Personal Barometers of Institutional Apostasy (or, Your New Weekly Firestorm/Poll)

For those of us who consider ourselves to be believers in the basic claims of the Restoration and the authority claims of the LDS Church, I offer the following query:

In your opinion, what would constitute a signal that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had drifted into institutional apostasy? I do not pose the question flippantly. In fact, I don’t even really want an answer. Instead, I propose a thought experiment to be played out jointly with BCC readers over a series of polls and discussions. Here’s the basic premise: imagine the Church announces some serious or radical change in doctrine and/or policy. What do you consider to be on the table? Where is the line that separates a Church governed by continuing revelation and a Church for whom the conduits of heavenly influence have been shut off? Are there fundamental doctrines and practices that are so central to the Restored Gospel that, to dispense with them or fundamentally alter them is to break with the claim of being Christ’s true Church?

Here are some examples, deliberately positioned at (what I presume to be) the extremes of both ends of this question. 1) The Church announces that Mormons no longer accept the claim of a virgin birth for Jesus. Here, I presume, many people would be surprised, some shocked, some gratified, but virtually no one would take that as a sign that the Church was no longer true. 2) The Church announces that the canon is officially closed. There is no more knowledge to be had from God, we have all we need, and there is no longer need for continuing revelation. Here I presume that the overwhelming majority of LDS would see in such an announcement that the Church, as an institution, by dispensing with the principle and practice of continuing revelation, had fallen into apostasy.

Such an experiment might seem at first to be a tad speculative, adolescent, even arrogant. Or, at least, an exercise in extreme navel-gazing. But I think that it can actually be very helpful. It helps me to isolate those precepts and propositions, those practices and forms of worship, that lie at the core of my testimony — my sense that the Church is “true” — and bracket them off from the rest. If a doctrine or practice is not worth leaving the Church over (as a response to perceived institutional apostasy), then it really isn’t central to the Restoration or the Everlasting Gospel.

So here is this week’s question and discussion point:
[poll id=”114″]



  1. For the record, I voted for the second. I personally consider the Book of Mormon to be divine and am mostly agnostic regarding the relationship the narrative might or might not have to ancient history.

    If the question were about scrapping the Book of Mormon’s scriptural status altogether, i.e. disclaiming its divine origin as a sacred text, I very likely would have voted differently.

  2. I have apparently already voted. Darn that Left Field!

  3. Hmmm. I voted for the second option also. But I’d be more concerned about abandoning the belief that Jesus was born of a virgin. I’m not sure I’d call it a bedrock gospel principle, but certainly there’d be a lot of explaining to do if we were told that someone other than our Heavenly Father were the biological father of Jesus.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    On your examples:

    1. On the virgin birth, I personally reject that, so a Church statement to that effect would be peachy by me.

    2. On continuing revelation, I’m not so sure that would be a deal killer for a lot of people. There have been statements that go part of the way already, to the effect that all the biggies have been received and now we’re just staying the course. And such a position might seem to be supported by the relative lack of additional canonized scripture. I actually had a bishopric counselor make such an assertion back when I was in law school, and although I vigorously disagreed with him, others didn’t seem too put off by the notion.

    3. On the BoM, I personally am a believer in historicity. But I also think that the posited position is an acceptable point of view for individual Saints to hold, so if the Church adopted that as a general policy, it wouldn’t be a deal killer for me.

  5. I think that most likely if the church did indeed adopt the idea as laid out that it would most likely be accompanied by a host of other changes in the same manner that we have seen in the COC and mainline Prot. over the last 2 generations.
    These changes in aggregate would be a major stumbling block for many active LDS.

  6. Also I think the belief in the Virgin Birth is a serious issue in Christianity and to walk away from it indeed be a sign that the LDS Church was trending towards apostasy

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    On my rejection of the virgin birth, see here. I’m not positing Jesus’ father was a passing Roman soldier or anything like that.

  8. I can’t vote in polling like this, even for fun, and I suspect there are others in my boat with me. How can we say ahead of time what we could accept and what we couldn’t, since so much of acceptance comes from confirmation from the Spirit when something new is proposed?

    This is something I have thought long and hard about, in two specific contexts. People ask whether we would do as Nephi did in slaying Laban, or whether we would have participated in some other violent deed (usually Mountain Meadows). Under ordinary circumstances, which are the only ones I have experienced, the answer to both is “no.” But what if, as I believe happened with Nephi, I couldn’t deny the spiritual confirmation of the commandment?

    And second, imagine a poll like this in 1977 concerning extending priesthood to all races. In 1978 I had such a powerful impression of the rightness of the revelation, light years beyond any human ethics or wishfulness, that I instantly knew it was right. But I don’t know that I could have said the same to a 1977 poll.

    I think we run the risk of committing ourselves into a corner when we take a stand, especially a public one, that we would or wouldn’t accept this or that revelation should it come. Would you recognize a spiritual prompting to say “yes” next year if you had intellectually convinced yourself “no” this year?

  9. Eric Russell says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but my testimony is in the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles more than any particular doctrine. As long as they were united, I’d follow them no matter what they said, excepting perhaps only an outright denial of Christ.

  10. Why not speculate about something really interesting. What would happen if the Savior showed up at Oct conference and said He was going to spend a week with His restored church leaders and invited all religious and political leaders world wide to come to SLC for a special meeting.

  11. Latter-day Guy says:

    I imagine that it would perhaps cause me to reconsider the validity of my testimony in a more naturalistic light. That is, I would likely doubt the truth claims of the church from its foundation, which seems (for some reason) more likely than the apostasy of a faith which teaches that it will never fall into apostasy. The moment there is that kind of interior contradiction, I imagine many would seek spiritual homes elsewhere.

  12. Wow. Look for a future poll on the Virgin Birth!

    Kevin, you blasphemous heretic…

  13. From something I wrote last month:

    I have understood our perspectives to be what “we see through a glass, darkly” – our best attempt to make out the details within the general outline we have been given. I have understood that there is certainty in the ideal – in the ultimate end – in the foundation principles, but I also have understood that everything we see and believe and extrapolate and conjecture and assume is subject to “further light and knowledge” – that even with more light and knowledge, we still see through our glasses, darkly.

    I am certain of some things, but those things are principles – not details. Radical changes in policy and even “doctrine” don’t shake me, since I have never based my testimony on those things. I believe firmly and deeply in the PRINCIPLE of ongoing-revelation . . . that what I believe now differs from what I believed as a youth and young adult – that what I believe now differs from what I will believe in the future.

  14. Ardis,
    Your concerns do make sense. It’s worth pointing out, though, that this is not a binding public record — just a “let’s reason together a bit” thought experiment.

