A More Nuanced Approach to Scripture

July 9, 2014 | 27 comments
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I am so thankful that we are gently backing away from a literal understanding of scripture.

Of course, we still have a long way to go. Our student study guide for gospel doctrine states:

“The book of Psalms is a collection of poems originally sung as praises or petitions to God. Many were written by David. This book is like a hymnal from ancient Israel.”

This description implies that many of the psalms collected in the book of Psalms were written by David, but it can also be read as “The book of Psalms is a collection of poems and David wrote many such psalms but not necessarily any of the ones in this collection.”

In our Bible Dictionary entry on Psalms, we get some clarification:

“Seventy-three of the psalms are ascribed to David, and so it was natural that the whole collection should be referred to as his, and that this convenient way of speaking should give rise in time to the popular belief that ‘the sweet psalmist of Israel’ himself wrote all the so-called Psalms of David. Sacred psalmody is ascribed to him in general terms in 2 and 2 Chr., the accompanying instruments also being called instruments of David,’ as in Neh. 23: 35 and Amos 6:5. In some cases in which a psalm is ascribed to David in the Hebrew, it is certain that he could not have written it, and it has been concluded that the Hebrew titles are sometimes inaccurate.”

In the entry on David, it further states:

“A large number of the Psalms ascribed to David were certainly not written by him, but the following seem directly connected with the history of his life…There are others that are possibly of Davidic origin.”

It is possible to stay within correlated sources and arrive at a more nuanced view, and one more in line with scholarly consensus, than a simple belief that David wrote most of the Psalms, or even that David wrote the psalms attributed to him.

Sadly, this more nuanced view is often not transmitted to class. The teacher’s manual has the same introductory statement as that included in the student manual, and I suspect that in more classes than not, the teacher will take that statement at face value and use the first interpretation offered above.

This example of David and the psalms (it could just as easily have been Moses and the Pentateuch) shows the delicate balance the Church has been maintaining in cultivating a simple, straightforward, literal belief in scripture while recognizing the strong conclusions of scholarly consensus.

The latest topic page on the Book of Abraham follows this pattern. It both supports the long cultured belief in our traditional story while opening room for less literal, but equally spiritually powerful understandings. For example:

“Alternatively, Joseph’s study of the papyri may have led to a revelation about key events and teachings in the life of Abraham, much as he had earlier received a revelation about the life of Moses while studying the Bible. This view assumes a broader definition of the words translator and translation. According to this view, Joseph’s translation was not a literal rendering of the papyri as a conventional translation would be. Rather, the physical artifacts provided an occasion for meditation, reflection, and revelation. They catalyzed a process whereby God gave to Joseph Smith a revelation about the life of Abraham, even if that revelation did not directly correlate to the characters on the papyri.”

I’d like to think that we as a people can be faithful enough to retain our faith as our understanding of scripture becomes more sophisticated. Our spirituality and belief need not fear the truth.

27 Responses to A More Nuanced Approach to Scripture

  1. Marie on July 9, 2014 at 11:44 am

    And the scriptures themselves can be to us what perhaps the papyri were to Joseph: our care for the things of God that we demonstrate by making the effort and sacrifice to study and then waiting to hear personal revelation being more important than the meanings of the actual words on the page, which words might be entirely unrelated to what God wants us to understand. Scriptures as Urim and Thummim–not so much the message itself as the window through which the message is passed.

  2. Cameron N. on July 9, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    Rachel,

    I love this post! I do have a beef with your word choice though I don’t see this as backing away from literalness in terms of scriptural conent at all. All the above clarifications deal with sources and revelatory/translation processes. They in no way compromise about literal interpretations of actual content, and I don’t think church leaders are trying to do so by any means. I personally like that they don’t, but I do love that official outlets are providing more scholarly guidance as to context.

