More Prooftexts

April 15, 2004 | 89 comments

I was inspired by Kristine’s post to think about prooftexts. My nomination is 2 Timothy 3:16:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

The prooftexting part comes when this verse is used (and it frequently is) to argue that all scripture is inspired. There are several problems with this:

(1) See Article of Faith #8. We simply don’t believe that all scripture (as it now stands) is inspired by God.

(2) Without quibbling about when (or by whom) this verse was written, it was obviously written before the New Testament was canonized. Therefore, it is an open question as to what the word ‘scripture’ means in this verse. (Note: the Greek word translated ‘scripture’ is graphe, which can mean ‘sacred writing,’ or, more simply, ‘writing.’)

(3) The Greek for the first phrase can be legitimately translated as “All scripture that is inspired by God is profitable . . .”

(4) All of the above could, I suppose, be debated. But what’s harder to ignore is the JST:

And all Scripture given by inspiration of God, is profitable…

The JST suggests to me that the rest of the sentence describes the qualities of scriptures that are inspired and acknowledges that some of what we call scripture is not inspired. I’m not someone who likes to hop up and down and insist that big chunks of scripture are uninspired, but I think that when it comes to things like 1 Timothy 2:15, we need to be willing to call a spade a spade and say, ‘this is false doctrine.’

Given all of the above, I think the use of 2 Timothy 3:16 to suggest that all scripture is inspired is beyond the realm of possibility. While most LDS probably aren’t aware of (2) and (3), ignoring (4) speaks, I think, of either downright laziness or bad motives.

I don’t think it is coincidental that both this passage and the one Kristine mentioned are used to bolster a belief in inerranacy (mine, of the scriptures, Kristine’s of Church leaders). There is a desire here to find inerrancy; is this, perhaps, the ‘clinging’ in 1 Nephi 8:24 that leads to people falling away as opposed to the ‘continually holding’ down in verse 30 that leads to the tree of life?

So . . . what are your (least) favorite prooftexts?


89 Responses to More Prooftexts

  1. Julie in Austin on April 15, 2004 at 1:33 pm


  2. lyle on April 15, 2004 at 1:36 pm

    Julie: Can you define prooftext? I’ve got the idea…I think. But…thanks. :)

  3. Ben on April 15, 2004 at 1:49 pm

    How about Daniel 1 for the Word of Wisdom? Drives me nuts…

    Or Jeremiah 16:16 for (supposedly) being a prophecy of missionaries in the last days also bugs me, though it’s slightly ambiguous. (The context strongly suggests the invading Babylonians hunting down wicked Israelites, not missionaries looking for the righteous.)

    Or Alma 34:33-34 “that same spirit that possesses you” interpreted to mean that we take our personality quirks with us, when the context before and after strongly suggests that the spirit that possesses you is not YOUR spirit, but either the spirit of the Lord or the Spirit of the devil…

    Sorry, I’ll try to limit myself to 3 at a time:)

  4. Ben on April 15, 2004 at 1:56 pm

    “It is the error of taking a passage of scripture out of its immediate context and setting it up, in opposition to its context, as proof of a doctrinal point.”

  5. Nathan on April 15, 2004 at 2:12 pm

    I feel better about disliking this prooftext, mainly because it’s usually used by evangelicals trying to prove that the Bible is both inerrant and complete. (I’ve never been able to follow that particular logical leap.)

  6. Gary Cooper on April 15, 2004 at 2:14 pm


    The passage you refer to is also one of my pet peeve proof texts, although here in Oklahoma I don’t encounter it with members, but ALL the time with evangelicals trying to proove that they have a Bible, a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.

    In fact, I’m not sure I experience very many “proof-texting” issues with members, as much as I encounter the worse problem of members accepting mormon folklore as “doctrine”. However, with evangelicals it is a differnt story. I don’t mean to paint a broad brush, because I really do cherish my association with my Christian friends of other denominations, but I am not blind to their faults. There is a tendency in the Christian world to see the bible as one huge collection of proof texts, an enormous debating handbook. Whether we are talking about scriptural inerrancy, creationism, “once saved always saved”, no more revelation, the “Rapture”, the “Anti-Christ”, etc., it just goes on and on. The mistake I think we make as members is to fall into the trap of arguing back with further proof texts (yes, but the Bible also says…”). This goes nowhere. Ultimately, we need to respond to questions, but such discussions need to turn back towards the BoM and testimony, and the principle that God is the same today as He was in ancinet times, and loves us today as then, hence the reality of modern revelation.

  7. Jim F. on April 15, 2004 at 2:29 pm

    I don’t have any particular proof-texts in mind, but my experience within the Church is much different than Gary Cooper’s. It seems to me that the Saints often treat the scriptures in exactly the way he describes evangelicals treating the Bible. We throw in addresses from General Conference as well as latter-day scripture, so we have a larger collection on which to draw, but I don’t see any significant difference between the way that most evangelicals use the Bible and the way that we use our scriptures.

  8. Dave on April 15, 2004 at 2:33 pm


    It seems like there are three generic positions one can take about “prooftexting”: (1) Any Bible verse can be used to “prooftext” a doctrinal proposition; (2) Some (but not other) Bible verses can be so used; or (3) No bible verse can be used to “prooftext” because the “one verse proves this doctrine” approach is unsound or based on incorrect assumptions about the Bible or scripture.

    Are you opposed to using “prooftexting” just for verses like 2 Tim. 3:16 but for it in general, or against it across the board? I incline to number 3, as I have my doubts whether any single verse can be relied on to “prooftext” a doctrinal point.

  9. Paul on April 15, 2004 at 2:34 pm


    sorry to go off on a tangent, but can you explain what you meant by your 1Nephi 8:24 vs. 30 paragraph?

  10. Gary Cooper on April 15, 2004 at 2:34 pm

    Jim F.,

    You’re probably right–O live in a relatively low-density LDS population here in Oklahoma, so that may explain why I don’t that as often with members.

  11. lyle on April 15, 2004 at 2:36 pm

    Julie: Good point re: that particular verse & the JST. That brings up another good question then…i.e. what is scripture? I think that most folks think that scripture is “the word of God,” & wouldn’t call something scripture if they didn’t think it was inspired in the first place. i.e. LDS folks & the “as far as translated correctly” and/or the JST (no songs of solomon).

    Jim: so…how are we supposed to use our scriptures then? The difference between a prooftext, which is taken out of context & a scriptural syllogism
    seems to be in the eye of the beholder.

  12. Ben on April 15, 2004 at 2:42 pm

    Round 2

    There are multiple passages in Isaiah (5:25, 9:12, 17, and 21, 10:4) in which the Lord stretchs out his arm and smites the people. The text then says “For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.”

    I’ve heard this from multiple people interpreted as “Though God is angry, his hand is still held out to us for us to repent.” Problem is, that’s not what the context shows! The immediate phrase indicates that God’s anger is NOT turned away, and he continues to smite with his outstretched arm. God bearing his arm is always a show of power.

    I guess I’m getting into examples of non-doctrinal proof-texting.

    I have to agree with Jim. Common LDS usage of scripture consists in excising a passage from its context and then making it say what you want it to.

  13. Kristine on April 15, 2004 at 2:51 pm

    “Common LDS usage of scripture consists in excising a passage from its context and then making it say what you want it to.”

    or worse–wrenching it from context and then using it as the basis for a group therapy session. I’ve been in a few too many Gospel Doctrine classes that follow this format!

