Avoiding the temptation of literalism

We understand some things only from within. Subjectively. Indeed, it is within this domain that the scriptures open to us new and more profound realities. Science, history and other objective leaning disciplines aim at revealing the details, facts and laws of universe in which we find ourselves. These have been highly successful elucidating the objective world in which we are embedded and is our best method for establishing correspondence between our understanding and this world. However, there are certain truths that are revealed only in subjectivity. There is the richness of experience, the feel individual existence that simply cannot be captured in science. It is entangled in such depth that the methods of science do not lend themselves to discovering the depth of this experience, nor does it claim to. However, we know that our physicality is tied to the history of the universe. We are part of a long process in which our chemical body has emerged in a long slow physical-historical process, rooted in natural unfoldings.

Through this process, structures have evolved that allow for a sensual connection to the physical world and give place to the necessary structures that allow us to grasp the world. We are physical creatures, that have the ability to reason, see, understand temporal and spatial relationships, and in general interact with a world outside and also with other selves so situated. This occurs in the mind. However, this is not the whole story. We know from other sources—like the scriptures or prophetic oracles—that these spiritual realities exist. But more important, we know from our own experience that these realities exist. We have experienced them in prayer, meditation or in other moments when we connect to these deeper realities.

We do not get these truths by weighing independent evidence, we have not been persuaded by a statistical analysis, nor have we come to these insights only because have been convinced by logical argument. Significant p-values did not offer quantitative support for these realities. No. It is through direct experience.

There are truths in the subjectivity of experience that cannot be captured in any other way.

Many of these experiences that have revealed subjective truths have come to me while using the scriptures. The scriptures have provided a pathway that connects me to the spirit and reveals to my mind experiential truths that have provided much more than additional facts about the world. It has added meaning, depth and richness to my world. What interests me is how completely integrated my spiritual experiences are with the physical aspects of my mind. They are not separate from the normal workings of my brain. My rationality, my senses, my memory are not turned off or suppressed. In fact, my conscious experience is completely integrated with these spiritual experiences. It seems to engage mind, body and spirit. The text of the scriptures pull me into new realities.

I offer these prefatory remarks because I want to talk about literalism. As we continue this year’s study of the Old Testament in Sunday School. I notice many giving into the temptation of literalism. Literalism I think robs the scriptures of their intent. I think it does violence to the depth that the scriptures actually offer. I don’t think the scriptures are there to give us information about the factual nature of the universe or to offer reports of strictly a historical nature. While there are elements of these, to provide some context for the scripture’s emergence into the world, the purpose of the scriptures is to tie and connect us to deeper more important realities. It may be that I have a more mystical bent, but to me I’ve never looked at the scriptures as a history book or a manual of scientific practice. The scriptures connect us to more profound aspects of the universe. They attune us to deeper realities and allow us to experience the influence of the spirit. And open grander more prescient truths about the meaning of existence and our place in it. These truths have little to do with the mechanical workings of the universe—they relate only to the spiritual realities that open to us a relationship with God and his children in ways that run at new levels then those of the surface realities obtained by objective science.

This is why reading the scriptures a scientific text does such violence to their purpose. They are designed to connect us subjectively, consciously and spiritually to richer truths and meaning. To use the scriptures to pull out objective facts about the physical world and its history is to tear them way from what they are there to ground. Literalism is like giving a child a calculus book as a stepping stool to reach a washbasin. In so doing, much is lost that lies with the proper use of the book. Certainly children need footstools, but such use misses the true potential the book has to offer.

Moreover, using the scriptures for this purpose does harm to science because it misrepresents how truths about the world are best discovered and clarified. Elder Oaks says it nicely in an recent address at the Harvard Law School:

We seek after knowledge, but we do so in a special way because we believe there are two dimensions of knowledge, material and spiritual. We seek knowledge in the material dimension by scientific inquiry and in the spiritual dimension by revelation. In the interest of time I will say no more of the material dimension except to affirm the obvious truth that thousands of Latter-day Saints perform brilliantly in the material world without denying—and, indeed, by using—the parallel truths and methods of the spiritual world.*

He is very clear that knowledge of the material world is best discovered by science. Other truths come from revelation. I believe that the scriptures provide one of our most important sources of revelation.

