Kirjallisuus > Mormonihierarkia: Vallan lähteet

Miten mormoni arvostelee historiantutkijaa

Sci-fi-kirjailija Orson Scott Card mollaa historioitsija D. Michael Quinnin 1994 ilmestyneen kirjan The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power. Arvosteluteksti on väliin melko tyypillistä mormoniapologiaa, minkä vuoksi olen laittanutkin sen esille kirjan yhteyteen. Jotkut Cardin sanonnat ovat todella puistattavia, ihmisen vapautta polkevia ja historioitsijan normaalia velvollisuutta vastaan kohdistettuja törkeyksiä.

At first this book seemed to be serious and respectable history, and I had high hopes for it. True, Quinn was excommunicated a while back amid a flurry of accusations in the press which the hierarchy of the Church were unable to answer without breaching ecclesiastical confidentiality. But he had always been a historian of talent and integrity, whose work was marred in recent years only by a tendency to go farther than mere weighing of evidence or even reasonable interpretation would allow, until, in a most unhistorianlike way, he ended up lecturing the Church leadership on how they ought to govern the Church. Still, in his previous work it has been possible to read with a grain of salt, and extract much of value from his genuine historical research.
    So it seemed it would be in The Mormon Hierarchy. The first two chapters, on the development of authority and of the first five presiding quorums, were fascinating, and Quinn seemed to be bending over backward not to offend Latter-day Saints. He spoke of all visions and revelations as facts, without questioning their reality, probably not because he believed them, but because he wished not to allow a discussion of their truth-value to distract from the subject at hand. Or perhaps his purpose was to appeal to the LDS reader as an insider, appearing as even-handed as possible.
    He raises many valid issues in those first two chapters, and if I were to write a review of the book based only on those, I would recommend it highly, for in those chapters a real historian is at work. The only annoyance is that Quinn can't stop harping on Joseph Smith's habit of revising earlier revelations. To me, it seems perfectly logical that instead of leaving older revelations intact and publishing new ones that contradicted them, Joseph Smith, upon receiving further light and knowledge, simply revised the previous revelation to coincide with his later understanding. He was dealing with converts from the Protestant tradition, for whom scripture was the immutable word of God instead of incremental guidance; publishing revised rather than contradictory revelations would cause far less confusion.
    For Quinn, however, revising historical documents seems to be the cardinal sin -- he can't seem to stop belaboring the point. Just as reporters regard "cover-ups" as the worst sin by politicians (as if reporters don't themselves cover up constantly, when they think the ends justify the means!), so also historians are innately hostile to anyone who tries to alter the historical record. But the Church hierarchy has always used history exactly as the Book of Mormon uses it: As a device for creating community and teaching true principles. (Historians invariably do the same thing, only with greater subtlety or self-deception, for the community they bend the truth to serve is the community of historians rather than the community whose history they write -- but that's another essay.)
    With the third chapter of this shorter-than-it-seems book (the text runs only to page 263; the remaining 423 pages are pictures, notes, appendices, and so on), Quinn reveals his true colors. Working with the same evidence that other respectable historians have found ambiguous at best, Quinn reaches the definite conclusion that Joseph Smith originated and sanctioned the worst of the Danite violence in Missouri and that because of Danite violence Mormons pretty much deserved the persecution they got; the conclusion, never stated in so many words, is that Joseph Smith was the ultimate cause of the suffering of the Saints. Quinn reaches these conclusions by his consistent practice of discounting all testimony by loyal members of the Church hierarchy, including Joseph Smith himself, while giving great weight to the testimony of all dissident insiders, no matter how self-serving or self-justifying their testimony might be. What very quickly emerges is the spectacle of a historian writing a history of a group (the Church's governing hierarchy) in which he prefers the testimony of those who rejected or were rejected by that group to the testimony of those who remained loyal to it.
    In the next chapters, "The Kingdom of God in Nauvoo, Illinois," and "The 1844 Succession Crisis and the Twelve," Quinn moves from embarrassing partiality to open malice. In his view Joseph Smith was in fact guilty of treason, and Quinn treats as fact the idea that after the Prophet's martyrdom, Church leaders ordered and rewarded the murder and mutilation of dissidents. Never mind that respectable historians inside and outside the Church have been aware of all such claims and did not take them seriously (if there really had been such a mutilated corpse as one of Quinn's sources described, it would certainly have been used to inflame the mob and bring down armies upon Nauvoo; only its non-existence explains the Church's enemies' failure to so use it). Quinn's readers will hear his voice making such accusations without a shred of doubt; the historian who weighs the evidence before our eyes, so visible in the first two chapters, is gone now, and in his place is a propagandist.
    A propagandist, but for what cause? It's not hard to see. It seems clear to me that Quinn is trying to paint himself and his fellow "dissident" excommunicants as Mormon Salman Rushdies. Of course he has to believe (or at least claim) that the Mormon hierarchy kills its enemies, that he really did something very brave by standing against the Church leaders and daring to speak the truth. Never mind that throughout his entire confrontation with the Church the whole truth was the one thing he did not include in his public utterances, which he could do with impunity because the Church leaders were bound to maintain silence about anything they knew of him through their ecclesiastical offices. In fact, in my opinion Quinn's own behavior is such a perfect example of the self-serving deceptiveness of dissidents that he himself becomes the best evidence that we should give little credence to the testimonies of dissidents in Joseph Smith's time. Quinn accused Elder Packer, for instance, of actions which Quinn had not seen, treating his own suspicions and guesses as if they were known facts. And Quinn knows exactly how much information about his own behavior he has withheld from public discussion in order to enhance his credibility among the Saints. If he were truly an impartial historian, he would have realized that the dissidents of that era were equally as forthright.
    It is very important for Quinn, perhaps personally but certainly as a public figure who hopes to have influence over the Church or the way the world views the Church, to maintain the pose of the impartial historian above the fray. If Quinn were in fact that impartial historian, he would never have run afoul of the Church; instead, in his apparent resentment of the Brethren's failure to comply with his vision of what the Church should be, Quinn has long since sacrificed his history and replaced it with polemic. The Mormon Hierarchy proves this to be a deliberate rather than an unconscious choice, for rhetorically Quinn works very hard to conceal his private agenda and maintain the illusion that there is still a historian rather than a polemicist involved in the writing of his book.
    Well, he has had his say, and his book will do its harm. I look forward with anticipatory weariness to the endless uses anti-Mormons will make of it. For Quinn has written as the Tanners would write if only they were clever, and anti-Mormons will seize upon his accusations as if they were proven fact instead of self-serving propaganda. All suspicions become proofs in Quinn's view, and all rumors, reality. Thus even as Quinn claims to be a martyr for the truth, he releases his last grasp upon it and slides away into Cloud Cuckoo Land. And his publisher, Signature Books, retains its new-won title as the leading anti-Mormon press.
    Yet those first two chapters remain to remind us of what Quinn, and this book, might have been.

-- Orson Scott Card

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 2000-06-11 — 2004-05-24