The point is…?

Earlier today, someone asked me to sum up what the meaning of the Old Testament is for Mormons. Okay, he didn’t just ask me, but I was included (I think). Anyhoo, I wrote this:

God is complicated. Way more complicated than you think. Sometimes he makes requests that seem morally wrong. We don’t know why. Sometimes he has humans do seemingly ridiculous and useless things. We don’t know why. Sometimes he intervenes in human events and sometimes he doesn’t. We don’t know why. The one thing that we can know with certainty is that God loves us (we don’t know why).

This, of course, leads me to ask you the same question. Oh BCC readers, what do you think the meaning of the Old Testament is for Mormons? You’ve been sitting through classes on it for a year now, so I assume you have some notion of what it said to you. Please share below. If I like your answers, I’ll write my post about why Scott is wrong about everything. There’s your incentive there.


  1. gwenydd mccoy says:

    “Sometimes he makes requests that seem morally wrong”
    so are murder and slavery not moral wrong?

  2. God loves his people but demands obedience and righteousness. God’s blessings are accessed through covenant and covenants are centered in the temple. To find salvation and avoid miserty, follow the prophet.

    That is not everything the Old Testament means to me, but those are the things that come to mind when I consider what the OT means to Mormons.

  3. That sounds more like what the old testament means to you. I mean face it, any tradition can say what you say in the OP. It’s not really linked to anything distinctive in Mormonism. Here’s my go at it:

    The Old Testament testifies that God makes and keeps covenants with his people. Breaking these covenants puts us in danger of retribution and keeping them incites God to bless us. The Old Testament contains promises from God to gather his people. It also introduces prophets as God’s spokespersons and servants among mortals. And finally, it encourages us to hope, have faith, and remain loyal to God despite overwhelming reason not to.

  4. What’s the point of the Old Testament for Mormons? Well, it testifies to the origins of the Book of Mormon.

  5. Reagan Republican says:

    I like the idea that you don’t have to take the Old Testament literally to be a good Mormon. The gospel doctrine manual itself says that the Adam and Eve story might have been an allegory.

  6. I just finished reading Judges, Samuel and the Kings. The author(s) seem zealous about some things, but I’m not sure they were inspired. I am reminded of two verses that I believe were inspired:

    1 Ne 13:29 “…because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, … an exceedingly great many do stumble….”

    D&C 91:2 “There are many things contained therein that are not true, which are interpolations by the hands of men.”

  7. Mormons fall strikingly into line with other Christians when it comes to interpreting the OT. Specifically, that it supports and justifies their current beliefs (while discrediting the beliefs of others). Confirmation bias is required for people hoping to integrate the OT into their religious experience. I am not claiming that this is bad or done maliciously.

    Saying that God covenants with his people and blesses them is one way to look at the OT. One could also say that God arbitrarily focused his energy on a small group of people, ignoring the rest of his children. The disregarded children made their own gods with whom they covenanted and were blessed greatly with wealth, longevity, wisdom, and war victories of God. The humans who were not God’s people didn’t always understand their gods or their prophets, but they benefited when they showed respect and were cursed when they disobeyed. Blah, blah blah…

    What I’m trying to say is that people (Mormons included) believe what they do in spite of what is written in the OT, not because of it. I think this is understood by most Christians, as they generally avoid the OT. But people can’t openly slight the OT because it is still considered divine scripture.
    “Yeah, it’s true (except for the half that is irrelevant, outdated, or wrong because it was translated incorrectly).”

  8. Since Crawdaddy didn’t explain what I am allegedly all wrong about, and since I didn’t participate in the conversation he is referring to, I implore you all to give meaty answers, that I may learn the folly of my ways.

  9. Even with god’s help, humans can screw everything up

  10. What I learned: There is *always* hope for Israel, and there is *always* hope for us.
    It’s the whole point behind Ezra telling the story of Cyrus ordering the rebuilding of the temple, and the temple being built despite the objections of the Samaritans. God reached out and touched the heart of the most powerful man on earth in order to accomplish his purposes. 80 years later the Jews were facing similar objections to their rebuilding the wall. Ezra retold the story of Cyrus to remind the people that when God wants something to happen, it happens.
    There is always hope.

