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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Dialogue: Vol 17 No 2
Foster: Career Apostates 45 difficult for even its finest and most loyal scholars and has in subtle and far-from-subtle ways controlled, rewritten, or even suppressed candid scholarly studies of the faith.23 If Mormonism is, as it claims, the true religion, then its history, if properly understood, should support that status. Many of the finest Mormon historians thus believe that the full truth, if fairly and honestly portrayed, would best serve the long-term interests of the Church. By contrast, the Tanners are critical of what they term the Mormon "suppression" of documents and evidence for a very different reason: they believe that the full record of Mormonism, if it could be made available, would utterly refute the Church's truth claims and lead to the destruction of the faith. At every point, the Tanners see fraud, conspiracy, and cover-ups. They always assume the worst possible motives in assessing the actions of Mormon leaders, even when those leaders faced extremely complex problems with no simple solutions. And the Tanners judge the validity of Mormon beliefs not so much within the context of the Church's own framework as by contrast with a normative Christianity which early Mormonism emphatically rejected and claimed to supercede. Such radically different approaches lead to radically different uses of identical evidence by historians and by the Tanners. In general, the primary goal of the historians has been to understand and appreciate the remarkably complex and multi-faceted movement that constitutes Mormonism. Toward that end, Mormon historians, like historians in all fields, seek to sift through all pertinent evidence in order to reconstruct the fullest possible picture of the past and its significance for the present. Both positive and negative factors are candidly considered in trying to come to a realistic understanding of Mormon development. By contrast, the Tanners sound like high-school debaters. Every bit of evidence, even if it could be most plausibly presented in a positive way, is represented as yet another nail in the coffin being prepared for the Mormon Church. There is no spectrum of colors, only blacks and whites, good guys and villains in the Tanners' published writings. Even when the Tanners backhandedly praise objective Mormon historical scholarship, they do so primarily as a means of twisting that scholarship for use as yet another debater's ploy to attack the remaining — and in their eyes insurmountable — Mormon deficiencies. All too often, the Tanners' work thus simply provides a mirror image of the very Mormonism that it is attacking. The Tanners have repeatedly assumed a holier-than-thou stance, refusing to be fair in applying the same debate stan- 23 Examples of such control abound. The pathbreaking narrative history by James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints, was published in a very large edition — 35,000-—by the Church-owned Deseret Book Company in 1976 and sold out in three years the original printing. To date, the Deseret Book Company has not reprinted the book or allowed it to be reprinted by any other publisher. On a somewhat larger scale, Deseret Book's contracts for the sesquicentennial volumes on the history of the Mormon Church were also terminated in 1981 and the authors of those volumes were paid a fee proportionate to the degree of work completed and permitted to seek publication elsewhere. For a judicious discussion of the recent restrictiveness regarding the use of Church records, see Linda Ostler Strack, "Access to Church Archives: Penetrating the Silence," Sunstone Review 3 (Sept. 1983) : 4-7.