Professor Givens' "Crucible of Doubt" fireside in Provo, UT.
During May 2013, under the apparent direction of the Church, LDS apologist Terryl Givens and his wife Fiona toured the UK and Ireland giving firesides on the ‘Crucible of Doubt'.
That fireside was discussed on MormonThink at Crucible of Doubt
On July 6, 2013 in Provo, Utah another similar fireside was given again by LDS apologist Terryl Givens and his wife Fiona and included LDS historian Richard Bushman.
The fireside didn't go into great detail about the problematic Mormon issues but more of a historian's philosophy on how to handle problematic church issues in general. However, some difficult questions were asked.
Someone had recorded the presentations. We link to their website here:
Unfortunately not all of the audio files are of very good quality but here they are:
Bushman - poor quality audio so MT will not comment.
Q&A - probably the best presentation where attendees got to ask questions to the panel.
Terryl - talk by Terryl Givens.
Fiona - talk by Fiona Givens.
Here's a write-up made by an attendee at the Rational Faiths Blog to the fireside: “A Belief and Doubt in Mormonism- Navigating a Faith Crisis”
A few comments not mentioned by the Rational Faiths Blog:
Terryl Givens said that he didn't think that 10 years ago that any of the 12 apostles knew about the 'stone in the hat' method that Joseph used to translate the Book of Mormon. That can't be true as Apostle Russell M. Nelson mentioned the stone in the hat in a 1992 seminar which was published in the July 1993 Ensign. Note: This is the only reference in any Church publication to the "stone in the hat" in the last 35 years.
The presenters kept trying to reassure the members that the Church isn't hiding anything and is making every effort to disclose everything. They keep praising the Joseph Smith Papers website as the place that will reveal all. We have been to the JSP website and have had it on MT's Home Page for years. The problem with this approach is that the JSP is not organized in any way as to easily show that there are problems in Church History. If you are already aware of an issue, perhaps you can search for it on the website and it might be there - although buried in a myriad of documents. And of course, there are many historical problems not currently in there. As a test, I searched for "Kinderhook Plates" which is a very common critic's issue and no results were found [as of 7/26/13].
So the result will be that the Church will put out a massive website with thousands of documents but it is not going to highlight the issues. Also, very few members will probably ever even know about the JSP or be made aware that it discusses some problematic issues in the Church. The website is mostly just pages and pages of material that most members will not be interested in reading unless they are really into Church history. Very few of these pages will actually contain the issues that currently trouble so many members. Very little additional information seems to be on there that is not already on the apologetic websites so the answers they have in the future won't really be any better than they are now and most members, that are aware of the issues, are not pacified with the current apologetic responses.
In short, the Church will continue to present the restoration of the Church in a much more plausible way than it really happened. When people find out about the problematic issues from outside sources (since the Church still won't allow the issues to be talked about in Church), they will point them to the JSP website and say we never hid that from you.
We don't think that's really being honest. If you don't ask the specific question like "what do Egyptologists say about Joseph's translation of the facsimiles", the Church will never tell you that the Egyptologists totally disagree with Joseph's translations.
Additionally, the historians claim that EVERYTHING will be discussed there. We doubt this as the Church has the minutes to the Council of Fifty meetings and has never made them public. Will they be on the JSP? If they are not, this will just lead to further speculation that the Church isn't revealing everything to its members.
If the Church really wanted to be open about the issues, they would have a section of the JSP that says 'Common Problems with Church History' and list the top 20 of them or something to that effect and then provide their documents and explanations.
We invite further commentary from those that listened to the recordings or attended the fireside.