  3. Terry H on July 9, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    That’s why books like Julie’s on the New Testament and James Faulconer’s Book of Mormon, Old Testament and Doctrine & Covenants Made Harder which are almost all just questions are so valuable. Julie’s is hard to get but will be released in a new edition from Kofford Books later this year (hopefully). The scriptures are obviously more than just proof-texts. I’m impressed with Michael Austin’s Re-Reading Job as well.

  4. Steve Smith on July 9, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    There is only so much backing away from the literal interpretation of scripture that the LDS church can do. The church doesn’t have too much stock in the literalness of much of the Old Testament. It can still maintain doctrinal consistency and accept many of the stories as myths and legends instead of literal miracles. However, there are areas where I foresee the LDS church insisting on literalness and continuing to encourage members to accept as literal. For instance, Jesus’ resurrection, the Book of Mormon’s ancient origins, Joseph Smith’s vision of God and Jesus Christ, etc. The Book of Abraham also falls within this category. The recent Book of Abraham essay is best understood as an attempt to continue to make a case for the literalness of the account (meaning that Abraham was a historical figure who actually originated the words and ideas in the Book of Abraham, and not Joseph Smith). The church is simply trying to distance itself from the papyri as the source of account and is trying to make the claim that the papyri were merely the catalyst for revelation about some other text (or perhaps an unwritten set of ideas), which was either not included in the papyri that JS obtained or part of a longer papyrus scroll that was lost.

    The problem is that there is plenty of historical evidence that indicates that Joseph Smith purported himself to be actually translating (meaning converting from one language to another, and not some esoteric meaning that the apologists and the church try to make it out to be) the very papyri for which he produced and printed facsimiles. Joseph Smith’s Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar contains many of the characters, with an attempted explanation of the characters, that are on the original papyrus that contains Facsimile 1. The characters that JS attempts to explain come in the same order as they do on the papyrus. Moreover, the very text of the BOA itself (Abraham 1: 12-16) appears to reference Facsimile 1. The essay comes off as a lot of mental gymnastics and obfuscation. The Book of Abraham will long be a thorn in the side of the church’s historicity claims.

  5. MTN on July 9, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    For Cameron, I agree there should be a distinction between “literal reading” and “historical facticity of the text or its origins” or something like that. I go back and forth on whether issues of authorship matter to my practice as LDS. It doesn’t seem to bother anybody that the Gospels were written well after the events they portray, or that their authors clearly borrowed from one another. It doesn’t bother anybody that the BOM was purportedly redacted by an editor (Mormon). But we get prickly when there’s any talk about multiple Isaiahs or a redactor of the Pentateuch. I think the stickiest issue there is the Joseph Smith translation of Gen 1 where it says explicitly that God commanded Moses to write it all down. Also, there is some theology at stake if we agree with the academics that Yaweh and Elohim indicate separate authors rather than separate writers. All interesting stuff, but again….does it affect my practice? Does it alter my approach to covenant keeping?

  6. MTN on July 9, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    edit: I mean to say “separate authors rather than separate beings”

  7. FarSide on July 10, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    Steve Smith, I concur with your assessment of the recent essay on the Book of Abraham. It is both facile and disingenuous in its treatment of the manner in which Joseph created that book. The Church, as is the case with so many of these essays, appears to be playing “catch up”—finally acknowledging what LDS scholars and others have already figured out: that it is highly unlikely that Joseph translated the papayri or had the skill to do so. But, better late than never, I suppose . . . .

  8. fbisti on July 11, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    I heartily agree with Steve Smith…”The essay comes off as a lot of mental gymnastics and obfuscation. The Book of Abraham will long be a thorn in the side of the church’s historicity claims.” and Farside’s “It is both facile and disingenuous…”

    The OP seems very much like a lot of FAIR writings (no matter their authors’ well-meaning intent): nuanced sophistry, strained, obfuscation. While I also agree “better late than never” there is much to be criticized in the Church’s and GA’s long practice of feeding members pap and pablum rather than truth. A more pejorative term for this is propaganda–lying for the Lord justified by the long-term objective. But, this practice is “coming back to bite” the church and its members’ faith now that more truth is being “revealed.”

