But he argued that once members of the church have been exposed to Level B, their best hope is to press on to the richer but more complicated version of history (or to the more realistic view of humanity) that is to be found on Level C. Very importantly, he contended (and I agree) that Level C — what I call the "synthesis" — turns out to be essentially, and profoundly, like Level A. The gospel is, in fact, true. Church leaders at all levels have, overwhelmingly, been good and sincere people, doing the best that they can with imperfect human materials (including themselves) under often very difficult circumstances.
But charity and context are all-important. Life would be much easier if we could find a church composed of perfect leaders and flawless members. Unfortunately, at least in my case, the glaringly obvious problem is that such a church would never admit me to membership.
The claims of the Restoration do, in fact, stand up to historical examination, although (very likely by divine design) their truth is neither so blazingly obvious nor so indisputable as to compel acceptance — least of all from people disinclined to accept them.
Daniel C. Peterson is a professor of Islamic studies and Arabic at BYU, where he also serves as editor in chief of the Middle Eastern Texts Initiative and as director of advancement for the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. He is the founder of MormonScholarsTestify.org.
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