joseph-smith

Social media has begun to dredge up various Latter-Day Saints documents, from groundbreaking scholars to little-known pieces of information about the past of Joseph Smith’s founding of the LDS church.

These new details are currently testing the church’s strength, as they work to find a way to integrate the new information without losing the power of the original narrative.

The original story of Joseph Smith involved him as a young farm boy in New York. He prayed in the trees, and God and Jesus came out to greet him. With the powers they gave him, he discovered ancient texts and translated them into English with the use of the Old Testament. He founded the faith to restore early Christians, putting in a few scriptures and bringing about various doctrines. Joseph Smith created an entire community of faithful Mormons.

Two sides to every story

The other version of the history aren’t quite as simple as that. According one version, Smith claimed to have seen one God-like being, rather than two. In the version, he gazed into a hat that produced the scripture. The man had married many women in secret, keeping it hidden from his first wife. These tidbits, and others, are the hectic, messy part of LDS’s history and theology.

As the church works to find a way to incorporate the new findings into their sermons, they realize they have to consider new and potential Mormons and how the story could affect them. Many historians feel the shift is possible, and completely necessary. According to Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, the Harvard historian and Pulitzer winning author, people “may be comforted in the short run by platitudes, but I don’t think that leads to growth or effective action.” He urges for better, “more complete” stories that touch on things people care about.

Lost in Translation?

However, others feel that some things will be lost in translation by the integration. One such person is Kathleen Flake, the head of the Mormon studies at the University of Virginia. She says that faith is less about fact or fiction, “but of religious sense.”

The Mormon Church currently addresses some of the misconceptions about their religion in a series on their blog called “Getting it Right.”

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