Does historicity matter?

Public forum to discuss questions about Mormon history and doctrine.
User avatar
DarkJedi
Posts: 7318
Joined: 24 Aug 2013, 20:53

Re: Does historicity matter?

Post by DarkJedi » 08 Nov 2014, 14:43

Heber13 wrote:To your point, journeygirl, when Paul H Dunn was revealed as presenting facts in his inspirational stories that were not true, it totally impacted not only the impact of the story, but also his own credibility. It did impact the spirituality of those stories, right?


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
That is an interesting point, Heber,and I have thought about Elder Dunn in that context before. Frankly, I liked the talk in question. I understand the perspective that he lied to people repeatedly and did so with full knowledge he was lying as opposed to those who repeat faith promoting rumors believing them to be true. Nevertheless, it was still a great message and I am willing to wager that other GAs have "stretched" the details of some stories they have told in order make their point stronger (I won't name names). Likewise, I don't think it's really a secret that some of the most popular pioneer stories are not what actually occurred, although the basis of the story is true. So to that point, yes it is important to me that the pioneers did actually cross the plains and settle the Salt Lake Valley and that they, like other pioneers, suffered some hardships in the process (but probably no more and maybe even less than some other pioneer groups). It is important to me that Brigham Young did send out a rescue party and that some lost a great deal in that effort. But all of the details of the rescue are not all that important to me, and if it turned out to be not true, I still believe it holds a valuable message.

I do understand the need for others to believe the Bible and Book of Mormon to be literal, and I'm fine with it. It's not my job to convince anyone else my point of view is correct and their point of view is incorrect. Because my testimony that Jesus is the Christ has been rekindled, not much else really matters to me - but that doesn't mean it doesn't matter to you.
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

User avatar
DarkJedi
Posts: 7318
Joined: 24 Aug 2013, 20:53

Re: Does historicity matter?

Post by DarkJedi » 08 Nov 2014, 15:11

Rsbenson wrote:Heber13, DarkJedi:
How should I put this? If you read an historical event in the scriptures and don't get anything spiritual out of it, I would say, for the most part, you didn't read it. Getting the message (the spiritual lesson) out of it is the all important thing- unless you're studying for a detailed quiz game. My thing with the spiritual/figurative interpretations is that, in the past, I have had very little trust in them or the people who used them. To me, it was just mushy incincerety, but you people seems to be very sincere. Amidst the corn stalks of Minnesota, we need people to show up for church, regularily. So when I first read this kind of, going for a walk in the woods on Sunday instead of going to church, talk in bloggersville all I could think of was - Oh, SPARE me! The spiritual message is very important to me. And, by the way, I hang for dear life for a purely doctrinal reason. I don't think it has anything to do with figurtive/literal. If you leave the Church, you leave a valid baptism, you leave any chance of kingdom of glory. You are a son of perdition, forever. Leaving the Church makes no sense, WHATsoever, for any reason. No matter how stupid things get, I'm staying.
I've kicked this around in my head all day, thinking it's probably not in my best interest to answer, but I have decided it is worth addressing if for no other reason than to give me peace of mind. Please understand I am not trying to be contentious, I am only stating my thoughts.

As Ray pointed out, all of us have read the scriptures. I read them all the time, and one reason I do so is because of the peace they bring me. I like to attribute that peace to the Spirit, because I think that's what it is. Sometimes I have an especially strong feeling while reading certain passages, and sometimes this happens unexpectedly to me. Thus, I do get spiritual stuff out of reading the scriptures, whether I am reading about Jesus Christ, the creation, Jonah, Job, or Helaman's army. I believe Joseph Smith's account(s) of the First Vision because I feel what I believe to be the Spirit influence me when I read or hear it. Thus your use of the word "if" is a very big IF, because I do get spiritual influence from reading the scriptures, whether I believe the story actually happened (JS or the resurrection), wonder or question if it actually happened (Garden of Eden, Nephi killing Laban) or whether I believe the story did not actually happen (Job, Jonah, Adam's rib used to create Eve).

Here in my part of the country we need members, too. My own ward has shrunk to less than half the size it was before my period of inactivity. And while I now attend each Sunday (albeit often in another ward because of assignments made to me), I also have been known to feel what I think is the Spirit while walking in the woods. Whatever brings the Spirit to someone is better in my book than activities that don't - which for some people because of challenges they face - may be going to church.

I'm glad you think it important to hang on to the ship. I once thought as you did, that I would never leave. An interesting thing my SP recently taught us: The Brethren are concerned for those who question and doubt the church. These people include bishops and stake presidents, relief society presidents and returned missionaries. It's real. The Q15 are intimately involved with the essays for this very reason.

Perhaps you should recognize that not everybody thinks exactly the same way you do, and that there are legitimate reasons for not going to church, which may include one's own mental and spiritual well being. And, perhaps in my case, you should be rejoicing in those who have returned (how great shall be your joy and all that jazz).
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

User avatar
nibbler
Posts: 4520
Joined: 14 Nov 2013, 07:34
Location: Ten miles west of the exact centre of the universe

Re: Does historicity matter?

