Thursday, 22 October 2009

“A Record Kept”: Constructing Collective Memory - LDS Newsroom

In June 2009 the Mormon Church announced the building of a new church library to house historical records of the church.

“From the earliest moments of the Church’s founding, Latter-day Saints have kept a record of their history. The principle behind this practice stems from a scriptural mandate: “There shall be a record kept among you” (D&C 21:1), intended for the “good of the church” and “the rising generations” (D&C 69:8). Maintaining a perspective on the past, while fixing an eye toward the future, is nothing new in religious history. Accounts of God’s intervention in the affairs of mankind have been promulgated by prophets and sages since the beginning of time. These records have provided a framework of meaning that continues to shape human conceptions of morality, identity and progress. Continued

Consistent with this long tradition of sacred record keeping, the Church has devoted substantial resources to construct a new library. This building, which, in the words of Church Historian Marlin K. Jensen, “will rival the great libraries of the world with its facilities and collections,” is more than a physical repository of information. It is, at its heart, a vast spiritual undertaking aimed at expanding the collective memory of a people. And yet, without the laborious process of preserving tangible records, the spiritual act of remembering is diminished. Memory, both collective and personal, is a fragile thing.”

History is indeed fragile, especially Mormon history which seems to break as soon as it is looked at. Mormons have faithfully kept this history for generations but every time it is cited it is denied, dissembled and dismissed. The 26 volume Journal of Discourses, which is supposed to have been the exemplar of record keeping for Mormons, the diaries carefully recorded and passed down through families, all become opaque and unreliable historical curios because of the embarrassing information that can be garnered from them.

From polygamy through the Mountain Meadows Massacre to Negroes and the priesthood and the  disingenuous and disgraceful mission on the African continent the Mormon Church seeks at every turn to distract attention from its history and perhaps one of the most inconvenient “revelations” Joseph Smith ever had was D&C 21.

They end the report, “if a religion cannot explain its history, it cannot explain itself”

(No I don’t find this funny. That was an ironic laugh you heard. As Freddy Frinton said, “not funny, ha, ha. Funny, ugh”)

“A Record Kept”: Constructing Collective Memory - LDS Newsroom


Seth R. said...

Everyone's history is "fragile" when looked at by people with a destructive agenda.

So what?

Mike Tea said...

A history that is not robust enough to stand close scrutiny is not the victim of vandals but the vandal of truth.

Seth R. said...

Look, I've even read histories that turned Roosevelt and Churchill into villains in World War II.

You go looking for dirt, you'll find it.

That's true of any human history.

The question is whether you will let the dirt define the narrative.

Doing so with Mormon history utterly misses the larger point.

Mike Tea said...


We had a refuse collection this morning in my street. The wagon came and found refuse to collect, not because they looked for it but because it was there.

You make the assumption that I go looking for dirt and will not stop until I find something. But, like the refuse collectors, I only walk down Mormon Street and the dirt is there. The trouble with you is you choose to ignore it and then blame me for pointing it out when you should be thanking me for alerting you to the danger. God knows Mormons spend enough time digging the dirt of Christian history to prove apostasy.

What ticks people off about Mormons is not that they are less than perfect but that they are less than candid in telling the Mormon story. This is a case in point where on the one hand you insist that Christian ministries give a full and accurate account of your faith instead of, as you see it, misleading people, while on the other you will not have certain aspects of Mormon history scrutinised, such as the history of the Mormon temple oaths.

Seth R. said...

I would be happy with one of two possibilities:

1. Christians own the dirt in their own history and acknowledge it when talking to Mormons about their problems or

2. Christians continue to ignore their own baggage and shut up about the problems in Mormonism.

My experience however, is that a lot of Protestants seem to think that organizational dysfunctionality combined with pastor-shopping means never having to say you're sorry.

I don't mind discussing Mormonism's problems. But I have no desire to do so with people who refuse to acknowledge their own problems.

Those people will get nothing but apologetics from me - and we can go the rounds all the live-long day.

Of course, I do reject a lot of what you consider to be "garbage" and think the garbage is more in your outlook than in Mormonism. But there you are.

Mike Tea said...


Firstly, I don't dish dirt, I present substantial problems concerning the claims of Mormonism. Typically, these are not discussed but dismissed as dirt-digging, irrelevant etc. I wrote:

"Mormons have faithfully kept this history for generations but every time it is cited it is denied, dissembled and dismissed."

Now I don't think this heavy editing of Mormon history is honest or helpful. It doesn't take a Phd course just to inform people, just a determination to tell the salient points truthfully.

Of course Christian history has some scandalous and shameful episodes but they are all out there for anyone to see and no shortage of Christians to discuss them. Some are in denial because of their naivety and/or ignorance for sure but it is wrong to say that these things are not known and published within the Christian community.

The problem for the Mormon Church is that it always insists on its own "official" history and always refuses to discuss or inform people about other versions or make the full facts known. There is no discussion of these things within the Mormon Church as there most certainly is within the Christian community.

For instance, Mormonism has denominations and the honest thing would be to recognise that fact instead of putting out the lie that Mormonism is one united and true church unlike Christianity which is riven with schism and factions. of course it is not the way Mormons like to think about it and no one is insisting they do, but I do insist they talk about it instead of pretending it isn't there and accussing others of mischief making when they raise the subject.

You seem to have a more liberal outlook which I find refreshing but I address myself to Mormonism as it is taken around the doors of my friends and neighbours and not the take of one particular member. This "official" Mormonism is dishonest in the extreme, both in the way it talks about other churches and in the way it talks about itself.

Pick up any Christian periodical, from the Universe of the catholic Church to Christianity magazine read by Evangelicals and you will find debate, disagreement and open discussion. Pick up the Ensign and you have a promotional brochure in your hand.