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Interesting thoughts. One comment about CES: regardless of what else you might think of them, they will do as they are asked. And if asked and provided with an apologetics curriculum, they would teach it.

Julie, thanks for the comment. But CES has been asked for 30 years to keep their nose out of evolution, and they haven't. So sometimes they do what they are asked.

Dave,
As I have said in previous posts, I don't envy the knowledgeable, enlightened, educated LDS, (or for that matter any religion) person who has to confront two versions of the story; the official story and the real story.
I will be willing to bet you, however, that until this prophet, my cousin, and his generation, my older brothers and sisters, die out, they will never allow the real story to be told. My family is aghast when I suggest that evolution is not just another "theory". I don't even go anywhere near the history of the church issue.

"The real story." Duff, you areassuming your own view of things is "the real story" and anyone who holds a different view is putting out some phony account. Even if some of those differing views of history, for example, are held by historians with plenty of data to support their view of things. Sure, you've got "the real story" and anyone who disagrees is in on some vast right-wing historical conspiracy.

How is your view any different from the Area 51-Roswell types? They're sure they have "the real story" and those evil government bureaucrats are covering it up, putting out some phony story to cover it all up.

And why do you assume that your family's unwillingness to embrace your view of history or evolution is a negative reflection on the Church? Are you sure it's not just a reflection on your own family or their local culture? They teach evolution at BYU, you know, so it's not like the Church has a problem with it. Blaming the Church is such a lazy cop-out.

Dave,
I think my family's perception of the history of the church is an accurate reflection of the Idaho, Utah Mormon church. You, being from California (if I'm not mistaken) can be excused for having a slightly different, and undoubtedly a more enlightened, perception.
Let me assure you, my family, and I dare say a vast majority of the Utah, Idaho Mormons don't believe they teach evolution at BYU. In fact, I've had that very discussion with them. And they are all college educated (albeit, Utah).
You can claim that is not a problem with the "church", but if it isn't the church that has indoctrinated all these people, then who was it. Maybe aliens from area 51.

Eventually I would like to do my own blog on this topic, but for now I will just briefly comment.

"My view is that "when" happens whenever someone gets interested in LDS history. There is no identifiable target demographic at which an inoculation program can focus."

I completely agree with this. All this talk of "sanatized" history is rather elitist. The only ones who care are those who either A) become intersted in the specifics of the religion on their own, or B) looking for an excuse to leave the religion. In all my years of researching Mormon theology and history there hasn't been anything that can't be reconciled with the "official" version of things. That doesn't mean others would accept my conclusions, but they still exist. It has been more like going from multiplication tables to Algebra and Calculus rather than study Science and find out you are learning Pop-Culture.

"This is just a matter of getting people who need it to read a couple of general books on LDS history written from a faithful but informed perspective. I guess RSR and Story of the Latter-day Saints would be the top two . . ."

There is a difference between the two books that can easily explain why the LDS Church receives RSR better than the Story of LDS. It has to do with perspective. Most of the problems with the "unsanitized" history of the LDS Church is that it doesn't function as devotional. In fact, many times it presents a viewpoint that is antagonistic to the faith. People grab on to that as if it proves the LDS Church is less than forthright; and to a degree they would be correct.

What Bushman and Givens (to the chagrin of some who latch on to already formed conclusions from "unsanitized" versions) do is approach things in a more "faithful" manner. That doesn't mean ignoring harder questions, but instead not accepting them as a-piori negatives. Many have called it apologia simply because they don't reject Mormonism while they write about it. And THAT is the number one obstacle. The problem with "Story of the Latter-day Saints" isn't its history, it is its clinical presentation. Quotes from General Authorities at the time seem to indicate this when they asked "where is God?" in its pages.

I guess the question, that is only hinted at here, is what is the purpose of "official" teaching and publications? Is it to teach the vagaries of history? Is it to bring people closer to a relationship to God? If it is both, how can that be achieved without losing sight of one or the other?

I actually agree that the LDS Church can do better to present a more accurate theology and history than it has. On the other hand, as the questions suggest, I think it is much harder than simply presenting the "facts" as if it had an obligation as a scholastic organization.

What I find interesting is that in my grandmother's time, information was put out there in much more of a "warts and all" way. Actual excerpts from the journals of early saints were published in the Instructor magazine, among other places, and thus readily available to pretty much anyone. It was all unvarnished experiences-- and a lot of it wasn't very flattering, although fascinating.

