Here is a clear positive step for the Church: posting an online resources page with almost 30 links to pages or sites with information on LDS doctrine and history. Each link gets zero, one, or two asterisks, depending on if it is within the LDS.org domain (zero), if it is a Church-related site like byu.edu that is not within the LDS.org domain (one), or if it is a third-party site not directly affiliated with the Church (two asterisks). The page is actually under the Seminaries & Institutes umbrella as part of the Doctrinal Mastery program (the upgraded Scripture Mastery). And what are they linking to, you ask?
The no asterisk group includes:
- The Gospel Topics landing page, which down the page includes a link to the separate Gospel Topics Essays landing page.
- The Church’s Mormon and Gay site, described as “an official publication” of the Church.
- Revelations in Context, a collection of short essays prepared by Church Historical Department scholars, keyed to D&C sections. Great for Gospel Doctrine teachers and bright young seminary students.
The single asterisk group includes:
- The Maxwell Institute home page
- The online version of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism
- The BYU Studies home page
Here’s where it gets interesting. The double asterisk group includes:
- Book of Mormon Central, a site run by a bunch of LDS scholars and staff, collecting Old FARMS material and more recent work defending Book of Mormon historicity and exploring Book of Mormon themes. Their list of external links on the home page includes links to FairMormon and Interpreter but not the Maxwell Institute.
- The FairMormon site, which has now absorbed the Mormon Scholars Testify site as well.
- The Interpreter site
Those four double-asterisk sites can all be described as practicing LDS apologetics. The page contains this disclaimer: Double-starred websites (**) are maintained by a third party that is unaffiliated with the Church. By linking to this content The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not endorse the content of these sites. Except that including a link to these sites on a page of resources intended to “enhance gospel learning and help provide answers to doctrinal, historical, and social questions” clearly constitutes an implicit endorsement, not necessarily of every word on the site but at least of the site in general. Another vote for apologetics, it seems.
In terms of my other recent post, these sites are clearly practicing “good apologetics”: the content authors are scholars or are well informed and the sites are edited and generally avoid rhetorical excess. FairMormon will even route your question to a volunteer who will get back to you with a one-on-one response and conversation. But good apologetics comes in different flavors, and these sites are all using the Old FARMS model. The newer approach of granting some legitimacy to faith questions and injecting some nuance into orthodox positions, pioneered by Terryl Givens (The Crucible of Doubt) and Patrick Mason (Planted), is nowhere to be found in the links, unless you dig around Mormon Scholars Testify and know who to look for. I suppose that’s to be expected on a resource page by S&I, an organization that still seems enmeshed in Elder McConkie’s writings and Old FARMS thinking.
But let’s end on a positive note. I recognize that the average seminary or college student with a question about polygamy or Mountain Meadows or current LDS policy on this or that is just going to google it, not search this resource page. But providing helpful links to offsite resources is a step forward. It signals to both teachers and students, as well as the general membership, that seeking information to deal with questions or issues is a good thing.