  11. John C:Oh BCC readers, what do you think the meaning of the Old Testament is for Mormons.

    I’m not even sure what your question means. The OT is an ancient record. It has been transmitted and translated many times. It’s really hard to tell which parts really happened, which parts kind of happened, and which parts never happened.

    It does tell us there is a God who communicates with humans. That matches my experiences.

  12. For this Mormon, it means that people have viewed God in ways that made sense to them at their time and in their culture. It shows some of the evolution of humanity’s understanding of God, especially when combined with other scriptures.

    In many cases, for me, it’s a primer on how badly people can screw up in understanding God – but how God won’t hold it against them as long as they are trying their best to accept and follow Him. That gives me great comfort, even as I cringe constantly at how other people (including other Mormons) use it to find meaning for them. However, I also have to admit that I don’t really know and remember that God won’t hold it against me if I’m wrong – as long as I’m trying my best to accept and follow Him.

    So, the OT meaning to me boils down to the idea that I’m really no different than those people were – and, hopefully, God will leave the door open for me just like he promised to do for them.

  13. Sometimes I make my kids walk around the house all day with snorkels and a mask on all day. It doesn’t make any sense, but it conditions them to obey God’s random, meaningless commandments.

  14. The OT gets all the hate. That’s a shame. It’s far and away the most beautiful of all our scriptures.

    As a teenager I found the OT a wonderful source of resistance to the very limited emotional range permitted young girls growing up in Utah Valley. When one is stuck in a pretty pink world that runs the entire gamut from pious to sappy, one starts committing passages from the Book of Job to memory.

    However, from my admittedly limited Sunday school attendance this year, as far as I can tell the OT for Mormons is a little math problem to be solved. God hides his meaning behind symbols so that we can play fill-in-the-blank. The barren woman in Isaiah = the lost ten tribes. Solved! Etc.


  15. The Jews consider the Torah a mitzvah of God, an act of kindness toward His people. Are most of those who have commented so far rejecting this notion? Is the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) not a blessing from God? If it is indeed a blessing, how so?

  16. Aaron Brown says:

    We need a 4th text for seminary. Without the OT, LDS high school seniors would end up studying the same book they studied as freshmen. And that would be boring.

    That’s the only reason.

  17. I haven’t really attended Sunday School much this year, but I have been reading the OT on my own (not the SS lessons, just straight through). I am currently in Judges (this project will take me years). For me, the OT tells the beginning of the story. We are the “end” of the story. The OT explains a lot of what we do as Mormons and why we do it. For example, learning about the Tabernacle helped me to understand the temple.

    It has also helped me to understand how God works within the weaknesses of culture and how He really is a hands-off God in a lot of ways. He basically put Adam and Eve on the earth and gave them free agency to do what they wanted to do. I think that a lot of bad things that have happened in history and that happen in the world today are attributed to God, but they really just belong to the agency of man, exercised over thousands of years.

    I am actually really enjoying the OT. It has strengthened my testimony immensely, and I am looking forward to learning more from it.

  18. I don’t know about anyone else, but I learned that women in the scriptures can be leaders of armies, the saviors of an entire race, priestesses, and even fortune tellers. Besides Ruth and Esther we only ever hear of the evil temptresses. There are lots of great women mentioned. If you look really hard. Especially if you read the Josephus Antiquities, which should totally be companion reading with the OT.

