And the Gentiles are lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and have stumbled, because of the greatness of their stumbling block, that they have built up many churches; nevertheless, they put down the power and miracles of God, and preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning
Second Nephi 26:20. This is another post about the Feldman article. But if you want to sing Feldman’s praises and take issue with his Mormon critics, go here. If you want to defend his observation that from the secular standpoint mainstream Christianity has its share of the “ridiculous”, go here. This post is about Feldman’s observation that Mormonism seems more “ridiculous” because its less in the distant past; and this post argues that’s a feature, not a bug.
Here’s Feldman’s observation:
There is nothing inherently less plausible about Godâ€™s revealing himself to an upstate New York farmer in the early years of the Republic than to the pharaohâ€™s changeling grandson in ancient Egypt. But what is driving the tendency to discount Joseph Smithâ€™s revelations is not that they seem less reasonable than those of Moses; it is that the book containing them is so new. When it comes to prophecy, antiquity breeds authenticity. Events in the distant past, we tend to think, occurred in sacred, mythic time. Not so revelations received during the presidencies of James Monroe or Andrew Jackson.
I got Rough Stone Rolling for Christmas. And while I have my criticism, I appreciate it very much. It scrapes away the thin patina of myth that the early Mormons have acquired in even less than two centuries and lets me experience them as mundane men in whose lives God erupted.
That’s harder to do with the New Testament. the patina is pretty thick. During New Testament times themselves there was no patina, of course. Christ was an offense to the Jews and a stumbling block to the Gentiles, and as a stumbling block his edges were sharp. But time wears down those edges. After 2000 years the resurrection becomes easier to accept in a gentlemanly way as something remote and pleasant; it also becomes easier to dismiss as a superstitious survival from old times.
This Christ will not have. So when his other purposes are ready he calls a yokel to offend the world. To break us on the Rock so we can be remade. These times are sacred, mythic times.
29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,
30 And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.
31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.
32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.
33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
34 Â¶ Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:
35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.