How much truth is too much?

Jeff NeedleMormon 16 Comments

It may be that some of you caught the excellent article in Monday’s USA Today titled “How Much Truth Is Too Much?”  It can be found at:

Here is a fellow who struggled with his Roman Catholic church’s treatment of the sex-abuse scandals, and finally left the communion, going to Eastern Orthodoxy.

A point he makes — he acknowledges problems in Orthodoxy, too, but the need for the institution of the church is greater than his need to uncover all of his church’s flaws.

I wonder if we all should stop criticizing people who insist that every flaw in Mormonism needs to be paraded in public, and instead acknowledge that, for many people, the institution fulfills an important role in their lives.

Comments 16

  1. So, is having an organization to be a part of more important than personal values? Is ignorance truly bliss?

    I don’t know. I’m just asking.

    My kind of deal is when people say things like:

    If people see the monarch as human, the thinking goes, their respect for a necessary institution will fail. That, I think, is what Father Neuhaus was getting at in his column: People need the church too much to know the full truth about her.

    and I think this is a good summary role. But I’d unfortunately disagree, but that’s really just my position. I don’t need the church too much to know the full truth…I don’t need the monarchy or any government too much to know the full truth. But I guess that for those with faith, it might be more valuable to maintain that faith because it’s “good” even if it’s not “true” or “pretty.”

  2. Jeff,

    You bring up an interesting point. I don’t know that I and others want the church to publicly parade its problems, but we don’t want them ignored either. I’d like a happy medium.

    Of course, there are extremists in everything: critics want problems paraded, while advocates want problems suppressed. You just can’t please all the people all the time….. Call me a moderate…. 🙂

  3. The issue for me is exactly parading versus acknowledging, suppressing versus ignoring, etc. It’s much more the intent than anything else.

    I don’t need “The Church” to parade, teach, apologize, officially address, etc. stuff from the past. I don’t mind at all if “The Church” totally ignores stuff it doesn’t want to address as an institution. I just don’t want it hidden or altered – and I think there is very little of that going on right now. Much of what is called “covering up” now is nothing more than “ignoring” – and there really is an important difference between those two.

    Don’t get me wrong; I agree completely that there are some things that have crossed the line from ignoring to distorting or suppressing. I just don’t see it as widely institutionalized and systematic, especially currently.

  4. Ray,

    The current suppression and distortion of information is endless. A few things that come to mind….

    (1) Hinckley saying in a time magazine article on whether his church still holds that God the Father was once a man, he sounded uncertain, “I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it … I understand the philosophical background behind it, but I don’t know a lot about it, and I don’t think others know a lot about it. Maybe Hinckley has never read the King Follett Discourse?
    (2) In the recent Emma Smith movie where were all the other wives? Why was there no mention of Joseph smith marring 11 women (some say 10) that were already married to other men? And what was Fannie Alger’s role in the movie?
    (3) Hinckley spoke about Polygamy on Larry King. KING: You condemn it [polygamy]. HINCKLEY: I condemn it, yes, as a practice, because I think it is not doctrinal. It is not legal. And this church takes the position that we will abide by the law. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, magistrates in honoring, obeying and sustaining the law. Maybe Hinckley never read Section 132? How can it not be doctrine when it is still in a standard work of the church?
    (4) The denial of involvement in the Mountain Meadows Massacre? It took 150 years to get this half-hearted apology in 2007. “We express
    profound regret for the massacre carried out in this valley 150 years ago today, and for the undue and untold suffering experienced by the victims then and by their relatives to the present time,” Elder Eyring said. “A separate expression of regret is owed the Paiute people who have unjustly borne for too long the principal blame for what occurred during the massacre,” he said. “Although the extent of their involvement is disputed, it is believed they would not have participated without the direction and stimulus provided by local church leaders and members.” Notice that they are still blaming it on the locals and admit no involvment of the LDS leadership in SLC.

