For about a year, the LDS Church has been posting on its website scholarly essays about controversial subjects:
- Did Mormons abandon polygamy in 1890?
- Did Brigham Young order the Mountain Meadow Massacre?
- Do LDS believe a person can become like God?
- How did the Church’s ban on black men hold the priesthood come to be?
- What are the origins of the Book of Abraham?
While the essays have been generally lauded, one drawback was that few church members and others knew of their existence. They would just randomly showed up on the Church’s lds.org website under “General Topics.”
This anonymity was recently partially lifted by a memo (dated 19 Sep 2014) from the Priesthood Department to the senior leaders from the SLC establishment down to the Bishop and BP level:
The purpose of the Gospel Topics section is to provide accurate and transparent information on church history and doctrine within the framework of faith. When church members have questions regarding [LDS] history or doctrine, possibly arising when detractors spread misinformation and doubt, you may want to direct their attention to these resources.
I’m uncomfortable with the expression “when detractors spread misinformation and doubt” because the LDS Church, in the past, has presented less than candid versions of its history and doctrine. Frequently, the alleged “misinformation” was more accurate than the “official” church version. That being said, it is important that church members come to grips with Mormonism’s past.
Unfortunately, another drawback to the essays is that they are all written without attribution which seriously limits their usefulness. We need to know who the authors are and who approved the essays.