Historian Michael Quinn was asked, "As a historian, what can we as members and future members learn from church history? His answer, "Compassion. Humility. Diversity, are the things I think you can learn from the past. It's more difficult to be arrogant and to be intolerant of diversity and to be intolerant of people's errors when you look at the past. Try to look at it and see well-intentioned people whether they're presidents and congresses or whether their a church leader or whether it's your grandmother, who made decisions and did things with the best of intent and had consequenceshat that are sometimes negative and sometimes even horrifying that were unintended. I think that when you look at that in the past and see that, it creates a sense of compassion. It's not as easy to be unforgiving of mistakes other people make when you say, "Well certainly they should have seen that" or "how could they be so stupid?" when you realize that good intentioned people sometimes do stupid things. But very often by their best lights they make decisions that they hope will have good consequences and sometimes it doesn't turn out that way.
Diversity: it's so easy to see the world only through our own lenses, only through our own experience, whether that experience is male or female, Mormon or Utahn or American or whatever it may be. When we look at the past, and the more broadly we look at the past, it helps us to see that there are many experiences out there that are alien to our own. People who have experienced a very different world than we have experienced. That will help us to understand that there are people in our own families that are experiencing the world very differently than we are experiencing it, and we may never be able to really understand how they experience the world, but communication is a great way to begin.
The past is not the only way, but it is one way to get past that "I-centered" experience and expectation. To avoid, "Well, this wasn't a problem for me. Why should it be a problem for them?" or "Why can't they do what I did?" or "This experience did not hurt me and I got over it. Why are they continuing to whine about it?"
When we look at the past and other people in the past and we realize that there were so many experiences that they had that were different from ours it helps us to gain a great deal of compassion as well as a great sense of respect for diversity.
Arrogance is a terrible thing and very often it's most terrible when you don't realize you are arrogant. Looking at the past is one way to indirectly start cutting away at what I see as a prison of being limited by your own experience and therefore judging people in terms of your own experience and I see that as of great value."