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If we have truth, [it] cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not truth, it ought to be harmed.J. Reuben Clark
J. Reuben Clark: The Church Years. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1983, p. 24
Investigate the church, we invite the world (non-members) to investigate our claims. Those who are learning and considering joining the church are even called “investigators”, like they are a detective or sorts. We present only faith promoting stories and rumors as the true narrative and then use elevated emotion to receive a firm commitment to join the fold. Missionaries are trained in the best ways to ensure solid commitments with things like the “commitment pattern”.
Put J Reuben Clark next to President Oaks, who says when we are troubled by something in church history, that “research is not the answer“. Do not investigate further, we have to assume that he says this because he knows where the research will lead us to conclude.
However, deeper investigation is frowned upon. Reading anything that is not the official faith promoting narrative of the church is considered dangerous and even dismissed as “anti” literature. Members are told that these things are complicated and hard to understand mysteries of God. The stories are covered up and glossed over. With deeper research, however, it seems that some of the most damning sources are the original sources – especially when comparing the original actual history to the white-washed version we are taught in sunday school, seminary and even institute. Sunday school, understandably, may not be the best place to dive deep into church history academically and should be a place to build faith – it is during church afterall. But, it seems that seminary and institute are meant for that purpose. “Milk before meat”, or is it milk followed by more milk with scraps of meat mixed in.
Studying deeply leads us to realize that the church has changed and does change. The doctrines have changed and do change, as often perhaps as our leaders change. Are they “true messengers” from God? Do the stories we are told add up?
Why for example, did none of the sermons and early church leaders talk about the first vision as we do today? It wasn’t even mentioned in the church for decades. Brigham Young, John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff all either didn’t know about what is considered today the central story of Mormonism, or they understood it completely different. Today though, this event stands as the founding of the church, and as defending doctrines.
Real Truth Cannot be Harmed by Investigation
Clark proclaims that “there must be no forbidden questions in Mormonism”. Can the truth be harmed by investigation? Harmed may be an awkward word here, but ideally truth is found by investigation. With proper investigation into the church nearly all the truth claims fall apart. With investigation, eyes can be opened and things we thought were true (based on emotion) become less true and even irrelevant myths. Clark even concludes that following his investigations and rationalizations he “would be drowned in a sea of doubt”. All of the confidence of J Reuben Clark’s commitment to rational inquiry in religious matters evaporated.
If we have not truth, ought it to be harmed?
Should the church be harmed because it doesn’t have the truth? Attempting this is a fast road to being dismissed as “anti”. It is in fact anti to attempt to harm the church, no? Is there another option? The narrative is that we can’t leave and leave the church alone. This quote promotes that narrative and turns those who do investigate into easily dismissed anti-mormons with an “agenda” or an “axe to grind”.
Just leaving is an option, but we are so enmeshed with the culture that a clean break is not very practical usually. We also care for family and friends who, even though they are happy, are believing the myth and drinking the Kool aid. There is a real desire to help them, but they can’t see something that they won’t look at, especially when looking is discouraged from on high in their current belief system.
Investigation and research does not usually end up reinforcing faith, but leads to a crumbling. Does the church withstand the investigation? Being true, it should withstand and even stand unsoiled in all investigations. Understandably, faith is required sometimes, but it seems that faith is the answer in every single case! Faith is to hope for things which are not seen, not to to hope to unsee or hide things or to believe things that after researching do not make any sense.
This doesn’t sound like a plea to leave the church alone. If the truthfulness of the church crumbles then, what should we do about it?
Have you investigated? Tell us about your findings, create a profile to share your story.