possibility.

    I went to an LDS Sunday school class once (when I first began studying the church) where the teacher taught a lesson based on The Fate of the Persecutors of the Prophet Joseph Smith by N. B. Lundwall. The teacher seemed to believe every word in the book, and I was too naïve at the time to know better, though even at age 17 I still thought the stories sounded too good to be true.

    I have no idea what official class he supposedly taught that under. I thought maybe he designed the class himself.

  33. If it’s not a rhetorical question, then, I’ll answer it. You know more about the Church and how it works than many members do, so I misinterpreted your intent in posing the question. But now that I’ve thought about it a bit, I’ll give a different answer than my original, which would have been a simple “No.”

    Can you come up with your own apologetics curriculum and teach it in Sunday school or Institute?

    Sunday school is tied to the four-year cycle fairly rigidly. Teachers do have a fair amount of latitude within the confines of the lesson plan (although some bishops may think otherwise). I think that if a teacher were particularly interested in apologetics, some related issues could be covered in various lessons, such as when examining Paul’s missionary efforts and that sort of thing. That’s not really a curriculum.

    Along that line, I expect that in my teaching next year I’ll touch (but not dwell) on the documentary hypothesis as it relates to the Old Testament, and ditto for the origins of the Book of Moses and the Book of Abraham. I wouldn’t do that so much with apologetics in mind; it’s just that I think that background information has some importance.

    I don’t know much about Institute. Here, the Institute usually has one or two classes each three months or so on various topics for church members who aren’t students (I remember seeing one class about marriage, another on IIRC one of the Old Testament minor prophets). I have no idea how those classes come about, although I assume it’s either a calling or the work of CES. Whether it’s possible to offer to teach a class, I don’t know. I’ve never been to any of the Institute classes because of my work schedule, but I have been told they are usually quite well done.

    I think that if someone were really interested in teaching apologetics, the best calling to have would be as Relief Society president or leader of one of the priesthood groups. One Sunday a month, at least here (so it’s probably everywhere), the lesson topic is at the complete discretion of the president/counselors/leaders.

    I don’t know what I think about the need for teaching apologetics. Obviously, the church leadership doesn’t think it’s all that important, so maybe it’s not. And I’m not really sure what the point would be. The vast majority of LDS apologetics would be the same as general Christian apologetics, and it’s not like there’s a lack of resources in that area.

    And from what I’ve seen, outside the blogosphere I’m not sure there are all that many people interested in what we think of as apologetics issues. I’ve gone out on splits a fair number of times with missionaries, and the only time I’ve seen apologetics issues come up was with one investigator who had a Seventh-day Adventist background and wanted to see scriptural evidence to support the practice of Sunday worship. When my son went on his mission, he was fairly familiar with the various LDS-specific apologetics issues that could come up, but they didn’t, not even the church’s history of dealing with blacks (which surprised me that that issue wouldn’t be raised somewhere).

    I tend to think that people join a specific church (or stay in it) because it meets their needs — sometimes the need to feel that God loves them, sometimes social needs, sometimes the need for a family identity, sometimes because they like the music, whatever. If the church touches them in some way, people join or stay; if it doesn’t, they don’t.

    I realize that there are people who leave the Church (or don’t join) because of the apologetics issues. But I have never personally known any, and I don’t think that those things are even on the radars of most people, members or not.

    According to what I’ve been told by a reliable source, there’s a huge concern among the church’s upper leadership about the activity level of single young adults (only about 18 percent remain active, and the activity falloff is serious even among returned missionaries). We can all make educated guesses about what is happening here, but I’d bet the reasons have nothing to do with concerns about the reliability of the Book of Abraham.

  34. Eric ~ Thanks for the thorough, thoughtful answer. You said:

    According to what I’ve been told by a reliable source, there’s a huge concern among the church’s upper leadership about the activity level of single young adults (only about 18 percent remain active, and the activity falloff is serious even among returned missionaries).

    I’ve heard from several different sources that the activity drop-off rate is actually worse for young single adult women than it is for young single adult men, and all of the pushes I’ve been hearing in Conferences and church talks to get YW to transition into Relief Society could support that. Have you heard this from anywhere?

