Misquoting Scripture w/o Context

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Roy
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Misquoting Scripture w/o Context

Post by Roy » 29 Apr 2019, 16:55

Several times now I see a scripture quoted in an Ensign article or GC talk and when I read the verse in context I find that the verse was misused.

This is concerning to me because it seems deceitful. Sometimes, I think that maybe it was unintentional (like maybe they just used a keyword search, found a scripture that appeared to serve their premise, and never bothered to check the context). At other times, I feel that the context was deliberately ignored.

I am troubled when a scripture is quoted to support a doctrinal position that the verse really does not support. Why do you suppose we as a church do this sort of ad hoc proof texting?

FYI, The specific instance that set me off was from an RMN address in 1995.
Scriptures identify other important prerequisites to eternal perfection. They relate to the ordinances and covenants of the temple.28 No accountable individual can receive exaltation in the celestial kingdom without the ordinances of the temple. Endowments and sealings are for our personal perfection and are secured through our faithfulness.29
This requirement also pertains to our ancestors. Paul taught “that they without us should not be made perfect.”30 Again, in that verse, the Greek term from which perfect was translated was a form of teleios.31
In latter-day revelation, the Lord was even more explicit. His prophet wrote: “My dearly beloved brethren and sisters, let me assure you that these are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation. For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation. … They without us cannot be made perfect—neither can we without our dead be made perfect.”32
In reading the chapter that the reference from Paul comes from it is clear to me that Paul was not talking about temple ordinances and yet his words are sandwiched to make it seam that he did.

Am I being too picky? What am I not seeing here?
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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DarkJedi
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Re: Misquoting Scripture w/o Context

Post by DarkJedi » 29 Apr 2019, 17:15

I agree Roy, the problem is somewhat rampant. I get picky about it too and it bugs me a lot sometimes. My consolation is that I believe I understand the scriptures that I do understand in context and thus I can smile and nod and move on with my own understanding. Don't get me started on Isaiah. Oh, and we're not the only ones who do it - I have heard it happen in other Christian churches as well. In fact sometimes it's their erroneous interpretations we've borrowed (again, don't get me started in Isaiah).
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

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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Arrakeen
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Re: Misquoting Scripture w/o Context

Post by Arrakeen » 29 Apr 2019, 17:25

I started noticing this when I read the Bible on my mission. The scripture mastery verses I learned in seminary often meant something completely different when read in context.

I don't think we are alone in doing this. All churches have reinterpreted scripture to some extent. Religion changes over time, and when the texts remain the same, they are reinterpreted to match a modern context. Jesus and his followers repurposed much of the Old Testament to testify of Christ (for example, much of Isaiah). We repurposed Ezekiel to have the Bible prophesy of the Book of Mormon, thought it probably originally referred to the gathering and reunification of Israel.

We are so far removed from the original linguistic, historical, and cultural context of the scriptures that it is nearly impossible to understand their original intended meaning. We still use scripture as authoritative evidence, even though we change the meaning of the scriptures over time. This creates problems, but I think it is also a major reason why religions remain relevant through so many major changes in history. I think this is simply the way our religion adapts to new doctrines and beliefs, constructing a continuity with the past that may not have been there originally.

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dande48
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Re: Misquoting Scripture w/o Context

Post by dande48 » 29 Apr 2019, 18:07

Yeah... EVERYBODY does this. Matthew did this in the New Testament all the time.

I don't think it's intentional. I think most GAs, members, etc believe that if it supports their central message, and helps people to "come unto Christ" (however/whatever that means), it must be true... without checking context. It's not really what I'd call deciet. It's seeing evidence in everything to support what you already believe.
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
-Lemony Snicket

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On Own Now
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Re: Misquoting Scripture w/o Context

Post by On Own Now » 29 Apr 2019, 18:46

Oh, boy, does the Church do this. And as DJ says, it's not just our Church.

I believe that it is a pretty simple matter. I think that when the 90's version of RMN read that passage in Hebrews, he saw the "without us" phrase and immediately saw it through his lens as pertaining to the temple. I think it's really easy, once that happens to bend and shape the verses around it to fit your desired outcome. (PS, we all do this in a lot of ways. "Bad calls" in sports are a great example. It always seems to happen the most and the worst to your team, especially when you lose, but really, never seems to happen to your opponent, because for some reason, you agree with the refs, there).

Some of my personal faves:

- Know ye not that ye are the temple of God and his Spirit dwells in you? - Paul was talking about the community, not our individual bodies. Read the whole chapter.

- Speaking of the Spirit... how about the Spirit? - I'm pretty sure that when early Christians talked about "the spirit of God", they didn't mean it as a person-like being with its own distinct consciousness. I think they meant it in the sense of the aura of God or the influence of God. The "Holy Ghost" in modern English could be rendered as the Divine Spirit. Since in Greek spirit = breath, and having breath means being alive (for example "last breath" is the end of life) then having the Spirit of God even has a sense of living a Godly life. If I've lost you, then let me try again with this: School Spirit does not mean the ghost that wanders the halls.

- Ensign to the nations - In Isaiah 11, yep, God gathers Israel. That's great. But in Isaiah 5, which is also often quoted for the same meaning, the purpose of the ensign is actually quite different. In Isaiah 5, God finally gives up on Israel and sets up an ensign to attract distant foreign powers. They shall come with speed swiftly... to destroy God's rebellious children.

