30 years ago today - Feb 11, 1990-Sunday

[Leonard Arrington]

... next to the last page of the book [David S. Hoopes and Ray Hoopes, The Making of a Mormon Apostle: The Story of Rudger Clawson] are some comments on Mormonism. Here is one: "Mormonism as a belief system does not foster the questioning mind. In most of the world's religions, there is a realm of mysticism or avenues of thought where religious beliefs can be adapted to individual needs. Mormonism has few if any such avenues."

This has not been my experience. I would say that my spirit of questioning arose from my Mormonism. Questions in Sunday School, in MIA [Mutual Improvement Association], in Priesthood quorums. Far more questioning than in school, where we were supposed to accept what the teacher said. And I have possessed a questioning spirit all my life and have never found it to conflict with my Mormonism. On the contrary, it led to my writing books and articles that, if they did not betray a questioning spirit, at least were the result of the pursuit of facts and meaning. The very first book I read on Mormon history, when I was 15, was Joseph Smith, An American Prophet, by John Henry Evans, which was given to me as a birthday present by Bertha Mae Thurgood Hansen, a neighbor. The book portrays Joseph Smith as a person with an open mind, a questioning mind, a person in pursuit of education and knowledge. I accepted this as representing the spirit of Mormonism, and still hold to it. This is the way I have always looked at Joseph Smith in a favorable light and still do. The authors of the biography of Clawson then go on to quote [paraphrase] J. Reuben Clark that religious faith cannot be rationalized. Well, I have come to the entirely opposite conclusion. Not only can religious faith be rationalized, but it ought to be; every attempt should be made to rationalize it. It can be, without damage to the faith, and it ought to be to keep one's faith from degenerating into fanaticism, mental unbalance, incoherence, and unsoundness. Well, that's my testimony for the day. I react against those who see Mormonism as discouraging thought, reason, and intellectuality. I don't see it that way, although there are certainly some Mormons-those of little faith from my point of view-who join in that. Most of them, I think, are in the College of Religious Studies at BYU, though even most of them are not in the anti-intellectual camp.

[Confessions of a Mormon historian : the diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 1971-1997, Gary James Bergera, editor, Signature Books, 2018]

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