  9. John on July 12, 2014 at 12:46 am

    There is very little nuance in my Sunday School class. It is all taken literally. I find this a little sad. Much in the Bible is not to be taken literally, including many of its plain historical portions. This does not mean the gospel is not literal, only that the text that has survived has inarguably been tampered with, intentionally or non intentionally, it does not operate by the same rules we expect from our literate view.

  10. Kent Larsen on July 12, 2014 at 8:26 am

    Steve Smith, FarSide and fbisti is there really no middle ground in talking about the gospel? There is no nuance at all?

    Repeatedly in life I’ve seen dichotomies set up in which both sides make claims that they believe exclude the other option and promote their view. But often these dichotomies prove to be false. Neither option is correct. Instead both options are only a part of the overall truth.

    IMO, this is not necessary, and I think this is part of Julie’s point. The evidence that David does not appear to have written the Psalms we have doesn’t make the Bible a lie, or the Psalms uninspired or false, or even mean that David wrote no Psalms.

    Nor does our lack of extra-biblical evidence of Abraham’s existence mean that he doesn’t exist or that we should reject anything written about him as simple myth.

    When there is a false dichotomy, those promoting BOTH options are wrong. Its only by looking carefully at the evidence and struggling to reconcile it all that we can discover the nuance Julie is talking about and gain insight into truth.

  11. Julie M. Smith on July 12, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    And by Julie, Kent meant Rachel.

  12. Steve Smith on July 12, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    Kent, I take it that by ‘gospel’ you mean the LDS church’s teachings. There are some teachings on which a middle position is not at possible. It is not logically possible to believe that the Book of Abraham has ancient origins and at the same time believe it to be a strictly modern book that was entirely crafted by Joseph Smith. It is either/or.

    “The evidence that David does not appear to have written the Psalms we have doesn’t make the Bible a lie”

    There is a huge, huge difference between the Bible and the Books of Mormon and Abraham that you need to acknowledge (and I’ve been in too many discussions where this is conveniently ignored). No one disputes that the Bible was written by ancient Hebrew-speaking peoples. This is an unquestionable fact. So even if David didn’t write the Psalms, there is no question that they were written by some other ancient Hebrew(s). As for the latter two, the real issue at hand is not which ancient person originated these words, but do these books actually have ancient origins.

    “Nor does our lack of extra-biblical evidence of Abraham’s existence mean that he doesn’t exist or that we should reject anything written about him as simple myth.”

    Should we be willing to give serious consideration to any proposition that any person makes? What about the question of the divine origins of the Qur’an or the ancient origins of The Book of the Law of the Lord, which James Strang (an early follower of Joseph Smith who claimed prophethood after JS’ death) claimed to be an ancient text which he translated by the gift and power of God? Should we always shun hypotheses of fraud, delusion, and intent to deceive? What about Sri Sathya Sai Baba (a person who was claimed to be God by many of his devotees) and his claim to be working miracles? Should we entertain the idea that a golden egg coming out of his body through his mouth was a miracle or just a clever illusionist trick used to woo and deceive followers?

    “When there is a false dichotomy, those promoting BOTH options are wrong. Its only by looking carefully at the evidence and struggling to reconcile it all that we can discover the nuance Julie is talking about and gain insight into truth.”

    Here you seem to take a centrist position, which is an awful position to take on all sorts of issues. Should we declare people who adamantly promote the idea that the earth is spherical to be wrong since there are a handful of people who believe it to be flat? Is the correct shape of the earth somewhere in between flat and spherical? Should we just give up and say that the shape of the earth is unknowable and refuse to address the question because it is too divisive? Should we hold out the possibility that the earth could be flat (that perhaps in the future we’ll discover that the earth’s spherical appearance was just an optical illusion) and claim that we shouldn’t jump to conclusions quite yet? A resounding no to all of those questions.

