Book of Mormon- does a literal history matter?

Public forum to discuss questions about Mormon history and doctrine.
Ann
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Re: Book of Mormon- does a literal history matter?

Post by Ann » 29 Mar 2016, 10:14

I wish leaders would make more explicit space for non-literal believers. All I can think of is Jeffrey Holland's 2007 (?) PBS interview.

My college-age kids and their friends are struggling with this issue - good kids, intelligent, energetic, return missionaries. They don't have anyone making it clear that non-literal believers are welcome.

I can picture a survey among lapsed and distanced members in ten years asking, in so many words, "What went wrong? How could you come back?" I think BOM historicity will be in the top five and it will just be too late for many. These kids are making decisions now about where to go to school, whom to marry, etc., that have big implications for their connectedness to the church.
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Heber13
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Re: Book of Mormon- does a literal history matter?

Post by Heber13 » 29 Mar 2016, 14:53

napsack wrote:So let me maybe restate what I am hearing here. The LDS church (or really any religion) doesn't need to be 100% "true". Rather, we should seek out good things in all forms and from all sources, and if the LDS doctrine and scripture do that for us, then it is serving its purpose.
While I think most members would agree...we should find truth and goodness wherever and it is of God...I also have found they hedge by stating it is safe to accept what the prophets say is the truth, while other sources may have truth and may have the devil mingling truth with lies to deceive and confound.

If you are stuck in trying to reconcile what the church leaders say with a progressive and middle-way mormonism, I think that will be hard to reconcile. Unless you read Bushman, Givens, and some other faithful members who understand the conundrums leading to faith crises. The simplest teaching from church leaders is that it is safest to just stay on LDS.ORG and not read other sources. But that is not what all the church leaders do, as you can see by how many quote CS Lewis or other outside sources of truth. I think you have to start letting go of the iron rod, in order to know how a liahona works.

Perhaps there is more risk in venturing outside church for truth, because you may find it actually way better than you thought. But that is the reward for taking risks. You become more awake and aware. There is good stuff outside mormonism..and a whole heckuva lotta stuff mormonism borrows from outside sources that is really not so different, even if we put our twist on it. Embrace goodness, wherever you find it. Let go of fear-mongers warning you to not use agency, but stay safe in the fold without any deep exploration. Some people seem to thrive in a safe environment and have no need of anything else. But for me, and people like me...it would just be a shallow testimony, unsustainable when the winds of life come. God sometimes kicks us out of Stage 3 to go on a spiritual walkabout and learn.
napsack wrote:I totally accept this idea, and I have always felt that truth exists in all religions and in all studies. By this logic, though, there is no reason to be a member of the LDS church over any other church or no church altogether. Really, the big problem here is that the LDS church bases its entire purpose and existence on being the "one true church", restored perfectly by God, with sole authority and sole collection of saving ordinances. This idea can't really coexist with an idea that the church isn't all true.

To clarify, my argument here is largely against the rhetoric of the LDS church that it is the only true church and that everything hinges on the BOM. If the church did not so heavily preach this (and in fact require their membership to believe this), then it would be very easy (and refreshing) to adopt a less strict interpretation of "one true church".
I don't think that by searching for other truth in other sources or religions it equates to "nothing matters". That is a false teaching people in the church try to scare us with. "Either the church is everything...or nothing matters." That is scary. That is like saying, "Word of wisdom protects us from the ill effects of alcohol...and if we break it we would all become drunken homicidal maniacs...don't take even one sip of tea." It just isn't true of the billions of people who don't live the Word of Wisdom as the church teaches and are just fine, good people.

I bumped up an old thread on dichotomies which is a good read.

My experience is when I was young, to simplify rules my parents gave me very black and white reasoning so I would obey, and also created false punishments when I disobeyed. This was to help me learn how to think and learn how to be responsible.

