Nibley and the Scriptorians

June 23, 2006 | 56 comments

Perhaps it is just me, but “scriptorian” seems to be an honorific that has fallen out of favor. I remember when scriptorian was meted out as a term of high theological praise. The typical scriptorian was an aging high priest who had seen long service in the Church. He had claims to wisdom from great experience, but beyond simple longevity he was known for a deep and thorough knowledge of the scriptures. He was the sort of man who wanted nothing more than a chance to go toe-to-toe and verse-for-verse with a Baptist minister, or work through the signs of the times in Sunday School class.

The learning of the scriptorian was largely oral. He didn’t produce footnoted articles for intellectual fora. It was also daring in its interpretation. Poetic passages from Amos and other prophets were read with a dogged literalism that opened up surprisingly wild theological vistas. The learning was also almost entirely autodidactic. No one became a scriptorian by virtue of a degree. The man who gave me my patriarchal blessing was a scriptorian. The walls of his study were not lined with scholarly treatises but with dog eared copies of the Journal of Discourses.

If I am right about the sinking status of scriptorians, I think that Nibley is the culprit behind their decline. Nibley dazzled with his dozens of dead languages and his marriage of Mormon scripture with “the ancient world.” In place of the autodidactic scriptorian we now have the post-Nibley Mormon scholar. We look not for a thorough understanding of the Millennial time table, but rather for the ancient history of proper names from the Book of Mormon. The intellectual world created by Nibley for Mormon students of scripture is — if not quite professional — at least scholarly in its basic orientation.

When I first read Nibley and the work of his disciples there was something intoxicating about it. Suddenly Mormonism and the Gospel seemed so much bigger, older, and somehow more intellectually respectable. It was though an interest in the Hebrew or Greek roots of scripture terms had liberated me from any duty to have anxiety about the precise relationship between Jerusalem, Jackson County, and the “Mountain of the Lord’s House in the tops of the mountains” (Salt Lake) in the climatic days before the Second Coming.

At this point, however, I worry about losing scriptorians. Scholars are ultimately timid creatures, and frankly much of Nibley’s most lasting and influential work partakes of a very un-scholarly audacity. In an intellectual world where untutored but scripture-soaked patriarchs are cranks, and where scholars with their Aramaic and Hebrew hold sway we will lose something deep and essential about Mormonism. At their worst, Mormons see Joseph Smith as a passive automaton in the hands of God. The Restoration, however, is the result of a cocktail of Joseph’s wild scriptural interpretations and revelation. He was a scriptorian with a deep knowledge of the sacred text, but he was never a scholar. He never had a scholar’s precision, caution, or context. In that sense, to see to the wild speculations of a high-priest group scriptorian is to be much closer to Joseph and the roots of the Restoration than to see a faithful disciple of Nibley toiling away at the footnotes of path-breaking article on Mormon scripture.

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56 Responses to Nibley and the Scriptorians

  1. Julie M. Smith on June 23, 2006 at 12:54 am

    A great post. But, as we all know, Joseph Smith did aspire to the status of scholar, or at least the tools of the scholar, by studying Hebrew. And I daresay that your crank patriarch probably had picked up at least one or two Hebrew words that he enjoyed tossing around. Which is to say that I don’t think the divide is quite as wide as you make it.

  2. Mark Butler on June 23, 2006 at 1:13 am

    How can the learning of a scriptorian be largely oral? The people I know whose knowledge of the scriptures consists largely of listening in church meetings tend to have the theological consistency of a thin gruel.

    The twentieth centuries’ prototypical LDS scriptorians are without a doubt Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie. One might disagree with some of their conclusions, but it seems they knew the scriptures backward and forward better than anyone.

    And the nineteenth century title almost certainly has to go to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon. Joseph Smith seemed to have the whole New Testament at the tip of his tongue, and Sidney Rigdon wasn’t too far behind, having a degree of scriptural knowledge that these days seems common only among the best evangelical scholars.

    To me there are few things less effective than someone (even a prophet) who gets up and delivers a complete talk without referring in some way to a single scripture. If the Savior can quote the prophets, surely we can too.

  3. manaen on June 23, 2006 at 1:15 am

    … and “scriptorian” itself is a highly-LDS neologism. It’s unknown on and Google returns a preponderance of LDS sites in the first few pages.

  4. Mark Butler on June 23, 2006 at 1:20 am

    Another thing – I believe Joseph Smith’s scriptural interpretations were anything but wild – he seems to have had the soundest theological sense of anyone since Jesus Christ. The only people that I know of that might compare are some of the New Testament Apostles, who had the advantage of learning first hand over a considerable period of time. I would like to put Parley Pratt in that category, but it is hard to compare because we do not have as extensive a track record.

  5. Mark Butler on June 23, 2006 at 1:29 am

    The thing I see as the fundamental weakness of the Nibley approach is that all we can do with it is dig up an apocryphal smorgasboard of ideas and beliefs of questionable value. That makes for decent apologetics, but poor theology, as a rule.

    The only reasonable way we can determine the value of some apocryphal text is to compare it to the scriptures – I suppose we might get insight into the semantics of terms in some ancient culture, but beyond that, without the authority of scripture, apocryphal study seems almost a trivia game, one far less fruitful than an *proper* internal analysis of the scriptures themselves, where by proper I mean first and foremost not shutting down the hermeneutical cycle with a naively object oriented metaphysic.

  6. Ryan on June 23, 2006 at 1:31 am

    Great story:

    President Hinckley was speaking once and wanted to quote a particular scripture.. not remembering the precise wording and not wanting to mangle the verbage, he turned to Elder Packer who had accompanied him and asked to borrow his Book of Mormon. After flipping through a couple of pages, he turned back to Elder Packer and said something to the effect of “I can’t read this, you’ve scribbled over all the pages” (referring of course to Elder Packers extensive notes and cross-references.)

    Now that guy is a scriptorian.

  7. Kimball L. Hunt on June 23, 2006 at 3:29 am

    Great SCRIPTURA (!) (the “expounding of scripture”), like great literature, holds the power to make one — What’s the phrase? not suspend but SUSTAIN belief . . . and to suspend doubt.

    . . . And this expertise can be found in any number of fields of human expression, learning, or understanding.

    Great post. Thanks!
    p/s re your last post, Nate: So many of the bloggernacle’s female denizens’ extremely strong reactions to a certain portion of the form or script of the endowment really touched me. So interesting!

    My friend is 8-months pregnant (a less common occurance in secular households than Mormon ones!): a woman who wears size extrasmall, whose huge, beachball-sized belly now has more extra breadth than she “herself” (OTHER than it!) does. So, I can SEE Genesis’s sayin’ how Fate has it that women will “suffer” in childbirth! Not long ago death in labor was not all that common. And then, what with we humans constant interest in sex with our partners, well, women generally would always end up bein’ pregnant.