- D&C 119 - I have heard both staunch believers (DAB) and nuanced believers (including here at this site) select the phrases they want out of this section to support how they want tithing to be. Both have to ignore other verses in the same section in order to do this.

- D&C 89 - It says nothing about coffee, tea, hot chocolate, postum, or herbal tea, that is other than prohibiting hot drinks in general. It does seem to endorse beer (mild drink made of barley). Oh, and also, it's not a commandment, at least according to God.

FWIW, although this has always been a problem, I think it's actually worse now. People don't have a book in front of them; they have an app. I'm not saying technology is bad. But, what I am saying is that now Paul's treatise on God's unimaginable love for us is reduced to a single reference. Click on it. Read the verse. What does it mean? How can anyone know what Paul was talking about in a long, multi-sheet letter by reading one phrase? Especially one phrase translated from the original Greek into the King's English in the 16th Century and displayed on your phone disembodied from the rest of the text.
"Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another." --Romans 14:13

nibbler
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Re: Misquoting Scripture w/o Context

Post by nibbler » 30 Apr 2019, 05:21

How about:
Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
It's not always a bad thing. I mean... how else is one to read the scriptures but through their lens?

Do we read the scriptures or do the scriptures read us? If you want to find a Christ that divides families into the wheat and the tares you will find him. If you want to find a Christ that unites humanity you will find him. The Christ we find tells us more about ourselves than it does Christ.

As for the subject of the thread. If the church stopped misquoting scripture and sharing verses out of context Sunday School would *poof* out of existence overnight.

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Misquoting Scripture w/o Context

Post by Curt Sunshine » 30 Apr 2019, 07:48

Fwiw, I believe relatively few members understand the Book of Mormon well for this exact reason. They prooftext verses instead of reading it as history (whether they accept it as actual history or not).

It is a freaking fascinating book when read from the lens of social science, and reading it that way makes it incredibly compelling - again, whether or not it is actual history.

Prooftexting is the bane of historical and religious scholarship - but it is a core aspect of "the natural human". The key for me is reading in context, so I can share the contextualized meaning with others. I only can impact my own sphere, so I try to be aware enough to do so accurately - and charitably.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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SamBee
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Re: Misquoting Scripture w/o Context

Post by SamBee » 30 Apr 2019, 11:55

Read a Jack Chick tract (available online) - they're full of this.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

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DarkJedi
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Re: Misquoting Scripture w/o Context

Post by DarkJedi » 30 Apr 2019, 15:40

nibbler wrote:
30 Apr 2019, 05:21
How about:
Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
It's not always a bad thing. I mean... how else is one to read the scriptures but through their lens?

Do we read the scriptures or do the scriptures read us? If you want to find a Christ that divides families into the wheat and the tares you will find him. If you want to find a Christ that unites humanity you will find him. The Christ we find tells us more about ourselves than it does Christ.

As for the subject of the thread. If the church stopped misquoting scripture and sharing verses out of context Sunday School would *poof* out of existence overnight.
I mostly agree with this, and there are certainly scriptures that have multiple correct interpretations. I think they're meant to be that way, actually. One tiny example. Was this a prophecy/prediction or a command/directive?
Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
Even in full context the argument could be made either way.

Where I disagree is that some scriptures are clearly talking about something else. OON gave some great examples. Here are a couple of my favorite pet peeves:
But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne...
(Matt 5:34)

In context it's very clearly talking about swearing as in an oath, not swearing as in profanity. I cannot count how many times I have heard this taught in Primary and YM as the latter. Kind of like the wine was really grape juice.

My all time favorite is Moroni 10. First line, verse 1 (emphasis added):
Now I, Moroni, write somewhat as seemeth me good; and I write unto my brethren, the Lamanites;
Two verses later we get a "promise" (which comes true way less often than most people believe or want to believe) starting with
Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things,


It's pretty clear the "ye" is the Lamanites - he just said that's who he's writing to.

All that said, I really believe Bednar was talking about exactly this kind of thing. It is important and necessary that we gain our own testimonies and understandings and not rely on the understandings of others. Come Follow Me will work for those who actually do it. I suggest ignoring the little book generally speaking, and I suggest ignoring the chapter introductions in the scriptures.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

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."

My Introduction

Roy
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Re: Misquoting Scripture w/o Context

Post by Roy » 02 Jun 2019, 18:15

Ok, This is perhaps a pet peeve of mine but I need to get it off my chest. Today in SS JST of Matt 24:15 was shared to say that in the last day we need to stand in holy places or flee to the mountains which are both references to temple attendance and making our temple worship central to our lives in these troubling times.
In looking a little closer it seems that Jesus was predicting the destruction and desecration of the temple and was telling his listeners to run for the hills when this happens. JS appears not to have understood the concept of the "abomination of desolation standing in the holy place" (to be fair I would probably not have understood it either without google and the internet) and he changed it to say when you see the abomination of desolation you need to stand in the holy place (which doesn't much make sense given that all the following verses are about getting out of dodge).
I believe that JS had these verses in mind when composing D&C 87, predicting the civil war spilling out upon and making "a full end of all nations." I believe that he was thinking of this when he wrote - "Wherefore, stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly, saith the Lord. Amen."
Therefore I believe that the famous LDS phrase "Stand ye in holy places" is based upon a misunderstanding of Matt 24:15
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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