Big Science Questions and the Gospel, Part III: The Creation of Life

Like most Latter-day Saints, my testimony of the Church is based more on the numinous than the intellectual. However, I still remember the moment when, ruminating on my AP biology class while taking a break during my summer lifeguarding job, I decided that there is no way life could have just spontaneously happened, and that I’d be a believer in something out there even if my Latter-day Saint faith cratered.  As I type that last sentence I can hear the shrieking and eye scratching from the Dawkins disciples in the back of my head. Because of the catastrophic political and social alliance between people who are skeptical that chance could have led to the first cell and people who want to put disclaimers on biology textbooks teaching evolution, there is more of a visceral reaction to “design” among biologists than there is to “fine tuning” among physicists. (Indeed, before he passed away the great physicist Steven Weinberg admitted that the only options left for explaining fine tuning was God or a multiverse). And that makes sense, the “intelligent design” people are professional adversaries of the evolutionary biology and biology education discipline in ways that the fine tuners just aren’t for professional physicists.  So to just be clear, I don’t think intelligent design should be taught in schools. If anything my “design” based realization that afternoon at the Riverside Country Club probably would have been muddied had it been immediately framed…

Does This Design Offend You?

It has been our privilege, as guided by the whisperings of thy Spirit, to build unto thee this temple, which we now present unto thee as another of thy holy houses. … We humbly pray that thou wilt accept this edifice and pour out thy blessings upon it as a house to which thou wilt come and in which thy Spirit will direct all that is done, that it may be acceptable unto thee.[1] Fifty years ago today, the Ogden, Utah Temple was dedicated.  Its sister, the Provo, Utah Temple, followed a month later, on February 9.  I’ve lived in Weber County, Utah for a significant portion of my life, so in many ways, the Ogden Temple is my temple.  Yet, I’ve always had mixed feelings about the temple itself—the space-age appearance I grew up with was unique, but not terribly attractive.  At the same time, I found it a bit sad that the Church felt the need to change its appearance so drastically a few years ago and that we will soon see, as President Nelson announced in general conference, the “reconstruction of the Provo Utah Temple.”[2]  I’m caught between the side of me that has a strong preservationist urge (as discussed last spring with the pioneer temple murals) and the side of me that has an appreciation for the aesthetically pleasing update to the Ogden Temple. I’m not alone in being caught in the crossfire of torn feelings…

Why Latter-day Saints (Or Anyone Else) Should Not Feel Bad about Having Kids on Government Assistance

When I was in graduate school with a young family my wife and I went on government assistance. We didn’t have a car so I had to fill our stroller up with groceries every third day. Of course, one particularly cold winter our stroller got a flat and we couldn’t fix it, so I had to go out in face-numbing West Philadelphia weather and run multiple shopping laps back and forth with a backpack so that I could make it back in time for class. Those were tough times (somewhat obviated when we had our rent paid one month by an anonymous donor who left the message “love one another”). Even though we were in a low income area of West Philadelphia, and a lot of people were on government assistance, we still got the awkward stares when the cashier tried to figure out our WIC checks while the line stacked up behind us. (Thankfully I still had some of the “ignore the awkward stares” calluses left over from my mission.) For us the decision to have children was not really affected by whether or not they would require government assistance, but we ran into our fair share of people who were torn over the dilemma of whether to have children that they could not afford. In our particular circles, the people who had an issue with having kids on government assistance fell into two groups: the first were “bro”…

Translating the Kinderhook Plates

The Kinderhook plates provide an interesting incident in Church History that provide an interesting test case for how Joseph Smith approached translation.  What are these plates?  What can we learn about Joseph Smith from the incident?  Well, Mark Ashurst-McGee and Don Bradley recently sat down with Kurt Manwaring for an interview to discuss what they found during their scholarly analysis of the Kinderhook Plates story.  What follows here is a co-post, a shorter post with some quotes and discussion, but feel free to hop on over to full interview here. They explained the story of the Kinderhook plates as follows: Mark Ashurst-McGee: It was in early 1843 that Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of Mormon Christianity, translated a portion of the Kinderhook plates. These six small plates of brass—each covered on both sides with mysterious inscriptions—have become known as the “Kinderhook plates” because they were extracted from an Indian burial mound near the small village of Kinderhook in western Illinois. Kinderhook was about seventy miles downriver from Nauvoo, then the center of gathering for the Latter-day Saints. Over the years since the publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830, Joseph Smith had become widely known for his claim to have been led by a heavenly messenger to an ancient record inscribed on a set of gold plates, buried in a hill in western New York, and to have translated the record by means of a spiritual gift from God. Given…

