Every religion has many dilemmas when it comes to its history. How does a group incorporate the idea of a God or Universal force or will that acts in the development of that group and/or the unfolding of world events when such things are not acceptable claims in academic disciplines? How does a tradition balance the doing of history for the purposes of community and faith building through the creation and maintenance of a shared story with other ideals, such as telling the truth about missteps and all the humanness and frailties that are also present in each event? Should a religion’s history be told primarily in terms of what its founders and leaders do, or should the focus be on how it is received and lived among adherents in different social situations? What is a group’s responsibility toward making records and documents public that were originally intended only for private purposes?
In this two-part episode, historians Ben Park, Matthew Bowman, and Ron Barney join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon in a discussion of the way Mormonism has negotiated these dilemmas in the past, as well as how it seems to be facing them now and into the near future. What kinds of progress have been made in the relationship between the Church and the academic community? How has the Church professionalized its history division while still honoring the role of history and sacred narrative for vital community cohesion and faith? What are some of the debates and who have been the major players in shaping the place Mormonism finds itself now in relationship to its own history and the presentation of its history?
Mixed into all of these inquiries are also explorations of the relationship between history and faith crisis, including the ways that that panelists themselves negotiation the tensions between human frailty and divine workings? The discussion also goes a bit broader into the immediate horizon of Mormon studies in general. What is happening now and how might the increased interest in Mormonism from all sorts of academic disciplines affect our understanding of the Mormon story going forth? The panel also reflects briefly on the leadership tenure of Elder Marlin K. Jensen as Church Historian, who will be stepping down from this role in the next few months.
We invite you to listen and then join in the discussion below!