304: Mormon History and Lying

On October 21st, Brian Whitney wrote a post for the “Worlds Without End” blog in which he offers a contextual framing of LDS Church history that begins with Joseph Smith’s early efforts to have all things related to the church recorded and that then moves through several periods and shifts in how history has been done and viewed by Mormon leaders. In presenting this account that helps us understand various personalities along with cultural and institutional shifts, as well as all that has been wrought by the advent of the Internet and easy access to unprecedented amounts of information, Whitney suggests that perhaps the common refrain we often hear that the Church has “lied” to members about its history needs to be challenged.

His post and suggestion created a great deal of conversation online, which we have chosen to discuss here on Mormon Matters. And what ensued turned into fantastic discussion between Brian Whitney, Adam Leavitt, and Lisa Hansen. In addition to Brian sharing his framings, the panel discusses a wide variety of layers to terms such as “lying” and “deceiving” and the pros and cons that arise with their use. They also discuss paternalism and attitudes of “we know best for you” that feed into some LDS leaders’ attitudes toward the presentation of history in all its complications. In the end, the discussion turns to the roles played by narratives that involve accusations of lying. How are they helpful in our spiritual and emotional growth, and at what point, if any, do or should they lose their place as we tell the stories of our interactions with the LDS church and its presentation of its history?


Brian Whitney, “History vs Heritage: Maybe We Should Stop Saying That We’ve Been Lied to by the Church“, Worlds Without End blog, 21 October 2015

Brian Whitney, Lindsay Hansen Park, Jon Grimes,  “The State of Public History in Today’s Mormonism,” Mormon Matters Podcast 297-298, 23 September 2015

Brian Whitney, Lindsay Hansen Park, Jon Grimes, Emily Grover, “Why Is This All So Hard?” Mormon Matters Podcast 303, 19 October 2015

Matters of Perspective 4: “What the Church Means to People Like Me”

This classic sermon by former BYU history professor Richard D. Poll, read here for Matters of Perspective by Curt Bench, introduces the metaphors of “Iron Rod” and “Liahona” Latter-day Saint as helpful for understanding two different religious temperaments and the way each approaches life and, more particularly, scripture and the foundational truth claims of Mormonism. Poll’s thought is that if those of us of one temperament can come to understand and see better the ways of being in the world and church of the other, we would be more gracious and generous toward those who are not “like us.” Each temperament has its own gifts and vulnerabilities, but neither is “less than” the other. The ways these temperaments feed a person’s faith are to be respected by all and granted space for their own flourishing. This is a “must listen” for anyone struggling to connect with and affirm the religious lives and ways of putting together the world we meet in our families and wards.


Richard D. Poll, “What the Church Means to People Like Me,” Dialogue (Winter 1967)

Richard D. Poll, “Liahona and Iron Rod Revisited,” Dialogue (Summer 1983)
Summer 1983

Matters of Perspective 3: “Why the Church Is As True As the Gospel”

This essay by Eugene England, read here for Matters of Perspective by his son, Mark England, articulates better than any other writing a strong case for how the way the LDS Church is organized on the local level with lay clergy and geographical boundaries serves fantastically as a “school of love.” England suggests that the brilliance of this “church” set-up (versus any “gospel” aspect) is how it forces us to do difficult (and salvific—transformative!) soul work that we might (likely would not) never otherwise do. Very few of us choose to enter relationships with people who are not family or with whom we have very little in common, or who are of vastly different temperaments. Yet here is Mormonism asking us to do just that. Can we learn to love those with whom we disagree? With those who might suspect our faith (because it is so different from theirs) to be somehow “less than”? Is there a magic in true service to and confronting others (and ourselves as we see a reflection of us through their eyes) that we would rarely ever experience were “church” not so hard? This essay is a true Mormon classic—and a challenging one!


Eugene England, “Why the Church Is As True As the Gospel,” Sunstone (March 1986)

Eugene England, “Why the Church Is As True As the Gospel,” Sunstone (June 1999). This is an updated and re-edited version done for the 25th Anniversary Issue of Sunstone magazine. Includes an additional reflection.

303: Why Is This All So Hard?

21378-faith-wordsFaith journeys are insanely difficult. Why?

In this episode, Lindsay Hansen Park, Jon Grimes, Brian Whitney, and Emily Grover join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon in a spirited discussion about a few of the many factors that come into play when one’s faith and understandings about God, church, and ourselves are challenged. The group occasionally offers suggestions about possible approaches for mitigating some of the most painful aspects of our journeys, but mostly it just tries to stand in solidarity and empathy for the challenges.