The Contradictory Commands, Part 3: A Tale of Two Records

In part 1 of this series discussing the contradictory commands given to Adam and Eve to not partake of the forbidden fruit but to also have children, I discussed the possibility that they would have been resolved in time, but they jumped the gun and listened to Satan rather than God, which is why they were in trouble.  In part 2, I discussed the more popular idea that Eve chose to obey a higher law when she ate the fruit and that it wasn’t a sin in the full sense.  Today, in the final post to round out this series, I will discuss a less popular, but scholastically important idea articulated through higher criticism of the Bible. Modern Biblical studies have opened the doors into a deeper understanding of the context and conditions in which the Bible was written.  Some of these insights have bearing upon the question of the contradictory commands given to Adam and Eve.  Admittedly, some propositions of modern scholars are challenging for Latter-day Saints because they challenge assumptions about both the Bible and Joseph Smith’s translation.  David Bokovoy does a good job of addressing those concerns in his work Authoring the Old Testament: Genesis—Deuteronomy, but there is still a lot of room for differing interpretations and beliefs on the issue. Many Biblical scholars have come to believe that the Torah or Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) do not represent a single, monolithic production by…

What Happens If All the Apostles Pass Away?

Many countries have continuity of government plans for what to do if the leadership suddenly dies in some sort of a catastrophe. The United States famously has a “designated survivor” that is in a secure location during the State of the Union so that somebody in the line of succession can be preserved if the Capitol building is destroyed; one of the of the most interesting manifestations of this planning is the fact that each of the four UK nuclear missile submarines has a handwritten letter from the Prime Minister in a safe that has instructions for what to do with their nuclear missiles in case the UK government is destroyed. The hierarchy of the Church is structured around the doctrine that the top fifteen men in the Church have the same office as Christ’s original apostles, and that they are ordained to that position by other apostles, eventually stretching back to Jesus Christ through the laying on of hands. But what would happen if all fifteen pass away at the same time?  The lack of a clear, legal successor might lead to a post-Joseph Smith martyrdom situation, with various splinter groups and claimants. Institutionally it seems the most likely scenario would be that the Presidents of the 70s would become the new governing body of the Church (assuming they were not affected by the catastrophe). D&C 107:26 could be interpreted as meaning that, just as the Quorum of the…

Big Science Questions and the Gospel, Part II: Consciousness and the Soul

Any reasonably intelligent person can understand the principles involved in the search for extraterrestrial life issue that I addressed in my last science post. However, the issue of consciousness is fundamentally mind-wracking and forces us to question some of our basic intuitions. It can get crazy; with some philosophers going so far as to claim that consciousness itself is an illusion, and others claiming that consciousness is almost everything. Consequently, it’s a little foolhardy to do the issue and its relevance to the gospel justice in one post, but I will try.  The standard position of philosophers and neuroscientists is that consciousness arises from chemistry in the brain. However, a substantial minority hold that things we associate with consciousness such as internal experience and feeling fundamentally cannot arise from atoms and molecules interacting with each other. While our computers are becoming more human-like in terms of processing and even in terms of intuition with neural networks and other AI algorithms, they would argue that our computers are not getting any closer to “feeling” anything or self-awareness.   One of the most famous thought experiments making this point is called “Mary’s Room.” Mary is a neuroscientist who has lived in a black and white room for her whole life, during which she has spent all her time studying the technical characteristics of the color red. Despite her lifetime of learning, once the door is open and she sees red for the first…

