Searching the Scriptures

August 7, 2005 | 22 comments
By

Several weeks back, I posted a short thing on Conglomerate and Blogcritics about my search for Harry Potter & The Half-blood Prince. After the book was released, people started commenting on the Blogcritics post, and the debate is still raging: 388 comments and counting!

That debate — plus a provocative post from Russell — got my juices flowing, and after completing the book, I engaged my oldest daughter in an extended conversation about Snape’s true nature. Last week, she attended Especially For Youth at BYU, where she shared some of our insights with one of her dance partners. She said that he listened attentively then remarked, “Wow! Do you study the scriptures like that?”

22 Responses to Searching the Scriptures

  1. lyle stamps on August 8, 2005 at 10:09 am

    Gordon: Is your point that the EFY boy was snarky and too focused on religion? Or that we don’t study our scriptures enough. If the latter, it seems that when folks do go to such lengths, they are criticized by the very same people. I’m thinking of Card, whose books on the Biblical Patriarchs and their families does alot of thinking on the true nature of those individuals; yet is criticized by many as unfaithful.

  2. Gordon Smith on August 8, 2005 at 1:12 pm

    lyle, Do I have to have a point? I just thought it was a funny comment.

  3. Russell Arben Fox on August 8, 2005 at 1:44 pm

    I, for one, do not study the scriptures the way I have, over the last few weeks, studied Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. But that is partly because the scriptures do not tell their stories in conjunction with such analysis-demanding literary devices as possibly unreliable narrators, to say nothing of cliff-hanger endings.

    For those who care: the debate over HBP, and the final turn which the story takes for Harry, Dumbledore, Snape, and all the rest, has been simply huge. My review has attracted more comments than any single post I have ever written; ditto for a copy of the same post I put up at Kulturblog. It’s the same all across the blogosphere: normally sedate exchanges about books and things have been blown apart by this book. Rowling knows her audience well.

  4. obi-wan on August 8, 2005 at 1:50 pm

    But that is partly because the scriptures do not tell their stories in conjunction with such analysis-demanding literary devices as possibly unreliable narrators

    Beg to differ . . . to take only one of a multitude of examples, there is a rather interesting question as to how objective Nephi’s account of the slaying of Laban and/or his accounts of encounters with his older brothers may be. And don’t even get me started on Paul and Peter . . .

  5. Kingsley on August 8, 2005 at 2:04 pm

    Question doesn’t seem interesting so much as a banal sort of game that can be played with any BoM narrator.

  6. costanza on August 8, 2005 at 3:23 pm

    Obi-Wan raises an interesting point (#4). I think there are many interesting questions about the BofM editorial process. How, for example, do the various narrators and editors know what the various characters were thinking? Also, as with many ancient chroniclers, Mormon frequently posits cause and effect relationships that may or may not be the only possible interpretation of the events he describes. I think that these and many other topics are fascinating questions and thinking about them enriches my appreciation of the complexity of the book.

  7. Ben S. on August 8, 2005 at 3:31 pm

    Grant Hardy wrote an interesting paper on Mormon as Editor. See here under Alma 25 as well as this post.

  8. Kingsley on August 8, 2005 at 3:42 pm

    Good point, Costanza, I spoke a little hastily. I simply meant that the ancient and modern production of the BoM seems so miraculous, such an exception to the rule, as it were, that the basic honesty of its writers (so crucial to holy writ) is probably a given.

  9. Julie in Austin on August 8, 2005 at 3:47 pm

    I’ve always thought that Helaman 7:7 was a good example of a time when we are smacked in the face with the knowledge that a record can be true while the speaker is, to put it politely, batty:

    “Oh, that I could have had my days in the days when my father Nephi first came out of the land of Jerusalem, that I could have joyed with him in the promised land; then were his people easy to be entreated, firm to keep the commandments of God, and slow to be led to do iniquity; and they were quick to hearken unto the words of the Lord—”

  10. Kingsley on August 8, 2005 at 3:51 pm

    Julie in Austin you are evil beyond belief. In fact if there is such a thing as pure evil …

  11. Julie in Austin on August 8, 2005 at 3:53 pm

    Kingsley–

    huh?

    /scratches head

  12. Kingsley on August 8, 2005 at 3:55 pm

    It was just a bad joke wherein I took my reactionary-ness to the next level …

  13. Julie in Austin on August 8, 2005 at 3:58 pm

    oh, uh, I didn’t see your #8 when I posted my #9. I realize now how #9 could appear evil.

    (Of course, given your #8, #9 also appears terribly witty and quick on the draw. Maybe I shouldn’t have admitted not seeing your #8.)

  14. obi-wan on August 8, 2005 at 4:19 pm

    Question doesn’t seem interesting so much as a banal sort of game that can be played with any BoM narrator.

    Yes, well, perhaps I’m easily amused.

