Does historicity matter?

Public forum to discuss questions about Mormon history and doctrine.
Curt Sunshine
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Re: Does historicity matter?

Post by Curt Sunshine » 04 Nov 2014, 00:36

Now, if you see problems with what physically happened, when compared with the spiritual teachings in the scriptures, don’t stick your heads in the sand and pretend like it didn’t happen.


[Admin Note]: Knock. It. Off. We don't do insults here, and this is not the first time you have been asked not to do it. We can value the views of people who see things like the Garden of Eden literally, but ridiculing non-literal views is against our rules. Try to start exercising some charity in your comments, or you won't be able to participate here. That is true no matter which side of any issue is being addressed, and we have said the same thing to people at all points on the orthodox - heterodox spectrum. We have our rules for a reason. Please follow them if you want to participate here.

Now for a personal comment:

Some people interpret some scriptural stories literally; some interpret all scriptural stories literally; some people interpret ancient scriptural stories symbolically, allegorically, mythologically, etc. Many of those last people still accept scripture as the word of God. Also, that last group includes many people who lived much more closely to the stories than we do now. We also have the very Mormon concept of "as far as it is translated correctly" - so we do NOT believe in scriptural inerrancy, particularly when it comes to the Bible and even more so the Old Testament.
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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nibbler
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Re: Does historicity matter?

Post by nibbler » 04 Nov 2014, 07:14

Rsbenson wrote:Now, if you see problems with what physically happened, when compared with the spiritual teachings in the scriptures, don’t stick your heads in the sand and pretend like it didn’t happen. Figure out the problems and go on to the next piece of history.
I ask myself: What's the most important takeaway, spiritual lessons or history lessons? Which lessons have the power to effect change in my life? I can fast and pray as much as I'd like but that will not change history. I can fast and pray to learn from history but at that point it doesn't matter whether the historic event actually occurred, what matters is whether I am learning lessons that will help me become a better person.

Jesus' parables come to mind. Does it really matter whether Jesus had a specific, historical figure in mind when he related the parable of the prodigal son? If the focus of study becomes whether the event actually occurred I may miss out on the lessons I was meant to learn from the cast of characters that were influenced by events.

In some cases problems with history simply cannot be resolved. We may never have all the facts and people often have very different takeaways from the same set of facts. Even in the relatively simple case of a car accident that occurred moments ago, different witnesses may have interpreted the event very differently. Tossing thousands of years into the equation only complicates figuring out the problems of history.

All of that said, I understand the place and importance of history in setting the stage for learning spiritual lessons. If one were raised up in Norse mythology their history of creation may include stories of melting ice forming frost giants and a cow. That person would hear stories of how the cow licked deity out of a rock and how man was created from trees. The story would be very real to the person that was raised up on it. It might be very difficult for a person raised in that environment to learn lessons that would make them more Christlike, but they might have better odds if they divorce themselves from the literalness of their creation myths and focus more on the spiritual lessons. Ideally we'd say that they would be better off abandoning their mythology in favor of the gospel but they have already lived and died. They had to learn the gospel truths that they could learn with the tools that they were empowered to work with while in mortality. Hopefully that prepared them to learn truth in the spirit world.

Mythologies come and go. Explanations of the origins of man have similarly came and went. New mythologies and explanations will rise and fall. History and our interpretations of it is just as temporal as the world we live in. The spiritual elements seem to persist though. Humans have the desire to become one with god, to become eternal in nature, to transcend, to become enlightened. We can through Christ.

We have a lot of similarities with people that have gone on before us. Some puzzles of history will only be solved in the next life, that's why at times I chose to ignore the unanswered questions of history in an attempt to strengthen my connection with the spiritual. History will bear itself out over time. What spiritual lessons can I learn in the meantime?
Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always.
— Hippocrates

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DarkJedi
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Re: Does historicity matter?

Post by DarkJedi » 04 Nov 2014, 07:34

Pretty much what Nibbler said. It really makes no difference to me if any story in the old scriptures actually happened or not - whether I believe Jonah lived in a fish for three days or not doesn't matter as long as I get the moral of the story.
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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LookingHard
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Re: Does historicity matter?

Post by LookingHard » 04 Nov 2014, 08:14

DarkJedi wrote:Pretty much what Nibbler said. It really makes no difference to me if any story in the old scriptures actually happened or not - whether I believe Jonah lived in a fish for three days or not doesn't matter as long as I get the moral of the story.
I am there now also, but it does not bother me. It used to because I couldn't figure out how the earth could be completely flooded. Now I don't see a conflict and I can concentrate on what the takeaway should be - what does it tell me about God.

