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Mormon leaders spread word about controversial essays

First Published      Last Updated Oct 21 2014 05:06 pm

For about a year, the LDS Church has been posting on its website carefully worded, scholarly essays about touchy topics from the faith's history and theology.

Did Mormons really abandon polygamy in 1890? Did Brigham Young order the Mountain Meadows Massacre? Do Latter-day Saints believe a man can become like God? How did the church's ban on black men holding the priesthood come to be?

While many have lauded the essays' even-handedness, some have complained about how few Mormons seem to know about them.

The articles simply appeared on the church's site under the heading "Gospel Topics," with no news releases and no fanfare. Many of them were reported in The Salt Lake Tribune and other news outlets, but they were not read over the pulpit in Mormon congregations, nor mentioned in the faith's semiannual General Conferences.

Now the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints is at least making its male leaders aware of the essays.

A memo dated Sept. 9 from the church's "Priesthood Department" to "General Authorities; Area Seventies; Stake, Mission, and District Presidents; Bishops and Branch Presidents" explains the purpose of — and audience for — the controversial articles.

"The purpose of the Gospel Topics section is to provide accurate and transparent information on church history and doctrine within the framework of faith," the memo said. "When church members have questions regarding [LDS] history and doctrine,

possibly arising when detractors spread misinformation and doubt, you may want to direct their attention to these resources."

The memo adds that these leaders also should emphasize that "prayer, regular study of the scriptures and the teachings of the living prophets, the exercise of faith, and humility are fundamental to receiving inspired answers to sincere questions."

It doesn't, however, suggest reading any or all of the essays from the pulpit or using them in Mormon services or classes.

Peggy Fletcher Stack