  19. Personally, I see the Hebrew Bible as a path through which a nation of people came to comprehend their God, and through which they could live in civil society and act morally one toward another. In the Christian context, it provides a framework from which the rabbi Jesus’ message emerges. Without it, Jesus’ message has no cultural resonance in his own time. Finally, in the Mormon context, the Hebrew Bible, particularly the book of Genesis, is the source of inspiration for Joseph Smith, from which emerges some of the more imaginative doctrines of the church he founded. Joseph’s fascination and obsession with families, patriarchy, priesthood, and temples took Christianity and recast it as a mixture of Torah Law and new covenant in a way no other Christian sect had heretofore done. For Joseph and those who followed him, the whole of human history becomes wrapped up in one sweeping plan with a Gospel fulness that was repeatedly revealed and lost. For Joseph, Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and other figures of the Old Testament knew of Jesus Christ (just like the prophets in the Book of Mormon) but that knowledge was lost or removed from the books of scripture over the course of time. The Old Testament becomes pivotal, despite its warts and idiosyncrasies, because it connects the Gospel message back to the origins of the human species, and draws us all into the family of God.

  20. Well said, SteveS.

  21. #15 – Just to be clear, I see it as a great blessing and love reading (most of) it. I just don’t see it as Absolute Truth or as historically accurate in many cases.

  22. #19 – Amen. The beginning and ending of your comment is what I said, only much more eloquent.

  23. The point is:
    1) You find out more about human nature and politics in the OT than in other scriptures. Genesis 12-50 and 1 and 2 Samuel and the start of 1 Kings are very good, but subtle character studies. Does anybody remember David’s gripping vengeful last words? “Bring him down in blood to hell!” Beats the Godfather. Lots of other great stuff in other books.
    2) Understanding humans is a great prelude to the gospel, i.e. news of what comes from the other side.
    3) There is also lots of advanced stuff related to us, read Margaret Barker for a fascinating point of view of how the ancient temple is related to Christianity.

  24. I don’t think the books of the OT were written as a set of moral instructions for individuals; I find the OT much more useful if I deal with it largely as myth, in the sense of it being archetypal rather than a question of its truth. Then the patterns and the motifs that run through the book or sections of the book become more clear and more connected to Christ, since he seems to have recognized them and picked them up.

  25. #5

    Where does the gospel doctrine manual say the story of Adam and Eve may be an allegory?

  26. For me the message of the OT is that God loves us. He loves us despite our choices, despite the circumstances we may have placed ourselves in, iseemingly contrary to the quite impossible mission He may give us, inspite of the trials and all..we need to believe God loves us, His hand is stretched out still and His mercy endureth forever.

  27. Geoff,
    “It’s really hard to tell which parts really happened, which parts kind of happened, and which parts never happened. ”

    Why do you consider that relevant to its meaning?

    Everyone else,
    Good stuff. Keep it coming.

  28. living in zion says:

    #5, 25 –

    If it is an allegory, how do we explain the Church History Site in Missouri (Adam on Diaomon -spelling) ?

  29. The OT’s value is its complexity and contradiction. The text raises a series of deeply significant theological questions which are still relevant to lived experience of religion. Its relevance, in this sense, is not unique to Mormons but it does provide the context from which our additional scripture must engage those questions.

    It might be true to say that the OT does not help us know why God loves us but it does question the nature of that love. Mormonism tries to provide responses to both of those issues. In short, the OT outlines the questions we should be asking about God and our relationship with Him; as such these are the questions which will form the foundation of our spiritual life.

  30. SteveS and Ray do a great job of explaining my thoughts.
    To me the OT is a story. I don’t consider it divinely revealed or true in any objective measure. However, I have no doubt that life lessons or truths can be learned from studying it. The same can be said for any written work. I just think there are better sources of stone/bronze age gods, history, and entertainment than the OT.

  31. it means to me a lesser portion of ‘I haven’t studied this enough guilt’ as much of it is tossed aside in favor of our endeavor to respect the BOM and more recent interpretations of God’s grace.

  32. #28 – Allegorically?

  33. In teaching the OT this year there were to related points I was trying to get across:

    1. God will honor his covenants if we honor ours.
    2. God will not forsake his people.

  34. StillConfused says:

    1. Studying the old testament has enabled me to help a young man prepare for his Bar Mitzvah (by explaining the basics to his dad who didn’t know the history).

    2. The old testament has some juicy church-approved porn and sauciness.

  35. The Old Testament is a sacred history of highly dysfunctional families and their relationship (or lack of a relationship) with God.