    I have more thoughts on what you wrote, but I’ve gotta run.

  35. I haven’t heard anything about it being worse among any group, only that the activity rate for young adults singles is very low across all sectors (such as college-educated or not).

    Of the singles wards/branches that my adult kids have been in, all have had more females than males, but I don’t know how typical those wards/branches are.

    I don’t want to start a threadjack here, but I’d be curious to know if it’s a big problem in evangelical churches. I know it is in mainline denominations and has been for quite a while.

  36. I would like to add some further insight regarding the teaching of apologetics at the Institute level. One of my former bishops is an active apologist, and frequently used Sunday Evening Discussions as a forum for discussing some of the more basic apologetic topics with the youth.

    He approached the Institute Director here (who is also my current bishop) and proposed creating a curriculum based entirely on apologetics. He even put the curriculum together and explained how it would work within the framework of the Institute program.

    From what I understand (but I may be incorrect here), the Institute director was interested in the idea but CES shot it down, citing the purpose of CES as the teaching of basic gospel principles.

    Incidentally, I also took an Institute course on the Old Testament and our teacher was a PhD candidate studying the Hebrew Bible. Most of what he taught went way over the heads of the majority of us, but he had no problem approaching each lesson from multiple angles and sharing the writings of LDS and non-LDS apologists as he did so.

    So it is quite possible to use apologetics within the current framework of lessons within the Institute program, but, unless someone manages to convince the Church Board of Education to approve a new curriculum, there will not be an official Institute course on apologetics. (Even Independent Study classes have to fit within one of the currently established Religion courses which are the framework of the entire Institute program.)

  37. From what I understand (but I may be incorrect here), the Institute director was interested in the idea but CES shot it down, citing the purpose of CES as the teaching of basic gospel principles.

    Apparently the purpose of EVERYTHING in the church is to teach “basic” gospel principles and ignore “basic” Mormon problems, and just hope and pray that no one ever discovers this obscure little tool called Google. ;)

    Though I agree with Eric, inactivity rates among young adults probably has more to do with sex, kids experiencing their first taste of independence, and perceived irrelevance than issues than tough Mormon history.

  38. Alex — That was informative. Thanks!

    Katie L:

    … inactivity rates among young adults probably has more to do with sex, kids experiencing their first taste of independence, and perceived irrelevance than issues than tough Mormon history.

    I agree. And I don’t think we’re as welcoming as we could be for people who are struggling with trying to figure out what the gospel has to do with real life.

  39. Alex,
    The material wasn’t over my head. :)
    But I did actually learn something from institute other than how to have patience with a judgmental teacher.

    I even flew across the country to get more institute from that teacher…

  40. Interesting conversation and I think there’s perhaps a misconception. The notion that evangelicals / protestants don’t whitewash history and are limited to whitewashing the Bible or its history is not quiet accurate. Evangelicals and Protestants tend to “pick and choose” parts of Christian history that makes them look good as much as Mormons do.

    Some examples:
    1) The 1066 schism and the crusades of the 11th through 13th century.
    Most protestants react with “It was those other guys ! Those darn Roman Catholics”. Yet there was no Protestant Church at that time. It’s as much part of our ugly “warts and all” past as anything else. I’ve heard several Protestants try to explain that their denomination was actually some form of hidden Christian church somewhere in Europe and that therefore they were never part of this. As Scrooge would say “Bah Humbug !”

    3) Luther was a wonderful guy
    Actually he was a boor, drank way to much and had really crude sens of humor. He also defended the eternal virginity of Mary and some other RC doctrines, but did stand up against the abuses of some of these doctrines. Protestants tend to throw out the baby with the bathwater claiming Luther did the same. Once again…. humbug !

    4) The European wars resulting from the reformation was all a Roman Catholics persecution of Protestants
    Next time you’re in Europe, Belgium more specifically, go have a look at the St.Mary’s cathedral in Antwerp. Notice how a lot of the statues on the facades have no head. This little episode across the middle and northern part of Westen Europe, culminating in 1566, is called the “Iconoclastic outbreak”. Nasty part of Protestant history ;-)

    In summary, not too many Protestants will accept this as part of their history because it’s really not all that pretty. And we all want to look good. Evanglicals as much as Mormons.