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DarkJedi
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Re: Does historicity matter?

Post by DarkJedi » 04 Nov 2014, 08:41

LookingHard wrote:
DarkJedi wrote:Pretty much what Nibbler said. It really makes no difference to me if any story in the old scriptures actually happened or not - whether I believe Jonah lived in a fish for three days or not doesn't matter as long as I get the moral of the story.
I am there now also, but it does not bother me. It used to because I couldn't figure out how the earth could be completely flooded. Now I don't see a conflict and I can concentrate on what the takeaway should be - what does it tell me about God.
Further, LookingHard, I'm fine with the person sitting next to me taking everything perfectly literally - and we can carry on a conversation about the same story, reach the same conclusions and he or she might not even know I don't see it literally. Think about that next time you're sitting in Sunday School - it really doesn't matter which of the others in the room believe literally, figuratively, or a mix of the two (and some will fit into each category). That is the beauty of being able to see from this perspective.
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

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LookingHard
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Re: Does historicity matter?

Post by LookingHard » 04 Nov 2014, 09:40

I am getting much better sitting next to a literalist even if they think I am wrong. Much more than a few months ago.

Roy
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Re: Does historicity matter?

Post by Roy » 04 Nov 2014, 17:13

I find the literal apprach somewhat limiting. Different perspectives I have heard of the garden of Eden account for example have opened my mind to consider different facets of the story and different facets of our relationship with the divine. If I believed that it was a literal event ONLY (as opposed to also an allegorical, symbolic story) and I believed that the LDS version of the story was the most accurate - then I would miss out on examining my relationship with my Father from different angles.

If God really did command abraham to sacrifice his son and if God really did cuase Jonah to be swalloed by the big fix then we have examples of real events given to teach us a symbolic lesson.

OTOH, Jesus clearly used parables in his teaching and these parables did not represent actual events. Perhaps there is merit in both teaching method.

So back to my point - If we insist that historicity is all that matters we miss out on everything else.
"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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cwald
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Re: Does historicity matter?

Post by cwald » 05 Nov 2014, 20:56

I'm going to just ignore this thread.

Ray. ... you owe me one.
  Jesus gave us the gospel, but Satan invented church. It takes serious evil to formalize faith into something tedious and then pile guilt on anyone who doesn't participate enthusiastically. - Robert Kirby

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Does historicity matter?

Post by Curt Sunshine » 05 Nov 2014, 20:57

Ray. ... you owe me one.


Or you owe me one less. ;) :P
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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mackay11
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Re: Does historicity matter?

Post by mackay11 » 06 Nov 2014, 04:29

DaddyB wrote:
SamBee wrote:I agree with him.

I think even if a fully fledged Nephite city were to be found down a sinkhole in the Yucatan, it would not actually impact the message of the BoM that much, other than proving it didn't all come out of JS' head.

I like the Book of Mormon, but it's not the history or lack thereof, which is important to me.
I agree that this is likely what the EQP had in mind. If not, it is probably what those who heard it assumed.

But to me it is irrational to say that the events in the Book of Mormon never actually happened and still believe the Book of Mormon is of divine origin. I also find it interesting that it is even an issue. The only reason a believer would doubt the historicity of the Book of Mormon is if he or she accepted the claims of the critics without checking their sources and learning what LDS scholarship has discovered and said. The academic evidence in favor of the historicity of this book of scripture far outweighs the weak claims against it. I have not heard or read a single claim against its historicity that is not flawed or is without a very rational explanation.
Really? I've read a large portion of Sorenson's "Mormon Codex" - it's proposed as the best evidence for the Book of Mormon (at least the new world sections of it). There were correlations and convergences but very little conclusive. evidence.

I think NHM/Bountiful proposed locations are probably among the only robust pieces of archaeological evidences.

With 1000s of data points in the BoM and millions of data points in the old and new world the probability that a few things would converge is very, very high, even if on an individual level the NHM probability seems very, very low.

I took my kids to the ruins of a Roman villa a few months ago. From a single location we could see their family customs, their religions and cultural practices. We could see the convergence of paganism and Christianity over a 100-200 year period. There was more evidence of Romans in that single location than has ever been found in the last 2 centuries for the Book of Mormon.

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