  36. To me, the Old Testament is a wonderful mix of many different things of varying value:

    1. Many parts are great literature with great characters and compelling stories.

    2. Other parts are indeed inspired scripture, especially those that testify of the coming of the Messiah.

    3. Some are just plain comic relief, ie Elisha and the She-bear, or the plague of hemorrhoids that befell the Philistines when they had stolen the ark of the covenant.

    Ultimately, it is a good training ground to me for on how to read and study scripture, learning how to read critically, and to discern the true gems from the kitsch.

  37. John (#27): Why do you consider that relevant to its meaning?

    Well since I don’t really get the double-rainbow-esque “what does it mean??” question being discussed here I just mentioned the historicity issue because I find it interesting.

  38. Geoff,
    It isn’t really that difficult. The NT is a physical reminder (to some extent) of the reality of Christ. The D&C is a physical reminder of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his mission (along with the Book of Mormon and Pearl of Great Price). The OT is a little harder to nail down.

    If this strikes you as too touchy-feely to consider, I suggest reading By the Hand of Mormon or Mormons and the Bible, where folks approach the same questions a bit more seriously.

  39. Oh, no. kevinf mentioned the She-Bears!

  40. Mommie Dearest says:

    Others have said this much more elegantly, but I agree with those who find the OT informs our grasp of the over-arching plan for humanity being executed by God through the prophets, which, ironically, is not clearly found in complete detail within the OT. Too bad they didn’t leave in the part containing the allegory of the tame and wild olive trees, and good thing we have Jacob 5 in the BoM or we’d all still be a lot more in the dark.

    The other thing I find meaningful from the OT is that the Lord can look upon so many of those imperfect people with approval. That gives me hope, both for myself and for the present day church.

    My biggest question re: the OT? Where does Dinah fit in the House of Israel? (The first of many many questions)

    And I really appreciate that a correlation committee never got their hands on it, and they left all that wild stuff in.

  41. John C: The NT is a physical reminder (to some extent) of the reality of Christ. The D&C is a physical reminder of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his mission

    Ahhh, that helps. So it sounds like your real question is “What is the Old Testament a physical reminder of?”

    In that case I would say the OT is a physical reminder that God has interacted with humans here on earth from the very beginning.

    I did read and love “By the Hand of Mormon” and loved it. I would say that Givens makes a compelling case that the _overriding theme of the BoM_ is that God talks to people when people are willing to talk to God and thus we all can and should be prophets, seers, and revelators in the same sense that Nephi was one. I posted my thoughts on that book here.

  42. See, and that resolved your historicity question, too.

  43. #15, SteveS

    I agree with your positive view of the OT as a whole. My skeptical comment related only to the books of royal history. They read to me as political apology, not religious apology. Israel went astray when they chose a king, as Samuel warned them. The rest is ugly history unwittingly proving that prophecy.

    The Torah and the Prophets, however, are a gift from God, IMO.

  44. Observer (f.k.a. Eric. S.) says:

    John C., your response hits at my reaction to the OT. I love the OT because its God dealing with spiritually-primitive man. The whole book has this visceral primitive feel (e.g., idol worship, animal burning, uncontrolled carnal inclinations, valueless life, harsh vistas, etc.) It’s like breaking in a wild horse.

    The OT, like no other piece of scripture, tests my ability to be comfortable, to be secure in not knowing the answers to hundreds of “why” questions that arise. In other words, it’s a book that test my faith in God more than any other, I think, because it tests our perception of the existence, morality, character, and nature of God. And God does things, as you say, that are shocking and we sit there and cannot know why. We cannot know why–no matter how much we speculate in Gospel Doctrine or elsewhere. It’s in our nature to insist on arriving at answers to the “why” episodes, but I think the OT helps us learn to arrive at a place of comfort and security in not knowing the answers after all that we can study.

    Lastly, I would say the OT can be a dangerous book. Throughout history, and even in the present, man has committed despicable acts and justified them through episodes of the OT. The concept of “righteous indignation” is presented to the reader as a characteristic of God. And man has mistakenly and tragically justified this as a characteristic fit for man and not one reserved only for God.