    So, anyway, it was recently part of Mormon high worship to contemplate something about this, as such might fit into the Creation story.

    But, apparently (according to Times & Seasons’ comments): No more?! The moral being that the script of such rites may change, but the underlying realities of Creation and the human condition (and whatever eschatological facts as one holds as “religious” constants) will ever remains the same!

    Thus, Maria’s fix of the whole “inequality within LDS ritual” problem was the best: (her and her likewise true-blue husband’s silently, internally “extending” and democratizing it!)

  8. Kimball L. Hunt on June 23, 2006 at 3:40 am

    I meant, of course, UN-common.

  9. Harold on June 23, 2006 at 5:56 am

    Sometimes I think the dearth of scriptorians is the emphasis modern emphasis in Sunday School. For nearly a generation now, we have turned to the scriptures–and instead of asking what they mean and doctrinal exegesis, we assume everybody understands and ask how they apply.

    The scriptorians helped us understand, or at least wowed us with their understanding of the meaning. All of us equal opportunity scripture readers can chime in with how the scriptures apply in our own lives or others…

    And shortly after the emphasis in Sunday School changed, convert baptisms started dropping?

  10. queuno on June 23, 2006 at 9:06 am

    Hmm. i don’t disagree with Nate’s analysis, but I have seen a different trend recently (at least, here in TGSOT).

    First, I see a trend of increasing use, not decreasing. I’ve heard the term perhaps twice a month over the last 5-6 months, referring to people from the ward or stake. Second (and this ties back to Nate’s analysis), the definition of “scriptorian” has been altered (I, too, have always thought of a “scriptorian”, but as it has probably died out, the very meaning of the term has been redefined — if you can’t score a touchdown, move the goalposts). And it doesn’t have to be an elderly member — I’ve heard 30-something referred to as scriptorians.

    Anyone who “teaches by the scriptures”, at least more than anyone else (who apparently don’t teach by the scriptures) is called a “scriptorian”. A visiting GA to our Stake Conference called someone in the stake a “scriptorian”, NOT because of how more advanced he was, but in contrast to the norm. Our stake president called our bishop, a former seminary teacher, a “great scriptorian”. The bishop doesn’t seem particularly wise — but he’s not an idiot, either. It’s just that he actually *uses* the scriptures when he speaks or teaches. Ward members were challenged to become scriptorians at home with our families — with the implication that we needed to start *teaching* by them in our homes. We don’t have to *study* per se. We don’t have to do advanced analysis. We don’t even have to *read*, it wouldn’t appear. Just use the scriptures in classes, talks, and in FHE, and you’ll be considered a “scriptorian”.

    So it seems that (in at least my stake, and the GAs that visit) we’ve instituted a grading curve. No longer is the scriptorian the master who can bedazzle with lucid analysis of the most dense prose. It’s just a signifier for someone who is a cut above the modern norm. The norm is pretty bad, I think, so you just have to be “decent” nowadays to stand out, and thus be called scriptorian.

  11. Patrick Mason on June 23, 2006 at 9:11 am

    My dad is a “scriptorian,” and is probably the most respected person in his ward, at least when it comes to church doctrine, organization, ecclesiology, etc. He always bemoans the loss of scriptural knowledge in the church, and I’m inclined to agree with him, and with Nate’s post in general.

    I had never thought of the Nibley connection, but maybe there’s something there. But I think it has to do with an overall shift in the nature of the church. Fifty years ago, when my dad–and the last generation of the scriptorians–were growing up, the church was mostly a Wasatch Front (or at least Mormon Corridor) church, mostly insular, and still quite small (i.e. apostles going to Boy Scout courts of honor, etc.). Most of the membership was lifers, and had deep roots in the nineteenth-century church, with the “fundamentals” of the faith deeply engrained in the collective consciousness. Precisely because the church was so small, the Brethren still had their hands in all kinds of local affairs, and could realistically supervise the entire church. There was no need for correlation, because the authority of the apostles was all the correlation that was needed. There was a certain willingness to entertain freewheelers, since it was largely an ethnic community that had no risk of hemorraghing members.

    The church today is quite different. It is a church of converts, and is not only nationwide but truly global (although probably not quite as “global” as we tend to think in our triumphalist mode). A large segment of the church are new members. Correlation has been instituted to meet the needs of a far-flung worldwide church made up largely of new converts. With a steady influx of new members, and a greater concern about PR, we are constantly emphasizing “first principles,” since we can’t assume that everyone is born and raised with them, and we want to look respectable in the eyes of the world. Freewheeling is frowned upon because it might upset fragile new testimonies, and might look weird to the press (although I personally think the rest of the world cares much less about us than we think they do–and those who do care about us think we’re crazy anyhow, so I don’t know the payoff for trying to be like everyone else).

    So Nate sees it as an intellectual move, I see it as a social and cultural move. But I’m a social and cultural historian, so what do you expect.

  12. queuno on June 23, 2006 at 9:19 am

    Re my own #10 – the fact that it seems to be increasing in recent months only serves to highly Nate’s point that it has fallen so far into disuse…

    I remember a few years ago, the push was to make sure that testimonies and lessons and talks referenced Christ as much as would be appropriate. Now, the push seems to be to actually use the scriptures. To steal from a commercial: “We are all scriptorians!” (or can be!)

  13. Nate Oman on June 23, 2006 at 9:39 am

    “(although I personally think the rest of the world cares much less about us than we think they do–and those who do care about us think we’re crazy anyhow, so I don’t know the payoff for trying to be like everyone else)”


    It is always hard to generalize from your own experience, so queuno is no doubt right about the increasing use of the term (at least in some places). Also, I suspect that Patrick is right that demographic and institutional changes are as important as intellectual changes. It seems to me, however, that our ideal of what the theologically learned looks like has shifted. Once upon a time it would have been someone like Joseph Fielding Smith. Now it seems to be someone more like Hugh Nibley. (Of course, this is probably more a reflection of my peer group than of the Church as a whole.) There are all sorts of things that I dislike about JFS and BRM theology, in particular its dogmatism and certain aspects of its literalism. Still, I can’t help but think that there is a deep theological productivity that is lost when we hope to become scholars rather than scriptorians.

    Sterling McMurrin used to tell the story of meeting an old-time Mormon in Arizona who assured him that Satan smelled like a wet dog. McMurrin told the story in very condescending tones, essentially as an example of the pre-reflective crudity of Mormon thinking, the sort of thing that Mormons needed to get over. I have always found the claim facinating. What mix of scriptural interpretation, speculation, and experience produced the claim about Satan’s smell? I can’t help but feeling that there is a kind of theological fecundity in such claims that a well-crafted scholarlly article in Dialogue, FARMS, or the Harvard Theological Review for that matter will never have.