Post by nibbler » 08 Nov 2014, 15:20

journeygirl wrote:However, I can get spiritual messages from other fiction books. What would then set the scriptures apart? Does that make any good author a prophet?
I believe we should be getting spiritual messages from as many sources as we possibly can.

What sets the scriptures apart?
We do. Our faith does. Switching gears and not intending to treat the scriptures irrelevantly... you could equate churches to large book clubs. Churches can more easily discuss certain faith promoting stories because the expectation is that everyone is reading the same texts. Book club might not work as smoothly if everyone read a different book that month.

Does that make any good author a prophet?
It depends on how loosely you define a prophet. Many people consider David to be the author of many Psalms but we don't think of David as a prophet. If you define a prophet as an inspired teacher and an author inspired you... why not?
Heber13 wrote:To your point, journeygirl, when Paul H Dunn was revealed as presenting facts in his inspirational stories that were not true, it totally impacted not only the impact of the story, but also his own credibility. It did impact the spirituality of those stories, right?
Paul H Dunn is an interesting case, while he may have taken things a bit too far I view him as a product of his environment. People could probably find many Paul H Dunns in LDS history and in every religion.

------
Rsbenson wrote:So when I first read this kind of, going for a walk in the woods on Sunday instead of going to church, talk in bloggersville all I could think of was - Oh, SPARE me!
Ha ha. I can totally relate. I've been on both sides of that block and I'll probably circle around it a few more times before picking out a home.
mom3 wrote:I know you asked DJ and Nibbler. I hope you don't mind if I add my two cents. I think some things do matter. At the phase I am in, I need somethings to have happened. I love the positive growth experiences shared through Holocaust survivors. For me the Holocaust, unfortunately needs to be real, for their lessons from those experiences to be of worth for me. Do I dread the Holocaust. Yes I am sickened by it - yet I gain character traits and values from the lessons the survivors teach me. Some of those are religious, others universal human traits.
It's interesting that you bring up the holocaust, I almost brought that up as an example of things that matter if they happened. I talked myself out of it, there's this nag I have:

The holocaust
The moon landing
9/11

There are plenty of people that don't believe in the holocaust or the moon landing. There are plenty of people that believe that 9/11 was an "inside job" [and please don't turn the thread into a debate about those issues]. Those beliefs represent real history for some people. In many ways "history" is just a though that exists in our minds. Returning to the holocaust, perhaps it is extremely important to arrive at true history to make sure we learn the appropriate lessons as opposed to potentially spreading pain by our beliefs.

There are a few questions that rattle around in my brain:

What is history?

Does the passage of time effect how much history matters to us? Does an event that happened in our lifetimes or in the lifetimes of people we know matter more than events that happened thousands of years ago? Does history matter more if the thoughts are obtained firsthand, secondhand, or thirdhand? Does our degree of separation from historic events effect how much it matters to us?

Same question as above but replace "matter to us" with "erode our confidence in our interpretation of history."

------

I had the latter portion of this post typed up earlier this morning, thought about tossing it but I figured, why not post it? I ended up going to a few history museums today. :D I figured I'd try to reduce the degree of separation between me and history... to help history have more of an impact in my today.

History, the great provider of stories.
Last edited by nibbler on 08 Nov 2014, 15:40, edited 1 time in total.
Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always.
— Hippocrates

User avatar
nibbler
Posts: 4520
Joined: 14 Nov 2013, 07:34
Location: Ten miles west of the exact centre of the universe

Re: Does historicity matter?

Post by nibbler » 08 Nov 2014, 15:37

I had another thought on:
journeygirl wrote:However, I can get spiritual messages from other fiction books. What would then set the scriptures apart? Does that make any good author a prophet?
But didn't want it to get lost in that text wall on an edit.

Let's say you have two jars. One jar has mostly red jelly beans with a few blue jelly beans mixed in. The other jar has mostly blue jelly beans with a few red ones mixed in. If red jelly beans are your favorite, which jar would you choose eat out of? The one you could mostly eat freely from or the one where you have to hunt and pick out your favorites.

There are sources for spiritual messages all around us, but some sources have a higher concentration of spiritual messages than others.
Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always.
— Hippocrates

User avatar
mom3
Posts: 4077
Joined: 02 Apr 2011, 14:11

Re: Does historicity matter?

Post by mom3 » 08 Nov 2014, 17:53

Nibbler you asked,
What is history?

Does the passage of time effect how much history matters to us? Does an event that happened in our lifetimes or in the lifetimes of people we know matter more than events that happened thousands of years ago? Does history matter more if the thoughts are obtained firsthand, secondhand, or thirdhand? Does our degree of separation from historic events effect how much it matters to us?
Here is me, flipping my coin over, and I debated adding this to my first response but it was going to get messy.

