Tragic historical events of the Church in Missouri may have caused human misery and civil war, but the residue of such an event often brings about wisdom, according to Elder John K. Carmack of the Seventy and executive director of the Church's Historical Department.
In his keynote address at a BYU Church History Symposium that specifically covered the Missouri period, Elder Carmack explained, "As a people, Missouri has taught us to solve problems, not just point the finger of blame at people within and without the Church."We can look back on that Missouri experience . . . and glean wisdom as we harvest kernels of truth and principles of organization that yet carry the Church and its people forward," he remarked.
The symposium, held March 29-30, was sponsored by the BYU Religious Studies Center and the Department of Church History and Doctrine to look at the past, present and future of the Church in Missouri. Elder Carmack was one of about 40 speakers, who came from such places as Missouri, California, Colorado, and Alberta in Canada.
"There were benefits coming from the Missouri experience which inure to the benefit of the Church even today," Elder Carmack said. "We constantly draw inspiration from sections 121, 122 and 123 of the Doctrine and Covenants, extracted from the Joseph Smith epistle dictated in Liberty Jail.
"We have the Missouri era to thank for the principles of tithing. Our system of tithing and its administration has kept us on sound ground ever since the Missouri revelation established that inspired means of financing the Church.
"The orderly procedures and lodging of responsibility for disciplining members, even those in high and holy callings, were refined in the Kirtland/Missouri era as some of our greatest men were caught in a spirit of disaffection," he continued.
"We have also learned to be on the watch for the doctrines and practices of those who would harm the Church and its members through pride, fanaticism, radicalism, poor balance and poor judgment."
The ability to handle such problems "is a matter of experience and wisdom, of which a part is the residue of our Missouri era, " Elder Carmack explained.
"We have learned to be careful as a Church in get-rich schemes.
"We are wiser than we were in political matters due to our Missouri nightmare.
"Finding the balance between showing responsibility and concern on the one hand, and keeping Church and state separate on the other is a problem we are dealing with much more effectively.
"Patience with legal procedures, attacking problems which arise head-on, being cautious to be prepared for emergencies and safety issues, learning to stand up for our rights, in kinder and gentler tones, trying to quell boastfulness and pride, and having greater faith and trust in God are additional Missouri lessons," Elder Carmack remarked.
These lessons "are but a few of our benefits," he said. "Wisdom comes from experience and is often the residue of an otherwise tragic period of history. May we study our history and understand its lessons in order to use the residue of wisdom available to us."