The other day, the Salt Lake Tribune was carrying a front page article in the newspaper talking about how the LDS church acknowledged in print that Joseph Smith married teenage brides, married already married women, that his wife didn't know all about what he was up to, and that definitely some of the relationships were sexual in nature. It made me want to track down this man and force him to acknowledge the past, and admit that I had my basic facts right, and tell him that it isn't my job to make it better for him. The fact that the past isn't convenient to modern assumptions isn't my problem to fix for anyone.
We can all take the facts referred to in these essays and use them however integrity of our minds and hearts leads us. The dentist turned historian, Brian Hales, whose analysis is largely depended upon for the interpretation in the recently published essays is I'm certain is writing from his heart. I've even heard him speak at a public event before and I honestly did not find his interpretation of evidence to be compelling. However, I left having felt his humanity shining through. I am certain that he is a good man trying to do the best that he can to make his spiritual worldview make sense for people who were struggling while himself participating in that struggle.
Any history that politely lines itself up to confirm what you already think you know isn't history, its a moralistic allegory where the names and the places are all the same but where the what the people actually did is edited and simplified to provide inspirational stories. I don't particularly like shocking people out of that narrative. However, it can be difficult to avoid. It feels like I'm not even in the same world anymore, so how can I possibly explain why my path is different without explaining my world? Its as if I'm in a parallel dimension that can see and interact with the one that I grew up in, but now there are a multitude of additional obstacles that arise because of things that I care about now that I didn't used to care about, and simple paths through things that I no longer care about.
There is no answer, I think, but humility and love. Any path that leads to sharing in God's love and goodness to the best that you know how is the right one. It takes humility to not try to shake people away from growing in love because you don't like the view from where they are doing it. Loving people and helping people grow in love- or in a sense to make love- is something that can only be done with consent. Though we need a humble view of the past for a healthy future, forced worldview shifts (including ones sometimes made tragically necessary by unhealthy views of the past that push people away from being able to love) can be an abhorrent violation. I wouldn't wish on anyone the pain that comes from a violent readjustment of his or her worldview.
While learning about polygamy did not trigger the changes in worldviews, it is one more place where I feel liberated to not have to make excuses for the past anymore to myself or to anyone. The past simply is.