The Book of Mormon: Fact, fiction or fading away?

Last Wednesday, Rod Meldrum visited Nauvoo and gave a presentation on DNA and the Book of Mormon.  His attempt was to make the case that DNA studies do indeed prove the validity, accuracy, and historicity of the Book of Mormon.  The videos arguing that DNA disproves the Book of Mormon have been circulating for many years now, and he was offering his response.  The presentation was interesting, if tragically unorganized and disconnected, but he made some valid points.  I did not agree with all of his conclusions, nor did I disagree with them all.

If for no other reason, his presenation did get me thinking.  Meldrum’s claim, a part of which I’d never heard before, was that:

(1) The Book of Mormon is an historic document, detailing people, locations, and events which really took place

(2) The Hopewell moundbuilders are the closest descendants to the Lamanites

(3) DNA proves (through his understanding of Haplogroup X) that Native Americans have genetics from the Israel region

(4) Joseph Smith believed the Book of Mormon to have occurred in the United States

(5) The events and locations in the Book of Mormon are mostly throughout Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri.  Particularly, he emphasized his belief that the city of Zarahemla was directly across the river from Nauvoo’s present location.

Meldrum’s website he pointed everyone to was www.bookofmormonevidence.com.

Many in attendance were clearly ecstatic over his conclusions, others seemed frustrated by it, but it began a discussion if nothing else.  It got me pondering the place of the Book of Mormon in the Community of Christ.  What is its role?  I know many CofC who maintain the Book of Mormon is indeed an historic document and believe they know the exact place.  Every spring some go down into Mexico hunting for the records in what they believe to be the real Hill Cumorah.  A congregation in central Missouri traveled through Nauvoo last week and in talking to them, many were vocal in their belief that the Book of Mormon couldn’t be a historical document because of DNA studies and horses and things like that.  The belief among at least one was that it was an identity formation tool divised by Joseph to  distinguish the early church, but a creation from his own mind.  There are all sorts of beliefs and views on the book, is it historical or not?  Is it inspired scripture or not?  Was it written by Joseph or someone else, Sidney Rigdon perhaps?  I’m sure we’ve all heard the old arguments and cases back and forth, maybe even during church.

From my view, it seems all this discussion and debate has simply accomplished the reaction in the Community of Christ to just stop talking about the Book of Mormon all together.  No one quite knows what to do with it, so many use it, many do not – and many just pretend it does not even exist.  In talking with some others on this subject, one made the valid point that regardless of what you personally believe on the book they believed it dishonest to go into foreign nations without even bringing it up to new members.  When they arrive in the US for Conference or some other purpose, then boom, there it is with little to no warning.  Are we capable of  having civil discussions about the Book of Mormon regardless of whether we believe it is scriptural or not?

There’s a new book out, titled something along the lines of An Inconvenient Truth: the Community of Christ and the Book of Mormon.  I’ve skimmed it very briefly so far, but have not had a chance to read it through yet.  The conclusion he makes, as I gathered from my quick perusal, was that unless something significant happens soon the Book of Mormon will likely disappear from the CofC within the next 20 years.  If he’s right, will anyone notice?

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63 comments on “The Book of Mormon: Fact, fiction or fading away?

  1. FireTag says:

    I have far more to say on this topic than I have time to say it. I did read “BofM: An Inconvenient Truth” recently. The archeology didn’t impress me much; the literary examples DID because some of them were new to me and provide far less credible alternative interpretations. Similarly, the haplotype DNA evidence plus knowledge of post ice-age climatology seems to me to be far more consistent with the story of the Jaredites than I had ever imagined they could be — and that comes from general scientific knowledge, not Meldrum.

    (Yes, I meant Jaredites, not Lamanites; Lehi’s stock are lost in the American gene pool just like the descendents of all the other women who were alive as our ansectors at the time of mitochrondrial Eve. The timing and location of A,B,C,D, and X haplotypes works just fine to match the populating of the New World)

    What I was overwhelmingly impressed by were the testimonies in Rupe’s book and the papers pulled up to support the importance of debating the issue of the Book of Mormon in the life of the church.

    Those tectimonies match my own and my family experiences so closely that they confirmed to me the pointlessness of the Community of Christ to me personally without the BofM seen as a divinely inspired document.

    There is some wiggle room in how I can adjust my interpretation of “inspired”, but I am definitely meaning more than I mean when I say “Einstein was inspired to discover relativity.” And I am not sure that the opinion of the leadership is still willing to go that far.

    Steve Veazey’s statement on the Book of Mormon in a recent Herald is right on the boundary of how far I can go as a matter of conscience.

    With the BofM I believe there was an external reality involved; relativistic mathematics did not participate in revealing itself.

    It is certainly conceivable that some one could convince me otherwise, but that would not convince me to be more involved in the CofChrist, but it would have the exact opposite effect. I don’t need the Community of Christ to follow Jesus. Especially if the Community of Christ comes to believe following Jesus means becoming like a Quaker or Mennonite. Because if I do believe that, the urgency of following Jesus demands that I join the Mennonites or Quakers, not create another peace church.

  2. FireTag says:

    I should add that the website for the book, “Book of Mormon: An Inconvenient Truth” that Seth referenced is “http://www.bomtruth.com/”

  3. Doug Gregory says:

    If the book of Daniel were a work of fiction, would we still hold it as scripture? Oh, that’s right, we already do.

    I am neither enough of an academic or scientist or researcher to offer an informed opinion of the book. I use it as scripture just like I do the book of Daniel, and allow the argument to swirl around me. It speaks to me, my spiritual life is more rich because of it, and I would share it with anyone without feeling a need to either justify or prove it. It is there for us just the same as any other writing we consider scripture, for us to use or not.

