Monday, November 17, 2008

Preparing to meet the Church's historian, Marlin K. Jensen

About a week ago, my grandfather, who lives just a few miles away from me called me to tell me that he had procured me an interview with the church's historian, Marlin K. Jensen. Over the following days, I have been wondering how does one prepare to meet with such a person. Until just moments ago, I had planned to simply show up with some of the issues that have been weighing on my intellectual honesty.

I have been calling his office the last couple of days, but I have had the misfortune of missing his secretary, and his secretary hasn't returned my calls.

After today's call, I decided to learn more about Mr. Jensen. What would our conversation be about? Who would I be talking to? Would this man's demeanor be one of righteous irrationality (as I too often find), or would I find my conversation to be a delightful discussion with a man who has studied the church history from an objective point of view?

Would I find a man who had compartmentalized the church's inconsistencies into his back dark closet of items best forgotten and relies on the spirit to keep the door shut, or will I find a man who has been willing to take the risky steps necessary on the path to personal intellectual honesty and individual resolution?

I'm not sure which I would find. Since my visit with him will be so short, I decided it might be useful to 'google' Mr. Jensen to discover something about him that I could understand and gauge my reluctance and interest in him, and learn something about which he might be able to tell me.

My google search returned quite a few hits on him. I found an interview with him done by the PBS documentary called the Mormons, and read it.

I think I may have found a man that may speak on my level. I contrasted his speech with that of other Church historians and apologists such as Hugh Nibley. I could never quite understand the arguments Mr. Nibley would make. Mr. Jensen on the other hand, had some similarities to me. He seemed to question several questionable aspects of church history. Luckily for him, he confronted those aspects early on in his life, rather than pushing them to the back of his conciousness as I did. In some ways, I am jealous of this. I so wish that I could have done that and I could have spared the hurt and personal spritual conflict that I have brought to my own family.

While reading his interview, I considered a few questions that I may want to ask him:

In your PBS interview, you mention that Joseph smith kept a daily accounting of his life since his 20th birthday on, and that the Joseph Smith Papers Project contain that. Will those papers be uncensored? Will those papers talk about his reasoning for taking the wife of another for his own wife?

The Church has taken on Proposition 8 with quite a fury, asking members of the church to use their means and time to promote it. In the church's polygamous history, the church promoted an unconventional type of marriage and attempted to redefine marriage as a union between a man and several women. According to Richard Lyman Bushman, Joseph Smith himself even took to wife 10 of the spouses of other married men (including my great, great, grandmother).

The Gay community strives to redefine marriage as a union between individuals of the same sex.

The similarities are great. The church desires to restrict another group from a similar right they were denied in the church's infancy. In that respect, at least they want the government to be consistent.

But, since the church believes that the state should permit them freedom of religion, and that the state should permit it with others as well, why does the church feel so strongly that it should block another group's fervent desire, if not religious desire, to redefine marriage in a way that will allow them equal social citizenship?

2 comments:

swearingelder said...

Did you ever meet with E. Jensen? I'd love to hear more about what happened!

Brent said...

As it turns out, My interview with him is scheduled for later on this month. I'll post on how it went.