  13. Cameron N. on July 13, 2014 at 12:18 am

    Steve, I don’t think your flat earth example is the best analogy. One is perpetual, and can be directly observed at this very moment. The other, of necessity, is guessing and extrapolating based on a significant number of detailed assumptions about the events of a person who lived thousands of years ago.

    This recent church article on revelation that allows for two plausible possibilities does not fit the tired catch phrases of ‘mental gymnastics’ and ‘post-modern’ at all. It is merely a responsible, conservative place at which to stop historical extrapolating.

    As to the question about serious consideration, I would say that we should give serious consideration to the propositions you listed. It’s an easy test. By the fruit one may know. The Book of Mormon is a pretty liberal and pluralistic book, talking about how Jesus is the God of all nations, and leads each according to the way that is best for them. Surely we are no better than the ‘we have got a bible’ crowd if we don’t consider the possibility that many more accounts of Jesus ministry throughout the history of the world are out there.

  14. Steve Smith on July 13, 2014 at 11:37 am

    Cameron, I was mainly taking on the centrist attitude toward the LDS church’s historical claims, which many intellectual Mormons seem to hold. A lot of intellectuals seem to want to have their cake and eat it too on issues such as Book of Abraham historicity. Either Abraham was a real person or he was not. Either the Book of Abraham contains Abraham’s actual words or it doesn’t. There is no middle ground on these questions. There is no possible logical nuance.

    The other point that I was making is we should be open to all questions. I hear this piece of advocacy from liberalish intellectual Mormons all of the time. If that is the case, then let’s be open to the question of JS being fraudulent or delusional. Let’s give this serious consideration. In fact I think that this would be a much more relevant question to ask before we ask the question of how the Book of Abraham is still an ancient text not only in spite of it not matching the papyri and facsimiles, but also in spite of it not matching the papyri and facsimiles when it is clear that JS purported himself to be translating them.

    As for knowing truth by the fruits, that raises the question of what is to be considered a fruit. If the main fruit to look at is speed of growth, number of adherents, and the depth of the attachment of religious adherents to the religion, I think that Islam may have us beat there. If the main fruit to take into consideration is peace and harmony with society, I think that Jainism and Baha’ism may have us beat.

  15. stephenchardy on July 14, 2014 at 11:51 am

    “Either Abraham was a real person or he was not. Either the Book of Abraham contains Abraham’s actual words or it doesn’t. There is no middle ground on these questions. There is no possible logical nuance.”

    No possible logical nuance? I can think of lots and lots of nuance. Perhaps approximately 2000 years BCE a man named Abram lived, and these stories that we have are literally true. Perhaps a man called Abram existed, but he didn’t do all of those things, but did many or some of them, and then a legend was born. Perhaps three or four different people lived about the same time, and their experiences were passed down from generation to generation and eventually they were combined into one legend or person.

    Recently Julie Smith, on this site, compared searching for the historicity of biblical miracles to the barren desert in Judea. I find it unhelpful and uninspiring to try to decide the literal truth of Abraham and his legacy. It could all be “true”, or not. I can’t tell you which. I can say that I find inspiration and wonderment at his, and other’s, stories. The fact is: I don’t care whether they are “true” or not. I don’t even know what “true” means. I find that those who insist that such-and-such is literally true to be unhelpful to my spiritual progress. I also find that those who insist that such-and-such couldn’t possibly be true to also be unhelpful to my spiritual progress. For me, such questions are all wrong.

    I understand that I might be in a minority, as a Mormon, when I believe like this. I don’t know because I don’t talk about it a lot. I don’t wish to sow doubts in others. I respect their beliefs just as I hope they would respect mine. I don’t insist that I am “right” and I hope that they will be flexible with my views in return.