    The key, as stated above in a way, is whether it draws us into a closer walk with Jesus Christ, and that is an individual matter. I do not base the legitimacy of the church (which is the real underlying question when dealing with whether the BoMis “real” or not) on anyone’s position on the Book of Mormon, but on the idea that God continues to reveal Himself to us and calls us to Him. I hold the same for the book of Daniel or other writings like it.

    And, if JS did make it up, would that make it any less inspired?

    We tell a tree by its fruits, not on whether or not we can accurately trace its ancestry.

    • FireTag says:

      Doug:

      That would actually be a viable approach to using the Book of Mormon for many people in the church — but I actually don’t see the Book being used that way in the church.

      Modern Jewish theologians will use Daniel that way, as they will any other OT book. They will build on hundreds, if not thousands of years of commentary to draw out deep spiritual meanings regardless of the belief in the literalness of the text. The OT drives their identity, so it is Scripture.

      How exactly do we let the Book of Mormon drive our identity as the Community of Christ as Scripture would? If we see it as an added witness of Jesus, how exactly do we allow its story to modify our understanding of previous testimonies?

      Dialogic revelation? Critical concept of the Book of Mormon. Our church never noticed.

      War and peace? The Book of Mormon teaches a complex tale of situational responses from no-quarter attack to complete martyrdom by whole cities. Are we seriously considering those teachings (even as metaphor) in our own growth as a peace and justice church)?

      The Book of Mormon teaches the recurring problem of the pride cysle — the division and destruction of society that occurs because of corruption among the elites that causes them to neglect the poor. Seems like something of that teaching (even as metaphor) would be relevant to the church as it considers the relationship between the church in America and Africa. The teachings about similar processes within the church among the Nephites would seem relevant to issues of the church today, such as the warnings in Section 157 to respect the sacrifices of the common people made at great sacrifice in the building of the temple.

      If we don’t let the Book of Mormon have fruits within the CofChrist, it is no longer Scripture to us — even if it is hortorially real.

      The Book of Mormon won’t fade away any time soon any more than the Mormons will. Our denomination might, though.

      • Doug Gregory says:

        Scripture is only relevant as it is translated into our lives through the power of the Spirit. So, I agree with your perspective.

  4. The comparison of the BOM with the Bible doesn’t really work. No one found the bible and claimed it to be an historical record. If there are historical inaccuracies in the Bible, they can be chalked up to translation/oral tradition/author embelleshment, etc. – but it is nonetheless a testimony of “someone” about their faith journey.

    However, if the BOM is not historical – then the only conclusion is that “someone” made it up out of whole cloth.

    I think this is a pretty big distinction.

    • FireTag says:

      BTC:

      Welcome back. I’ve been hoping you’d break your silence. I hope to see more posts on your own blog soon.

      You put your finger on the problem of trying to fit the BofM into the theory of scripture we’ve adopted for the Bible.

      Finesse isn’t really an answer on this. “Inspired fiction” still forces you to focus on the “inspired” and taking its TEACHINGS seriously, or focus on the “fiction”, which, in practice, makes it difficult to keep it as Scripture at all.

      And that again raises the question: if Joseph was not inspired, why the overhead for another peace and justice denomination?

      • If JS Jr was inspired, why the overhead for another Mormon denomination?

        The point is, we have thousands of different denominations with only minor substantive differences. One does not need a reason for a denomination, I don’t believe otehr than enjoying worshipping with particular people.

      • FireTag says:

        But one DOES need a reason for sacrificing people’s lives for the maintenance of that denomination — which ia a point you’ve made repeatedly and, IMHO correctly, on your blog,

    • I read from Book of Mormon historicity skeptics and historicity believers and i believe in its historicity even so. Kevin Barney who wrote an article on the Inspired Version in the book The Word of God has adequately defended the more realistic Book of Mormon evidences. Several Community of Christ had good articles from their perspective in it I bought American Apocrypha and the material on the DNA and the idea the plates were just visionary suffers point by point answers since it was published.The truth is i don’t have to see the book as just fiction. I see it as not literally or mechanically translated from the plates. The process was interpreed as being literal and mechanical but the actual text includes many 19th century features but ancient features. The only theory that accounts for both features is the expansion theory. Blake Ostler has his 1987 paper along with adequate defenses at his website. Nether Anthony Hutchinson skeptical of Book of Mormon historicity nor did pro-historicity scholar Stephen Robinson rebut convincingly the 1987 paper.

  5. lds_visitor says:

    As an LDS observer I can’t speak well to the CofC aspect, but I can’t stop thinking about two things here:

    1. I’ve gotten the impression that the CofC seems to have distanced itself from the Book of Mormon over the last several years, primarily as a way to gain greater acceptance in mainstream Christianity and in ecumenical circles. I’d be interested in whether there is any accuracy to this, or whether this is just a misunderstanding on my part.

    2. From an LDS perspective, the Book of Mormon is really one of the greatest “evidences” of the Restoration. We’re always telling people to read and pray about the Book of Mormon to gain their own witness of its truthfulness. The logic is that if you gain a witness that the Book of Mormon is true, then you can know for sure that Joseph Smith was a true prophet and that the gospel was indeed restored through him. Without the Book of Mormon, we lose one of the greatest fruits of the Restoration.

    • FireTag says:

      Welcome, Visitor.

      I suspect you may be inverting cause and effect in number 1. Current leadership of the church has strongly held beliefs, built up over their entire lives, that the radical Western Christian left — not the mainstream denominations — is the correct view of Christianity. They sincerely and genuinely believe that– to the point of unquestioningly regarding previous leaders of the denomination as in grievous error when they taught otherwise. You’ll see examples of that as you peruse other threads here on the site.

      So it is profoundly disturbing to have a set of scriptures that do not match current beliefs, and we have not yet done the work to separate the wheat from the chaff because our belief system has changed so drastically in a generation. (Indeed, there is a major disconnect between the beliefs of major groups within the church that may be larger than at any time since the 19th Century.)