  14. heironymus potter on June 23, 2006 at 10:15 am

    We have a couple of Nibley acolytes in our ward. They seem to get deferential treatment. They pull some word meaning out and expound it, and the instructor doesn’t know how to respond. Are they linguists or scriptorians? Linguists and scriptorians aren’t mutually exclusive. I admire their scholarship, but since word connotations change over time don’t we need both the scriptorians so aptly described by Nate and the Nibley type scholars who are rightfully admired for their liguistic erudition.

  15. Kimball L. Hunt on June 23, 2006 at 10:21 am

    Thanks for that “shaggy dog” story, Nate!

    As, doesn’t a //primitive// worldview, Mormon or traditional Chinese, entertain influences of good and evil or those mixt-between, of a nature as was spoofed in Ghost Busters? Since human, religioous impulses must feature faith-induced dreamscapes so essentially experiential as to be uncapturable through modern //pure-objectivity//?

  16. Jed on June 23, 2006 at 10:26 am

    “So Nate sees it as an intellectual move, I see it as a social and cultural move. But I’m a social and cultural historian, so what do you expect.”

    It is both. There is an even wider movement afoot, and that is the decline of modernism. The modernist Conference address piled on scripture after scripture in teaching the “doctrine” of an abstract theological principle. The goal was the creation of a airtight philosophical system internal to the principle in question. Those talks have been in decline for about the last thirty years. Elder Nelson or Elder Oaks give one on occasion, but for the most part they are a dead letter, replaced by the talks on practical religion in which application to daily living is the theme. How to _apply_ the gospel is now the point of virtually every talk. When we turned the corner toward practical religion, “the scriptorian” took a hit.

    I am not sure this as a loss. The scriptorian of our tradition was often a prooftexter who forced system on a text when none existed in reality. That person took an essentially defensive posture, going toe-to-toe with the anti-Mormon writing that sought to tear down our doctrinal superstructure through reference to the biblical text. We responded by counterpunching. I think FARMS is helping us develop more mature scriptural literacy in the church. Those little newsletters get people thinking about the meaning of words and ancient languages and traditions that we didn’t have before. They are helping us carve out our own exegetical tradition.

  17. Kevin Barney on June 23, 2006 at 10:29 am

    Great post, Nate.

    Re: #3, Barlow talks about scriptorian as a Mormon neologism in his Mormons and the Bible. He uses the more widely recognized “scripturist.”

    I agree that the 20th century models for those who studied the scriptures were, for the scriptorian, JFS and BRM, and for the scholar, Nibley. But as Nate rightly points out, virtually all who have followed in Nibley’s path (including myself) have done so in a more pedestrian and down to earth manner, whereas for Nibley scholarship was more of an art form.

    We have a true scriptorian of the old guard in our ward. He has a high profile job with a major corporation; he served his mission under BRM; he is nearing retirement. He is the only true scriptorian that I know any more. I do think they are becoming less common.

    I never aspired to be a scriptorian, but went down the scholarly path. I became a Nibleyophile on my mission; I learned Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Coptic at BYU; I’ve published lots of heavily footnoted articles on Mormon scripture. I feel more comfortable with non-LDS biblical scholarship than I do with scriptorian-generated institute manuals, and I am more likely to use the former than the latter in my teaching at church.

    For me personally, this has been a good thing. It has helped me to maintain an interest in and a connection to the Church that probably would not exist in the absence of scholarship. I understand Nate’s lament for the loss of the wet-smelling dog theorists, and I guess I could share that lament if we’re talking about lovable cranks at the local level and not heavily authoritarian apostolic officers of the church who seek to ram their nutty ideas down the rest of our throats.

  18. Jonathan N on June 23, 2006 at 11:32 am

    Kevin has an important point. The BRM and JFS approach of taking the scriptures literally led to conclusions such as no death on earth before Adam and Eve. People react to that by questioning the validity of the scriptures beyond their current status as quote books for “feel-good” sermons and lessons.

    Many people just can’t figure out how much of the scriptures are literal and how much are figurative or mythical. Our leaders provide little if any guidance in this area.

    Kevin is right that non-LDS biblical scholarship is impressive. Regarding LDS scriptures, we have the FARMS approach of conjuring up a Meso-American geography theory by selective interpretation (and redefining) of BoM terminology; Blake Ostler’s approach of finding both modern and ancient “expansion” of the scriptures that confuses the true origins of the text and further undermines its credibility; and historical analysis of the scriptures (e.g., Bushman pointing out that Sec. 110 was written by Warren Cowdery and later changed to first person for the D&C, after Joseph died) makes people wonder exactly what was changed and what wasn’t.

    Another factor might be the ease with which we can search the scriptures electronically; there’s no need, and maybe no point, in trying to memorize where everything is.

    Boyd K. Packer visited our stake last year to train a new GA and said that we ought not give references to specific scriptures in talks because “you lose your audience” when people go to look up the references. Better, he said, to just paraphrase the scripture, or quote it from memory. That’s a pattern that we see, where speakers rarely refer to specific scriptures and tha audience even more rarely follows along. The 40 minutes of Sunday School, which usually means about 30 minutes of lessons, are dominated by personal experiences and opinions and not a lot of scripture study. It’s like the singing of hymns, which continues to deteriorate in the absence of song practice throughout the church; there just isn’t a forum for studying scriptures, or practicing hymns.

  19. g.wesley on June 23, 2006 at 12:21 pm

    ‘…to see to the wild speculations of a high-priest group scriptorian is to be much closer to Joseph and the roots of the Restoration than to see a faithful disciple of Nibley toiling away at the footnotes of path-breaking article on Mormon scripture.’

    not so much. some scriptorians would castigate any modern ‘speculation’ of the sort joseph smith used to produce (e.g. BRM’s classification of speculating on the KFD as one of the ‘deadly heresies’), whereas most of the nibleyophiles I know (whether scholar, student, or non-academic) can speculate with the best of them. of course, they often use ancient non-canonical sources in the process, but so might have joseph smith. for instance, he owned an early collection of apocryphal and patristic sources (william hone’s apocryphal new testament, 1820) which contains among other things passages from the shepherd of hermas and the gospel of nicodemus that according to nibley, et al., are strikingly similar if not identical to the mormon doctrine and practice of baptism for the dead. of course, assuming that he himself was, as todd compton put it, the first to examine these ancient sources from a mormon perspective, nibley contended that joseph smith did not have access to early christian apocrypha and patristic writtings. furthermore, a perusal of this blog’s namesake during joseph smith’s ‘editorship’ (whatever you take that to mean) shows that apocryphal sources were used then in much the same fashion as FARMS functions now: refering to a passage from the book of jasher to support the recently published book of abraham, and citing chryssostum’s description of the marcionite practice of proxy baptism in defence of the mormon parallel practice. examples continue: joseph smith studying and even incorporating greek, hebrew, latin, etc., in his speculative preaching (i.e. KFD). in short, although FARMS operates on a much larger scale, methodologically i don’t see that big of a difference. and yes, that means that i don’t consider a substantial amount of FARMS material to be scholarly in the strict sense, just as i wouldn’t say that of KFD or anything else the prophet produced. as nate writes, joseph smith ‘never had a scholar’s precision, caution, or context.’ neither did hugh nibley, at least when he was writting apologetics.