    Just my two pennies worth.

    Jack, look forward to your analysis, feel free to reach out to me if you’d like some help or pointers ;-) European medieval history is somewhat of a passion of mine as you can tell.

    In Him

    Mick

  41. I don’t know Mick, most Protestants I know will accept these moments as low points in the church. Most Protestants may not necessarily know about them (as most people don’t know much about medieval history), but once in the know, my experience has been that Protestants say “those people were out of line”.

    A pastor friend of mine did a “confessions of an sinful church” series once and apologized for these episodes.

  42. A pastor friend of mine did a “confessions of an sinful church” series once and apologized for these episodes.

    And numerous Protestant churches (such as the Southern Baptist Convention in 1995) have formally apologized for their role in promoting slavery.

  43. Even Bob Jones University eventually apologized for its racist policies. Better late than never I suppose.

    Mick ~ Actually [Luther] was a boor, drank way to much and had really crude sens of humor. He also defended the eternal virginity of Mary and some other RC doctrines, but did stand up against the abuses of some of these doctrines. Protestants tend to throw out the baby with the bathwater claiming Luther did the same. Once again…. humbug

    You forgot anti-semitic and sexist.

    Now, I’m perfectly aware that such sentiments against Jews and women were quite common in those days and it’s a bit of a presentist fallacy to say, “Martin Luther was anti-semitic and sexist.” Still, the first person who ever broke to me Luther’s views on women was an atheist friend who was trying to convince me to ditch Christianity. He gave me quote after quote after quote. I was in shock after reading it and at a loss for words.

    Usually when I bring the issue up with other Christians, they brush it off because “everyone was hostile to women back then.” So what? Is that really a good reason to never talk about it? Honestly, I think that’s kind of lame. Christians should talk about it, and not just in passing. We should wrestle with what it means to have leaders and founders who give in to the failings of their surrounding cultures as well as other serious flaws.

    Thank you in advance for tolerating “Jack is troubled by sexism in religion episode 912.”

  44. Drat.. looks like I missed episode 911… anyone DVR it ?

    Tim,
    It’s always dangerous to generalize with terms as “Not too many” (my quote) or “Most” (your quote).

    Personal experience in Dallas for the last 12 years have maybe split that line 50/50 on those Protestant that will accept past Christian history vs. not.

    Which somewhat correlates to my experience with LDS members. Some of them (here we go again with the general statement) will try to defend their prophets at all costs, some of them are less dogmatic / emphatic in their defense.

    I think the same applies to Protestants when talking overall Christian history.

    The reason why I brought it up is that most of the thread seemed to focus on how evangelicals focus on “whitewashing” the Bible or Scripture. I believe there’s also some “whitewashing” of history going on in evangelical circles.

    Oh… and as a sidenote most Protestants I know will accept these moments as low points in the church Agreed… what I was trying to say was that I know of those that don’t recognize it as low points in their Church ;-)

    Hope this clarifies
    In Him
    Mick

  45. Honestly, I wish the LDS Church would just get it over with and apologize for the Priesthood ban already.

    I suppose there hasn’t been a clear apology yet because leadership is divided on whether it was ever an authentic commandment of God to begin with. If it was authentic, then you can’t very-well apologize for it, can you? But if it was just the prejudices of leadership in the 1800s (which is my view), then there shouldn’t be anything preventing it.

  46. Mick ~ Drat.. looks like I missed episode 911… anyone DVR it ?

    All of the good episodes happen on my private blog. The adventures of an avowed egalitarian on a predominantly complementarian campus can be fun. The looks I get when I mention that my pastor is a “she” are precious.

    re: the LDS church and racism ~ When does the LDS church ever apologize for the past wrongdoing of church leaders?