    • James E Elliott says:

      I withdrew from the C of C when I decided the Book of Mormon was not inspired by God.. I have continued to read the Saints Herald and have seen no suggestion that the church leadership wants to stop using it for any reason, least of all to get acceptance from mainline churches.

      But can rational people think that people crossed the oceans with boats with holes in the bottom and top. Or that God cursed the land so that people lost their tools. Or that Lamanites would destroy the Gentiles if they did not repent.

      • FireTag says:

        I guess that would depend on whether or not they believed the seals on the top and the bottom were supposed to be open at the same time.

        Since it’s now one of the pretty standard theories of the spread of Native Americans so rapidly from Siberia to South America that they had ocean capable craft (and in fact there is also a belief that the X haplotype crossed the North Atlantic along the edge of the ice by boat), I presume that the holes are the problem for you.

        To me it seems like a very effective design, since the greatest danger of crossing a post Ice-Age ocean is hypothermia or capsizing during storms. Arctic peoples don’t use open boats.

        Peak the boat ends in opposite directions to that one end acts as the prow and the other end as the keel. And you have a very stable craft that’s completely symmetrical above and below a horizontal axis. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you capsize because the boat’s the same right-side-up or upside down. It also means you can slip in maximum supplies per passenger, because you can bring along a lot of little kids without worrying about keeping them from washing over the side. You can further keep a multiboat fleet from dispersal by simply loosely tying (with no tension) the prow of one boat to the keel of the next like a segmented millipede. The North Pacific Gyre does all the work for you.

        So please don’t call me irrational. It makes the voices get angry.

      • ned kelly says:

        SO sad you threw out the truth of the restoration . The c of c is the one to be thrown out , a liberal anti christian mob taken control of the church of Christ. I pray forthe removal of these false leaders.

      • PJ says:

        The C of C is still outside the scope of anything resembling the mainline Christian denominations. Even if the C of C threw out the D&C and Book of Mormon they still would be.

    • JR Orlando says:

      I grow very tired of the assertion that Community of Christ is distancing itself from the Book of Mormon because we want to appear more “mainstream”. Perhaps those who say that are more concerned with appearances than we are. I grew up with the Book of Mormon. I love some passages, I could do without others. I also have the same opinion of the Bible.

      Community of Christ is a Restoration Church, not because it does or does not believe in the Book of Mormon, it is because of our unique concept of Zion and Zionic living. That has become the emphasis of the Community of Christ. We do not worship a book, we worship God and strive to live the life God teaches us to live. We also hold very firm the idea that as a church, we are called to bring Zion to this earth through our works. This makes the historical truth, or non-truth of the Book of Mormon irrelevant. Those of us who look to the Book of Mormon for inspiration don’t need “proofs”. It is either inspiring or it is not.

      We are also, and have always been, a non-creedal church. We do not require our members to adhere to specific dogma, as we find that over time dogma becomes irrelevant and often an obstacle to true Zionic living. We adhere to the 9 Enduring Principles because any organizational structure that is created in order to function that obeys the Enduring Principles is unlikely to obstruct a life lived in Christ.

      Our purpose is not to exclude others, but to embrace them and become a community that helps each other on our personal spiritual paths. Belief in the Book of Mormon is not mission. It is not an action. It is a preference. We still have many, like myself, who love the Book of Mormon. But even if the Book of Mormon fades away in our practice, and yet we become better at serving others in the Zionic tradition, we will have attained the true meaning of Zion, which is our true mission.

      • Sue Palmer says:

        Hear Hear! JR Orlando – thank you for your comments. I am a Book of Mormon lover simply because whenever I read it, I feel closer to God. That’s it. And I tell people who are wanting to be baptized that it’s not where the message comes from, but what the message is, that matters. If you can find Christ by reading the back of your cereal box, or between the covers of the Book of Mormon, what does it matter? May the Spirit of Christ continue to permeate humanity, wherever humanity has ears to hear. Thanks be to God for the Book of Mormon!

    • bobrf79 says:

      I agree with you of the importance of the Book of Mormon to the LDS AND Community of Christ churches. The book needs to be affirmed not to much but neither should it be affirmed to little. That book is still a sacred text of the Community of Christ. I see the book as still being affirmed as scripture in all our recent and basic missionary material.

  6. Rich Brown says:

    It’s quite understandable to conclude that members of the Community of Christ have distanced themselves from the BofM so that they (and the institutional church) might gain acceptance among Mainline Protestants. I’ve run into that roadblock in ministerial alliances myself. But I think there’s something more complex going on.

    It’s true that the BofM is a major sticking point for the CofC to being accepted fully by other Christian organizations, because of (1) the book’s obvious connection to the Mormon (LDS) church, which most evangelical and many Mainline Protestant churches do not consider Christian; and (2) multiple issues related to Joseph Smith Jr. and the theological content of the BofM. What is also at work, I think, is the ongoing divergence of the CofC away from its early 19th-century roots in the USA. But we have not yet found a new, compelling meta-narrative with which we can identify. We went through a long “not Mormon” phase and more recently we’ve tinkered with a “peace-and-justice church but we’re not Quakers or Brethren” phase.

    For me, the biblical theme that speaks most directly to the CofC today is that of Exile. We are exiled from our past and unsure of our future: How can we “sing the songs of Zion in a strange land”? Do we just wait this period out, hanging on as best we can until God delivers us? Or do we follow a 21st-century version of Jeremiah’s counsel to build homes, establish families, and “look to the welfare of the city” in which we find ourselves? Remember also that synagogues had their origin during the Babylonian years. And even though the Temple was later rebuilt, once it was finally destroyed in 70 CE, it was that institution that helped carry the Jews through the next 2,000 years.

