long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Clarifying Church history and Church growth

Issues of Church history and Book of Mormon historicity involve a combination of historical facts, assumptions, interpretations, theories and hypotheses. Apart from the facts, these elements are highly subjective. 

Some people embrace the concept of multiple working hypotheses; i.e., they recognize there are multiple ways to interpret a given set of historical facts. They set out the facts and then explain how they derived their hypotheses so everyone can see them and make informed decisions. That's the ideal approach. It's what most people want. We want to make informed decisions and don't want people to hide or obscure or twist historical facts and related evidence.

However, critics and apologists tend to orbit their respective spheres of groupthink. They advance their respective beliefs, hoping to persuade others.

This leads many such advocates to focus more on persuasion than on explanation. 

For example, MormonStories has repeatedly cited informal comments made years ago by Richard Bushman about Church history. Richard is one of the most open and forthright LDS scholars. He is open to multiple working hypotheses.

In a recent interview on Gospel Tangents, Richard clarified (again) what he meant and asked these critics to stop misrepresenting what he said. 

I discussed this interview on my blog that reviews MormonStories, here:



In my book about the golden plates, I wrote this:

How do we know the history of the Church?

We are fortunate to have lots of records, including journals, documents, correspondence, newspaper reports, and official histories. But none of these tells a complete story unless put in context, which introduces subjectivity....

The evidence is ambiguous or even contradictory, and we end up with multiple theories about what happened and why. 

The ideal approach would be for everyone to agree on the facts, then state their assumptions, explain their interpretations, describe their theories (explanations), and finally articulate their hypotheses. (This is the FAITH model I discuss in my book, The Rational Restoration, out soon).

Critics and apologists alike ought to trust people to make informed decisions. If they did, they would adopt the multiple working hypotheses approach. Everyone should be able to agree on objective facts. Then we can each assess the extrinsic evidence by applying the FAITH model.


Separately, the always useful blog LDSchurchgrowth posted its April 2022 newsletter here:


He also did an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, here:

‘Mormon Land’: How, where and why LDS membership is booming in some places and shrinking in others (sltrib.com)

No comments:

Post a Comment