The scriptures are sacred. They allow us to touch the deepest truths available. To use them to read the surface of physical things (for which they are not intended and for which they don’t lend themselves) is a mistake that leads us away from where science is strong and should be used (as Elder Oaks points out) and, worse, wrenches the scriptures away from the beauty and truth they have to offer.

*Fundamental Premises of Our Faith – Talk Given by Elder Dallin H. Oaks at Harvard Law School 26 Feb. 20101

Comments

  1. Good point. Why not both, which is what it is on many cases.

    Onions have layers (in a shrek voice). But that doesn’t make the first layer any less of an onion even though there are many layers beneath it.

    I think it does no “violence” to an onion to peak off the first layer and call it an onion, and to get to the heart of the onion and also call that an onion.

    I think this is often times with the scriptures, I wouldn’t say always because that’s not always the case. But there are plenty of times when a verse can mean something literally, mean one thing to a person in the 18th century, mean another thing to me when I read it, and read another to to a Stake President when he reads it and explores it to the congregation for whatever purpose he has.

    This does not make any one of them less useful, meaningful, or perhaps even more or less right than the other.

    My take on it is… reading the scriptures as a scientific text only does violence to the scriptures if you think the scriptures contain all there is and all that needs to be. Maybe you’re arguing with a Protestant that things we need nothing more than the Bible? But every Later-day Saint I know is happy to confirm the scriptures do not contain everything that will be necessary for all men, and we’d rather have a living prophet than the partial works which were written down by dead ones. My point with that tangent?

    We already know the scriptures don’t have everything, by the nature of the fact that we have a prophet. We know that they are not a commentary on everything and do not explain in detail the creation.

    But that does not mean we should not take the scriptures very literally at times (when God spoke to the Isrealites, he was speaking to them) and figuratively on one level (maybe I can imagine God speaking to me, in the context of an Isrealite) and even more figuratively, (maybe God didn’t speak, but his servant did).

  2. I completely agree.

    With the Book of Mormon, though, we are required to embrace literalism. It’s tough to be open to a more symbolic or metaphorical truth when it’s hammered into us that this a literal, factual record of an ancient people.

  3. I like the onion analogy. But that also means some of the literal parts (the outside portion of the onion) are garbage. The best way to get to what’s important is not to bite into the onion without peeling it, but to peel off the less desirable portions (the strict literal interpretations) to get to what’s good.
    Christ’s parables aren’t important because they’re true–in fact, they aren’t true (at least in a literal sense). Those who don’t get past the outer layer of the onion never truly understand his parables.

  4. For cripes sake, reading a text literally ≠ reading it historically. For a particularly stupid example, we read Star Wars literally (i.e. it’s not some giant metaphor, “Luke” represents Luke), but that doesn’t mean it happened, we don’t read it historically.

  5. looking for a name says:

    What approach do Jews generally take with the Tanakh? I’m sure the answer is quite nuanced and lengthy, but are there some attitudes that are generally true?

  6. Mark D. says:

    I don’t think the vast majority of members consider literalism a “temptation”, but rather the default interpretation to be applied to all scriptural passages until there is a good reason to do otherwise.

  7. How do you thread out science and history? jesus really lived-he was born, died and resurrected. Those are historical and scientific issues..with great spiritual import. So how do we decide was is literal and what is not? Obviously the purpose of scripture is not as a historical document or a scientifc journal-it is a fine line to walk though isn’t it? Truth is in scripture-yet myth also? Who gets to decide what is what? Are some commandments myths? All miracles or just the biggies? with exception of the resurrection?

    What if scriptures are memories and memories are the person’s view of the event-not necessarily what actually happened, but what they with all of their personality, agenda and cultural baggage perceived?

    Is there any historical record or scientific one that is not at the least slightly tainted by the recorder?

    huh more questions than answers again…

  8. Kristine says:

    Myths can be true.