  14. Melissa on April 15, 2004 at 3:35 pm

    Due to time constraints, here’s a one-line comment on a topic I’ll probably end up writing my dissertation on:

    Kristine’s point is why I think that scriptural hermeneutics necessarily precedes theology.

  15. Adam Greenwood on April 15, 2004 at 3:53 pm

    So what’s so wrong with prooftexting? A member probably ought not to use scripture in arguments without some understanding of alternate interpretations, true. But we’re not protestants–we don’t think that the scriptures are the sole authority, so who cares if we get a meaning not exactly supported by the context? God can use scripture to inspire us in lots of different directions. Besides, isn’t it true that the prophecies Jesus and the NT Apostles cited were taken out of context?

    Let’s call a spade a spade. 1 Tim. 2:15 is not false doctrine.

    By the way, thanks for linking to the scriptures you cite. I appreciate that practice.

  16. Frank McIntyre on April 15, 2004 at 4:38 pm

    Is it relevant to know that Jim started out life as a Protestant Bible-basher to understand his comment comparing Mormons and Protestants :)

    I’m certainly not in favor of false doctrine and wrestling the scriptures to make them fit what we want. But I think Adam has a great point. I absolutely disagree that textual analysis of scriptures is the primary way to understand our theology. The scriptures are the gateway to personal revelation. Truth comes through revelation, which can happen on any verse, anywhere, and be on any subject, not just the contextual one. In that sense, there are many times that ripping verses out of context is perfectly appropriate when so inspired.

    Now I’m not trying to justify anybody’s bad arguments from prooftexts, because I’m not talking about arguments. I’m not really primarily talking about discussion. I’m just talking about sitting at home reading your scriptures. God wants us to know all we can. We should work hard to understand the literary tools used and the historical background. But the historical and literary context are _not_ prerequisites to deep understanding of spiritual things.

    I’d be first in line to the party to beat people up who use the scriptures badly to try to convince others of their pet beliefs. But there is a proper place for using the scriptures out of the textual context, because God can create on the spot a new appropriate context through the Spirit.

  17. Ben on April 15, 2004 at 4:43 pm

    If the scriptures don’t mean anything except as a gateway to personal revelation, than we should stop citing them as the authority behind our interpretation.

    There MUST be a difference between original context/authorial intent and personal interpretation.

  18. Ben on April 15, 2004 at 4:50 pm

    Many LDS seem incapable of discerning the difference, is what I meant to add.

  19. Adam Greenwood on April 15, 2004 at 5:07 pm

    I agree with Frank M.’s interpretation of what I was saying. Ben makes a good point: the difference between private revelation through the scriptures and the public meaning of the scriptures is simply the difference between personal revelation and public revelation, a distinction which, admittedly, many LDS do not make very well. Naturally if a prophet interprets scripture through revelation that is just as public as the original context and authorial intent.

    The only difficulty is that original context/authorial intent isn’t a democratic inquiry. It sets the scholar up as an intermediary between me and Jesus, or me and St. Paul.

  20. Lyle on April 15, 2004 at 5:37 pm

    Hm…so, I wonder what would happen if we were having this discussion re: hermeneutics/interpretation criteria about the US Constitution instead of the Scriptures.

    Would the defenders of original intent, the scholars that Adam is unsure about putting between him & revelation [Melissa, Kristine, etc], also be in favor of original intent in interpreting the US Constitution?

    And perhaps more interesting…what about the Vice Versa? Adam…if you don’t like their original interpretation argument vis-a-vis the Bible/Scriptures, how does that square with your conservative original intent views on the Constitution?

    Is there no happy dialectical synthesis to be found here?

  21. Lyle on April 15, 2004 at 5:42 pm

    Oh, I won’t hide the cue ball. I suspect there is some inconsistency in these positions. Political Conservatives tend to be religious ones as well, and vice versa, yet…the hermeneutics used to arrive there don’t seem to match up in both cases. :)

  22. Ben on April 15, 2004 at 5:51 pm

    It sets up the scholar (or at very least, the translator, unless you’re skilled in old dead languages) as a mediator between you and the scriptures, which isn’t quite the same thing.

    Literacy is not a prerequisite of salvation.

    Scripture, on the other hand, is text, and if you can’t understand the text, you’re not getting at the Scriptures.

    JS once said that if he had his way, he’d spend all his time studying Greek and Hebrew so he coudl read the Bible in the “original” languages.

  23. Dave on April 15, 2004 at 5:54 pm

    Frank M. outlines nicely the enthusiastic argument against scriputral priority: “There is a proper place for using the scriptures out of the textual context, because God can create on the spot a new appropriate context through the Spirit.”

    So (inspired) man is the measure of all things. But discerning when another person, or even we ourselves, are so inspired as to override the scriptures is more problematic than is generally admitted. Generally, we use the scriptures (fixed points to steer by, so to speak) to tell us whether a speaker is inspired or not, rather than the other way around.

    In fact, one of the reasons the New Testament canon emerged was to solve problems created by the “every man is the measure of all things as guided by the Spirit” approach, which if actually applied is a prescription for doctrinal anarchy.

  24. Frank McIntyre on April 15, 2004 at 6:00 pm

    Lyle: Looking over our arguments for disputing original intent, they revolve around personal revelation from God and the primacy of current prophetic revelation from God over textual interpretation.

    What is the equivalent argument in Constitutional law? The Constitution is a contract amongst men, written by men (albeit inspired), as opposed to a tool to understand the will of God. So I’m not sure there is anything to reconcile, as the purpose and nature of the documents is vaery different.

  25. Julie in Austin on April 15, 2004 at 6:36 pm


    In general, the use of one verse to establish any doctrine, no matter how clear the verse is, is probably not a good idea. But I think there are cases, like this one, where a misunderstanding/misinterpretation of the verse actually is occuring. (Which, I think, proves my point about the dangers of establishing doctrine based on one verse.)

    Paul: in 1 Nephi 8, the people in v24 who ‘cling’ to the rod make it to the fruit, but then turn away, ashamed. In verse 30, we are instroduced to the people who partake of the fruit but don’t mess up. These people are described as ‘continually holding.’ I think we are to conclude that clinging to the rod is a bad idea, holding continually a good idea. I propose that wanting inerrancy in either scriptures or leaders (so you don’t have to think) might be a good example of clinging as opposed to holding.

    Ben–Dang. Your Isaiah quotes ruined a reading that I liked. Since it *is* doctrinally correct that for all of our messing up, repentance is still available, is there any way to salvage this reading? Couldn’t the arm as a symbol of power be seen as the salvific power of the atonement? Just thinking out loud here; with Isaiah, I’m definitely out of my depth.

    Melissa—you wrote, “Kristine’s point is why I think that scriptural hermeneutics necessarily precedes theology.”

    Amen and hallelujah! However, the reality is that if we insist on battling herm. before we get to theo., you know that we will never, ever get to theo. You take a classic in the field like In Memory of Her and you think, how can E. S-F write this without justifying her disrespect for narrative boundaries in reconstructing early Christian history? Pretty much all of the liberation theology I have read (not much) is guilty of the same thing. But, what if we never get to theology? What’s the point of spending all your time cooking if you never eat?


    The problem with prooftexting, in the examples that Kristine and I have given, is that they lead to *false doctrine*. This is a problem. You will need to defend your assertion that 1 Tim 2:15 isn’t false doctrine, and you are going to have a heck of a time doing it, since we know that salvation comes through no other means than Jesus Christ.

