Oh say, what is truth? The hymn claims it is the fairest gem the world can produce, an eternal and priceless treasure, the greatest prize to which mortals or Gods can aspire.
And yet not all truths are deemed appropriate to share.
One sort of truth that is not shared are truths which would endanger those we wish to protect. For example, true details related to communications and transportation of a head of state are typically not shared, to protect the person of the head of state.
Another sort of truth that is not shared are truths that would harm the consumer of the truth. For example, John Taylor did not share the truth that the protein-rich mash which so many pioneers ate to survive the winter of 1847/8 was derived from mashed crickets.
A third sort of truth that is not shared is unseemly and unnecessary detail. For example, it wasn’t really necessary for the child-me to tell my mother’s visiting teachers that my sibling had pin worms, given that this was not a detail my mother had chosen to share.
We live in a world where the Church has often deemed it appropriate to omit mention of select facts in lessons and visual media. Beyond the Church itself, those catering to either believers and those catering to traditions significantly opposed to the “Utah” Church curate their content to suit what they feel is appropriate for their respective audiences.
Joseph’s name too often is “had for… evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it [is]… evil spoken of among all people” (JS—H 1:33). In our internet-informed world, that often challenges believers who treasure the beauty of the restoration yet harbor significant concerns regarding Joseph Smith, himself.
I assert these concerns arise, in part, because people are ignorant of key events during Joseph’s lifetime. Shorn of true details, they are unable to shield their hearts from the fiery darts of defamation that are hurled at the founding prophet of the gospel restoration and those who proclaim this restoration. Those who oppose the “Utah” Church similarly are able to protect their audiences from mitigating facts that would reasonably lead to a shared basis from which increased understanding could grow.
If I am right, the true details are terribly messy, involving an uncomfortable number of troublesome errors by those who subsequently repented. Though Adam, Alma, and Paul stand as examples of the repentant whose forsaken wrongs are known, children of the restoration are not used to seeing their forebears through anything other than rose-tinged glasses. Critics of Joseph Smith are not used to seeing restoration figures as anything other than fundamentally flawed.
Aside from M*, neither gatekeepers who cherish the restoration nor those who criticize the restoration have seen fit to allow my research to disrupt the way they choose to portray the world to their audiences. 1
Paul wrote to the Corinthians that “now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Cor 13:12) I look forward to that day of which Paul wrote, a day when we will know the truth in full, a truth that, though complex, is precious and eternal.
And in that future day, I pray that all will have had a chance to revive themselves with living water, with all the fiery darts removed and extinguished. In that future day I have faith that loving knowledge will be far more powerful than hateful ignorance.
For now, I will attempt to balance between truth and propriety as I attempt to provide life-saving water in a desert of painful thirst.
- As one might infer, today I heard from yet another organization that they have decided to avoid discussing my views. ↩