  9. yes and some of what Glenn Beck says can be true… but there are general assumptions made and the natural turn off of brain cells and suspension of belief

  10. Myths being true and some of what GB says being true are not categorically the same kinds of statements. A scripture verse written 200 years from now that described Abraham Lincoln as having broken the chains of a slave with a mighty hammer would be both historically, factually false and manifestly true.

  11. How literal must we be? No simile or metaphor? yikes

  12. Kristine says:

    I suspect the problem here is that “myth” is used colloquially in a very sloppy way to mean, approximately, “pretty falsehood.” It’s unfortunate, because it derails far too many discussions of some scriptures’ mythological character.

  13. Steve G. says:

    #6 is spot on

  14. Mike Parker says:

    I’ve been reading Bart Ehrman recently, and I’ve been struck by how the early Christians went through much of the same issues that are addressed here: There were different factions that argued how literally to take the writings of the Hebrew prophets.

    Some groups argued that the Jewish scriptures were written by a false god who had been overcome by the true God and his son, Jesus. Other groups argued that the Jewish scriptures were literal and true and that converts needed to become Jews before becoming Christians, and then live the Mosaic Law thereafter. The theology that eventually won (proto-orthodoxy) was able to straddle two competing interpretations, one that claimed we need to take some the Hebrew scriptures literally, and others as metaphor.

    Christianity as a whole has struggled with the literal/metaphorical issue ever since. The stage for the problem in this post was set nearly 2,000 years ago.

  15. “What approach do Jews generally take with the Tanakh? ”

    Two Jews, three opinions.

    But note these comments from Lawrence Schiffman of NYU, in a fascinating BAR interview with four scholars about (losing) faith and scholarship, conducted by Hershel Shanks.

    “Shanks: I want to separate a couple of issues. You [Bart Ehrman] talked about how you, as a young person, believed in the inerrancy of the Bible, that every word was accurate and divine. I really want to separate that from what we’re talking about.
    Is it fair to say that no one here believes in the inerrancy of the Biblical text?

    James Strange: I think so. Yeah.

    Shanks: Larry?

    Lawrence Schiffman: Yeah, it’s fair. Inerrancy assumes a kind of literalism never adopted in Jewish tradition…. From a Jewish point of view, these kinds of problems aren’t problems. First of all, the Bible was never taken literally in Judaism. It doesn’t mean that it’s not historical, but it is not taken literally in the Protestant sense. It’s not an issue in Judaism. Admittedly there is a literalist strain in a minority of medieval Jewish thinkers and a minority—maybe a growing minority—in modern Judaism, but it’s not classical Judaism. The Talmud doesn’t take the Bible literally in the Protestant sense.
    [Jams Strange's] approach of taking a kind of experiential approach to the whole thing is one that is much more primary in Judaism.
    I get into debates about these historical types of issues all the time, especially within the Orthodox community. I don’t want to say they aren’t important—they are important. We sit around and debate these kinds of questions all day.
    I heard a recent lecture by a rabbi who is becoming a medical doctor. He talked about the problem of creation. And he said, well, evolution is obviously true. What do I do about it if evolution is obviously true? He said that we learn from Nachmanides that nothing in the Bible about creation is intended literally. What’s important to me is that I have the experience of God as the creator….
    In one of [William Dever's] books, he discusses the historicity of the Exodus, and he throws up his hands. From the Jewish viewpoint everyone says it happened; it’s part of our past, part of our history. Somehow or other, it happened. I happen to believe there was some kind of Exodus. But the point I’m making is that the framing of the question, from the Jewish point of view, is very different.”

    It’s an excellent interview, well worth reading. Bart Ehrman [Evangelical Christian to agnostic], William Dever [Protestant to secular agnostic Jew], Lawrence Schiffman [orthodox Jew], James Strange [believing Protestant].