  15. Brad,

    Elder Holland has already addressed this question in his interview with Helen Whitney for the PBS production of The Mormons. Here’s the relevant part:

    I think you’d be as aware as I am that that we have many people who are members of the church who do not have some burning conviction as to its origins, who have some other feeling about it that is not as committed to foundational statements and the premises of Mormonism. But we’re not going to invite somebody out of the church over that any more than we would anything else about degrees of belief or steps of hope or steps of conviction. … We would say: “This is the way I see it, and this is the faith I have; this is the foundation on which I’m going forward. If I can help you work toward that I’d be glad to, but I don’t love you less; I don’t distance you more; I don’t say you’re unacceptable to me as a person or even as a Latter-day Saint if you can’t make that step or move to the beat of that drum.” … We really don’t want to sound smug.

  16. i could care less about ‘doctrine’ and don’t can’t imagine any change in ‘doctrine’ that i would consider a sign of departing from the gospel of christ. i think a sign of apostasy would be found more in the fruits – if it’s sprouting rotten or bug-infested fruit, there’s a good chance that the tree has been tainted to its core. the fruits of an organization fighting the immorality of two persons who want to make a commitment of their love while at the same time staying silent as the nation it resides in is torturing god’s children, waging war against innocent neighbors, ignoring its sick, supporting the oppression of laborers, and laying waste to the earth that it should be caring for seems like it maybe should be a candidate for a tree that needs some immediate care before it dies.

  17. mondo cool says:

    Signal of institutional apostasy?

    “In religious news today, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced today the replacement today of its Church Curriculum Committee with the on-line blog, By Common Consent. Film at eleven.”


  18. Yeah, mondo – that’d be serious. But if they went with M*, that’d be OK.

    If DKL were called to be a GA, I’d apostatize…

  19. Good call on the Elder Holland quote, Mark IV

  20. What foundational truth is in Mormonism is something of a loose definition. As much as we would like to think it is not sometimes. Our theology allows for a lot of breadth of views. The genius of this faith is the individual responsibility we each have to take our questions to the Lord.

    That was what appealed to me when I converted in the early 90’s. I knew it was my spiritual home before missionaries ever met with me.

    The concept of independent spiritual dependence was such a “revelation” to me. I alone of my own choice had to go to God for my answers. I would get answers and I was free to then accept or reject them.

    It is the Lord who refines and centers our faith. For example my own private devotion to Mary faded away without any member/leader prodding me in that direction simply because I discovered and felt it was not in line with God’s will.

    If the Church came out with a pronouncement that appeared to contradict a previous stance, I would go to the Lord and then do what He said to do. Is that too simplistic of me?

    Personally, I am always willing to believe too much than to believe too little.

    O by the way double kuddos to Mark IV on the Elder Holland quote, he rocks.

  21. Mark D. says:

    I wouldn’t look for an announcement like this anytime soon. But it might be nice if such a belief weren’t a firing offense…

  22. I believe it is inherently dangerous to speculate about what parts of the revealed gospel are “optional” or “subject to change”.

    What some speculative future change in doctrine might be does not interest me much as a serious question. It enough to know what God has revealed now and to conform my life to the current revealed knowledge.

    I suppose some speculations are interesting because we know it has changed in the past (such as polygamy), and therefor we can assume that it is not an issue with one inherently correct position, and therefor wondering whether we would have the faith to follow such a doctrine if circumstance generate a change is natural. However, to speculate about something for which there is no hint there is ever going to be a change, (and quite the opposite), I think is a foolish intellectual equivalent of Snipe Hunting.

  23. Here is the thing, the Book of Mormon is technically a story more than a historical account. In fact, as a historical account it is quite poor. Note that Mormon spends over two thirds of the entire account over a 100 year period in the entire 1000 year history!

    Mormon’s compilation is not historical in the first place, so the question, at least for me and my understanding of the Book of Mormon, is moot. It is already a story more than a historical account.

    Now, it is troubling that questions like these are raised because they attempt to raise doubt in how one gains a testimony or knowledge of things as they are. One thing I’ve learned from reading the scriptures and from living life is that God is quite consistent and doesn’t radically change on a whim. I believe he would consider that unfair to his children. If time was approaching for a change, even a significant one, there would be build up, there would be preparation.

    Heck, he’s been preparing us for the Second Coming (and the completely different Millennium period) for thousands of years! When the Second Coming begins, it will be a shock, but only because change is shocking. The groundwork has been laid down since Old Testament times, however. Most of us are quite prepared for the change to come.

  24. Stirling says:

    “In your opinion, what would constitute a signal that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had drifted into institutional apostasy?”

    If today the church were to announce as new policy a practice of restricting individual members from temple (or other) participation based on ethnic background.

  25. Walt Nicholes says:

    I guess for me the sheer point would be if declarations were made that Joseph Smith was mistaken about a doctrinal matter.

    We have often taught that if Joseph Smith is a true prophet, then the church must be true. If the modern church ever dismissed Joseph Smith’s doctrines (different that suspending a practice) that I would be sorely tested.

    I allow that if the “Brethren” had an explanation for the change that was plausible I could probably deal with it.

  26. Walt,

    As an explanation for the change, how about “Joseph Smith was not infallible,” just like the current leaders are not infallible? The doctrines Joseph taught evolved over time (line upon line?), so even he ended up teaching doctrines that contradicted his own earlier teachings. Had he lived longer, I am confident his doctrine would have continued to evolve at a much faster pace than the church experienced without him.

    I don’t need the church to always stay the same. I enjoy the fact that we accept continuing revelation and I interpret AoF 9 as saying that we will yet receive many great and important revelations, post-Joseph.

  27. MikeInWeHo says:

    “If time was approaching for a change, even a significant one, there would be build up, there would be preparation.”

    Might that not be happening now, even with conversations like this and things like the Elder Holland interview? The fact that he basically said outright that it was OK to not believe in BoM historicity and still be a good member is remarkable. The Church could evolved in the direction of the CoC in regards understanding its origins, without becoming the CoC in regards to practice and liberal world view. So I disagree with bbell on that point.

  28. MikeInWeHo,

    I don’t see how Elder Holland’s remarks “soften” the impending blow over the historicity of the Book of Mormon. But then I already see the Book of Mormon more as a story than a history.

  29. YO(Ubet says:

    I’d go looking for a Church that taught that the Book of Mormon is historical and I take the CofC’s failure to affirm its historicity as pretty good evidence that it has abandoned the foundational revelations in favor of theories created by mortal cogitation.

    Barney ain’t really a disbeliever in virgin birth — he doesn’t believe that Jesus was sired by a mortal but though relations with a divine Father. How is that not virgin birth by human standards?

