During a recent exchange with Steve over at By Common Consent, it emerged that I was completely ignorant concerning a certain point in Mormon history. This incident revealed to me just how little I do know about church history, despite being raised in the church, attending four years of seminary and going on a mission. As Dave points out in an interesting post at Dave's Mormon Inquiry, the official church histories continue to shrink. This is, I think, indicative of the larger Mormon distrust of history and intellectualism in general.
Anti-intellectualism is ingrained into the Book of Mormon, especially 2nd Nephi:
"O the wise, and the learned, and the rich, that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts, and all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms, and pervert the right way of the Lord, wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell!" 2 Nephi 28:15
There are numerous other scriptures with the same basic message: knowledge can be a very dangerous thing.
I think that this prevailing attitude has both positive and negative consequences. First of all, it does an incredible job of leveling the playing field between members. Having a (mostly) lay clergy means that few members are able to study the gospel as a full time job, and those that do usually don't have positions of local authority in the church. Thus it is difficult for a bishop, for example, to claim insights into the church that aren't available to other members. Generally, there is nothing to gain from trying to delve into the mysteries of the church. This makes the church a very democratic institution, which I feel is a good thing.
Secondly, favoring the spiritual over the intellectual stresses the simplicity and spirituality of the church. Epiphanies are to be spiritual in nature and result from prayer and fasting, not intellectual ones resulting from years of study. This can help the church focus on its core doctrines instead of straying too far into speculative theology.
The negative aspects are fairly obvious. We have a large percentage of members, almost certainly a majority, who are ignorant of most church history. This causes problems when they learn of some of the more troubling and ambiguous aspects of the lives of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. It also robs them of a better understanding that knowing these events would provide.
Not just history but even current church scholarship is stigmatized. In my home growing up, Sunstone was regarded as a basically anti-Mormon publication. Sanitized histories are available but not more frank ones. I have never seen or owned copies of The King Follet Sermon and the Journals of Discourses; they are often quoted but rarely read.
I think that these attitudes limit us a two-dimensional view of our church, when we could be enjoying a richer (if more unsettling) three-dimensional panorama.