A Case for a Semi-Historical Book of Mormon

By: Nate
April 30, 2014

Book-of-mormonI recently made a personal choice to believe that Nephi was a real, historical person.  In spite of all the doubts I’ve harbored over the years about Nephi and his trans-Pacific voyage, I feel good about my choice for several reasons:

  1. The Holy Ghost confirmed to me that the Book of Mormon was true, or that I should follow God through this book.  I can’t infer from my testimony that Nephi was actually historical, and personally, I don’t need Nephi to be historical to understand the Book of Mormon as true.  But I feel like I should stand in solidarity with other members who make this assumption if I am to follow the path of the church, which the Holy Ghost directed me into.
  2. God set up the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, with its angels and plates, to support the assumption that Nephi was a real person, not a myth.  God also provided witnesses to these miracles who never recanted their testimonies.  For this reason, I feel like I should submit to the paradigm as it came from the Lord, even if it turns out that God inspired a fictional Nephi.  God seems to want us to understand His spiritual allegories as historical, even when He makes them sound a bit outlandish.
  3. The Book of Mormon contains some ancient characteristics which would have been nearly impossible for Joseph Smith or his circle to have invented.  Therefore, I believe there might actually be something authentically ancient about the Book of Mormon.

But do I believe the Brother of Jared was a real person or that his story is historical?  No, not really. Why not, if I believe Nephi was real?

  1. The story takes place in the Genesis post-flood era and in my mind is clearly mythical.  Many Mormons don’t take a 6-day creation, the tower of babel language origin myth, or world-wide flood completely literally, so why should we take the Brother of Jared’s fleet of submarines literally if it’s an extension of that same era?
  2. There is a limit to how much absurdity I am willing to embrace.  God does challenge us to believe some absurdities, like the existence of Golden Plates in upstate New York, and he gives us witnesses to help us out with that challenge.  But do we really need to embrace utterly non-scientific conceptions of reality simply because we have a testimony that the Book of Mormon is true?
  3. The Brother of Jared story is my favorite in the book, and the most personally meaningful.  My acceptance of the story as myth has not diminished the power of the story as an allegory for my life.

So I find myself believing in a semi-historical Book of Mormon.  It’s a position that is full of contradictions, but it’s one I’m comfortable with.  Howard and I were sparring with Bruce Nelson over at Millennial Star, who claimed that the inspired fiction theory of the Book of Mormon was so convoluted and contradictory, that it could never be realistically presented as a middle ground between the Book of Mormon as hoax, and Book of Mormon as “most correct book” viewpoints.  He challenged Howard and I to try to present the inspired fiction theory in a way that might prove more plausible.  This is my response to that challenge.  It does not reject historicity outright, but leaves room for a flexible interpretation that could include both historical and non-historical elements within an inspired framework.

Embracing Contradictory Evidence

Dallin H. Oaks said, concerning the historicity of the Book of Mormon, that neither side could adequately prove or disprove it.  On the one hand, we have implausibilities and anachronisms that lead the Smithsonian Institution and almost all other secular observers to reject Book of Mormon historicity outright.   But then we also have the remarkable statements from witnesses of the plates and angels, as well as some spectacular internal evidence’s of the Book of Mormon’s ancient origins.  Elder Oaks described this contradictory situation as “a draw” that can only be broken by an appeal to the Holy Ghost.

It is our position that secular evidence can neither prove nor disprove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Its authenticity depends, as it says, on a witness of the Holy Spirit. Our side will settle for a draw, but those who deny the historicity of the Book of Mormon cannot settle for a draw.

In spite of what Elder Oaks said about accepting a draw, most people choose one side or the other.  We often hear: “Either Joseph Smith was the greatest prophet, OR he was a complete fraud!”  If members have felt the witness of the Holy Ghost, they assume this means the book must be historically accurate, in addition to being spiritually true.  But even some who have felt a witness of the Holy Ghost, begin to doubt that witness when faced with contradictions and implausibilities, assuming God could not be the author of anything that wasn’t historically perfect.

Is it really necessary to choose between these two extremes?  Mormons believe in embracing all truth.  What if there is truth on both sides?  It would be wrong to reject the wisdom of the Smithsonian Institution’s position if it contained some truth, just as it would be wrong to reject Joseph Smith’s witness if that is true.  Scientists don’t reject quantum mechanics because it contradicts Newtonian physics.  They live with the contradiction without rejecting either theory until further knowledge is gained.  Personally, I am content to embrace the contradictions which surround the Book of Mormon.  But I enjoy imagining ways in which these contradictions might be resolved.   The following theory allows me to take the Book of Mormon at face value, as a work of contradiction and mixed influences: real history, 19th century theological understandings, pure revelation, and invention.

Book of Mormon Translation Similar to Book of Abraham Translation

Handout of a scroll identified by Italian professor Perani as the world's oldest complete scroll of the Hebrew Torah in Bologna

The Torah: A Pseudodepigraphic Text

David Bokovoy, a faithful LDS scholar, recently advocated a theory of the Book of Abraham which accepts it as a pseudodepigraphic text written not by Abraham, but by Joseph Smith under the influence of the Holy Ghost.  Pseudodepigraphic texts are writings attributed to one person, but really written by someone else.  The word is often used to discuss books of the Bible which were written centuries after their attributed authors died.  Bokovoy argues that the Book of Abraham contains Hellenistic Jewish elements also contained in the Book of Genesis, and thus must be considered pseudodepigraphic, because it would be impossible for a historical Abraham to have written it.  Additionally, many LDS scholars have come to the conclusion that the Egyptian scrolls were not the source material for the Book of Abraham, as Joseph Smith claimed.  Instead, the Book of Abraham is considered a pure revelation, inspired by the idea of Abraham in Egypt which Joseph explored after he came in contact with the scrolls.

Since many faithful LDS scholars have come to accept the Book of Abraham as a revelation, a pseudodepigraphic text written by Joseph Smith, what is stopping us from viewing the Book of Mormon the same way?  Witnesses to the translation of the Book of Mormon claimed Joseph Smith did not translate directly from the plates, but most often from a seer stone.  This also corresponds to the theory that Joseph Smith did not translate the Book of Abraham directly from the scrolls.

What About the Plates and Angels?:  Crutches for Faith

stoneandbook

Unlike the Book of Abraham and its facsimiles, we cannot compare any original source material for the Book of Mormon.  Additionally, the source material was presented to Joseph Smith by an angel, not by a traveling salesman.  This story makes it difficult for us to dismiss the plates as mere “inspiration” in the same way the Egyptian scrolls were.  If the plates were really extraneous, why would God go to all the trouble of sending an angel, and giving him real golden plates meticulously etched by ancient scribes?