  30. Kevin Barney says:

    YO(Ubet #29, that was Elder McConkie’s argument, that if it was a divine being it didn’t count, so the conception was still virginal. To me that’s a massive equivocation. The whole point of our use of the word virgin is to represent the mother as a virgo intacta, and if Jesus was generated sexually (per traditional early Mormon assumptions), then Mary wasn’t a virgo intacta.

    I understand the PR dilemma of denying the Virgin Birth, but if one is going to do that one should stand up and be accountable for it, not try to hedge it with tricky private definitions the way BRM did.

  31. MikeInWeHo, you’re absolutely right that we shouldn’t pretend that the whole package of current LDS beliefs and practices and the whole package of current Community of Christ beliefs and practices are the only alternatives on the shelf. There’s no way the LDS church could become what the Community of Christ is — John Hamer spells this out by pointing out that the LDS church has always consisted of the “obeyers” among Mormons, while from the very beginning the Community of Christ has consisted of the “free-thinkers.” This difference goes back to the 1840s. No mere doctrinal change could undo it. If such a change, converting Brighamites into Josephites, were possible, the end of polygamy — a far bigger change than a move toward a 19th-century revelation of the Book of Mormon as scriptural fiction — would have done it.

    The LDS church will surely change in ways none of us expect. Some of the changes of the past have in fact been in the direction of RLDS/Community of Christ folks. I’m sure we’ll see that again in the future. But such change will always only be partial; the basic directions of development, indeed the basic characters, of the two churches are so different that the comparison between the two is of very limited use. In fact, I think the usual applications of this comparison are somewhere between ignorance and sophistry…

  32. I side firmly with Ardis on this one. There is no benefit and quite a lot of danger in “reasoning together” among imperfect mortals, as opposed to reasoning together with the Lord. My answer would entirely depend on Spiritual promptings.

  33. matt w. says:

    I’m with Ardis on this one. Apostacy is one of those ,I know it when I see it kind of things.K ooooone.onepostacy AApostacy

  34. I’m going to go with Ardis on this, too. As I have stated before, life provides sufficient trials of faith for us; I don’t see the need to manufacture further ones. At best, this is an exercise in line-drawing in the abstract; at worst it will devolve into a bunch of people patting themselves on the back regarding either: a, their knowledge of the limits of God/the Gospel or b, their unshakable faith.

    My experience with trials of faith is that they come from where we don’t expect them.

  35. matt w. says:

    Yikes, the new blackberry is having problems, I see.

  36. Matt,
    I assumed you were overcome by the Spirit and speaking in tongues. I interpreted it as “Apostasy…KHAAAAAAAAAAAANN!”

  37. I don’t feel particularly comfortable with such excersizes. Though I think, perhaps because of my deep Mormonism, I am probably more concerned with orthopraxy than orthodoxy. Fortunately, we have very good people serving on the governing councils.

  38. Gerald Smith says:

    I think that there are possible positions that would cause an apostasy from the Church. Having said that, I do not think we will see it from the Brethren (at least not from how I view the gospel).
    I think the key points would be found in the Articles of Faith – if any of those key components were totally denied, THEN you would have a major issue.
    Having said that, what does “historicity” mean? Does it mean that every story related by Mormon, centuries after they actually happened, must be completely accurate and God-Breathed? Or does it mean that there was a guy named Nephi who followed God’s promptings and left Jerusalem for the New World? Does historicity mean the Hemispheric or Limited Geographical Theory? Does it mean the whole thing is fables and made up stories meant to inspire, or that there may be some give and take in how we understand each story?
    What would definitely cause me to think the Church had fallen is if it stopped promoting the Book of Mormon as scripture and true, or were to reject Christ’s role as Savior, reject Joseph Smith as a true prophet, God’s existence, etc.

  39. I agree with JNS that the Church will change in ways that none of us expect. As believing members, acceptance of change is sort of in our DNA. I really like Jan Shipps’ saying about how, if present-day Mormons could somehow travel back in time 125 years and be a fly on the wall at a church service, we wouldn’t recognize it at all. What with polygamous families, tobacco use, the frequency of serving the bread and water (sometimes wine), the age of deacons, the hymns sung – the Church we know and attend today is so different in many ways. So, I agree with the premise of this post that thinking about what is foundational vs. non-foundational is a good, faithful exercise. Why get so defensive?

  40. Regarding the Elder Holland quote from comment #15:

    A couple of commentors here have reacted as if this statement signals some kind of growing tolerance for a “middle way” belief in the Book of Mormon. I don’t think it does — consider Elder Holland’s additional comments from later in the same PBS interview:

    There are plenty of people who question the historicity of the Book of Mormon, and they are firmly in this church — firmly, in their mind, in this church — and the church isn’t going to take action against that. [The church] probably will be genuinely disappointed, but there isn’t going to be action against that, not until it starts to be advocacy: “Not only do I disbelieve in the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, I want you to disbelieve.” At that point, we’re going to have a conversation. A little of that is more tolerated than I think a lot of people think it should be. But I think we want to be tolerant any way we can. … “Patient” maybe is a better word than “tolerant.” We want to be patient and charitable to the extent that we can, but there is a degree beyond which we can’t go. … [ellipses in original]

  41. In other words, Elder Holland’s quote from #15 conveys tolerance for the disbeliever, but the later quote in #40 conveys much less tolerance for the disbelief.

  42. Ardis makes a valid assertion here, and I’m not too comfortable with this line of conjecture.

    First, I truly believe this church is the restoration of the Gospel in the fullness of times. Change comes, and I expect change to come to the church in the future. I can’t begin to imagine how rootless and depressed I would feel to decide that the church had gone into major apostasy.

    Second, I can hardly expect to know in advance what changes the church might make, let alone know what might be right or wrong. When change happens, as with the 1978 revelation, or President Hinckley announcing the new PEF, I had instant confirmation of those two events as being inspired. I suspect that as change comes to the church, I’ll be able to get that confirmation as well, but I hardly expect that I am capable or particularly disposed to anticipate what those changes will be.

    With that being said, I did vote for adapting, but I don’t know that I find this particular exercise all that engaging to me.

  43. Steve Evans says:

    Add my voice to the Ardis supporters. This thought experiment is a bad idea!

  44. Fletcher says:

    Dan (#23),

    I must say that I disagree with about 98% of which that comes out of your keyboard. But your comment in #23 was brilliant. Well put.

  45. I think this is a fine intellectual exercise. Brad’s hypothetical scenario may be a little far-fetched, but it highlights a good thought process that we all should consider. Certainly there are key beliefs and practices that are central to the Restoration and Everlasting Gospel. And there are certainly at least a few beliefs and practices that are merely products of tradition and cultural influences. Some of those latter things might distract people from the important parts of the gospel, or act as barriers to entry.