And polygamy was a near event in her family tree. She knew the family gossip and stories, and wasn't fazed by them. It doesn't seem like that generation needed inoculation.

So what's wrong with us? When did this change, and why?


Duff, given the number of people in Idaho and Utah who went to BYU and therefore had to learn evolution there I have a really hard time believing you.

I don't think seminary is too Young. I was recently released from Sunday School, where all we are given is a general outline and there is plenty of potential for injecting as much or as little extra as is wanted. Anyway, I taught the 16-17 year olds and they want to be challenged. They don't want the same odl same. They have had the same old same for 16 years and are very familiar with it. They want meat. They want depth. They want to feel like their teachers are giving them 100% and aren't sparing them anything. I think it is a mistake to hold back on this age, thinking them too young. However, I think giving them a book and telling them to go read it is a bad approach. Teenagers don't want to go read. Teenagers are willing to think and discuss and learn though. At least in my experience.

I don't think Correlation is the problem necasarrily. Considering the constraints they have to work with, they are doing ok, in my opinion. (Keep in mind no church lesson is taught to give us history, but the focus of 95% of all lessons is modern orthopraxy. I don't think this is a bad thing.) I think the real problem is that we as members don't use Sunday School time as well as we could, but spend a lot of the time going over the same old same without making any effort to go deeper. I personally think the 2nd and 3rd hours of church are great times to go more in depth.

"So what's wrong with us? When did this change, and why?"

I would have to say at the time of the publication of "No Man Knows My History" by Fawn M. Brody. That changed everything. It proved that our own words (with selected non-Mormon sources) could be used against the religion. Since then it seemed the LDS Church was much more careful with what it chose to print and write about.

It had started to selectively present information before publication of the book. The turn of the Century was a time when Mormons were trying to fit in with the American mainstream after years of hostility. The more "sensationalist" aspects of Church history were smoothed over in order to present a more uniform message. It was done in a generation that wanted desperately to get past the persecutions they had experienced as children. They were, in a way, suppressing their own trama in a time when normalcy was within grasp. Brody's book closed off any hope a more careful study of the Church's past would be seen as a possitive development. Those who followed took her approach as a guide; even if the work wasn't particularly negative.

Dave,

I think make a good point about inoculation being tricker in reality than on paper, but I disagree with your arguments about seminary being too early. I think a good deal of inoculation could occur in Primary. For example, I grew up knowing that Joseph Smith had a bunch of wives so there was never a time when I was shocked by the idea. I don't remember not knowing basics of polygamy.

When I taught the Primary kids "In Our Lovely Deseret" I spent a few minutes talking about Eliza R. Snow as part of the introduction. I mentioned in that she was pretty cool because she was married to two different prophets. Joseph Smith first, and later Brigham Young after Joseph was martyred. I didn't make a big deal of it, but I mentioned it as a positive thing as part of a larger bio of Eliza Snow.

If kids grew up in Primary hearing about some of these things in a non-threatening way, I think we would be inoculating them from a very early age. Of course, the problem is, first you need to have Primary teachers who have come to terms with the difficult parts of Mormon history if they are going to do the kind of thing I described. That seems like the real problem to me. We need to inoculate our kids as they grow up, but the adults are oblivious for the most part themselves, so who is going to do it?

I'm all for inoculation. But as you say, it's not that easy in practice. With all the talk about seminary, college, primary, etc. this post and many of the comments seem to focus more on inoculating those who are born into Mormonism or join at an early age. What about inoculating those who join the church as adults? Again, a great idea, but can we really expect missionaries to teach 150 years of church history that most of them don't even know? Especially when their calling is specifically limited to the basics of the gospel? And if the missionaries can' do it, should we put that burden on Bishops, or home teachers, or the Ward Mission Leader?

Part of the problem with an institutional approach to inoculation is that institutions always move towards uniformity and clarity. History in general (and LDS history is no exception) is inherently complex and nuanced and subject to multiple interpretations. I wonder if inoculation by necessity has to be an informal process that happens to people who self-select when they begin to develop an interest in church history and seek the answers out on their own.

Perhaps the best thing that we can do is to, as Dave suggests, simply make the resources available for those who develop an interest. Because of faithful historians like Bushman, I think the church leaders today feel less threatened by independent history than in the past.

