Jennifer Ann Mackley has children, and admits, “they don’t ask me questions… They go to Google.”
Getting your gospel education via the internet is risky, particularly when it comes to those matters we hold most sacred, the matters least likely to be accurately described by the faithful in tweets and Wikipedia articles.
Mackley speaks of the account where Wilford Woodruff saw the founding fathers of the United States in the St. George temple and was impressed that their temple work needed to be performed. Taken out of context, non-Mormons see this as a story of how Mormons are making dead people into Mormons.
But of course, that is not what Mormons believe. We believe that everybody should be given the opportunity to choose, and Wilford Woodruff had come to the point where he said, “I have been so focused on my own family that I didn’t even think about expanding this.”
Mackley feels that if we don’t talk to our kids about the context of our history and revelations, then these revelations and history will seem odd and strange to our children and form a core of disbelief.
Mackley was surprised when she was doing research out of her own curiosity that there wasn’t a book out there that put the development of temple doctrine all in one place, so that members could see the continuity. As she got further into her studies, she realized Wilford Woodruff’s life experiences spanned the bulk of the development of modern temple doctrine. Mackley’s Wilford Woodruff’s Witness: The Development of Temple Doctrine was published in 2014.
Mackley explains that as the Saints learned about the New and Everlasting Covenant and the temple, “It was like a puzzle: they were given pieces. Now we have the box with the picture on it; we know what we’re putting together. They had no idea.”
Deprecated practices such as rebaptism or priesthood adoption may confuse modern students of Mormonism. Mackley doesn’t see these practices as necessarily trial and error, but rather as evidence of increased learning.
Mackley strongly believes that members need to prepare spiritually to attend the temple but also need to prepare intellectually by doing some research.