Poll Questions

A commenter on this post left an interesting comment.
I would love to see a post in which you poll the average member during Sunday meetings and ask the following questions:
1) Have you ever been taught by the church that Joseph used his own seer stone (which he found buried in the ground) in the process of translating the Book of Mormon?
2) Have you ever been taught by the church that, according to witnesses, Joseph rarely used the plates to actually translate?
3) Have you heard the church emphatically denounce past racist teachings of Brigham Young and other church leaders?
This would indeed be an interesting poll to take. Unfortunately, I don't know if I'd be the appropriate one to do it, since I've discussed all three of these issues in the Sunday School class that I regularly teach. As such, I may have already biased the sample.

Nevertheless, I like the idea of this poll, though I would suggest just a few tweaks in the questions to be asked to Church members participating in the poll.

1) Have you read the Ensign articles by Elder Russell M. Nelson and Elder Neal A. Maxwell that both discuss Joseph Smith's use of a seer stone in the translation of the Book of Mormon? Have you familiarized yourself with the Joseph Smith Papers, including the essay discussing Joseph Smith as a revelator and translator?

2) Have you read the Ensign article by Richard L. Anderson exploring the translation method of the Book of Mormon, including what various witnesses said about the use or non-use of the plates? Furthermore, have you taken time to access the Gospel Topics essay on the translation of the Book of Mormon?

3) Have you read the Gospel Topics essay on race and the priesthood that affirms the Church "disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else," and that it also "unequivocally condemn[s] all racism, past and present, in any form"? Are you aware that the Church also released an official statement that it "unequivocally condemns racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church"? Have you read President Hinckley's April 2006 General Conference address that condemned racism in the Church? Have you heard Elder Bruce R. McConkie's 1978 speech (which is linked to on LDS.org) where he said, "Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation [concerning blacks and the priesthood]. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world"?

I guess what I'm getting after with these questions is this:

4) Are you utilizing the resources that have been made readily available to you by the Church? This includes material aimed at both adults as well as youth, but not necessarily including material produced or sponsored by Church-owned institutions such as the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, BYU Studies Quarterly, the publications of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, and the publications of the Religious Studies Center.

This, I think, would be a much more interesting poll to take.

Comments

  1. Here is a poll I think would be much more interesting:

    1. Have you read EVERY single ensign article ever written, including past essays that were published before you reached adulthood? And do you have the hundreds of free hours necessary to dig through the hundreds and hundreds of raw material made available through the Joseph Smith Papers?
    2. Have you been to the Church's official website about Joseph Smith and seen depictions and descriptions of Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon? http://josephsmith.net/article/translates-the-gold-plates Have you read the Church's history manual describing it? https://www.lds.org/manual/our-heritage-a-brief-history-of-the-church-of-jesus-christ-of-latter-day-saints/chapter-two-establishing-the-foundations-of-the-church.p15 What about other teaching manuals? What about the movie that the Church made of Joseph Smith? Did any of these give you the impression that Joseph translated with a stone in hat?
    3. Do you even know about the Gospel Topics page on race? Was it highlighted in the Ensign? Did your bishop make mention of it? Was it discussed in general conference? Does anyone in your ward know about any of the new Gospel Topics pages? Why not?
    4. Are you like my father, who at 60 years old had to go through a period of feeling like he was betrayed, since he had tried really hard to keep up to date with the Ensign, Church manuals, general conference talks, first presidency letters, first presidency messages, Church movies, and official histories that not only did not mention these things but often stated quite the opposite.

    To imply that this was my dad's own fault, or that he was just too lazy to know about these things himself, is really unfair.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "1. Have you read EVERY single ensign article ever written, including past essays that were published before you reached adulthood? And do you have the hundreds of free hours necessary to dig through the hundreds and hundreds of raw material made available through the Joseph Smith Papers?"