Joan of Arc-

I was born in the town she liberated. I have grown up with her all my life. She was my first hero. Many, many years have passed since the events that led to her heroism and eventual death at the stake. The only parts that now can be agreed on are her name, the town she was in when the battle turned, and that she died as a heretic in flames. Everything else has had years of gloss or grains of dust cover it. Does it matter? To me it did, to the town of Orleans, she will forever be their hero. How the rest plays out is hard to say.

So yes history may not be a perfect platform for faith or conviction. I think the key struggle with Book of Mormon historicity is the complete absence of profound possibility. I may not interpret Christ as others do, but Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Tombs with stones exist. Yes, dates maybe off, scholars may see flaws, but something concrete is there - right now that helps me. I lean on it. I still lean on the Book of Mormon, but I (this is me personally) would actually lean better if it wasn't presented as historical.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

Rsbenson
Posts: 18
Joined: 17 Oct 2014, 00:52

Re: Does historicity matter?

Post by Rsbenson » 08 Nov 2014, 17:55

Ray DeGraw:
"Paul v. John - Oaks v. Uchtdorf: Why We NEED a Quorum of 12 Apostles" (http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2009 ... -need.html)"

I have it in my Bookmarks. Thank you.

User avatar
Heber13
Site Admin
Posts: 7219
Joined: 22 Apr 2009, 16:37
Location: In the Middle

Re: Does historicity matter?

Post by Heber13 » 08 Nov 2014, 18:59

mom3 wrote:better if it wasn't presented as historical.
This is an important part of the issue, IMO.

There is part of the issue that if it is presented as historical, and then it seems it is not (ie. Paul H Dunn), that creates frustration and distrust.

If it is presented as allegorical, there can be a message from it and trust isn't violated.

Maybe there are 2 issues:
1) Trust in the messenger
2) Value of the message
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."

Rsbenson
Posts: 18
Joined: 17 Oct 2014, 00:52

Re: Does historicity matter?

Post by Rsbenson » 08 Nov 2014, 19:32

nibbler:
You wrote:
"I agree, but then the question shifts to how do I know when it's god, when it's me, or when it's my favorite GA? The spirit. I have to rely on the spirit to discover things. At one point in my life it was vital for me to resolve problems with history. Now I'm at a place where I don't need historical problems resolved. It's okay to have problems looming out there, problems have become my muse."

I have a question for you and, regardless of your answer, I am not going to comment on it or challenge it. I believe it's pretty much a yes or no question but it might be more. In the above quote, let me zero in on a part of it.

"The spirit. I have to rely on the spirit to discover things. At one point in my life it was vital for me to resolve problems with history. Now I'm at a place where I don't need historical problems resolved."
(refocus)
'The spirit. I have to rely on the spirit to discover things.'

How true, and especially in the quest for truth. Nibbler, as I see it, in your life so far, you have gone from being vital to resolve problems with history to not needing historical prolems resoved. Now for the question:

Did the Spirit tell you not to be concerned about resolving historical problems?

Now let me re-emphasize: This will not be challenged and I have no pre-conceived notions about it - except fear. If your answer is yes, then the same thing may have happened to me, but I don't know for sure. I just keep running from it - Become a figurative person? - I don't even want to talk about it. BESIDES, it's SUCH a long story. I hope you find this and, regardless of what your anwer is, I hope you can answer it.

User avatar
DarkJedi
Posts: 7318
Joined: 24 Aug 2013, 20:53

Re: Does historicity matter?

Post by DarkJedi » 08 Nov 2014, 19:42

rsbenson, I cannot answer for my friend Nibbler, but I can answer for me. YES!
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

Curt Sunshine
Site Admin
Posts: 16852
Joined: 21 Oct 2008, 20:24

Re: Does historicity matter?

Post by Curt Sunshine » 08 Nov 2014, 21:39

Fwiw, I am a former History teacher and a social scientist by nature, and I learned unequivocally a long time ago that history is subjective and can't be reconciled objectively. Heck, people can't agree on exactly what happened yesterday, even if they saw the exact same thing. That's why MSNBC and Fox News exist and have viewers, for example. Add in hundreds or thousands of years distance, and objectivity simply is impossible.

Historicity is important to me, actually - but only as far as I am able to feel like I understand it and almost always with the central caveat of accepting that we see through a glass, darkly. There is no physical proof that the Huns rode horses in their sweep across Asia and toward Europe, but I accept it as historical from the preponderance of written accounts - because it sits well in my mind. There is no physical proof that Jesus of Nazareth was resurrected, but I accept it because I WANT to accept it - because my spirit feels it is a wonderful thing. The D&C says we need to study things out in our hearts and in our minds, and I love that concept. I am able to work with / have faith in some things that resonate with either my heart or mind but not both, as long as those things are not repugnant to the other; I only feel a degree of confidence if something resonates with both my heart and my mind.

Having said that, I have friends who see things literally simply because they are wired to do so - and I absolutely do NOT try to change their orientation. It works beautifully for them, so I would be a first-class jerk to try to wreck their happiness and force them to see things the way I do. Unrighteous dominion and all that jazz.
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

Locked