    # 5 above ‘…[to] dig up an apocryphal smorgasboard of ideas and beliefs of questionable value…makes for decent apologetics, but poor theology, as a rule.’
    or is it the other way around? decent theology but poor apologetics. bushman refers to the books of moses and abraham as ‘apocryphal;’ in the first volume of history of the church a portion of the book of moses is equated with the apocryphal ‘prophecy of enoch’ mentioned in jude and now known as 1 enoch. and according to the same volume the ealry saints were obsessed with ‘lost scripture.’ the book of mormon has often been classified as apocryphal as well (e.g. montague rhodes james, apocryphal new testament). do you not see mark, that the majority of the christian world would turn this ‘rule’ against you, seeing all three of these books (mormon, moses, and abraham) as an ‘apocryphal smorgasboard’? as i understand it, your insistance on canon–while inline with mormon neo-orthodoxy, ala ‘scriptorians’ like JSF and BMR–is a far cry from joseph smith and the early saints.

  20. g.wesley on June 23, 2006 at 12:31 pm

    sorry. i meant JFS.

  21. g.wesley on June 23, 2006 at 12:41 pm

    and BRM

  22. Cameron Steinbusch on June 23, 2006 at 12:48 pm

    Mind you their is nothing worse then a scripturist who thinks he/she is smarter then everyone else. They think they are the only ones who read anything and always argues against people who may offer another view, simply to let everyone what they think. Just my thought. Or they have read one book by Nibley or read a non mormon publication on the scriptures and suddenly they are experts on the new testament or what ever. Just my thought.

  23. Mark Butler on June 23, 2006 at 1:03 pm

    I think that it is very dangerous to define scriptorian so narrowly as to be a person who studies and interprets the scriptures with the same neo-orthodox metaphysic as Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie and then making the incredible leap to the conclusion that we do not need to study the scriptures very deeply at all or worse, that external sources are a more reliable guide to the scriptures than they themselves are – when interpreted properly.

    Joseph Smith never had any extensive training in apocryphal scholarship, nor did he, as a rule interpret the scriptures according to some hyper-literalist or other rigid theological system – the way he described it was that the things of God were of deep import and to be approached with extensive pondering and prayer, that it was very important to get first principles right so that one is not led astray, and that one constantly needed to be re-examining ones assumptions, often some of the most basic ones of inherited Christianity.

    Now the historical and personal reasons why JFS1, and JFS2, and BRM were apparently *not* willing to do this, apparently *not* willing to accept the Joseph Smith world view, especially the one he outlined later, but which is pre-figured everywhere including in hundreds of places in the Book fo Mormon, would make for a fascinating study, in my opinion the most fascinating of twentieth century LDS history.

    BRM, notably in his letter to Eugene England, seems to want to excise all the radical and progressive elements from Joseph Smith’s and Brigham Young’s theology and interpret his more conventional statements in terms of something strikingly close to Protestant orthodoxy, so far as basic theology is concerned. This is not so obvious in the two Joseph Fielding Smiths, but it makes sense. So was this just a conclusion that progressive (i.e. distinctively Mormon) theology of the fundamentals led to incomprehensible schemas like Adam-God, a weakness in faith and devotion, difficulty in missionary work, lack of respect by other denominations, or just that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young’s radically progressive elements are not a “natural” reading of the scriptures in the first place? That is what I would like to know.

    In any case, I think anyone who studies the scriptures as intensively as Joseph Smith or Sidney Rigdon, and uses the scriptures as the primary authority on themselves, preferably with a internally developed hermeneutic based on iterative pondering and inspiration rather than something imposed from some outside culture, however unwittingly, is to properly be considered a scriptorian. And furthermore that the true mark of a scriptorian is the transparent use and paraphrasing of scriptural language in gospel discourse, the way Joseph Smith did, and which Elder Packer recommends – references not required.

  24. Jed on June 23, 2006 at 1:04 pm

    “The walls of his study were not lined with scholarly treatises but with dog eared copies of the Journal of Discourses.”

    There may be more than one kind of “scriptorian” at work in your post. There is the scriptorian who like your patriarch loves speculation, the kind who peruses Journal of Discourses to divide the possibities of the divine word. Then there is the scriptorian who loves certainty, the kind is more likely to have Answers to Gospel Questions and Doctrines of Salvation memorized and dog-eared than JD. I think the latter is more in decline than the former. There is more first person singular today than there was in the McConkie heyday.

  25. Mark Butler on June 23, 2006 at 1:12 pm

    Richard John Neuhaus, by the way speaks very persuasively of the need for a standard, theologically sensitive translation of the Bible and the advantages for shared discourse, advantages present in the KJV and often lost in newer translations like the NAB. I suggest that his argument more than anything else explains why the Church is not likely to abandon the KJV as the standard English translation anytime soon, perhaps ever. See:

    Richard John Neuhaus, More Bible Babel, On The Square, First Things, March 2006

  26. Jed on June 23, 2006 at 1:12 pm

    “BRM, notably in his letter to Eugene England, seems to want to excise all the radical and progressive elements from Joseph Smith’s and Brigham Young’s theology and interpret his more conventional statements in terms of something strikingly close to Protestant orthodoxy”

    An oversimplification. McConkie loved the King Follet Discourse and paraphrased its ideas often. His interpretion of 1 Ne 11 was as radical as they come, and his urge for the Saints to seek the face of God was a striking democratization of Cowdery’s original charge to the Twelve. He never denied the progress of God; rather, he denied the progress of the God we now worship.

  27. Mark Butler on June 23, 2006 at 1:33 pm

    Someone really ought to write a guide to McConkie’s theology then, because after growing up studying nothing but the scriptures, I found him to be theologically tone deaf, literally unreadable on my first acquaintance at the age of eighteen. That doesn’t mean I was right, but seems to indicate that he does not communicate any of this higher order stuff very well. Sometimes I see evidence of it here and there, but it almost seems that he refrained from writing about it, in favor of a very long list of dogmatic otherwise you are going to hell declarations without even cursory explanations in many cases. I find Joseph Fielding Smith much more readable than McConkie. The latter has a tendency to quote scripture selectively and impose an interpretation that seems more copied out of a Protestant theological text (notably with regard to Isaiah, and a *long* list of other Old Testament scriptures) than from an internal analysis of the scriptures themselves

    The most irritating thing in the Church is some authority figure who will read a scripture and interpret it exactly the opposite or something wildly unrelated to its textual context. Many leaders do this with regard to latter day prophecies in particular, BRM notably trying to ignore the idea that there will ever be a New Jerusalem established in Independence, Missouri – saying that the prophecies in the D&C, including the D&C 103 one *after* they were kicked out are all moot. If the prophets want to publish a revelation on the subject, fine, but I am not inclined to take the opinion of a leader whom I consider to be a most careless theologian seriously without a much better explanation than that. I have a long string of other examples where I think BRM perverts the text, and why I ceased being a BRM fan almost on first acquaintance with his writing.

