This happens in a video titled “How to Answer Questions about Church History” which is published both on the LDS Church’s official “Mormon Channel” along with having been published on the LDS Church’s Youtube channel and within the Mormon themed periodical “Meridian Magazine“. In spite of the title “How to Answer Questions about Church History”, Harper seems to do anything but. Instead he on multiple occasions indicates that members must simply hold to their faith in the midst of the questions and wait upon the Lord, acknowledging good answers for most questions seem unattainable at present. And while he promises they will come at some future point he seems to recognize that for many questions, faithful answers seemingly will not discovered until after this mortal journey.
Throughout the interview Harper seems unwilling to encourage the study of Mormon Church History as a anecdote to the difficult historical issues within Mormonism in spite of the interviewer, Amy Iverson, leading him in that direction. He never once points the listener to the LDS Church’s Gospel Topic Essays or even the Joseph Smith Papers project for which he was a heavy contributor. He seems to acknowledge the further one reads, the more questions and issues that arise. In other words LDS Church history doesn’t hold the answers to the tough questions in most instances, but instead a deep dive into Mormon History creates additional issues of doubt within one’s awareness that points to problems and contradictions. It almost appears as if the history itself is the doubt causing issue. Harper even goes so far as to seemingly admit he personally struggles himself with issues raised in LDS Church History (9:49) and that his study of Church History has led to “way more questions than then [he] has answers”(8:34).
And in one of the last segments he goes so far as to compare his dive into historical narrative of the LDS Church to learning Santa Claus wasn’t real. He even worries that sharing this analogy may burst the bubbles of some members who learned the simplified literal perspective of the LDS Church’s narrative at Church seemingly recognizing that the actual historical data conflicts with that narrative and causes doubts among members. See this “Santa” section of the video below.
Here is the full quote regarding his Santa Claus analogy
Santa Claus…. I hope its a useful analogy. I hope it doesn’t burst anyone’s bubble, but I learned, I can’t remember exactly how old I was, but I learned once Santa Claus is not real. At least not in the way I thought Santa Claus was real, the man who magically flies in a sleigh with reindeer to every person in the world to and delivers Christmas presents overnight. And as I grew up, I became aware that the story is much more complicated than that. And that the way I had received it from my culture, was not really the truth. Over time you learn to accommodate that. Right? You see things more as they really are. And you gain more understanding and wisdom. And you learn how to put the pieces together. What a tragedy it would have been if I had thrown out Christmas, when I learned Santa isn’t real and I say well then, well none of its true. There’s nothing of value here. I am just throwing the whole thing out. So as we grow up, there are these losses we experience. Everyone has this experience. As you come of age, you learn your parents are real people. They have sometime made mistakes or have not met all your expectations. You learn that the simple math you learned in 3rd grade is compounded and more and more complicated, the more and more math you learn. These kinds of things are true with Church history too. We learn these things when we are young, and they are very simplified versions of the story, and when we are older we might learn the more complicated version of the story. And its tempting in those situations to throw it all out. To say, well nothing I believed in was true. That is not the happiest way, in my experience, to deal with that. It is better to say, well, I can see that some that things about Santa weren’t true, but I can see there is a great deal of value in Christmas.
In the end, in an information age, Mormons are discovering that the history of their faith is way messier than any official LDS Church venue has told them, and many are are deconstructing their faith and limiting or stopping completely their activity and adherence. And it appears even having a professional Historian from the Church offers little by way of solutions found in the history itself, even when such solutions seem to be the main focus of the Church’s video in this instance.
An in-depth 2 part commentary has been done on this 24 minute video by a Bill Reel and Radio Free Mormon which can be found at the links below.
For a balanced look at the issues inside Mormonism take a look at the Mormon Primer.