Progress on my “Top 10 Tough Issues in Mormon History” Site

John Dehlin Mormon Stories 21 Comments

Hey,

For an HTML class I’m taking for my masters at USU, I’ve been creating a web site dedicated to laying out the “facts” surrounding 10 of the top issues that cause some people to struggle within Mormonism and Mormon History.

You can check out the site here: http://mormonstories.wpengine.com/top10toughissues

I very much welcome your feedback….for both tone and accuracy. As mentioned on the home page, my design specs for this site are:

For each topic, we will in no way attempt to cover the material comprehensively. Instead, these topics will be VERY BRIEF. Our intent will be to do the following:

  1. Provide a very brief overview of each issue, based on primary sources and church publications wherever possible.
  2. A “Just the facts” approach will be taken wherever possible.
  3. We will provide support for each topic with good links to more comprehensive information.
  4. We will try to provide a balanced view from multiple sides (where possible). And finally,
  5. We take it as a premise that God has inspired, and continues to inspire the LDS church, and its leaders–though not necessarily exclusively.

What we will not try to do in this course:

  1. We do not seek to criticize the church, or its leadership. While we may lay out some facts that are hard to understand, we in no way desire to sit in the judgment seat.
  2. We do not seek to apologize for the church, or attempt to justify the past. Instead, we seek to inform those that are interested, to increase basic awareness of the facts surrounding these tough issues, mostly so that they can be informed when trying to support others who have struggled w/ the LDS faith.

I look forward to your thoughts/feedback.

John

Comments 21

  1. “Supported 100% by LDS Church-Friendly Sources”

    I would try to reword this. As it stands, some viewers might mistake this for an implied claim that the website is church-supported. I’m not sure what to suggest instead, but I am sure that you can find a better wording.

    Good luck with the project; it looks fun and useful!

  2. Cool project. I counted only nine issues. If you’re still looking for a 10th one, consider “Science vs. Mormonism.” I realize that archeology- and DNA-related issues could fall under the “Book of Mormon” tab and astronomy-related issue under the “Book of Abraham” tab, but they could also be grouped under a single “Science” section to capture universe-creation, evolution, and other issues that can raise scientists’ eye-brows.

  3. Gunner,

    What happened? Are you saying there was a technical glitch? Each of the 3 topics should have their own survey. At the end each survey, it should bring you back to the original topic page.

    Let me know details if you can.

    John

  4. I think that Gunner is, as I was at first, confused by the links that don’t work, below the blacks and the priesthood stuff. Maybe there should be something on the opening page warning that it isn’t finished yet.
    Is the doctrine of adoption really an issue nowadays? I doubt that many people have heard of it. (However, it appears that my ggggrandfather and mother were sealed to BY and his wife Zina, so I guess that makes me BY’s gggggranddaughter? ) Seems to me that DNA and the BofM are a much bigger issue.

  5. John, great work as usual. My one suggestion is that the surveys maybe are a little too black and white. For example, to me, the question of whether or not members should know the info is not just “yes” or “no,” because I really think it has everything to do with individual members’ interest in the topics and their own places in their faith. As a member who knows about those issues, sure, I can say that all members should know because it has made me a more educated (and faithful I might add) member. But since I haven’t found them to be faith-damaging, I can’t really say they are essential for faith-promoting. At any rate, the pages themselves are great and I look forward for the other links to work. Thanks!

  6. Re the blacks and the priesthood timeline, I would recommend the addition of several key data points, including the 1949 First Presidency statement and Brigham Young’s 1852 statement: “Any man having one drop of the seed of [Cain] … in him cannot hold the priesthood and if no other Prophet ever spake it before I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ I know it is true and others know it.”

  7. Let me second Derrick’s remarks; if you want the responses from the surveys to be valid social measurement, you need to allow more gradations of measurement. Actually, let me give my quick, survey-guy critique.

    On each survey, you ask:

    “Do you believe this information?”

    This question is ambiguous enough that some respondents won’t be sure which information you have in mind. Are you referring to the information from the previous question, or all the information from the web page you created? Or what? You’ve got to replace “this information” with a specific statement relevant to each page.

    Additionally, popular opinion notwithstanding, belief isn’t a binary state; people don’t generally either believe or disbelieve. Rather, they hold a belief (or disbelief) with a certain degree of confidence. It’s a lot better to try to measure the degree of confidence than to force people to make a 100%-certain yes/no kind of statement. Try something like:

    “What is your response to the statement that Joseph Smith was involved in New England folk magic before he became a prophet? Are you very confident that this is true, somewhat confident that this is true, unsure, somewhat confident that this is not true, or very confident that this is not true?”

