I’m a curious, empirical person and a devout RM attending BYU. I’ve researched Church history/doctrine and know by my nature that I will continue. I avoid biased material but include academic non-Church sources. I risk disaffiliation and knowing you’ve researched church history and are still here want advice on how to research spiritually, yet objectively/scientifically. I’m not proving the Church true. Because it is, if I know as much as I can, nothing I learn will invalidate it.
First off, I want to congratulate you on your curious and inquisitive mind. The church falsely gets the reputation of not being open to research or scholarly wisdom, and that is a falsehood that needs to be overturned in our society. One can be an active and devout LDS and still be a skeptical historian who seeks out the truth.
As you go about your scholarly research, I want you to remember several things: there is a huge difference between “skeptical research” and “nothing I find can satisfy my cynicism”. It is one thing to want proof of what happened. It is quite another to set the bar so high that no proof can ever satisfy it. The philosopher Descartes, for all his brilliance (and he was brilliant) tried to logically “prove” that God exists. Unfortunately while doing so, he set the bar so high in his proofs that he ended up not proving anything. Sometimes you need to accept things on faith and realize that you can’t prove everything by way of research and logic.
I’d like you to also remember that virtually no scholar who writes and publishes is able to do so without their own subjective, personal opinions coming through. Everything you read, especially about such controversial and personal subjects such as faith and religion can be twisted, spun and turned one way or another. So truly objective academic works without the authors personal opinions are virtually impossible to find.
To help you along with this I’d suggest you read Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass by Hugh Nibley. It will help you understand just how twisted something can be with very little effort.
Spencer, I’d like you to remember one more thing. One thing I wish I knew as a younger man. Knowledge of a subject does not make you smarter than anyone else. You will still make mistakes intellectually and you’ll make mistakes personally. No matter how intelligent you are, you are still accountable for your actions. I see many young people place a high value on education and intelligence-and that’s a good thing-but it should not be your sole goal in life.