Great Sermons: Out of Obscurity

February 20, 2008 | 12 comments
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This talk was given early on in Elder Maxwell’s time as an Apostle and I think it is an excellent example of what I liked about him.

“Granted, there is not full correlation among the four Gospels about the events and participants at the empty garden tomb. Yet the important thing is that the tomb was empty, because Jesus had been resurrected! Essence, not tactical detail!”

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12 Responses to Great Sermons: Out of Obscurity

  1. Matt Evans on February 20, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    I’m a big fan of Maxwell’s too, but isn’t the issue with the incongrueties that they potentially cast doubt on the reliability of the gospel testimonies of the essence? If multiple eye-witnesses each say they saw the same defendant steal the car, but disagree which direction he went and whether it was day or night, it’s hard for the prosecutor to argue that the important thing is that they all saw the same guy. (This responds more to Maxwell’s argument than to the accounts of the empty tomb.)

  2. Adam Greenwood on February 20, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    That is awesome!

    Matt E., given my opinion of eyewitness accounts written years after the fact, I’d actually be much more suspicious of the gospels if they agreed too much. Not that I’d doubt the resurrection, but I’d bet that some editor had massaged the different accounts to bring them into line.

  3. Frank McIntyre on February 20, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    “If multiple eye-witnesses each say they saw the same defendant steal the car, but disagree which direction he went and whether it was day or night, it’s hard for the prosecutor to argue that the important thing is that they all saw the same guy. ”

    I guess it would be interesting to know the answer to that question. It seems to me that many events that actually occurred are recorded in similarly disparate fashion, even if they agree on the essence. My students would all agree that I gave a midterm this weekend. I imagine their individual accounts of what was asked might differ substantially.

    But they agree I gave the midterm.

  4. Matt Evans on February 20, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    That’s where the type and degree of difference becomes important. If I spoke to several of your students, and they disagreed whether the exam was done at the testing center or in class, whether you or a proctor were there, and whether it was essay or multiple choice, I would rightly wonder about their reliability.

  5. Frank McIntyre on February 20, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    Matt — yes. But maybe you’d be more forgiving of those tactical errors if you were asking the questions next September. I can assure you that by then they would no longer accurately remember the answers to the test questions.

  6. Ray on February 20, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    Matt, If you asked them one week after the test, you might be justified in your doubt. If you asked them years after the fact, I would be shocked if the accounts were identical – or even very similar.

    My wife and I are very good examples of this problem. I have a pretty good meta-memory, but a lousy micro-memory. My wife, otoh, can remember the color of the shirts I was wearing on each of our dates well over 20 years ago. (I can’t even remember some of the dates without prompting.) I also have a very hard time remembering actual details as time passes – even after only a couple of years.

    If I had been one of the original writers of the Gospels – or Joseph Smith recording his vision – or Nephi writing his record, I’m positive my recollection would be radically different than my wife’s. We would vary significantly in the details we would record, and she would include all kinds of events that I simply wouldn’t remember. Comparing our accounts, it would be very easy to conclude that one (or both) of us were either lying or mistaken. Each account would be “true” (as in the BofM meaning – recorded by mine own hand to the best of my actual memory), but each would be suspect to future readers if viewed side-by-side.

  7. Ray on February 20, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    BTW, I believe that understanding what Nephi and other BofM prophets meant when they said their record was “true” is critical to understanding the BofM – and the Bible – and the First Vision – and individual member’s testimonies – so much more.

  8. Matt Donaldson on February 20, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Actually, most of what is recorded in the Gospels isn’t an eye-witness account. Mark and Luke were not present for almost all of the events they recorded. Even much of what is recorded in Matthew and John wasn’t witnessed first-hand. None of the Gospel authors were present when the angels appeared at the Garden tomb to proclaim the Savior’s resurrection. It is significant that, in this instance where the greatest ‘disagreement’ among their accounts exists, none of the authors were personally present.

    But, when it comes to the strength of their witness of the resurrection, this is all beside the point. The strength of their witness isn’t found in their ability to provide consistent detail regarding events they themselves did not witness; it is found in the fact that they saw and handled the resurrected Lord themselves. I believe that is what Elder Maxwell is saying. The salient witness isn’t in the details of the events surrounding the Resurrection; it is that there was a Resurrection.

  9. Stephen M (Ethesis) on February 20, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Great point, thanks.

  10. Dennis M. in Laredo, TX on February 21, 2008 at 2:50 am

    Help me look for another great talk. I need the talk by Pres. Monson a few years back directed to those members who have an inactive or non-member partner. the talk is on how to treat this spouse and help bring about his reactivation and/or conversion throught treating him/her in a positive way.

  11. annahannah on February 21, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    So, why is it that “someone” wasn’t appointed scribe while Christ was on earth, avoiding the need to remember something that happened a ways back?? He has always commanded his people to write their history. I don’t understand why someone wasn’t writing down events as they occurred.

  12. Ivan Wolfe on February 21, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    We’ll always have Q.

    Oh, wait – we don’t?