  16. I think the literalistic temptation is best reflected when the scriptures are used to do science or to make scientific claims when there are better interpretations for the explanation of phenomenon. I have no problem seeing them as historical or giving information but there primary use is for spiritual knowledge. Not offering explanations on how the universe works.

    I don’t disagree that the scriptures have a historical basis. Nor am I arguing that that basis is not important. I do disagree that they are there principally for history. For example, the New Testament and the Book of Mormon are not preserved to give us some historical info. They are there to testify of Christ and springboard us into a relationship with him. The historical aspects are just context. The purpose of scripture is in nurturing that relationship.

    And I agree Myths can be true. I’d go so far as to say Fiction can be truer than science. Especially when we speak of existential truths.

  17. Mike Parker says:

    philomytha #2 wrote:

    With the Book of Mormon, though, we are required to embrace literalism. It’s tough to be open to a more symbolic or metaphorical truth when it’s hammered into us that this a literal, factual record of an ancient people.

    There is a difference between, on the one hand, separating the literal and the metaphorical/exaggerated within a text, and, on other the other hand, claiming that the entire text is ahistorical.

    Certainly there are parts of the Old Testament that we can rightly read as metaphor (God didn’t actually bring Israel out of Egypt using giant eagles—Exodus 19:4—and the numbers of Israelites coming out of Egypt are certainly exaggerated), and yet no one would claim that there was no Israelite nation, temple, or prophets, and that the whole thing was made up by scribes in the 1st century B.C.

    Likewise, we can see some of the Book of Mormon as exaggerated (like the numbers of soldiers serving under Mormon—Mormon 6:10–15) and other parts as clearly metaphor (Alma didn’t expect an actual plant to grow from a human heart), while affirming that there were actual, ancient people who wrote these things.

    The enormous problem with seeing the Book of Mormon as “inspired fiction” is that there was a resurrected ancient prophet who appeared to Joseph Smith and said it was the record of an ancient people. In order to to believe the Book of Mormon is completely fictional, one has to believe that (a) there was an angel Moroni, but he lied to Joseph Smith, or (b) that there was no angel Moroni, and Joseph Smith lied to his followers or was delusional. Now, maybe you’re comfortable with one of those two choices. I’m not.

  18. John Mansfield says:

    I see how some portions of the Old Testament would trigger the “beware of literalism” flag, but other portions seem rather pointed about their factualness. Take the second have of Exodus with its discription of the tabernacle: page after page of shittim wood overlaid with gold and taches and boards and bars and sockets. All so that once completed a cloud could cover it by day and the appearance of fire at night.

    Or how about Gideon of dry fleece/wet fleece fame? That tale asking the angelic messanger for a concrete, physical miracle by which Gideon could know his assignment of liberation was also concrete and physical? What does it mean if it is not literal? Some symbol of a symbol of a symbol thing going on there?

  19. TaterTot says:

    #6 is the truth! I think it doesn’t even cross most Mormon’s minds that everything in the scriptures isn’t literal. All you have to do is go to Sunday school to see that.

  20. The bible in whole may not be intended for literal reading. But I’m not giving up on the idea that God the Father wrestled Jacob, because thats just AWESOME! You can turn The Garden of Eden, The Burning Bush, even The Parting of the Red Sea into mythology. But don’t take my God Wrestled Jacob away from me. I won’t have it!

  21. Mark Brown says:

    SteveP said it, I believe it, that settles it.

  22. When my grandfather died, my sick grandmother was having sever short-term memory problems due to chemotherapy from Hodgkins disease. She could no longer form new memories that lasted the night.

    The first few times she asked, “where’s Dan?” (I am named after him). My live-in aunt would tell her that Dan had passed away, and she would spend most of the day in mourning. The next day, “where’s Dan?”

    It seemed cruel to keep this “honesty” up, so everyone took to telling her Dan had just stepped out to the grocery store, or gone to work, or to pick up the laundry. She smiled and went on with her day with the most purpose she could still summon given her mental and physical limitations, even as she looked forward in anticipation of being reunited with her husband later that evening for dinner.

