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Radio Free Mormon: 49: How To Not Answer Questions On Church History With Steven Harper Part 2

Today we dissect the Mormon Channel’s video titled “How to Answer Questions about Church History” hosted by  Amy Iverson where she interviews Steven Harper on how he as a Church Historian deals with tough issues within Church history.

You might expect a Church historian who is on such a program due to his immersion and professional understanding of LDS Church History to use Church history to show that the tough questions have solid answers.  You might expect him to encourage members who come across a tough issue to dive deeper, to find original sources, or refer them to the Gospel Topic Essays, or at least the Joseph Smith Papers Project as he had a major hand in it.  You might expect him pick out a few tough issues and then show how a more informed understanding of Church history helps to sort these issues out.  BUT……  As you will see he does anything but this.

– Notice his hesitancy to discuss the specifics of Church history.  He seems to, as a Church historian, not want to talk about Church history, and it feels his reason is he senses there is little there to build faith on.

– Notice when asked if Church history has built faith and has resolved his questions he constantly deflects from answering such questions directly and imposes that his testimony is not based in Church history.

– Notice his progression from A.) Questions always resolve themselves  B.) We have some questions that are yet unresolved but We have a lot of answers and I have faith the unresolved will yet be resolved.  C.) There are both several questions resolved as well as several questions unresolved.  D.) I have way more questions than answers and the more I learn Church history, the unresolved questions grow exponentially. and finally where he ends up E.) I hate to burst your bubble but dealing with the data causes us to reconstruct the Church in ways that have our faith in “what the Church is” being similar to how we reconcile Christmas after deconstructing the literalness of Santa Claus.

While Amy imposes that Church history has been, to Steven Harper, “an illumination to his soul”.  Radio Free Mormon and Bill Reel’s analysis shows it to have been anything but.

In the end it becomes obvious that not only does a Church historian avoid using Church history to resolve concerns, but also that he realizes avoiding Church history is the only way to tackle the difficult questions as to dive into the history is anything but faith promoting.


5 thoughts on “Radio Free Mormon: 49: How To Not Answer Questions On Church History With Steven Harper Part 2”

  1. RFM and Bill Reel are the hottest men in podcasting today! Love, love, love this! Thank you for your time and talents in digging into “the church formerly known as Mormons,” and delivering truth.
    God Bless.

  2. The interviewer’s response to Steven’s Santa Clause analogy tells you all you need to know about the purpose of this video: church history is irrelevant to faith, and is best ignored.

    He gives her this nuanced interpretation of having your assumptions proven wrong, about having to reconstruct your faith after learning things are not what they seemed, and her reaction is:

    “And so with our testimonies then, and with the gospel, we need to just hold firm to those things we know…?”

    This is the opposite of what he said. He basically outlined the only way to preserve any value from Mormonism, which is to reject the truth claims, and to extract the value from the fictional teachings.

  3. Thank you for a brilliant conversation. I’m late to the game here, but Harper set up that Santa/Christmas analogy too perfectly for me to leave it alone. Yes, the magical stories of church history are Santa stories (thanks for the admission), and when Harper says that you don’t throw out Christmas I agree 100%. However, I continue to celebrate Christmas because Christmas doesn’t act like the church does. Post-Santa adults all understand that other adults are not Santa-believers. They get to have fully factual post-Santa conversations and post-Santa parties and everybody gets to do Christmas however they want, without regard for where they are on the Santa thing. Christmas doesn’t sit at the top of an office building, threatening to banish people from Christmas and their families if they talk about Santa being pretend. So, yeah–if you’re going to acknowledge that the magic church history stories are like Santa, you’d better be prepared to also acknowledge that church is not like Christmas.

  4. The problem with the church is this…many people choose to stay active after they discover that the truth claims are false, not realizing how damaging the manipulation tactics the church uses are to their families. Thus leaving their children to try and pick up the pieces of their lives after they discover the church isn’t true. In my case that was SIXTY YEARS! Those precious years can never be brought back, they’re gone forever…

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