    It apologizes for the actions of local members sometimes (example). It sort of apologized for the Meadows Mountain Massacre, though it left out any mention of Brigham Young’s role in the matter and only mentioned “local leaders.” Individual leaders have, on very rare occasions, recanted for deviant past teachings (i.e. BRM’s teachings on blacks), though recanting is hardly the same thing as apologizing.

    I’m not saying I wouldn’t like to see the church apologize for certain things. It just hasn’t proven to be its m. o. Official actions on the part of the church via its leadership tend to get treated as infallible.

    (BTW, I didn’t really have Mormonism’s racist policies in mind when I made my BJU comment, though I can see how it would evoke the comparison.)

  47. I don’t want an apology for Brigham Young’s involvement in Mountain Meadows because no one has ever established that he had a central role in it. It’s not our place to apologize for things our forebears never did.

  48. Nope.

    Especially since Brigham Young is on the record as instructing the local leadership to allow the wagon train to pass through unharmed.

  49. I think his role is thoroughly controversial on most points.

    Yeah, I know Bagely doesn’t think so. But that’s Bagely for you.

  50. You really don’t think anyone’s ever “been on the record” saying the exact opposite of what they actually did (or said to someone else)? Please.

  51. Kullervo has a point: I think the lack of evidence clearly shows that Brigham ordered the wagon train be brainwashed and used to breed a clone army for intergalactic conquest (starting with the moon, of course).

  52. I’m just saying: the fact that something is “on the record” doesn’t guarantee that’s what really went down.

  53. Sorry I should have been more clear. I meant on the historical record, specifically the letter he sent to the local leadership before the massacre. I didn’t mean “on the record” as in what he merely said or testified to after the fact. I think the existence of the letter hamstrings complicates any theories of conspiracy.

  54. Yeah Mephibosheth,
    Except when one’s sole purpose in life is to tear down the LDS Church. People intent on doing so find it easy to invent conspiracy theories without evidence, as well as having untestable hypothesis. It’s as though they’ve actually learned how to defraud people like the string theorists have! I guess it’s interesting to see how people delude themselves when there’s nothing good in their own lives. Delusions of grandeur and so on.

  55. Psychochemiker, drop the [butthead] routine for a second and maybe listen to what people are actually saying.

    Mephibosheth, yeah, the letter is certainly evidence that he was uninvolved. If it was the only evidence that existed either way, then it would be a safe bet, and PC would be right. But it doesn’t take a wacked-out conspiracy theorist to realize that people–especially people in power when there’s a lot at stake–are more than capable of saying one thing out of one side of their mouth and another thing out of the other. And it doesn’t take a master of manipulation to realize the advantage of plausible deniability.

    I am not accusing Brigham Young of doing either of those things. I don’t have particularly strong feelings about Mountain Meadows, and I’m not that interested in it. I haven’t even looked at the evidence. Because I don’t really care all that much.

    But I am commenting on the commentary here, and to me it sounds from what you’re saying like you have a vested interest in Brigham Young being innocent. In other words, you have just as much bias as the average poster on postmormon.org or exmormon.org who really will believe anything bad about the Church, no matter how implausible or bizarre because they are just frothing-at-the-mouth-angry about it. You want Brigham Young to be innocent, ad much as they want him to be guilty. So you are weighing the evidence in favor of the conclusion you want. It’s called confirmation bias.

    This letter Brigham Young wrote may be compelling evidence, and it may even reasonably be sufficient evidence for you to justify your beliefs about Brigham Young and MM, but it is in no way a dispositive slam-dunk. To say otherwise is to tip your hand and admit your fairly strong bias.

  56. Come now, Kullervo.
    I wasn’t trying to imply that you have nothing better to do with your time other than try and tear down the LDS church. IMO, that’s better left to professionals like Bagley.

    And FTR, I didn’t write one way or the other on this issue. My statements a little more general about conspiracy theorists in general. I know that BY carries guilt for promoting a very volatile environment, but the evidence that BY simply planned the whole thing out is just lacking credibility. The anti-Mormons would be better suited historically by digging in at the cover-up and the volatile speeches. But buying into the Lee families defense myth makes the anti-’s look like 9/11 truthers.