Now that I'm an adult...I use those skills developed as a kid from my parents that taught me some important lessons...but it is not the specific rules and lessons my parents gave me that are in and of themselves self-evidently true, nor are they the true source of blessings that come from the truth. The truth is how I use those lessons and rules my parents taught, even if other family had different teachings. My parents were not all right, nor does that make all their parenting worthless and as a parent I should wait until I'm perfect in all my teachings to my kids, or else just let them run amok and do whatever because nothing matters.

And, although I can be an adult to make my own rules and beliefs in my home, slightly different from my parents because I change things based on what is important to me...I do not need to go back and bash my parents for being false or go point out all they did to me as a kid that was wrong. Swimming within 20 minutes of eating my lunch simply isn't a big deal. OK. I can now move forward and do things different, regardless of the lessons my parents taught me when I was young. My parents weren't lying to me because they enforced a rule they thought was right, but wasn't.

And now that I need to teach my kids...I can appreciate how hard it is to do that, and how much I appreciate my parents making an effort for my benefit.

It does not mean no rules in my home matter, because my parents did the best they could and were sometimes wrong. Family home evenings, prayers, church attendance, youth activities, callings, HT/VT...all these things really helped my family be loving and kind and develop faith in God. There is truth to it.

In the same way...the church has value. There are good reasons I stay mormon, even if I have developed a greater respect and admiration for other religions of the world.

The thing I have learned to let go of is the Stage 3 thinking that other religions are all false in order for me to believe my faith is true. That is the great lie.

The church is true. And it has some good things. And it teaches good things. I do not believe it is false but just a good thing to do like a social club. It is true. The power of God is made manifest in the church. I have witnessed it. My family is blessed as we work to going to the temple and strive to be an eternal family. The church truly blesses us. It has power and authority. (and so do many other great sources of truth in the world, thankfully...since God knows that hardly anyone else in the world will come to know mormonism).
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

Minyan Man
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Re: Book of Mormon- does a literal history matter?

Post by Minyan Man » 01 Apr 2016, 14:20

I've recently been reading some of the teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi.
He had some very real dreams & visions concerning the teachings of Jesus Christ.
I can't remember ever reading about a debate within the Catholic church if his dreams & visions were real or not.
And if they weren't real what does that say about the validity of the Catholic church.

Sometimes I believe that we make everything very complicated. Too complicated.
Maybe it is because I don't consider myself a very intellectual or educated man.
I do ask a lot of questions. If you don't ask questions, you don't get answers.
Some of the answers I get are not sourced by the LDS church or the GA's.

This isn't meant to be a criticism of this discussion.
I firmly believe in the AA adige: "Take what you need & leave the rest."
I try to focus on Jesus Christ & how his teachings apply to my life.

I do have questions about:
- The origins of the BOM & the interpretation of the gold plates.
- Polygamy & Polyandry. I wish that JS or the current GA would've explained the spiritual necessity for the practice.
- Priesthood & the exclusion based on race & sex.
- New policy regarding Gay marriages & households.
- etc.

For these reasons & others, a literal history doesn't really matter to me.

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MockingJay
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Re: Book of Mormon- does a literal history matter?

Post by MockingJay » 11 Apr 2016, 05:19

amateurparent wrote:
Roy wrote:

".. Whereas, I believe that The opinion you give above could not be stated openly without some pushback. In fact, I believe that if you stated it enough times you might be seen as trying to subvert the teachings of the church and you might find your leadership calling and TR in peril. Therefore, even though our belief is not really policed - our ability to express divergent beliefs can be."
This is where I get stuck. To what point is it okay to just be quiet and go with the flow .. And at what point does my integrity require me to claim my disbelief?

The answer is going to be different for each of us.
This is where I struggle. I no longer believe in much in the church, or Christian teachings in general for that matter, as literal, but only a few people in the world know that, and my husband is not one of them. He knows about my faith transition, but he has no idea of the extent of it. I go to church with him and pretend to be a fully believing "literal" member for the sake of his happiness and our marriage.

