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Sep. 7th, 2009 at 12:19 am
Every Sunday this year I sit through the Doctrine and Covenants Sunday School lessons. This time through (and many times before), the teacher has decided to emphasize Church History rather than the scripture. I have no doubt that the Institute manual suggests that they do so. But every week I find myself wondering: why are we so obsessed with our history?
I actually know some answers to that question. First and foremost, it is pretty recent history. I, and many others, can place my own relatives in these stories with just two or three “greats.” Then there is the fact that some of our doctrine is based on the history. I am not suggesting that we ignore the First Vision, but I wonder when protestants got over talking about Martin Luther and his Theses every week?
Part of my concern is that I don’t find this Sunday School presentation of history terribly convincing. If we are going to do Church History, let’s do it right. That would mean an inclusion of much more information, even some contradicting versions of events, because that is what real history does: presents you with various perspectives and lets you suss out what might have actually happened.
That kind of Church History might include fewer faith-promoting and exemplar tales. But if it were more authentic, wouldn’t it be worth it?
I know too many people close to my heart who decide they are done with the Church after they find out something they don’t like about Church History. Almost always, it is something to do with Joseph Smith. Interestingly, the things they find out are not always so awful, but they get the feeling that that information had been hidden from them by the Church and lose faith in the institution.
I don’t think anyone is a Catholic because of the history of the church. Ditto for most other branches of Christianity. Teaching Church History (poorly) does not convert anyone (member or not), so why do it?