    Joseph Smith’s “translation” process is, for me, troubling in a number of ways. If he is looking in a hat, then why does he need the plates? The list can go on: Where did Moses’ writings come from? What is the relationship of the Book of Abraham to the mummies? Where oh where did the temple ceremony come from? I can’t answer any of these questions in a historically satisfying way.

    However, there are beautiful truths in the Book of Mormon that I aspire to, and am inspired by. I long ago gave up trying to figure out whether Alma is as historically authentic as Peter the apostle. I don’t think about it anymore. For me it’s not helpful. The Pearl of Great Price has many wonderful teachings. For example, the idea of a “God Who Weeps” is important to me. I don’t know and I don’t care where exactly the book came from. Of course all of this goes for the Old Testament and New Testament as well, much of which can’t stand up to historical scrutiny.

    I am pleased to see this new essay on the Book of Abraham because it allows room for me to feel that my beliefs are somewhere in the “tent” of Mormonism. I can continue to believe that the papyri were some sort of source of inspiration to JS. I can believe that. I don’t try to go much further than that. But there is lots and lots of possible nuance.

    Those who insist on infallible scriptural exactitude are just as inflexible as those who insist that the whole story falls apart if some set of “facts” aren’t technically “true.”

  16. Steve Smith on July 14, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    Stephenchardy, think about those two specific questions a little more. There can be a lot of nuance on OTHER questions, but not those two. Did the person who is referred to as Abraham in the Torah/OT actually exist, or was he a fictional character made up by ancient Hebrews? That is a yes/no question. Does the Book of Abraham used in the standard works of the LDS church contain translations of actual words and ideas of the person Abraham referred to in the Torah/OT, or did they originate from another source? This is yes/no. And you are essentially saying yes to both these questions and then trying to produce a logical argument about how no is not a plausible answer.

    What concerns me is that your answer to these questions seems to give up on the idea that reality is knowable and that truth is all perception. This smacks of incoherent postmodernistic and relativistic thinking. This sort of thinking seems to be increasingly common in intellectual/liberal Mormon circles, and I find it quite ironic. Postmodernists and relativists were originally staunchly against religion and promoted their ideas to challenge the often absolutist claims of religions. Now, it isn’t only Mormon intellectuals, but also myriad Christian and Muslim apologists and intellectuals, who retreat to postmodernistic rhetoric in order to provide a protective bubble around their religions’ traditional truth claims. This isn’t how Mormon leaders think. They have long been absolutist in their thinking. They claim that there is an absolute truth and that people can know it by the spirit. They claim revelation to be a window into actual reality. While I appreciate nuanced thinking on a whole range of subjects, on some questions pertaining to Mormonism, nuanced thinking doesn’t help us understand truth, it obfuscates it.

  17. stephenchardy on July 14, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    As I already clearly stated, I do not think that such questions allow for no nuance, unless one is extremely rigid in their thinking and outlook. I’m sorry if I am incoherently postmodernistic. My children accuse me of the same almost daily.

    I also understand that my way of thinking may not be typical of Mormons, although I am not certain of this. I believe that the recent essay mentioned here is exactly what Rachel Whipple said: It is a step towards a more nuanced approach to scripture.

  18. Steve Smith on July 14, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    I’m not opposed to nuance, and I believe that when looking at the scriptures as literature, there is all kinds of nuance that we can and should entertain. However, the LDS church isn’t promoting itself as a university literature department, and it certainly doesn’t treat the scriptures as just literature. While it may be open to treating parts of the scriptures as literature, there is a large portion of the scriptures that it treats as literal truth about the past, present, and future. On a number of issues, the LDS church leaders make it clear that there is no middle ground. And they’re right. When it comes to some historical questions, it is either/or, black and white, and centrism or the middle path is delusional and logically impossible. We really need to acknowledge that these sorts of questions do exist. And it is on these questions that one side is either absolutely right or absolutely wrong. You, stephenchardy, were either born in 1958 or you weren’t. You either originated the Qur’an or you didn’t. It is absurd to think that it is possible that you were born in 1958 and a different year at the same time. Maybe there are conflicting accounts as to when you were born. But you were born in a certain year and the reality of that cannot be altered. We know that the Qur’an exists, and we know it came from somewhere. What if you up and claimed that you wrote the Qur’an or that it was you through whom God transmitted the Qur’an? Suppose there were a number of people who gave your claim serious consideration. What if doubters came along and said that that was false because there was evidence of the Qur’an in existence before you were born? What if you or your followers said, “ah, but stephenchardy originated the Qur’an in a former life.” OK, but then that raises another either/or question of whether you had a life before you were born. As absurd as the examples sound, I hope it gives you a sense of where I’m going with this.

