Saints: the Standard of Truth

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dande48
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Saints: the Standard of Truth

Post by dande48 » 24 Aug 2018, 06:12

The Church is releasing a new book, called "Saints: the Standard of Truth" on September 4th. The title of the article they published was: "Newly Released Saints Volume 1 Provides Honest Look at Early Church History". It looks like it's heavily geared towards Young Adults, and the Church's Institute program, as well as Seminary.

Here are few other sections from the article:
“Saints is a different kind of history,” said Ben Godfrey, product manager for the Saints project. “Instead of a dry recitation of the facts, Saints relates the events through the eyes of the people who lived them. The result is fast-paced and enjoyable to read.”
"Saints is also a multilayered history that allows readers to explore topics in depth with links to explanatory topics and the primary sources behind the text. It is based on decades of rigorous research. Every event, character, and statement is supported by historical sources. There is no historical fiction here, the history’s writers and editors say."
"Saints illuminates aspects of Church history that have been lesser known or misunderstood. It includes details and context that are important for understanding topics like violence in Missouri and Illinois, plural marriage in the early Church, the Kirtland Safety Society, and many more."
And my favorite:
Image
Caption: Two adult women read from the first volume of saints.


I fully admit that my knee jerk reaction is extreme skepticism and cynicism. I fully expect the Church in all instances to value testimony building and conversion, over the hard objective truth. But browsing over the first view pages of what they've posted on their site, it's concise and very well-written. It's very selective, and written to support the basic premise, but I REALLY want to and hope I can approach it with an open mind. I'm interested in hearing what you all think.
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Curt Sunshine
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Re: Saints: the Standard of Truth

Post by Curt Sunshine » 24 Aug 2018, 08:36

Who are the authors and editors?

I have been extremely impressed by the Church's Historical Department over the last few years. I know a few of them, to varying degrees, and they are solid historians - and, often, quite heterodox. I hope this is a continuation of the work they have been doing recently.
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mom3
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Re: Saints: the Standard of Truth

Post by mom3 » 24 Aug 2018, 08:54

I don't know much about the book. My only thought is if Ben Godfrey is the son or family member of Kenneth and Audrey Godfrey family we stand a hopeful chance. I corresponded with Audrey a decade ago about a non-LDS project I have. To get a better grasp of her I read some of her work. The Godfrey's are Leanord Arrington historian compatriots.

The book I read was Women's Voices, The Untold Stories of Latter Day Saints. It was really interesting. It took journals from polygamist and non polygamist woman and wove them together. As a reader you got a whole new take, the good and the bad, on being an LDS woman in the 1800's in the LDS story. It wasn't pro or con. It wasn't dry either.

This upcoming book, if it is like that may help everyone on either side. Finger's crossed.
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Re: Saints: the Standard of Truth

Post by Arrakeen » 26 Aug 2018, 15:58

I've read chapters 1-7 so far on the Gospel Library app. It seems accurate and well-cited, and incorporates new facts into an easy-to read narrative but with a clearly apologetic tone. I think their goal is not to directly deal with any controversial topics, but simply increase exposure to such topics among members, so they won't be as surprised when they hear mention of it somewhere else. They're clearly going for something to be widely read by the membership of the church instead of just the history buffs. To be honest though I was hoping for something a little more detailed and less apologetic.

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DarkJedi
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Re: Saints: the Standard of Truth

Post by DarkJedi » 26 Aug 2018, 17:05

I have read the first few chapters (they're "serialized" in the Ensign starting about February of this year). They're not Bushman/Rough Stone Rolling and they're not academic reading. But they are historically accurate and sources are referenced abundantly. I have enjoyed them, but I agree they are more about exposing the general membership to some ideas they probably didn't learn in SS or Seminary - if they want to look a bit deeper. I think this is a good effort by the Church (AKA The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
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On Own Now
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Re: Saints: the Standard of Truth

Post by On Own Now » 27 Aug 2018, 14:32

There's a good introduction by Steven E Snow:

https://www.lds.org/ensign/2018/02/sain ... s?lang=eng

It highlights that the establishment and growth of the Church has been the work of "imperfect people".
Saints is not just about imperfect people in the past who became better with the help of the Lord. It is also for imperfect people now who want to always remember Him. It will help you remember how merciful the Savior has been to His people, how He has made weak people strong, and how Saints around the globe have joined together to further God’s work.
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On Own Now
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Re: Saints: the Standard of Truth

Post by On Own Now » 05 Sep 2018, 13:49

It wasn't immediately apparent by glancing at it, but I've realized that there is a very interesting subtitle to this work:

THE STORY OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST IN THE LATTER DAYS

I just find it interesting in light of the recent emphasis on being exact with our usage of the name of the Church. Here, the name of the Church is not given and if this where a sentence, rather than a title, only 'The', 'Jesus' and 'Christ' would be properly capitalized.
"Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another." --Romans 14:13

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LookingHard
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Re: Saints: the Standard of Truth

Post by LookingHard » 05 Sep 2018, 18:02

DarkJedi wrote:
26 Aug 2018, 17:05
they are more about exposing the general membership to some ideas they probably didn't learn in SS or Seminary - if they want to look a bit deeper. I think this is a good effort by the Church (AKA The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
It sounds like you are saying they are "inoculation".