    It was difficult for my aunt to play God. We are taught never to lie to our parents. But suppose you were God, and you have created something beautiful, a species of creature than as it evolved came to learn and be self-aware. Creatures that each will die, leaving no trace. What would you tell these beloved but ephemeral creatures leading a Truman Show-like society that can never leave its dome alive?

    I would offer/foster a creation myth and an afterlife myth, so my beautiful creatures did not waste their highly developed neurotic psyches wondering about what was or what will be, and instead devote full eneries into the now. Not the right-now, but creating and fulfilling a rich purpose over their expected lifetime, invested in generational continuity and communal harmony.

    In short, I would lie. But then, I am not a god.

    [Literally, the above has nothing to do with the OP, so I apologize for the threadjack. I was thinking of my grandmother and wanted to share her memory.]

  23. #152 well some things are literal, like wrestling angels (or whoever). I’m still waiting for great Mormon art to capture this with both combatants in Celestial Nacho Libre costumes and the Angel holding Jacob high over his head in preparation for a pile driver.

  24. I think #2 is interesting, since there is such a stark difference between the BOM and the OT in terms of crazy, improbable, science-defying miracles. The NT, BOM, and D&C certainly have plenty of miracles, but they tend to be more personal (and thus meaningful) and/or natural than those in the OT (particularly in Genesis, the oldest and thus presumably least reliable record).

  25. Speaking of literal/metaphorical confusion and the OT, yowza!!! I am not sure what make of this book title.

    http://www.byubookstore.com/ePOS?store=439&search_category=Front+Page&listtype=begin&keytype=sku&index=0&form=shared3%2Fsearch%2Fsearch_results.html&design=439&KEY=my+burning+bush&Go.x=0&Go.y=0&Go=Search

    Dear permas and commenters, how do you read this title? Literal/metaphorical/hysterical (and even that last one has multiple meanings when it comes to, um, certain things)?

  26. 23 – Oh, I would pay TOP DOLLAR for that piece of art.

    25 – Depends, is Nancy G Hilton a redhead?

  27. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 25
    That book was discussed in more detail over at FMH.

  28. MikeInWeHo,

    Thanks for the tip–as usual I am late for the feast and slow on the snark. Sigh.

  29. looking for a name says:

    Thanks, Nitsav. I’ve just started reading the interview – quite interesting.

  30. linescratchers says:

    Steve, I just sent a link to FireTag at The Fire Still Burning about this subject… you might find it interesting anyway.

    http://www.scientificexploration.org/journal/jse_21_4_baruss.pdf

    The idea that Wolff (and subsequently Baruss) is putting forward is that the more easily described something is, the less it is true. Capital-T Truths are ineffable. Therefore, Wolff said he used mathematics (a symbolic language) to achieve transcendent modes of consciousness.

    After I read that and internalized it, it changed the way I read the scriptures.

  31. Harold Dwyer says:

    The issue is that in a church setting many or most members have totally and completely suspended disbelief and in some cases rational thought. They are also totally ignorant of how these scriptures came to us and how many hands they passed through on their way their. Anyone who has read “Who Wrote the Bible?” or “Misquoting Jesus” begins to understand that the uncertain origins of huge chunks of these very ancient records make it impossible to take them literally in all cases. The entire book of Deuteronomy for example. Job. Jonah.

    I agree with other comments that a huge impediment to understanding the old testament as allegory, which much of it is, is the Book of Mormon which is meant to be understood literally. And yet the BOM was filled with errors, many of them substantive, which were later corrected.

    The other massive elephant in the room is that the culture makes one to feel that if they express a non-literal view they are well on their way to apostacy. We all know this is true. Perhaps some mild disclaimers put into the manuals but our friends at correlation would be helpful.

  32. “the BOM was filled with errors, many of them substantive, which were later corrected.”

    Indeed? I’ve read through the critical bom text and 1830, Skousen’s work, etc., but I’m not aware of many substantial errors which had to be corrected. I suppose it hinges entirely on how one defines “many” “substantial” and “errors.” :)

  33. Mike Parker says:

    Harold Dwyer #31 wrote:

    And yet the BOM was filled with errors, many of them substantive, which were later corrected.