I believe the existence of plates and angels helped Joseph and his followers exercise faith in what was happening.  As mortals, we often need tangible, material things, crutches upon which we prop up our faith.  Do our bottles of consecrated oil contain real healing power?  No.  But the oil is a tangible token in which to place our faith, which does have power.  Joseph Smith’s seer stone was just a worthless rock he found in a ditch.  But because he believed in it, it became a portal to receive heavenly messages.   As Joseph Smith matured, he stopped using the seer stone, because he was mature and experienced enough to access heaven without it.

The “Study it Out in Your Mind” Method of Translation

D&C 9:8 provides evidence that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon using the creativity and inspiration of his own mind.  When Oliver Cowdery tried to translate the Book of Mormon, he failed because he thought the translation was simply going to be given to him, like reading English words off a page.  Instead, God told him he had to come up with the translation by “studying it out in his mind,” and then ask God if it was right.

But if Joseph and Oliver were really trying to translate reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics, what kind of authentic translation could they have come up with through their own personal study?  None whatsoever, as they had no experience with the language.  However, they could have invented a translation using their own imagination, and then asked God if it was right.  What kind of “study” was going on in Joseph’s mind?  I would submit that Joseph probably marshaled all his intellectual faculties and spiritual gifts in the process.  He used his clairvoyant gifts to try to access something deep in the past, a “voice crying from the dust.”  Then he filled it in with his own theological understandings, influenced by his 19th century culture, as well as elements from the KJV Bible, and perhaps his own imagination or stream of consciousness as well.  The result would be exactly what the Book of Mormon turned out to be: a book full of mixed influences, pure revelation, 19th century theological and cultural ideas, KJV language, strange passages that correspond with elements of real antiquity Joseph could not have known about, as well as imaginative passages.

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The Akashic Records

In 1908, a man named Levi H. Dowling wrote the Aquarian Gospel of Jesus Christ, which detailed events in Christ’s childhood, as well as his travels to places like India.  Dowling claimed to have received the book through the Akashic Records, which is a repository of spiritual truth on a metaphysical plane.  The Akashic Records is a popular theological concept in New Age and Eastern Religions, which sometimes call it The Book of Life, wherein all events that ever transpired are written.  Mormons have similar beliefs in a Book of Life which contains records of all our deeds, and angels “silent notes taking.”  Could it be that Joseph Smith was able to recreate the Book of Mormon record by delving into this spiritual repository of historical and spiritual wisdom?

 

The Agency of Angels

Basic_Gospel_Restorations_Moroni_Visitations_2All of this still doesn’t answer the question of why God went to all the trouble of creating these elaborate golden plates, which would have no relation to the finished product.   Surely God could have found a more efficient way to do this!  Maybe God didn’t meticulously plan all of this out.  Maybe it was Moroni’s idea.  Seeing angels is really not that big of a deal.  Lots of people see them, in and out of the church.  Here in the abbey ruins of Yorkshire, I’ve heard a number of accounts of people who have seen ghosts of monks who died centuries back.  The idea that Joseph was visited by an ancient Indian ghost is quite normal.  There are many accounts like this.  In many cases, these ghosts and specters seem to have their own personalities and strange behaviors.  This makes sense doctrinally.  Free agency is eternal, so it would follow that angels could also be imperfect, that they do things of their own free will, and behave in unexpected ways.

It is not so unusual that Joseph Smith’s Indian ghost Moroni behaved in a very strange way, showing Joseph Smith buried treasures, and reciting passages of scripture.  That was simply his manner.  But its strangeness may not be a reflection of God’s ways, but on the randomness of angelic agency.  Joseph may not have known what to make of it all, but in the end, he was able to construct a narrative that helped him understand it all, in a way which encompassed his previous doctrinal understandings and assumptions and inventions about Native American history.  If Joseph Smith had lived in China, perhaps he would have been visited by angels from ancient China who showed him buried artifacts and inspired him to write an account of Christ in ancient China.

Conclusion

I believe Joseph Smith’s strange story could have been the result of his very peculiar encounter with a particular angel, which inspired a narrative that included many influences: Joseph’s 19th century theological understandings, his clairvoyant gifts, supernatural encounters, revelations from the Holy Ghost, invention and imagination.  In short, exactly what the Book of Mormon is: an inspired book of scripture, similar to the Bible, psudepigraphic, with a mixture of modern theology and clairvoyant illusions to real antiquity.  I know of no other theory can really account for the many anachronisms and implausibilities, as well as the evidence of witnesses to the angels and plates, and ancient elements within the text.

Questions:

  • Is there any “middle ground” between those who consider the Book of Mormon a hoax, and “the most correct book?”
  • Could the Smithsonian Institute, and the Church both be right about the Book of Mormon?
  • Is this Semi-Historical Book of Mormon Theory more or less plausible than other theories?
  • Can you live with contradiction, or must you interpret the Book of Mormon as either “most correct book” or hoax?

44 Responses to A Case for a Semi-Historical Book of Mormon

  1. New Iconoclast on April 30, 2014 at 8:53 AM

    My feelings on this are complex, as I tend to be pretty empirical (“Show me!”) in most things (in honor of my Missouri ancestors, I guess). But I came into the Church through a strong spiritual experience with the Book of Mormon and the Restoration.

    I don’t feel it’s necessary that it be 100% historical, and even if it were, I don’t necessarily think there would be evidence of it scattered all over the Americas. The DNA of a small population could easily be hidden and diluted among a larger group over the course of centuries; they may or may not have left cultural or architctural artifacts that would connect directly to the BoM (so those cities may or may not be BoM cities); they may not have been nearly as important in the scope of Mesoamerican settlement and growth as they were to themselves. We don’t even know where they were located and there are a number of conflicting theories of varying degrees of sophistication. When I joined the Church, Sorenson had just come out with An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, so the mainstream Church was just starting to emerge from the Dark Ages of literal interpretation that had Moroni expiring in the Smiths’ farmyard just up the road from Cumorah.