  26. Paul on April 15, 2004 at 6:55 pm

    Julie in Autin,

    I don’t see what’s so wrong about 1 Tim 2:15. It simply states that 1. they shall be saved in childbearing, which we know is true, for that’s the only way to attain eternal increase and ultimate exaltation. 2. and by holines, if you go to the TG it takes you to Ex. 28: 36 which talks about Holiness before God. Isn’t the only way we can show our “holiness” before God to recognize that salvation does indeed come through Jesus Christ?

  27. Ben on April 15, 2004 at 7:15 pm

    The thing about proof-texts is we often use them to support something we know from somewhere else. SO the doctrine is correct (e.g. the Word of Wisdom) but the supporting scripture is wrong (Daniel 1).

    The NET translation does a good job capturing the intent of the Isaiah arm passages.

    “Despite all this, his anger does not subside, and his hand is ready to strike again.”

    Isaiah 53 connects it to the suffering servant, although I’m not entirely sure what hte connection is. NET suggests that the Israelites would not see the Lord’s arm (e.g. military strength) in his chosen servant.

    There may be other scriptures that use the arm of the Lord in a more positive way, but I don’t have my scriptural tools handy to find them.

  28. Lyle on April 15, 2004 at 7:17 pm

    Frank: It might not be an exact analogy, but few are. I stand by it. Some folks don’t even think the “scriptures” are inspired, or the words of the prophets & apostles…so all you have left is a “contract” among Women & Men who have given their word to believe, obey, live their lives, etc. by the words of scripture & living revelation.

    Let Adam & the rest fidget a lil before rushing to defend them. Let’s just assume that the analogy works, ok? :)

  29. Kristine on April 15, 2004 at 7:22 pm

    Lyle sayeth: “Some folks don’t even think the “scriptures” are inspired, or the words of the prophets & apostles.”

    That is undoubtedly so, but those folks aren’t here, so why argue with them in this forum?

  30. Lyle on April 15, 2004 at 7:43 pm

    Kristine: Most posters here are fairly “active” LDS. However, not all are. Why not engage everyone in the conversation rather than excluding?

  31. Julie in Austin on April 15, 2004 at 9:07 pm


    (And the irony of your name isn’t lost on me. In a very bizarre conversation with my husband, we speculated on what would happen if people from the other side of the veil had internet access. I sure hope you aren’t that Paul.)

    Women are not saved by childbearing. Women are saved by the atonement of Jesus Christ. For this scripture to work, you have to assume that people like Sheri Dew aren’t saved, but that any women who has had a child–under *any* circumstances–is saved. We know this isn’t true.

    I have had two different occasions to argue this point (a GD class and as a presenter at a conference for seminary teachers) and in both cases it mystified me that some people were so terribly concerned with defending this scripture or finding some obtuse meaning that would be defensible. Why do we insist on claiming A of F #8 with our evangelical friends, but refuse to use it ourselves? Why can’t we admit that a certain verse is just plain wrong?

    You might be interested to know that if you type in “saved in childbearing” at, you will get . . . exactly nothing. I think it is significant that our leaders are not citing this scripture.

  32. Paul on April 15, 2004 at 9:20 pm

    Julie in Austin,

    No worries, I’m not that Paul…or am I?

    First off, the JST changes “she” to “they”, I think that in and of itself is significant. It goes from a woman’s (and possibly a sexist issue) to a human issue. Child bearing is necessary to our exaltation with the obvious caveat that those who do not have the opportunity in this life, will somehow receive that opportunity in the next. Again, “righteous” living as a prerequisite. I’m confused as to why you have to assume that having a child automatically saves you. The scripture does not say that. It says childbearing + plus holiness (see previous post) will equal being saved.

  33. Adam Greenwood on April 15, 2004 at 9:26 pm

    If we are too reject proof-texting, because it leads to false doctrine, then am I to assume that we also reject the scriptures as properly understood? By your account, that too can lead to false doctrine, as in the writings of Paul.

    I feel no particular need to defend my assertion (it seems to me that the ball should be in the court of the person denying a scripture), but I just don’t see your argument. Are you suggesting that salvation comes solely and exclusively *from* Christ, with no addition on our part? I prefer to think that it comes *through* Christ but our own acts and suffering have a part to play. Childbirth is a great burden born to bring to pass a great good, life from blood and suffering. I find it redemptive and after the model of the Savior. I could say more, but I’d be touching on experience that is difficult to communicate.

  34. Adam Greenwood on April 15, 2004 at 9:30 pm

    Also, I think you’re mistakenly applying the scripture to individuals, when on its own terms it applies to your sex as a whole.

  35. Julie in Austin on April 15, 2004 at 9:41 pm


    This is becoming a circular argument. If some will not have opportunity to bear children until the next life, in what sense does their childbearing save them in this life?

    Again, why are we trying so hard to ‘save’ a verse that talks about salvation without mentioning Jesus Christ?

    Adam– (hopefully not *that* Adam)–

    Childbirth is not an ordinance. I’ve done it twice; I would know. Yes, parenting is a refiner’s fire that leads to our growth. Of course. But that isn’t what this verse says. Whether you want it to say women or all people, the facts are the same: the physical act of bearing children is not salvific. Again, why are we dying on this hill? Why do we need to defend this verse?

    I don’t think it matters if the verse is about one individual, all women, or all people, the fact remains that I am (see above) offended by a discussion of salvation that doesn’t center on Jesus Christ.

  36. Adam Greenwood on April 15, 2004 at 10:42 pm

    Uh, we’re dying on this hill because its (1) a scripture that (2) has nothing particularly wrong with it.

    I’m not convinced that childbirth is an ordinance, but I see no reason it couldn’t be.

    I’m not convinced, as you seem to be, that saying ‘women are saved through childbirth’ is tantamount to saying that ‘women cannot be saved without childbirth,’ nor am I convinced that saying reified Woman is saved through childbirth is no different than saying that individual women are saved through childbirth, nor do I think that every statement about salvation must refer explicitly to Christ as a sort of Simon Says. My marriage saves me, my wife saves me, I am saved by love, my sacrifices save me, my preaching says me, my martyrdom, were it vouchsafed me, would save me. Yes, in these and through these and above these all would be Christ. But they too. They too.

  37. Ben on April 15, 2004 at 11:24 pm

    If two cannot agree on hermeneutic, the odds of them agreeing on the theology are even smaller. This seems to a micro version of what Clark and Chris Goble are discussing (under “D&C 50 and blogs”) and then commented on by Clark

    In any case, the interpretation of the passage is missing its context- The previous two verses talk about Adam Eve and the fall. The NET notes are instructive, discussing 6 different possible interpretations.

  38. Frank McIntyre on April 15, 2004 at 11:25 pm

    “I don’t think it matters if the verse is about one individual, all women, or all people, the fact remains that I am (see above) offended by a discussion of salvation that doesn’t center on Jesus Christ.”

    Frank (yes, that Frank.. oh wait, there are no scriptural Franks…) reads Julie’s comment, Frank goes to the LDS Scripture database and searches on “salvation” — finds the following non-authoritative and cursory information:

    1. In the Old Testament. the Lion’s share of verses dealing with the word salvation are directly tied to the LORD.

    2. In the New Testament this is generally true as well.

    3. Paul uses salvation in reference to the Lord all the time (how could he not?).

    4. Paul stands out from other writers in that he uses the word salvation several times in reference to how suffering relates to salvation, with Christ’s role left implicit. Suffering and childbearing are not unrelated. So thanks for the insight.