I think LDS Church magazines are a wonderful way to present history and theology to the membership. Much of what I learned growing up was supplimented by the Ensign articles similar to the "Mountain Meadows Massacre" presentation that will be published. Some time in the 90s those kinds of articles took a nose dive. Probably the best time for those were in the 70s and early 80s when you had BYU historians and Hugh Nibley (I add him as a special catagory all his own) had writings in the magazine.

I always wanted to publish a magazine that dealt with LDS Church issues in a more faithful and yet scholastic manner. Sadly for me, I have no money or clout to do that. Blogging has to make up for it. Again, it isn't the history that is the problem, it is the perceptions and the way it is presented.

I think you're being far too dismissive of teenagers and of their ability to take serious topics seriously in seminary.

JKC,

You're right, we have to think about both groups, the born-and-raised Mormons and the adult converts. I think we are in agreement that the biggest obstacle is the same in both cases, though. In order to inoculate you must be inoculated yourself, so who is going to do it? We don't have the people to do it. If we rely on people reading books, then all the points Dave makes in the post are spot on (about teenagers not reading huge history books for fun).

Correlation is a lot like McDonald's.

The upside to McDonald's is that you get the same product everywhere you go.

The downside to McDonald's is that product is uniformly horrible.

Correlation, like McDonald's, plays to the lowest common denominator. When you write a Gospel Doctrine manual that's to be used by 14-year-olds and up -- including adults -- it has to play to the slowest and least educated in the audience.

I don't have a solution to this that doesn't end up segregating people based on interest and experience into more "advanced" classes.

But no matter what the Church does, we need more real history and real scholarship in our teaching manuals, and less "What does Nephi's example teach us about the importance of home teaching?"

I'll second Jettboy's comments on the Ensign as a resource that could be used nicely here. It doesn't require a major shift in the curriculum. It avoids the problem of whether teachers or missionaries would be up to the task. As he notes, there is a history of this: prior to the rise of Correlation, the Ensign had a lot more meat to it. Maybe between RSR, "The Mormons," and the upcoming Mountain Meadows release, the editorial board of the Ensign will see the wisdom in putting in more historical articles taking a direct (as opposed to a "correlated") approach to the events of LDS history. BYU Studies does this and the sky hasn't fallen yet.

Its nice to hear all these positive comments about how important it is to have a comprehensive, thoughtful appreciation of the "real" history of the church, but I wonder how many of you faithful members can tolerate the historical accuracies of a Mormon history of the caliber of No Man Knows My History. Fawn Browdie, a renowned historian, is anathema to most Mormons, not because her account of early Mormonism was inaccurate, or has been refuted, but because it was so ugly. If any of you have read a convincing refutation of her history, I'd like to know about it.
The only thing any Mormon writer ever says is the old saw about how her account is written by an "enemy of the church", or someone influenced by SATAN.
I agree with Jacob J, that the Mormon adults are oblivious to the real history of the church. I'm inclined to think that that obliviousness is more by training and conditioning than anything else.
Could it possibly be that man has invented the gods he has chosen to worship? And that these gods are as varied and as nuanced as man himself is.
It seems logical that if there really were a God out there, influencing mankind to believe in Him, and worshipping Him, mankind would have a somewhat similar view of said God and we wouldn't have conflicting God concepts that divide and create conflict.
Somehow, the world looks exactly as if there were no such thing as a god.
But what do I know.

One more thing. I have no idea what the upcoming Mountain Meadows Massacre book will say about the complicity of Brigham Young and the leaders of the church in that nasty, historical embarrassment. I don't judge the Mormons of that era for their distrust, or even hate of the Missourians transiting their territory. I'm not sure I would have acted any differently under the circumstances.
What is says, is that there was bad blood between the groups and nineteenth century outlooks came to a horrendous culmination in a remote valley in southern Utah. I would have probably been complicit along with my relatives, who were in the region, but gladly not at the massacre, at the time.
Who am I to judge.

FYI, Kevin from BCC posted comments of the discussion at the actual session in several comments at BCC.

Duff, you just have a hard time grasping that any opinion other than your own can be legitimate or defensible. You seem convinced that any question has one and only one answer: yours. And your comment that "[t]he only thing any Mormon writer ever says is the old saw about how [Brodie's] account is written by an 'enemy of the church', or someone influenced by SATAN" just tells me you haven't read many Mormon writers.

Geez Duff,

I only spent about an hour reading on the FAIR website and came across stuff that pretty-much contradicts your assertions about Mormon scholarly attitudes toward both Brodie and Mountain Meadows.