  57. Well, if the church isn’t going to apologize on something it blatantly, obviously got wrong such as institutionalized racism, it sure as hell isn’t going to apologize for something that’s up in the air.

    No sense arguing about it then.

  58. Well, there is this speech from Gordon B. Hinckley:

    http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/background-information/president-gordon-b-hinckley-on-racial-intolerance#continued

    And we have a better track record of racially integrating our congregations than many other churches in America:

    http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/background-information/race-relations

    As for a repudiation of the doctrines associated… this is probably as close as you’ll get:

    http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=11017

  59. I’m not sure integration was a good thing in Mormonism’s case. Look at what the LDS church is missing out on by not having black churches:

    In seriousness though, while I’m willing to give credit for integration, I do think it’s a shame that integration comes by absorbing black worship and culture into a white, 19th century Protestant pietism style of worship. That’s not really the right solution, either.

  60. The “white, 19th century Protestant pietism style” isn’t universal to the Church, though. It is just universal to American congregations. But even then, we have wards in America, such as Tongan or Samoans wards, where the worship services are definitely not the “traditional” style. And, of course, we can’t forget the African wards that are vocal and use drums in their sacrament meetings.

    But there are still many non-LDS churches that have the traditional worship services, too. If I walk around the dozen or so churches around the university campus here and I read their signs, almost all of them with list times for both contemporary and traditional services.

  61. Kullervo, yeah, my comment is certainly evidence that I am biased. If it was the only evidence that existed either way, then it would be a safe bet, and BrianJ would be right. But it doesn’t take an objective, dispassionate historian to realize that people–especially people in conversations about religious dialogue where conversion is not the goal–are more than capable of agreeing with the mainstream historical assessment. And it doesn’t take a master of mediation to realize the advantage of adjudicating the evidence fairly.

    I am not accusing myself of doing either of those things. I don’t have particularly strong feelings about commentaries about comments, and I’m not that interested in it. I haven’t even looked at discussions about discussions. Because I don’t really care all that much.

    But I am commenting on your grasp of the historical evidence here, and to me it sounds from what you’re saying like you have a vested interest in myself being biased. In other words, you have just as much information as the average poster on friend.lds.org or ldsmag.com who really will believe anything I write is objective, no matter how saccharine or idealistic because they are just so glass-is-half-full giddy about it. You want me to be biased, as much as they want me to be objective. So you are calling me biased no matter what conclusion I come to. It’s called pessimism.

    This comment I wrote may be biased, and it may even reasonably be sufficient evidence for you to justify your beliefs about meta-discussions, but it is in no way a dispositive slam-dunk. To say otherwise is to tip your hand and admit your fairly strong pessimism.

  62. Alextvalencic said:

    The “white, 19th century Protestant pietism style” isn’t universal to the Church, though. It is just universal to American congregations.

    So where are they different and how? The services I’ve been to outside the U.S. have been exactly like the ones here (except not in English, and in one Third World ward they used recorded music because they didn’t have a piano player).

    But even then, we have wards in America, such as Tongan or Samoans wards, where the worship services are definitely not the “traditional” style.

    So what are they like?

    (As an aside, I’ve been told by a reliable source that some Tongan wards have an attendance that regularly exceeds the number of members.)

    And, of course, we can’t forget the African wards that are vocal and use drums in their sacrament meetings.

    I’ve read otherwise, that they aren’t allowed to use drums. Is what I have read mistaken? I’d see it as a positive sign if you’re right.

  63. Eric,

    I haven’t done a thorough amount of research in the matter. It was just what I have heard from others. The only wards outside of the US I have attended were in Australia, and they are quite similar to American wards.

    I have been to Polynesian wards in the States where the members of the congregation are much more vocal and participatory in Sacrament meetings than they are in the typical ward. Instead of the sit-quietly-and-listen you have dialog between the speaker and the pulpit, and music that is beyond the green hymnal. (I have also heard of a ward in my mission where the Stake President felt it prudent to put the Tongans and Samoans in the same ward, and a fist-fight broke out during a Testimony Meeting…)

    However, it is quite possible that everything I’ve been told is a lie, in which I case I will cheerfully recant my comment.