    OTOH, to the banal, all things are banal . . .

  15. Kingsley on August 8, 2005 at 4:21 pm

    And sometimes things are just banal, all cute axioms aside. Anyhow, I agreed with Constanza that your point was probably more complex than I originally assumed.

  16. Lisa B. on August 8, 2005 at 5:22 pm

    Someone can be basically honest and still interpret something (the “and thus we see”s mentioned above) in a limited (not false, just limited) way. Scriptures aren’t a comprehensive view of the mind of God. That would be impossible. They’re just a small window into how certain individuals have experienced God in their particular contexts. I think one of the ways we’ve failed to take the BOM seriously (as per condemnations by Pres Benson & etc.) is in failing to recognize that it was a complex process long before it even got into Joseph’s hands. Then there’s the translation issue, through a human (fallible) medium, and from and into a limited language, even if by an unlimited Source. Then there’s how we read it…

    I like the question in the OP. Pretty sad if we DON’T hunger and thirst/ seek/ search the scriptures with as much gusto as many approach the next Harry Potter. I would guess that most of us don’t (self included).

  17. Lisa B. on August 8, 2005 at 5:23 pm

    Someone can be basically honest and still interpret something (the “and thus we see”s mentioned above) in a limited (not false, just limited) way. Scriptures aren’t a comprehensive view of the mind of God. That would be impossible. They’re just a small window into how certain individuals have experienced God in their particular contexts. I think one of the ways we’ve failed to take the BOM seriously (as per condemnations by Pres Benson & etc.) is in failing to recognize that it was a complex process long before it even got into Joseph’s hands. Then there’s the translation issue, through a human (fallible) medium, and from and into a limited language, even if by an unlimited Source. Then there’s how we read it…

    I like the question in the OP. Pretty sad if we DON’T hunger and thirst/ seek/ search the scriptures with as much gusto as many approach the next Harry Potter. I would guess that most of us don’t (self included).

    #9 made me smile wider than I have all day, Julie. Thanks.

  18. lyle on August 8, 2005 at 6:16 pm

    no; but it certainly helps if folks know the why.

  19. Prudence McPrude on August 8, 2005 at 6:25 pm

    lyle, when are you going to realize that the point of virtually everything on this site is to gratify the Adversary and offend the Celestial Kingdom-bound?

  20. Sarah on August 9, 2005 at 3:43 am

    I think if the Primary and Sunday School were places where the coolest people were truly the ones who knew the insides and outsides of the scriptures the reaction to them would be a lot more like the fervor over Harry Potter installments, at least within the church. I was walking past a Gospel Doctrine class from another ward on Sunday, as the question “So, what was happening here, anyway… who won this battle?” was asked (and the question debated)… I’m trying to a) figure out what on earth they were talking about [how many battles are in the D&C??] and b) figure out why it is that we don’t expect adults to figure out the basics from the text itself. I hope they switched the room from Gospel Doctrine for Gospel Essentials or something, though again it depresses me that “who won the battle,” a question I’d feel silly asking 2nd graders to whom I’d just read a story, was given any real time in an adult class.

    The kids in my primary class now think it’s pretty cool to know which random names I pulled out of the scriptures were the names of wicked people and which were the names of righteous people (they’re young enough that they haven’t noticed that I had to use the names of almost every random murderer and conspirator to get half as many “bad guys” as I had “good guys” just from memory… and that all the women in my pile of cards were righteous, though that’s just because I ran out of cards.) Sometime soon I want to figure out how to get them to spontaneously discuss cool Gospel stories instead of their collections of Star Wars figures (they’re all a bit below the Harry Potter reading level still,) though I doubt that’ll really stick.

    Anyway, the biggest thing with Harry Potter is the sense that the story is ongoing. Both the setting (circa 1996 for the most recent volume) and the fact that there’s still a volume coming, give it a sense of urgency. No one will deny that the overall story of the scriptures is “still ongoing” in some sense, but it’s not quite the same. Maybe if the Prophet only gave one address, which was 500 pages long, every 2 to 5 years, and lived the life of a mysterious and coy recluse, we’d think that way about the stuff in the Ensign?

  21. lyle stamps on August 9, 2005 at 11:05 am

    My family just took up the BoM challenge to read it by year end.

    Anyway…it appears that Nephi is also a thief. He took the Brass Plates, which were not placed in his custody. Now, we can excuse him via revelation, i.e. God told him to do so; but this only excuses him from breaking the spiritual law. Regardless, he still broke the positive law of man, the property law. Although…we could argue that he “paid” for it with the family treasures that Laban “acquired” from him via theft.

  22. Elisabeth on August 10, 2005 at 1:56 pm

    Gordon – did you comment last night on NPR’s “Marketplace” about the Disney court decision? I thought I heard your name mentioned. If it was you, nice comments! I love that show. Have you been on Marketplace before?