The fact that a contrary view to what you've said is so extremely easy to find with just an hour of internet research makes me wonder how much real looking at these issues you've actually done.

It's really not that hard. I only discovered Mormon apologetics in the last 4 weeks. I'm hardly an expert. But even I've found fairly respectful treatments of Brodie - on a devoted LDS apologetics website no less! As for Mountain Meadows, it seems fairly clear to me that the proper stance toward Brigham Young's involvement is that we honestly don't know what it was.

Were you just unaware of the LDS responses, or did you choose to deliberately ignore them since they come from "complicit Mormon yes-men?"

Dave,

At least inside the Utah corridor the reason kids aren't engaged in Seminary is that the CES system is broken.

During four years of Seminary I had exactly one teacher that was excited about the gospel. He had the entire class rapt in attention and it was pretty amazing. He did get us to actually study and ponder the scriptures.

Other teachers were mediocre at best. They often seemed very interested in finishing their master's degrees in physical education in order to climb the pay scale. The direct result of this was intensely boring classes that teachers tried to spice up with various non-gospel related antics. Several times I asked if they could have a seminary class that was for people that actually wanted to learn. Given that this was one of the largest seminaries in the state they certainly could have accommodated such a thing. I was told no. I would have quit going altogether but my mother wouldn't tolerate me dropping it.

I even tried to bring up difficult topics when the teacher would open things up for questions and was repeated shut down. The teacher would lie to the class saying that I was wrong and that no such thing existed and then approach me privately afterwards and tell me that he simply wasn't going to discuss the things I brought up.

If CES wasn't populated by buffoons then seminary would be an excellent place for inoculation. It has the time available to discuss issues in the appropriate depth, it covers a large percentage of LDS kids, and it is pre-mission.

As for Institute, my first year was a complete waste. When I got back from my mission we had a new director who was the single most amazing gospel teacher I've ever had. CES refused to pay him a living wage in the Bay Area and now he teaches religion at BYU. I've sat in on his class and it is a shame to see him constrained by the students. Several times he was interrupted by students asking, "Are we going to be tested on this?"

Duff:

If you believe Brodie's psychobiography of Joseph Smith is accurate and hasn't been refuted in a scholarly way, I submit you haven't done nearly enough reading.

I would suggest you begin with Hugh Nibley's contemporary booklet No, Ma'am, That's Not History: A Brief Review of Mrs. Brodie's Reluctant Vindication of a Prophet She Seeks to Expose. While Nibley's playfully sarcastic tone has put off a few readers, he correctly identified the major problems with Brodie's approach.

Lou Midgley also tackled Brodie's book in 1996.

Those two should get you started.

So if I'm so wrong about the accuracy of the understanding of Mormons about their history, why the topic of this thread? Either Mormons understand their history correctly and need no correlation, or there is much to be corrected.
Do Mormons know there are several versions of the first vision? Do modern Mormons know of the early "money digging" difficulties of Joseph? Do they know about his wives?
I'm not talking about you educated, knowledgeable people, I'm talking about the average member.
Its one thing for Hugh Nibley to write a book pointing out his perception of Fawn Brodie's errors, but when the whole picture...well, never mind. I'm not interested in being a pest.
Good luck with the correlation thing, Dave. Its a good step forward.

Duff, I don't know why Mormons would think there would be just one account of the First Vision, any more than baseball fans would think there would be only one account of yesterday's Baltimore-Boston game.

To a lot of Mormons, the differences among the First Vision accounts are about as troublesome as the fact that AP reports that Corey Patterson got a crucial tenth inning hit and scored the winning run (http://scores.espn.go.com/mlb/recap?gameId=270812101), while a 20-paragraph article on mlb.com doesn't mention Patterson or his hit at all (http://mlb.mlb.com/news/gameday_recap.jsp?ymd=20070812&content_id=2144630&vkey=recap&fext=.jsp&c_id=bal).

By the way, I think I've asked several times how people get links in their comments on this site, and the question has always been ignored. Every other blog has a button to click. Am I just not seeing it, or is there some secret knowledge that I'm not privy to?

LF: you have to insert the HTML tags and link address around your linking text.

[a href="http://scores.espn.go.com/mlb/recap?gameid=270812101"]Corey Patterson[/a] would link the text "Corey Patterson" to the given address, although you need to use pointy brackets < and > rather than square brackets [ and ] in that snippet of code.

You can also use bold and italic and strikethrough tags.

