Knowing our history

I spent a mini-vacation the last few days at one of my faith tradition’s historic sites in Nauvoo, Illinois. There are two historic sites there–one that my faith tradition is responsible for, and the other for another faith tradition that shares common roots with us, although we have gone very different directions theologically.

Nauvoo is not a comfortable place for my faith tradition. There were some theological innovations developed there that we have never accepted (plurality of gods, polygamy, temple rituals). And because we are not comfortable with them, we placed all the blame for them on our theological cousins–and just didn’t talk about them ourselves.

But that doesn’t work.

History doesn’t stay hidden–and as the years have passed, evidence has surfaced that those innovations did indeed begin in Nauvoo and can’t be laid solely on the shoulders of later leaders.

150 years of silence is hard to break. But without breaking it, we can’t know the truth about ourselves–and understand who we have come to be…and why.

This isn’t limited just to my faith tradition.

It’s essential that we know our political history as well. Our country was not created in a vacuum, and we have to be willing to acknowledge our warts as well as our successes.

Both the founder of my faith tradition and the founders of our country made mistakes–sometimes major mistakes. Sometimes we’ve rectified those mistakes–learning from them and growing in positive ways. Sometimes we’ve tried pushing them under the rug in hopes that they’ll go away…but they never do. They find ways to rise again…and again…until we find ourselves willing to acknowledge and deal with them–hopefully in positive ways.

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