    Brad’s thought process here could help ensure that we don’t plant our flag on top of the wrong hill. (For example, in my opinion, someone who would view a denunciation of the virgin birth as a sign of apostasy has certainly planted their flag on the wrong hill.)

  46. I agree with Ardis as well, there’s nothing wrong with the Avenues.

  47. But I don’t think the Bible is a 100% accurate historical document either,so an announcement about the BOM would mean nothing to me other than some good discussions on the Bloggernacle. God uses stories to help us, it’s no biggie.

  48. I think this kind of question makes people uncomfortable. We accept that apostasy happened anciently to other people, far removed from us and our circumstances, but cannot and will not imagine that it might happen again.

    To me apostasy is an ongoing process. Look at Joseph’s generation and how many of the first quorum of 12 survived in a religious sense. How successful was Joseph in getting the people to open up to what he was trying to teach them? What percentage of the people complied with the laws required for living as a god in the celestial kingdom? In your lifetime, has the endowment expanded and taught more truth or less?

    Heeding the warnings of the prophets regarding the latter days, perhaps we should meditate on how we will recognize apostasy from continuing revelation. A strong foundation in the scriptures and access to the Spirit are likely our only hope that we will choose aright.


  49. Thanks Fletcher. :)

  50. Peter LLC says:

    I’m not with Ardis on this one. I’ve never taken a position I’m not ready to abandon in a heartbeat should it be to my benefit. I’d be surprised if other mortals did any differently.

  51. Steve Evans says:

    “I’ve never taken a position I’m not ready to abandon in a heartbeat should it be to my benefit.”

    Awesome, although that sounds like a pretty definitive stance re: stances.

  52. Randy B. says:

    I don’t know that I would have worded this thought experiment the same way that Brad has, but what it drives at is of fundamental importance. The basic question is whether there are things we believe so strongly that even contrary direction from the church wouldn’t change our minds. As many have noted, it’s impossible to fully answer that sort of hypothetical until we face the dilemma in real time. But I don’t think that invalidates the exercise. I see this sort of testing as a natural part of the search for truth and enlightenment.

  53. Thanks for getting my back guys (#45, 52). But I also get the uncomfortableness this question has generated.

    The purpose of this (perhaps abortive) discussion was manifestly NOT for people to imagine themselves leaving the Church or creating an intellectual ultimatum; the point was to show people how unlikely such an outcome (leaving the Church), in fact, is — even in the face of radical change.

    It is interesting (at least based anecdotally on the comments), that the more outspokenly orthodox seem to have a somewhat lower threshhold (see comments on the VB, for example). Even more significant, methinks, is the fact that an overwhelming majority of respondants would not consider leaving if the Church endorsed something like an “Inspired Fiction” model for the BoM narrative. And I strongly suspect, following the logic of Ardis and Silverrain, that most of those who voted for apostasy would seek and receive spiritual confirmation that the change was directed by the Lord.

    And, for the record, this is not a change I personally envision happening any time soon.

  54. I’ve been intrigued by Dan’s comment in # 23. Certainly, we can’t look at the Book of Mormon as a history in the way that our academic friends here would define a history text. It’s purpose was not to record and transmit a detailed history of the Nephites, but a spiritual document that has historical and theological elements.

    As such, I think we expect too much of it if we want to gain major historical insights from it. Ultimately, the BoM is a document of faith, and we should not expect, except perhaps in the millenium, to have any objective, external evidences of its accuracy or historicity. I truly believe that Nephi, Alma, Moroni, and the other BoM prophets really existed, but I’m not looking for external proofs of that.

  55. So, if the Church abondoned many of the core premises it was founded on, ie the Book of Mormon, would you still consider the Church “true”? If the Book of Mormon historicity is undermined, then so are the Church’s Prophets, all of them. If these Prophets who we believe stand as the literal conduits of revelation between God and man turn out to be nothing more than “good” Christian phillosophers, than the Church is not true with regards to it’s foundational claims, the singular means and way of salvation. I don’t like making things black and white, however that has been the institutional position of the Church from the beginning, so the Church has painted itself into a corner with the absolute claims of truth, and therefore is not afforded the luxury of more abstract forms of interpretation.

  56. Erick,
    Baloney and hogwash. Continuing revelation, as has been noted, leaves everything on the table. For that matter, I know people who don’t believe in the historicity of the Book of Mormon who accept that the Church is divinely inspired and that the Brethren are duly ordained Apostles of the Lord. So I know that the impossible paradoxes you cite are not impossible, nor are they necessarily paradoxical. While such thoughts may not be your cup of tea, you have no right nor ability to tell others what they should or should not believe.

  57. The question posed here isn’t whether or not the church was true but whether it had gone into apostasy based on this statement. If such a statement were given I would believe it had gone into apostasy. The entire reason for the BoM was a restoration of the full gospel of Christ. As another already commented, it would negate all the words of all the prophets since the beginning as it would the veracity of the BoM itself.
    Be that as it may, I agree with Ardis and several others who stated that to discuss and especially to study things that tend to lead away from faith is dangerous. I suspect that it is similar to the way one gains a testimony as laid out by Alma when he speaks of planting a seed. When one plants the seed of doubt and if you continue to water it, it will begin to grow within you until you come to a darkness of mind that leaves no room for the light. I have seen such darkness lead others out of the church.

  58. I know that if we stick with the prophet and the 12 apostles, we will not go astray. The prophet Daniel told of the stone cut out of the mountains without hands eventually filling the earth and how the kingdom of God would not be left to other people, but would prevail.

    Whether there are mossy chunks that break off does not change the progress of the stone itself.

    Onward! (waving sword over head enthusiastically)

  59. John C –

    I accept that everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I made no attempt at enforcing a belief on anyone. You are right that modern progressive Mormon positions are generally not my cup of tea.

    To respond to the continuing revelation statement. I have an expectation that principle of continuing revelation can be best understood in the context of the 9th Article of Faith :

    “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”

    The position of the Church regarding revelation is then that we believe all that has been revealed, past/present/future. That suggests a linear notion of revelation that builds upon existing principles “line upon line”. So often however the belief in ongoing revelation is used to revise former doctrines or teachings, this is inconsistent with the whole idea. The hypothetical with todays polling question deals with whether or not the historocity of the Book of Mormon is core enough to Mormon identity that to challenge this from even the institutional level would merit a declaration of apostasy. If we challenge the hisorocity of the book then we challenge most of the foundational experiences, the vision of Moroni (possibly Moroni himself), the translation of the plates, the three and eight witnesses, the early missionary revelations pertaining to the the Lamanites, former Prophets teachings, etc. So I guess the question is, can you really accept that this is the one and only true Church with the saving authority and teachings, if so many of those teachings are incorrect?