    In other notes:
    I am skeptical of Julie’s claim that her offense at this verse is simply because it fails to explicitly mention the Savior. I am inclined to believe it is because of the gender overtones. But perhaps I am totally wrong…

    The fact that the JST chooses to interact with this verse (and does so as to remove said gender overtones) is useful information. The JST was not a completed work, it is true. But when Joseph came to this verse, he apparently thought about it enough to offer a correction. That correction was not to remove it, but to edit it, presumably to line it up with the gospel and make it easier for us to understand. For me that is valuable information, so thanks for the insight.

  39. Julie in Austin on April 16, 2004 at 12:08 am

    Frank (finally, someone on this side of the veil)–

    You are correct that if this verse claimed that people were saved for having brown eyes, it probably wouldn’t be the focus of my ire. Yes, there is a gender issue here. But realize that by the reading of this verse offered by others here, and my own status as a mother, I should be able to feel vindicated and not offended by this traditional reading.

    But I don’t. I know that giving birth is a physical act over which the mother has precious little control. To suggest that there is any relation between that act and her salvation is offensive to me. Where is the basis for the belief that there is any eternal significance to the *physical* act of giving birth? Where are the words of the prophets on this? We’re working off of one text, written by someone that even the Bible Dictionary acknowledges might not be an Apostle with a Big A (assuming Paul even wrote this, which is debated), in the context of three preceeding verses, that, while we are at it, contradict many latter-day doctrines. The context alone makes this verse suspicious; its content suggesting that a physical act saves women does it in.

    I am not convinced that the JST has removed gender overtones. It strikes me as even more bizarre to suggest that Adam (as the other half of the ‘they’) would be saved by Eve’s childbearing. Again, we shouldn’t read in that ‘childbearing’ means their decision to multiply and replenish, or eternal increase, or posterity, or whatever. That’s not what it says.

    I think it is more natural to see the JST’s ‘they’ as (1) an effort to clean up the pronoun difference between the two halves of the verse. Last summer I went through all of the JSTs that are not in our Bibles, and I was surprised at how many are ‘housekeeping’ and (2) an effort to get away the verse refering to one woman (possibly Eve, maybe Mary, although I don’t know if that interp. was common in JS’s time) and instead all women. I suppose we can only speculate on what JS could/would have done with this verse with more time.

    While I admit to uncertainty over where the JST was going, in the face of all of the above, I cannot accept this verse as true doctrine.

  40. Jim F. on April 16, 2004 at 12:38 am

    Sorry to get away from the interesting gender and 1 Timothy discussion, but I want to say a word in favor of proof-texting.

    If we are trying to explain or understand what a passage of scripture itself means, I’m generally agin it. However, if we are using that same passage for rhetorical purposes, then (with the Paul on the other side of the vale and other scriptures writers) I think it can be used quite effectively and justifiably. And, with Frank, I don’t see why I couldn’t be inspired by means of a misunderstood verse. In fact, I think that Joseph Smith’s understanding of James 1:5 wasn’t an understanding of the sense that James intended, and I don’t much care. Joseph’s inability to give a good scriptural hermeneutic didn’t prevent him from his prayer.

    The problem is that it isn’t easy to parse the differences between these three. So, though I’m happy with my distinctions as conceptual categories, I’m not so happy with how they apply in actual cases because they seldom apply neatly.

    I think we too often try to settle religious arguments with proof-texts. When we do, we are most likely wrong. But I’m not convinced that we are necessarily wrong to do so when we preach the Gospel or when we search for inspiration.

  41. Jim F. on April 16, 2004 at 12:39 am

    Frank may be right, however. Perhaps my defense of proof-texting in some instances is really just me coming to grips with my origins.

  42. john fowles on April 16, 2004 at 1:10 am

    I have an even worse example of proof-texting than anything mentioned so far (sorry it is just too fun to one-up you all on this).

    You can imagine my shock when in my first area in East Berlin as a missionary, my trainer, in the course of a second discussion, “quoted” Jesus as saying “I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it,” and then used it as a “proof-text” that the perplexed family we were teaching should commit to baptism.

    There is something to the current dialogue in religious America decrying the general loss of religious knowledge. My trainer actually became furious at me when I pointed out to him that I was of the opinion that Jesus never said that but rather that it was more likely to have been John Bytheway.


  43. Greg Call on April 16, 2004 at 1:29 am

    John, great example of what we’ve affectionately come to call a Church canard:

    I had a companion who spent hours in his quad looking for “cleanliness is next to Godliness.”

    (sorry to threadjack)

  44. john fowles on April 16, 2004 at 1:46 am

    Looks like that was a great thread–too bad I missed it! Sorry to crash this thread with that one (Still it is interesting to note that these canards are also being used as proof-texts. . . .).


  45. Frank McIntyre on April 16, 2004 at 1:47 am

    “I know that giving birth is a physical act over which the mother has precious little control. To suggest that there is any relation between that act and her salvation is offensive to me. Where is the basis for the belief that there is any eternal significance to the *physical* act of giving birth?”

    The childbirth you describe is clearly not the one that Adam and I find so moving. For at least some women, they decide to get pregnant knowing that it will impose a terrible cost on them. They pay this cost because of their love for another, one who has yet to even be born. This is reminiscent of the atonement, is it not? For some women, pregnancy wrecks their bodies. Some women it kills. You know all this already.

    So let me try to say again what I think Adam and I are trying to say. Although suffering in general does not contribute to salvation, suffering as a sacrifice for others, to bring about a good purpose, does make us more like God. Thus it contributes to our salvation. Pregnancy can be a fabulous example of that suffering, when done as a sacrifice on behalf of another.

    Hence Paul’s discussions of suffering as contributing to salvation. Hence his including childbearing in that “suffering” category.

    Of course bearing a child will not save you. Of course bearing a child with the wrong attitude may not even benefit you. But the same could be said for any suffering—mindset matters. Thus if you wish to throw out this verse, are you ready to toss Paul’s references to how suffering contributes to salvation? Was suffering unimportant to the Atonement? No. It was one of the defining characteristics of the Atonement.

    If you wish to argue that the verse is false doctrine, tell me why the above interpretation of it is false doctrine. Or tell me why my interpretation is not completely impermissible. If you wish to argue that some other interpretation is false doctrine, go right ahead.

  46. Grasshopper on April 16, 2004 at 2:16 am

    I think it is interesting that the book of Moses draws such a strong parallel between physical birth and spiritual rebirth:

    “That … inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten.”

    To me, this clearly implies a parallel between the work of the Savior and the work of a mother who bears children. I’m not sure how much of a connection this has to the scripture in question in 1 Timothy, but it seems related to the interpretation Frank outlined in his last comment.

  47. Kevin on April 16, 2004 at 2:16 am

    D&C 20:1, ergo, Christ was born on April 6, 1 B.C.

    I think the best response to prooftexting is to come up with counterexamples, i.e. verses that, if taken at face value, teach something that we clearly do not believe:

    D&C 76:71-72
    Helaman 15:4
    Matt. 5:32

    Come to think of it, the Sermon on the Mount is filled with admonitions that most LDS don’t take literally. How many Mormons do you know who would actually turn the other cheek if they were hit, or give more than required if they were sued, or limit their speech to yea yea nay nay?

  48. lyle on April 16, 2004 at 3:07 am

    Kevin: you’ll note that the committment pattern is based on scripture…and one of those being the “yea” or “nay” advice of Christ; i.e. direct “will you” questions that are meant to be answered yea or nay.

  49. Kristine on April 16, 2004 at 8:26 am

    lyle, the commitment pattern is NOT based on scripture. It was based on observations of effective missionaries and an attempt to describe the way they worked in a systematic way. Any scriptural reinforcement was after the fact.

