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"to adopt a mythic approach as a replacement for, rather than a complement to, historicity, would be suicidal for our faith community. We'd fall apart."

I agree there. If the BoM peoples didn't exist, Joseph wasn't a prophet. I don't think the church could exist, at least the way it does now, without the Resoration.

I wonder if it would be possible to preserve a belief in the literal existence of golden plates and BOM peoples, while taking a much more skeptical view of the historical accuracy of the text. This could be justified because (1) Mormon was a polemecist, not a careful modern historian, and (2) Joseph Smith may have imposed his own interpretations and beliefs in the "translation" process.

ed, even under your "skeptical" view of historical accuracy, the historicity itself of the BoM (i.e. whether a man named Captain Moroni existed and did the deeds he did, even if we really have no idea where exactly it happened or in exactly what year) still needs to stand as a given in order for JS to be a true prophet.

I noticed a thread over at the View From the Foyer board picked up this post--welcome to the Foyerites who drop in. I thought "Great, now the apologists have an apologist" was a nice line.

i think this is a huge issue for the future of mormonism, although the average church-going mormon has little if any awareness of the debate at all. currently i think there is little room in the church for a purely mythological view of the book of mormon or other mormon peculiarities, the large majority of members would not accept it. bushman was quoted in the article as saying that what sets mormons apart is that we believe that these stories are of real people who actually lived. i agree that to deny the historicity of the book of mormon is to basically deny the prophetic calling of joseph smith. i don't really understand the mental gymnastics that one like grant palmer or mike quinn would have to go through to deny the literalness of much of what he taught and yet still accept him as a prophet. i believe that a mythical view of the book of mormon in the long run is not teneble. eventually one would have to answer the question of whether or not a true prophet of god would really try to pass off a book of uplifting stories as a literal history of people and their religious teachings and activities.

nonetheless the problems w/ the book of mormon are real, and are not going to be easily explained away. i understand the need for apologists within the community, they will help some of those that need to find a way to reconcile the empirical and spiritual worlds, although at the same time they will leave many wanting, and likely even turn off others. the current general consensus among book of mormon apologists is quite intesting to me. by arguing for a limited geography and very limited BOM population living among much larger populations of non-hebrew peoples they are basically attempting to put forth an explanation of the book of mormon peoples that not only requires no evidence of them, but implicitly states that one should not expect to find the evidence, case closed.

William Russell wrote a really good article in the Winter 2003 Dialogue, "The LDS Church and Community of Christ: Clearer Differences, Closer Friends."

A couple of relevant excerpts:

"For more than a century, mountain Mormons and prairie Mormons agreed that the Book of Mormon was true in very sense of the word..."

"...In recent years, however, most of the RLDS leaders, and many of the rank-and-file members, have come to doubt the BOM's historicity as well as some of its doctrinal affirmations."

Personally, I like the direction that the CoC has taken in becoming more mainstream Protestant. OTOH, I know hard-core LDS who say that one reason the CoC has not grown as much as the LDS church is because they "don't hold the true priesthood," and they deny the historicity of the BOM.

Harold Bloom in The American Religion: Emergence of the Post-Christian Nation, points out that the BOM has not always been a central point of Mo'ism (Mountain brand), and that Thomas Monson's presidency may see less emphasis on the BOM.

Incidentally, Bloom's book is a timely read, given the results and direction of the recent evangelical presidential erection:


recent evangelical presidential erection

Interesting view.

Frankly, and John H. hates it when I say this, I can't really see how one can consider oneself a "Mormon," that is, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, without believing that the BoM is true. If it is not true (its historicity included) then JS wasn't a prophet and it's actually a bad organization b/c it is founded on fraud.

Isn't it telling the Pres. Benson, as prophet, admonished us to take the BoM more seriously and to learn from its teachings? Looking at the CoC or RLDS at this point in time reveals that they are not much different than liberal protestant congregations. Any religious exceptionalism really has been stamped out by their "move" closer to protestantism and their skepticism and de-emphasization of the BoM.

Yeah, you're right in that President Hinckley has made lots of mileage out of what to me is a false dichotomy.

The either/or approach over simplifies too much, IMHO.

Human beings are not all black, and not all white. Hell, we may soon have a Mormon Senate Minority leader.

of course I know hard-core iron-rodder TBMs who think Harry Reid should have been disfellowshipped long ago.

And don't forget that ETB, along with pushing the BOM, also held that you could not be an honest to god mormon and also be a democrat.

This seems like a real opportunity. For years members have heard official statements proclaiming political neutrality while LDS culture, most members, and other public statements of the Church have moved steadily to the right to the point that Utah is now the most Republican state in the Union. This is a chance to show that the political neutrality statements reflect the actual position of the Church as opposed to just being a PR smokescreen.

Isn't it odd that we have to try and figure out whether "official statements" of the Church represent the "true" position of the Church? Another legacy of 19th-century Mormonism.

Isn't it odd that we have to try and figure out whether "official statements" of the Church represent the "true" position of the Church? Another legacy of 19th-century Mormonism.

I think that mere cynicism is the source of such skepticism. There should be no need for it. When the Church speaks in an official declaration or proclamation, then it has spoken its true position until the next time it speaks.

miked wrote:

i think this is a huge issue for the future of mormonism, although the average church-going mormon has little if any awareness of the debate at all.

Rather, I think that the average Mormon doesn't see any difference between this debate and the debate that has gone on since 1830: Whether the Book of Mormon is both true and real.

in response to nathan i would have to say that after thinking about it i have changed my mind. it can't be an issue if people aren't aware of it. so i suppose it's only an issue to people like us who care about such things.

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