  45. Hehe. Well even if we agree that God has interacted with humans from the beginning, that doesn’t necessarily tell us whether the stories told in the OT are at all historically accurate.

  46. Geoff,

  47. 44 – What the OT tells you is true, from a certain point of view. You will find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.

  48. c, are you also C?

  49. I’m pretty sure that c and C are two seperate individuals, with very different opinions.

    If I’m not mistaken, I even think they might be different sexes.

    They need a moniker that is less confusing. Something like “152”!

  50. Shut it, Vicky.

  51. S.P. Bailey says:

    This reminds me of a conversation I have had at least three times this year with different people:

    Friend: The OT is my least favorite of the four-year rotation.

    Me: Dude, the OT is awesome!

    Friend: What? Seriously?

    Me: Yeah.

    Friend: But it’s so … boring!

    Me: Boring? What about all the sex and violence? And talking donkeys? And prophets feeding children to bears?

    Friend: I guess …

    Me: I mean, there is important spiritual stuff in there too. Commandments. Temples. Prophets. The overarching chosen people/covenant narrative. Foreshadowing and setting the scene for Jesus …

    Friend: Yeah …

    Me: And some really thought-provoking stories too. Job. Abraham and Issac. Pretty deep meditations on suffering …

    Friend: Emphasis on “stories.” A lot of it seems “made up” for lack of a better phrase.

    Me: Sure. I mean … the OT has its share of genre work: drama, poetry, lyrics, aphorisms. It’s not all sermons, history, legal treatises, and prophesies. Stuff that you give a pretty straight-up reading. For me, I guess it helps to know what kind of text I am reading …

    Friend: I still struggle with the big stories. Adam and Eve. Noah and the flood. Stuff like that. So hard to believe …

    Me: I can see that. It’s clearly pre-scientific. Obviously Genesis can’t pass for a biology textbook. But whether or not we take certain stories literally, has scientism made us blind to the truth in them? And the beauty? The creation story is really important to Mormons. Think about the temple … Whether it is good science is kind of beside the point … for me anyway.

    Friend: Anyway … here’s looking forward to the NT. Only a few more months I guess.

  52. Observer (f.k.a. Eric. S.) says:

    OT excerpt that made its way into Tron Legacy:

    Clue: I did everything you asked me to do! I created a *perfect* world for you!
    Flynn: Perfection is unknowable! But it’s in front of us all the time.
    [Pause. Clue with blank stare]
    Flynn: But you wouldn’t know that. Because I didn’t know that when I created you.

  53. The BoM has only 1 documented case of what would easily be classified as murder by our legal system, the killing of Laban.

    And it has 1 case, ironically, of the violation of the spiritual equivalent of the Good Samaritan law, namely Alma and Amulek’s restraint as good people were burned alive for their faith.

    Clearly God doesn’t view death and murder quite the same as we do. And in purely academic/theological sense, death is *merely* the awakening from the dream of mortal life.

    If God is love, can He kill? Of course. He ends a life because of love. If my child were suffering from a terminal illness and in intense pain, I would pull the plug because of love. And my heart would die with him.

    I think for every “morally wrong” commandment, whether in OT, BoM, or even today, if you could see God, you would see anguish unimaginable of a Father who had to do what He did for the eternal well being of His children.

  54. #53 – fwiw, I think if we could see God clearly, we would be less quick to credit murder to God’s command. In fact, I think we would be less inclined to blame God for lots of things.

    Of course, that’s my own dark vision through my own glass, so I’m not sure really what we would think if we could see God.

    Oh, and death is never purely academic / theological. It’s always real, and making it purely academic or theological is a very dangerous thing, imo.

  55. If we saw God, we would think “Hey, nice mustache!”


  56. Observer (f.k.a. Eric. S.) says:

    53 – At what point, or under which type of relationship, does your life-ending mercy end? We all experience pain and suffering to some degree: so are experiencing pain and suffering the conditions that justify a mortal in ending another’s life?

    Should the blind man’s parents–as an act of love–have “pulled the plug” on their son in John 9 to prevent him from living a life of suffering?