    The same is true of Israel. Non-Biblical records refer to them in passing as a small bunch of semi-nomads up there in Canaan, nothing like the overblown reports they come up with about themselves. And it bears mentioning (which I was pondering, but didn’t say, as I sat in Gospel Doctrine last Sunday) that there is no archaeological evidence whatsoever that Israelites ever lived in Egypt, were enslaved there, or left en masse and wandered around an area the size of Massachusetts and Connecticut for 40 years. Not “little evidence.” Absolutely none, that there ever was an Exodus. That doesn’t prevent me from learning something important from the story of Moses.

    So, while I may or may not “agree” on each detail of your exposition, I certainly find the hypothesis more than plausible. I think that BoM historicity of some extent is certainly possible, since we know relatively little about early Mesoamerican peoples and cultures, and I’d go so far as to say that I certainly don’t believe that Joseph made the whole thing up. I think the jury is still out, and will continue to be out, and the most honest position I can take is to say that the LDS urban legends of literalness are probably not accurate, and the accusations of total fabrication are probably not accurate.

    I will say this about the tangentially-related Zelph. My take on that has always been that Joseph simply got tired of being asked to have some deep and meaningful spiritual explanation for everything, especially early in his prophetic career – and so when they encountered that skeleton, he was in one of his whimsical moods and he was simply yanking their chain. I’d bet he got a good laugh out of it, and is probably still shaking his head.

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  2. Howard on April 30, 2014 at 9:40 AM

    Religion is the mortalization of spirituality, as such religion is at best an approximation. Very little scripture is literal, most of it is allegory. So why should we or the so called “faithful” be threatened by a fictional BoM if it’s contents are inspired or revealed?

    Why the simple minded binary of literal or fraud? That binary (like most) is a trap. Certainly there is a case for something in between, I’ve made one for a BoM that is inspired fiction.

    Why would God write it as if it actually occurred? To bootstrap the restoration into the mortal world with apparent tangible creditability at a time that a “virtual world” meant one’s imagination and seeing was believing.

    Literal is for iron rodders who experience fear and vertigo at the thought of an out-of-mortal-body experience. It’s for those who believe reality is defined by materiality.

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  3. Douglas on April 30, 2014 at 12:48 PM

    #1 *(Bew Ucib( 0 expecting after some 3400 years to find archelogical evidence of the Exodus is unrealistic. If nothing else, the Siani is a well-travelled region, controlled by various powers that had little regard for those “pesky Hebrews”. Historical Revisionism is as old as when the new Pharaoh wiped out all references to his (or in the case of Hatshepsut, her) predecessor(s). What did one expect to find, a graffito in ancient Hebrew proclaiming “Arron wuz here?”. You might as well travel to the Ardennes region of Belgium and expect to find SS daggers, Mauser rifles, Stalhelms, and the rusting hulk of a King Tiger tank. Just as relevant militaria of a recent conflict has been diposed of (since old mines and artillery shells have a nasty habit of exploding), recycled, or found their way into collections throughout the world, so whatever deitrius of the children of Israel making their way out of Egypt would have been long picked up by various Bedouins et al. Absence of evidence is still NOT evidence of absence.
    I wonder if some two thousand or so years from you future archaelogists will dig up graffiti left behind by American GIs ca. 1944-5 and wax eloquently about the great legion of “Kilroy”. Interesting enough, it’s believed by many Egyptologists that much of the heiroglyphs are of the same nature.

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  4. Nate on April 30, 2014 at 2:14 PM

    Thanks for the comments New Iconoclast and Doug. When I’m trying to decide whether or not to believe in some scriptural event’s historicity, like the parting of the Red Sea for example, I remember that God is the same today and yesterday. I believe in a God of modern miracles. I’ve seen healings, heard prophesy and revelation fulfilled, met numerous people who have seen angels and had visions. I strongly believe that the heavens are opened. But have I ever seen or heard of God doing superhero type miracles like the parting of the Red Sea, or multiplying loaves and fishes? These miracles are inconsistent with the revealed God of Mormonism, even the God of Golden Plates. So I count myself a strong believer in miracles, even more so because I reject superhero miracles that minimize the power of God’s miracles today. (But I don’t reject them in church because God seems to enjoy being perceived as a superhero God by church membership, and I don’t want to spread doubt or contention. Only among bloggers who are already infected by so much doubt and contention.)

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  5. Nate on April 30, 2014 at 2:35 PM

    Howard, if it were up to me, I would really like to quit the Mormon church and become some sort of non-materialist Swedenbourgian. Your arguments always appeal to me. But the material God of Mormonism keeps me grounded and connected to clunky humanity, and I think there must be some virtue to that.

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  6. New Iconoclast on April 30, 2014 at 3:22 PM

    Douglas #3, I didn’t say I didn’t buy the Exodus, I said there wasn’t any archaeological evidence of it. Your contention that this is reasonable is prima facie ludicrous. Using the numbers in Exodus even conservatively, the people of Israel would have numbered something like 30% of the pre-Exodus population of Egypt, no matter which hypothetical time period you use. It would have been impossible for a people that large to a) live among foreigners and b) leave suddenly, without any record of their existence, in a place where ample records were kept and are yet extant. Yet thus it supposedly happened.

    You might as well travel to the Ardennes region of Belgium and expect to find SS daggers, Mauser rifles, Stalhelms[sic], and the rusting hulk of a King Tiger tank.

    People still find that stuff all the time. You don’t get out much, do you? I have a friend from Belarus; her grandparents’ farm was filled with detritus from the Nazi invasion and the Soviet counter offensives. Rifles and parts, shrapnel, shell casings, cartridge cases, buckles, belts, etc. Battlefields of the American Civil War turn up heaps and gobs of artifacts, even today, 150 years after the events. Pacific islands, some of the harshest climates on earth for artifact preservation, still hold everything from tank hulks to misplaced cases of Japanese rations to the bones of soldiers and executed prisoners. Shells from both World Wars are found, and sometimes detonate, with depressing regularity in the green fields of France.

    The Middle East is rich in the archaeological remnants of 10,000+ years of human habitation, including ample leavings of the peoples of Moses’ time. Yet there are no traces of an Exodus, and the legend thereof seems to have been strictly a Northern Kingdom organic myth.

    “Stahlhelms and Tiger tanks,” my mother’s maiden aunt.

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  7. Howard on April 30, 2014 at 3:34 PM

    Nate,
    God knows how to hook people using their craving and lust as martial arts turns one’s inertia against themselves. He used man’s lust for women to create polygamy that challenged women’s jealousy, possessiveness and selfishness designed to eventually refine them to be more Christlike and then turned it on married Mormon women that the brethren might be given the same opportunity to grow. OMG! Free love! Wife swapping! Noooo, transcending the inner 3 year old! Maturing the inner child!

