Latter-day Saints Don’t Care for Sugar-coated Mormon History

Sunday’s Deseret News (27 May) published the results of an email survey conducted by the LDS Department of Family and Church History. “LDS in survey call for unvarnished history” reports that active Latter-day Saints

want their church to provide a “frank and honest” presentation of church history, unvarnished by attempts to sugar-coat the past in order to make it more palatable…Church history representative Rebecca Olpin told participants at the annual Mormon History Association meetings on Saturday that Latter-day Saints surveyed “want to be leveled with” when the church presents information about its past…

When questioned about what officials with the church’s correlation department — which edits all church materials — think about those findings, Olpin said the request for honesty “is part of what members are asking for. We have a responsibility to share that in a way that correlation will agree with, so we understand that we have limits.

While I think this is a hopeful development within the LDS Church, it’s interesting that Latter-day Saints need to request an honest portrayal of history from their church. Also interesting is the admission that some compromise will be required to keep both the members who are calling for honesty, and the Church editors, happy.

This Deseret News article reminded me of a conversation I had with some senior LDS missionaries who were serving in Nauvoo, Illinois. I asked, given the heavy emphasis the Nauvoo historic site missionary guides place on the sacrifices of early Church members, why was there no mention of the extreme sacrifices made by the women who were required to live The Principle (polygamy)? The missionary couple were very candid with me and spent the following hour confessing that “Salt Lake” wouldn’t allow them to talk about the polygamy that was practiced in Nauvoo; that part of Mormon history was absent from every mandatory script supplied to missionary guides. This LDS couple expressed frustration over inaccuracies and mistakes in the history that was presented to visitors at the Mormon sites, but had found no relief by making requests of those in authority to make corrections. In the end, they told me “Salt Lake” was taking direction from God, and the missionary guides in Nauvoo were taking direction from “Salt Lake,” so presenting inaccurate history to visitors must be the right thing to do — though they could not understand it.

Time will tell how “Salt Lake” responds to the LDS member requests for unvarnished Church history. Honesty doesn’t really seem like too much to ask.

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
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6 Responses to Latter-day Saints Don’t Care for Sugar-coated Mormon History

  1. Arthur Sido says:

    I find it interesting that the same people who want “honesty” in their church history report that they:

    >>Get much of their information about the church’s past from historical fiction. When asked to respond to the statement, “I learned much of what I know about church history from ‘The Work and the Glory,”‘ (a fictional series of books and films about an early Latter-day Saint family and their trials) Olpin said almost half of the respondents answered “yes.”<< If their idea of “honest” history is the Work & the Glory series they may be in for a rude awakening when they read some real “honest” mormon history!

  2. Alex D says:

    While that’s one of the many ways the article states that Latter Day Saints get their information, it’s definitely a disturbing one, particularly if they’re willing to believe in something that they know is to some extent fabricated!

    Do you have a copy of this email survey? I’m curious as to how straight-forward these questions were (IE Did they come right out and ask mormons if they wanted the Church to stop with the “sugar-coating”?)

  3. Ruthie says:

    LDS missionaries recently told a friend of mine, “If you own a Ford, would you go to a Toyota dealer to learn about Fords?” Their point was that to learn about Mormonism, one needed to go to the Mormon church, not a non-Mormon source, to find truth.

    Well, tell me, would a Ford dealer really tell you about the exploding gas tanks in the Pintos, the tire problems with other Ford cars, etc? Or would his purpose be to sell you a Ford car–to get you to buy his product?

    Same thing applies here. If the LDS Church is being told to be more honest about their history, what does that say about their past practices? Did they have to “sugar coat” their history to get people to buy their product, their religion?

    I’m one who is grateful that I can explore both sides of the issue . . . directly from the Mormon church and from websites such as this. Truth is truth . . . and if one source is being admonished to be more honest, I have to wonder what has been withheld from the public all these years.


  4. rick b says:

    Ruthie said, Their point was that to learn about Mormonism, one needed to go to the Mormon church, not a non-Mormon source, to find truth.

    A topic or two ago, Arthur said to Neil, I believe, he uses old and rare LDS Books to show what the LDS believed at one time.

    I happen to do the same. So I find that when I show Mormons on the Web, or in person at my house their “Official LDS sources”, they don’t want to stick around. So, it seems to me not all LDS want the truth. Rick b

  5. Sharon says:

    Alex d asked if I have a copy of the survey that was given to active LDS members. Sorry, I do not. All I know about it is what was included in the Deseret News article.I agree that it would be interesting to see…

  6. David says:

    The Chinese proverb that states “Be careful of what you wish for, you just might get it” comes to mind. I am not so sure all those Mormons really want an unvarnished history. Besides, church leaders know that a high percentage of Mormons will stay in the church no matter what. However, honest information about Joseph Smith will not help missionary efforts. When you run a church like a corporation, one must way all factors when making a PR decision.

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