  19. Dave on July 14, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    Rachel, fine post. We certainly do need to adopt a more sophisticated approach to scriptural interpretation. It doesn’t have to be “more literal” or “less literal” as much as give more consideration to genre and context so we can distinguish between passages that were intended to be literal and those that were intended to be speculative, didactic, poetic, or metaphorical. And, of course, reading those passages thousands of years after their composition, we may reject as inaccurate passages the author intended as literal.

    Steve, I understand your desire to confront LDS with an either/or choice about LDS scripture, and I agree that there is not as much flexibility for interpreting LDS scripture as for the Bible. But there is a spectrum of possible views even for LDS scripture, not two stark choices. Blake’s expansion theory for the Book of Mormon is one such attempt — whether you buy it or not, it’s a reasonable attempt to construe the text in light of the evidence.

    Nor is it fair to jeer the new Book of Abraham Translation essay posted at LDS.org. It goes farther than any LDS document I’ve seen in broadening the range of views one can hold about the book. It notes that (1) some of Joseph’s “translations” had no connection to any physical documents (“Other times, his [Joseph’s] translations were not based on any known physical records.”) and (2) the text of the Book of Abraham doesn’t appear to have any connection to the papyri we possess (“None of the characters on the papyrus fragments mentioned Abraham’s name or any of the events recorded in the book of Abraham.”). Given your views, you ought to be applauding the essay, not dismissing it. As with Blake’s essay, this one opens up a variety of interpretations of what the text is. Just because you disagree with them doesn’t mean you can ignore them and force a false either/or choice on people.

  20. Dave on July 14, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    For a similar response to the new essay (that it is a real step forward and opens up as acceptable within the LDS mainstream new views and interpretations of the text) see this post at Rational Faiths:

    http://rationalfaiths.com/breaking-certainty-articles/

  21. EFF on July 15, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    “It goes farther than any LDS document I’ve seen in broadening the range of views one can hold about the book.”

    Dave, with all due respect, do you need the permission of the church before you can broaden the range of views you hold about a book of scripture? If I waited for the church’s blessing before I came to the conclusion that not all Native Americans are descendants of the Lamanites (are any of them??), that Moses didn’t really author the Pentateuch, and that Brigham Young sort of loathed black people, both my intellectual and spiritual development would be hindered.

    Let’s be honest: this new essay does little more than arrive at the same conclusions reached by several moderate LDS scholars years ago. I’m sorry, but I have a real tough time giving the church a great deal of credit for conceding obvious flaws in its previous position regarding the origins of the Book of Abraham.

  22. Steve Smith on July 16, 2014 at 10:27 am

    Dave, you’re misconstruing what I’m saying. Once you accept the notion that Joseph Smith actually conveyed the ideas and words of ancient people who really existed through the power of God (and that JS could not have known about this any other way), then a whole range of possibilities.of interpretation opens up. Blake Ostler’s expansion theory is not actually the sort of in-between/middle path explanation of Book of Mormon origins that people make it out to be. It starts with the premise that ancient people in the Americas who originated the ideas in the BOM actually existed. On the question of the how the texts are to be interpreted, there are myriad possibilities. As to the question of the origins of the text, there are very few. And as to the question of whether Abraham (assuming that he actually existed) was the originator of any of the words in the Book of Abraham (which JS could not have known about through any other source available to him) there are only two possibilities.