    Well that stopped so the current version of “the only true church” particularly appeals to narrow minded prosperity gospel types (selfish, possessive) because it hooks their material cravings. Malls Not Lives! Is the chant of today’s true believers! Bless their hearts, they actually argue building buildings is building Zion and saving money will enable saving more lives later (a lot later if they have their way).

    The church has a long, long way to go. It has spiritually regressed since Joseph’s death and is enthusiastically marching in place going nowhere fast. Today the expressed attitude is humbly Christian but it’s behavior is more Pharisaical Mosaic only slightly and occasionally trending in the direction of the beatitudes. Some day they’ll rediscover the mighty change of heart and realize they have NO idea how to get there because it requires a conversational relationship with the Spirit to achieve!

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  8. hawkgrrrl on April 30, 2014 at 3:42 PM

    Nate: Love your post, and I agree. There are elements I choose to see as historical, or perhaps more accurately said, based on historical events and people, and there are other elements that seem more mythological, exaggerated, or symbolic – the types of stories all cultures have that are not accurate historically, but designed to tell a compelling narrative that is either important to create cultural identity or to explain a theological concept through a symbolic story (like Moses and the Exodus or Noah and the flood or Adam & Eve and the fall).

    I’ve been hanging on to an idea for a post about things my kids learned by reading Ether. Ether to me is a book of scripture that is very much like the OT: larger than life, telling some pretty crazy stories. Conversely, I see the Ammon cutting off the arms of the guys at Sebus as more of a “campfire story” or “fish tale,” a story that gets bigger with the telling that has become implausible through exaggeration.

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  9. Stargazer on April 30, 2014 at 4:49 PM

    I realize you guys are having a fun conversation, but I just wanted to say I really like the comparison to Newtonian physics vs. Relativity. Good one. Also, particle behavior vs. Wave behavior of EM radiation. Never really have had a problem with the possibility of inaccuracy in the telling. Probably b/c my dad has been telling fish stories for years.

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  10. Douglas on April 30, 2014 at 5:52 PM

    Nate – by drawing an analogy of what folks expect to find of events, like the Exodus, that are far more removed from our times than the example of the Ardennes Offensive (re: Battle of the Bulge) which you can actually find an abandoned KT tank (La Gelize, Belgium). Kinda hard to tow a 70-ton paperweight, so they converted it into a roadside museum. But that’s only about 70 years old itself. As interest and/or memory of WW2 fades, so might even this behemoth someday be cut up for scrap. That’s why, also, it’d be difficult to find evidence of the Battle of the Hill Cumorah, ca. 385 AD, even if we could locate it properly (near the old Smith farm, or somewhere in Honduras…?). Even with at least 120,000 casualties, at least on the Nephite side, between buzzards, worms, and salavagers, finding even an obsidian arrowhead would be dicey.

    As for the Exodus itself, there is a problem which also hasn’t been touched upon, under the category of (1) “many plain and precious things being removed” or (2) “Some old Jew put it there”. Many of the numbers cited in the Old Testament, including the population of Israel that Moses demanded Pharaoh let go, are themselves in great doubt. Three million? Granted, the Nile Valley supports a population some twenty times greater than that TODAY, but with the technology level and agricultural practices of the times (and not having the Aswan dam but chancing it on the Nile floods), a total population of three million might have been the upper limit, period, let alone for this pesky Semitic minority that the “Pharaoh that no longer knew Joseph” (likely a generation or two removed from the Hyksos rulers of Egypt that were probably distant relatives of the Israelites) was ‘convinced’ to let go. I guess that Moses had made Ramses II an offer he couldn’t refuse, LoL.

    There is yet another reason, assuming that the historical events weren’t somewhat embellished…for Pharoah, as depicted in the 1956 Cecil B. DeMille movie, to admit that “Moses’ God IS God”, is tatamount to not only conceding defeat but virutal treason. If Jehovah had indeed taken Pharaoh to the proverbial woodshed to get Israel free, it’d be little wonder that afterwards that measures would be taken to eradicate memory of that catastrophe. Those familiar with Soviet Union history should recall how Nikita Khrushchev, in only a few years after Stalin “died”, managed not only to denounce dear ol’ “Uncle Joe”, but even got Stalin’s remains quietly removed from Lenin’s tomb and buried in an ummarked grave. This sort of “memory wipe” was likewise done to Nikita himself in 1964, only instead of the cheerful Communist custom of dismissal with a bullet in the skull, pensioned off the shoe-banging Premier to his dacha, to be hardly mentioned in polite Soviet society until after 1991 when his son Sergei felt it safe to stump for the memory of his old man.

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  11. Joel on April 30, 2014 at 6:05 PM

    Interesting post, Nate. I think your most radical idea in here is angel agency. That would be an interesting thread to pull on.

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  12. MB on April 30, 2014 at 7:15 PM

    My experience is that all written history, modern and ancient, secular and religious, is unavoidably semi-historical.

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  13. Jared on April 30, 2014 at 9:28 PM

    After reading this post and comments I come away with a better understanding of something that has been on my mind for a long time. What I’m about to write isn’t meant to be critical in any way.

    Regarding faith and unbelief we’re taught the following:

    “it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.” Moroni 7:37

    This post and comments express much unbelief. Faith is present, but it seems to be on a diet.

    I encourage any who are interested to do as Brigham Young taught:

    “When [we] believe the principles of the Gospel and attain unto faith, which is a gift of God, he adds more faith, adding faith to faith. … But [we] must believe the truth, obey the truth, and practice the truth, to obtain the power of God called faith”

    I hope unbelief will be put on a diet so that faith can increase. This is done by feasting on the words of Christ, repenting of our unbelief, and pleading with the Lord for the gift of greater faith.

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  14. hawkgrrrl on April 30, 2014 at 10:00 PM

    But faith in what? The ability of men to accurately record history, even when it wasn’t recorded at the time? Or the ability of God to use sometimes mythical stories to create communities and teach principles?

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  15. Nate on April 30, 2014 at 10:36 PM

    Jared says, “faith seems to be on a diet.” That’s a great line! Certainly I recognize that much of the bloggernacle, including this post, inhabits a grey zone, a mixture of faith and doubt. But even faith on a diet can be just what some people need, who aren’t ready for the great feast of powerful belief that works mighty miracles. People like myself have lost their faith in some of the orthodox paradigms of the church, so we are trying to figure out what to put their faith in, or else how to live with greater doubt.