I do want to give credit for the church being more open and actually talking about it (as opposed to the essays).

But when I read it I am going to be looking to see if they are now admitting certain things are true that people back just a few decades ago were being excommunicated for.

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Always Thinking
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Re: Saints: the Standard of Truth

Post by Always Thinking » 06 Sep 2018, 08:18

So I just finished reading it recently. I was skimming through it to see what they did and didn't bring up. I found that the troubling parts of church history that they did bring up, were talked about in a very apologetic manner and leaned toward positive light. If there is something we don't have 100% proof of either way, they swing towards the positive side. For instance, they bring up the 1826 trial about Joseph being accused as a glasslooker and say very clearly that he was found not guilty. The problem is that no one knows for sure one way or the other, so that bothered me that they made it sound like a fact that he was found not guilty. They brought up Fanny Alger as well. Here's the whole section about Fanny Alger:

Oliver’s falling out with the prophet went beyond disagreements over how to lead the church. Since ​learning about plural marriage during his inspired translation of the Bible, Joseph had known that God sometimes commanded His people to practice the principle. Joseph had not acted on this knowledge immediately, but a few years later an angel of the Lord had commanded him to marry an additional wife.12

After receiving the commandment, Joseph struggled to overcome his natural aversion to the idea. He could foresee trials coming from plural marriage, and he wanted to turn from it. But the angel urged him to proceed, instructing him to share the revelation only with people whose integrity was unwavering. The angel also charged Joseph to keep it private until the Lord saw fit to make the practice public through His chosen servants.13

During the years Joseph lived in Kirtland, a young woman named Fanny Alger worked in the Smith home. Joseph knew her family well and trusted them. Her parents were faithful Saints who had joined the church in its first year. Her uncle, Levi Hancock, had marched in the Camp of Israel.14

Following the Lord’s command, Joseph proposed marriage to Fanny with the help of Levi and the approval of her parents.15 Fanny accepted Joseph’s teachings and his proposal, and her uncle performed the ceremony.16

Since the time had not come to teach plural marriage in the church, Joseph and Fanny kept their marriage private, as the angel had instructed.17 But rumors spread among some people in Kirtland.18 By the fall of 1836, Fanny had moved away.19

​ Oliver was deeply critical of Joseph’s relationship with Fanny, although how much he knew about it is unclear.20 What Emma knew about the marriage is also uncertain. In time, Fanny married another man and lived apart from the main body of the Saints. Later in life, she received a letter from her brother asking about her plural marriage to Joseph.

“That is all a matter of our own,” Fanny wrote back, “and I have nothing to communicate.”21




They avoid a lot of topics in the book as well:

-Helen Mar Kimball is never mentioned once, not even as a person who existed during the time period. She doesn't exist in the book.
- the Lawrence sisters are also never mentioned at all. They even cover how Emma consented to some of Joseph's wives, but make it sound like she only agreed to two (the partridge sisters), when she actually agreed to four (the partridge sisters and the lawrence sisters. Here's that story in one short paragraph:
In early May, Emma took Emily and Eliza aside and explained the principle of plural marriage to them.34 She had told Joseph that she would consent to him being sealed to two additional wives as long as she could choose them, and she had chosen Emily and Eliza.

They avoid some other things, but I want to cover the part that bothered me the most. To me, the story of Emily Partridge's experience with polygamy is one that was especially troublesome. I was surprised that they put her story into the Saints book, but what they gave was extremely disappointing, as it did a huge disservice to what she went through. I will post her version of what happened, then post the version in the new Saints book.

Her version:
After a year in the Smith home, Emily remembers: “...in the spring of 1842...Joseph said to me one day, ‘Emily, if you will not betray me, I will tell you something for your benefit.’ Of course I would keep his secret...he asked me if I would burn it if he would write me a letter. I began to think that was not the proper thing for me to do and I was about as miserable as I ever would wish to be...I went to my room and knelt down and asked my father in heaven to direct me...[At Joseph’s insistence] I could not speak to any one on earth...I received no comfort till I went back...to say I could not take a private letter from him. He asked me if I wished the matter ended. I said I did.” Emily recalls, “he said no more to me [for many months].”

Soon after Emily refused Joseph’s letter, Elizabeth Durfee, who had married Joseph the previous year, invited Emily and Eliza to her home. Emily recalls being tested, “She introduced the subject of spiritual wives as they called it in that day. She wondered if there was any truth in the report she heard. I thought I could tell her something that would make her open her eyes if I chose, but I did not choose to. I kept my own council and said nothing.” Emily later learned “that Mrs. Durfee was a friend to plurality and knew all about it.” On their walk home from Mrs. Durfee’s, Emily raised courage enough to mention Joseph’s offer to her sister: “[Eliza] felt very bad indeed for a short time, but it served to prepare her to receive the principles that were revealed soon after.”

