There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not.
Some things that are true are not very useful.Elder Boyd K Packer
Not everything that’s true is useful.Elder Dallin H Oaks
There have been many statements from church leaders which state that out of loyalty to the church, we should only discuss faith promoting parts of church doctrine and church history. It is somewhat of a mantra among mormons. We will simply discredit things even though they may be true, because the church doesn’t want us to know about it or talk about it. They can be dismissed as “deep doctrine”, “hard to understand”, “speculation” or even dismissed by pointing out that “the church is perfect, but the members are not”.
They are claiming that truth is not always useful. It begs the questions, useful for whom? Useful for the church leaders or useful for the church members? Who are they saying that the truth is not useful for?
This attitude clearly places a higher value on loyalty than on truth. Loyalty to what then? Certainly not loyalty to the truth! Only loyalty to the church organization, the establishment, the “brethren”. A church that is so bent on being True (with a capital T), is awfully content to let the truth rot, as long as they have loyal faithful, tithe-paying members willing to tell themselves only the faith-promoting stories.
I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.1 Corinthians 3:2
Church leaders claim this “milk before meat” principle from first Corinthians applies here. They think that people can’t understand “advanced” parts of the church history or “hard” deep doctrine, or rather that their faith is too feeble to remain intact and also learn about these things. Packer threatens that those who speak truth, “regardless of how they may injure the Church or destroy the faith of those not ready for “advanced history,” is himself in spiritual jeopardy.”
I have walked that road of scholarly research and study and know something of the dangers. If anything, we are more vulnerable than those in some of the other disciplines. Church history can be so very interesting and so inspiring as to be a very powerful tool indeed for building faith. If not properly written or properly taught, it may be a faith destroyer.Elder Boyd K Packer
What a red flag!? How is church history so complicated that just hearing about these “advanced” topics would unravel someone’s faith? He’s really saying that learning about church history may be a faith destroyer if not properly taught. How is the history of the church – a church we are told is perfect, even when the members are not – so disturbing that it can be the cause of destroying the faith of members who want to believe it!? Unless a member has learned to tow the line in the name of loyalty, when they learn about real church history they would simply walk away. The real meaning of milk before meat is that they give you enough milk to give you the community and understand the loyalty. Then tell you to avoid the meat as much as you can. If you are unlucky enough to stumble on the meat, the bad feelings it gives you are from the devil, so leave it alone, don’t talk about it and do your best to forget it because it will destroy your faith. They know and understand that this stuff destroys faith!
The truth certainly is not useful to some. When you’re a church and find that the history of your own church sows disbelief, the truth may not be useful to you. When you feel that as a leader of such a church, your calling is to actively hide the truth with correlation committees and church vaults because you’ve seen how the truth deteriorates faith, then the truth not useful to your cause. The truth is only not useful when you are trying to hide it, otherwise we could simply say that the truth is irrelevant. But the hidden truths are not irrelevant here, they are very relevant. Something irrelevant would be that Joseph Smith stubbed his toe in the bard, something relevant is he was having an affair with Fanny Alger in the barn. It would not be useful in getting someone to believe a man to be a prophet if we get distracted by his actual character or all the things he did in his life as a prophet.
Something the church leaders and the whole correlation committee should ponderize: The converse is true: not everything that is useful is in fact true, But everything that is true is useful, if you value the truth. The church is a far cry from the sentiments of J Reuben Clark, who said “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth it ought to be harmed.”
Some things that are useful are not very true.