Saints: the Standard of Truth

Public forum to discuss questions about Mormon history and doctrine.
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Always Thinking
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Re: Saints: the Standard of Truth

Post by Always Thinking » 06 Sep 2018, 12:19

Roy wrote: 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.
I would imagine this was their way of starting to introduce the idea of Joseph 'testing' his followers before introducing plural marriage to them, like he did in the case of Heber C. Kimball when he told Heber that the Lord commanded that Joseph marry Vilate. Then after Heber struggled with it horribly, he obediently brought Vilate to Joseph. Joseph broke down and said Heber had passed the test, and then sealed Heber and Vilate as a reward for their obedience. It is (not directly) after this that Joseph tells Heber he is supposed to practice plural marriage, and also asks for their 14 year old daughter Helen Mar as a wife eventually as well. They never mention this test in the Saints book, but it is something they may need to eventually address, and saying the angel was the reason would be an easy way to cop out of that disturbing part of church history.

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DarkJedi
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Re: Saints: the Standard of Truth

Post by DarkJedi » 07 Sep 2018, 11:58

Always Thinking wrote:
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.
So if this was a book about you, what would you do? That is, if you were writing an autobiography but needed some help from siblings or parents about early events in your life or your family when you were too young to remember, how would you present it? What if you learned some things that may not cast you or your family in the best light but wanted to be honest and still make yourself as look as good as possible? Isn't it likely that any of us might gloss over the "worst" stuff, especially if we have no first hand recollection?

I'm not trying to be critical here, I'm just saying that even on a resume we try to put ourselves in the best light - so leaving out that we were fired from a job 10 years ago but still listing the job on the resume is what most of us would probably do while hoping nobody asks or checks.

I think the huge mistake the church made, and I think much of it is on the hands of Joseph Fielding Smith, was trying to hide these historic facts in the first place. I think JFieldingS was really just trying to protect the honor of his own family and being church historian he was in a unique position to hide some stuff (and I think evidence exists that he did deliberately hide stuff). I don't think Saints is meant to be a real comprehensive history of the church in line with what the likes of B.H. Roberts tried to do nor with what Bushman did with Rough Stone Rolling. I think Saints is meant to be more of a "Church History 101" text than a "Church History 418" text - that is, it's more of a survey than an advanced study. And, it's much more comprehensive than previous church published books like Hinkley's Truth Restored which was more like an elementary textbook compared to some of these more modern works. That said, the positive side of the book is that if does tell us were to look for more in telling us where the info that is included came from.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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LookingHard
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Re: Saints: the Standard of Truth

Post by LookingHard » 07 Sep 2018, 12:31

I am about where SD is on this.

But clearly this book isn't written to help those that have gone down the rabbit hole.

It is a softer version of the essays and written down a few grade levels and are written to help your average member feel they have seen all the "bad" stuff and can still believe (and probably look down on those that still have issues with church history assuming they know better than the doubters).

And maybe this is "Being as transparent as they know how", which isn't fully transparent.

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dande48
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Re: Saints: the Standard of Truth

Post by dande48 » 07 Sep 2018, 13:51

LookingHard wrote:
07 Sep 2018, 12:31
It is a softer version of the essays and written down a few grade levels and are written to help your average member feel they have seen all the "bad" stuff and can still believe (and probably look down on those that still have issues with church history assuming they know better than the doubters).

And maybe this is "Being as transparent as they know how", which isn't fully transparent.
What bothers me most, is that they are trying to have the appearance of historical accuracy and thoroughly researched... but really it's just presenting research that has already been done with a favorable twist. It's more or less propaganda disguised as historical research. The point wasn't to teach the objective truth. The point was conversion and retention.

Which I guess is what I fully expected.
DarkJedi wrote:
07 Sep 2018, 11:58
So if this was a book about you, what would you do?
Fair point, DJ. I do think it's more important to be upfront with a religious organization, though. Many lives hang in the balance, and the Church is heavily reliant on its truth claims.
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

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nibbler
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Re: Saints: the Standard of Truth