    This claim is thrown around lightly by people who don’t know any better, so I’m going to call B.S. on it right here and ask you for your documentation on the “many” “substantive” errors that “filled” the Book of Mormon and were “later corrected.”

    There are exactly four passages that were changed in the 1837 and 1844 editions of the Book of Mormon that could have doctrinal or internal historical implications. Other than that, all the other changes were in transcription or editing and have no “substantive” effect on the message of the book or its claims — thinks like the “sword of God” being misread “word of God” in 1 Nephi 12:18.

    Sorry for the threadjack, but I can’t stand sloppy arguments that are based on faulty understanding or intellectual laziness. And this claim is one of them.

  34. Plus, Harold, who says the BoM needs to be read literally? The fact that many people do so doesn’t mean that it’s the best interpretive strategy. Even if you accept its historicity, as I do, you’re not obligated to believe that the writers were incapable of writing allegory, metaphor, and symbolism, and you’re also not obligated to to believe somehow that these premoderns were writing modern history seeking objectivity.

  35. MikeInWeHo says:

    It’s interesting now thoughtful Latter-day Saints compartmentalize and bob-n-weave around these historicity issues that impact all scriptures, LDS and otherwise. I’ve observed well educated members who have no problem accepting that Adam, Noah and Jonah probably didn’t exist as a real individuals in history, yet go apoplectic at the idea that Lehi or Mormon didn’t either. Where does one draw the line?

  36. Harold Dwyer says:

    Shot birds certainly do flutter.

  37. Harold Dwyer says:

    @34

    I am intrigued by your suggestion. Other than the allegory of the olive tree, what do you find in the BOM that permits an allegorical reading? I know there is no authority for that proposition. Still, it is interesting.

  38. Mike Parker says:

    MikeInWeHo #35:

    I think modern revelation is pretty firm on the existence of Adam and Noah. But there is a difference between saying “these people never existed” and “what is said about them has been mythologized.”

    For example, Socrates almost certainly didn’t say exactly the words that Plato put into his mouth in Plato’s Dialogues, but that doesn’t mean there never was a Socrates.

    Likewise, just because George Washington did not, in actuality, chop down a cherry tree and then confess to his father “I cannot tell a lie,” doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a historical figure of George Washington who lead the American forces to victory against the British.

    It was the nature of virtually all history before the Enlightenment to embellish, mythologize, and otherwise portray events in a cosmic scheme. The story of Adam and Eve in the garden is clearly mythological, but that doesn’t preclude there being an actual Adam and Eve who where somehow connected with the origins of monotheism.

  39. Mike Parker says:

    Harold Dwyer #36:

    Shot birds certainly do flutter.

    And people who know they’re wrong, when called on it, certainly do dodge the question.

  40. Harold Dwyer says:

    @33

    B.H. Roberts is a good starting place. You may not agree with my analysis, but my statement is not made in ignorance. I’m very well equipped to meet your challenge, but there is no reason to do it here. Let’s agree to disagree.

  41. Steve Evans says:

    Harold, do you have a white glove with which to slap opponents as well? Relax, man.

  42. Mike Parker says:

    Please don’t tell me you’re seriously falling back on the old canard of Robert’s Study of the Book of Mormon.

  43. MikeInWeHo- For myself, it’s because each book is different,as are subsections within those books- Job is very different from 1Kings, for example. It’s not a question of general approach or bias, i.e. “I’m a liberal, so everything is non-literal” or “I’m a conservative, so everything must be historical.”

    Each book needs to be examined on its own. That’s how that line is drawn. An inspired-but-non-historical Book of Mormon fails to meet its own declared purposes. A “mythical” Israelite creation account does not.

    Harold, don’t bring a knife to a gun fight ;)

  44. #17 “In order to to believe the Book of Mormon is completely fictional, one has to believe that (a) there was an angel Moroni, but he lied to Joseph Smith, or (b) that there was no angel Moroni, and Joseph Smith lied to his followers or was delusional.”

