Credible Historians

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Which of the following types of historians would you give more credence to their claims, and why? Or would you give credence to all them equally?

  • An active Latter-day Saint
  • A less-active Latter-day Saint
  • An excommunicated Mormon
  • A non-Mormon
  • An anti-Mormon

8 thoughts on “Credible Historians

  1. This first four on your list I would trust, depending only on their actual history credentials – i.e. degrees, research grants, publications, etc…
    The Anti-mormon I would rarely trust, simply because they are motivated to convice you of their faith, and not an honest discussion of history and it’s intricacies.

    Here is a short list of names that I think match up with your list:
    Active LDS: Davis Bitton, Richard Bushman.
    Less-Active: not sure, since who knows who’s less active?
    Ex-Mo: D. Michael Quinn, Lavina Fielding Anderson.
    Non-Mormon: Jan Shipps, Robert V. Remini.

    All are qualified historians, and I respect all of them over someone who tries to push a historical agenda without any credentials, regardless if they are lds or not.

  2. I find it interesting that you would think that an anti-mormon has more vested interest in proving his point than an active mormon.

    I’d probably rule out anyone with an interest in proving his current position to be true from the category of an impartial researcher; hence the active, less-active, Ex’d and antis would probably have ever-so-little less credibility to me, than the non-mormon.

    That notwithstanding, I believe *any* of these parties are able to produce good research if they can manage to shelve agendas.

  3. Dan Vogel might count as an anti-Mormon. Nonetheless, his “Early Mormon Documents” series is invaluable.

    In any category, what counts is how well documented and reasoned the history is.

  4. I agree with both of you, rick and RT.

    In my experience, anti-mormons are trying to destroy what they percieve to be my faith, not have a reasonable discussion on history.

    When I speak of history credentials, I would definately include how and what sources are used, and how the historian’s interpretation is validated by those sources.

    Whether LDS or not, or even degreed or not, I usually form my opinion of historians based on their actual work, and how well it is balanced, honest, and documented.

  5. It’s hard to respect someone who has an axe to grind and lacks any objectivity, let alone the pretense thereof. That pretty much rules out my having any respect for an anti-Mormon’s work. But only a little up on the totem pole are the knee jerk apologists on our side; some are utterly embarrassing. Diligence in find sources, objectivity in the interpretation, placing the sources within their period, with an attitude of “let the cards fall where they may” are key factors in good historical work. The long term harm some GAs have done to individuals, BYU and our church is unconscionable. I’m often embarrassed to be a BYU alum these days.

  6. What if someone who is against the church (or even for it, for that matter) presented facts without any interpretation? Would their works be more credible?

  7. Kim, yes. Very good point. I thought people just got into trouble for adding their speculations or personal conclusions. Does anyone have an example of somebody being ex-communicated for presenting facts that are completely free of any interpretations? Just wondering.

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