  50. Grasshopper on April 16, 2004 at 8:42 am

    You mean those scriptures are prooftexts? ;-)

  51. Paul on April 16, 2004 at 10:03 am

    Isn’t the commitment pattern no longer used?

  52. Matt Evans on April 16, 2004 at 10:56 am

    Hi Julie,

    I’m late to the conversation, but doesn’t the distinction you draw between ‘clinging’ and ‘continually holding’ in 1 Nephi 8 depend on the very proof-texting principles you reject?

    I’ve read that chapter many times and never interpreted it to suggest the reason why some left the tree ashamed while others stayed had anything to do with the manner they reached the tree. And there’s nothing to suggest that Nephi meant to draw a distinction between ‘clinging’ and ‘continually holding’, it’s at least as likely that he meant the two verb phrases to mean the same thing.

    Nephi explicitly offers his explanation for why some fell away in verses 33 and 34, (all who heeded those in the great and spacious building fell away, those who remained at the tree of life ‘heeded them not’).

  53. lyle on April 16, 2004 at 12:01 pm

    The committment pattern is still taught to missionaries (at least, according to the one’s I fed on Tuesday night, which included a few young one’s).

    Kristine, thanks for the tip. I had no idea. Do you have a cite? Also, even if true, why do you think the missionaries observed where “effective”? I would guess it is because they were living the gospel/had read and understood the scriptures.

    afterthought? that definately requires a cite. I personally don’t believe that the Church uses scriptures as an afterthought in anything.

  54. Kevin on April 16, 2004 at 1:20 pm

    Lyle, in your opinion, was Christ trying to teach the commitment pattern in Matthew 5:33-37? If not, was he teaching a principle on which the commitment pattern is based? If so, what was that principle? If not, then was the commitment pattern formulated from a serendipitous misinterpretation of this passage?

    I’m sure we can all think of policies, practices, and even beliefs that are not derived from scripture, and yet are often taught with scriptural backing. I think the main point of this thread is to question the validity of that approach. In some instances, it’s clearly inappropriate, but perhaps in others a case could be made for the usefulness of this approach.

  55. lyle on April 16, 2004 at 1:33 pm

    Kevin, I agree. Prooftexts are great sometimes…and others not. The difficulty is creating a hermeneutic for distinguishing them.

    re: serendipitious (mis)interpretations. Because all truth is part of one great whole…I think it difficult to say what is post or propter hoc & what derivative of, etc. Maybe is is an afterthought…maybe it is derived from? Maybe both?

    no, I don’t think Christ was teaching the “Committment Pattern.” [CP] However, he probably was teaching gospel-based communication, of which the CP is a current manifestation. Let’s call it “clear communication” as opposed to the current political rhetoric were no one answers clearly & tries to confuse & avoid rather than take a clear position.

  56. Kristine on April 16, 2004 at 1:44 pm

    No, Lyle, I don’t have a citation–curriculum and missionary committee meeting minutes are not available to the public. My comment was based on what I was told by my teacher when I was taught the commitment pattern in the MTC. I’m sure MTC teachers have been mistaken in the past, so this could be as well. However, I think you’d be hard pressed to come up with the commitment pattern based solely on scriptural examples of missionary work (that would be a pretty violent and scary commitment pattern, I would think!) or the teachings of Christ.

  57. Julie in Austin on April 16, 2004 at 4:54 pm

    Frank wrote, “Of course bearing a child will not save you.” Then we are in agreement. That is all I was ever trying to suggest. Of course, for some women, childbirth has spiritual dimensions. I know a women who bore testimony in RS of the spiritual dimensions of her colonoscopy (don’t ask). Anything is possible; the point here is whether it is essential, and we both agree that it is not.

    Matt–we’ll issue you a tardy pass and get on the with discussion. I’m not sure how the 1 Nephi example constitutes prooftexting; you will need to explain that to me. I didn’t yank a verse out of context, ignore its original meaning, or try to establish a dotrine from one verse, and that’s how we have defined prooftexting in this discussion. What I’ve done is to look at the details of the passage (holding versus clinging) to see if they contribute to the fact that the holding group has a different end than the clinging group. Your second paragraph consists of arguments that might be rephrased (1) but I never noticed this before, so it can’t be true and (2) it is a coin toss as to whether Nephi would use two different phrases to mean the same thing or different things. I don’t think these are compelling arguments. Perhaps the rephrasing (which I don’t intend to be mean, just trying to clarify) shows why (1) isn’t relevant. As for (2), OK, fine, but it is, by your admission, just as likely that they are different, so let’s explore this possibility. As for your third paragraph, this may be supporting evidence for my position. Those who heed the g. and s. building are the ‘clingers.’ Was there something in their clinging that made them more likely to heed the g. and s. building? I would say yes.

  58. Ben on April 16, 2004 at 6:27 pm

    Just to reiterate, as some (here and on some other blogs) seem to misunderstand- Using a scripture to make a point is NOT a prooftext. “It is the error of taking a passage of scripture ***out of its immediate context*** and setting it up, **in opposition to its context**, as proof of a doctrinal point.”

    Does the scripture really mean what you are claiming it means?

  59. Adam Greenwood on April 16, 2004 at 6:45 pm

    Let’s assume that ‘clinging’ means something different that ‘continually holding on.’ What exactly makes you equate ‘clinging’ with a belief in biblical inerrancy or a desire to find certainty? The reasoning kind of seems as follows: clinging means the same as holding on, but with bad connotations. I think wanting inerrancy is bad. So clinging means wanting inerrancy.

    Couldn’t I just as easily say that the ‘clingers’ are those people who are desperately trying to retain some connection to the gospel after having set up their own judgment against the prophets and the scriptures? It seems like the bias you bring in is the bias you bring out.

  60. Julie in Austin on April 16, 2004 at 8:32 pm


    Completely possible. I would never, if teaching 1 Ne 8, say, ‘clinging means believing in inerrancy’. I was instead working backward and suggesting that believing in inerrancy may (reread the original post–’may’ is the right word here) be an example of clingy behavior. We could probably generate a long list of other examples of clingy behavior.

  61. Matt Evans on April 17, 2004 at 12:18 am

    Hi Julie,

    This isn’t a big deal, and I don’t intend to wrestle this too much, but I took your analysis of 1 Nephi 8 to implicate the doctrine of ‘proper’ adherence to scripture. It was this use of the passage that seemed to take the passage out of context. I don’t believe Nephi was trying to say anything about clinging versus continually holding to the rod. I think it’s possible that this was his intention, but a much more plausible explanation is that he used the two synonymns for variety’s sake. By the hermeneutic your employing, so long as he used two different words, no matter how similar, his intention was to urge one and condemn the other, as one led to and one led away from the tree of life. I imagine that if Nephi were trying to teach that people must must continually hold, but not cling, to the word of God, he would have been more explicit about it. The consequences of the different approaches — enduring to the end or wandering into the darkness — are so critical that it’s impossible to imagine that if he really thought clinging and holding were relevant he’d wouldn’t use such obscure language to teach it.

    I think the passage means that those who follow the iron rod to the tree of life, whether by clinging, continually holding, holding fast, etc., are still vulnerable to the call of the world and must therefore heed it not.

  62. Clark Goble on April 17, 2004 at 1:14 am

    Just to make an other point. A passage quoted against its contextual meaning isn’t the typical definition of a prooftext. It is simply an erroneous prooftext. Although even there one must be careful, depending upon how one views Jewish midrash. I think there is an assumption that a simple contextual reading is the only appropriate one. While that may be true in the hermeneutics that developed along side Protestantism – I’m not sure it is always correct, given the history of Jewish hermeneutics – including Nephi’s use of scripture.