Well, not strikethrough I guess. Learn something new everyday.

Thank you. Let me try it.

To a lot of Mormons, the differences among the First Vision accounts are about as troublesome as the fact that AP reports that Corey Patterson got a crucial tenth inning hit and scored the winning run, while a 20-paragraph article on mlb.com doesn't mention Patterson or his hit at all.

I think I got it to work in the preview. It took me about 15 minutes to work out the bugs, though. That's pretty cumbersome, and I don't know how I'll remember where all the [/>a href's] go next time

Dave,

Interesting post and discussion. I think one place "inoculation" could occur (or perhaps, simply, "education") is in RS/PH class. Ditch the deathly dull, overly correlated pabulum and replace it with a two-year course in church history based on Michael Quinn's Mormon Hierarchy books.

The real problem, though, is with dogmatic literalism as the de facto orthodox position of the church on issues such as BOM historicity, BoA historicity, and Biblical literalism, along with the de facto doctrine of prophetic infallibility. (True, the church says that it does not teach prophetic perfection, but functionally, the church admits nothing but the most minor faults in its leaders.) Unless the church liberalizes away from literalness and dogmatism, a sanitized, so-called faith-promoting curriculum is the only viable option.

I wouldn't say it in quite the same way, but I think I agree, Equality: Historical inoculation would likely require a looser approach to scriptural interpretation and a less dogmatic approach to doctrinal interpretation. Changing the way history is approached in the curriculum would have effects on how other things are covered in the curriculum. Which is in line with my general point that institutionally sponsored inoculation is trickier than it looks on paper.

Duff,

If the average Mormon doesn't know about various First Vision accounts, treasure seeking, and Josesph's polygamy, it's not for lack of trying. These issues have been discussed in Church-related publications for decades. The multiple versions of the First Vision have even been written about several times in the Ensign (examples here and here).

The problem we face — and by "we" I mean all of Western civilization — is that we are entering a post-literate stage of history. Most people don't read for learning anymore. There isn't a thirst for understanding among the general population. Those who have that thirst, know about these difficult issues — and many of them (like me) choose to remain faithful believers.

Very interesting discussion.

I'm lucky enough to have attended a University with one of the leading scholars on inoculation theory. He's a bit of a jack ass (his customize vanity license plate is INOCUL8) but that hasn't kept me from finding the subject interesting. I've long thought that we really need to understand this and practice it in the Church.
There are few things more damaging than feeling you were lied to or deceived. It ruins the credibility of everything that was taught. (Studies of the DARE and Just Say No programs show this to be true in relation to drugs) I think that if we are going to teach Church history we can't really seek to sanitize it- or it will look like dishonesty later on.

I like Jetboy's idea of upping these sorts of things in the Ensign (though I think we may already be seeing a bit of a swing back in that direction, though not a big one) but I really think we need a lot more than the Ensign. Most don't really read it. Having the articles there once someone starts searching would be a big help- but in my opinion not really enough. (And not really inoculation either)

I agree with the statement that waiting till there's a problem isn't inoculation and is just treatment. And I think it often doesn't work that late in the game. As Dave explained, the biggest problem was feeling deceived, not the doctrinal inexplicability of things.

I largely agree with Matt W. First, even if teenagers aren't reading they are thinking. They don't have to be paying that much attention- they just have to recognize that everything isn't perfectly squeaky clean. That's the true purpose of inoculation. They don't have to get it or care about it. They just have to not be surprised later when they do care. When someone says "oh, look at these dark secrets, the Church is hiding all of these imperfections" the response can be "uhm, they talked about that boring stuff in seminary, what are you talking about with this hiding schtick" rather than "oh my gosh, I was lied to!"

And while I agree that there are some sticky issues with institutional inoculation, I do think it's possible and I don't think correlation is inherently problematic. In fact- I think that form of inoculation would be superior to a case by case basis since so many that take it upon themselves to inoculate do a very poor job of creating a curriculum. (A long time member in a ward I served in on my mission in Australia used to show investigators The God Makers so that they'd "see it from us instead of from the antis")

So, I say revise the teenage sunday school a bit, revise the Church History year for seminary and the institute classes. (For institute and BYU religion classes assign important texts rather than just having a study guide) After that you can deal with the adult sunday school, but it's less essential.

