This latest video is inspired by a story I’ve heard dozens of times: a well-meaning, faithful member of the church hears something about the controversy surrounding the origins of the Book of Abraham, and being an earnest, intellectually curious person, they begin to investigate this controversy. However, as they encounter scholarly refutation after scholarly refutation of the various, increasingly bizarre explanations for the connection between the source text and what is printed in the Pearl of Great Price, something very fundamental about their connection to the church is irrecoverably fractured.
For some, researching the Book of Abraham is the final nail in their testimony coffin; for most, it’s in the top 3. When I’ve asked why this is the case, the typical answer I get is that learning about the origins of the Book of Abraham was “the first time I could see that something the church claimed as doctrine was not true.”
Now, whether or not that particular conclusion is accurate is up to the reader. What has stuck out most to me in these conversations has been how one’s decision to disassociate with the church is almost universally correlated with whether or not they believe the church is “true.” And that makes a lot of sense—given the amount of time and effort faithful church participation demands, why would you stick around if you didn’t believe it was actually going to get you and your family a private universe? I’m guessing most General Authorities see it that way, based on the number of “Either it’s all true or the biggest scam since the laundry ball” Conference talks I’ve heard, and I assume most literal believers see it that way, based on the number of heads I see nodding during those talks.
But I have to wonder: what about those who still feel culturally connected to the church even after literal belief is off the table? Is there a place for them in the church? Perhaps more importantly, should there be a place for them, and if so, what would that look like?