    For someone who has no doubts about the historicity of the Book of Mormon, my post could probably be damaging, because here is this intelligent guy (me!), who tries to be a good member, but can’t seem to believe all these things that seem so obvious to others. The iron rodder might say “what am I missing? Maybe I’m being naive,” and thus he sinks into the vortex of doubt where I am living. Or he might become dismissive of my worldly doubts, criticizing my blindness to the self-evident reality of Book of Mormon historicity, which forces him to become judgemental and defensive. Either way, the post has a negative effect.

    But my post is really not written for these people. If anyone is reading Wheat and Tares, it’s because they’ve already been exposed to much more damaging doubt than my post. We’re all trying to believe, or decide to believe or disbelieve in the Book of Mormon, in the face of all the criticism we’ve been exposed to about the anachronisms and implausibilities of the text. What I am saying is that you can believe BOTH the Smithsonian Institute, and the prophet! I’m advocating more belief! You don’t have to doubt science, nor do you have to doubt religion. Even if there are contradictions, it’s not so important.

    Admittedly, living in this paradoxical state is difficult, even for me sometimes, so maybe it’s not good to promote it. This post went through several iterations before I felt good about posting it, and I can’t totally say with confidence that the Holy Ghost ratified what I wrote. But it’s a personal journey that I wanted to share which may be of some benefit to some people.

    But Jared, thank you for challenging me, because I think you are right that faith is on a diet, and we are living below our privildges. I believe in the power of faith and I believe in miracles in our day, and it’s probably true that many of the things that I am thinking and doing are maybe not the most conducive to expanding my own personal faith or the faith of others. I need to be reminded to always try to spread light rather than darkness.

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  16. Douglas on April 30, 2014 at 10:42 PM

    #14 – Myth, or somewhat poorly transcribed? Take Jonah and the “Great Fish” (IDK where the idea that it was a whale that had a taste for errant prophets took hold). From what we know of potential candidates of sea-going critters that could have dined of ol’ Jonah (oversized fishes, sharks, Orcas, or other whales), most don’t actually have the ability to swallow a man hole regardless of how big they get. So if literally gobbled up, Johan is masticated to bits. And even IF somehow he gets down that sea creature’s gullet intact, he either drowns or otherwise suffocates in mere minutes, and after THREE DAYS his remains are mush and bone fragments. Now, even in such a state of physical dissolution, could Jonah have been resurrected? Well, just as Christ’s disciples, when Lazarus was up for likewise coming back from the dead, remarked that he “stanketh”, so the nature forces of decay and digestion were likely operative on the corpus indelecti of the runaway prophet. Since the story is a type of Christ (his death, period in the Spirit world, and resurrection), it’d have to have happened to be valid, especially for the Savior himself to quote it. Or was somehow Jonah kept perfectly intact and alive even though imprison in the belly of the ‘fish’? The “Ancient Aliens” crowd, especially the Greek guy with the wild haircut, explain it as captured by some ancient alien submarine and held in a tight brig.

    I can’t account for whether the story of Jonah is more allegory than fact. If fact, then there were forces at work that I can’t truly fathom. Nor can I, as a Mechanical Engineer with 30 years professional experience and two Master degrees, give explanation as to what Elisha could dissolve into a bucket of water that would float an axe head. Suffice it that in all these cases there were forces at work that I can’t explain. I would find it hard to believe that Heavenly Father would “Gild the Lilly” just to teach us; there enough truth for Him to rely on without pulling a fast one.

    Heck, it’s been only 82 years, and no one knows for sure if the Babe “called his shot” in the 1932 World Series. Just as time goes by the number of hot dogs gulped down and beers drank in between games of a doubleheader increase. And that’s just baseball….

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  17. Howard on May 1, 2014 at 8:52 AM

    Pollyanna denial is an LDS family dysfunction, it is NOT faith, it is simply an ego defense method of bracketing rational thought setting it aside along with other anxieties to reduce cognitive dissonance while enduring another dose of correlated gospel!

    The so called “faithful” insist literal belief and blind obedience to priesthood “authority” and bright line rules are necessary to be faithful and unfortunately some of the Pharisees in charge tacitly and sometimes not so tacitly reenforce this hearsay folklore in part because fundamentalist churches have better growth rates meaning more tithing available to build more buildings. But this is not the gospel!

    Attempts like this one to broaden the range of allowable belief are NOT founded in unbelief, quite the opposite!!! They are founded in belief and in the hope of belief and they should not be looked down upon as being “not enough” for they may well represent a willingness to believe something far more spiritual than a literal old history book!

    Open your eyes! If literal belief is so important to the LDS faith ask yourselves why the truth regarding it’s controversial history and doctrine have been hidden under carefully crafted by misleading correlated images! Oh I see, only certain literal beliefs are important and only the Pharisees among us have been granted that discernment!

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  18. Brian on May 1, 2014 at 8:58 AM

    “But Jared, thank you for challenging me, because I think you are right that faith is on a diet, and we are living below our privildges.”

    Nate-don’t give in to Jared’s judgmental attitude towards those who don’t have his “knowledge”. This is your faith, your beliefs. If your belief enhances your life, rejoice in it. To me, your views are based in reality, neither darkness nor fantasy. That you can believe in god, given your knowledge of things, is a gift, from whom I am not sure. Be thankful and enjoy if it makes you happy.

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  19. ji on May 1, 2014 at 1:37 PM

    Howard,

    Do you rally hate the LDS “faithful” as much as your postings make it seem?

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  20. Jared on May 1, 2014 at 2:02 PM

    14 & 15 Hawkgrrrl & Nate-

    Both of you are asking the same question: “But faith in what?” and “we are trying to figure out what to put [our] faith in”

    I’ll attempt to answer these questions. First from the perspective of scripture, second from my experience.

    1. A well known verse of scripture makes it clear that in order to receive a blessing we need to obey the law associated with that blessing (D&C 130:20-21).

    2. Another verse explains in detail the state of mind and quality of heart we need to have in order to receive the Holy Ghost (2 Nephi 31:13).

    3. The power of faith and doubt is something each of us struggle with. However, we can increase in faith if we will be patient and diligently seek for the gifts of the Spirit. (Matt 14:29-31 and D&C 46:8-9). Faith is a choice.