And while CES has a reputation for being conservative and there is some truth to it, it's more true of the previous generation. The Joseph Smith class here at OU discusses the multiple accounts of the first vision and drew heavily on Rough Stone Rolling. And while there are certainly the "buffoons" John mentions in CES, (more common in Seminary than in Institute from what I've seen, but still there in both places) even if they don't perfectly do what they are asked (like keeping their noses out of evolution) I do believe they would in general, and would certainly follow a correlated curriculum even if it is slightly different from the previous "faith promoting" versions of history.

It is a shame that many of the great teachers really aren't appreciated- but as I said they don't need to be understood. All that needs to happen is for people to not feel as though they were duped. They already are bored- but many later believe they were lied to amidst the boredom. We can inoculate effectively to diminish that feeling.

I'm not LDS, but please stick with me here anyway. I do read most of Church News and the Ensign. Both have admirably attempted "inoculation" in recent issues, by writing about "The Mormons" series and about Mountain Meadows. In my faith, we discuss difficult issues openly throughout our lives. I heard stories before I was five years old that are far worse than many adult Mormons have heard, and I have kept my faith. I think the Church is beginning to trust members in this way, realizing that it's more of a danger to "protect" members from difficult stories because, once people find out, they often feel they can't trust the Church if the truths they are told are censored or never discussed. The Church started recently with perhaps the most difficult story of all, the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and owned all of it, every nasty aspect, I think. No one can ever again say they weren't told or that they were told a sweetened version. From here on out, the Church can use this new "cred" to deal with other difficult things and members won't hang it up. Start at birth with the whole story, including the bad parts (tempered for kids' ears, with more detail later), and, just as the Church has benefitted from these last few months of dirty laundry airing, members will continue to stand fast and know that even though there are sometimes bad things, that doesn't mean there aren't more than enough good things to compensate.

Mike K, that's an encouraging view. I think even if a new, more open approach were adopted, it would take years for the deeply ingrained organizational culture (in the Church as a whole as well as certain smaller organizations within the Church, such as CES) to adjust. But it does appear that senior leaders have started to push for a more open discussion of some of the more troubling areas of LDS history and doctrine.

They'll never call it inoculation, of course. On the other hand (reaching back a few years here) I seem to remember the shot hurts less if you don't know it's coming.

Dave, this whole thread is actually rather pertinent to me. I grew up on the sanitized version of LDS history and wasn't really widely read enough to have encountered much of the other stuff out there.

My first introduction to this "innoculative material" you've been talking about was really about 2 or 3 years ago when I started frequenting the bloggernacle. I was pretty fascinated by it all and still am. It was very comforting to have a place where I knew intelligent Mormons had tackled the "tough issues" and still come away with their testimonies intact.

A couple months ago, I wandered into a conservative Christian online forum where Mormonism was being discussed on the "are we Christian" question. The discussion ranged from neutral to negative on the Mormon question. Since the forum did not appear to be one of those waste-of-cyberspace anti-Mormon rags, appeared to be a fairly prominent publication, and no one was really putting up a defense, I waded-in.

To call the experience exhausting would be an understatement. It felt a bit like being the Confederate soldier waving the biggest flag during Pickett's Charge.

I got asked a lot of questions by people who were pretty obviously a lot smarter than me. Philosophy phDs, theologians, counter-cultists, mixed in with a few random lowbrow mockers, and the Christian bloggosphere's own version of DKL's long lost twin brother. Mostly the conversation was polite, with several of the commenters expressing sympathy for my beleaguered plight. But there was also a barrage of accusations and attacks from a few resident representatives of the counter-cultist movement.

For some reason, I had never, up to this point, actually visited FAIR, SHIELDS, or FARMS and other apologetics websites. I've always viewed these endeavors suspiciously. Maybe because the word "apologetics" sounds a little too... well... apologetic for a proud Mormon like myself.

But with Joseph Smith and Brigham Young quotes being flung at me indiscriminately, and more polite Christians bemusedly sitting on the sidelines waiting to see how I'd answer, I didn't really feel I had much choice but to wade-in.

Right up front, I'd like to express my gratitude to FARMS, FAIR, and others for the work they do. The websites were invaluable, and allowed me to promptly and quickly shoot down several of the accusations, or at least move the subject into the "disputed" category. As a quick and dirty method of faith-based defense, it did it's job. And I am thankful.

But the experience was hardly uplifting. After two weeks of this, I felt emotionally and spiritually drained. Apologetics was not really an uplifting exercise for me. I'll tell you right now, I can think of happier ways to spend an afternoon than wading through an explanation of why Joseph Smith did not, in fact "prophesy" that there were men on the moon, or that Christ would return within 80 years (or whatever the figure was). It's like being beaten to death with wet noodles.