    I hear a lot of moaning and complaining about the “managed decline” of the CofC these days. And there’s certainly evidence to back that up. However, I find considerable hope in our similarities to the Babylonian Jews. At the same time, I can’t see that the BofM will be of much help as we rebuild in the generations ahead.

    • FireTag says:

      “However, I find considerable hope in our similarities to the Babylonian Jews. At the same time, I can’t see that the BofM will be of much help as we rebuild in the generations ahead.”

      I think the question this raises in me is why should you WANT hope in rebuilding in the generations ahead? So do the Zorastrians, and they’ve been living in Babylon for thousands of years.

      It is one thing to think of yourself as in exile because you long for something you had. Then an exile narrative perhaps makes sense. But why would the Jews want to rebuild the Jewish nation if they believed Moses made it all up?

      We can’t define what we had that we actually want to keep. Continuing revelation? Not unless we can define what Joseph was prophetic about? Signal communities? Not if the church was embracing polygamy by 1831. Peace and Justice? Certainly not like the Quakers or Mennonites.

      We can’t simply be, like one wag said about the US Army’s new African Command, “A headquarters in search of a mission.”

    • Rich, I don’t find the book of Mormon to be a major sticking point in Ministerial Alliances in my area. I have been the president of the one in Independence, Kansas, and have spent the past seven years as secretary/treasurer for the one in Coffeyville, Kansas. I write a column for the two area newspapers and their readers have an opportunity to hear and read about what I believe. That doesn’t seem to be a problem.

    • PJ says:

      The issue with mainline and historic traditions of Christianity are based upon the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. These books are viewed as modern inventions. Even without them using terms like “Trinity” does not make anyone closer to the larger Christian context.

      I have found that most C of C members do not understand the Trinity as say the mainline protestant counterparts. Meaning the C of C does not understand where this doctrine or why this doctrine is an important part of the wider historic Christian tradition.

      I find the C of C is simply using the word Trinity, to appear more friendly in ecumenical circles. Obviously there are larger issues as well such as Apostolic tradition but from my experience with C of C members the Trinity is not understood in the historic Christian tradition.

      However the Temple School folks do fully believe that Joseph Smith JR. is a prophet and the Book of Mormon is scripture.

      • bobrf79 says:

        The Church has acepted the social idea of the Godhead over the creedal Trinity over the years. To avoid Jesus being a literal second supreme deity some of the older literature called him a god. To avoid the acceptance of a plurality of Gods idea the Deity of Jesus had to be equivocated on. One of the books available at the Restoration RLDS bookstore had this approach to the problem of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit although being three Gods, or beings being figuratively one God.

        The newer church literature like Revised Edition of Understanding the Way Exploring Our Christian Faith By Anthony J. Chvala-Smith has the creedal idea of God as our official doctrine. Yet we are not a creedal people and acceptance of the creedal idea of God is voluntary.

        With the Book of Abraham before i left the Mormon church in 2005 i used to see in it the plural Gods idea the late RLDS Apostle found objectionable in his book Fundemental Differences. Now i see the gods as high angels no tultimate beings in trainig. The father hasno body and without the idea the Father was once a man the eternal progression of those angel Gods is administrative not involving worship by lesser beings as the full unrestricted idea of eternal progression i see as wrong.

        There is now answers to the difficulty posed by the Joseph Smith”s interpretation of the facimilies and the Egyptologis explanations. kevin L. Barney did an article entitled The Facsimilies and Semitic Adaptation of Existing Sources. A booki bought through the Kindle Store entitled Shaken Syndrome has a good sumary of that research.

  7. Rich Brown says:

    A primary lesson to be learned from the Babylonian Exile is that there’s no point in returning to recreate what existed before (or, even worse: returning to recreate what “you think” existed before). Exile can be a time to look ahead to discern what you can become.

    I mean no disrespect to Joseph Smith when I say we probably pay entirely too much attention to him today. He was the founder of our movement, not the “definer” of it. The difficulties I’ve had with my local ministerial alliance stemmed from the insistence of certain members to want to talk only about Joseph Smith and to judge the Community of Christ solely according to what he said and did in the early 19th century. When I turned that discussion around and asked if they’d like to talk about how closely each was aligned to John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Wesley, et al.–well, at least the Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Methodists saw my point. The Southern Baptists and Assembly of God, not so much.

  8. FireTag says:

    And I don’t think you’re seeing my point. The exile can be a time for seeing what you CAN be, but there is no basis for restricting that discussion to staying “we”. We CAN be Babylonian. We CAN be Zorastrian. We CAN separate from each other entirely and join any community we want. We CAN invent our own individual meta-narrative, which is exactly what some say Joseph Smith did.

    Let me make an analogy. Suppose my family had a favorite steakhouse when I was a kid. On special occasions when the family budget could afford it, that’s where we went. I have wonderful memories of that steakhouse.

    Over the years, the owner/chef starts putting fewer steak dishes on the menu, and more salads. When I speak to the chef, he starts to speak to me about his concerns that meat eating really isn’t healthy for either the customers or the environment and is actually cruel to animals. Then, one day, because of that belief, he reaches a point where the cognative dissonance grows too great for him and he changes the menu entirely: I show up one evening and the steakhouse I grew up loving is now serving vegan. He’s solved his problem, but not mine.

    What do I do? If he hasn’t convinced me already to be vegan, he has a huge burden of proof at this point. I have no reason to believe I’m going to get what I desire there. So I’ll probably find another steakhouse.

    But my dilemma is not lessened even if I do believe him. If I do believe I should eat vegan, I’ve got a whole world of vegan restaurants to choose from. Their chefs are more experienced in vegan cooking. They’ve got larger clienteles, so their selection of dishes is larger, and their prices are lower. The chef can not appeal to me to stay on the basis of brand loyalty because he’s changed the fundamental nature of the brand and cannot find a new discriminator.

