I’ve been working as a student intern with the Joseph Smith Papers for a few weeks. It’s been a fantastic experience, and I’ve come to learn and appreciate, from personal experience, the amount of time and energy those working on the project put into ensuring that each volume of the Joseph Smith Papers is done as professionally and scholarly as possible. What’s more, it’s been a blast researching the 1838 Mormon War in Missouri as part of my work on the forthcoming volume 6 of the Documents series. I’ve been doing some really interesting research on such topics as the Danites and their activities during the war, including hunting down and collecting the affidavits written to Lilburn W. Boggs by those who were on the receiving end of Danite vigilantism.
But what also impresses me is the unassuming faith in the Restoration that those working on the project possess. Consider, for example, the simple yet power “purpose statement” of the Church History Department, which houses the Joseph Smith Papers Project.
This picture I snapped in one of the conference rooms in the Church History Library after a brief devotional and staff meeting. I’ve seen this same plaque, and ones like it, posted elsewhere throughout the building.
Notice especially the final way in which the Church History Department and its employees try to fulfill it’s purpose of helping God’s children make and keep sacred covenants: “Witnessing to and defending the truths of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” That’s a cause I’m more than happy to contribute to, even if in just a small way as a dopey student intern.
I’ve heard some on the Internet (including one vocal nominal Mormon who is also the proprietor of a popular podcast series) say that the Church is backing away from apologetics, especially what is typically (and disparagingly) called “classic FARMS apologetics.” While I won’t presume to speak for the Church as a whole (I’ll let the Church’s recent series of First-Presidency-and-Quorum-of-the-Twelve-approved essays on the Gospel Topics website speak to what the Church thinks about apologetics), I will say that it has not been my experience working with the Church History Department, limited as it may be, that the Church is backing away from defending the faith.
The purpose statement above, I would say, supports my own experience and my hunch that the Church is still very much concerned with defending the faith.