S A I N T S: “LOSING YOUR MEMORY IS ALWAYS BEST – PART 2”
If you’ve not yet done so, please read “Part 1” of this entry here…
…and here is the link to the article…
~3~ “Our story teaches us who we are and whose we are. It shows us how we fit in God’s plan for our salvation and happiness. The four-volume history tells the history of the Church through the stories of its members. Rather than a comprehensive history of the institutional Church, the narrative walks readers through the lives of Saints. ‘From the very beginning there was an inspired vision for this project,’ said Harper. ‘It would be inclusive, it would be creative, and be transparent and powerful, be sacred and truthful and edifying and fortifying, and good in every sense.’”
This paragraph feels like we’re being told that REAL history is perhaps not quite as enjoyable as ‘massaged’ history; and that, aside from the narrative format, they are one and the same. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.
Harper lists these possible qualities: Inclusive, creative, transparent, powerful, sacred, truthful [seems like they’re spending too much time ‘convincing’ us of this], edifying, and good. Yet, when it comes to historical content, shouldn’t we be more concerned with words like: original, authentic, genuine, and accurate? And what about “honest?”
~4~ “To correct two false ideas: that God worked only through ultra righteous people in the past, and if Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and others were flawed God couldn’t have worked through them.‘Characters beginning with Joseph Smith and his family are flawed because the natural man is an enemy of God,’ Harper said. ‘This story is not about perfect people; it is about fallen people who are trying to become saints through the Savior’s Atonement by making and keeping covenants.’ Although the history isn’t able to include every single member of the Church in the narrative, it is a sample of compelling, sacred stories that are analogous to one’s own sacred quest to become a saint. ‘The story depends on the choices the characters make; their choices create the drama and suspense that is inherent in history and in great storytelling,” Harper said. “The story is global and universal. It concerns all people everywhere, throughout time and space.’”
A little dissection is in order: 1) Whoever believed that the leaders were ‘ultra-righteous’ or not ‘flawed?’ This must be limited in scope to the faithful. 2) Ms. Prescott takes the liberty of assuming that “the natural man is an enemy of God” to make her case. This is a term peeled from Mosiah 3:19 and is not Biblical. Coming from the Bible the phrase would be closer to “The natural man is innocent before God.” Mark makes this point in saying: “There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man” (Mark 7:15). Only after we’ve learned can we become guilty.
It’s telling that she mentions both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, since they’re two of the most flawed leaders in early Mormon history yet are all too often projected as “ultra-righteous.”
~5~ “Saints teaches a reader to interpret the facts of history with faith, hope, and charity. By looking at the imperfect experiences of the characters in Saints, readers are able to see how their forebearers—despite opposition or even a poor decision—were still loved by the Lord and able to draw upon the Atonement of Jesus Christ to change.”
What is concerning is not how a person changes “for the good” when they’ve received religion, rather, how they’ve changed “for the worse.” This is a major historical hurdle in Mormonism; particularly with Joseph and Brigham.
~6~ “Saints helps readers safely through the gap between naïve faith and informed mature faith. ‘We begin with the kind of naïve faith—the childlike faith—in an ideal world where prophets and pioneers and parents are perfect,’ said Harper. But that naïve faith will not withstand the rigors and forces of the real world if members do not mature in their faith. ‘Some people choose to fill the gap between naïve faith and mature faith with cynicism,’ Harper said. ‘In the gap, we discovered that some of our naïve assumptions are not true. We run up against facts of history that cause us to rethink assumptions of our naïve faith. In the gap we have choices to make: Do I still believe what it is that I believe?’ Some people decide, Harper explained, that because the facts are not what they assumed they should be, they can’t believe anymore. ‘However, as I and many other people have experienced personally, we can mature past cynicism to informed faith,’ he said. ‘We can make it safely through the gap. Saints is very intentionally designed to help people safely bridge the gap that they must pass from naïve faith to informed faith.’ With an understanding that the people and the Church are ‘not perfect—far from it,’ Saints helps readers understand that the Church is a great laboratory for perfecting Saints.”
Almost everything about item #6 is at complete odds with anything having to do with history. It’s intentionally mentioned last to help the faithful understand the importance of a well-balanced meal of ‘faith’ and ‘narrative storytelling.’
Ms. Prescott has gone to great lengths to explain how “flawed” leaders can be trusted, yet this same measure of transparency is not apparent in the dialog of ‘Saints.’ Indeed, every attempt has been made to ‘sugar-coat’ the details, rather than present them with unfiltered honesty.
The terms “naïve faith” and “childlike faith” are problematic in being paired together; they are simply not the same. The former lends itself to the credulous, and the latter is extolled as a virtue in the Bible: “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). This seems completely at odds with the council to the faithful to “mature in their faith.”
To be convinced the path in receiving history properly is first-naïve faith, second-cynicism, and finally, third-mature faith may be the exact opposite order of what Christianity teaches – with ‘naïve faith’ being replaced with ‘childlike faith.’ Just because Harper’s personal journey took him down a dark path doesn’t mean it is the “new-best” formula for LDS happiness.
There are plenty of skilled authors producing fictional works of “narrative storytelling” who are far more entertaining than the glazed over version of history in ‘Saints.’ Seek them out. Otherwise, if you feel you’re getting REAL history from the book, you’ll end up right where you began: with naïve faith.