    Once you say that the Community of Christ is not the “one and only true church”, you have to follow the inconvenient consequences. One of those consequences seems to be that their are other “true” parts of the community of Christ, and you lose the authority to decide in which part of that community individuals invest themselves. Preservation of the “brand” is no longer the priority of obedience to Christ when the organization cannot define its own role in the larger community.

  9. James E Elliott says:

    I withdrew from the RLDS after reading the Book of Mormon carefully. Read 3 Nephi9 51-52. Is it possible that the native Americans will tread down and tear to pieces gentiles if the gentiles don’t repent? When Joseph wrote the book of Mormon there were often significant attacks by American Indians. But Native Americans are no longer feared.

    Or are we to assume that the gentiles did repent and so the Indian uprising was called off.

    And do these passages bring us closer to Jesus?

    • FireTag says:

      Another theological problem the Mennonites and Quakers don’t have. :D

      Yep. One of the problems you have if you believe in the historicity of the Book of Mormon is that you are stuck with a prophecy out of the mouth of Jesus, no less, that rejection of the gospel will lead to some bad consequences for said gentiles. Specifically, the gentiles will eventually be up to their ears in angry Mayans (assuming MesoAmerica is the site of BofM history) if the Gadiantons don’t get them first.

      How was it again that the Jews GOT into exile? And why is it that we remember the pre-captivity prophets who WHILE OFFERING HOPE STILL WARNED OF CONSEQUENCES FOR DISOBEDIENCE?

      Remember that Section 163 says our welfare is TIED to their welfare in speaking of the poor.

      God loves us. God loved the ancient Jews. He didn’t give them immunity from the tides of history. We don’t have immunity either.

    • Gail G Gaddy says:

      The Gentiles did repent and The Indian Wars did end and perhaps it was because of the churches of Jesus

    • bobrf79 says:

      I feel with Russia, China and Isis ect the United States risks its government risks its demolishment in a 3rd World War. Native Americansvcan organize miltias to take away control from the remaining gentile governments. Imagine how out of control things would get if trucks permanantly stopped delivering food to the stores. Mobs would break out looking for food as what is not feared now can be feared if hunger and people battle over scarce resources.

  10. FT said: “But one DOES need a reason for sacrificing people’s lives for the maintenance of that denomination — which ia a point you’ve made repeatedly and, IMHO correctly, on your blog”

    I’m not sure what you mean by this. I don’t think there IS a reason to sacrifice people’s lives for the maintenance of a denomination. Help me understand what you’re getting at here. Thanks.

    • FireTag says:

      I’m agreeing with you on that. BTC. Stunning, I know. :D

      We cannot justify sacrificing any individual’s life purpose or happiness to keep the denomination together so that some day maybe we can figure out a way as a denomination some great purpose.

      • Ok but I thought we were talking about the necessity of the BoM.

      • FireTag says:

        I think we wandered into whether exile, radical peace and justice, and/or a retention of our ties to JS at all still made sense for the modern CofChrist.

        I guess I started asking whether the church was necessary since the Book of Mormon’s relevance to society — one way or another — is guaranteed for a good while by the existence of the LDS. As the OP notes, the role of the BofM in the CofChrist is critical to a major bloc of church members.

        So, to oversimplify for brevity, we’ve got a generation that finds it critical, a generation who finds it insignificant if not a hindrance, and a growing body of non-Americans who may know nothing about it until they are well involved in the church.

        One or more of those blocs has a potential ro get sacrificed if we aren’t careful about what we do and why.

  11. mattfrizzell says:

    Friends!

    I remain busy and it’s difficult to read the interesting posts here, let alone all the responses. I may be restating things already said. If so, forgive me. The BofM issue, I believe, is full of misdirection and excesses. I am frustrated with both the BofM apologists and those who feel so free to simply move on from it. I am a theologian, so I believe that a theology of scripture has to be articulated before a coherent debate on the BofM can take place. Otherwise, those arguing its historicity simply talk past those who find its historicity implausible orthose who don’t think its historicity is important. Without some consensus on what makes scripture Scripture, the argument is about apples and oranges.

    The BofM apologists forget that “proof” of the BofM or the Restoration is a Pharisee’s problem. “Proving” the BofM or the Restoration, ultimately, only serves sectarian goals. It is an exercise in the endless spiral of internal dialogue that plagues all sectarian faiths. The difference between a debate about the BofM’s historicity and the Book of Daniel’s historicity – to draw on Doug’s comments – is that any discussion about the Book of Daniel’s historicity has bearing on 1000’s of years of shared religious history. Its history is a debate shared between two major world religions, and intersects the history of several other canonical books. The BofM debate serves a largely Mormon/RLDS/Restorationist audience. Moreover, the logic and outcome of the argument does little more than “prove” our legitimacy to ourselves. It circles an eternal self-esteem and self-legitimacy problem. Has anyone considered what effect “proving” the BofM would really have on the world? Would the world repent and become Mormon or RLDS or Restored LDS or Remnant RLDS….? Probably not. So, what self-righteous purpose does it serve? I’m afraid the substance of the argument ultimately is about our sectarianism and self-esteem. And I grieve for that.

    One the other hand, I don’t find many who so quickly dismiss the BofM convincingly articulate why. In other words, I’m also not satisfied that those who so quickly dismiss the BofM can demonstrate an understanding of scripture that upholds what scripture is and why it is communally shared. So many disinterested members see scripture as a personal matter. This is just as as historically ungrounded as the “historicity” argument. I also find this frustrating and adding to the confusion.