My wife, though aware of what I was doing, and fairly supportive, noted that I was becoming short-tempered with my kids and that the general spiritual tone of our household had taken a turn for the worse. She's not entirely sure the experience was productive. I'm quite ambiguous about it myself.

The take-home point for this discussion, I suppose, is that even after two years of "inoculation" on the bloggernacle, apologetics can still hurt. A lot.

And there is always someone out there a lot smarter than you.

Tread lightly.

Interesting story, Seth. Funny how your interlocutors would hold you responsible for every word that any Mormon leader ever said or did ... yet themselves feel bound by nothing that any Protestant leader ever said or did. Protestants just have a difficult time actually owning up to Protestantism. And they see nothing wrong with this approach. Well, I don't really want to turn this into an apologetics thread. Sorry you had to take it on the chin, Seth.

I think the real problem is that we as members don't use Sunday School time as well as we could, but spend a lot of the time going over the same old same without making any effort to go deeper.

I'm not convinced that going deeper requires a lot of change at the institutional level. The Spirit can help any of us go deeper even if all we focus on is the basics. I love a good "deep" study, but frankly, I think sometimes we tune out the Spirit by wanting more than what we get at church. I have had some of my most spiritual experiences by simply studying the scriptures and the basic principles of the gospel, which is what Sunday School and other church meetings are all about. Let's not underestimate the potential of what we already have.

OK, two things.

Not all teenagers are apathetic about the church. In fact, most of the LDS teens I've met care very deeply about the church. Just because they don't raise their hands in seminary doesn't mean they don't care. And they don't LIKE that people can one-up them all the time with their own history. Speaking as faithful LDS teen that was cornered in a classroom discussion in the middle of a test at my high school, and being completely floored by the fact that I couldn't SAY anything, you aren't getting me to buy that teenagers don't care. I'm the only member in my family. I'm pretty much accustomed to being the ONLY one who cares. And I know I'm not the only one.

We can agree on one thing: the youth education system in place is not enough. I have to do home seminary because I'm not allowed to attend the seminary that takes place at 6 in the morning. I sit with a workbook, and I answer redundant questions about what I read. Why? Because I love the gospel, and I'll take what I can get. The prospect of doing the Old Testament alone really isn't exciting. But you know what? I'm going to do it... all the while praying that SOMEONE will realize that teens like me DO exist.

But until then, I'll be doing home study, learning from the Spirit, and reading the copy of Rough Stone Rolling that I bought myself at EFY.

So yeah... you might want to rethink your theory on teenagers. It's not just wrong. It's a little bit insulting.

Paradox, I think you're out in the tail of the teen "history distribution." That's good for you, but I'm not sure it means the distribution is necessarily inaccurate. Hey, tell your seminary supervisor you are really enjoying Rough Stone Rolling and want to read other books like it, and see what he recommends. It might spice up your home study curriculum.

Is it history that bores teenagers? Or the way it's presented?

I'm not as much of an anomaly as you think I am. I see sides of teenagers that seminary teachers and youth leaders don't get to see. I think you would genuinely be surprised by what teenagers in this Church would do to learn the things that aren't covered in Sunday school lessons. I hear the things they say when youth leaders AND their friends aren't around. And you know what I've learned?

Behind the sadistic and seemingly apathetic grin of every teenager is a soul just as hungry for the gospel, ALL of the gospel, as you are.

Shocking? It shouldn't be.

I know this thread is pretty dormant, but, Dave, I hope you see this. I happened to be reading the transcript of Helen Whitney's interview of Elder Oaks on the Church's Web site, and I thought what Elder Oaks had to say below was relevant to the discussion:

...We’re emerging from a period of history writing within the Church [of] adoring history that doesn’t deal with anything that’s unfavorable, and we’re coming into a period of “warts and all” kind of history. Perhaps our writing of history is lagging behind the times, but I believe that there is purpose in all these things — there may have been a time when Church members could not have been as well prepared for that kind of historical writing as they may be now.

On the other hand, there are constraints on trying to reveal everything. You don’t want to be getting into and creating doubts that didn’t exist in the first place. And what is plenty of history for one person is inadequate for another, and we have a large church, and that’s a big problem. And another problem is there are a lot of things that the Church has written about that the members haven’t read...

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