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Give me the whole truth

March 30, 2011

An LDS church member and his wife will be visiting us this evening to deliver the home teaching message for this month. It’s a very short talk by a church leader, Dieter Uchtdorf, called Looking for the Good. To Uchtdorf’s credit, he acknowledges that if one looks for “the bad” in the church, they “will certainly find things that are not so ideal.” He doesn’t, of course, provide any examples. Rather, he encourages his readers to seek for the good.

Ben Franklin said, “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.” This is good advice when applied to interpersonal relationships, and I would even extend the advice to apply to other family members, coworkers, friends, and neighbors. No one is perfect, and I believe that most people know their own faults better than anyone else, so it’s not particularly helpful to point them out.

But when it comes to organizations, whether it’s a business, a school system, or the LDS church, isn’t it preferable to have as much information as possible, the good and the bad? You can’t expect organizations to offer full disclosure. They’ll always present themselves in the best light and omit the unflattering details. Those who point out the “not so ideal” parts of the LDS church, the Catholic Church, or any other organization are actually providing a very useful service.

Fawn Brodie’s No Man Knows My History or Richard Bushman’s Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, for example, are two of the most thorough, authoritative, factual, and evidenced-based accounts the life of Joseph Smith. Both works acknowledge Smith’s treasure seeking, polygamy, and personal foibles, and for these reasons both have been referred to as “anti-Mormon” literature, which really only means that they have not been edited and approved by the church. Getting the entire story, rather than just part of it, may not be as faith-promoting, but it is definitely preferable in my opinion.

Attempting to understand things in their entirety, and not just “looking for the good,” also serves to keep organizations accountable. How many children would have been spared from rape if Catholic priests expected their behavior to be examined under the sanitizing light of day rather than expecting their actions to be concealed in order to preserve the image of the church? How many families could have avoided home foreclosures if lending agencies had required proof of the borrower’s income? How much government corruption could be prevented in some countries if their press were allowed to be free? Sometimes, what you don’t know can hurt you.

Uchtdorf suggest that grudges and wounds motivate some to find fault with the church. Maybe, but I have no such motivations, and I have no such intentions. So what are my motivations? My kids’ lives are fairly well intertwined with the LDS church. Maybe it’s my journalistic training to seek after and to report accurate information, or maybe it’s my training as a researcher, but I care about the truth. And I feel an obligation to share what I understand to be true with my kids because there’s much that they’re not going to learn in Sunday school.

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One Comment
  1. Carrie permalink

    Here in Denver us Ex-Mos informally get together once a month to chat and drink “Mike’s Hard Lemonade” and the like. We’ve opened up the group to Ex-scientologists and Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses and have had some great discussions as we have swapped horror stories. I was talking to an ex-scientologist and quoted Boyd Packer “Some things that are true are not very useful…” He did a double-take – it was one of the craziest things he’d ever heard! I thought about it too and realized how horrible that statement was. Why would I want to be in a religion that was hiding things from me they didn’t deem to be ‘useful’ to me. Would I want to be in heaven for a thousand years and realize that God had hid some things from me because they weren’t ‘useful’? I want the whole truth, good and bad and let me decide what is useful or not!

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