    As already alluded to, the “historicity” of scripture is a wholly modern form of proof. “Historicity” always means anti-myth and some sort of evidentiary, datum-supported account. I deeply question the relevance and importance of this sense of “historicity.” If the historicity of the Gospels were a measure of their canonical qualification or value, our scriptures, themselves, prove that there is profound disagreement. Would the real historical account of Jesus please stand up?! Our canon, itself, is divided against itself of the “historicity” of a book qualifies it as canon. There is, and must be, other criterion for what is scripture. And, embarrassingly, the the majority of the RLDS debate on the “historicity” of the BofM, I think, only reminds us that we remain largely in a ghetto on this.

    I’d be interested in BofM apologists who can persuasively show how the BofM is/can be a witness to something other than ourselves. That would be interesting. I think the God and Jesus of the BofM could be used as an effective witness against the self-righteous right-wing American Christianity we see today. In the end, it’s not about righteousness. And, yes, God can and does “change sides.” This is essential to the BofM plot and sequence. That would be a culturally relevant and interesting use of the BofM as scripture. In that way, the BofM is a witness against hard-headed and self-righteous Christianity and hard-headed self-righteous Restorationism. But, to get to this kind of creative use of scripture, we would have to get over the historicity argument and start talking about it also something else – historical metaphor, true myth, allegory. Doing so would not mean it is not also some kind of historical account or “record.” But, it would get us away from the idea that Nephi had any idea what “historical accuracy” was.

    The idea that the BofM is “historically accurate” it, itself, an anachronism even if the BofM is taken on its own terms.

    • Abe says:

      To see how the Book of Mormon can be placed within a non-denominational context I encourage you to visit:
      http://www.bomchristian.com

      And I do believe the Book of Mormon is historically accurate. Lehi, Nephi, Mosiah, Alma, Heleman, Mormon, Moroni were all men who lived, loved, preached, wrote, and died.

  12. The danger, in my opinion, of giving theological credence to the BoM as opposed to, say, Biblical stories is the propensity for literalism.

    ANY scripture, if examined as “literal” Word of God is dangerous. While there are Biblical literalists, to be sure, the bulk of Christianity, I’d wager, understands that the truth about the nature of the authorship of the Bible, coupled with time, editorial license and translation issues, give us the right, even the responsibility to interpret scripture responsibly, and contextually.

    However, the historicity of the Book of Mormon is different. If indeed the BoM was translated by the power of God and without error -then we have something that is very close to the Fiery Finger of God. If we subscribe to this belief, we leave ourselves open to the pursuit of dangerous theology.

    Matt, while I understand what you’re saying and largely agree – I think the converse is true as well. That is, if we can’t decide whether the origins of the BoM are factual or not, we can’t make a determination as to the theology or scriptural essence of the book.

    I can subscribe to the notion that “scripture” is a literary expression of a religious/theological journey and, in the case of the BoM is a valuable understanding of the author’s and his contemporaries’ views about Christianity, baptism, salvation, etc. and can pull from it that which is there – just as I do with Biblical texts.

    But I have a hard time discussing scriptural value with someone who believes there were people who crammed cows into coconut shell and floated across the ocean. I’m not sure there is common ground here as the very analysis of scripture is thrown off by a belief that the words are true and therefore inerrant.

    • bobrf79 says:

      I myself prfer to affirm to affirm the truth of the teachings of the bok. The true nature of the spiritual history should be left up to individual preference. The top value of the stories and teachingsis that they uplift me as i struggle with my life.

      The more conservative scholarship helps me. But the more liberal scholarship helps others. Yet some arn’t interested in the debates at all. And many can even be harmed by scholarship if they don’t have strong healthy faith first. Doubts about the reliability of the stories are a normal part of belief in any scripture including the Bible and Book of Mormon.

  13. Doug Gregory says:

    History does not validate theology; Theology does not validate history.

  14. FireTag says:

    Matt:

    Your comments are, as usual, deep and insightful, but at the risk of starting a miraculous trend, I’m going to agree with BTC about something yet again. I think he’s absolutely right that we have to decide about belief in the historicity of the Book of Mormon in order to formulate a theology of Scripture rather than the other way around.

    I wrote a post some months ago at “http://thefirestillburning.wordpress.com/2009/05/14/hot-jupiters-and-privileged-scriptural-frames/” that discusses this very issue. It suggests that the Book of Mormon is a TEST of our theory of Scripture. It puts that theory into a position of extremes it wasn’t designed for – and that’s how one stretches and generalizes theories.

    You are, of course, correct that arguments about historicity are a wholly modern form of proof. But the modern West and its spread to imitators across the globe is the ONLY example we have in history of a scientific culture. That Scripture produced for such a cultural audience should REALLY be understood in terms of the same processes that operated throughout the bulk of the Judeo-Christian tradition is plausible, but hardly certain.

    I have no idea, for example, what Section 164 will say, but I am fairly certain Steve will not be given something remotely resembling Daniel. Such a scripture could not speak to moderns of the dominant cultures of the world today.

    We can no more avoid naturally viewing Scripture today in light of its historical accuracy than you can avoid self-identifying as a theologian or I as a physicist, or others in this blog as businessmen or historians or students. Defining ourselves by what we do is part of our culture. Viewing science as authoritative is also part of our culture. Even the most fundamentalist Christian appeals to science to justify the belief in the literalism of the Bible.

    BTC also correctly points out that there is danger in fundamentalism and literalism in understanding the Book of Mormon. I spend a lot of time reading and commenting on LDS blogs, and I am well aware of people, for example, rejecting members of their own families because those family members expressed doubts about beliefs.

    But there is also danger in simply assuming that – to use BTC’s beautiful term – the fiery finger of God never got close enough to the plates to at least singe them. I do not know if “proving” the Book of Mormon were true would convert humanity. I can infer that rejection of a “true” Book of Mormon would have consequences for humanity. And I can infer that God would have a purpose in giving us a “true” Book of Mormon that might be critical in understanding HOW to follow Jesus in the world in which we live.