In our stake, we're all supposed to be reading the same assignment out of the BOM everyday. DH is doing that and wants me to too, but I'm not. He accepts that, but I know it disappoints him. I would NEVER dare tell anyone in my ward that though. I would never be looked at or treated the same way. I can say that with almost certainty because I've seen what's happened to members who have openly expressed their opinions that the BOM isn't literal. They have been gossiped about or become a "project",at the very least,or completely ostracized at the very worst. I'm not ready to deal with yet, not for my own sake, but for DH's. Whether or not I'm asked about it in a TRI, the truth is, if i were to be open about my feelings on the BOM, I wouldn't be considered a faithful Mormon anymore. I've live in many different wards, none of them in the Mormon Corridor, and I believe that would be true across the board.

nibbler
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Re: Book of Mormon- does a literal history matter?

Post by nibbler » 11 Apr 2016, 05:57

MockingJay wrote:In our stake, we're all supposed to be reading the same assignment out of the BOM everyday. DH is doing that and wants me to too, but I'm not. He accepts that, but I know it disappoints him. I would NEVER dare tell anyone in my ward that though. I would never be looked at or treated the same way. I can say that with almost certainty because I've seen what's happened to members who have openly expressed their opinions that the BOM isn't literal. They have been gossiped about or become a "project",at the very least,or completely ostracized at the very worst. I'm not ready to deal with yet, not for my own sake, but for DH's. Whether or not I'm asked about it in a TRI, the truth is, if i were to be open about my feelings on the BOM, I wouldn't be considered a faithful Mormon anymore. I've live in many different wards, none of them in the Mormon Corridor, and I believe that would be true across the board.
I certainly empathize with those feelings. When I think of the title of the thread, Book of Mormon- does a literal history matter?, I initially thought about whether a literal history matters to me. Another aspect that's worth consideration is whether my belief with respect to whether the BoM contains literal history matters to other people. :crazy:

That probably comes with the territory for many communities. E.g. I'm in this political party because I espouse these ideals, I assume that everyone in the party espouses similar ideals across multiple categories, I might be surprised in cases where someone feels differently... but you're in my political party, shouldn't you also support this position?!?

When talking religion I think homogeneous belief is one of the areas in which the one true church would pride itself. This is the way things are, how could someone feel differently? We're probably going to have to relax the expectation of correlated beliefs before we can create space for a non-literal treatment of the BoM.

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MockingJay
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Re: Book of Mormon- does a literal history matter?

Post by MockingJay » 11 Apr 2016, 06:14

When talking religion I think homogeneous belief is one of the areas in which the one true church would pride itself. This is the way things are, how could someone feel differently? We're probably going to have to relax the expectation of correlated beliefs before we can create space for a non-literal treatment of the BoM.
I agree, Nibbler. I've envied friends and family who belong to other churches who receive very little to no push back for voicing their personal beliefs. For the most part, their churches are just happy they show up and put money in the collection plate. We are a long way from that, specifically in regard to the BOM. Doubt I'll see that expectation relaxed enough for me to be open in my lifetime. I hope I'm wrong about that.

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DarkJedi
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Re: Book of Mormon- does a literal history matter?

Post by DarkJedi » 11 Apr 2016, 06:30

MockingJay wrote: This is where I struggle. I no longer believe in much in the church, or Christian teachings in general for that matter, as literal, but only a few people in the world know that, and my husband is not one of them. He knows about my faith transition, but he has no idea of the extent of it. I go to church with him and pretend to be a fully believing "literal" member for the sake of his happiness and our marriage.