  60. Mark IV says:

    I think it is a wild goose chase to expect every word of the Book of Mormon to be as true as every other word in it. The book itself states on multiple occasions that it contains errors, and asks us to overlook them.

    The purpose of the book is to convert people to Christ and help them to repent. I think we are much wiser to judge the book by how effectively it does that than trying to account for every one of the internal inconsistencies. I say this as someone who is a believer in the book’s historicity, more or less.

  61. What if the doctrine that changed were not about what we ought to believe but rather about how we ought to live? For example, suppose the FP announced that from now on we should immediately end the life of anyone who’s guilty of a certain type of sin. Or conversely, suppose they say that from this moment forward, we should not kill under any circumstances, even when doing so might save our own lives or the lives of other innocents. Is there any moral principle to which we’re so committed that we’d apostatize before we violate that principle?

  62. Erick,
    It’s entirely possible that Moroni was a real person who had real visions, that the plates were real and really delivered by an angel, that the story was “translated” (a term used very loosely by Joseph Smith) by the gift and power of God, but that the actual narrative bears little if any resemblance to what we might call a clinical, matter-of-fact description of “real history.”

    To follow on Ryan’s logic of a seed of doubt, I suspect that your black-and-white, all-or-nothing, take-it-or-leave-it approach to this question, if accepted as binding orthodoxy, will lead more people away from belief in the divinity of the Book of Mormon and, by extension, away from the Church than any wishy washy middle-grounding will.

  63. RE: Brad (#53) —

    . . . the point was to show people how unlikely such an outcome (leaving the Church), in fact, is — even in the face of radical change.

    Agreed Brad. We have swallowed some mighty changes in our short history, with only minor schisms. If church leaders were really to announce a revelation from the Lord that the Book of Mormon was inspired, but not historical, I think a person’s reaction would largely reflect their preexisting level of faith.

    — Faithful believers would likely view such an announcement as (further) evidence that our leaders really do talk to God, and that He leads our church.

    — Skeptics would likely view such an announcement as (further) evidence that leaders are unispired and eventually cave in to broader secular trends.

    This new information might shake some members’ faith, and make them wonder how our past leaders could have been wrong on this. Apologists would point out that prophets are only prophets when speaking as such, and that our church relies on continuing revelation, and that some prominent Mormon thinkers have been discussing these seemingly new ideas for decades now. Some members wouldn’t be too concerned because their testimony never really hinged on specifics. And some stubborn members would quietly hold onto past traditions regardless of how many times they had been refuted.

    In other words, nothing would really change.

  64. #60 – Many of the statements you refer to were made by characters within the Book of Mormon. I am not arguing for absolute perfection from men, Prophets or otherwise. The context of the question is, if the Church as an insitution adopted a position that the Book of Mormon is merely a work of inspired fiction, would that signify that the Church as an organization has gone into apostasy. For me it would mean one of two things, either it had in fact fallen into apostasy, or it was never true in the first place.

  65. Very well put, CE.

  66. Brad,

    On the contrary, if this is truly the Lords church then there is only the black and white. It can’t be true and false at the same time. The Lord doesn’t work that way. It is more as Elder Holland said that we don’t accept their belief but as long as they aren’t out teaching it then we tolerate them in the church.

    As for the historical fact of the BoM, I would have to say that those portions that deal with history are real. Those parts that deal with spiritual things are true. However, the BoM was not meant to be a complete history. Mormon took those portions out of the record and compiled it into what we now know as the BoM in order to best help us in our day. Did Lehi and Nephi do exactly what they said in leaving Jerusalem and sailing to the promised land? There is not doubt. Did Laman and Lemuel rebel and become a separate people? Also, no doubt. Did each and every thing that happened throughout the BoM happen to real people who lived during that time? Certainly. The BoM is completely factual for it’s historical accuracy it just doesn’t contain the entire historical account of the Nephite people.

    For a complete history we would need the other plates that Nephi created for the purpose of recording the history of the Nephite people.

  67. If you think about it, the Book of Mormon is more of cultural significance than doctrinal. The real focus of the church now is on repentance, service, faith, worship – hardly unique to the BoM. I do agree that saying there’s a definite end of continuing revelation would pretty much end the church. It’s not all about what comes from the prophet, you know.

    The real problem with declaring it fiction is all of the statements surrounding it. What do you do with the naming of the Brother of Jared, for example? (Fictional brother?) I’m not up on this sort of thing – have there been any angelic visitations of BoM figures? Also, does this posit that it still is an ancient story, written on the golden plates? I guess it’s more problematic than I had originally thought. (See, it is a good thought experiment!)

  68. Steve Evans says:

    Ryan B., I admire your confidence, which seems to surpass the words of the book itself.

  69. Brad:

    I think a better question (sincerely) to you is, how do you come to the conclusions of inspired fiction to any degree, as opposed to the official declared claim of historical reality. Is it based on a logical/spiritual process of growth and learning. Or is it a rational explanation in light of competing ideas – Archeology (or lack thereof) vs. “testimony”.

    One last question, can you please clarify your statement that “translate” was a “loose” reference by Joseph Smith to the processes that brought forth the Book of Mormon.

  70. From my experience, those most dedicated to the institution believe in BOM historicity, and denying that historicity would greatly weaken the institution.

  71. Steve Evans says:

    Trevor (#70), believing in BOM historicity is a pretty nebulous concept.

  72. Mark IV says:

    Several of our prophets have spoken of the book of Job as inspired fiction. That doesn’t invalidate the bible.

  73. angrymormonliberal says:

    You might want to take a look at what happened to the Worldwide Church of God when the leadership basically came out and said ‘We are living in a state of apostacy’.

    The church splintered into multiple sects, many apocalyptic (I’ve been collecting as much material as I can on these offshoots)

    The ‘main church’ was reduced by about 1/3 in membership, and modifications in proselyting tactics have reduced this further.

    As for the LDS church, just look to history. Those kind of major revelations are a hallmark of our past, just as the rejection of those major revelations by a significant proportion of the community is also consistent. If you believe that the church is a revelatory church, then you have to accept the new revelation. It’s one of the consequences of being Mormon.

    That being said, by the fruits. If I saw sexual exploitation, murder or illegal war being advocated by those at the top, I would consider them to be in apostasy. By their fruits….