    You are right that we have used the Book of Mormon to primarily justify us. Shame on us, but when we thought that we were the one-and-only-true-church, it was the best we could do. It was what we thought God wanted us to do. So now we know better. Now we can start to look at our modern scripture the way we do our ancient ones – and draw insights that help us each fulfill what God asks of us.

  15. “we have to decide about belief in the historicity of the Book of Mormon in order to formulate a theology of Scripture rather than the other way around.”

    The theology I believe is that Jesus taught the Kingdom of God on earth. He urged the folks of his day to recognize it and live as though it really existed..taking care of one another.

    That theology, until recently, has been completely ignored in favor of salvation theology, a construct of the very early church to explain why Jesus died.

    The Book of Mormon does nothing but reinforce that error. Not only that, but as been thoroughly explored in other places, every theological question of the early 19th century has been addressed by that book.

    I believe, although I still haven’t been able to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Sidney Rigdon, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conspired to write that book from an existing but not yet re-discovered Spaulding manuscript left in the printer’s office where Sidney Rigdon discovered it. Rigdon was always in fierce competition with Alexender Campbell, who did a new translation from the Greek of the New Testament. I believe the Book of Mormon was meant to be Rigdon’s new “scripture”.

    Sorry, but along with others who are still searching for evidence of this theory, I do not accept the Book of Mormon as authentic scripture or even scripture.

    Anyone with a logical mindset would know that jesus, who died on the cross, could not re-appear magically on this continent. Theology, such as the trinity, which was not beginning to be even formulated until three centuries after Jesus’ death, appears magically in the Book of Mormon. There are dozens of other anachronisms too numerous to mention here. I’m sure you all have discovered them over the years.

    I find it ironic that Hyrum Smith, Ethan Smith (View of the Hebrews) and Spaulding all attended Dartmouth’s Moors school and all were obsessed with the origins of the Native Americans.

    No, I don’t buy it. And until I find another church that teaches building community, I’ll stay with this one until it’s gone.

    • Doug Gregory says:

      Margie, your “logical mindset” about Jesus immediately took me to I Cor. 18 – 25, which includes “…hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? … But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness… Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men…”

      My personal choice is to not put my human – both Greek and Jewish – limitations on God, which would include Jesus’ resurrection and ability to appear anywhere. Jesus’ very words mocked the logic of man and our limited perspectives. If I must prove everything in order for it to be true, what is the meaning of faith?

      I try not to be ignorant, but am okay with sitting next to Paul in appearing foolish at times in the eyes of the world.

    • FireTag says:

      Dick:

      Margie believes in service until death. I honor her self consistency and hope she takes comfort in it before she is not.

      I hope more that she is someday utterly and pleasantly surprised.

      • Personally i feel a universal testimony of the book can be had with individuals sharing some kind of witness of the Holy Spirit regarding the truth of the teachings of the book and its status as scripture. Some willt take such a witness of its historicity also but many will not take the witness as including its historicity also. Neither interpretation of what the Holy Spirit did or did not mean is not a salvation issue. To believe in the historicity or non-historicity of the book comes down to personal preferences and preferences over scholarship if any.

    • Tave Baker says:

      A piece of info I found somewhere. Thought it should be placed here.

      Rigdon denied the Spaulding story throughout his life. When his son John questioned him shortly before his death, he replied: “My son, I can swear before high heaven that what I have told you about the origin of that book is true. Your mother and sister, Mrs. Athalia Robinson, were present when that book was handed to me in Mentor, Ohio, and all I ever knew about the origin of that book was that Parley P. Pratt, Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith and the witnesses who claimed they saw the plates have told me, and in all my intimacy with Joseph Smith he never told me but one story, and that was that he found it engraved upon gold plates in a hill near Palmyra, New York, and that an angel had appeared to him and directed him where to find it. . . .”

  16. I am not a follower of Paul..who helped to distort the message of Jesus into salvation theology. So we have no argument there.

    What we have are the words of writers decades later who wrote their accounts from the oral tradition. I’m sure you are aware of that.

  17. My philosophy is that if I live the best I can for others..and not just myself, then if there is an afterlife, I will be pleasantly surprised.

    I am not required to believe the Book of Mormon is an actual record of the Native American’s past in order to do that and serve any way I can.

    • bobrf79 says:

      I am open to it being a an actual record of ancient Americans. The Bible has similar historicity issues. My questioning of the literalness of the history as told by prophets and actual history is evidence the scriptures are not inerrant. In Nephite times Lamanites becoming a different people was a curse from GOD as it included separation from GOD and Gods people, But i doubt ancient Americans would have focues on skin color as a curse but Joseph Smith Jr. giving his retelling of the history would have been harsh since he had no politically correct way of interpreting the curse. Just because something is in scripture does not mean it can’t mix truth and untruth depending on the weaknesses of the prophet. People had racial prejudices in the 19th century that’s the way they were back then.

  18. Yes, and Emma Smith swore on her deathbed that Joseph Smith did not teach or practice polygamy. I don’t believe her testimony either. We now know from a number of sources that he certainly did both.

    If Rigdon was involved in the writing of the Book of Mormon, he would certainly not admit it. On the other hand, he had all his papers burned when he died. Why?

    No, I still believe he was involved and some day the proof will come out. As it is there is circumstantial evidence.

    • bobrf79 says:

      William Marks did say Joseph SmIth Jr.did have a revelation on polygamy but he also felt the 1852 version was a partial forgery. Some like myself have wondered if sources like William Clayton Journal which implicate Joseph in polygamy might have been forged to discredit Joseph Smith 3rd and Emma Smith. Now it is not responsible of me to say they are fakes as that’s for independent document experts to prove or disprove my wondering. The idea of Joseph Smith 3rd was that he was sealed to living women in time and for eternity ceremonies that was supposed to produce children in the afterlife. He was wise in being cautious in not accepting testimony he had marital relations just because they claimed it.