  28. Kimball L. Hunt on June 23, 2006 at 2:15 pm

    At about puberty — and, perhaps not all that unusual for a teenagers? lol — I began to wonder if it’s not that people happen to be found within natural, cultural positions of authority because of such splendiferous Truths as can be found within their reasonings but rather that such splendiferous “truths” as can be found in people’s reasonings because they happen to found within natural, cultural positions of authority.

    Yet in a lot of stuff where I didn’t honor father and mother, it turned out maybe I wudda been better off iffin I had —-.

    Ethics/ morality in a nutshell.

  29. g.wesley on June 23, 2006 at 2:45 pm

    interesting comments mark (#23). i agree that what you describe in your first paragraph would be dangerous, and i hope you don’t think that it’s what i was talking about.

    i still think that the idea of ‘the scriptures,’ i.e. canon, as a selfcontained authoritative body only to be studied and understood internally without ‘imposition’ from ‘outside culture,’ i.e. non-canonical sources, is at odds with early mormonism’s interest in and use of apocryphal and patristic writtings; at odds with the radical and fundamentally mormon concept of interpreting the bible, THE christian canon in joseph smith’s day, by an imposition of non-canonical sources, namely the book of mormon, moses, and abraham. in short, the (principle behind the) scriptorian’s study method you describe in your last paragraph is anachronistic to early mormonism.

    nor does it seem that the early christians studied the scriptures in this way; take for instance the ‘non-canonical’ enoch material in hebrews or jude (especially poignant examples if you believe that paul wrote hebrews, and that the author of jude was jesus’ brother); or the fact that some of their earliest nt codices contain the shepherd of hermas; or the fact that the contours of the ‘orthodox’ christian canon fluctuated greatly–including such apocryphal texts as the apocalypse of peter–up until at least the third century.

    in early christianity the concept of ‘canon’ developed in large part as a result of the struggle between ‘orthodoxy’ and ‘heresy,’ debate over what jesus and his apostles taught. the rather inclusive concept of ‘scripture’ found among many of the ‘heretics,’ which often corresponded with an esoteric and speculative hermaneutic, was more or less stamped out, and the notion of sola scriptura, an invention of catholicism (‘apostate’ christianity in lds speak)–which is essentially what you seem to be advocating, though you dissagree with athanasius et al. on issues of parameter–prevailed. any connection with the emphasis on ‘canon’ in twentieth-century mormonism (often used to supress more speculative and esoteric ‘non-canonical’ sources like KFD or JD)? the rise of neo-orthodoxy? ect?

  30. heironymus potter on June 23, 2006 at 4:07 pm

    Nate. Well executed post. Didn’t draw a bunch of folks with an axe to grind. Maybe there’s a little scriptorian in all of us.

  31. Doug on June 23, 2006 at 4:31 pm

    I believe you meant climactic, not “climatic”–the latter dealing with the weather (though it is true that the climactic days preceding the Second Coming will involve climatic extremes). I am only correcting this post because I was once corrected on the distinction myself. Now I feel better.

    More importantly–this is a fascinating post. I have been thinking about this myself and how while the Lord has asked us to get educations, he has placed a greater emphasis on spiritual knowledge and worthiness. Also: when one obtains multiple degrees in a subject unrelated to the scriptures the best they can still hope to become is a “scriptorian”. Add to that the fact that Joseph Smith was a “scriptorian” (and many others of our spiritual giants), I am persuaded that God has provided “great [and] hidden treasures of knowledge” in places like the KJV–ones that can be discerned by the non-scholar with the aid of the Holy Spirit.

    ps…Julie…I think there is a divide between scholars and scriptorians and knowing a few words in Greek (shucks, I don’t know any!) isn’t going to blur the lines between scholar and scriptorian for me. Part of being a scriptorian is digesting what the scholar has prepared for the layperson. So I would add to (and possibly disagree?) with what Nate said by saying that lay Church members influenced by Nibley still fall more into the “scriptorian” category than other scholars who have followed Nibley’s intellectual/research path.

  32. Mark Butler on June 23, 2006 at 4:47 pm

    g. wesley (#29), I think you are using the term canon in an odd way. The Book of Mormon was assembled by Mormon, and translated by Joseph Smith with the explicit intention of being canonical scripture. Perhaps every author would like to be canonized, unfortunately it is not the authors who get to decide, it is the Church that gets to decide, often centuries later. Without some sort of ecclesiastical legitimation, religious writing turns into a sort of Big Book of Ideas – ideas of often extremely questionable value, and more than questionable downright harmful.

    My perception on much of the apopcrypha is that much of it is so radically out of harmony with the scriptures as we know them that to accept them would destroy the theological integrity of the Church. My number one critique of the Nibleyophiles is that so many want to equate antiquity with authority, when in fact antiquity was riddled with religious heresies of all sorts. Today heresy is largely atheistic – back then every crazy philosophy was a religion unto itself.

    We complain about the philosophical influences on Christianity, and yet the Church Fathers did an enormous amount of work to keep *much* more serious heresies out of the Church, heresies that are mentioned in dozens of places in the New Testament, and many of which entered Judaism centuries earlier. I commented on this over at Defensor Veritatis the other day – we were having a nice discussion on the semantics and nature of Apostasy.

    So if you pick up a random Gnostic document, I would say that on average is likely to be a hyper-syncretist goulash with no particular affinity for the authentic Hebrew and Christian tradition. We find some evidence of things we recognize, and Margaret Barker’s and Hugh Nibley’s theories seem relevant here, but our first priority should be to analyze a foreign document in terms of the canon we have, rather that giving it an unjustified air of authority just because it is old.

    I could write apocryphal documents all day long that are much better than most of what was floating around in the first and second centuries, and the only material difference would be date of authorship.

    Finally, the sermons of the Prophet Joseph Smith and others carry special weight because they come within our theological tradition from people we have sustained as prophets, Swedenborg and Nostradamaus might be interesting, but their writings can’t possibly carry the same status – not even close except to the degree they echo and proceed from the gospel as we understand it.

  33. g.wesley on June 23, 2006 at 6:23 pm

    outline of my point on canon:

    1. the ‘canon’ (‘ot’ and ‘nt’ as sola scriptura) was a product of incipient catholicism, influenced and driven in large part by the struggle between ‘orthodoxy’ and ‘heresy’ that occured in the first three centuries of christianity.

    2. there was no ‘canon’ before then (cf. the enoch material in jude and hebrews)

    3. when the books of mormon, moses, and abraham were published, they were ‘non-canonical,’ that is, outside the bible.