    False dichotomy. There are always third and fourth choices. What I find most miraculous in the Book of Mormon is the prediction of a man named Joseph who would restore the gospel and be known among nations.

    We admire Babe Ruth for pointing out to right field (?) as the place he was going to hit the next pitch and think this is marvelous. Joseph Smith did something much more difficult and unlikely. When he was a young kid with only a couple of people helping him he wrote II Nephi 3. He hit his pitch into the next county.

    My father taught me one excellent idea: if you can prove religion by scientific method the need for faith is destroyed. A corollary to this is that everything in religion must remain unproven and unprovable and, as some say, mythologic.

    If every male could have Adam’s Y chromosome could there be any doubt? Would we be having this argument? If there were any substantial amount of near eastern major histocompatibility complex genes, would so many of the Amerindians have died of small pox, and how could we have any questions about the decent of these people?

    All I know is that God has a vested interest in keeping the debates over religion alive and well. God could settle the argument easily with verifiable proof but does not do it, a result of the first postulate. This, I assume, is God’s major goal above all others.

    I can only assume that, like with the Buddhists, salvation lies in the direction of enlightenment. There is sufficient indication in Mormonism that this is true. All these things lead to enlightenment. But the temptation to literalism will stop your progress well short of the true beauty and unity of all things.

    I agree with SteveP, thanks.

  45. Steve,

    For example, the New Testament and the Book of Mormon are not preserved to give us some historical info. They are there to testify of Christ and springboard us into a relationship with him.

    When you talk of why the scriptures were preserved, do you have in mind (1) the reasons the authors had in writing them, (2) the motivations of those who came after the authors copying and preserving them, (3) the reasons God had in mind when he inspired them in the first place, (4) the perceived benefits our leaders have in mind when they tell us to study them today, or (5) something else.

  46. Mike Parker says:

    SVB #44 wrote:

    False dichotomy. There are always third and fourth choices.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard exactly this response. I have yet to hear any believer in an ahistorical Book of Mormon explain the angel Moroni in a coherent fashion.

    If you have a logical explanation for Moroni from an ahistorical perspective, I would very sincerely like to hear it. Please?

    When [Joseph Smith]was a young kid with only a couple of people helping him he wrote II Nephi 3. He hit his pitch into the next county.

    It’s amazing the ideas one can concoct for the creation of the Book of Mormon when one is not fettered by having to account for the eyewitness accounts of its translation, isn’t it? After all, why not have Joseph Smith writing 2 Nephi as a teenager? Who cares if every single witness to the Book of Mormon says it was done at a completely different time and in a different way? Perhaps the accounts of these two imaginary assistants of his are still out there, somewhere, waiting to be discovered.

  47. #45 yes, that’s it exactly.

    I notice that the idea of historicity and the question about what can and cannot be taken literally or historically has gotten more airplay than the thing that interests me the most: How the scriptures can be used to connect us with spiritual realities. For me the most interesting question is what the scriptures do to us, not how we can wrest out of them some bit of objective/factual information. How do they help you connect to the spirit? How do they reveal deeper realities? Not, how do they make Moroni explainable, but how do they let me know the things Moroni knew and feel the things Moroni felt. The surface readings that establish the event narratives seem somehow more interesting to the conversation, than the experiential aspects available through the scriptures that I’m arguing for.

  48. looking for a name says:

    #47 “Not, how do they make Moroni explainable, but how do they let me know the things Moroni knew and feel the things Moroni felt. The surface readings that establish the event narratives seem somehow more interesting to the conversation, than the experiential aspects available through the scriptures that I’m arguing for.”

    This made me think of the note-taking I did as a missionary. For the first 18 months of my mission I dutifully recreated an outline of every zone conference and district meeting I attended. These notes were lifeless! Then I got bored and decided to start writing the things that I felt at the time. 10 years later I still remember (without reviewing the notes) some of the things I felt during those last few months – mostly, I think, because I focused on the experience.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,760 other followers