A few days ago, I read about some new articles being posted on lds.org, the church’s official website. One article in particular was generating a lot of interest–an official church account on its history with racial issues. I read the article with interest and was encouraged to see how open and forthright it was. It didn’t seem (to me) to pull many punches–it’s a clear account of how the church started banning people of African descent from holding the priesthood, the various misguided justifications of that ban, how the ban was lifted, and where the church stands today in relation to that ban. If you’ve got Google and some search skills, none of this information was really earth shattering–but what was impressive to me was the fact that it was now neatly and succinctly on the church’s own site, as opposed to being sprinkled who knew where online.
I read this morning that this is part of a push by church leaders to have more comprehensive information about the church on its website–including areas that have proven problematic for members. (As another example, see this article on the various accounts of Joseph Smith’s first vision.) I’m very encouraged by this new approach. Over the years, the church would publish isolated articles in The Ensign (the official church magazine) on such topics, but actually finding official church teachings on some issues could take even trained researchers a fair bit of effort. It makes sense to me to bring it all under one easy-to-find, easy-to-use umbrella. Why?
Because nothing is to be gained by trying to brush issues aside or ignore them. In fact, a great deal could be lost. There have already been numerous articles written about Mormons losing their faith as they turn to the internet to answer their theological problems. Do a search for “Joseph Smith’s First Vision” on Google right now, and the first result is Wikipedia. Speaking as a trained information professional, a wiki is most certainly not the place you want to be going to for answers about the meaning of life or the existence of God. And yet the first result is almost inevitably where people click to go for those answers.
So the church is now beginning to take ownership of some of these sticky points. That’s good. They’re able to present their history and logic in a manner that doesn’t alienate faith. For a religion that’s founded on the principle that people can find out for themselves what is true, I think it’s vital we put the truth out there. There were very racist statements made by church leaders. Joseph Smith gave multiple accounts of the First Vision, and those accounts didn’t all exactly line up. These are incontrovertible facts–shoving them into a hole and ignoring them isn’t an approach that will work, and it isn’t an approach that should be tried. If the truth can’t stand the harsh light of day, what sort of truth was it?
Anyway–not much more to report on this. Just saw these few articles, and thought I might highlight them for those of you out there who haven’t already seen them. Anyone have any thoughts to add? All I ask is that you keep things civil. I can, have, and will delete comments that get out of hand.