"In our search for truth, we read, ponder and analyze information and weigh its reliability," the page says.
"We have to ask ourselves hard questions when we seek learning by study," Elder Pieper said. "What are the assumptions? What are the intents? How accurate is this? Is it good scholarship? Isn't it? How does it fit with my faith experience? How does it fit with other things? There are a lot of things you have to question about that, and I think most people with the Internet take something at face value and don't search a lot beyond."
Learning by faith comes via scripture and prayer, Elder Pieper said. "The ultimate source of all truth and of all context and of all understanding is the Lord."
As the church's Communications Services Committee considered the implications of the augmented youth curriculum and upgraded the search capabilities and home page at LDS.org, Elder Pieper said questions arose about where it should provide information on the hottest online topics about the church.
Those hot topics sometimes become "sensationalized" attacks on the church's doctrine or history, said Church Historian Steven E. Snow. He said church leaders wanted to help members study those topics and provide them with the best information available.
"The young people, particularly, they'll get on one site, and they'll say, 'Well, I didn't ever hear that,'" Elder Snow said. "And then that'll lead them to another. And they just keep going. And then there's this credibility issue that begins about, 'What else is the church hiding?' Well, we're not hiding anything. ... I think in this day and age it's become apparent that we really do need to provide a series of answers that will help our members better understand these chapters of our history."
That effort dovetailed with the decision to make the Gospel Topics section of LDS.org a focus of church study.
"With what we're facing, it's important that we all learn how to learn, as well as how to teach," Elder Pieper said. "So what this is designed to do is to be a resource that anyone can come on and learn the gospel and strengthen their testimony and deepen their conversion. That's really what Gospel Topics is for. It's a learning site, not a teaching site."
"It's about teaching in the home and resources for parents," he added, "and by the way, here are resources for questions parents may get."
Race and priesthood
Those questions may include the church's position on blacks and the priesthood prior to 1978, when then-church President Spencer W. Kimball received a revelation lifting the ban.
The race and the priesthood topic page says the church's doctrine is that God loves everyone equally and makes salvation available to all. It also states that the church's structure and organization encourages racial integration.
"The church was established in 1830, during an era of great racial division in the United States," the page says. Church founder Joseph Smith openly opposed slavery and allowed the ordination of a few black men, one of whom participated in temple ceremonies.
In 1852, President Smith's successor, President Brigham Young, "publicly announced that men of black African descent could no longer be ordained to the priesthood. ..." He also said that year that in the future black church members would "have (all) the privilege and more" enjoyed by other members.
"We've really tried to understand our history and why that policy occurred," Elder Snow said, "and what led up to the revelation of President Kimball in 1978."
That effort included increased attention from historians.
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