On August 22 of this year, we posted a talk that my bishop here in Medford, Oregon gave the previous Sunday. It has been one of our most viewed posts. People loved it. If you haven’t read the talk, click here. The discussion that followed seemed to surround the idea of what some have called “inoculation”. That is we, as a church, should be open and discuss the difficult areas of our church history openly and at church with the youth. By doing so, we could “inoculate” the youth to these problematic issues that often drive people out of the church later in life. Due to the debate, I approached several of my friends about them writing a post regarding their hesitancy with the ideas of “inoculation”. Only one of my friends was willing to post his ideas. I hope you enjoy Jeff Barber’s thoughts. We are always excited when we have a guest blogger so don’t scare him off by being big jerks.
The Complicated Issue of Inoculation
Mike asked me to comment on the idea of “inoculation” from a different prospective than has been discussed in the past on this blog. First let me qualify that I am not a blogger or debater. I don’t know how and find the whole thing quite intimidating but I wanted to provide something for Mike.
Here are my thoughts on “inoculation” on the “sticky” issues that arise:
1. There needs to be a level of spiritual maturity in order to process the massive loads of opinion and conjecture on these issues. I know adults who had not developed mature rational deduction and thinking skills let alone a comfort in their own beliefs who lost all faith in reading Bushman’s “Rough Stone Rolling” which was not meant to shake members. There is truth in the idea that feeding a baby meat is not healthy until they have grown sufficiently from milk.
2. I agree that our youth should have the opportunity to ask hard questions and get reasonable answers to those questions or at least some insight on how to find answers to their questions from safe sources that are not out to lead them astray. It is more important now than when we were young because back then these, for lack of a better term, “anti-groups” or disenfranchised groups were isolated as was their message. Now they have a forum for their voice with the internet, so exposure is imminent.
3. Where I disagree with some is where this “inoculation” is to take place. 1st – The home is the primary place for all gospel teaching. 2nd we are a church of order. We have prophets and apostles who’s duty it is to keep the Lord’s church in order. They are responsible for instituting what is to be taught at church. If we had every well-meaning person who had an interest in “inoculating” others teaching their ideas it would be chaos. I was at a meeting a little over a month ago with an apostle who said the “brethren” understand this need and we will see some changes in the curriculum possibly as early as next year. So I think it is being addressed by the people it should be addressed. That being said I believe I have a personal duty to study pray and receive inspiration for myself and my family. To encourage my kids to ask questions and to help them to find answers or at least a level of security while they “wait on the Lord” for further understanding.
4. I think the “inoculation” issues are pretty well known and accepted by most knowledgeable Latter-day Saints. Most are just patiently and humbly waiting for the leaders of the church to address it in the proper manner. There is a published account of Brother Bushman’s feelings on this very matter and they provide the impetus for writing his book. It appears that Daniel Peterson coined the phrase “inoculation” when referring to this very subject idea in his review of Rough Stone Rolling. When this question was brought up in the aforementioned meeting with the apostle there wasn’t a single disagreement with the idea but again it is not our place to write the agenda or teaching manual for the church.
5. We need to make sure we are not more excited about revealing the “sticky” items than we are about helping to find helpful answers or understanding.
6. One of the problems with focusing only on rational thought and not developing a spiritual conversion is rational thought always changes and will leave the student tossed to and fro with ever-changing beliefs and understandings.
Philosopher and Theologian Keith Ward said, “… a choice between fundamentally different worldviews cannot be based on evidence for determining what is going to count as evidence and how evidence is going to be interpreted.” Asserting absolute naturalism is the sine qua non of genuine historiography seems little more than an attempt to gain an advantage for secular worldview by definitional fiat. (article by Daniel Peterson FARMS)
There is such strength and peace in a conversion brought about by a communication through the Holy Ghost with your maker. It doesn’t do away with rational thought but it puts it in its proper place as a tool not as a converter. When things can’t be rationally explained at the moment a person with a spiritual conversion can be ok with that and move on while those without it get stuck, upset or even give up.
7. There were plenty of issues with the Old Testament during Christ’s time – especially the misinterpretation of doctrine. We do find a few incidents where Christ would correct the “learned” but he didn’t seem to dwell on it. You don’t see him going back and forth over and over again trying to prove his point or point out all of the historical inaccuracies. He spent most of his time on teaching the new word and preparing for the atonement “the pearl” and left the scholars to debate the “box”.