Post by nibbler » 07 Sep 2018, 14:40

DarkJedi wrote:
07 Sep 2018, 11:58
I think the huge mistake the church made, and I think much of it is on the hands of Joseph Fielding Smith, was trying to hide these historic facts in the first place. I think JFieldingS was really just trying to protect the honor of his own family and being church historian he was in a unique position to hide some stuff (and I think evidence exists that he did deliberately hide stuff).
LookingHard wrote:
07 Sep 2018, 12:31
It is a softer version of the essays and written down a few grade levels and are written to help your average member feel they have seen all the "bad" stuff and can still believe (and probably look down on those that still have issues with church history assuming they know better than the doubters).
I think this phenomenon is now a part of our history (and present) and should be talked about more, perhaps included in future volumes of church history. Record how whitewashing of church foundational narratives may have had the best of intentions but it set the stage for creating rifts among church members. Talk about how some members that discovered the more robust narratives ahead of the church's desire to broach the subject created a dynamic that turned family against family, often with the people that had the more robust version of the stories being cast as having been deceived when that was not the case. Talk about how those people either were or felt ostracized by their communities simply for being ahead of the curve.

But I don't see that happening. These books are for inoculating the rising generations. I get the feeling that the struggling generations have been all but written off, we still talk about them in harsh of tones. We do not validate their struggle. Will we validate that struggle or continue to write people off.

For the record, I'm no fan of the book title, "the Standard of Truth." I think it furthers the divide. That stuff your family member/friend has been reading isn't the truth, this is the Standard of Truth... but it's just another heavily biased presentation with the aim of getting people to arrive at a predetermined conclusion. It makes sense for the church to produce something that presents the church in the best light possible, why wouldn't it? But I do fear that the "standard" will be used as a tool to widen the divide as LookingHard describes.

To be fair, all sources of information have bias... and they are also free to call themselves the standard.

I'm not sure what the solution is. Right now there isn't much space for people at church to arrive at different conclusions other than the official ones.
Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.
— Henry David Thoreau

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DarkJedi
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Re: Saints: the Standard of Truth

Post by DarkJedi » 07 Sep 2018, 16:14

dande48 wrote:
07 Sep 2018, 13:51
DarkJedi wrote:
07 Sep 2018, 11:58
So if this was a book about you, what would you do?
Fair point, DJ. I do think it's more important to be upfront with a religious organization, though. Many lives hang in the balance, and the Church is heavily reliant on its truth claims.
As I said earlier, I think the church (JFieldingS) dug itself into a hole, compounded by years of not being forthright and further compounded by correlation. That's why we don't lie in the first place, right? Because once you lie, you either have to continue lying (which inevitably includes more lies to cover the original lies) or come clean and lose credibility but perhaps gain respect. The latter, which I think the church is trying to do, isn't easy especially in light of the other idea promulgated here - some of those who have been lied to aren't willing to admit they've been lied to (which really loops back to the credibility thing). In other words, it's pretty hard to have been saying the whole time "this is the true church and these are our truths" and then one day turn around and say "this is the true church, but that part may not have been the whole truth." The Asian cultural idea of saving face needs to play a part here - I think those of us who accept the idea that the church actually lied on purpose need to allow the church to save face when they are attempting to make things right.

Again, let's not turn this book into something it's not supposed to be - it's not an expose. It is just part of an attempt to make things right and I believe in due course (and as the more conservative/orthodox generations pass on) the full truth will be admitted because the rising generations will already know the truth.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

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SamBee
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Re: Saints: the Standard of Truth

Post by SamBee » 08 Sep 2018, 02:03

LookingHard wrote:
07 Sep 2018, 12:31
I am about where SD is on this.

But clearly this book isn't written to help those that have gone down the rabbit hole.

It is a softer version of the essays and written down a few grade levels and are written to help your average member feel they have seen all the "bad" stuff and can still believe (and probably look down on those that still have issues with church history assuming they know better than the doubters).

And maybe this is "Being as transparent as they know how", which isn't fully transparent.
It's certainly a lot more readable than some of the stuff that's been published officially.

I think the mistake that some people make about the bad stuff is that it is all objective.

Joseph Smith and the early church had enemies. Not everything they said was true, or fair either. Some people were inclined to sensationalize early church history too.

One example would be the origin of the Book of Mormon. There are a number of competing claims made against the official story, which can't all be true, because they contradict each other.

Soviet history is highly controversial too and much darker, and much worse than that of the LDS. But that hasn't stopped a few phoney accounts from slipping out or being taken seriously. We know for a fact that the Soviets had large numbers of prison camps in Siberia. That's true. Sławomir Rawicz's 1956 book "The Long Walk", on which the film "The Way Back" was based, appears to be a lie. Rawicz's book claims to be a true account of how he, a Polish POW, escaped from obe of these Siberian camps and walked to India across Siberia and China. It contains accounts of supposed Soviet atrocities.