  74. Ryan,
    Your supremely confidant assessment of the content of the book presuppose, 1) that each record compiler produce a factually unimpeachable account, totally free from any kind of bias based upon culture, socioeconomic class, competing political claims, etc.; 2) that the process of transmission of said records and their editing and redaction and re-editing and re-redaction in no way affected the unalloyed purity of historical truth and factual accuracy, and, further, that said redactors/editors (Mormon preeminent among them) had no agendas of their own other than the transmission of textbook style, objective, just-the-facts history; and 3) that the translation (see paragraph below responding to Erick) process was similarly unencumbered and seamlessly and effortlessly (no working out in the mind here) transmitted the undefiled facts to modern readers (hence, no need for subsequent corrections). I do not personally subscribe to the Inspired Fiction Model of the Book of Mormon. But I lack your confidence in the factual accuracy of the narrative claims. The cool thing about the miraculous manner of the book’s transmission is that we can accept the possibility/probability of even deliberate misrepresentation of the facts without scrapping the ontological claims of the text. When you impeach the narrative reliability of, say, one of the gospel writers, you also impeach the reliability of their claims about the nature of Jesus. When you impeach the reliability of Nephi or Alma or Mormon as a narrator, the book does not cease to be a sign of Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling. The Book of Mormon is acutely self-conscious — in a virtually postmodern sense — of its own construction as a man-made text and makes no pretense at divulging pure, unadulterated historical facts.

    On the question of translation:

    First, none of the accounts from witnesses to and participants in the translation process have Joseph doing what we would typically associate with translation — i.e. looking at characters on the plates and decoding them into English. In virtually all accounts — particularly those after the loss of the 116 pages — Joseph is looking at his seer stone with his head buried in his hat (to occlude light) and dictating while the plates are nearby covered in a cloth.

    Further, outside of the Book of Mormon (a translation process which Joseph many times actually refused to describe in detail, limiting his comment on the topic to “by the gift and power of God”, even when pressed for more details, even by trusted people like Hyrum, necessitating our reliance on the accounts of his scribes and Emma), Joseph used the word translate to describe actions that more closely resemble either revelation or inspired commentary. In the category of the former (revelation described loosely as translation) we have the Books of Abraham and Moses. In the latter category, we have much of his “translation” of the Bible. The line that separates the two is far from clear, though neither could be reasonable described as translation in the most literal sense since neither involved the deciphering of an unknown language or code into a known one.

    And, when JS used translation in the more abstract sense (which he often did), it actually implied a fundamental change or alteration of the nature of the thing translated, e.g. translated beings.

  75. Joseph Smith (and subsequent church leaders) have stated that the BOM is the keystone of our religion. Whether or not it was divinely inspired fiction or history is irrelevant, as long as we still acknowledge the source is divine. Now if for some reason the church were to come out and say the BOM was a hoax, to me the keystone would be removed and the whole house of cards falls.

  76. I agree, MattG (see my comment #1). The book’s historicity, for me, is far, far less important than its divinity. The only group more committed to the notion that historicity=divinity than apologists are anti-Mormons.

  77. Trevor, I agree with you. Those who are most fervent in their belief in and emotions toward Mormonism are also those who tend to be fully convinced that Book of Mormon events actually happened and that there will eventually be overwhelming secular evidence to that effect. Those who are unsure whether the Book of Mormon events actually happened but who nonetheless think it was a divine text do not abandon their attachment to Mormonism altogether, by any means, but they moderate their degree of intensity. These conclusions come from the Book of Mormon survey I did a bit ago.

    However, a world in which the church openly proclaimed the book as inspired fiction might have substantially different social and religious dynamics than the current one in which having such belief entails a certain amount of movement against the grain in Mormonism. Generalizing from present realities to such a circumstance is therefore tricky. In any case, it’s not entirely clear to me that somewhat decreased intensity of commitment would devastate the church — but it would certainly be a cost.

  78. 75, 76:

    Does the same hold true for the Gospels for you?
    (whether or not it was divinely inspired fiction or hisotry is irrelevant)

  79. Trevor (78),
    Given the rather non-miraculous transmission of the Gospels to us as modern readers, I’d say it’s a very different situation. Even so, while the link between narrator reliability and the believability of ontological claims is stronger for the Gospels (while, in my opinion, close to non-existent in the case of the BoM), it is by no means inviolable or absolute.

  80. Brad (79),

    But is it irrelevant for you whether Jesus existed as a person, or was just part of a divinely inspired fictional document? I’m just trying to get a sense for how much you lean on divinity as opposed to reality, as mentioned in your 76 comment.

  81. Trevor,

    I was essentially going to say what Brad did, only he put it much more eloquently, as usual. The authenticity of the Gospels (at least parts of them) have been of debate for quite some time (the story of Jesus and the adultress, for one). But I think the question at hand relates to Mormonism and its unique tenets. The case could be made that we can remain Christians even without the existence of the New Testament, provided the Book of Mormon and its account of Christ and his ministry are true.

  82. I’m saying that you have a lot more room for flexibility in the case of the BoM than you do with the Gospels. Impeached narrator reliability is more closely tied with claims about divinity in the case of John’s gospel than it is for the Book of Mormon. Nephi could be a propagandist who woefully distorts history to suit his own purposes — he could even be lying about his own authority as a prophet or his calling — and that doesn’t impeach the Book of Mormon as a witness for the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith or for the Restoration. Nephi the propagandist is still Nephi the sometime-existed real person. The BoM narrative need not hold up even under the most careful and comprehensive historical, archaeological, genealogical, linguistic scrutiny to be divine or even ancient. With the gospels it’s a bit different. If the evangelists are unreliable narrators, then you need an independent witness (Joseph Smith or the Holy Ghost, for example) to verify the claims that Jesus is the Son of God. It’s pretty clear, even by pretty strict historical/evidentiary standards, that he was a man who really existed and was really executed as a threat to Roman authority. But the larger scale ontological claims of the evangelists — about resurrection, virgin birth, miracles, and Sonship — are yoked to the narrative claims in a way that the Book of Mormon, by virtue of its transmission story, avoids.

  83. Brad,

    It would be as historically accurate as is possible. I would venture to guess more accurate than much of that which passes as history (revisionist) today. I doubt that they in any way purposely tried to change historical facts just to make a point. Actually, Moroni clarifies when he states that “if there be faults they be the faults of a man” but then he goes on to say, “but we know no faults”. Then finally he warns people not to condemn this book or they may be in danger of hell fire.
    It doesn’t matter if people use historicity in an attempt to discredit the BoM. What matters is truth and in the end the truth will win out when all is revealed. However, to condemn historical value because others attempt to discredit the BoM on that basis would, in my opinion, be disingenuous. Could God create a religious story to try and convert people, certainly. But, when we have real life experiences there is no need. And of course, if we are not having these spiritual experiences ourselves, that speaks more about us than about the nature of the BoM or of God. It is my own miraculous experiences that strengthen my belief in the BoM and it’s truthfulness on all levels.

