There are a lot of ways to look at the Church (its history and present-day behavior as an institution) and the Gospel; I want to talk about two. The inspiration for this comes from my reading of the Decisive Treatise of Ibn Rushd (ابن رشد), a Muslim Philosopher who lived in the 12th century AD. In the Latin West, which means throughout Medieval European Christendom, he was known as Averroes. He was born in the same region of Spain as I, Andalusia. Here’s some context:
Not long after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, Muslim intellectuals took up Greek philosophy, particularly Aristotle. The same thing happened in Judaism and Christianity. Unlike those two, conservative Muslim authorities reacted strongly against the use of philosophy, even when used to bolster the teachings of Islam. They were concerned that the sophistication of Greek reason, inclined as it is toward examination, was potentially damaging to the simple faith of everyday Muslims. Averroes felt otherwise.
He observed that some Muslims, actually the majority, benefited by a simple interpretation of the Quran. A much smaller sector, he noted, benefited by buttressing their study of the Quran with philosophy, with all its attendant rigors. He felt it was detrimental to the faith for either type to be forced into the mold of the other. Now, on to Mormonism.
Traditionally, the Church has preferred to control its own historical narrative in such a way as to best, it believed, preserve the faith of the members. With the advent of the Internet, many uncomfortable elements of Mormon history became available to the everyday member. Some members have found these disclosures more difficult to process than others. As stated at the onset – and at the risk of sounding overly simplistic – there are now (at least) two ways to approach the Church and the Gospel.
There are those members who, with varying degrees of success, prefer to maintain the simpler narratives of their youth; others, either happily or desperately, require a more complex approach. Some prefer to view the figures in early Church history as larger than life; others require an explanation for the very human weaknesses they discover. Basically, some prefer John Bytheway, others require Terryl Givens.
Here’s the takeaway: as noted, centuries ago by Averroes, neither approach to the faith is wrong. Each is right insomuch as it yields fruit: “for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ” (Moroni 7:16). Honestly, the more fraught with human weakness it turns out all the early and modern leaders were and are, the more miraculous this all gets.