    4. some christians didn’t care about the ‘non-canonical’ status of these books, and read them as scripture. they were also interested in other ‘non-canonical’ texts such as the ‘lost books’ mentioned in the ‘canon,’ william hone’s apocryphal new testament, patristic descriptions of early christian ‘heresy’ (like chrysostom’s account of marcionite proxy baptism), etc.

    5. the majority of christians (i.e. ‘orthodoxy’) stuck with the ‘canon’ and larglely considered the ‘mormons’ to be ‘heretics.’

    6. ironically, over time these ‘heretics’ began to articulate an expanded ‘canon’ that was theoretically ‘open’ but in practice essentially closed.

    7. those who stress the exclusivity of this expanded ‘canon’ more or less prosribe the use of ‘non-canonical’ texts, ancient or modern (including the yet to be discovered/revealed?), which are defacto, as ‘a rule,’ ‘out of harmony with the scriptures,’ that is, the ‘canon.’

    7 is very much at odds with 4 and 2.

  34. Kimball L. Hunt on June 23, 2006 at 8:03 pm

    Ah, the eternal conflict between “scholarship informing faith,” meaning creatively broadening it, and “scholarship informing faith,” meaning testing the essential validity of its underpinnings.

  35. Mark Butler on June 23, 2006 at 9:41 pm

    g. wesley, the problem is that you are letting another Church define the canon instead of our Church. We can put anything in the canon we want to.

  36. Kimball L. Hunt on June 24, 2006 at 2:54 am

    Premise. Given that

    /x/ is what the canon says

    with /x’/ being a true understanding of what the canon says
    .and /x”/ being a MISunderstanding of what it says)
    – and /y/ is what the process of The Church of Jesus Christ’s evolutionary canonicity looks like to an objective viewer

    with /y’/ being that as would theoretically result from a flawlessly informed objectivity
    .and /y”/ being that from one supremely MISinformed;

    Question. Which portions of /x/ (if any) dissect[?diction] with which portions of /y/?

  37. Kimball L. Hunt on June 24, 2006 at 3:12 am

    Next premise?

    While ( A . ) scriptorians say that /x/ (general ex) is NOT /y”/ (false wye)

    Whereas ( B . ) apologists say that /y/ (general wye) is NOT /x”/ (false ex)

    Mere ( C . ) cynics say that /x”/ (false ex) is NOT /y”/ (false wye)

    Yet ( D . ) true mystics say that /x’/ (true ex) IS /y’/ (true wye)?

  38. Kimball L. Hunt on June 24, 2006 at 3:17 am

    With a scholar-believers such as Jim’s path tending historically (by his own admissions) to progress from A towards D?

  39. Kimball L. Hunt on June 24, 2006 at 3:47 am

    . . . . . . .x. . .x . . . .y. . y . . . . .
    . . . .x. . . . . . .y x. . . . . . .y. . .
    . . . x . . . . . . y .x. . . . . . . y. .
    . . . .x. . . . . . . x. . . . . . . .y . .
    . . . . . . .x . . x . . . y . y. . . . . .
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
    . . simple ex?. . .simple wye? .
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

  40. Mark Butler on June 24, 2006 at 3:55 am

    Kimball, I majored in physics, and yet the algebraization of philosophy still makes my eyes glaze over. Sometimes linguistic redundancy is a good thing. One can scan and get a proper theme much faster for one thing.

  41. Kimball L. Hunt on June 24, 2006 at 4:16 am

    Finally, the key to my schemata is that

    While scriptorians’ premises are partially false, due to misunderstandings of the canon

    Whereas the apologists’ premise are partially false, due to flaws in informed-objectivity

    Mere cynics’ premises are uniformly true, simply due to their being such sticklers about premises

    Yet true mystics’ premises are LIKEWISE uniformly true, due to the same reason –
    Although the faith of the scriptorians and the apologists are based on partially false premises, they still exhibit faith, with whatever might be the just rewards of such faith.
    The mere cynics, although not suffering from partially false premises, still must suffer whatever consequences are due any lack of manifested faith –

    whereas true mystics benefit from the BEST of all worlds!

  42. Kimball L. Hunt on June 24, 2006 at 4:25 am

    Well, if you don’t understand me, Mark, certainly noone ELSE will! lol; so therefore I apologize for my presentation of this “mystical” culdesac!

  43. Kimball L. Hunt on June 24, 2006 at 5:06 am

    OK then Mark. Stead of algebra — how bout GEOMETRY!

    Using /x/ and /y/ CO-ORDINATES!

    . ./y/ . . . . . . . . . . . . /x’y’/
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
    . . ^. . . . . . . . . .7. . . . . .
    . . |. . . . . . . . * . . . . . . .
    . . |. . . . . . .*. . . . . . . . .
    . . |. . . . . * . . . . . . . . . .
    . . |. . . .*. . . . . . . . . . . .
    . . |@*___________> /x/
    /x”y”/. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    With the KEY, Mark, that

    the horizontal /x/ . . . faithtrajectory is “scriptorial” exegesis
    the vertical . . /y/ . . . faithtrajectory is apologetic scholarship
    the origin point /x”y”/ NON-faithtrajectory is mere cynicism
    & the diagonal /x’y’/ . RECONCILED faithtrajectory is TRUE mysticism

    And, note that
    Only mere cynicism makes ZERO progress in faith!!!
    Only “scriptorial” exegesis sacrifices but precision in objective scholarship
    Only apologetic scholarship sacrifices but (What? its blinding one to certain matters of pure faith?)
    Only true mysticism sacrifices nothing — successfully reconciling all?

  44. Kimball L. Hunt on June 24, 2006 at 5:33 am

    |[*(My post 37 said

    (A. scriptorians say that /x/ what the canon says is NOT to be gleaned from /y"/ extremely MISinformed objectivity

    (B. apologists say that /y/ objectivity is NOT supportive of /x"/ MISunderstanding of what the canon says

    (C. cynics say that /x"/ MISunderstandings of what the canon says IS also /y"/ MISinformed objectivity

    (D. true mystics say /x'/ a complete understanding of what the canon says IS /y'/ theoretically the same as flawlessly informed objectivity)]|

  45. Mark Butler on June 24, 2006 at 11:52 am

    I can generally see your point, Kimball. Internal scriptural exegesis can go horribly wrong as well, if one is not guided by the spirit and willing to retain an open mind on the proper (inspired) semantics of scriptural terms, even ones not completely aware to the original author. And certainly that spirit of inquiry is the only way to pursue apologetic and apocryphal scholarship as well – I just think the latter is less productive and harder to do well, that is all. As the Lord said:

    Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you concerning the Apocrypha—There are many things contained therein that are true, and it is mostly translated correctly; There are many things contained therein that are not true, which are interpolations by the hands of men. Verily, I say unto you, that it is not needful that the Apocrypha should be translated.