  63. Mike on April 17, 2004 at 9:55 am

    OK, it seems as thought the discussion on timothy is not as much about proof texts, as about whether all doctrine taught in scripture is correct.

    didn’t we say that proof texts were texts taken out of context to prove a prticular doctirne.

    It seems Julie’s problem with first timothy 2:15 isn’t it’s use as a proof text, but in people’s attempt to take it as doctrine.

    Julie, the original scripture from timothy that you site is a great example of a proof text- people taking the scripture to say something it doesn’t to support a belief they have that may or may not be doctrinal.

    AND there is a huge difference between a proof text and taking a scripture out of context and receiving personal revelation.
    Proof texts are scriptures taken for the purpose of proving to others by bludgoning them with the scriptures.

    BUT, it creates an interesting question. When is a quoted scripture a proof text? Would scriptures which are likely used correctly (according to context)in order to prove a point or increase rhetorical strength a proof text?

    I would say so-
    It just means we need to look at scriptures used as proof text more carefully. Also understand that one verse does not difinitevely doctrine define.

    according to the missionaries white handbook the commitment pattern (when properly used, and not as most missionaries know or use it) IS based on scripture. I believe it is worded something to the effect of “a set of patterns and skills based on D&C 50 by which you help investigators make and keep the commitments which lead to conversion”

  64. Mike on April 17, 2004 at 10:06 am

    Oh, I also agree with Gary, that I most often hear 2 Tim 3:16 used by nonmormons- ot for the purpose of saying that all scripture is good, or even that all scripture that comes from God is good.
    they argue that it says “all scripture” meaning that everything we need is given. So when the Bible was written, “all scripture” had come from God.

    That completely illogical, anti-contextual, nongramatically correct interpretation definately makes me see this as a proof text.

    back to the other timothy verse-
    why does the 8th article of faith give us the freedom to throw out any verse or sets of verses we choose if we feel the doctrine is not correct. Is it sometimes possible that we misunderstand- or think something is being taught that isn’t

    As for being saved in Childbirth- aren’t there many things in which we are saved? James talks about true religion- doing specific things AND keeping yourself unspotted from the world. In Maxwells pathway of discipleship he argues that we must both DO good and BE good. Doing good is part of our accepting the atonement. Thus, specific actions can be a part of that- some actions more than others. Service, temple work, missionary work, laying down your life for a friend. Why would childbirth be unable to be one of those?

    NOw if some one used this scripture to argue that women who give birth don’t need the atonement, or that the atonement only kicks in after the saving merrits of our own actions, then it would be an example of a dangerous proof text.

    But- if people start with the verse and say “what does this mean?” and then simply misinterpret it, is that really being used as a proof text? I don’t think so. It is just as unfortunate an occurance, but it is a different type of problem entirely

  65. Mike on April 18, 2004 at 5:04 pm

    As for D&C 20:1 used to claim that Christ was born on April 6th 1 BC, that is how Talmage uses it in Jesus the Christ. I have always looked at it as one of those scriptures which I wouldn’t take it at face to have that meaning, but now place under the category of clarified or commented on by an apostle speaking as such.

  66. Ethesis on April 18, 2004 at 6:04 pm

    “women saved in childbearing” means “women will be able to survive child bearing” …

  67. Julie in Austin on April 18, 2004 at 8:46 pm


    It is interesting to me that if you go to the newly revised _Teaching: No Greater Call_ book’s section on keeping the doctrine pure, the quote they chose implies that *only* the prophet has the authority to offer authoritative interpretations of scripture.


    While that is one possible interpretation, I don’t think it stands up under scrutiny: after all, *lots* of women do not, in fact, survive child bearing.

  68. Ben on April 18, 2004 at 9:47 pm

    Ethesis said:”women saved in childbearing” means “women will be able to survive child bearing” …

    Ah. Here’s the question. HOW do you know that’s what it meant to the author when he wrote it? Did you check another translation, or the Greek? An interlinear? Something else entirely?

    If you’re not going for authorial intent, is there a prophetic statement to back you up? Has an apostle put forth this interpretation?

    In other words, what authority do you appeal to to support that interpretation? (language/ context, revelation, or logic)

  69. Ethesis on April 18, 2004 at 11:54 pm

    I thought we were proposing proof texts here, my proposed proof text for the scripture is that women, as a group, will have hardship, but will survive the experience (though not necessarily individually, much like men will starve in spite of working, but men must still labor in order to eat).

    I’m not citing to any experience or source, other than my being excessively terse some times :) …

    If it turns out to be correct … well, sometimes a supposed proof text is right.

  70. Jim F. on April 19, 2004 at 1:08 am

    Apologies in advance for a long post.

    Given the debate about the meaning of 1 Timothy 2:15, let’s look at the scholarship on it.

    In the Anchor Bible volume (page 202) on 1 Timothy, Johnson lays out some of the interpretive possibilities:

    (1) “she” refers to women in general and “they” makes that explicit: women will be saved spiritually by means of childbearing if they remain faithful;

    (2) “she” refers to women in general and “they” makes that explicit: women will be saved physically in childbirth if they remain faithful (this interpretation makes the verse a response to Genesis 3:16);

    (3)”she” refers to women in general and “they” refers to children, which means either that in performing her vocation as a woman, she must raise her children in faith, love, and holiness, or that her children’s faithfulness is the criterion for her salvation.

    Presumably because of the context, he ignores the possibility that “she” refers to Eve, a possibility that generates even more possible interpretations. (See the quotation from _A Handbook on Paul’s First Letter to Timothy_, below.) As Johnson says, “That this is one of the great exegetical puzzles in 1 Timothy is obvious from the many different readings of the passage in the history of interpretation.” I think, however, that one of these interpretations, the first, is more likely than the others, and I think that claim is in agreement with most contemporary scholarship.

    The Greek word translated “saved” is part of a word group that means, both in Greek usage and its Old Testament Hebrew equivalents, “to be saved from acute danger,” and the danger can range from the physical to the spiritual. Foerster says that in later Judaism “The unity of the many special meanings of the group _sozo_ is to be found in the idea of the preserving or restoring of the integrity of a person or thing or state or functional nexus, however constituted” (_Theological Dictionary of the NT_ 7:980). (I’m not sure about the transliteration of the Greek verb; I don’t know whether the iota subscript is transliterated.) Paul seems to use the word _sozo_ only in its theological, eschatological sense, though 1 Timothy may not have been written by him. In any case, the word is ambiguous: it could mean “saved from physical danger” or it could mean “redeemed at the coming of Christ,” but the latter is more likely because it is the more common NT and Pauline usage.

    In addition, consider the context: the writer is speaking of childbearing as salvation from “her” transgression, and it is intimately tied to faith, love, and saintliness (the state of being sanctified by the Holy Ghost). In that context, spiritual salvation seems more likely than physical salvation. In addition, the most natural translation of “in” is “by means of” (“dia” plus the genitive): “she will be saved by means of childbearing” rather than “she will be saved when she bears children.” One must twist the Greek to get the second interpretation. Both context and the preposition “dia” give good evidence for the claim that the writer has spiritual salvation in mind.