In our stake, we're all supposed to be reading the same assignment out of the BOM everyday. DH is doing that and wants me to too, but I'm not. He accepts that, but I know it disappoints him. I would NEVER dare tell anyone in my ward that though. I would never be looked at or treated the same way. I can say that with almost certainty because I've seen what's happened to members who have openly expressed their opinions that the BOM isn't literal. They have been gossiped about or become a "project",at the very least,or completely ostracized at the very worst. I'm not ready to deal with yet, not for my own sake, but for DH's. Whether or not I'm asked about it in a TRI, the truth is, if i were to be open about my feelings on the BOM, I wouldn't be considered a faithful Mormon anymore. I've live in many different wards, none of them in the Mormon Corridor, and I believe that would be true across the board.
My thought in reading your comment was why do you feel you need to make known you don't have a literal belief in the BoM? I don't either, and I am aware of a couple people in my ward who also don't. Even though I know they don't and they know I don't, we never discuss it - it just is. FWIW, my belief is not limited to the BoM, I also don't believe much of the Bible to be literal, especially the OT. That doesn't mean I don't follow along in SS (unless I'm doing something else anyway) or read scripture on my own - I do but not daily and usually when I am looking into a specific subject. I would probably not read a stake assignment, partly because I am a rebellious and proud soul, partly because that's not how I do scripture, and partly because another program is the last thing the church needs IMO. But I also wouldn't advertise I'm not doing it - there's no test, right?

I'm perfectly fine with me not believing the BoM to be literal while those around me do - and I don't need to say anything about it. To me it's sort of like reading any novel - I don't have a literal belief in it, but if my neighbor wants to believe To Kill a Mockingbird is a true story, what do I care? The story is good either way.

Just a note about the TR question - "Do you believe the Book of Mormon is literal?" is not one of them. There is in fact no question about the BoM. I'm sure some could interpret the question about having a testimony of the restored gospel as including the BoM. I think those questions are inspired (really) and are precisely worded as they are for a purpose. Just as the questioner is not supposed to ask questions in addition to those written, I don't think we're supposed to read anything into them. I certainly do have a testimony of the gospel, and nothing is required of me other than a yes or no answer to that or any other question. It is when we feel we need to qualify or explain our answers that we get into the briar patch.
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Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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Re: Book of Mormon- does a literal history matter?

Post by nibbler » 11 Apr 2016, 06:51

I handle things similarly to the way you describe DJ, I believe what I believe without advertising the specifics, literal belief never comes up, and everyone goes on believing what they believe with respect to literal belief none the wiser about my position. At the same time I understand the frustration that comes with struggling with feelings that certain things just can't be said.

It would be like showing up to a To Kill a Mockingbird fan club and everyone there is geeking out about how cool it was that these things actually happened in real life and you start feeling like you want to shout "IT'S FICTION" just so you can move on to talking about the actual content of the story. :smile:

So yeah, what I try to do is let people geek out about whether or not Boo Radley had any children and whether they walk among us today and if there's time left over I might offer up a comment about how maybe we shouldn't be quick to judge the quiet saint that sits in the corner on the back row. ;)

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MockingJay
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Re: Book of Mormon- does a literal history matter?

Post by MockingJay » 11 Apr 2016, 07:54

"I'm perfectly fine with me not believing the BoM to be literal while those around me do - and I don't need to say anything about it. To me it's sort of like reading any novel - I don't have a literal belief in it, but if my neighbor wants to believe To Kill a Mockingbird is a true story, what do I care? The story is good either way."
I guess my issue with the To Kill a Mockingbird analogy (one of my all time favorite books, BTW) is that to my knowledge, no one has ever touted that book, or any other work of fiction, including A Christmas Carol (also one of my favorites), as an actual event. There's no emotion tied to saying it's a story that Harper Lee created, and no religion was founded on it.

The BOM has been touted as literal since it was published. Go back and reread the Introduction. The GT on the BOM says: "Both volumes of scripture are a compilation of teachings as recorded by ancient prophets. While the Bible details events in the eastern hemisphere, the Book of Mormon documents the lives of the inhabitants of the ancient Americas." (My emphasis added)

Maybe I'm not stating my feelings very clearly, but I don't feel like I have to share my feelings. I feel like I can't share my feelings and maintain my same standing at church. I want to be free to have an open discussion about the historicity of the BOM and not be afraid of the consequences. I know belief in a literal BOM isn't a TRI question, but it is still very much an expectation.Yes, it is what it is, but it's not what I want.