    The next question, “Do you think members should know this information?”, suffers from similar problems. After replacing “this information” with something more informative, I’d recommend switching to a four- or five-point scale of “how important” it is for members to know this information. I’d also recommend an open-ended follow-up question about why this is important or not important.

    “Do you think investigators should know this information before joining the church?” Again, fix “this information.” Here, I’d suggest a shift toward a multi-category scale of “how much” investigators ought to know before joining the church. Categories: “nothing, they should be told that the issue exists but be given no details, they should be briefly introduced to the issue, or they should be educated about all the details.”

    Okay, all done.

  8. Thanks, all…and thanks RT. Great insight and feedback.

    The surveys were actually implemented to fulfill the “CGI Script” portion of the assignment…where I had to make a call to a server-side script to handle the data in the form. So I threw together some questions…..and I totally agree they are inadequate.

    I may just remove them until I can improve them…but I will say that the answers thus far have been interesting and enjoyable…. (“36 years as a member….didn’t know tihs or that”-type stuff).

    Anyway, thanks again….I appreciate so much the time and interest.

    John

  9. Went back and looked at the information again and I want to say thanks John. You address information in an honest way and you are also not afraid to touch on subjects others flee from.

    I cannot wait until the rest of the subjects are complete.

    I thought subjects only opened after the one before was completed. Did not take note that only up to Blacks and the priesthood was done. Do’h!

  10. I like to think things over quite a bit before making any comments. I think one reason I hesitate is because I’m afraid that I might be misunderstood or that my words might be twisted and used to tear down instead of lift up. I have known Mormons who felt betrayed by their church when it was pointed out to them that “The church isn’t true because of all of these historical issues” and my heart is pained when this happens. Kudos to John for presenting these in a non biased, non threatening way for people to digest on their own time frame. We are all at different stages of being educated both temporally and spiritually. Historical facts are written and interpreted imperfectly. Does this give us an excuse to disregard them completely? No, but my kids can probably come up with a list that would go something like this “Top ten reasons my parents don’t love me”;)

  11. 1. In attempting to be brief, aren’t you by necessity editorializing? I think it is a fallacy to suggest that one can present “just the facts” because the very act of choosing which facts to include introduces bias, especially when the goal is to be concise.
    2. I wouldn’t link to the Wikipedia if you are claiming you have “good links to more comprehensive information” because it completely depends on the moment someone accesses the information there. If an article has just been vandalized, you are sending readers to a very unreliable source.
    3. I agree with the first comment about changing the “100%” claim. This is a hollow appeal to authority.

  12. I don’t see why you need to provide links to Anti-websites, those are easy enough to find and I don’t think you need to give them a helping hand, especially if this is designed to ‘help’ members.

  13. Dear Anon. It is that mentality that hides these subjects and creates the oppurtunity for the hurt that occurs when they stumble upon them.

    He said in item 4 “We will try to provide a balanced view from multiple sides (where possible).”. Balanced means just that.

  14. The thesis for your Top 10 list is a bit incoherent. The title suggests that mormon history is difficult to understand, perhaps because of a lack in historical records. What is meant by “facts that are hard to understand”? Furthermore, a distinction between “mormonism”, which is largely a cultural phenomenon, and fundamental beliefs would be helpful. For example, is the “tough issue” regarding peep stones factual (what are they? when were they used? why were they used? how do they work?) or is it doctrinal (what is revelation? how is it that such an object can be a source of revelation? why doesn’t everyone have a peep stone?). Finally, claiming the church leadership as “hands-off” prevents objectivity. Afterall, the leadership got the church to where it is today and has provided both doctrinal content and historical context since the outset.

  15. I like you catagory list, though I either failed to see or didn’t see a catagory for or about ‘Women’s’ issues or anything pertaining to them other than uggh ‘polygamy’. Some feel a feminist element missing from the ‘church’ is its greatest downfall.

  16. Great concept and great facts so far. I suggest having a cite to the particular source after each fact, like you do for the quote from David Whitmer’s book. And I mean that for the facts in which you don’t already have the hypertext link. I myself am wary when someone “throws something out there” with no citation or support. If you need a little help, I would happy to help out with some research or whatever. Again, great idea and good site. Sticking to the facts and letting the reader draw their own conclusion is rare in these kinds of discussions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.