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Those Historical Questions

By: Ardis E. Parshall - December 31, 2013

Yesterday afternoon, the Church posted another historical essay at lds.org, the fifth in recent weeks. These essays can be found on the Gospel Topics section of the website:

lds.org –> Teachings –> Gospel Topics –> Browse Alphabetically –> [select your topic]

A Keepa reader asked for convenient links to the new essays, so here’s a list:

Are Mormons Christian?
Book of Mormon Translation
First Vision Accounts
Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah
Race and the Priesthood

In addition, other topics that are not new are apparently being enhanced with links to outside (that is, sites other than lds.org) sources: the Gospel Learning topic, for example, has links to a BYU database and to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, as well as to resources posted elsewhere at lds.org.

It seems clear from the number of essays already posted, and from what Church Historian Steven E. Snow says in a new video posted on the Gospel Topics main page (see the third video link, “What about historical questions?”), that other equally significant essays will be posted in the coming days (weeks? months?)

Although the process is a little awkward (you have to download the video rather than clicking on an embedded YouTube-style video), it is well worth your time to watch all three videos linked on the Gospel Topics page, especially that third one. In it, Elder Snow explains the process by which these essays have been written and approved. I see no good reason to doubt his explanations – he’s certainly in a better position to know the process than random friends-of-friends on Facebook who are making such wild assertions, and his explanation is a lot more reasonable than the ludicrous and snide claims on the blogs of the disgruntled.

In general, the material in these essays has been available for so long that it would take an expert on a given topic to recognize what details might be newly reported. Many Latter-day Saints, though, are recognizably uninformed on these topics, either because they weren’t aware of all the work that has been done in the past, or because they were hesitant to accept the conclusions of non-institutional scholars who – admit it – have too often approached these historical issues with an attitude of exposé rather than helpfulness. As Elder Snow says in his video, “Many, really, are surprised by some of the things they learn in our history, and we want them to be able to go to a place where they can read accurate information and be able to seek to understand those historical chapters in the context of time and place, and understand that those answers have been approved by the presiding brethren of the Church. I think this will give many of our members confidence that they can rely on these answers.”

That’s really all I have to say. Please note, too, that although I’m working at the Church History Library, I am not a part of any team working on these essays, and nothing I say here should be interpreted in any way as being “insider” knowledge. I write only to be sure that all Keepa’ninnies are aware of these wonderful new resources being posted on the Church website, and, frankly, because I’m irritated by some of the dumb things being said by people who know even less about the project than I do.

Oh – one last thing. You may have already noticed it in the sidebar: The latest wonderful thing posted to the history.lds.org website is a short video on the Dutch potato project, “That We Might Be One.” You might remember Keepa’s series on those post-World War II events. The creators of this video had access to resources that I certainly didn’t have, and you’ll enjoy hearing from some of the Dutch and German Saints who were actually involved in that project, and seeing some archival footage, as well as recreations, of those days.



1 Comment »

  1. Thanks. As a rank amateur of church history, I appreciate the efforts of others to collect and present interesting historical information.

    Comment by IDIAT — December 31, 2013 @ 9:39 am

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