I guess what I'm saying is that it's a struggle to have to keep my valid feelings a secret. This is the only place I feel comfortable talking about it, except with my son who left the church recently. Isn't that the very reason we're anonymous here?

I think the OP question will be vital to the future strength of the church. My son left the church in part because he couldn't handle not being able to be authentic and genuine about his doubts and questions about the BOM, along with other things.

DJ, I'm not reading the stake assignment for 3 reasons:
1. I don't read the scriptures unless I have to for an assignment
2. I agree that the last thing we need is another program to compel us to do something
3. I'm also a little stubborn and rebellious (DH would probably say more than a little :wave: )

BTW, I agree with you DJ on the Bible too. I don't take it as literal either, or any other scripture. My feelings about God are very close to yours, too.

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Heber13
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Re: Book of Mormon- does a literal history matter?

Post by Heber13 » 11 Apr 2016, 08:10

One way to think about it is to ask yourself what changes by the internal thoughts, something like this:

- If I don't believe the Book of Mormon is literal, can I do my home teaching?
I can. I can even quote common scriptures like 1 Ne 3:7, or 3 Ne. 11 and teach families in the ward about the Atonement and teachings of Christ, whether or not the events were real or lessons handed down in story fashion to teach princples.

- If the Book of Mormon is not literal, can I attend church and listen? Can I teach gospel principles based on metaphors found in the Book of Mormon?
I can. There are no lessons in any primary, sunday school or other lessons that are about the historical proofs of the book of mormon. In other words, we may think about it, and others assume it...but no lessons require it.

- If the Book of Mormon is not literal, can I go to the temple? Can someone be baptized if they do not believe it is literal?The recommend and baptismal questions do not require you to believe it is an accurate historical document. In fact, they don't ask about the Book of Mormon at all. Perhaps there is some comfort in thinking that early church members didn't even preach much out of the Book of Mormon for membership or baptism. It has later been re-emphasized as the "keystone" of our religion...but a lot of that is about it confirming that Joseph was a prophet, not the book itself. Perhaps Joseph, as a prophet, brought forward a fictitious, allegorical story to restore gospel truths. You can believe that and believe everything else about the church restored.

Just because others view it different does not REQUIRE we accept only one view of what is needed in the church. Perhaps it feels awkward to go against the grain or have different opinions, but it does not mean that majority rule establishes truth. I never even hear it talked about at church...I feel it is inferred or assumed...but never talked about and if I never bring it up...no one else does either...and it becomes a non-issue.

Another example....Just because most people in Nauvoo in the 1800s assumed Masonic history was literal, and that secret temple mason stories dated back to Solomon's temple, doesn't mean that you have to believe that to be a mason, or that masonic temples have no meaning if you don't believe the story of Hiram Abiff. No...the principles in masonic temples teach members to adhere to principles of truth and serve their communities in unselfish ways. It is not literal. It changes nothing if it is or isn't. Perhaps it motivated some people when they thought it was literal...but those are the wrong motivations anyway...the real motivation is love, service, devotion, and protection. Literal has nothing to do with it.

The Book of Mormon is the same. Despite pressure by others who view it different. There is nothing you are excluded from in the church because you reject literal historicity of the Book of Mormon. Zero.

It is really that simple.

Everything else is about how we handle social pressures or feel awkward we are different in our thoughts from others, which is not easy...especially in this church...but easy does not equate to truth or requirements. It is a self-imposed obstacle, which I think God wants us to learn to overcome in order to grow. Just like all the scriptural stories that show how heros and heroines did things against popular views of their day (Jesus vs Pharisees, Nephi vs Laman/Lemuel, Abinadi vs King Noah, Alma vs Priests of King Noah, Pahoran vs Moroni, Samuel vs Nephites, Joseph Smith vs learned preachers, nibbler vs Heber13, etc).

I cannot think of a single thing in the church that requires literal belief in the book. Can anyone think of one example?
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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