Laura Harris Hales begins her new book, A Reason for Faith: Navigating LDS Doctrine and Church History, with a story about her first boating experience. Although anchored to the dock, the boat was filling with water (with her and her children inside). Panic-stricken, baling out water with a Frisbee, she watched her host jump into the water and replace the bilge plug. The problem was solved easily, because her friend was armed with the exact knowledge needed to keep the boat from sinking.
It seems like we hear about anchors every few months in the Church. Talks and lessons are oriented toward teaching the saving principles of the gospel in such a way that most of the membership – as varied as it is – will have anchors in place for fastening their testimonies.
In Sunday School, Relief Society, and other classes, we teach anchoring principles over and over (and over). There is not time, nor is there the ability for leaders and teachers in the Church to cover every historical event or nuance in the teachings of past prophets. Yet, these are the things that are startling some members of the Church.
Because they have learned church history and doctrine basically, the details and nuances surprise them; they don’t fit into the neat history or doctrinal framework upon which they built their faith.
A Mother without Answers
Laura Hales is a free-lance copy editor and author with a BA in International Relations and an MA in Professional Writing. With her husband, Brian Hales, she co-authored Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: Toward a Better Understanding. She maintains the website, JosephSmithsPolygamy.org. She continues to be involved in scholarly research and writing, but that’s not why she has edited this book.
Hales is the mother of five avidly questioning children. As she realized she didn’t have the resources she needed to keep them from sinking, she began to equip herself by making scholarly information accessible and teaching it to them in the home.
Most LDS parents are not scholars. Certainly, most, even if they are so inclined, do not have the time to digest scholarly material and translate it for their kids. It’s hard enough to have a lesson, activity, and treat every Monday night.
Hales’ book can provide parents of questioning children, teens, and young adults with knowledge that can reach them. This is a basic primer of knowledge to answer troubling questions.
Hales has accomplished this by approaching top LDS scholars and asking them to summarize and synthesize their knowledge for a non-scholarly audience – their LDS children and neighbors. Unsurprisingly, they quickly saw the need and were anxious to fill it.
The collected knowledge in this book, combined with contemplation and sincere prayer can help any LDS seeker through periods of doubt. It can also become a springboard for lifelong study, of gaining MORE knowledge and engaging in MORE contemplation and prayer.
These are the subjects covered in Laura Hales’ book, and the scholars treating them:
- Joseph Smith and Money Digging – Richard Lyman Bushman
- Remembering the First Vision – Steven C. Harper
- Translating the Book of Mormon – Brant A. Gardner
- Anachronisms in the Book of Mormon – Brant A. Gardner
- Testimonies of the Book of Mormon Witnesses – Alexander L. Baugh
- The Restoration of the Priesthood – Ronald O. Barney
- Isaiah in the Book of Mormon – Kent P. Jackson
- The Explanation-Defying Book of Abraham – Kerry Muhlestein
- Joseph Smith and the Kinderhook Plates – Don Bradley and Mark Ashurst-McGee
- The Practice of Polygamy – Brian C. Hales and Laura Harris Hales
- Joseph Smith’s Practice of Plural Marriage – Brian C. Hales
- Freemasonry and the LDS Temple Endowment – Steven C. Harper
- Race, the Priesthood, and Temples – W. Paul Reeve
- Finding Lehi in America through DNA Analysis – Ugo A. Perego
- LDS Women in the 21st Century – Neylan McBaine
- Homosexuality and the Gospel – Ty Mansfield
- Science and Religion: Friends or Foes? – David H. Bailey
Praise for A Reason for Faith:
[This] is a great book with great answers, and should be in every home with children, in the library of every LDS instructor, and in the hands of anyone who has serious questions about certain issues of the LDS Church. While it does not cover all issues, it covers major ones that keep cropping up, and will give you the feeling that if these big issues have decent answers, perhaps there are answers for most other issues, and a reason for faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. ~ Gerald Smith
This A-Team of scholars (Richard Bushman, Kerry Muhlestein, Steven Harper, Ugo Perego, W. Paul Reeve, and others) utilize some of the best, most cutting-edge research to combat much of the misinformation and misunderstanding on these topics (e.g. accounts of the First Vision, plural marriage, Book of Abraham, etc.). If you or someone you know have questions about controversial aspects of Mormon history or doctrine, and want a quick overview of the issues with suggested further readings for deeper study, I’d strongly recommend this book. ~Stephen Smoot