The Contradictory Commands, Part 2: The Higher Law

Part 1 of this series discussed the contradictory commands given to Adam and Eve to not partake of the forbidden fruit but to also have children, I discussed the possibility that they would have been resolved in time, but they jumped the gun and listened to Satan rather than God, which is why they were in trouble.  In this post, I discuss a more popular resolution in the Church to the contradiction centering on the concepts of the Fortunate Fall and that it wasn’t a full-blown sin to partake of the forbidden fruit.  The basis of this idea is that the command to not partake of the forbidden fruit was a lesser commandment compared to the command to multiply and fill the earth.  In some versions of this theory, the command to not partake of the fruit was more a warning than a command.  In other versions, the choice to partake of the fruit was still a choice to violate a commandment, but one that was done to obey a more important commandment.  Most Church leaders who have articulated these positions maintain that partaking of the fruit was not a sin per se, but a transgression or lesser infraction in some way. As stated, one approach to the two contradictory commandments is to hold that they were indeed contradictory commandments from God, but Eve and Adam chose to follow the command that was more important.  Elder John Widtsoe expressed this…

Reproductive Trends in the Church and General Authority Family Size

Years ago I had fantasies of writing a book on the history of Latter-day Saint fertility. That dream has been put on hold, probably until after my kids are out of the house (and there’s more data), but before I realized it wasn’t going to happen in between a day job and a large young family I inputted the number of children each General Authority had in a spreadsheet to look at time trends in General Authority family size. Because of their prominence, General Authority families(whether they want to or not) serve as a sort of archetypal template for the lifecourse decisions of orthodox members, so I was curious about the extent to which their family sizes tracked the changes in society across time.  Some caveats: I inputted this data about six years ago, plus the site I was using doesn’t appear super up-to-date, so there may have been recent changes in patterns that aren’t going to get picked up. At the time, there were 416 General Authorities on that website, with 14 missing number of children information (which I know I could dig up if I put in enough effort, but for now the 416 should be sufficient), so this provides a reasonably comprehensive sense of overall trends.  The first graph shows overall trend across the whole history of the Church (excluding the pre-polygamy General Authorities). Because of the highly fertile outliers, the Y-axis is stretched out and it is…

The Contradictory Commands, Part 1: Isn’t It About … Time?

One Sunday while I was on my mission, I was asked to teach the Gospel Principles class.  The class was very small (just the missionaries and one part member family we’d been teaching), and the subject was the Fall of Adam and Eve.  I remember this lesson, because I was explaining conditions in the Garden of Eden and the results of the Fall.  The manual summarizes the scriptures and doctrines by stating that: “When Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, they were not yet mortal. In this state, ‘they would have had no children’ (2 Nephi 2:23).  There was no death.”[1]  Yet the very next paragraph taught that: “God commanded them to have children. He said, ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth…’ (Moses 2:28). God told them they could freely eat of every tree in the garden except one, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Of that tree God said, ‘In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.’ (Moses 3:17).”[2]  I did my best to explain these ideas, and one of the people in the class pointed out that these two things seem to contradict one another—In the garden, they couldn’t have children. God commanded them to have children but also commanded them to not do the thing that would allow them to have children—partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  I didn’t have…

The Gospel and Cutting Edge Science, Part I: The Other Children of God

“John saw curious looking beasts in heaven, he saw every creature that was in heaven, all the beasts, fowls, & fish in heaven, actually there, giving glory to God. I suppose John saw beings there, that had been saved from ten thousand times ten thousand earths like this, strange beasts of which we have no conception <all> might be seen in heaven.” -Joseph Smith, 8 April 1843  That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God. -D&C 76 About two days ago the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope was launched. It’s a pretty big deal; in a few months we’ll be able to peer almost to the moment of creation itself (plus we’ll get some killer “worlds without end” shots). Because of recent events I’ve been lately thinking about big, existential questions that are still amenable to scientific testing, and the likelihood that neighboring solar systems harbor life is one such question.  My personal interpretation is that cosmological research has a part to play in D&C 121:30-31, which prophesies that big picture questions are going to be answered in the last dispensation. Unlike most other Christian faiths, extraterrestrial life was built into our fundamental cosmology almost from the beginning; it’s not the domain of speculative theologians trying to weld the concept onto frameworks that weren’t built with them in mind. (A very-informed-about-the-Church…

“As we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ”

