Be Fair with Those in History

Matt Grow, a historian, said this about dealing with history.

Be careful about [historical] sources of information that just seek to tear people down [or I might add using historical sources yourself to tear others down]. Look instead for sources of information that are based on records left by the people themselves, and that seek to be fair to them. It is really easy to play gotcha with the past; to pull a quotation or an incident out of its context and make it look alarming.

As a historian I’ve tried to follow the advice of a British novelist, and I love this, he said, “The past is a foreign country,” they do things differently there.  And to me that means that when we visit the past, we don’t want to be an ugly tourist.  We want to try to understand the people within their own context and their own culture; we want to be patient with what we perceive as their faults; we want to be humble about the limits of our own knowledge; and we want to have a spirit of charity about the past.  (“Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults: A Face to Face Event with Elder Quentin L. Cook” Originating from Nauvoo, Illinois, on September 9, 2018, about 25 minutes into the broadcast.)

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