I get dibs on this clunky coining, but I wanted to articulate something that I’ve noticed in the way many non-academy-trained Mormons approach history. You probably have recognized the same phenomenon under a different name (and I’d love to know what you call it).
When I was in 9th grade, my English teacher had a room with blackboards on opposite walls and he assigned to each of them a mutually exclusive phrase, a pair of extremes (they were: “Look before you leap” and “He who hesitates is lost.”) We, of course, had to either list to one side or the other, or endure the liminality of the space between, trying to reconcile the truth of both statements. In Mormon history, particularly in the Gospel Doctrine and lay-lesson-giving type of Mormon history, the two blackboards might as well be: “Liken all scriptures unto us” vs. “the past is a foreign country.” Or, perhaps to say it another way: “God is the same yesterday, today and forever” vs. “God works within the culture of the times to bring forth his purposes.” If something makes no sense culturally, God is unlikely to find someone who will be receptive to it as a message, symbol, or concept — but at the same time, there are essentials of human biology and psychology that make some things (but which ones?) part of the universal experience of people encountering the numinous.
As an academy-trained historian, naturally I favor the latter of the two statements. My preferred conception is that the past is a parking garage of vertically stacked eras, each one occupying the same temporal footprint as the ones above and below, but representing an entirely distinct context, cultural toolkit, and way of being human. However, I find that most Mormons are much more comfortable with the former of the pair. They tend to collapse historical eras and obliterate historical specificity like that same (hopefully empty) parking garage collapsing in a large earthquake, pancaking each level on top of the one below it, until it is essentially one indistinguishable mass. They do this even if, intellectually, they might recognize the distinctiveness of former eras. This is something more worrisome than mere presentism (which would be equating the top layer with a lower one): it is the denial of the very existence of other layers.
I’m not entirely sure why the need to collapse the past is so pressing in Mormonism and why it seems so comforting in stories, testimonies and artwork to make “them” seem “just like us.” Having paintings in which white Anglo-Saxons play all the important roles is no doubt reassuring, at least to white Anglo-Saxons. In part, it must have to do with restorationism and its explanatory power in removing the stigma of the new/radical by giving it the patina of the old/familiar. Also, the sacred post-earthquake parking garage is just simpler, since one needn’t account for all the intervening layers and the complications therein. I’m also not sure what to do, now that I’ve named this phenomenon and see and hear it often in church contexts. I tend to think that even though my job is to explore the garage’s levels, my calling is to remain charitably quiet while people testify to what they believe. Still, it needles me that for a people with such a commitment to documenting and connecting to the past, we have precious little nuance in how we think and talk about it in everyday discourse.