Of all the Christmas carols in the English hymnbook, the one with the longest association with the Church’s hymnals is “Joy to the World.”[1]  It’s probably fitting, then, that the “Come, Follow Me” materials for this week reference it.  The reading material for the week is the document “The Living Christ,” published by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve on 1 January 2000, “as we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ two millennia ago.”  The document covers the mission of Jesus Christ before, during, and after his mortal life.  In one section, it states that: “We testify that He will someday return to earth. ‘And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together’ (Isaiah 40:5). He will rule as King of Kings and reign as Lord of Lords, and every knee shall bend and every tongue shall speak in worship before Him.”[2]  Asides from some nice references to the Biblical texts behind George Frideric Handel and Charles Jennens’s Messiah (which President Gordon B. Hinckley was fond of quoting), this paragraph is brought up in the “Come, Follow Me” manual because it addresses the Second Coming of Jesus Christ: “Christmas is a time both to look back on the day Jesus Christ was born and to look forward to the day He will come again. … It might … be interesting to read, sing, or listen to Christmas hymns that teach about…

Polygamy and “Extra Women”

The idea that polygamy helped provide spouses for a surplus of women who had joined the Church is an old one, as is its purported refutation. However, the refutations I read were based on Census data and didn’t seem super rigorous since 1) censuses include children born in the Church, and 2) not everybody in a Utah Census is LDS.  To get a clearer picture of converts to the Church, I wrote a program that scraped the helpful Overland Pioneer Database and created a spreadsheet of names, ages, and what year they traveled. (While I’ve posted the code, fortunately/unfortunately the overland database was very recently merged into the Church History Biographical Database, so the code is already out of date). I then calculated percent female of adults for each cohort. In the aggregate it looks like post-Utah War (with one outlier year) there are slightly more women among those who are 18+ and for whom we have a solid year of migration. A few surprises:  I thought that female converts might decline relative to men after the Church went public with polygamy, but this doesn’t appear to be the case. Matter of fact, the number of women relative to men increased after the Church “came out of the closet” as polygamist. Obviously then, to stop the hemorrhaging of women the Church needs to reinstate polygamy (relax ProgMos, I’m kidding).   However, men are overrepresented among those with an unknown age. While…

Peace and Zion

For me, one of the most beautiful concepts in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the idea of Zion. Yet, to achieve that ideal, we are going to have to think and act radically differently than we are accustomed to thinking and acting. In a recent interview with Kurt Manwaring, Patrick Mason and David Pulsipher discuss their book, “Proclaim Peace: The Restoration’s Answer to an Age of Conflict” and some of what that book covers to help Latter-day Saints think about proclaiming peace to work towards Zion. What follows here is a co-post (a shorter post with excerpts and discussion), but feel free to hop on over to read the full interview here. Mason and Pulsipher explained the purpose of the book as follows: In a world increasingly filled with contention and violence, most Latter-day Saints don’t realize that our Restoration scriptures contain rich resources for transforming conflict and achieving peace…. More than anything, we hope to initiate a conversation among our fellow Latter-day Saints about principles of peace. But we also believe the Restoration has something important to contribute to a larger conversation that has been going on among other faith traditions, including other Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims. We’ve benefited from their remarkable insights, and so we’ve tried to offer unique insights from the Restoration in return. When asked what those insights are,  they responded: Too many to enumerate here (thus a book-length treatment was necessary).…

“The long-promised day has come”

Official Declaration 1 has some supplementary materials included in the Doctrine and Covenants in the form of three excerpts from different addresses where he explained the reasoning for the change.  I’ve often mused on the idea of what would an analogous set of supplementary quotes look like for Official Declaration 2.  At one point, I even created my own insert in my scriptures to fill that function.  Admittedly, the addition of an introduction to the section in 2013 provides the key information, but I enjoy playing with hypotheticals for updates to the scriptures, so what would I include if I were to prepare the additions for the declaration?  And, while I’m sharing in the post, I’d be interested in hearing folks’ thoughts about what they would or would not include and their thoughts about my selections as well. My version would probably look something like this: EXCEPRTS FROM THREE STATEMENTS REGARDING THE PRIESTHOOD REVELATION We have revelations that tell us that the gospel is to go to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people before the Second Coming of the Son of Man. And we have revelations which recite that when the Lord comes he will find those who speak every tongue and are members of every nation and kindred, who will be kings and priests, who will live and reign on earth with him a thousand years. That means, as you know, that people from all nations will have the…

