Over the past decade, Mormon history has undergone a transformation as LDS scholars have debated how their church's story should be written. So-called New Mormon Historians distinguish between what they believe is verifiable and what they suspect may be folklore, and they approach history from a variety of different academic and social perspectives. Mormonism has become of interest to non-LDS historians as well, which raises the important question of whether outsiders can truly understand Mormons, or, conversely, whether insiders can achieve enough detachment to see themselves objectively—or whether this is desirable. Stated another way, does history have an inherent meaning beyond the scholar's particular viewpoint and should a writer strive to understand the other person's perspective, or is the writer's subjective vantage what is important and all that is ultimately possible?
The new traditionalists contend that objectivity is, in fact, impossible and that history should therefore be written with certain pre-understandings, including that God exists and that Joseph Smith was his prophet. New Mormon historians believe that it is the limits of objectivity itself which precludes such dogmatic faith assertions, that the historian's role is to report examples of faith, not to impose it.