Issues in Writing European History and in Building the Church in Europe
Journal of Mormon History
Salt Lake City, UT
Mormon History Association
In this critical review of Van Orden's "Building Zion," Decoo finds fault with the limited sources used, inaccuracies, stereotypes and generalizations, lack of intercultural understanding, and unfair charges of racial intolerance. He is critical of the lack of balance in stories about European members that appear in "Church News" and in Church magazines. He notes that many of these stories are often used for "cheap, sentimental effects" and may bring unnecessary discouragement and guilt to ordinary members. In former Communist countries, the Church is viewed by some as an "infiltrating sect." In his opinion, the Church needs to examine its skills in intercultural communication and multi-cultural understanding. American visitors often exhibit condescending and paternalistic attitudes to European members. He was particularly offended by Van Orden's description of racial and cultural intolerance in the Church in Europe. He offers an assessment of where the Church really stands after 150 years in Europe. In contrast with Van Orden's reasons for the lack of missionary success in Europe, Decoo points to internal rather than external reasons. He offers numerous suggestions of what could be done to improve the work in Europe in the areas of missionary work, public relations, health of local units, and scientific and scholarly support.