    4. We also need to better understand the laws of a fallen telestial kingdom. We are subject to opposition. To be more clear we are subject to opposition in “all things” (2 Nephi 2:11). That means opposition exist, for a purpose, in the Book of Abraham, the Book of Mormon, fallible prophets, a fallible church, our history, etc—opposition in all things—means what it says. The only way to deal with the fallen world and fallen flesh is to be “born again” to some degree and then move along the straight and narrow path and increase in faith until the perfect day.

    To recap:

    1. God works by law
    2. We need to develop a believing heart
    3. We need to cast away our doubt when it surfaces
    4. We need to embrace and understand the scriptures

    Second, My experience with these things is similar to Alma the younger and the sons of Mosiah. An angel appeared to them. They didn’t doubt thereafter. They could have been like Laman and Lemuel and eventually reject all the manifestations the Lord gave them, but they didn’t. They grew to be mighty men of faith.

    My experience with things Spiritual is like their experience. I was suddenly and unexpectedly brought into a situation where the veil was partially lifted, what I learned didn’t leave me room to doubt, thereafter.

    That was almost 50 years ago. Since then, I’ve tried to be a true follower of Christ. I’ve been rewarded with many manifestations of the Spirit along the way. I don’t doubt at all, I plan and I hope to be true and faithful for the rest of my life.

    To recap:
    We need to have manifestations of the Spirit to have a testimony. Thereafter, we need to stay close to the Lord and have our testimony refreshed and increased.

    Summary

    The questions was asked, What do we put our faith in? This question is clearly answered in the following scripture.

    9 Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.
    10 And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them.

    (Book of Mormon | Mosiah 4:9 – 10)

    If we will follow the counsel in these verses we will be given manifestations of the Spirit and will know for ourselves the truth by the Spirit.

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  21. Jared on May 1, 2014 at 2:34 PM

    #18 Brian- It appears your position is to give high fives to those who are in your camp. Anyone else who sees things differently you label judgmental. I respect all points of view. I may politely disagree and encourage to greater faith. Apparently, you see that as being judgmental. I don’t.

    Elder Oaks wrote: “it is our position that secular evidence can neither prove nor disprove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Its authenticity depends, as it says, on a witness of the Holy Spirit.” I’m in the same camp as Elder Oaks.

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  22. Howard on May 1, 2014 at 2:56 PM

    I have received profound personal witness that the BoM is inspired fiction. But, your mileage may vary.

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  23. Brian on May 1, 2014 at 3:24 PM

    Jared–I am sure your response to me was also void of judgment. No one who believes in an anthropomorphic god is “in my camp”. It is obvious from your post that your faith is superior to Nate’s and some of the other posters because you said their faith is “on a diet”. You believe it. Why not own it? You and Elder Oaks.

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  24. Nate on May 1, 2014 at 4:52 PM

    Jared, I agree with everything you suggest, with the exception of the first point. I should probably do a separate post about this topic, but the scripture you mention, D&C 130:20-21 has caused me to question some of the fundamental assumptions of orthodox belief in the church.

    “Any blessing we recieve is because of obedience to the law upon it which the blessing was predicated.” This was just a random statement of Joseph Smith, but it got added to the Doctrine and Covenants, and in my opinion, has done much damage there. The scripture is a basic declaration of the supremacy of the Law of the Harvest. You reap what you sow. The problem with it is that it says “any blessing.” But in this life, God makes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. The scripture contradicts the Law of Grace, which states “I will bless whom I will bless, I will forgive whom I will forgive.” The scripture gives us a false sense that we can completely control God and his blessings to us by figuring out all the laws upon which each blessing we seek is predicated. It takes away grace, and leaves us with nothing but works.

    The spiritual reality I live in is more unstable. In my world, the wicked often prosper, and the righteous are often cursed. When you see this, it sometimes causes one to rethink some of the simple assumptions of the gospel, like the scripture in D&C 130.

    Bringing this back to Book of Mormon historicity, the orthodox view is that God’s truth and God’s law are simple and self-evident. God brought forth the Book of Mormon, He sent witnesses, He confirms it’s truth with the Holy Ghost. How can you doubt? In it, the gospel is stated plainly: “If you keep my commandments you shall prosper in the land.” Faith, repentance, enduring to the end, it all seems so simple.

    But all of this starts to break down when you begin to see that the Book of Mormon is not in any way self-evidently true, but rather a collection of absurdity upon absurity. You begin to see that like Christ, it is a stumbling block, a rock of offense, a stone which the builders reject. “The gentiles mock us because of our words,” as Mormon says. We see that God calls the weak and unlearned, and gives scriptures that are “unlearned,” the “foolishness of God which is greater than the wisdom of men.”

    So in order for someone like myself, infected by worldly wisdom, to appreciate the Book of Mormon, I must go back to the principles of the apostle Paul, embracing the arbitrary grace of God, and recognize that the church itself can be a “thorn in the flesh.”

    God bless those who still see the gospel as self-evident, and who exercise mighty faith in it. They are God’s children. They shall judge the world. Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed.

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  25. Nate on May 1, 2014 at 5:10 PM

    Brian, thanks for your defense. I think there is a problem here with tone. Jared is an orthodox believer, and of course he should feel free to come here and advocate his position. The problem is that his position “feels” judgemental to us, because the orthodox paradigm has drawn a line in the sand. I “know” thus and such is true. So it’s not a question of a discussion. It’s a question of calling people to repentance.

    But we have to remember that the church IS orthodox. The Book of Mormon is a call to repentance in the manner that Jared is doing. So I think we should be very careful about lisening and welcoming the orthodox here to call us to repentance, because that is their perogative, and Mormonism is about “knowing” that thus and such is true.

    And even though Jared is speaking from a position of certainty, and the authority of the church behind him, a position which feels inherently judgemental to outsiders, Jared is still trying to articulate his position with compassion and gentleness.

    Once in awhile, it’s good to be reminded that what it means to be a member of the true church, is not to discuss or argue about things, or speculate on doctrines as I have done, but to be called to repentance by authoritative statements, like the one I disagree with in D&C130. I may disagree with it, but I respect its authority, and bow to it as the paradigm which the Lord has chosen to give to His people in this dispensation.

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  26. Nate on May 1, 2014 at 5:20 PM

    Howard, as much as I agree with some of your criticisms of the church, I think you lack compassion. We live in a fallen world, and even though we think we are living the “higher law” we are probably just living another kind of lower law, just a step above the Law of Moses. Your law is too advanced, too far beyond practical application in the current church.

    If you lived in Moses’s time, would you criticize the Law of Moses, and constantly complain about how inferior it was to Christ’s law? Maybe you would be able to see that it was “lesser” but you would wait until Christ came to authoritatively fulfill the Law.

