If our history falls outside what people imagine to be possible, it’s normal that they would be skeptical. Therefore, it’s important that we understand our history and know how to explain miraculous events in God’s dealings with man throughout history.
Learning about Church history can be positive and faith-promoting
In the article “Balancing Church History” (New Era, June 2013, pp. 20-23), Church Historian Elder Steven E. Snow explains, “For instance, it is absolutely astounding what the early missionaries accomplished, having no resources other than a burning faith and testimony that caused them to do remarkable things. Those examples help me understand that I can do hard things if I continue to feed my faith and testimony. Time after time, my testimony is strengthened as I see what has happened with this great work as it has rolled forward.”
Elder Snow reminds us that early Church members had their difficulties and struggled with things just as we do today. They were trying to do what’s right–just as we are today–but they weren’t perfect, just like we aren’t perfect.
Getting Correct Information from a Good Source
The Internet has put all kinds of information at our fingertips and we can read a great deal about our history, but can we believe everything we read? Elder Snow reminds us that “information that tries to embarrass the Church is generally very subjective and unfair. We should seek sources that more objectively describe our beliefs and our history. Some websites are very mean-spirited and can be sensational in how they present the information. Look for sources by recognized and respected historians, whether they’re members of the Church or not.”
Understanding Church History in Context
It is also important to understand history in its context. Historical events don’t always make sense when we try to see them from today’s perspective. Church history in its full context is absolutely inspiring.
Elder Snow suggests that we need to approach Church history with balance. “If you’re spending time on websites that criticize the Church and its history but aren’t spending time in the scriptures, you’re going to be out of balance, and those negative things may have an unduly strong effect on you. If you were in proper balance, they wouldn’t.”
“As I keep my life in balance, I can look at history objectively and understand that while most of our ancestors are to be admired, they were human and made mistakes. There are sad or confusing episodes in our history that we seek to understand better, but some of these questions might not be answered on this side of the veil. And that’s fine.
“The overwhelming evidence of Church history is positive and faith-promoting. If you choose to spend much of your time studying only the controversial chapters of our history, you’ll see a few threads, but you’ll miss the whole quilt. And you need to understand the whole picture of our history. In its full context, it is absolutely inspiring.”
Here are some resources to find out good information about LDS Church history:
- Gospel Topics (topics.lds.org)
- Church History website (history.lds.org)
- Church History In The Fulness Of Times manual
- Encyclopedia of Mormonism (eom.byu.edu)
- Articles on LDSMediaTalk about explaining LDS beliefs
- Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (fairLDS.org)