We appreciate the effort that the church went to prepare such a document to assist the leaders in Sweden to help the brothers and sisters there that have been troubled by reading disturbing aspects of the church that they never knew about. Unfortunately, there is little substance that we think has any real value to most troubled members. Nowhere in the Swedish Rescue does it mention any specific problem like polyandry, Book of Mormon anachronisms, linguistic issues, archeological problems, DNA studies, Kinderhook Plates, Book of Abraham translation, etc.,
We do appreciate that they did provide some references in the form of websites and books. That is useful. However, it's still very difficult to find answers to specific questions using those resources as that is not really how they were designed.
We are troubled that the rescue document implies that the true information about the church's history is somehow evil and shouldn't be looked at. It uses the phrase "avoid contact with evil influences". How can looking at historical facts be considered "evil influences"? It talks about the need to "repent" - why would someone reading true, church history need to repent?These subtle labelings seems to be an effort to categorize any research that isn't faith-promoting as sinful.
We responded to a few selected things in the document. We present our commentary in blue.
(1) The Church does not hide historical facts. In fact, it makes every effort to be open and honest about its past and current actions. [Then why doesn't the average member know about any of the troubling issues? Every month, the church publishes The Ensign and has every opportunity to present the true history of the church but doesn't. For example, the church still publishes images of Joseph Smith translating the BOM using the gold plates instead of the method that historians have discovered where Joseph put his face in a hat with a stone found while digging a well and didn't use the plates at all. The church only teaches people what the church wants the members to know.]
(2) The internet and digital records now make information about the Church available to many who because of language and other limitations have not previously known of this information. This does not mean that such information was hidden by the Church; it was simply not generally available. [Language is not a valid excuse for why the english-speaking majority of members don't know about the issues. So where exactly on the church's website do they now discuss the troubling information like Joseph's polyandry?]
(4) Obtaining or regaining a testimony of Joseph Smith as a prophet of God and of the restoration of the gospel through him is always essentially a spiritual quest. [Why shouldn't the true, historical facts be used as well?]
The Church is making great efforts to let their story be open to researchers and the public. Lots of archive material made available. The archives are opened does not mean that historical scientific knowledge is complete. This requires that researchers impose scientific research questions, which are tested against archival source material. When sufficiently secure reply, a report or dissertation that examined by other researchers. Only then can the scientifically correct knowledge released to the public.
[Where? We still don't see where troubling issues like the Book of Mormon historicity problems are answered officially by the church. The issues and their answers need to be made easy to find without members being expected to search through hundreds of documents scattered throughout a myriad of websites.]
All material on church websites is officially approved. [Good to know]
Only that which comes directly from the Lord through divine communication is truth, everything else is interpretation. Therefore, prayer is directly to the Lord and the Holy Spirit whispers of priceless value to the personal revelation receive truth. [Virtually all of the world's truth comes from sources other than prayer. Prayer is the most subjective way of determining truth where different people get different answers. Is it interpretation to say that Man landed on the Moon in 1969 or is that a historical fact? Why should we not use provable, historical facts? What other organization would say that unless the Lord communicates something, it is merely only an interpretation and shouldn't be considered fact?]
3.3 To respond to members who have doubts
A member who doubt will in a more difficult emotional situation and are in need of the most understanding and loving dialogue you can imagine.
- Show empathy, understanding, acceptance, but keep quiet fast to their own values.
- View definitely not superiority, do not try to convince.
- View humility! (The way one describes reality, is the way it looks it!).
- Show genuine friendship.
- Remember: "If I were this person, how would I like to be treated? ".
- Be open to signals - it takes time to adapt an approach.
- Avoid saying, "now I understand exactly how you feel."
- Avoid a call situation where either needs to defend themselves.
- Respect the free will.
- Express the wish that the person you are speaking with to be happy.
- Make decisions that your friendship does not depend on a person returning to the church or not -
and mean it.
- Listen to understand and to be led by the Holy Ghost.
In order to regain their faith requires member
a) "to adjust its course" and keep the commandments
b) join in humble prayer for guidance and
c) receive their own personal revelation. Anyone who does this and get the Spirit Confirmation will be stronger than you did before and not easily shaken in their faith in the Restoration. It is needed in these last days.
[Why doesn't it say what these members really want to know? They want answers that make sense to their questions. They don't need to be told to pray more. They want to be able to freely discuss these issues with someone in authority at Church and get some official answers.]
"... All around us we see the Church members who have been injured. Some people get upset over events in the history of the Church or its leaders and suffering throughout life without being able to look beyond others' mistakes ...
[These struggling members are not expecting perfection and and can easily forgive mistakes. They just want to know what things were true and what were mistakes? Was it a mistake to deny blacks the priesthood for so long? Was polygamy a mistake? Was Joseph's translation of the Book of Abraham a mistake?]
In conclusion, we appreciate that the Church responded to the members in Sweden. We hope the Church will start providing official answers to the questions the struggling members have and simply put them on their main website or start discussing them in the Ensign or at Conference. Of course having real history in some obscure place where people don't know where to look, or even know there is an issue to look for, is not the same as actually TEACHING it. MormonThink is willing to help in this regard, and will gladly put the official church responses to the many problems on our website with a link to the church's discussion of the issues. These subjects should not be considered taboo and members shouldn't be made to feel guilty by studying them using all credible resources available and discussing them with their fellow church leaders and church members .
Go to Swedish Rescue - Part 2