    Should the Father have “pulled the plug” on Christ’s suffering earlier on as an act of love rather than have His Only Begotten experiencing torture?

    Might your child’s pain and suffering be allowed by God’s will so that you or others are brought closer to God (or to become more God-like) by the experience? See John 9:3 (he is blind so “that the works of God should be made manifest in him”); Mosiah 3: 19 (“willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him”); Mos. 6:63 (“all things bear record of me.”).

    Life is God’s to give and take. The human condition is to deal with whatever pain and suffering occur in between and somehow find joy and peace through it all. I’m just not sure that justifies taking another’s life absent a situation of self-defense.

  57. #54 – Death/taking life would never be purely academic. But grossly simplified, it is not the end of life. It is the separation of spirit and body, to quote the missionaries. But we continue existence.

    There is a natural, God-given aversion to killing that is built in to us. But I think that natural aversion differs a little to God’s aversion. Despite our higher light and knowledge, when we kill, whether animal or human, there is a sense that you are extinguishing it, that life has been crushed forever. I think God’s aversion of course, includes the aversion to the violence of it, but goes beyond to include the greater loss of spiritual progression.

    One of the things the Atonement teaches is that great good is accomplished at the cost of great pain. Our mortal life is punctuated by necessary pain and suffering to secure a greater life and joy ahead.

    It would therefore be inconsistent to assume that everything with God is rainbows and unicorns. Those rainbows come at great cost.

    #56 – I did not intend my comment to be taken as a pro euthanasia stance. It was merely an example where love could be the reason for the taking of life. And in God’s case, it is always the reason.

  58. #57: I have seen too many bad deaths to look at them as some how being good, or coming from love. Maybe someday__but not now.

  59. #57 – and I’m just saying that maybe God doesn’t actually take life nearly as much as we assume.

    “Despite our higher light and knowledge, when we kill, whether animal or human, there is a sense that you are extinguishing it, that life has been crushed forever.”

    No there isn’t. It is precisely our light and knowledge that tells us we haven’t extinguished it.

    I also never implied that “everything with God is rainbows and unicorns”. I’m not sure what prompted that statement, but I have a hard time seeing how it was from my comment – or any other comment in this thread, frankly.

  60. Oh, and fwiw, Noah’s ark and the rainbow is a great example of how something might have drastically different meaning for someone who reads it as literal history and someone who reads it as either a grand myth (with a great truth embedded as the moral of the story) OR in the same light as the statement that Herod sent out a decree that “all the world” should be taxed.

    I think we all understand that the second statement is hyperbolic (or limited to “all the world” under his control); I think there is no critical reason why the first story can’t be similar (limited to “all the world” of which Noah was aware).

    It really is a wonderful example of God’s love for those who will hearken to him – especially if it doesn’t include the total destruction of everyone around the entire world. If the rainbow existed all along but became a visual symbol of God’s love and grace, there are great lessons and extensions we can take from the account that actually can be directly applicable to our own lives.

    For me, that’s part of “the point” of the Old Testament.

  61. One of these days someone is going to have to make a redacted version of the Old Testament. The redactor doesn’t have to deny the historicity of some of the more questionable events, just not have confidence enough in them to propagate them to future generations. Keep the chapter and verse numbering even, just leave out entire chapters.

  62. 61 – Let me introduce you to some fellows that have been working on that for years. You might have to give up blood transfusions though . . .

  63. I don’t personally believe in the god that is portrayed in the OT, so I don’t consider it a dispensing of God’s Word. Rather, it is a collection of writings by a people who believed in the god of Israel, And they believed many different things about God; things that many Mormons today do not believe.

    Yet because Mormonism is rooted in Christianity, which sprang from the OT world, the Hebrew Bible is part of our heritage and has informed our own scriptural and religious discourse. It is therefore important to be informed and educated in OT texts to give context and meaning to our own living faith. And it happens to be filled with much that is inspiring and instructive, even it its own context.

  64. #61: Mark_ did Thomas Jefferson also work on the OT?
    I think the redactor will end up being the computer(?)