    So likewise in our day, we have a series of prophets, not unlike all the late prophets of the Old Testament, who spent their time defending the Law of Moses. Our prophets are spending their time defending the Law of Joseph Smith as interpreted through correlation. But why should we complain if it is not perfect? We must wait upon God to call another prophet like Joseph Smith, and give him authority to invite the church to a higher level, like the one you are advocating.

    I think you have good opinions and ideas, and it’s great to share them. But I think it should be alongside correlation, with due respect given to those God has given authority, waiting upon them to add new to the lesser law which they preach to the general membership.

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  27. Brian on May 1, 2014 at 5:52 PM

    Jared, there really is no reason to feel bad about dissing someone else’s faith or belief. After all, that is exactly what Holland did a couple of weeks ago with his infamous Marigold comment in general conference.

    Like you I am sure he didn’t mean it to be “critical”. That’s not why critical things are said, huh? Well, not all critical things.

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  28. Daniel Ortner on May 1, 2014 at 5:55 PM

    The major problem I have with your theory is that it suggests that God deceived not only one Prophet but at least two and made them believe that something was historical when it was not. There’s no evidence that Moroni thought the stories of Jared and his brother were anything other than historical, likewise with Joseph Smith. Indeed, Moroni testified that the words he recorded of the brother of Jared were those that were written down in that time:

    1 And the Lord commanded the brother of Jared to go down out of the mount from the presence of the Lord, and write the things which he had seen; and they were forbidden to come unto the children of men until after that he should be lifted up upon the cross; and for this cause did king Mosiah keep them, that they should not come unto the world until after Christ should show himself unto his people.
    2 And after Christ truly had showed himself unto his people he commanded that they should be made manifest.
    3 And now, after that, they have all dwindled in unbelief; and there is none save it be the Lamanites, and they have rejected the gospel of Christ; therefore I am commanded that I should hide them up again in the earth.
    4 Behold, I have written upon these plates the very things which the brother of Jared saw; and there never were greater things made manifest than those which were made manifest unto the brother of Jared.
    5 Wherefore the Lord hath commanded me to write them; and I have written them. And he commanded me that I should seal them up; and he also hath commanded that I should seal up the interpretation thereof; wherefore I have sealed up the interpreters, according to the commandment of the Lord. (Book of Mormon, Ether, Ether 4)

    I do not believe in a God that would give a false witness to two prophets merely to bring forward some inspiring material to the world.

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  29. Jared on May 1, 2014 at 6:48 PM

    Nate-I’m trying to take in the numerous facets of your internet personality. On there surface they seem incompatible, but I’m beginning to understand.

    It appears you have many gifts from God. It may take a journey of humility before you can have the kind of growth Spiritually you already have in other areas. My experience is just the opposite.

    I agree completely with your comments in #24. Regarding D&C 130:20-21: This is a case in point illustrating the importance of not studying a verse of scripture in isolation. The more I study the scriptures the more it becomes apparent to me that the prophets/writers possessed differing degrees of experience and understanding.

    I think Brigham Young had this in mind when he said that the time will come when we need to rely more on the Spirit than the scriptures.

    Thanks for #25.

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  30. Howard on May 1, 2014 at 7:10 PM

    Nate wrote:

    If you lived in Moses’s time, would you criticize the Law of Moses, and constantly complain about how inferior it was to Christ’s law?

    The gospel is a progression and people were being successfully lead out of an eye for an eye world back then. No they obviously weren’t ready for Christ’s law. The higher law was lessened to the Law of Moses because the people of the time couldn’t live it but later increased to Christianity as taught by Jesus including the sermon on the mount and plain. That was more than 2,000 years ago! Don’t you think it’s time to give it a try?

    Since then we were given the BoM (Why? If we’re so fallen and incapable?) and we know there is much more waiting in the sealed portion. So like Moses’ people the offspring of the restored church were allowed to regress as the almost all of the Law of Consecration and Plural Marriage was withdrawn and “thus saith the Lord” revelation died with Joseph.

    So here we sit. The Jews wandered for 40 years and we tend to think of it as being a long time but we’ve wandered 170 years since Joseph died and traded correlation and inspiration for the divinity he left us! My question is who do you think should lead us out of this mire, the brethren or the members? I don’t see any of them leading us forward spiritually or even returning us to plateau where Joseph left us, we just seem to be marching in place in a mire.

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  31. Jared on May 1, 2014 at 7:19 PM

    I reread #29 and thought I had better add an explanation of what I mean by a” journey of humility”. All who approach God must do so in humility. Humility comes in many ways. My first experience with humility came when I was facing combat in Viet Nam.

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  32. Nate on May 1, 2014 at 11:11 PM

    Daniel, you make a good point, and I’m particularly drawn to the kind of sobriety in the writing of Moroni, which really has the ring of something that has been sincerely written. One of the remarkable things about the Book of Mormon is that it has a character which is unique in the revelations of Joseph Smith. It is very God-fearing, very heavy with a sense of duty, a kind of suffocating desire to cry repentance, the “oh that I were an angel” flavor of the book. The D&C isn’t really like this, it is more matter-of-fact. All this points to the sincerity of Joseph Smith’s revelation in the Book of Mormon, as if he was tapping into something very real. To me, this makes the paradox of the book’s absurdity all the more profound.

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  33. hawkgrrrl on May 1, 2014 at 11:20 PM

    Jared – FWIW, I appreciate your perspective and that you strive to be respectful of differing viewpoints.

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  34. Jared on May 2, 2014 at 7:35 AM

    Hawkgrrrl- it means a lot

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  35. Howard on May 2, 2014 at 9:30 AM

    I’ve been pondering your comment Nate that I lack compassion with regard to the low spiritual state of today’s church given the higher level gospel we’ve been given. It puzzles me but perhaps not you or your audience given my (non LDS like) tendency to address issues like this using unvarnished truth. Harsh perhaps but deliberately so not as a result a lack or understanding or feeling but rather aimed at confronting the Pollyanna denial that is so respectfully enabled and perpetuated within the LDS community. So for clarity I’d like to know what you mean by it. Compassion means sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. Which sufferings or misfortunes am I lacking concern or pity for?

    I see today’s church as suffering and unfortunate that we have regressed spiritually from the richness, the spiritual peak and the revelation Joseph provided and I pity us for it. Many are not being spiritually fed by a correlated gospel that looks and tastes like a mass produced cardboard sandwich. Some level of correlation may well be necessity (Without the misleading implied lies please!) for beginners but the gospel is a gourmet feast not a dried out box lunch so lets set the table using linen, china and silver, pour the wine and allow the conversation to flow!

