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I think that our belief in modern revelation sometimes leads us to jump to conlusions--assuming that we already have all the answers to any question worth asking. I have been guilty of this mindset.

But if, as the Articles of Faith say, we believe that many great and important things will yet be revealed, we should be careful in delineating what we know and what we don't.

I don't think this really applies to Latter-day Saints. This is precisely what led two Evangelical scholars/apologists to declare that they (Evangelicals) were losing a war that they didn't even know they were fighting a few years back after visiting FARMS. (I'll see if I can dig up the reference to the article they published about it.)

John, I think those comments were rather overstated though. For instance when you include those leaving a sect with those entering, groups like Assemblies of God are growing much faster than we are.

I tend to see the supposed fundamentalism as vastly overstated in connection to Mormonism. I think we elevate, perhaps occasionally unduly, a kind of culture. But in terms of how our notion of continuing revelation and duty to receive personal revelation affect us, I think it leads to a very different position than our Evangelical friends. Evangelicalism is founded upon the notion of sola scripture. Since scripture is the authority and the interpretation of scripture is so controlled by tradition, it makes authority and ethics far more static than in the LDS faith.

For one, especially what one might call the "elite" of Mormons (i.e. those in leadership positions either formally or informally) are forced to rely on personal revelation and develop some sense of it. They have to deal with that as a religious foundation in ways that scriptural authority doesn't help much in. At best scriptures become a catalyst for personal revelation of how to deal with a situation.

That's not to discount the homogenity within Mormonism. But I think that the way it plays out is quite different. I tend to think that the homogenity within Mormonism is more about the appearance of evil than really a manifestation of what is going on in Mormon society.

If we believed that all revelation ended centuries ago and everything we needed to know was revealed, I think the core of the Church would have to be relatively inflexible and probably anti-intellectual. People can make those accusations today, but the reality is that LDS doctrine teaches us that we don't know everything, and that many more great things wait to be revealed. And history teaches us to be very cautious about inflexible intellectual constructs, such as all the pseudo-doctrine people crafted before 1978 to attempt to find doctrinal reasons for the limitations on the Priesthood - something that was a matter of policy, not doctrine. All those old theories are out the window now.

We also believe that religious truth and scientific truth are compatible, that God is not "wholly other" and dwells in a corporal body and deals with real matter and real laws of science. This attitude means that that old interpretations of scripture may sometimes need to be updated in light of extra-scriptural discoveries. For example, old views about a 6,000-year-old earth are now readily understood to be based upon readings of the text that are not required by the text itself. The idea that the Book of Mormon reports the ONLY migrations to the New World is another unjustified assumption of the past that we can now discard.

Our critics want us to be rigid and inflexible, living with only the knowledge available in the nineteenth century so that more recent scientific advances that challenge antiquated assumptions can be used to attack our testimonies rather than merely motivate us to update our understanding. Look at the attacks based on DNA and the Book of Mormon. None of them have any relevance based on a careful reading of the text. Long before DNA science was applied to study the origins of the Americas, efforts to appreciate the reality of the Book of Mormon in light of science were already clarifying the fact that many other migrations were possible, and that the Nephites were not along on this continent. The attacks based upon DNA science hurt only if we cling to the assumptions made by early Saints or based upon superficial readings of the text. But it galls the critics that we don't cling to old views that they are attacking. They want us to be fundamentalist, to assume that all knowledge is already present, and that anything new that challenges anything we understand must lead to irresolvable conflict in our hearts, rather than what it really is for many of us: an opportunity to grow and gain a better understanding.

Jeff,

I understand where you are coming from and I wish all Mormons took this approach; but when a Prophet directly states one thing, and sometimes qualifies it with everlasting truthfulness (i.e. interracial marriage lead to death on the spot, denial of polygamy indicates church apostacy, North American principle ancestors, etc.) while the scientific body, apologists, or church leaders either contemporaneously or later refutes these relevations/doctrines/personal opinion of mere men as changable or pliable, how do we know when a Prophet is speaking as such or that he really knows what he is talking about? (Boy that was a long sentance!)

For instance, when BY stated those things about interracial marriage, why should have the current saints paid any heed to him? I mean, if God was going to reveal/whisper/still-small-voice something different later, then why did He allow BY to lead the church astray, and thus lead many members to feel justified in their personal racism for many decades?

It just plain doesn't feel inspired.

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