“There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful.”1
Boyd K Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
As a faithful Mormon girl, I was warned to never read literature concerning the Mormon church that had not been approved by the Church. The leaders taught us that Satan was looking to lead faithful Mormons astray. To maintain the faith, I needed to stay in the warm, cozy confines of Church-sanctioned truth. And I believed the warnings. Straying outside the confines of Church literature never even occurred to me. I didn’t leave the Church because I read “anti”-Mormon literature. I left because the attitudes within the Church didn’t feel right and I had a hunch that there was a wider world waiting for me outside the confines of a rigid belief system.
I only learned about the dirty secrets of Mormon history after leaving. I was in my mid-twenties when I learned about Joseph Smith’s 33 wives, a truth that directly contradicted the myth of Joseph and Emma’s love story.2 I am still learning about the many permutations of the First Vision, which is a “not-very-useful truth” that casts an unforgiving light on the true origins of Mormonism.3 As a person who was trained in genetics, I am painfully aware of the fact that there is no proof that the civilizations described in the Book of Mormon ever existed.4 The list of “not-very-useful truths” about the Mormon Church is a mile long. And the majority of these facts are unbeknownst to my family. To mention these truths to my family would expose me to anger and the accusation of being “anti”-Mormon. True or not, even the slightest hint of criticism would be an affront to my family and their religion.
When I learned these truths, I felt betrayed by the church I had grown up in. Learning the truth strengthened my conviction that I had made the right choice in leaving. But I learned these truths only after leaving; why then should these issues matter so much to me?
The reason I care so much about the “not-very-useful” truths is because the actions of Mormon authorities --- to bury the past in secrecy --- infantilizes members. I was raised to place blind faith in authorities; now I know these authorities to be dishonest. The tendency to place blind trust in authorities is a trait that has lingered even past my break with the Church. As people, we deserve the right to question the actions of authorities. We deserve the right to question if authorities are acting in our best interest. However, the Mormon church forbids dissension of any sort; criticism of church authorities is a very serious matter and can lead to excommunication.