    Therefore, whoso readeth it, let him understand, for the Spirit manifesteth truth; And whoso is enlightened by the Spirit shall obtain benefit therefrom; And whoso receiveth not by the Spirit, cannot be benefited. Therefore it is not needful that it should be translated. Amen.
    (D&C 91)

    If one has the proper spirit of understanding the x axis and the y axis lead to the same conclusions in all cases. That is what the Spirit is all about.

  46. Seth R. on June 24, 2006 at 4:16 pm


    While I think that scriptorians may not get much respect from academia, or even from the bloggernacle, they are definitely respected and deferred to at the stake and ward level within our church.

    I remeber when I was a Priest sitting through a Sunday discussion of the nature of the Holy Ghost in the Bishop’s office. I suggested some insights into the true nature of the Holy Ghost and gave my rationale for them. Our Priest’s group leader enthusiastically took me up on it.

    Later that evening, my dad sat me down and explained that the Bishop had approached him later and asked his opinion on what I had asserted. Dad said that he told the Bishop that what I said was purely speculative, not doctrinal, and even contradicted in a few authoritative sources. The Bishop admitted that my remarks hadn’t “sounded quite right” to him either, but that he respected my father’s mastery of the scriptures (and the words of the General Authorities of the Church) so much that he actually thought that he might have gotten it wrong.

    Seems that I, just an 17 year old kid, was actually accorded a degree of respect simply by being the son of an acknowleged ward scriptorian. They are very much respected, for they are the ones who often lead us back to the fount of true doctrine in our Church and carry on the torch lit by previous servants of the Lord to a new generation.

    I hope that I can someday be even half the scriptorian my father is.

  47. Kimball L. Hunt on June 24, 2006 at 5:46 pm

    I’ve always thought your posts extremely nuanced ‘n’ deep, Mark. But I can rarely make but a smidgeon of sense out of em, since your philosophical/theological ideolect is an acquired language I’ve yet to acquire. Yet from my above posts, I see I “suffer from the same problem”! — that of my ideolect’s being an acquired language that, duh! — only ‘ I ‘ possess. (By very definition, of course! lol)

    So I’m gonna study you post 45, Mark — ‘n’ see if I can, through a quick language-immersion in your ideolect, get more than a mere smidgeon of understanding outta it! OK? So here goes.

    You say that internal, Scriptural exegesis goes wrong if not guided by the Spirit, with an open mind to the Inspired Meanings as are infuse within its terms. Right, Mark?

    (So, OK, I’ll stop here and incorporate MY schemata now?; which is this): Remember that once you “said to me” that the two-dimensional, Left-/Right- duality — as is commonly described within POLITY — is actually . . . . . . . MULTI-dimensional? So true! So, then: Let’s stop in what you’ve just been saying about Scriptural exegesis above and chart its two-dimensional (dualistic or binary) form, OK? So, the /x/-axis is Scriptural exegesis then; and RIGHTWARD movement represents “being guided by the Spirit with an open mind to the Inspired Meanings as are infused within its terms”; right? And so then, analogously, LEFTWARD movement in a negative sense [Archaically said: t'ward "EVIL"!] with relation to an “as inquiring in faith” trajectory would represent NOT being guided blah blah ( . . . OK: “by the /s/pirit, in closed-minded, non-/i/nspiration, to thus be left with only non-/m/eaning that one’s able to find within /s/criptural terms”) lol.

    Then, Mark, you say that this same Spirit of inquiry is the only way to pursue apologetics-based inquiry into non-canonical things — as with a proper Spirit of inquiry this will lead one to the same Conclusions in all cases.

    (So, to incorporate this my schemata then): The /y/-axis is inquiry into non-canonical things, with UPWARD movement being as this is done with faithful Inspiration and DOWNWARD movement as it is not.
    So, everybody’s understandings, Mark, are on a continuum. If my exegesis has less understanding than yours, it’s dynamically merely to the left of yours; but if your exegesis has less understanding than yet someone ELSE’S, then it in turn is merely to the left of THEIRS. And, as always, what’s important is relative positions of different understandings in relation to each other, and not each understandings’ being statically labeled as “left” [Archaicly: "EVIL"] or “right.”

    And then there’s worldly knowledge. And if my worldly knowledge is more Spiritually “in-tune” than yours on some point, then it is more UP-lifting and inspirational; otherwise, it pulls DOWN peoples’ faith. Yet again this is dynamic and not static, with two worldly understandings only able to be labeled in relation to each other — as there is always SOMEBODY whose understandings are more uplifting and True than yours.

  48. john f. on June 24, 2006 at 5:58 pm

    Nate wrote: We look not for a thorough understanding of the Millennial time table, but rather for the ancient history of proper names from the Book of Mormon.

    Or, fortunately, we do both nowadays.

  49. john f. on June 24, 2006 at 6:12 pm

    Nate wrote to see to the wild speculations of a high-priest group scriptorian is to be much closer to Joseph and the roots of the Restoration than to see a faithful disciple of Nibley toiling away at the footnotes of path-breaking article on Mormon scripture.

    On this, I agree with you to a certain extent. It plays on the importance of personal revelation and insight in the LDS tradition. In that tradition, history, geography, ancient cultural context, etc., are pretty much irrelevant. What matters is your personal knowledge of the scriptures and the ideas that knowledge gives you about doctrinal points and prophecy about the future. In this view, the past is also a subject of prophecy and not history engaged in by Ph.D.’s in ancient languages. Likewise, in this view, the Joseph Smith translation of the Bible is infinitely more accurate than a 2006 graduate student’s own renditions from the biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek.

    Do you really think this view is dying out? To my knowledge, FARMS-types have not taken over the Church Office Building. Quite the opposite, really. Knowledge of Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, or even ancient Syriac (or a Ph.D. in any field, for that matter) remains off the list of qualifications for service in the leadership of the Church. My guess is that the traditional view still by far outweighs the caution, precision, and understanding of LDS academics treating this material. My guess is that among current Church leadership, especially in the highest quorums, most adhere to the patriarchal scriptorian model of religious learning and knowledge.

    FARMS stuff is exciting and important in its own context and, I think, has generally begun to influence some of the scriptorians’ views of things, in a second or third hand way. Certainly, the work of FARMS and FAIR is beneficial to the Church and to the spreading of the Gospel, in my opinion. But I don’t think that the scriptorian is out of style in the Church, even if the term might be passe.

  50. john f. on June 24, 2006 at 6:13 pm

    oops on the bold! If anyone has the time, could you please fix the tag?

  51. Kimball L. Hunt on June 24, 2006 at 6:48 pm

    As a youth I totally believed in the Gospel. So, schematically, I was going along, travelling towards the Right on my /x/-axis.

    Then I began to find intellectual observations which made me doubt. Thus, schematically, I was beginning to supplement my understandings with the dimension of the wordly /y/-axis. Yet sometimes the incorporation of this supplementary dimension would bolster my faith and sometimes it wouldn’t.

