encountering doubt, I have been interested to read the range of responses both here and elsewhere, ranging from effusive praise to vitriolic criticism. I would like to take this opportunity to respond to readers' concerns from my post:
1. Whether or not our church has the responsibility to teach members its history.
With the Internet's all-encompassing presence in our society, I am confident that our church will become more transparent about our past. And I think that more frank discussion and openness about these issues can be accomplished in two ways:
1. Talking about these issues outside of church meetings, such as Institute (weekly church education classes) and special firesides (Sunday evening meetings).
2. Members being willing to put forth additional study into Mormon scholarship.
I believe that official Sunday meetings, however, are an arena where we should continue to primarily focus on our doctrine, not on controversial historic events.
2. Why I only chose Mormon authors as resources.
Some were irritated that I only chose Mormon scholars as resources to draw from. I included those sources to demonstrate that other Mormons have seriously contemplated and researched the issues that Mattsson brought up. I definitely understand that part of scholarship is drawing from multiple perspectives to ascertain truth. However, Mormon studies has traditionally consisted of either active Mormons or scholars with an obvious ax to grind. There have not been many non-Mormons who can describe the faith in a dispassionate fashion (Jan Shipps is an obvious exception).
However, as this New York Times article describes, Mormon studies is becoming a more promising field, with more non-Mormon scholars making strong contributions. One of them is John G. Turner, who recently published Brigham Young, Pioneer Prophet with Harvard University Press. Interestingly, he stated in this article that our church leaders gave him "unfettered access" to historical documents, which gives me more confidence of our church's increased transparency. I genuinely look forward to how Mormon studies continues to emerge and shape itself in intellectual circles.
3. The argument of a faith-based choice not being an intellectual act
In the future, I will elucidate further on this topic. In short: I believe it is unfair to criticize those who make faith-based choices, as religion is certainly not the only place where we cannot necessarily "prove" everything. Philosophy, for example, is inherently based on axioms. And science, though ostensibly the area of "hard evidence," is also a field where scientists have to exercise "faith" in their colleagues as well. A friend with a PhD in computer science from MIT, for example, affirmed that she has to assume that scientific observations are truthfully represented and that, often, claims from other scientists go unverified. We often choose to think and make choices based on confidence in someone or something, not necessarily on hard proof. Yet, as theologian Marilynne Robinson explains, "The world would be a very empty place if it were not in fact axiomatic." I definitely agree.
In closing: I believe that members struggling with doubt deserve respect and understanding. After all, as I have stated in a previous post, doubt is not inherently bad, but rather, an experience that can deepen our understanding of our faith. I pray and hope that with increased conversations and acquired knowledge, members can better walk the road of faith and doubt.
Image by mattpeel10.