    Besides that, here are some quotations from scholars. (There are other, more recent works on the verse, but I don’t have them at hand.) The Catholic _Jerome Bible Commentary_ says “The bearing of children in pain is presented as a punishment in Gn 3:16. Paul here sees it as a means of salvation. He probably has in mind the false teachers, who forbade marriage (4:3). In the wording of the text, there is an unexpected change from the singular to the plural: “Yet she will be saved by childbearing if they continue….” The change seems best explained by taking the singular as a collective and the plural as normal” (2:354). With regard to this verse, Oepke concludes that “Child-bearing (including nurture?) can be called a work which promotes salvation and is well-pleasing to God” (TDNT 5:649). Priesker agrees that child-bearing is one of the good works by which a Christian can be judged (TDNT 4:724). This probably stems at least partly from the OT value of children: not to have children is to live in sorrow. All three of these scholarly sources take “saved” to refer to spiritual salvation.

    Finally, _A Handbook on Paul’s First Letter to Timothy_ (a handbook published by the United Bible Societies for translators) says of this verse: “The previous four verses seem to be very negative toward women. This is somewhat remedied by this last verse, which spells out how women can obtain salvation. There are, however, complications in the verse that contribute to the difficulty of determining what it is really trying to say. It must be noted first of all that the beginning of the verse is literally “But she will be saved,” which if rendered that way would make Eve in verse 13 as the antecedent of the verse. Many translations therefore make clear that this refers not to Eve but to any woman (so RSV _woman_, TEV “a woman,” Phipps, NIV “women”). Secondly, the expression _will be saved through bearing children_ also presents difficulties in translation and interpretation. There are at least three possible interpretations: (1) Women find salvation in their role as child bearers. This is the idea that comes out in both RSV and TEV (so also NIV footnote and CEV). (2) Women are delivered from danger when giving birth (so TEV footnote “will be kept safe through childbirth”; compare Phps “women will come safely through child-birth”). In this case “salvation” refers primarily to physical safety and not to the experience of divine salvation. This relates the verse to Gen 3.16, where Eve’s punishment is to experience pain in childbearing. The preposition _through_ will then be understood not in the sense “by means of” but “in the experience of” (see for a similar usage 1 Cor 3.15, “saved as through fire”). (3) Childbearing in this verse refers primarily to Mary giving birth to Jesus Christ; women are therefore saved spiritually through Jesus’ birth, which has undone the effects of Eve’s disobedience. While this is found in some writings of the church fathers, it seems rather unlikely that this was in the author’s mind when he wrote this verse. Of these three possibilities, then, the first seems to be the most likely; the other alternatives seem to have arisen in order to solve the theological problem brought about by the verse, namely, that women find their salvation by means of childbearing.”

    The greatest weight of the linguistic and scholarly evidence is on the side of those who argue that this verse speaks of women being saved by being child bearers. In the absence of prophetic clarification or correction of this verse, it seems to me that is the best interpretation of it.

    Of course, that doesn’t settle what it means to be saved spiritually in bearing children nor whether it is true doctrine.

  71. Mike on April 19, 2004 at 5:14 am

    I really like the third one- but it is likely the first. Is it possible Paul meant both meanings?

    Why would this be doctrinaly unsound? Of course Salvation commeth through the atonement. Bearing children may very well not be an ordinance but it has certainly at times been a commandment.

    If that is the case, then the verse could clearly be read as “she shall be saved in following this specific commandment, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness and sobriety.”

    Julie would you have a problem with the verse if it said “she shall be saved in paying tithing…” or something of that nature? Of course, if some one took that to mean that paying tithing meant you didn’t have to repent, or that you could earn your own salvation they would be wrong- and using the scripture as a false prooftext.

    Just because people take the scripture further than it intends to be takan and teach a doctrine that is obviously not true does not mean that the actual doctrine taught by the verse is untrue- or that we can simply discount ANY biblical verse as translated incorectly or uninspired just because it is used by some one to argue in favor of doctrine that is not true.

  72. Julie in Austin on April 19, 2004 at 1:19 pm

    JIm F.– Thanks for the clarification.

    Mike–Yes, I would. I would have a problem if what follows ‘she shall be saved by’ was anything other than ‘the atonement of Jesus Christ.’

  73. Matt Evans on April 19, 2004 at 3:08 pm

    Hi Julie,

    But there’s no reason to think Paul was saying women could be saved in childbearing even without the atonement of Christ. Paul was not teaching that the atonement of Christ was unnecessary for mothers. If he were, this would indeed be a radical and false doctrine.

    Paul clearly assumes his audience already understood the necessity of Christ’s atonement. He was merely providing an example of the laws of the gospel, as in:

    AF 3: “We believe that through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”

    Note that Paul qualifies “saved in childbearing” with “[and continues] in faith”. Only childbearing women who have already exercized faith in Christ can “continue in faith”.

    Here are a few other passages that also assume the reader already knows that salvation is possible only because of the atonement, even though if they’re read literally, they too appear to contradict the necessity of the atonement:

    “If thou wilt do good, yea, and hold out faithful to the end, thou shalt be saved” – D&C 6:13

    “[A]s many as will not harden their hearts shall be saved” – Jacob 6:4

    “[B]lessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day … and if they eendure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved” – 1 Nephi 13:37

    “Whoso awalketh uprightly shall be saved” — Psalms 28:18

    In no case, however, are we justified in reading these passages, or 1 Timothy 2:15, as claims that the atonement is unnecessary. To do so is to assure their being false.

  74. Jim F. on April 19, 2004 at 4:28 pm

    Matt’s argument is an interesting one: “If women remain faithful, charitable, and holy, then they will be saved in doing their duty as childbearers” is not logically the same as “If women do their duty as childbearers, they will be saved,” and the first is a better interpretation of the logic of the verse than the second. Therefore, the verse doesn’t imply that women are saved by childbearing rather than the Atonement.

    In addition, it doesn’t follow from the first interpretation that the only work required of women who are faithful, charitable, and holy is childbearing any more than it follows that the only work required of a saint is tithing. It seems to me that he’s offered an interesting and helpful interpretation of the verse that takes at least some of the misogynistic sting out of it. (I’m not sure that the same can be said for the verses immediately before this one, but that’s a different question.)

  75. Kristine on April 19, 2004 at 4:41 pm

    But, as Julie has pointed out, childbearing is something that largely *happens to* women, rather than being actively chosen by them (this would have been even more true at the time the verse was written). For that reason, it is very strange to read the verse as suggesting childbearing as one duty among many required of believers to be saved.

  76. Adam Greenwood on April 19, 2004 at 5:02 pm

    Did they not have abortifacents and ‘unnatural’ practices in those days? And I can’t believe that today childbearing is something that ‘happens’ to a woman.

    I guess I dislike your assumption that there is no choice or formation character involved in doing things that your society encourages or where the failures are punished.

    By your standards I probably did not ‘choose’ to serve my mission: I come from a background where doing anything else was not worth considering. But I *know* that I was blessed for serving it, that it enhanced my salvation immeasurably, and no amount of argument can convince me otherwise. I was there.

    I’m usually not inclined to read hidden subtexts into people’s statements–please correct me if I’m wrong to do so this time–but I get the feeling that you and Julie are downplaying childbearing not because you think that the sacrifice is no more salvational than, say, ditchdigging but because the exaltation of childbearing is linked to a complex of views that in turn are linked with brutality to and contempt for women. Would you read the text in the same way if someone other than Paul had written it? What if it were in the D&C?

  77. Lucas on April 19, 2004 at 5:50 pm


    “By your standards I probably did not ‘choose’ to serve my mission: I come from a background where doing anything else was not worth considering.”