    I do think it would be great if our worship services did move beyond the traditional format, but I don’t know that I want to see the standard “contemporary” service that is typical of the student congregations around here.

  64. The “white, 19th century Protestant pietism style” isn’t universal to the Church, though. It is just universal to American congregations.

    I’m with Eric on this one… try a European 20th century but before Vatican II Roman Catholic service. The amount of interaction would put a Starbucks addict to sleep ;-)

    Or a four hour Eastern Orthodox service. Pretty, mystical and surreal. But not very interactive.

    It’s pretty wide spread throughout the Church. I know.. someone’s going to start listing all the exceptions….

    Mick

  65. I’ve never been to a service outside the U.S., but I was told the same as Eric. Services outside the U.S. are almost exactly the same as services inside the U.S. They’re done to pianos and pipe organs (or, apparently, recordings of pianos and pipe organs) and don’t incorporate worship styles form other cultures.

    Besides, I shouldn’t even have to go outside the U.S. If I visit an inner city Chicago ward (where there will presumably be a higher concentration of black people), shouldn’t there be a little bit of Gladys Knight style there? I could check it out sometime if we want, but I’m pretty doubtful that there will be.

  66. Seth.. not dissing at all.. sorry if I gave that impression.

    I agree .. for those that haven’t checked out an EO service, I highly recommend it. It gives you an awe and appreciation for the mystery of God. Definitely on Easter Sunday.

    http://www.holytrinity.info/ just in case you were wondering.

    Mick

  67. So since the anecdotal evidence I’ve been given is contrary to the anecdotal evidence others have received… has anyone been to an LDS service outside of the States?

    The only wards I have attended were in Australia and, honestly, Australians aren’t all that different from Americans, except that they eat kangaroos and emus, and they have a much better variety of lollies and biscuits than we have hear.

  68. Eric said that he’s been to wards in other countries.

    My husband’s been to meetings in France, but it’s not like there’s anything stylistically about French culture that would make sacrament meeting all that different.

    I know someone who was a mission president in South Africa whom I could ask, but I kind of don’t want to. Last time I asked him a question he pretty much ignored it and took a shot at trying to convert me. :P

    There was a discussion of this on the MAD board a couple of years ago, here. There’s several anecdotal accounts of Sacrament meetings in other countries being exactly the same. Only one person insisted that the Fijian Sacrament meetings are different, and he declined to give any specifics.

  69. The sacrament meetings I attended were in Peru and Ecuador, by the way. As is the case with France, there was probably no cultural reason the services should be much different there. I’ve also been to Catholic Mass and an evangelical service in Guatemala, and they were also nearly identical with their U.S. counterparts.

    Actually, some aspects of LDS culture — such as wearing Sunday best to go to church and the emphasis on children — fit in well with Latin American culture. According to what I’ve been told, the main countercultural clash involves the treatment of women, especially in areas where machismo remains strong; teachings that husbands should treat their wives with respect and as equal partners don’t go over too well. Also, religion is often seen as a woman’s thing, so getting men involved in church activities can be a problem. Or so I was told during my most recent trip south.

  70. Well, seeing as I have been thoroughly corrected on this matter, I will, as previously stated, cheerfully recant. LDS services are identical everywhere (except when Polynesians get into fisticuffs).

  71. Jack,

    That MAD thread might be the most frustrating conversation I have ever read. And also funny.

    “Things are way different in different cultures! Like my Hawaiian bishop says, ‘Aloha!’ and we all say it back!”

    Still laughing over that one…

  72. I got a good laugh out of that one too, Katie.

    Lucky for the LDS participants, rhinomelon is much more gracious about disagreement than I am. He would never make fun of someone for such a hopelessly callow response.

  73. There’s so much ridiculous double -speak on MADB. If a non-Mormon says “most LDS temples are white” you can be sure that someone will vigorously disagree and bear their testimony of the truthfulness of brick colored temples just on principle.

  74. I’ve never hung out there, and thank heavens. I was about to bang my head against the wall just reading all their driveling, whiny excuses. Good grief.

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