lDS Church recognizes its historical imperfections

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 9:17 AM

Standard-Examiner Correspondent, Tom Christensen

History is full of imperfections. History was determined by humans who made mistakes, humans who changed their minds, humans who made tragic decisions and humans who knew times and pressures change over the years, so policies and practices have to yield as well.

Imperfections and changed policies can be found in most organizations and religions, including members and policies of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the past few weeks, the church has released statements in connection with the past ban of blacks holding the priesthood or having temple blessings, and the era of polygamy within the church.

It’s a good start. Several years ago, top LDS leaders helped calm a lot of the controversy surrounding the Mountain Meadows Massacre. In September 1857, 50 to 60 militiamen from the Cedar City area, with the help of American Indian allies, massacred about 120 emigrants who were going by wagon to California. Only 17 children under the age of 6 were spared. This summary is from

The church also followed with a book on the subject, “Massacre at Mountain Meadows,” co-authored by Mormon historians Ronald W. Walker, Richard E. Turley Jr. and Glen M. Leonard.

“Although they are Church employees, the authors have retained full editorial control and have drawn their own conclusions from the exhaustive body of historical material they assembled,” Henry B. Eyring, of the First Presidency said, about the book, published in 2007. “They have been given full access to all relevant materials held by the Church.”

The book was met with good reviews.

The releases on polygamous marriage and blacks and the priesthood are cursory at best. More details — historical anecdotes, historical insights and historical perspective — are needed.

Many of the movies released on Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, the trek West and early church history skip over polygamy. “The Manifesto,” given to then-LDS President Wilford Woodruff — ending the official practice of polygamy — is located after the final section of the Doctrine and Covenants. A book similar to “Massacre at Mountain Meadows” could still calm a lot of controversy involving the issue in general and ongoing splinter groups from LDS history who still practice polygamy to this day.

The same could be said about the ban of blacks in the priesthood, which ended in 1978 in a revelation to then-LDS President Spencer W. Kimball. A historical document on events leading up to the end of the ban would provide insights, perhaps centered around the growth of the church and the Civil Rights era. Again, a well-researched publication could calm a lot of controversy for good.

And the authors should have “full editorial control” and “full access to all relevant materials.”

Sign up for e-mail news updates.