It’s a lively discussion, but we need your input as well! Please share in the comments section below!

To learn more about the World Table commenting system, please watch this short video.


Emily Grover, “Recovering My Sea Legs on the Old Ship Zion,” ByCommonConsent blog, 12 October 2015
Eugene England, “Why the Church Is As True As the Gospel,” Sunstone magazine, June 1999
The State of Public History in Today’s Mormonism,” Mormon Matters podcast, 23 September 2015 (earlier episode with Lindsay Hansen Park, Brian Whitney, and Jon Grimes)

301–302: Doubt and Faith as Discussed in the October 2015 General Conference

doubtsFour talks in the October 2015 General Conference focused, at least to a significant degree, on the issues of doubt and faith, and also chose to warn church members about possible harm should they turn primarily to Internet sources when they are faced with questions about Church teachings, practice, or history. Many of us who participate in the kinds of online discussions take place in social media spaces that have grown up around various blogs and podcasts like this one have felt uneasy about some of these messages and their rhetoric. For us, doubt and skepticism feel second nature to us, part of our personalities and the way we approach life in general. Furthermore, these tools, as we work with them and see both their strengths and limitations, seem to us to be helpful as we try to grow into better rounded and more firmly centered spiritual adults. Were these talks nodding toward all forms of doubt and skepticism, or was their focus on more caustic types and the cynicism that often flows out of that? Were these talks casting dispersions on the kinds of conversations hosted here and/or in the more constructive and “spiritual journey” related groups? How can and does doubt relate to “faith”? What about to “truth”?

In this two-part episode, Adam Miller, James Patterson, and Jordan Harmon join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for a discussion of these topics and more. While focusing mostly on the subjects at hand, they also engage with parts of the four talks under consideration. How should we “hear” these talks? If we do so less defensively, what pieces of wisdom are there for us? Certainly we all have spiritual work to do. How can even difficult messages serve us well?

Please listen and then share your comments in the section below! And feel free to register for and then begin using the World Table commenting system. It’s easy to do, and you can begin right away developing a great online reputation for engaging with others in constructive ways. As you seek to create and raise your World Table “score,” you will one day find your voice magnified (deservedly so as someone who engages fairly and forthrightly) across all sites that adopt the WT system.


The Four Talks Concentrated on in this Episode:
President Deiter F. Uchtdorf, “It Works Wonderfully,” October 2015 General Conference
President Deiter F. Uchtdorf, “Be Not Afraid, Only Believe,” October 2015 General Conference
Elder Vern P. Stanfill, “Choose the Light,” October 2015 General Conference
Elder James B. Martino, “Turn to Him and Answers Will Come,” October 2015 General Conference

Other materials:
Jordan Harmon, “Blessed Doubt, Blessed BeliefPublish Peace blog
William James, “The Will to Believe


299–300: Being Wrong (in a Church and Culture that Emphasizes Being Right)

Being Wrong coverIn this two-part episode, Brian Dillman, Julienna Viegas-Haws, and Anna Smith join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon in a discussion about “being wrong!” Or make that Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error (CCC, 2010). It’s a rich subject and wonderful book, and each of the panelists share favorite insights from their encounters with the things Schultz talks about and how those have helped them understand themselves, others, and many more areas of life much more clearly–and helpfully. Since this is Mormon Matters, after all, they also speak about the ways some of these ideas are in tension with certain ideas and various cultural habits (ways of thinking) in Mormonism. How does the material discussed impact their views on the methodology that we are taught in Mormonism’s D&C 9:8-9 (“study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right” along with burnings in bosoms and stupors of thought)?  With Mormonism’s emphases on and teachings about the Gift of the Holy Ghost and how it is a sure guide to what is “true”? With the Alma 32 passages on faith as a seed and “experimenting upon the word” and coming to know that a seed is good? With it’s emphases on the superiority of “knowing” over “believing” when it comes to one’s testimony. It’s a great discussion!

Please listen and then share your thoughts in the comments section below! Use either the World Table commenting system or the regular one (or place your comments in both). To learn more about the World Table and why we are helping it in its initial roll-out, please click on this short video.



Kathryn Schulz, Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error (New York: CCC, 2010)
Kathryn Schulz, “On Being Wrong,” TED talk, March 2011
Kathryn Schulz, “Don’t Regret Regret,” TED talk, November 2011
Carol Tavris and Eliott Aronson, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts (New York: Harcourt, 2008)
Robert A. Burton, On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2009)