    I had Faith in the Right. But I didn’t know for sure, as my reasonings didn’t necessarily always line up with It.

    My Bishop Called me on a Mission anyway. So I figured: OK, I’ll just have Faith in the Right.

    Then my Mission President noticed that I doubted: NOT through my actions but from my “vibe.”|*|
    |[*My Trainer was a pathological liar who made up all his stats. He would (never in my presence, but alone with people) say, "'Hunt' thinks HE knows how to run things; but I'M the district leader and ' I ' know how things are really done!" (meaning that we were to make up all our stats and do absolutely nothing all day. No lie!)

    |[So my Mission President, responding to this District Leader's imput, would savagely rebuke me for "not following" my companion! Yet he was never more specific than that and in fact rebuked me just as savagely even AFTER my Mission President had admitted to me that he was aware that my Trainer had been fabricating all his hours.

    |[So, my intellectual understanding had subsequently been that I was only to follow my companion TO THE EXTENT that he in return was following the Mission President; but my Mission President did not share this understanding nor did he believe in practical measures of accountability (such as listening to all parties?) to help ensure such an organizing principle would be put in place.]|
    So, my new religious setpoint as I’d developed on my mission was never to judge someone who happened to be within a position of Church authority — literally judging good and evil according to surface status with regard to the Church.|**|
    |[**For example: Immediately after my mission, my parents drove me home from the Atlantic coast back to Cali and we went through Provo. My cousin, who lived back East (and incidentally is now a gee ay in the 2nd kew of the seventy) was visiting my other cousin, his brother, who lived in Provo and at the time was the chairman of a graduate department there. Anyway, my now-gee-ay cousin was talking about temple design and was saying how he doesn't really like it sometimes; that truly, aesthetically cutting-edge architecture should be used for the temples instead of the Church's too much sticking in the faux gothicism rut its been stuck in (or something like that).

    |[Now: That's a worldly knowledge analysis as applied to the Gospel! And, internally and instictively, I can relate to it! But ------ I am silently aghast!!! Couldn't some Church leader along the lines of my Mission President Fruit Loops just sit there and SCREAM LITERALLY AT THE TOP OF HIS LUNGS at my cous for his "thinking to even question the prayerful decision of a Church leader"!? In otherwords, my then current faith setpoint was "Fruit Loops -ism"!!! lol; that is, I was to be entirely two-dimensional, /x/-axis Righteous with no input from the wordly /y/-axis! Which setpoint I couldn't maintain for long and pretty soon acknowledged to myself and others that I was, deep inside, an apostate.]|
    So now 25 years later I’m hangin out here in the bloggernacle, Mark; and trying to possibly reconcile or sythesize faith with reason.

    Thus, my dear brother, what I submit here is that any kind of intelligent understanding of a secular sort is fine; but . . . any true understanding of the same will never contradict of what I might take to be a likewise true understanding of a “Spiritual” sort! (If you could follow me there.) So . . . people who come along and (Fruit-Loops-like) INSIST that THEIR understandings of canon must necessarily TRUMP all secular understandings don’t have such truly enlightened of a Spiritual understanding in the first place. ‘Caus what I’m really lookin for is a very subtle sythesis! — and dogmatism of this sort just doesn’t cut it.

    Maybe this chaotic, non-linearly expressed stuff I’m babbling here makes no sense to you, Mark; but to me the key to true understanding is gotten THROUGH such cynicism. (Post modern stuff is a key to something higher and Ecclesiastes was put in the bible for a reason. And if this post has been too awkwardly disjointed, I apologize.)

  52. g.wesley on June 26, 2006 at 11:00 am

    mark (#35), i’m not all that concerned with the parameters of ‘canon;’ my point is that the concept of ‘canon’ as an exclusive body of scripture–whatever it contains–is anachronistic to and at odds with earliest christianity and earliest mormonism.

  53. Kimball L. Hunt on June 26, 2006 at 12:03 pm

    |[*(Yet: Mark's theological positions argue from OUT of this established canonicity that g. wesley, in turn, is attempting to OBJECTIVELY examine the evolutionary nature of! With g. wesley, I suppose, seeking to establish its varying parameters as they correlate with place and time? And with Mark's premise being that the nuggets of understanding he divines through this means are universal, rendering g. wesley's articulation of the fact that the particulars of the canon have developed and changed through time, to Mark, as it's being somewhat besides the point; and with g. wesley's premise being to cast doubt on what kind of "universality" any kind of understandings as gotten from the current canon (such as in the present case, Mark's) could even possibly have. Yet until one of them entertains the other's mindset or point of view, they're going to continually talk past each other in this manner.)]|

    Yet there really ARE universals! Yet these universals aren’t wholly the ones that people who are speaking from out of mere orthodoxies and dogmas are speaking of, but instead exist as something psychological. So, when someone truly feels they are doing what they ought, regardless of their ideosyncratic rationales, and so are doing THUS and SO — which will differ from another person’s doing, by another rationale, some other THUS and SO — what’s identical is their motivations in all cases. Which is why path-breaking religious thinkers (from the Preacher in Ecclesiastes to Jesus of Nazareth in the Christian canon) are always saying to leave the folly of thinking that human judgements of things could ever approximate God’s and yet for each individual to STILL do what they “know” to be right!

  54. grego on June 27, 2006 at 8:33 pm

    Some of this is so true.

    For example, posting at another LDS board as a scriptorian brings:
    1. no response at all
    2. humorous quips
    3. calls for references for every minute detail–which is hardly worth the time

    However, posting as a scholar (usually) brings:
    1. lots and lots of responses
    2. great respect from the same side, and flowery adulation
    3. few truly intellectual responses, esp. to the contrary

    Which is a big part of why I enjoy coming here, too. :)

  55. Mark Butler on June 27, 2006 at 9:14 pm

    Most of modern scholarship is the sauve respect of we-know-next-to-nothing-ism, an attitude quite different from that of the scriptures.

  56. Kimball L. Hunt on June 27, 2006 at 10:58 pm

    Nibleyans’ (/Nibleyists? Nibleyscripto-academicians? lol) grand hubris and broad, speculative strokes (as reinterpret the past as flickering shadows of the more perfect doctrines restored in the present) are scriturists/ scriptorians too — just ones who redirect their scriptural gaze on other areas of study.

    Forgive me if I wrongly account you as tryin’ to objectively EXAMINE these processes OF rather than to engage IN scripturizing, g. wesley.

    Were early Saints a sort of manifestation of New England Universalism, albeit taking on the task of The Restoration of Primitive Christianity — one in which “the Canon”(?) was selectively open (or at least on a case-by-case basis as the prophet was moved upon)?
    Mark: On the other thread you quotes Paul: Interesting — and so very appropriate! — stuff! Betcha the Jews wudda said Paul had listened just waay too much to “wordly” Hellenism, while the Greeks would’ve said he was busily Judaizing. So I’d say his “Canon” was selectively open according to Inspiration too!


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