Vaccine Hesitancy (or the Lack Thereof) among Members

One of the stereotypes conservative US members have to deal with is the idea that they click their heels and salute every time the Church makes a political statement, when anybody who’s had deep political discussions with them understands that there are multiple layers of nuances and influences built into their decision making process. Consequently, I can’t say that I was terribly surprised when vaccination rates didn’t seem to jump up in Utah when the Church very explicitly came out in favor of vaccines.  However, in the spirit of humbly pointing out something I did not expect, according to a survey recently released by research firm PRRI: “Among religious groups, Hispanic Protestants and Latter-day Saints (Mormons) increased most in vaccine acceptance. Hispanic Protestants went from 56% vaccine acceptant in June to 77% in November, and Latter-day Saints similarly increased from 65% acceptance in June to 85% in November.” Now, technically we can’t tease out causality for this increase, but given that the First Presidency came out with their statement between those two waves, the most likely scenario is that First Presidency statements can actually move the political needle among members. [As “John Mansfield” in the comments pointed out, this suggests that more than half of those in the Latter-day Saint community who did not accept vaccination before changed to being pro-vaccine]. Another interesting point from the survey, besides Jews we are the religious group most likely to agree with the…

“All that God has revealed, all that he does now reveal, and … that he will yet reveal”

A few years ago, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf shared the following thoughts in general priesthood session: Sometimes we think of the Restoration of the gospel as something that is complete, already behind us—Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he received priesthood keys, the Church was organized. In reality, the Restoration is an ongoing process; we are living in it right now. It includes “all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal,” and the “many great and important things” that “He will yet reveal.” Brethren, the exciting developments of today are part of that long-foretold period of preparation that will culminate in the glorious Second Coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.[1] Drawing on the nineth Article of Faith, President Uchtdorf talked about the Restoration of the gospel as an ongoing process, even today.  Since then, the idea of ongoing Restoration has caught on as a paradigm to discuss changes in the Church that result from continuing revelation and changing circumstances in the world. One of the paradoxes of the Restoration of the Gospel that I’ve discussed before is that there are both concepts that the Church has to change and adapt through continuing revelation and that there is a “perfect state” that needs to be restored (and thus must also stay static to maintain that perfect state after it is achieved).  The goal of restoration in general is to return something to a former condition.  Joseph Smith looked…

John Sillito’s B. H. Roberts: A Life in the Public Arena (book review)

In traditional Christianity, there are significant figures known as the Early Church Fathers who are noted as influential Christian theologians and writers who established the intellectual and doctrinal foundations of Christianity as we know it today.  While the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is still a form of Christianity and is indebted to these early Christian thinkers, Mormonism is its own movement and I’ve often pondered on who we would consider to be the Church Fathers (or Parents) of the Latter-day Saints.  Certainly many of the presidents of the Church fall in this category—all three Joseph Smiths, Brigham Young, and Wilford Woodruff among them.  Beyond that, however, who would be considered a part of that category?  Certainly Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, Eliza R. Snow, James E. Talmage, and Bruce R. McConkie stand out as candidates.  Emmaline B. Wells and John A. Widtsoe come to mind as well.  It’s probably no surprise to anyone who has been reading my writing for a bit, however, that the first candidate I would suggest is B. H. Roberts. Over the course of the almost 90 years that have passed since his death, Elder Brigham Henry Roberts (1857-1933) has received the high praise of being called Mormonism’s most eminent intellectual,[1] the best officially accepted theologian that Mormonism has known,[2] one of our most important historians,[3] and the most prolific and most effective defender of the Church.[4]  Imagine my delight, then, to find…