  5. I am very active in the church, I have studied its history and theology intensely for 25 years, and the bottom line is: sometimes I CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH! Now, where is that rock I was hiding under…

  6. For most of my adult life, I’ve held the “the whole truth and nothing but the truth” attitude toward church history, but about a year ago, I had a dream (opening up a can of crazy here) that had more influence on me than it (possibly) should have had. Essentially, I dreamed that I was debating with someone the statement from Boyd K. Packer about somethings being “true” but not very “helpful” (or was it “useful”), and then (it was a dream, so give me a break) Brigham Young walked in and asked why I was so insistent on dragging every single embarrassing thing he had ever done out into the public. He asked me why I don’t apply the same search for dirt on living apostles and prophets, and he asked me how pleased Joseph Smith is to see the way his “brethren” treat his mistakes and errors by every personal flaw out to be looked at. I had no answers for him, and I woke up.

    I don’t feel the same way I used to about church history and the need to discover every bit of dirt or scandal. I understand that politicians often deserve such scrutiny, because they toss their hat into the ring and seek to be our leaders and convince us of their virtue and worth (albeit virtue may be measured differently). Church leaders–and members–do not run for election; they are asked to serve because the Lord wanted them, not because they emerged victorious in a campaign for their calling on the basis of virtue, righteousness, and qualifying skills.

    Don’t interpret this as a call for opacity from church leaders about their lives, but simply a call for a bit more empathy for those who are not able to stand here today and defend themselves, their context, or their unknown motives.

  7. If you can’t handle the truth of the LDS faith why stick with it? There are many great ways to follow Jesus. I think God deserves our whole devotion, with or without the LDS backbone. The bible says to, “Hold fast to what is true.” If we can’t handle God’s truth then possibly it isn’t true?

  8. Joe, Every single one of your points in #5 is falsely constructed, especially #1 and #3. I’m tired of rehashing things that are SO simple as those points when you actually parse the words he used. It’s not worth it when someone has no desire to consider what someone else actually says.

  9. Ray I agree with you that Joe P.’s points are “falsely constructed.” I’d add “underdeveloped” and “one-sided.”

    But don’t you think the Church often plays the same game? Finding fault with the Joe P.’s of the world is a little like blaming the kid raised by abusive parents who grows up to be abusive himself. When the church doesn’t teach a nuanced version of “the gospel” or church history, but a black-and-white “straight story,” how upset can we get when people later become disillusioned and lack the necessary skills see the subtle shades of grey, to see the various “truths” of the gospel depsite its many imperfections?

  10. Ray… If it is getting much better than it used to be, why is it so difficult to find any mention of Joseph Smith’s polygamy/polyandry on the website? I just searched for over 30 minutes with no luck. Shouldn’t these issues at least be briefly addressed in his biographical information?

  11. There’s no such thing as “too much truth.” I’ve always been of the opinion that presenting only one side of any issue is only a half truth. Do we and/or our leaders believe that we are so weak in our testimonies of the restored gospel that we can’t handle knowing the mistakes that have been made? If the answer is yes, I don’t know if I should be disappointed, insulted, or both.

    There also seems to be a massive push for the church to become more mainstream. So many things that were openly taught are not spoken of any more and if they are brought up today in a Sunday school or priesthood/relief society meeting, it would be viewed as heresy. I’ve recently been doing a study of the journal of discourses. These are essentially the conference reports that we would get in the ensign. However, no one uses them anymore. This may sound funny but as I read them, it’s like previously dormant portions of my mind and soul have been turned on and yearn for more. Granted a lot of prayer and fasting has been involved in this study.

    The bottom line questions I have (and sort of fit into this discussion) are:
    1. Are we afraid of the more difficult truths (spiritual and historical)? If so, why when we have direct access to God via personal revelation and the Holy Ghost?
    2. Why are these truths which were so openly known in the early day of our church, not spoken of anymore?
    3. Why are we (generally speaking) so hypersensitive to criticism (doctrinal, historical, cultural, etc)?

    The bottom line is that the truth is the truth. Sometimes it’s not pretty, but it still is the truth.

  12. #11 Shaddow.

    If you truly believe that there is no such thing as “too much truth” (as if truth were a political issue to be bantered and negotiated) then your world is about to be turned upside down, and you will soon long for the days when you knew so little of the truth.

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