  19. […] Southerton published a summary article of the DNA findings that shows how traditional LDS and Community of Christ apologetics stumble in the face of this evidence. (Thanks to Mormon Heretic for publishing the Southerton link […]

    • bobrf79 says:

      Southerton has been rebutted. My copy of the FARMS Review Volume 15, Number 2 2003 shows that the claims of Thomas Murphy and southerton are under valid dispute. Past editions of the review are online to read. The claim Mormon scholars are violating the Book of Mormon text or distorting the issue by fabricating answers is untrue.

  20. BOMCi says:

    The Book of Mormon “carries conviction with it” said David Whitmer, but also, it is the ONLY witness confirming the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, thus, it is a target of the evil one.

  21. Well, to begin with, I never use the Book of Mormon to proof text. I don’t know how involved David Whitmer was in the entire conspiracy. It could be that he was entirely innocent. I have never seen any evidence that he might have been involved in the conspiracy I believe existed in writing the Book of Mormon.

    I do not believe Jesus was resurrected either. Of course he was born and died. There are accounts of the resurrection of Roman emperors and many of the early Christians were pagan, who believed such things. If their emperors were divine, which they believed, born of virgins, which they also believed and resurrected, then why not Jesus, to whom they had already ascribed divinity?

    No, I’m not into the “magic world view”.

  22. obamar1920 says:

    Thank God! for the Book of Mormon, it’s hard to refute the Bible account, when you have the Book of Mormon account also.

    Btw, you must deal with current evanglists who have been to heaven, and have met Jesus, not to mention the many who have been raised from the dead by him.

    • FireTag says:

      Obamar1920:

      I believe your post belongs on the “Reflections on Whiteness” thread — as an object lesson.

      If your website wishes to charge the President of the United States with being the false prophet foretold in Revelation, I suspect you’ll find no sympathy here from either conservative or progressive.

  23. Phil Hayton says:

    I left the Community of Christ many years ago when it was still the RLDS Church (1974). At that time I could see a dramatic shift in the church’s position on the Book Of Mormon. It was the beginning of the end of my journey with this group. I believe very strongly that the Book Of Mormon is the word of God and that it is what it claims to be, based on the holy ghost barring witness to me of its truthfulness. The things of the spirit can only be know by spiritual knowledge which is gained through prayer and faith. That may sound foolish to those who cannot accept anything which can not be proven scientifically.

  24. J. Porter says:

    The Book of Mormon was never meant to be proven. You either accept it on faith or not. What I would like to remind people of is the prophesies in the Book of Mormon say that the gentile nations will reject it and then it will go to the lost tribes of the house of Isreal and the Gentile nations that possessed it will be judged from it. Its main purpose is to convince the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah and for the lost tribes to understand their ancestors knew of Him. This was the prayers of the forefathers in the scriptures contained within. That has already started happening. The North American church is dying and it is growing in the countries of which this book will be accepted. We have not taught this for so long, our children are ignorant of it all. They do not understand that the nation that rejects this scripture, will be judged by what they had in their hands and rejected. Best thing you can do is put your theologian books down and kneel and ask God to show you the truth of scripture and then read it, that includes the Bible and D and C. Will an angel appear to you? Probably not, but that which teaches of Christ and brings men to Christ is of Him. Listen to the testimonies of those who have gone before us, and those that still understand the authenticity of this book. To be learned is good, but to think you are smarter than God and what he can do, is ignorance. Go to God in fasting and prayer if you really want to know the truth, don’t run to some professor or officer of the church who is so puffed up in their learning, they enjoy people that will listen to them and have “itching ears” as II Timothy says and the Book of Mormon also says so. I on purpose do not put scripture references here from the Book of Mormon because half the time people who don’t believe in it have not read it anyway. Go read it first with fasting and prayer and I promise you God will open your mind. Do not make the mistake of turning away that which God deems sacred because some theologian said so in so. Put your trust in God, not man.

  25. Rev. Jeff says:

    As a mainline clergy person who has read, re-read and frolicked among LDS, Restoration branches and the former RLDS I have never ascribed to the BOM the status of inspired scripture. Meaning I do not believe none of what is recorded happened in the western hemisphere, so no I don’t believe Joseph Smith Jr to be a prophet. Yes I have read the d&c of both as well but find the d&c even less of scripture than the BOM. I read both LDS and Community of Christ versions of the Book of Mormon as well as the 1840 edition. The purpose of my reading the various versions was so that I could engage in a dialogue with those of Book of Mormon churches and to help the congregations I serve to better understand what the Book of Mormon says.

    It is true the mainline Churches or mainstream Christianity, whatever that means anymore, does not view the CofC or LDS as Christian churches but it’s not really because of the Book of Mormon. It’s the lack of affirmation to the historic tradition of the trinity or Trinitarian Theology for starters. And when we say “Trinity” we do not mean modalism. We really believe in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are one whole, Holy God. 3 in 1 and 1 in 3 not 3 separate Gods but 3 persons in one God.

    Anyway I have been following the goings on in the Community of Christ and love the focus on peace and justice. Anyway wanted to send Theological greetings! Blessings to you!

    • Rich Brown says:

      Rev. Jeff:

      I think you might want to revisit the topic of Trinitarian Theology in regard to the contemporary Community of Christ. This was an important area of discussion leading up to the CofC becoming a full member of the National Council of Churches in the USA a few years back. Of course, there is no one clear, concise, and universal understanding of the Trinity among Mainline Protestants, much less in other branches of Christianity–West and East, North and South.

      • Rev Jeff says:

        There has been debate yes but yes there is a clear understanding especially on the west.

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