    If the benefits for serving a mission and the costs for not serving a mission were defined and understood by you prior to your departure then your “choice” was constrained (i.e. not free), as indeed all choices are. It could still be a great blessing in your life, but how would you know since the other options were pre-determined as not worth consideration and you have no point of comparison?

  78. Kristine on April 19, 2004 at 6:10 pm

    Adam, I can’t speak for Julie, but I’m really trying to think about this specific passage, regardless of its author (who may or may not be Paul) or the historical uses to which this verse has been put. (There’s no hidden women’s studies agenda here, honest!) I think *raising* children entails choices and sacrifices which encourage spiritual growth and which might even be seen as part of the duties of believers. Those opportunities are available to parents of either sex. However, the text as it stands suggests that the physical act of childbearing is somehow redemptive, and that doesn’t make sense to me. Unless you are willing to valorize physical suffering of all kinds as necessary to salvation (which, imo, potentially leads to some pretty ugly notions about God), then I don’t see how childbearing itself can have salvific function.

  79. Jim F. on April 19, 2004 at 6:42 pm

    Doesn’t the verse make sense as an expansion on Genesis 3:16? Neither verse is easy to understand, but can’t we see Genesis 3:16 as saying that the type of suffering in the world is, for women, to be found in child-bearing and the type of suffering in the world is, for men, to be found in manual labor? In response to that, the author of 1 Timothy says that women’s salvation is found in the suffering of child birth (with all of the provisos I’ve already made about what that does not mean)? If we read the verses typologically rather than literally, then we don’t have to valorize physical suffering. On the other hand, the typological reading allows us to make the connection to verses like Romans 8:17-18, which (as I think someone already point out, though I’m too lazy to read back over the posts to see) makes suffering with Christ essential to salvation.

    Obviously, going from such a typological reading to literal claims about the roles of men and women is a dicey proposition–unless all we men are ready to give up our professional jobs for work as manual laborers.

  80. Grasshopper on April 19, 2004 at 7:40 pm

    Kristine wrote: “Unless you are willing to valorize physical suffering of all kinds as necessary to salvation (which, imo, potentially leads to some pretty ugly notions about God), then I don’t see how childbearing itself can have salvific function.”

    Is it possible for physical suffering to contribute to salvation without being necessary for it? It seems so to me; thus, to claim that childbearing contributes in some way to a woman’s salvation is not to claim that a woman must bear children to be saved.

  81. clark goble on April 19, 2004 at 7:52 pm

    Interesting comments, Grasshopper, especially since it seems like Mormons read the sufferings of Genesis 3 in terms of our view of the plan of salvation. i.e. the veil and suffering being necessary for our growth.

    It’s an interesting point probably relevant to the genetic engineering thread as well.

  82. Julie in Austin on April 19, 2004 at 8:11 pm


    Nope. I find the genuine writings of Paul to be overwhelmingly positive in terms of a feminist reading. So, the presumption that you made in your statement about Kristine and me doesn’t hold.

    Jim wrote: “Matt’s argument is an interesting one: “If women remain faithful, charitable, and holy, then they will be saved in doing their duty as childbearers” is not logically the same as “If women do their duty as childbearers, they will be saved,” and the first is a better interpretation of the logic of the verse than the second.”

    (1) For what reasons do you find the first to be a better interp than the second?

    (2) The logic of the first statement only makes sense to me if we are taking ‘saved’ as meaning ‘won’t die.’ (And I think we agreed above that that was the less likely reading). If saved refers to spiritual salvation, I don’t know how to make sense of the phrase ‘receive salvation in childbearing.’ What would ‘in’ mean in that case?

  83. Adam Greenwood on April 19, 2004 at 10:53 pm

    Since pain is a universal experience, I wonder very much if it isn’t necessary for salvation. Even it weren’t, in some theoretical sense, Christ has made it so. Salvation is to be like him, and he is a sufferer. In fact, I would say that the link to Christ is why childbearing is redemptive. Childbearing is administering the first birth, in blood and water; Christ administers the second, in blood and water. At least, that’s what Grasshopper’s scripture suggests to me:

    “That … inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten.”

  84. Grasshopper on April 19, 2004 at 11:43 pm


    I do think that suffering, as a general thing, is necessary for our growth. But that doesn’t mean that a particular kind or amount or instance of suffering is necessary for our growth. So we can still say that suffering is necessary for salvation, but childbirth is not (though it may have redemptive qualities along the lines of D&C 122).

  85. Mike on April 19, 2004 at 11:43 pm

    I think Matt’s post is an interesting one. If some one continues in faith doesn’t that assume that they have accepted the atonement of Jesus Christ? The reason I ask about tithing is obviously from D&C 64:23
    If those that are tithed shall not be burned, it seems on face that all you have to do to avoid destruction is pay tithing. That obviously isn’t the case- BUT I think the argument that being obedient to the law of tithing is a needed component of salvation and that those who refuse to tithe when so commanded are not truly accepting thier part of the covenant they make when they accept Christ, his atonement, and baptism into his kingdom.

  86. Mark Butler on April 20, 2004 at 12:02 am

    I agree it makes little sense to read ‘child bearing’ as the act of giving birth alone. That is taking a much too literal approach to a term that clearly signifies a woman’s complete role as a mother in this life and in the next.

    I might also add that the scripture should not be read so narrowly as to assume that only a biological mother can perform this role. That is my view, anyway.

  87. Mike on April 20, 2004 at 12:03 am

    Whether or not childbirth has redemptive qualities through suffering if it is specifically commanded could it not then be said to be part of salvation?

    Would it be out of place to say Jonah found salvation in going to Ninevah or that Abraham was saved in his willingness to sacrifice Isaac?
    Yes, there would be something wrong with those statements if they were alone. But, if they include acceptance of the gospel there is an understanding that salvation comes through the Atonement of Christ as long as we are willing to follow the specific path Christ lays out.

    Could the author (Paul or otherwise) be arguing that childbirth is a part of that path for women?

  88. Jim F. on April 20, 2004 at 1:02 am

    Julie, I read the verse with the first logical meaning because that is pretty close to what it literally says: “she [which I take to be a collective singular] shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” The standard logical form of that sentence is “If they continue in faith, charity, and holiness, then they shall be saved in childbearing.”

    How to understand “saved” if it doesn’t mean “saved physically,” the less likely reading? I think it was Adam who first suggested on this thread that we can understand it in the same way we understand other commandments to do our duties. That makes sense: the author takes childbearing to be a duty for Christian women.

    I am persuaded by the various interpreters who see in this verse an amplification of a first-century understanding of procreation and of Genesis 3:16: women have a duty to bear children; if they do so as Christian women, then that will work toward their salvation (just as does obedience to other commandments).

  89. Clark Goble on April 20, 2004 at 1:10 am

    “I do think that suffering, as a general thing, is necessary for our growth. But that doesn’t mean that a particular kind or amount or instance of suffering is necessary for our growth.”

    But Grasshopper, that is exactly what *is* generally thought as being part of the LDS plan of salvation. I agree that it isn’t official doctrine, but it is a very common belief. i.e. the idea that we have the sufferings we need to learn to be Christlike. Now there are problems when the idea is pushed too far (as it too often is) i.e. the (IMO) false idea that *every* suffering we have was planned exactly for a custom lesson plan individually tailored for us. That to me is just plain false doctrine. But the idea that certain “classes” of pains may make more sense. Whether child bearing and other kinds of labor (no pun intended) fit that, I can’t say. I’m not about to say that they *aren’t* sufferings we need for our development though.


Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.