The only trouble is that Rawicz's account is full of holes, from geography (which was picked up early on) to the fact he was recorded as being released in Iran by the British! But does that mean every anti-Soviet account is false? No siree. We have many better attested ones.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C5%82awomir_Rawicz
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

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Re: Saints: the Standard of Truth

Post by Roy » 09 Sep 2018, 08:34

I suppose with all the emphasis on "imperfect" people in this book I expected to see a more human representation.

Question: Does imperfect mean people that have serious flaws and sometimes do harmful things to each other OR does it mean people who are committed to following their God but do so imperfectly? Perhaps both? People with serious flaws and a commitment to following God sometimes doing harmful things to each other? Why do we even need to say imperfect people when the state of being a person also includes imperfection? Isn't that redundant?
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nibbler
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Re: Saints: the Standard of Truth

Post by nibbler » 09 Sep 2018, 10:45

When we talk about perfection/imperfection as it pertains to church leaders it comes with a lot of additional baggage.

What do we mean when we say a prophet is not perfect?

Here I think that some level of belief in the prosperity gospel influences people's views. Every member knows that the prophet is not perfect, we reserve the label of "perfection" (meaning without flaw - the definition I'll use for perfect from here out) for Jesus and Jesus alone. Claiming a leader is perfect is a line I don't think any member would cross... but in observing what is said during our meetings I believe there's a more general belief that the prophet and top church leaders are closer to perfection than others. Perfection becomes relative.

We all like to know the reason for things and it seems natural for people to arrive at the conclusion that someone is called to be a prophet or apostle because they are more obedient. I see this phenomenon at all levels of the church and I think it's an extension of the prosperity gospel. Person X got a prestigious calling because they are "better" than person Y. It's naturally human.

In 2018 I think we have this idea that by the time a prophet has attained the calling they have proven themselves worthy, they earned the calling through their obedience. That's not to say he's perfect... but the general consensus seems to be that he's better than you/me. ;) In Mormonism I think we have some concept of relative perfection. Some are more perfect than others and those rise up the ranks. Where I'm going with this is that I feel it feeds into the culture, the culture where we have that joke where we say the prophet isn't infallible but no one believes it. We need our leaders to be near perfect because it helps to prop up the leader>follower dynamic.

I also think we have a more general problem when it comes to how we look at perfection in leaders. Here again I'd say that very nearly all members would say that the leaders are not perfect, but what does that mean?

To some that means the prophet is obedient enough to not commit serious sin, most of their sins would be limited to the "foibles of human nature" but never fall into the category of "great or malignant sins."

But there is a way where I very much feel the culture believes the "prophet" is infallible. I put prophet in quotes because I'm more referring to the mantle of prophet than the person. A prophet "the man" is not infallible but a prophet "the mantle" that produces the doctrines, teachings, and polices is infallible. That's the dynamic I see in the culture of the church. We can tell ourselves that the man is imperfect but we are extremely reluctant to ever call the doctrines that a prophet teaches into question. Probably because once you pull on that thread you become your own prophet of sorts.

:oops: I didn't mean for the reply to be so long.
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dande48
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Re: Saints: the Standard of Truth

Post by dande48 » 09 Sep 2018, 10:47

Roy wrote:
09 Sep 2018, 08:34
I suppose with all the emphasis on "imperfect" people in this book I expected to see a more human representation.

Question: Does imperfect mean people that have serious flaws and sometimes do harmful things to each other OR does it mean people who are committed to following their God but do so imperfectly? Perhaps both? People with serious flaws and a commitment to following God sometimes doing harmful things to each other? Why do we even need to say imperfect people when the state of being a person also includes imperfection? Isn't that redundant?
Honestly, I think when many people say they are "imperfect", they use their admission as evidence for how "good" they really are. In other words, you can't be as close to perfection as you are without admitting, however vaugely, that you are imperfect. Imperfect means, "not perfect", which still allows for a very wide range on the "goodness" scale. What it's NOT, is an expression of humility. It's not admitting "I am failed, flawed, and broken" (which would be accurate for all of us). It's not admitting guilt. It's pride.
JSH 1:19 wrote:"They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me."
I also think it's used in order to hold oneself blameless... "I already told you I'm imperfect and make mistakes, so you really can't hold it against me." You can't hold Joseph Smith accountable, or address the faults of the Book of Mormon, or hold Church leaders accountable, because they already admitted to everyone that they aren't perfect. The blame is on you.
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
-Lemony Snicket

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