  84. Steve Evans says:

    Ryan, your own miraculous experiences do well to strengthen belief in the Book of Mormon and its truthfulness, but on all levels? Let’s be careful on the proper language here. Like you I believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God, but that doesn’t mean that all my questions regarding its historical authenticity are written in stone (or on plates, as it were). Our own conversions through the BOM are fairly poor evidence of any scientific or factual verification of the book, although they are EXCELLENT evidence of its efficacity and divine origin.

  85. Ryan,
    Your approach to the historical questions is your prerogative. But using it as a litmus test for belief in the Book is dangerous. There are many, many people with firm testimonies of the truth of the Book grounded in sacred personal experiences and witnesses who lack the confidence you do in its reliability as a history textbook. The possibility that Nephi unreliably narrated the Lehite origin story came from no less orthodox a source than the writing of Orson Scott Card. He argued — in an essay that defends the Book as a record produced anciently — that Nephi unfairly misrepresented his brothers for largely political and apologetic purposes, and that the Mulekites were likely not Israelite in origin but fabricated the story to score points with Nephite colonizers. That’s not a trump card for my own position, but Card isn’t exactly a bastion of progressive Mormon heterodoxy.

  86. Brad (85),

    OK, I think I’m following you better then before. Please correct if I’m still missing it…

    When you said you agree with MattG (75) it was as follows:

    “Divinely inspired fiction” (75) means the record may not be historically accurate. But Nephi still exists and the record is ancient.

    “Divinely inspired fiction” does not mean the record did not exist prior to the 1820’s.

  87. That’s pretty much it, Trevor. Which is why I used the term “divinely inspired story” rather than fiction. I actually think there are sound theological reasons for God putting his imprimatur on a record that bears only faint resemblance to factual history. A simple example of a reason is that it would preclude the possibility of ever “proving” the Book of Mormon true through historical, scientific, archaeological, linguistic, or genealogical inquiry. We will never, never be allowed to deploy science or any other tool independent of the confirmation of the Spirit to browbeat anyone into accepting the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. If it had a strong, verifiable connection with real history, we probably could at some point. There are a host of other reasons why God would allow a highly flawed (from the perspective of factual history) record to be transmitted and translated through the ministration of angels and by divine gift and power, but such are the subjects of future posts, articles, and books.

  88. First of all, I know ths is the true church of Jesus Christ. We have been told that the Prophets and Apostles will never lead us astray and I believe that wholeheartedly.

    I am concerned about the way the rest of us interpret their guidance, however. Look at the Elder Holland quote: first it appears to say that a lukewarm belief in the BOM is within acceptable limits for church members, but it turns out it is ok only if you keep it to yourself and work hard at improving your testimony of it as historically sound. If the second part of that quote had not been included in a later comment, many of us would have left this thread believing something that was not true. I have a similar problem with so many people using the importance of family to justify their inability or unwillingness to adequately perform their callings. Certainly family is of celestial importance but nothing should take the place of serving the Lord to the best of our ability. (Yes I know that serving our families by earning sufficient fubds to support them and

  89. oops- I was correcting the fubds and hit the enter key. That sentence was supposed to end with “being there when they need us is important but it is not all that is required. Some sacrifice is necessary from all of us.)

    OK, I am off my soapbox now. Sorry if this was a threadjack- I can’t always tell.

  90. Brad (87), Thanks for the clarification. This has been a great post.

  91. Queuno wrote: “If DKL were called to be a GA, I’d apostatize… “

    All I can say is that we would be in for some really interesting General Conference talks. The way I see it, some people would get mad – but they wouldn’t be able to stop listening.

  92. Noray (#88) —

    To be fair, the second Holland quote that I posted in comment #40 was from a later part of the interview, when he was being asked about excommunications. So it’s not like the first quote in #15 was cut off or anything. But I agree with your larger point.

  93. MikeInWeHo says:

    I don’t think the CoC has declared the BoM to be “inspired fiction.” They take a rather vague position which allows members to view the book as they wish. Their president has stated that some of their members have a “powerful testimony of the Book of Mormon” while others focus elsewhere. You can read their views on scripture here.

  94. Here is the CoC Affirmation that deals with the BoM:

    With other Christians, we affirm the Bible as the foundational scripture for the church. In addition, the Community of Christ uses the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants as scripture. We do not use these sacred writings to replace the witness of the Bible or improve upon it, but because they confirm its message that Jesus Christ is the Living Word of God (Preface of the Book of Mormon; Doctrine and Covenants 76: 3g). We have heard Christ speak in all three books of scripture, and bear witness that he is “alive forever and ever” (Revelation 1:18).

  95. #91 – DKL = modern J. Golden Kimball

    I have to admit, I hadn’t made that connection.

  96. Pardon, but who is DKL?

  97. I must say that I am far more concerned with ensuring I don’t personally apostatize, rather then judging the apostacy of the Church.

    That is not my calling- thank goodness. That is the calling of the prophet and the apostles.

    Isn’t this a case of us trying to usurp a role that God has neither called us too, nor granted us authority in?

  98. Pemble asks, “Pardon, but who is DKL?”

    Who is DKL. Who *is* DKL? That is an interesting question. Does DKL know who he is?

    For an approximation of that which is DKL, visit the current quiz at ZD here and read the first quotation. That will give you a shadow of the essence of DKL.

    Many of us will still be pondering your question when you get back.

  99. chimera says:

    To those who say it doesn’t matter if the BoM is historical or inspired fiction – I have to ask? Does it matter that Joseph Smith lied about the origin of the book? I am having a hard time with this issue. Why should I believe in any of his revelations if he lied about where the book came from? What if the gold plates never truly existed?

  100. chimera, I believe it is a historical record, but viewing it as “inspired fiction” doesn’t mean Joseph lied or that the plates didn’t exist. Those who espouse “inspired fiction” simply believe the “translation process” didn’t provide a literal translation of what was on the plates, but instead an inspired (by God) narration that would bring people to pray and receive a witness that it was from God.

    Again, I don’t believe this personally, but it doesn’t make Joseph a liar in any way or deny the existence of plates – or any of the visions Joseph claimed. Those things could be historical and accurate without a “non-fiction translation”.

  101. MikeInWeHo says:

    The first 5 books of the OT raise very similar questions re: historicity. Lots of Christians (LDS and other) would consider them to be essentially ‘inspired fiction.’