      No need to read every single Ensign article. I found these results by typing in things like "seer stone" and "blacks priesthood" in the LDS.org search engine. I found them all within an hour of searching. You can spend hundreds of hours on the Joseph Smith Papers if you'd like, but you also don't need to, as there's a handy search engine and "RELATED MATERIALS" section that has this material easily locatable.

      "2. Have you been to the Church's official website about Joseph Smith and seen depictions and descriptions of Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon? . . . What about the movie that the Church made of Joseph Smith? Did any of these give you the impression that Joseph translated with a stone in hat?"

      Yes, there are certainly aspects where the Church could improve, and that includes popular depictions of the translation in Church media. I wish more artwork and videos depicted the seer stone, and think this is an area where the Church could do better and thus avoid a lot of unneeded angst and frustration.

      "3. Do you even know about the Gospel Topics page on race? Was it highlighted in the Ensign? Did your bishop make mention of it? Was it discussed in general conference? Does anyone in your ward know about any of the new Gospel Topics pages? Why not?"

      Go ahead and type "blacks priesthood" in the search engine on LDS.org and see what the very first hit is. Or go to the LDS Newsroom and type in "blacks" in the search engine and see what the first hit is. Or type in "race" if you prefer. When you read last month's New Era magazine you'll encounter a link to the Gospel Topics essay on the translation of the Book of Mormon. From there you're literally two clicks away to the race article. Or if you're a student in seminary reading the new D&C manual you'll see a link to the essay in the chapter on OD–2.

      Also, for what it's worth, when I asked my Sunday School class (which that week was combined, so it included pretty much everyone in the ward) if they'd heard of Gospel Topics and the essay, well over 2/3rds had.

      My point? It's not hard to find this stuff. Critics keep characterizing the Gospel Topics essays as "tucked away" or "hidden," but I think that's just silly. You need to spend no more than 5 minutes (if that) to find them from the main page of LDS.org.

      "To imply that this was my dad's own fault, or that he was just too lazy to know about these things himself, is really unfair."

      I'm not implying that at all. I've never said or implied that anyone who didn't know about these resources is lazy. What I did ask, or rather what I was implying, was whether one had at least expended some effort to use these resources being offered by the Church before one jumps to the conclusion that there's some kind of massive conspiracy going on. Is that really so "unfair" to ask of someone? Certainly there's always room for improvement, as the case of your father and others attests. But I don't think it's unreasonable at all to expect individual Church members to at least expend some effort on their own to familiarize themselves with the Church's material, including stuff on the Church's own website that's locatable with maybe an hour or two of using the search engine.

      That's basically the gist of this post.

      Thanks for your comments.

      Delete
    2. 1. You assume that members would know what to search for. Why would my dad have done a search for seerstone before reading Rough Stone Rolling? The problem isn't that the info is not available anywhere, its that little reason was ever given to cause persons to search for bits of info buried in archives. To the contrary, they had been taught to believe most their lives that there was nothing to go looking for.

      3. If they had done that search 6 months ago, what would it have given them. Again, what reason would they have to think they should do that search? Are members requires to do searches on the Church's website every few months for every possible thing so that they can discover these things they should know about that they were never told of?

      Your expectations are more than unreasonable, they are stupid. I (and you) only know about these resources because of our connections with the people who created them or connections with persons connected to them.

      Delete
    3. "Your expectations are more than unreasonable, they are stupid."

      Well shucks. I suppose I should then apologize for having such unrealistically high expectations of people. I mean, I didn't think it was that crazy to assume that people shouldn't need to be spoon-fed everything and to ask them to spend a few hours using the search engine at LDS.org to familiarize themselves with what resources the Church has to offer, but I guess that's just too much to ask of people these days.

      "I (and you) only know about these resources because of our connections with the people who created them or connections with persons connected to them."

      This isn't the Manhattan Project, Loyd. It's not like the Gospel Topics essays are kept stashed away in secret archives that only a few people get to see if they have level five security clearance. As I said, any person on LDS.org can find them in the less than five minutes. You literally just click "Teachings" and then "Gospel Topics" on the main site and you're there. Then again, one may have to use the "Browse Alphabetically" tab right there on the main page to see the whole range of topics addressed. But who has time to do that, right?

