Over the last few months, the LDS church has been releasing essays on sensitive historical issues within the church, all of which have caused people to begin questioning and even leave the church in the past. This is essentially the church's way of giving people a reason to stay when they find these issues, which has become a lot more likely with the plethora of information available on the internet. Many Mormons have been and would be shocked to know that some of these topics even need to be addressed, so firmly have the believed and so thoroughly have they been taught the official versions.
The essays include:
Are Mormons Christian?
First Vision Accounts
Book of Mormon Translation
Race and the Priesthood
Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah
Book of Mormon and DNA Studies
Becoming Like God
Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham
There may be a couple more in progress.
It is interesting to not a few things. First, that these are posted on the church's official website, www.lds.org. This means that these have almost certainly at least been reviewed and approved by some of the general authorities, perhaps even Monson, if not contributed to by any general authorities. Second, these have been produced by anonymous scholars.
In some instances, these essays being produced by scholars makes a certain amount of sense. There is history involved, after all, as well as DNA studies and other such things. But in some cases and in some areas of each issue, it would be easy for Monson or even an apostle to declare the matter decided by revelation. For instance, the Book of Abraham issue has a few competing hypotheses, and the correct one could be settled by revelation. And don't Mormons love to quote James 1:5, which says "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." They assert that this means that we can ask God about something that we need knowledge of (as opposed to wisdom) and that God will reveal it. Shouldn't that be even more true when it comes to God's mouthpiece on this earth?
But no. We see scholars writing anonymous essays, often glossing over the issues so that they seem as minor as possible and even giving multiple possibilities for the resolution of those issues. The merit of those possibilities is hardly examined.
The irony of these essays is that they have been causing people to leave the church in droves. It only takes a little thoughtfulness and perhaps some research to see the weakness of the proffered explanations or the contrast with the actual teachings and experiences during Sunday school and General Conference. I saw the greatest reaction, within my own circle of Mormon friends, from the Race and the Priesthood essay, which never actually apologizes for the church's racism and which essentially admits that the prophets who aren't supposed to lead the church astray because they're true prophets actually did lead the church astray for about a century, at least in this matter.
I'll be going over some of these essays in greater detail, but I would encourage anyone reading this--especially Mormons--to take a look at these essays and think very hard about what they're saying and what aspects of the church probably call for closer research in light of the content of the essays.