Question: Who qualifies for the title "Mormon scholar?"

(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)

FairMormon Answers Wiki Table of Contents

Question: Who qualifies for the title "Mormon scholar?"

Critics sometimes designate people who are not practicing Mormons as "Mormon" scholars in order to try and give them more credibility

The author of the critical book One Nation Under Gods states "According to Mormon scholar Allen Roberts, LDS leaders do indeed 'attempt to control depictions of the Mormon past.'" The problem is that Allen Roberts is not a practicing Latter-day Saint, and is in fact a critic of the Church. When this was pointed out to the author, he revised this to read "According to Allen Roberts, a Mormon architectural history scholar, LDS leaders do indeed 'attempt to control depictions of the Mormon past.'"

There are any number of people—the author included—who insist that the LDS Church is biased, wrong, dishonest, and misleading because it won't publish a history that tells every piece of trivia, uncovers every wart, and discloses every negative comment ever uttered about the Church. They refuse to admit that it is reasonable and acceptable for the Church to be selective in what it chooses to publish, and even in how that information is presented.

In the hardback edition of ONUG, the author introduces Allen Roberts as a "Mormon scholar," which is exactly as Roberts was introduced by the Tanners in the reference cited by the author (they said "Mormon scholar Allen Roberts wrote...") Roberts is a published book author, and his publisher, Signature Books, has a secular agenda and clear hostility to the truth claims of the Church.

What is not clear, however, is how the author justifies labeling Roberts a "Mormon scholar." Roberts may have been baptized a member of the Church, but he is non-practicing. He clearly does not share the opinions, faith, or convictions of most "Mormons." "Scholar" he may be, but he is not "Mormon" in the sense implied.

The Tanners' and the author's decision to label him as "Mormon" seems calculated simply to give his opinion more weight.

The author ignores too that every act of telling or writing history is an "attempt to control depictions of the Mormon past." Individuals want their stories told fully, fairly, and with due balance and perspective. Institutions and groups—such as members of the Church—feel likewise.

Given the many historical distortions which the author has visited on the Church in an effort to alienate members or potential members from the Gospel it preaches, one can understand the power in historical narratives and the desire of all involved—member and non-member, critic or partisan—to exert control in the telling of the story.

The question to ask is not, "Is the story being controlled?" because it always is. The question should be, "Is the story being told fairly, fully, and without malice?"