Filling the Measure of Their Creation In Pioneer Utah 

I like people; that’s why I got a PhD in demography. My ideal existence is some rural village where my bevy of kids play outside in the streets with all the other neighborhood kids while the adults chat on front porches, where life is essentially an expanding cycle of weddings, births, and reunions (which according to my reading, is essentially what the celestial kingdom is). While most people aspire to some complex mix of competing goods in an attempt to “have it all,” the simple archetype for my ideal life is an old Jewish woman in New York City with 2,000 descendants for whom faith and family were everything, while the my antitype for society is the childless, future-less dystopia portrayed in the PD James book/movie Children of Men.   This attitude is to some extent embedded in our theology and culture, and I think that’s one reason why our birth rates are so high. Not as high as the Hutterites, Amish, or Ultra-Orthodox Jews, but still high nonetheless. From the folklore and early histories I absorbed being raised in Utah Valley (and from my and my children’s love of The Great Brain Series) I’ve always envisioned Pioneer-era Utah as a golden age for this kind of family-centered, youthful communitarian existence. (And yes, like all golden ages I’m sure it was complicated). Maybe because I’m raising my bevy of children in a relatively childless environment outside of DC and I’m pining for…

“To Whom It May Concern”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, that I find it odd that Official Declaration 1, Official Declaration 2, and the Articles of Faith are all crammed into one week while The Family: A Proclamation to the World gets its own week.  I mean, the Articles of Faith alone has two major classic Latter-day Saint books that focus on discussing and extrapolating from the document in great detail, each of which could function as a manual for Sunday School for a year on their own.  Official Declarations 1 and 2 both deal with major topics in Church history.  Official Declaration 2, for example, provides a great opportunity to discuss racism and address the issue.  It’s a lot to merely gloss over in one week, particularly in a year where there really isn’t an overabundance of material to read through. In any case, I’m working on some more substantive posts to cover this week’s topics, but for now, here are some of my major posts relating to the topics of each of the sections we’re discussing in “Come, Follow Me”   Articles of Faith: Fundamental Principles of Mormonism Official Declaration 1: Embracing Jacob’s Sermon Official Declaration 2: All Are Alike Unto God Reconsidering the Curse of Cain Reconsidering the Curse of Ham The Family: A Proclamation to the World: “Come, Follow Me” and The Family: A Proclamation to the World

Hearing leaders teach in their own languages: October 2021 General Conference edition

Do you remember that time when speakers in General Conference were allowed to speak in their own languages? In September of 2014, the Church put out an announcement that “General Conference Speakers Now Can Use Native Language”! But it didn’t last long. A year later, a Church spokesperson told a news outlet that the First Presidency had “decided that all talks for this weekend’s sessions will be given in English.” However, if you know where to look, you can still hear many leaders speaking in their own languages. Since long before 2014, some leaders have pre-recorded their talks in other languages, usually (but not always) in their native language. I remember Elder Richard G. Scott talking about prerecording his talks in Spanish when he visited my mission in the Dominican Republic in the 1990s.  As I relistened to the October 2021 General Conference, I checked for every leader who seemed like she or he might have a different native language. I found seven examples of leaders giving talks in their home tongues. (When you listen to the talk, if it’s interpreted, then you can still hear the English track faintly in the background; not so with the prerecorded talks.) If you want to refresh your General Conference study and you speak another language, here are some opportunities.  Élder Ulisses Soares, “A eterna compaixão do Salvador” (Portuguese). The talk is “The Savior’s Abiding Compassion” in English. Elder Soares also recorded his…

Brian and Laura Hales on Polygamy

‘Tis the season … to talk about polygamy, apparently.  Kurt Manwaring recently sat down with Brian and Laura Hales for a question and answer session about polygamy.  They have spent decades researching and writing about plural marriage (past and present), approaching the subject as faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It’s a very interesting interview to read through, so I recommend hopping on over to read it here.  What follows on this page is a co-post to the one over at Kurt Manwaring’s site, with excerpts and some discussion on the subject. One topic they discussed early on was the “Latter-day Saint Perspectives” podcast that they run.  Laura discussed the origin of the podcast, stating that: The idea for the podcast arose from a conversation I had with a Swedish member of the Church. In 2016, Brian and I gave a presentation in Gottingen, Sweden, on Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy. After the conference, an attendee approached me about the need for better resources on Church history for members living outside the United States. At the time, these members only had easy access to information that presented polar views. My new friend reinforced the point that struggling members lose trust in resources produced by the institutional Church, only leaving antagonistic sources as a place to reach out for answers to their questions about Church history and doctrine. More books were not the solution because of…