    I find it peculiar that so many believing LDS folks, such as yourself (as well as Nathaniel Givens, who got mad at me for insisting that the question of BOM origins was either/or in a discussion a few months ago), object to me posing the either/or question of BOA and BOM origins upon them. It is like me asking a believer in God, “does God exist?” I would expect the answer to be a resounding yes, with no hesitation. Most believing LDS I know seem to have no qualms saying yes to the question of whether or not ancient people in the Americas existed who originated the words and ideas in the BOM, or that Abraham originated the words and ideas in the Book of Abraham.

    Might I also remind you that it is not just me who insists on an either/or answer to the question of origins, but the LDS leaders themselves.

  23. DQ on July 16, 2014 at 11:55 am

    I personally see this new BOM article and the attempts to deliteralize any scripture we can’t find evidence for to be the the other side of the same coin we’ve been examining for years. On one side, whatever evidence we can find we’ve had researchers bring it up as evidence (parallelism, ancient linguistic remnants, chiasmus, token archeological evidence) while on the other side, we have people pushing hard for more nuance, and other theories to take the place of literal history and descendency.

    I’m not reject any and all of the above as I think there can often be truth in both sides. But the reality of it seems to me is both sides (especially the deliteral nuancers) are reactionaries who are a bit too quick to claim knowledge in areas where they have none. Really, none of you guys knew what was going on 2000+ years ago. I’m not saying we should undertake no study of the past because we can’t know, but it’s amazing to me how easily people are willing to take scripture and throw it under the bus in a sense as they try to grapple with it’s difficult aspects — and these same people claim to be intellectuals. You’re taking the easy way out.

    I simply take the scriptures at their word. Does that mean I’m all upset about Samson slaying 1000 people with a piece of bone? No, I’m not too worried about it and I agree he probably didn’t kill that many. But I’m ok trusting in the scriptures nevertheless without having to nuance every verse to fit into my superior intellect.

  24. DQ on July 16, 2014 at 11:56 am

    BOM = BOA

  25. Dave on July 16, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    EFF (#21), of course I can hold whatever views I want. So can you. The effect of the essay is to broaden the range of LDS discourse in classes and elsewhere and to make those who doubt the standard claims about the Book of Abraham feel less marginalized. We generally want to keep people in the Church. The new essays are likely to reassure some who might otherwise feel inclined to exit over doctrinal or historical issues. The essays might also make it more difficult for conservative Mormons (rank and file or local leaders) to shove Mormons with more nuanced views of scripture toward the exit. I think we both agree this is a good thing. Better late than never.

    Steve (#22), people who try to force stark choices on others generally have an agenda. When LDS leaders do this in relation to testimony or scripture questions (and I don’t like it when they do it either) they are trying to minimize doubt and fortify commitment among the membership. What’s your agenda? And don’t tell me you’re just trying to understand the text better, etc., because you are plainly uninterested in any sophisticated reading of texts or history.

  26. Mike Maxwell on July 16, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    While it is refreshing to me to see the Church backing off the literalness of the BOA Translation story, it is interesting to consider the implications of this evolution. Clearly, Joseph Smith presented these scripture as literal historical accounts from literal historical figures. Considering that a revealing prophet believes them to be literal, this essay does provide readers some latitude to consider that even if the prophet believed them to be literal truth, they simply may not be — and that is okay.

    No one ever seems to want to debate whether the Good Samaritan parable that Jesus told was literally true. It simply does not matter because the truth in the story has much more life-changing implications than determining whether the story was founded on actual events. Personally, I am happy to accept all of God’s revelation as revealed allegory. The Spirit still testifies of their truth. If there is some literal truth in them, that is just some icing on the cake, for me.

  27. stephenchardy@yahoo.com on July 17, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    Mike Maxwell: You said so nicely in one short paragraph was I was trying to say earlier. Well done.

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