Over the past year or so, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been releasing articles on particular topics through their website.
I have personally found several of the articles encouraging because they cover things I never learned growing up: things I learned only as an adult and only through blogs, podcasts, and anti-Mormon websites.
I don’t know why I never learned these things. What I do know is that I never learned them in Primary, Sunday School, Aaronic Priesthood classes, Seminary, or Institute, or even on my mission. I never read them in a church magazine (although recently a handful of them have appeared in Ensign issues) or lesson manuals.
I present below several recent articles and direct quote from each showing facts and ideas I had to learn through non-official channels.
- “The other instrument, which Joseph Smith discovered in the ground years before he retrieved the gold plates, was a small oval stone, or ‘seer stone.’”
- “As a young man during the 1820s, Joseph Smith, like others in his day, used a seer stone to look for lost objects and buried treasure.”
- “Apparently for convenience, Joseph often translated with the single seer stone rather than the two stones bound together to form the interpreters.”
- “According to these accounts, Joseph placed either the interpreters or the seer stone in a hat, pressed his face into the hat to block out extraneous light, and read aloud the English words that appeared on the instrument.”
- “he wrote or assigned scribes to write four different accounts of the vision.”
- “In addition to the firsthand accounts, there are also five descriptions of Joseph Smith’s vision recorded by his contemporaries.”
- “1832 account . . . He wrote that ‘the Lord’ appeared and forgave him of his sins.”
- “1835 account . . . the appearance of one divine personage who was followed shortly by another. This account also notes the appearance of angels in the vision.”
- “During the first two decades of the Church’s existence, a few black men were ordained to the priesthood.”
- “There is no reliable evidence that any black men were denied the priesthood during Joseph Smith’s lifetime.”
- “In 1852, President Brigham Young publicly announced that men of black African descent could no longer be ordained to the priesthood”
- “Even after 1852, at least two black Mormons continued to hold the priesthood.”
- “Other times, his translations were not based on any known physical records.”
- “Neither the rules nor the translations in the grammar book correspond to those recognized by Egyptologists today.”
- “some Egyptologists had said that Joseph Smith’s explanations of the various elements of these facsimiles did not match their own interpretations of these drawings. ”
- “None of the characters on the papyrus fragments mentioned Abraham’s name or any of the events recorded in the book of Abraham. ”
- “Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham”
- Everything in the section about the Danites
- Everything in the section about the Mountain Meadows Massacre
- “Joseph married many additional wives”
- “The oldest [of Joseph’s wives], Fanny Young, was 56 years old. The youngest was Helen Mar Kimball, daughter of Joseph’s close friends Heber C. and Vilate Murray Kimball, who was sealed to Joseph [at 14 years old].”
- “Joseph Smith was sealed to a number of women who were already married.”
- “Emma approved, at least for a time, of four of Joseph Smith’s plural marriages in Nauvoo, and she accepted all four of those wives into her household.”
- “[Emma’s] decision to ‘receive not this law’ permitted him to marry additional wives without her consent.”
- “Under exceptional circumstances, a smaller number of new plural marriages were performed in the United States between 1890 and 1904”
- “Of the 315 marriages recorded in the ledger, research indicates that 25 (7.9%) were plural marriages . . . . Of the 25 plural marriages, 18 took place in Mexico, 3 in Arizona, 2 in Utah, and 1 each in Colorado and on a boat on the Pacific Ocean.”
- The entire section on The Second Manifesto.
I see these new articles as a step in a positive direction, where the Church has begun accepting the fact researchers have known for decades. I’m happy to see the Church moving towards openness and transparency on topics for which historians were excommunicated just a few short years ago.
I am happy my children can potentially grow up in a Church where these things are taught readily.