Periodicals; Mormons; Religious thought; Philosophy and religion
Independent national quarterly established to express Mormon culture and examine the relevance of religion to secular life. It is edited by Mormons who wish to bring their faith into dialogue with human experience as a whole and to foster artistic and scholarly achievement based on their cultural heritage. The journal encourages a variety of viewpoints; although every effort is made to insure accurate scholarship and responsible judgment, the views expressed are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the Mormon Church or of the editors.
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Johnson, G. Wesley
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110/DIALOGUE: A Journal of Mormon Thought at home in Mormon culture. Finally, I wish to pick one nit because it had a kind of cumulative, annoying effect on me. The footnotes contain frequent references to the "Beinicke [sic] Library," though in one notable exception the name of the donors of the famous rare book library at Yale is spelled correctly. By way of a postscript, it may be appropriate to amplify further on some of the questions Hirshson's book has raised explicitly and implicitly with regard to the Church Historian's Office in particular and the enterprise of Mormon history in general. Every so often I am asked if my research into Mormon history hasn't strengthened my testimony — a rhetorical question which I am generally expected to answer with a resounding yes. My questioners, of course, assume either that the Church has no skeletons to hide or that, in the unlikely event that they do, it would be much better to exhibit them in public. I suppose not a few Mormons would be taken aback by Joseph Smith's remark to Brigham Young that "If I were to reveal to this people what the Lord has revealed to me, there is not a man or a woman that would stay with me." A historian who would make it his business to juxtapose myth and reality in Mormon history might not expect results quite that dramatic, yet the fact is that an unvarnished version of the history of the Church that lets the chips fall where they may is potential dynamite. If historians, therefore, do not necessarily agree with the still relatively conservative and restrictive policies of the Church Historian's Office they should at least understand that these proceed from an internal logic. That logic, of course, is not without its own paradox, for those who believe that access to the sources of the Church Historian's Office ought to be restricted operate on the assumption that people tend to react rationally and predictably. But if in the minds of some people apostacy might well be a rational response to an unvarnished history of Mormonism, Mormons, of all people, ought to remind themselves that religion is not based primarily on reason or logic. To a professional historian, for example, the recent translation of the Joseph Smith papyri may well represent the potentially most damaging case against Mormonism since its foundation. Yet the "Powers That Be" at the Church Historian's Office should take comfort in the fact that the almost total lack of response to this translation is an uncanny proof of Frank Kermode's observation that even the most devastating act of dis-confirmation will have no effect whatever on true believers. Perhaps an even more telling response is that of the "liberals," or cultural Mormons. After the Joseph Smith papyri affair, one might well have expected a mass exodus of these people from the Church. Yet none has occurred. Why? Because cultural Mormons, of course, do not believe in the historical authenticity of the Mormon scriptures in the first place. So there is nothing to disconfirm. Therefore, the Church Historian's Office could relax completely and allow unlimited access to its holdings without fear of potential repercussions from either orthodox or cultural Mormons. If as a historian I would ap-