Feb 7 2012
Polishing the Myths in Mormonism [Excerpts]
This legacy of deceit in the history and doctrine of the LDS church is well-known to those who walk in Mormon circles. There are numerous articles in “alternative” Mormon periodicals that deal with the subject of “lying for the Lord.” One that strikes to the heart of the matter was published in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought .
Frances Lee Menlove, an active Mormon with a Ph.D. in psychology and a manuscript editor for Dialogue , wrote “The Challenge of Honesty” that appeared in the first issue of Dialogue in spring 1966. The essay calls for Mormons to, “meet openly the challenge of honesty.” She further states that, “It is the purpose of this paper to lay some groundwork for this self-examination” (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 44-45. Quotations cited from “New Mormon Studies CD-ROM, A Comprehensive Resource Library,” Smith Research and Associates, 1998 Edition).
Not only does Dr. Menlove issue this challenge to individual LDS members, but she also speaks to the institutional deception within the LDS church leadership:
“The failure to realize that the Mormon Church in all its manifestations, both historical and contemporary, is an intermingling of the human as well as the divine, also puts some obstacles in the way of honesty with others. In the first place, we have a proud and courageous history. Every Primary child knows the story of how our forefathers crossed the plains and made the desert bloom. Wallace Stegner calls the Mormon pioneers ‘...the most systematic, organized, disciplined, and successful pioneers in our history... .’ But the story of Joseph Smith, the early Church, the hegira across the plains, and the consequent establishment of Zion is more than just history. It is the story of God directing His People to a new Dispensation. Perhaps because the history is so fraught with theological significance, it has been smoothed and whittled down, a wrinkle removed here and a sharp edge there. In many ways it has assumed the character of a myth. That these courageous and inspired men shared the shortcomings of all men cannot be seriously doubted. That the Saints were not perfect nor their leaders without error is evident to anyone who cares to read the original records of the Church. But the myths and the myth-making persist.
“Striking evidence for this is found in the fact that currently one of the most successful anti-Mormon proselytizing techniques is merely to bring to light obscure or suppressed historical documents. Reading these historical documents arouses a considerable amount of incredulity, concern, and disenchantment among Mormons under the spell of this mythological view of history. That individuals find these bits and pieces of history so shocking and faith-shattering is at once the meat of fundamentalistic heresies and an indictment of the quasi-suppression of historical reality which propagates the one-sided view of Mormon history. The relevance of this to honesty is obvious. The net result of mythologizing our history is that the hard truth is concealed. It is deception to select only congenial facts or to twist their meaning so that error becomes wisdom, or to pretend that the Church exists now and has existed in a vacuum, uninfluenced by cultural values, passing fashions, and political ideologies” (Ibid., pg. 49-50).