  65. I realize it is a difficult prospect, but after a century or so, it might just work out. The controversy in the meantime for any denomination would be selecting / endorsing the redactions, and dealing with the fallout.

    I suspect a lot of people would cheer any official redaction on, it is just the inerrantists who would be disturbed. So which is worse having divine commands to wipe out entire cities men, women, and children in the canon or having a PR problem with outsiders who insist that was actually the case and how dare anyone suggest otherwise?

  66. What does the OT mean to today’s Latter-day Saints? Granted, there seems to be more of a disconnect all the time between our current cultural standards and values and many (or most!) of the surface stories presented in OT, but I see two very relevant themes in the OT that should have particular meaning to today’s LDS: 1. Symbols, shadows, and types of Christ everywhere you look; 2. The importance of covenants with God, and becoming a faithful covenant people. I’ve had opportunities to teach Gospel Doctrine class from time to time, and frankly, I relish teaching from the OT above about anything else. I find that when approached right and openly, the cultural oddities and disconnects so prevalent in OT can help the teacher cut right through to the essential doctrinal messages. The story of Job might be a myth that became embellished over countless retellings at Israelite campfires, but it can serve as a powerful entry point into our own current dilemma’s about trusting an all-powerful God who we barely understand and who will allow us to have nearly everything we hold precious taken from us as some kind of test.

  67. 63,
    What do you make of references to the OT by Jesus?

  68. #67 – fwiw, I make the same out of those references as I do to any reference in General Conference to any piece of literature or history – including our canonized scriptures. If everyone who hears a reference understands the story / event / myth / whatever being referenced (even if they understand it differently), I don’t really care if it is an accurate historical event, a fictional story, a myth or something else.

    I would love a good Star Wars or Harry Potter or Dickens or Moby Dick reference in GC every bit as much as a scriptural reference – and if it teaches a compelling moral or object lesson, so much the better. I’m not sure I would say the same about a Twilight reference, but that’s a different topic.

  69. #68: Ray,
    So to you, Shakespeare is as good as the OT’s myths?

  70. #67 – There is much genuine religious, spiritual experience and inspired, prophetic expression in the OT, including God’s interaction with humanity. So it would be wrong to reject the authority of the OT texts as a whole, merely because many derive from cultural myth.

  71. The Old Testament has a lot of invaluable content that shouldn’t be neglected. I don’t think one can properly appreciate New Testament teaching about the Atonement without reference to it, for example. But I think an abridged version could easily leave about half of the book out, and classify the rest as apocrypha or of little more than cultural or historical interest.

  72. #69 – I think some of each is as good as some of the other – and some of each is not as good as some of the other.

  73. We have to go back to the original question (although the discourse about the OT amongst this group and other Saints at times is disturbing).
    The OT is the history of covenants, the building of the Lord’s Kingdom on Earth, and the foretelling of the Savior. The OT became even more relevant to me after taking out my endowments and realizing that our sacred rituals are rooted in said book.
    Modify the OT and its content to make it more “palatable” could lead to disrupting/modifying some of our most sacred rituals in the temple.
    As a proud Saint, that is what the OT means to me.

  74. #67 – When Joseph Smith was told that he was not yet as bad off as Job, it doesn’t really matter if Job was historically accurate, or whether Job was a mortality play or a real person.

  75. Fair enough, Steven B. Your 63 just didn’t seem to allow for any legitimate spiritual interaction with God. The example you use–Job–is not a very good example of what I meant; I referred more to examples of Jesus declaring the fulfillment of this or that prophecy–prophecies which (if Jesus says they are fulfilled) seem to have been inspired prophecies.

  76. I haven’t seen many comments on this blog that have reflected “average” LDS views on the Old Testament. From my experience listening to teachers and comments in real life gospel doctrine classes, the Old Testament is read in an very selective way, with 90% of it carefully left unmentioned, or unread in any kind of probing or careful way, and focusing on a handful of stories and scriptures we’ve all heard hundreds of times which have very standard interpretations and apologies, whose tone and articulation have been carefully cultivated for decades in our General Conferences and official manuals.