    “Active” What a giant diversion from spirituality! Faithful members are expected to be “active”. Meaning their lives are filled with tasks and activities! Be still and KNOW I am God! We couldn’t be heading in a more opposite direction from spirituality here!

    We are attending a pedestrian church masquerading as an exclusive club! Today Pope Francis sets the high water mark for well known spiritual leaders yet on paper we enjoy far more gospel. I have a great deal of compassion for LDS members, that’s what I work to change it.

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  36. handlewithcare on May 2, 2014 at 12:48 PM

    Is that a ‘seer stone’ in your picture, because if it is, my neighbour has a whole string of those hung up in her back garden!
    Love the post, and the discussion. It brings a lot of people ‘in’ who might otherwise find themselves ‘out’. It allows me to be a faithful doubter, and leaves me thinking that Joseph Smith was even more awesome.
    Sheesh, the ‘marigold’ comment. Makes you wish there was more correlation.
    Nate, sometimes people just need to vent. But thanks for the reminder. It seems to have brought an end to discussion.

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  37. New Iconoclast on May 2, 2014 at 1:35 PM

    Howard, this is a half-formed thought (and I’m trying not to be too literal! :) ) but I wonder if the world is so impressed by Pope Francis because he is such a contrast, first, to his immediate successor, and second, to the general tenor of the history of Catholic leadership. Time will tell – time and real steps to correct the pedophilia issue.

    As someone who was an active Catholic and old enough (14) to have been paying serious attention at the death of Paul VI in 1979, the same fuss was made inside the RC Church about John Paul I, and after his untimely death, John Paul II. It was only in the last five or ten years of his papacy that JPII (‘scuse me, “Pope St. JPII”) was so Bensonesque that people forgot his charisma and spiritual pull.

    Francis is such a breath of fresh air that he seems like a new thing – and he is different as popes go, but he’s certainly not any more a spiritual leader than Thomas Monson. We’re just used to President Monson, so he no longer rocks our world like he would had he been an anonymous member of the College of Cardinals who suddenly emerged to be Pope.

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  38. Hedgehog on May 2, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    hwc: “Is that a ‘seer stone’ in your picture, because if it is, my neighbour has a whole string of those hung up in her back garden!”
    I think a seer stone is a stone with a hole in, as in Spiderwick Chronicles…

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  39. Howard on May 2, 2014 at 5:58 PM

    Ji,
    I just saw your up-thread comment. No, I don’t hate the faithful!

    Perhaps the irony escapes you when I refer to the so-called “faithful” rather than simply the faithful. It is an odd self identifying label because it can be used offensively as a tripple entendre to simultaneously imply the user is faithful, others are not therefore the user is better than.

    New Iconoclast,
    I appreciate your view and certainly some of it is the contrast you speak of. I have a friend who lives in Rome and she speaks of the politics involved in his choice to put a new face on the church! Certainly both are true but he is who he is regardless of the circumstances that surround him and what do we observe him doing? The images are suggestive of the kinds of things Jesus would be doing.

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  40. Nate on May 3, 2014 at 1:42 AM

    Howard, I see compassion also as understanding from others perspectives. It’s not just about pity, but also about indulgence. And I think you may be underestimating people like President Monson, who may not be as profound a spiritual guru as someone else, but who nevertheless has lived his life in constant contact with the spirit, which is always whispering things like, “go visit that person,” and that person prayed him there. He has hundreds of stories like that, and it wasn’t to give that person some profound message, but simply a smile, a blessing of comfort, a kind word. Maybe such simple service is nothing more than helping people cope within their imperfect paradigms, without expecting too much of them.

    I think you are kind of like a gnostic, but not a true gnostic, because a gnostic would not expect a large organization like the church to embrace gnosticism. Gnosticism is esoteric, a secret, an “open secret” but a secret none the less. When you make insightful comments on this blog, you offer the glimmer of this gnostic path which those who have eyes to see will see. But I think you go beyond the mark by criticizing those who are more materially minded. If God did not make them birds, you should not criticize them for not flying. And they of course have access to the spiritual world through a glass darkly, through the symbol of their literal and material beliefs, and they exercise mighty faith in obedience to the commandments they have been given, and they do feel God’s spirit. They have the Proclamation on the Family hanging from the wall, and they bear weepy testimonies of the Savior. That is actually real.

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  41. Howard on May 3, 2014 at 7:27 AM

    Nate,
    I love your insight and your gentle attitude but people are not birds, their potential for growth is much greater, potentially unlimited. I grew up in a church that believed as man is God once was. It’s wonderful that the spirit whispers to TSM who to visit, he does the same for my home teacher. God has nothing else to share with the world today through his only authorized spokesman? Regarding gnosticism wasn’t Jesus kind of gnostic?

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  42. Nate on May 3, 2014 at 9:45 AM

    I agree that each individual’s potential is unlimited eternally, but also that we have to have milk before meat, and basically a collective organization like a church will be about milk as it focuses on the common denominator. But there will also be a strand of esoteric spirituality for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, the “open secret” they mention in gnosticism. I think Jesus was gnostic, and his manner of preaching was very oblique and not understood by almost anyone. He allowed his teachings to mislead even his closest followers, who had no clue that he was going to die and be resurrected, even though he had been saying, “I will destroy this temple and build it up again in three days.” They took his phrase literally, not symbolically. So likewise we take many things in the scriptures literally. But Jesus intends it that way, because that is how He stated them. “Let he who has ears to hear let him hear.”

    You might mention Jesus rails against Pharisees, and that would be a good point. But I don’t think the church is in a state of apostasy. Rather, I think the church is like Jesus’ 12 disciples, who are trying to understand and follow his words in an incomplete and imperfect way, which Jesus indulges and loves.

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  43. Howard on May 3, 2014 at 11:06 AM

    I think the church is like Jesus’ 12 disciples, who are trying to understand I think this is a very good analogy. As a result it follows the church or the brethren should not be taken too literally for they are also struggling to see through the glass clearly and at best may only see slightly better than the members. In the end the spirit is our best guide. Follow the spirit. In the absence of the spirit follow the prophet.

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  44. Greg on July 15, 2014 at 9:34 AM

    Is anybody reading this? Can I get permission from the author to plagiarize a few sentences for another post in the nacle?

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