The LDS Newsroom just posted another interesting essay, "Mormon and Modern." The essay seems designed primarily as talking points for a gentle defense to secular critics who dismiss religion in general as a form of superstition unfit for the modern world and Mormonism in particular as a new and therefore even less welcome example of religion.
There are some nice things to say about the essay. First, it encourages rational thinking as part of religious thinking:
Latter-day Saints believe that men and women bear the divine gifts of intellectual reasoning and moral intuition. ... Mormon doctrine stresses the need and responsibility to engage both head and heart in decision making, in learning, in relationships and in worship.
Second, the essay expressly disfavors the idea that faith and reason are competitors or are necessarily inconsistent:
But the categories of faith and reason, scripture and science, religious and secular do not have to be mutually exclusive. ... Mormons welcome truth from whatever source and take the pragmatic view that where religion and science seem to clash, it is simply because there is insufficient data to reconcile the two. Latter-day Saints approach such tensions as challenges to learn, not contradictions to avoid.
If there is something to criticize in the essay, it is that it does not, perhaps, represent the actual approach that many Latter-day Saints and LDS teachers of religion have taken or do now take to faith versus science issues. I would be happier if this sort of essay were included with LDS curriculum materials directed to the LDS membership rather than on a site specifically directed to everyone except Latter-day Saints (the LDS Newsroom describes itself as "an official resource for news media, opinion leaders, and the public"). I noticed this problem a few months back when the Church posted responses to statements of BYU religion professor Randy Bott. The responses were posted in the Newsroom, not circulated to the general membership. A cynic would think this was a PR response directed primarily at the media rather than an effort to change the opinions of Latter-day Saints who share Bott's views.
Wouldn't it be great if essays like this were reprinted in the Ensign? That's such an obvious move it's hard to understand why it isn't just standard practice. Still, this broad-minded essay is another step forward.