    As a Mormon, I consider myself a Christian, in the sense that I reject the God of the Old Testament in favor of the God of the New, which I feel don’t reconcile easily. Can’t wait to start studying Jesus and Paul. Too much LDS identification with the Old Testament led to the Mountain Meadows Massacre. While that will not happen again, I don’t think it’s spiritually healthy to embrace the fundamentalism, the selective favor, the justice oriented nature of the Old Testament. We are Christians, and Christians are totally different than their Old Testament fore-bearers, and their respective churches differ completely in almost every aspect of practice and doctrine.

  77. “Christians are totally different than their Old Testament fore-bearers”
    Exactly. That’s why Christ always went out of their way to avoid quoting the OT.

  78. The NT citations of the OT might be instructive. Of a couple of hundred citations, only a handful are from the 12 history books from Joshua through Esther. Having just read those books, I can understand why.

    I do value the other OT books “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”

    But my recurring thought when reading the histories is that by just changing a few names, including the name of God, these could as well be a history of the kings of Assyria or Philistia or Edom. There is no essential right or wrong in them. They are amoral.

  79. For me the most salient theme in the OT. The conceptual framework that brings the greater part of the OT text into focus and makes it a set of writings that I admire and love to explore, is the theme of Otherness, of how Israel tends to the presence of the Other and of the Totally Other. Without acknowledging this overarching theme and understanding how it is at work in so many of the OTs constitutive texts, I not sure what people would get out of the OT other than a text they use to hitch their ideology to . . . oops, never mind.

  80. CIM, I am not suggesting rewriting it, only abridging it by leaving large parts of it out, and leaving the language, chapter, and verse numbering the same in the remaining sections. The truly instructive and uplifting parts, including the parts you mention would most certainly remain.

    It is worth mention that there is a precedent for this. The Church in the 1930s or thereabouts briefly produced an abridged version of the D&C along roughly the same lines. They decided not to go with it apparently due to criticism on the part of some Mormon breakoff groups.

  81. er, “worth mentioning”

  82. As a Mormon, I consider myself a Christian, in the sense that I reject the God of the Old Testament in favor of the God of the New, which I feel don’t reconcile easily.

    That claim makes zero sense to me as my understanding is that Mormonism teaches that the God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New Testament.

  83. No need to abridge the OT Mark. We already do that in practice by ignoring most of the record.

  84. I can’t believe that this has gone 83 responses without a shout out to the Songs of Solomon. My wife and I use the Songs as a precursor to, how shall I phrase it, our romantic interludes. That is what the Old Testament means to Mormons; scriptural aphrodisiacs.

  85. Observer (f.k.a. Eric. S.) says:

    Fletcher – (84) I’ll give Songs of Solomon the ol’ college try on New Year’s Eve and get back to you. Thanks for the tip.

  86. I want both of you to know that I now feel dirty. Thanks for that.

  87. Like the Book of Mormon, the Old Testament is “annother testament of Christ.” It contains the words, teachings and works of the premortal Christ. The Old Testament was the Bible of Lehi and Jesus. It gives the setting and context for the Book of Mormon and the New Testament. Virtually all of Jesus’ teachings are in the Old Testament. Nowhere else do scriptures better define our duties to the poor. Nowhere else do we find such rich poetry. Nowhere else do we find the history, blessings and need for our covenant relationship with God.

  88. Hi,

    I’m a new convert. Raised Catholic, the Old Testament made no sense to me at all until I learned how much of the message we’ve lost in the translation from Hebrew. So I’m slogging through the Stone Edition of the Chumash, which includes commentary, to help me understand. Those Hebrew words sometimes have two or three different meanings. And he may be controversial, but I’ve found Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s CDs about parts of the Old Testament to be extremely thought-provoking (and entertaining). I also subscribe to his weekly Thought Tools email where he takes snippets of the Old Testament and applies them to modern life. (Just a fan, not an affiliate.)

  89. I like kevinf’s view in 36. I like it even more because it inspired the posting of the video in 39.