Joseph approached Emily again on February 28, 1843, her nineteenth birthday. Emily said, “He taught me this principle of plural marriage...but we called it celestial marriage, and he told me that this principle had been revealed to him but it was not generally known.” A week later, “Mrs. Durf[ee] came to me...and said Joseph would like an opportunity to talk with me...I was to meet him in the evening at Mr. [Heber C.] Kimballs.” Not wanting to incur any suspicion, Emily didn’t change from the dress she had been working in that day. “When I got there nobody was at home but [the Kimball children] William and Hellen Kimball...I did not wait long before Br. Kimball and Joseph came in.” Emily recalls that Heber and Joseph sent the Kimball children to a neighbor’s home, and pretended to send Emily away as well: “I started for home as fast as I could so as to get beyond being called back, for I still dreaded the interview. Soon I heard Br. Kimball call, ‘Emily, Emily’ rather low but loud enough for me to hear. I thought at first I would not go back and took no notice of his calling. But he kept calling and was about to overtake me so I stopped and went back with him.”

Back at the Kimball home, Joseph spoke to Emily: “I cannot tell all Joseph said, but he said the Lord had commanded [him] to enter into plural marriage and had given me to him and although I had got badly frightened he knew I would yet have him...Well I was married there and then. Joseph went home his way and I going my way alone. A strange way of getting married wasn’t it?”

Here is the version in the Saint's book:

For more than two years, she and her older sister Eliza had been living ​and working with the Smiths, not far from where their mother lived with her new husband.5

Emily belonged to the Relief Society and talked often with the women around her. Occasionally she would hear whispers about plural marriage. More than thirty Saints had quietly embraced the practice, including two of her stepsisters and one of her stepbrothers. Emily herself knew nothing about it firsthand.6

A year earlier, however, Joseph had mentioned that he had something to tell her. He had offered to write it in a letter, but she asked him not to do so, worried that it might say something about plural marriage. Afterward, she had regretted her decision and told her sister about the conversation, sharing what little she knew about the practice. Eliza appeared upset, so Emily said nothing more.7

With no one to confide in, Emily felt like she was struggling alone in deep water. She turned to the Lord and prayed to know what to do, and after some months, she received divine confirmation that she should listen to what Joseph had to say to her—even if it had to do with plural marriage.8

On March 4, a few days after her nineteenth birthday, Joseph asked to speak with Emily at the home of Heber Kimball. She set out as soon as she finished work, her mind ready to receive the principle of plural marriage. As expected, Joseph taught it to her and asked if she would be sealed to him. She agreed, and Heber performed the ordinance.9




Eta: sorry I sound negative about it, it is a very engaging book, but I am always let down when they say they are going to be open, but then aren't as open as I hope they will be. I am glad they were a bit more open than they have been in the past though, just wasn't to the level I hope to see someday.

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Roy
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Re: Saints: the Standard of Truth

Post by Roy » 06 Sep 2018, 11:49

This is pretty consistent with the inoculation effort that I have seen so far. Introduce something from the historical record that is well documented (such as the idea that JS practiced polygamy or that he used a seer stone [at least sometimes] to translate the BoM) and then try to weave that idea into the more traditional and faith promoting narrative. Therefore, over time members become exposed to these facts and do not feel quite as shocked and betrayed when they learn about them from other sources.
Always Thinking wrote:
06 Sep 2018, 08:18
I am always let down when they say they are going to be open, but then aren't as open as I hope they will be. I am glad they were a bit more open than they have been in the past though, just wasn't to the level I hope to see someday.
As with the essays, the church is being "open" on ground that is already lost and trying to paint it with as faith promoting spin as they can.
Always Thinking wrote:
06 Sep 2018, 08:18
He could foresee trials coming from plural marriage, and he wanted to turn from it. But the angel urged him to proceed, instructing him to share the revelation only with people whose integrity was unwavering. The angel also charged Joseph to keep it private until the Lord saw fit to make the practice public through His chosen servants.13

During the years Joseph lived in Kirtland, a young woman named Fanny Alger worked in the Smith home. Joseph knew her family well and trusted them. Her parents were faithful Saints who had joined the church in its first year. Her uncle, Levi Hancock, had marched in the Camp of Israel.14

​Oliver was deeply critical of Joseph’s relationship with Fanny, although how much he knew about it is unclear.20 What Emma knew about the marriage is also uncertain.
Underlining mine
1) I am interested to see the footnote on the angel telling JS to keep it secret except from people with unwavering "integrity". I am not sure I remember that part. That seems to excuse JS from being deceitful to his wife and others.
2) I also notice that this implies that Oliver and Emma had only themselves to blame if they did not know about all the details. The inner circle was reserved only for those "whose integrity was unwavering."
3) It is well documented that Emma threw Fanny out of the house and it can be reasonably understood that this is because she discovered the relationship. I suppose it is always acurrate to say "how much [they] knew about it is unclear. What [they] knew about the [situation] is also uncertain." Technically we can never really know with full clarity and certainty what other people know and to what degree they know it. However, these statements seem to conceal the strong possibility that JS did not move into the Fanny Alger marraige with full disclosure to Emma (IOW he hid his sexual relationship with another woman from his wife).
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