Is researching the early history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints considered anti-Mormon?The mere act of studying LDS history should not be considered anti-Mormon, but the more important question is what the person doing the studying is trying to achieve. Very few people (including myself) approach the topic in an unbiased fashion. If you're looking for dirt on early LDS leaders, sure, it's there and you can publish a book on it, which might be viewed as anti-Mormon. If you're looking to promote the faith, it's there as well and perhaps it will strengthen your faith and that of others. Like anything else, history often becomes a rhetorical tool instead of an unbiased examination of fact.
I think the harder question is what the student of history does when they find something they did not expect to find. Do they ignore it? Explain it away? Highlight it? Ryan Swallow published the very interesting quote from Elder Packer, which I had not seen in it's full context previously and which I actually find rather illuminating, because it addresses the problem that seems to run through a lot of questions about the intersection of intellectualism and Mormonism--what does one do with the messy realities of a religion? A lot of people naturally find it suspect when they hear an LDS Church leader say that they should not disseminate true facts--they immediately think that the facts should bear scrutiny, otherwise, the faith cannot be true.
The problem with this is precisely what Elder Packer appears to be saying with his "advanced testimony," point, which is quite similar to Paul's exhortation in the Bible that converts should have "milk before meat." @1 Corinthians 3. On reflection, it does seem to me that certain things that are true might not always be useful to the person trying to live on faith because they're not equipped to deal with them yet. But perhaps an example is in order.
Suppose I was to argue that it is no harder to believe in golden plates than it is to believe in the resurrection of Christ from the dead (indeed, some of you may recognize that I have, in fact, done this). Suppose then that, as a rhetorical technique in my argument, I laid out all of the supposed scientific, historical, and logical reasons why the resurrection was unlikely, or even absurd, all for the purpose of showing that, whatever the purpose of reason, faith must have primacy to the believer. I trust you are all knowledgable enough to see that one could be expansive on this theme, especially if one had a scholarly background (and I'm sure many atheists have been). It's possible that I might be able to score some points with this (admittedly backhanded) argument. But it seems irresponsible to actually do it. Even if everything I wrote was literally true, it seems that to leave it laying around on the internet, where any newly minted or wavering Christian might stumble upon it and have doubts awakened, would be irresponsible, no matter what my intentions were and even if I did it for the "right" reason.
I that we are faced with much the same thing with the early history of the LDS Church. At some point, whatever you find, you have to consider your responsibilities to others and the effects of your acts on their lives, no matter what your other obligations may be (and this is coming from someone whose professional obligations sometimes include trying to get alleged criminals off). Sure, you may have found something true. Sure, it may even form a pattern. But is it more important than the rest of the story? And what are your motivations in putting it out there?
On some level, it's actually quite similar to the way you treat any other difficult truth in your life, such as, perhaps, your relationship with your friends and family. There may be some things about them that are literally true (they're not as cool as they think they are; they're not good conversationist, etc.), but you're very cautious about how you deal with these things, not only because you have flaws yourself, but because to just say them directly and out loud to their faces, isn't useful, even if it's technically true--it's just mean.