Mormons opening up in an Internet world

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 31 2012 11:00 p.m. MST

John Dehlin, who runs a podcast that interviews orthodox and somewhat unorthodox Mormons, is also the executive director of the Open Stories Foundation. The foundation conducted a survey that Dehlin said suggests disaffections have trended upward the last three to six years. He admitted there may be sampling issues with the survey. But, like Peterson and Bushman, Dehlin said the number of people contacting him about having doubts has "grown exponentially."

Peterson agrees with the LDS Church's attempts to make its history more accessible through efforts like the Joseph Smith Papers project. "Since I believe the claims of the church to be true," he said, "I think the best policy is to get the story out there."

Peterson said the problem is not so much that there are no answers to historical questions, but that people discover this or that historical fact they had never heard before. They then feel like the church had been hiding the fact and so lose a sense of trust.

Bushman said it is important that people in the church do not reject those who have questions. "That is the problem," Bushman said. "They think nobody in the church thinks about anything. They think they have all this knowledge and all these people around them are ignorant and don't know what they know. You have to tell them to keep studying, keep looking, go to the depths of the problem."

Peterson recommends people take a path similar to what he did back in the 1980s. "My rule is always calm down," he said. "And then wait. Look around. There may already be an answer out there. Just because you don't know about it instantly doesn't mean it's not there."

Email:mdegroote@desnews.com TWITTER: @degroote FACEBOOK: facebook.com/madegroote

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