Tuesday, June 7, 2022

MHA 2022 report - SITH alive and well

MHA (the Mormon History Association) attracts a variety of wonderful people who share a common interest in Mormon history (Mormon meaning everyone interested in all things Mormon, including but not limited to LDS topics). There were around 200 presenters, many in person and many remote on Zoom. 

The panels discussed a wide range of topics from many different points of view. 

With respect to SITH (the stone-in-the-hat theory), however, there isn't much room for alternative perspectives and interpretations. 

MHA "seer stone"
As an demonstration of how entrenched SITH is among Mormon historians, there is an annual tradition at MHA: the transfer of the “Mormon History Association Presidential Seer Stone” from the past president of MHA to the incoming president. 

One historian described the stone this way: "This stone is a chunk of rock from historian Leonard Arrington’s boyhood farm in Idaho, plucked out of the irrigation ditch by the late and much missed Dean L. May near the close of Dean’s tenure as MHA president. Each MHA president since then has had custody of the stone during his or her tenure, a constant, solid reminder of the goals and principles of MHA."

This tradition started 20 years ago. 

It's not clear how this "seer stone" represents the "goals and principles of MHA," but one of the goals is apparently to keep SITH alive and well. 

One session challenged the modern "consensus" that Joseph Smith produced the Book of Mormon with the seer stone he found in a well. One of our favorite smooth-faced SITH scholars posed a typically ridiculous rhetorical question. Others in the audience had some meaningful comments and questions. Afterward, a woman in the audience said she was glad to hear an alternative to SITH because the seer stone narrative didn't make any sense.

The SITH narrative today is based on poor apologetics from the 19th century, relies on out-of-context statements, and embraces the pejorative rhetoric from the 1834 book Mormonism Unvailed. Yet scholars have come up with a variety of rationalizations to paper over the obvious problems with SITH. 

I'll discuss the conference more when I have time. 

Key reminder: You can dislike someone's opinion without disliking the person who has it.



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