TCOO's treatment of the history of the Mormon church seems to come up among our members with predictable regularity both on and off list. The Advisory has received more private emails (both collectively and individually) than we care to count, has repeatedly been forced to counter misinformation on several lists, and received at least one petition. All this time and effort is directed toward convincing us to dump 'This Country of Ours' because of one chapter. The book is a singular target, accused of inaccuracies both specified and non-specified, in complaints around the blogosphere and negative reviews anywhere readers can post reviews--all in an attempt to prevent others from reading the book. The Advisory has tried to be tactful and gracious about this, but we cannot continue to devote our time to this topic. Therefore, the AO Advisory has sent the following letter regarding the book.
The Advisory is aware that LDS members have concerns about Chapter 81 of This Country of Ours, in that it presents a different account of the history of their church than the one they've been taught.
The Advisory is unified in our traditional western Christian worldview, and the AO curriculum strongly reflects that worldview. However, even if the Advisory members were of diverse worldviews, we would still be unable to provide texts which would accommodate every specific concern of various AO users. No author accommodates all historical biases or theological viewpoints.
This Country of Ours is a classic work for which we have found no equal, and it is an important spine in the AO curriculum. As such, we have no intention of removing or replacing it. We have given due consideration to the chapter in question, and our final conclusion is that we do not believe it is as flawed as Mormons insist it is. Ideological divides such as this are unlikely to be bridged by further argument, and we ask our LDS users to honor our request to put this matter to rest.
Members with differing or minority perspectives already know that their view is not likely to be represented in standard or classic works. It is not the Advisory's responsibility to provide all AO users with resources that suit their particular agenda or standards.
As the parent-teacher, your involvement is expected in adjusting books for your own needs. The Advisory are experienced mothers, home educators, and well read in Charlotte Mason--but we are not gurus. We have always sought to equip, enable, and encourage our fellow home-schoolers, not to supersede them. If an AO book selection does not satisfy your family's needs, we remind our members that they are ultimately in control, and we encourage them to substitute or supplement with a book of their choice.
The AmblesideOnline Advisory
The Advisory feels that it is unfortunate and unfair that this chapter is used as the basis to cast suspicion on the book as a whole by stating variations of, "if Marshall can get this one 'fact' so wrong, why should it be trusted to get anything else correct?" Marshall's account had been widely accepted as fact since 1831, when an article about the Ridgon/Spaulding theory of authorship first appeared in print. It was still widely accepted at the time she wrote it, making this chapter an accurate reflection of what was widely believed at both the time period covered and at the time of the author's life. While there may be disagreement about the details, there is no consensus among non-LDS scholars to dismiss this story out of hand. The official LDS church history is less reliable than Marshall's. It has itself been altered many times over the years as church officials have worked to clean up discrepancies, chronological errors and inconsistencies and tighten up the original narrative. The white-washing of Mormon history is well-documented from various sources. We wish it did not have to come to this, but we consider the matter closed, and do not intend to visit this topic again.
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