  102. I think I may be catching up with this “inspired Fiction” concept now. I have read many arguments from individuals elsewhere who believe that The Book of Mormon is a good book with faith promoting stories, but in now way represents stories of real people, real places, and real history. I thought that was what was meant here. I can accept that through the revelation God may have tweaked some of the content, so long as it represents real people and places that occupied this earth in space and time (roughly within the time periods it says). I would accept a reversal on the total historocity of the Book.

  103. My last sentence of the previous statement #102 should read”

    I would not accept a reversal on the total historocity of the Book.

  104. Randy B. says:

    Apologies for the tangent, there wasn’t any other place to put this (and I wasn’t going to put it on Kristine’s beautiful posts), but that Waffle House wedding slideshow linked on the sidebar is absolutely awesome! Seriously!!

  105. Steve Evans says:

    Randy, I thought you would enjoy that.

  106. Seriously funny–but is it for real?

  107. Randy B. says:

    It’s the south. If it’s not for real, it could be.

  108. Bro. Jones says:

    #75, #76 I’m with you.

    As for the OP, for me it comes down to personal requests of my time/talents that invoke my temple covenants. We get a lot of “counsel” these days–R-rated movies, white shirts for the sacrament, etc–but the only instance in my own memory of church leadership demanding action of members is of the California church and the gay marriage issue. Although my own political views differ from the church on that issue, if I were in California, I would obey the commandment insofar as I would limit my actions in support of gay marriage. (Thank goodness I’m not in CA and get to dodge this moral quandary.)

    But my point is that any prophet or apostle can pontificate all they want about suggestions, counsel, # of earrings, etc–I can take it or leave it provided it’s not associated with a temple recommend question. But the moment my temple worthiness or personal resources are put towards an aim that I’d consider incorrect–barring spiritual confirmation to the contrary–I’d have to talk with a bishop to work out what I’d do next.

  109. Kristine says:

    My brothers and sister and I have a quest to find a Waffle House being built–we have all been looking for at least a decade and have never seen one under construction. We think they just emerge during the rainy season, like mushrooms and other fungi.

    Possibly the South could be saved if kudzu could be hybridized to grow preferentially on Waffle Houses.

  110. If the BofM were ‘inspired’ fiction, then why all the effort to state otherwise? e.g. The testimony of the three and eight witnesses, The title page written by Moroni, and myriad of other statements within the scriptures regarding the truthfulness of the BofM (I’m thinking Mor. 10:27-29). Not to mention Joseph Smith’s own account/testimony regarding the obtaining and translating the plates. Seems like a lot of wasted effort if the book isn’t really a ‘translation’.

    I understand the historicity is not the main focus of the BofM, but I don’t see how anyone can dispute that the events in the BofM didn’t take place yet claim it’s divinely inspired.

  111. Steve Evans says:

    AH, the same way people can dispute that there was no Flood, or that half of the events in the O.T. (and much of the NT!) are fictionalizations.

  112. AH,
    You should probably read the comments that have addressed the specific issues you bring up. For example, #s 23, 54-57, 59, 62-63, 66, 68-69, 74-87 (in particular), and 102.

  113. foxjones says:

    Many Jews/Christians do not see the Bible as literal and some not as real history at all. They pull out the things they agree with and that seem to make sense to them, but they view the stories as complete myths, perhaps with a little history added in. I think it is harder for Mormons in general to do this with the Book of Mormon, because for them their faith, (in general) raises or falls on that book. It is either as Pres. Hinckley says: true or a fraud…there is no middle ground. However I think as time goes on you are going to see a lot of middle ground…even coming from the First Presidency, in fact you are all ready starting to see that middle ground with the recent change in the Introduction to the Book of Mormon, who knows with advances in science the Church may go all the way to the middle ground position as the only position it can take in the future.

  114. One question on my mind is, is inspired fiction the same thing as inspired myth? If so the next logical question is why does God (he being truthful) work through something that is a myth or inspired fiction? Is God inspired fiction will be the next question? Which of course leads to inspired Atheism or inspired Agnosticism…I think you get the picture.

  115. Monk: Christ used parables to teach us many things. Couldn’t they be considered “inspired fiction”? Does that make the principles they illustrated any less true?

  116. Just to consider:

    Most of the Book of Mormon was compiled hundreds of years after the fact by a prophet who was trying to piece together the best narrative to bring people hundreds of years later to Christ. He not only picked and chose what to include, but much of the actual wording is not direct quotes of the words of others (excepting the plates of Nephi); it is his summary of the events – even more so than an abridgement in the truest sense. Defining literally, he wasn’t “abridging” (cutting out parts to make it shorter); he was writing his own version of their history, with his commentary sprinkled liberally throughout.

    Given that scenario, in a very real way the “historicity” of the original book is suspect to begin with. Mormon included less than a hundreth part of the record, so he wove the narrative according to his own purpose (the Lord’s, but still a specific purpose) – leaving out all kinds of stuff, I’m sure, that might have confused the issue or muddied that focus. In a very real way, even if it was based on the writings of real people recording an actual history, it still is very limited as an objective work of “non-fiction”.

    Finally, each writer did essentially the same thing – picking and choosing what they would record. I don’t have time to go into that now, but in a very real sense the original, untranslated record itself could be viewed as “inspired fiction”.

  117. Noray: Yes I see what you are saying and I agree with it. But there is a small difference: When Jesus spoke in parables he didn’t say that they actually happened in history…Jesus starts off let me speak a parable and everybody knows that it is not an actual historical fact…he follows this by illustrating the principle. However Nephi starts off in the Book of Mormon stating historical facts about his family and his experiences, that is not to say that we don’t have some prophets using parables in the Book of Mormon…but he history itself is never considered a parable…make sense? What are your thoughts?

  118. Noray: Another question: How do you think we should introduce the Book of Mormon to others? As parable or as actual history with some parables or a myth but with some good parables? Or still something else? And why?

  119. When I have given copies of the BOM to friends in the past, I have not addressed this question at all. I have given them my testimony of the gospel principles to be found within the book and suggested that if they prayerfully read it many of those principles will be made clear to them as well.

    I understand what you are saying as far as the Book of Mormon containing parables but not actually being one itself. All I was trying to get at is that there is inspired fiction in the bible and we can learn from it as well as we can learn from documented history. I can’t say that everything in the Book of Mormon is historically accurate, but I can’t say it isn’t either. I would not call it myth because I am sure that certain things, such as the Savior’s visit, actually happened. As to why God, who is absolutely truthful, would work through fiction, it is probably because we are still in the milk stage and unembellished truth is more meat than we can handle.

  120. Thanks Noray. I think I understand a little bit better.

  121. Possibly the South could be saved if kudzu could be hybridized to grow preferentially on Waffle Houses.

    The South IS saved. Kudzu exists to hide the South’s glory from mere mortals.