Though Oaks will say research is not the answer, and the church uses research to understand why they are losing so many members to a faith crisis, the church handbook has something else to say about research.
Research in the Church
Research as defined in the church handbook is to gather information to support the deliberations of church leaders. They don’t intend for members to research facts or unbiased information to then make their own conclusions. The conclusion is already made, and research is for finding the information that supports the forgone conclusion.
From the handbook:
“The purpose of Church research is to gather reliable information to support the deliberations of general Church leaders.”General Handbook 38.8.36 Church Policies and Guidelines, Research in the Church.
The goal of research in the church is to discover evidence that supports the church. That’s it. So when you have questions about church history and seeking truth, perhaps Oaks is right and research is not the answer, since research is merely to support church leaders. You can’t simultaneously do research to discover evidence that supports the church and also learn about church history. It’s very very hard to reconcile the issues you come across and the truth claims the church struggles to uphold. Research is not the answer to support the church, hence they want to redefine it to mean to “gather reliable information to support the deliberations of general Church leaders”.
Oaks Says Research is Not the Answer
President Oaks acknowledged that some Latter-Saint couples face conflicts over important values and priorities. Matters of Church history and doctrinal issues have led some spouses to inactivity. Some spouses wonder how to best go about researching and responding to such issues.
“I suggest that research is not the answer,” he said.
“But the best answer to any question that threatens faith is to work to increase faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said. “Conversion to the Lord precedes conversion to the Church. And conversion to the Lord comes through prayer and study and service, furthered by loving patience on the part of spouse and other concerned family members.”President Dallin H Oaks
Devotional for young married couples in Chicago on February 2, 2019.
How to best go about responding to matters of church history and doctrinal issues? Not by researching them of course. The best answer to any question that threatens faith, is to work to increase faith. Just have more faith, more prayer, more fasting, and of course fast offerings and tithing. Just trust the leaders, they are transparent and honest. At least as much as they know how to be.
“When you are asked a difficult question, such as a puzzler about Church history, be honest and, if necessary, say you don’t know. But then be sure to say what you do know: ‘I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.’”President Dallin H Oaks
Devotional for young married couples in Chicago on February 2, 2019.
Oaks suggests that people answer difficult questions when asked by loved ones, but if you don’t know the answer, don’t worry about figuring it out via research to help everyone understand, just bear testimony. Better not look it up with research, just bear whatever testimony you already have. Don’t research. He seems to know that when members start to research to better understand something they are having issues with, it leads to them learning that the dominant narrative of the church is not true. He wants members to stay at a superficial understanding of complex doctrines and leave anything we may have an issue with on our shelf indefinitely. It will be in good company with all the Mormon shelf items leaving members to mention. The problem with that is, eventually the shelf may break, and then we end up dealing with what feels like a faith crisis but is actually the church’s truth crisis.
Who Writes the Church Handbook?
Well, this handbook must be just composed by a committee tasked with keeping things in line with current church practices, we can’t blame actual church leaders, right? Not quite, when the church announced its latest update to the handbook they wanted to make it clear where the handbook comes from. It’s the direction of the First Presidency.
Elder Perkins said Latter-day Saints often ask him whether the handbook is written by Church employees or the Apostles. The answer, he said, is both. Guided by the Church’s executive councils, a team of 20 to 30 General Authorities, General Officers, staff and editors present their best work to the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency, who then give their feedback.
“The First Presidency is not shy about making edits,” Elder Perkins said. “And for me, that has been very inspiring — to do the very best work we can, . . . and yet there are things that we miss — very important things that Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency see and are added into the handbook. I can say to members with full confidence that the handbook, as written, reflects the desires and the input and direction from the people we sustain as prophets, seers and revelators.”The General Handbook Is Complete in English, LDS Newsroom, 15 December 2021
The church handbook is seemingly replacing the definition of research with what sounds more like a definition of apologetics. What they claim to be defining as research in the handbook is not research, but apologetics. Maybe Oaks will start saying “Research IS the answer” if he can successfully redefine it as apologetically supporting the church and its truth claims. Why would research not be the answer when someone is struggling with matters of church history and doctrinal issues? How to better understand things rather than by learning more about them?
What Will You Research? Where Will You Go?
The church wants members to stay at a superficial understanding of complex doctrines and leave anything we may have an issue with on our shelf indefinitely. Don’t try to understand it in this life. Let the shelf be overloaded, just continue to bear testimony of what your feelings have confirmed to you are true. Continue in your faith and let it alone guide you. Don’t try to understand church history or social issues that you can’t reconcile with your own conscience. Just blindly follow church leaders and when they mess up, give them a break.
If you do dare to venture into researching the church’s truth claims, please look at honest facts that are unbiased, rather than apologetics which is heavily biased toward only keeping members in the church. The truth may be uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad, it means it is unfamiliar – only because it has been hidden from you.
- Dallin Oaks Teaches Research Is Not The Answer
- What is the CES Letter? Is it True/Safe to Read?
- Church as transparent as it knows how to be
- Give Brother Joseph a break
- The Mormon “Shelf” and Why it’s a Problem
- Personal Mormon Faith Crisis Report – Introduction and Overview