      I don't remember where or when precisely I first heard about the Gospel Topics essays, but I do recall reading an announcement about them on the Deseret News and then seeing a link to them posted on the LDS.org main page. The only clandestine thing about the essays that my "connections" have made me privy to has been who the authors of the essays are.

      I don't know about you, but that's how I learned about them.

      Delete
    4. "to ask them to spend a few hours using the search engine at LDS.org"

      Searching for WHAT? That's the problem. Search engines and their results are only useful if people know what to search for. Why would somebody who has never heard of seer stones think to do a search for seer stones. I made this point explicit in my previous comment, and you completely ignored it.

      Again: Are members requires to do searches on the Church's website every few months for every possible thing so that they can discover these things they should know about that they were never told of?

      "It's not like the Gospel Topics essays are kept stashed away in secret archives that only a few people get to see if they have level five security clearance."

      Again, how many hours each week are members expected to go clicking every link on lds.org to find out if something new appears.

      " Then again, one may have to use the "Browse Alphabetically" tab right there on the main page to see the whole range of topics addressed. But who has time to do that, right? "

      I certainly don't have time to browse through every item of the Gospel Topics page--which is NOT linked on the home page--every week to see what updates are there.

      "I don't remember where or when precisely I first heard about the Gospel Topics essays, but I do recall reading an announcement about them on the Deseret News and then seeing a link to them posted on the LDS.org main page."

      I do. It was on facebook, posted by friends in the Church History Department. Most Mormons don't subscribe to the Deseret Blog, and most that do don't have time read EVERY SINGLE article they publish. And most Mormons don't go to the LDS.org page every week and click through everything to see what is new--an neither do you.

      You can't pass the blame on members for not knowing about things that they have never been given a reason to believe that they were things they should know about--especially when they have been actively given quite the opposite in the Church lessons, talks, conferences, manuals, media, magazines, etc.

      Delete
  2. I think the church can still do a better job at representing its history, even though impressive strides have been recently made to become more transparent. The brethren (I think quite clearly Uchtdorf) want to solve the “disenchantment spell” amongst those who leave, or get discouraged, but they face a formidable mountain of knowing how to do it.

    On the one hand, their mission to proclaim faith and repentance can hardly be made effective if they lead with topics like polygamy and seer stones. Those topics are available on church publicized sites if people are aware of them. True enough. But I’m pretty sure hearing about them in our gospel doctrine classes won’t inspire us to make positive change in our lives.

    On the other hand, if the brethren neglect to directly confront these topics, as opposed to implicitly confront them like they do at conference, then our “lessons, talks, conferences, manuals, media, magazines, etc.” will probably continue to reinforce a conservative, censorious, whitewash view of church history. This isn’t a good thing, of course, and I’d like to see it change, though it’s also a problem inherent in institutions generally.

    Institutions can’t possibly make everyone safe if they are to survive, though individuals can be made safe from institutions if they are taught, and if they really understand, that there are no infallible standards that will relieve them of the burden to intellectually and spiritually reconcile things for themselves. If we're taught in Sunday School one thing, and learn a completely (and probably more truthful) new thing somewhere else, I'm not so confident that we can use the organization as a default mechanism to absolve the burden, pain, and growth that goes along with individual responsibility. This same idea holds true with the brethren themselves, along with their continual need to clarify, expound and make honest our past.

    That said, Bonner Ritchie has suggested on numerous occasions that it has become somewhat of “a liberal obsession to feel you need to precisely articulate [and as Stephen mentions, "spoon-feed"] each point of the past to be able to move on to the future.” This is certainly true for those who have suffered from incorrect, institutional teachings, and who desire reconciliation. I'm still in that process myself. It is also precisely why I have to set the bar really low in the church in order not to be disappointed when I discover that it is, after all, humans that run and govern its myriad functions.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment