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Benjamin Seeker

How an Ahistorical Book of Mormon Can Still Be Scripture

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I opened this thread as a way of continuing a discussion began in a previous thread, so I invite the debate and discussion to kindly and temperately ensue.

Edited by Benjamin Seeker

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hope_for_things    1,572
8 hours ago, Benjamin Seeker said:

I’ve had many spiritual experiences with the Book of Mormon, but as I studied the book deeply over the past few years I came to the conclusion that it is not a literal history. Many hours of searching, reading, and learning went into this process, and I maintained a relationship with God throughout this time. I won’t be addressing the specific reasons for the transition in this post. Instead, I would like to describe my belief that the Book of Mormon is scripture, despite my conclusion about its claims to historicity.

For me, scripture takes principles of spirituality, morality, etc. and encapsulates them in narrative or in various types of revelation (e.g. vision, first person word of God). As countless students of the Book of Mormon can attest and as Joseph Smith claimed, the book does a fantastic job of describing how one can seek and achieve a relationship with God. The traditional view is that it does this well because it contains the writings of literal ancient Nephite prophets, and this view is in line with Joseph Smith’s testimony and the book’s text. However, some readers, like myself, have come to the conclusion that the book is not historical, yet still hold to the spiritual principles espoused therein. As those principles still bring me closer to God, the book functions as scripture for me even though I have broken from the traditional view.

The following are a few examples of spiritual truths I find communicated clearly by the Book of Mormon:

·       Be humble.

·       Depend on God and Christ for inner strength in changing yourself and overcoming problems of all kinds.

·       Seek revelation through study, prayer, and pondering.

·       Be courageous in the face of opposition.

·       Choose the right. :)

These principles are not dependent on historicity. For example, I can have spiritual experiences following the principles outlined by Nephi’s example and exhortations whether he was an actual person or not, and I do.

Having experienced a worldview-rending faith transition, I came out on the other side with a more flexible faith. I had to deliteralize my beliefs in many areas in order to make sense of everything I had learned, and one of the results was the paradox of accepting a book as scripture despite not believing its claims to historicity.

Thanks Ben, really appreciate your views on this and I have similar views as well.  One of the things that has contributed to my comfort with this kind of an approach is also my study of the bible.  As I learned about things like the Documentary Hypothesis and the ways that myths are formed and how people wrote things afterwards as creation narratives, I lost my desire to see the bible as historically accurate as well, and I've been able to learn to appreciate these writings as a reflection of human authors writing things that they find meaningful about their religious convictions.  The writings we have today span across thousands of years, and we often misread the meaning of these writings, so I try to better understand the scholarship which gives me greater access to what was intended by the original authors, but at the end of the day much of the original meaning has been lost.  

So for me today, scripture is defined as a text that my faith community values as the central text that we study in order to gain value and glean meaning in our modern life.  It doesn't need to have an ancient origin or a historical foundation.  The purpose of scripture is to explore ideas and learn principles that can enrich life today.  Its not an instruction manual from God or a road map on how to live.  

There is an interesting group that has garnered quite the following including regular meetings in person.  They explore the Harry Potter series in the same way that religions explore scripture, essentially the text of J.K. Rowling is their scripture, and there are some people that propose you could essentially do this will a lot of different texts.  http://www.harrypottersacredtext.com/

Some more orthodox Mormons may find this shocking and offensive, but I'm being sincere when I say that I believe the kinds of values that we get from community scripture study could be applied to multiple different texts, and I'm fascinated by what little I've read about that Harry Potter group. 

I value the BoM for the positive ways it has influenced me.  I recognize that it also has negative elements that we should recognize as well, and limitations.  I understand that others who believe it is literal and historical can be upset by my paradigm, but I hope we can learn to respect and understand each other better and hopefully learn from each other in the process.  

 

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hope_for_things    1,572
1 hour ago, Bobbieaware said:

So could it be that when in the history of the Church the prophet Joseph Smith informs he was ministered to by the resurrected angel Moroni, the fact of the matter is that rather than being visited and ministered to by an actual human being who once lived on the earth, what really happened is he had a sort of "vision" of an imaginary cartoon character, like SpongeBob Squarepants, who showed him an imaginary hill where imaginary plates were buried? And then could it be that the eleven witnesses also had "visions" (dreams?) of the same make-believe plates? I'll never look at the statues of the angel Moroni, that stand atop our temples, in the same way again. From now on it will kind of be like looking at Mickey Mouse.

Well, only if SpongeBob were an ancient Nephite.  He is yellow and delightsome!  

In seriousness, the "visions" that Joseph experienced are often described as "visitations" today, but the language that Joseph used to describe them wasn't as concrete, and I think can be interpreted as visions in his mind's eye, which is how many people during that time also interpreted them.  

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Glenn101    1,468

I have to disagree with that position. As noted by Bobbieaware, that scenario would reduce Joseph's claims to having been visited by the Angel Moroni to the realm of hallucinations and would cast (more in some cases) doubt on the vision in the grove also. A fictional Book of Mormon with a real Moroni doesn't compute in my mind. Or an angel Moroni as the product of a hallucination with a real visit by God the Father, and Jesus Christ in the grove.

Not to mention the appearance of Jesus, Moses, Elias, and Elijah to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland temple in 1836.

I understand that some people feel the need to find a reason or way to continue to believe. I don't have that problem. I guess I am a Heber J. Grant type of Book of Mormon guy.

Glenn

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Johnnie Cake    1,013
9 hours ago, Benjamin Seeker said:

I’ve had many spiritual experiences with the Book of Mormon, but as I studied the book deeply over the past few years I came to the conclusion that it is not a literal history. Many hours of searching, reading, and learning went into this process, and I maintained a relationship with God throughout this time. I won’t be addressing the specific reasons for the transition in this post. Instead, I would like to describe my belief that the Book of Mormon is scripture, despite my conclusion about its claims to historicity.

For me, scripture takes principles of spirituality, morality, etc. and encapsulates them in narrative or in various types of revelation (e.g. vision, first person word of God). As countless students of the Book of Mormon can attest and as Joseph Smith claimed, the book does a fantastic job of describing how one can seek and achieve a relationship with God. The traditional view is that it does this well because it contains the writings of literal ancient Nephite prophets, and this view is in line with Joseph Smith’s testimony and the book’s text. However, some readers, like myself, have come to the conclusion that the book is not historical, yet still hold to the spiritual principles espoused therein. As those principles still bring me closer to God, the book functions as scripture for me even though I have broken from the traditional view.

The following are a few examples of spiritual truths I find communicated clearly by the Book of Mormon:

·       Be humble.

·       Depend on God and Christ for inner strength in changing yourself and overcoming problems of all kinds.

·       Seek revelation through study, prayer, and pondering.

·       Be courageous in the face of opposition.

·       Choose the right. :)

These principles are not dependent on historicity. For example, I can have spiritual experiences following the principles outlined by Nephi’s example and exhortations whether he was an actual person or not, and I do.

Having experienced a worldview-rending faith transition, I came out on the other side with a more flexible faith. I had to deliteralize my beliefs in many areas in order to make sense of everything I had learned, and one of the results was the paradox of accepting a book as scripture despite not believing its claims to historicity.

While I share the same conclusion regarding BoM historicity, this conclusion led me to form other conclusion as well.  But I'm wondering how exactly you can pull the historical "card" from the House and not have the entire thing come falling down?  One thing leads to another and so on until you've completely deconstructed belief in the foundational claims of the church.  If the BoM is not what it claims to be, how do we process claims of an Angle named Moroni or claims of physical articles like Laban's Sword or the Urim and Thummim ?  Are we to view them as myths as well?  How do you maintain belief in claimed D&C revelations that quote (from your view) now fictional BoM Prophets?  I fear that once you pull at the string of historicity the entire clothes starts to unravel...

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History is written by those who live it. We have stories in all scripture about cities that can no longer be found. We have scripture the mentions persons no historian ever knew of, who they can never find evidence they ever lived. Even if we found every city listed in the Bible, or the Book of Mormon, it would not mean that what is reported (supernatural) really happened as the scripture reports. It is only faith that allows us to believe the information given. There simply "is" no amount to study that allows us to reject these teaching. If we woke up tomorrow and found a sign that says; This way to Zarahemla! It would not mean that all the stories of God deliverance and miracles took place there. No more than knowing where the birth of Christ happened, means that it happened the way scripture reports. Scripture is a poor substitute for real "history and geography", all of this only gives us a backdrop for the "Spiritual events", and the building of Faith. 

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Tacenda    3,406

I use the latest scenario with Elder Holland's sharing the story about the brother reuniting with his long lost brother on his mission to compare the BoM and Bible. Some historical mixed in with faith promoting. Or as with the BoM and Bible, some scaring up. 

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The Nehor    13,511
30 minutes ago, Johnnie Cake said:

While I share the same conclusion regarding BoM historicity, this conclusion led me to form other conclusion as well.  But I'm wondering how exactly you can pull the historical "card" from the House and not have the entire thing come falling down?  One thing leads to another and so on until you've completely deconstructed belief in the foundational claims of the church.  If the BoM is not what it claims to be, how do we process claims of an Angle named Moroni or claims of physical articles like Laban's Sword or the Urim and Thummim ?  Are we to view them as myths as well?  How do you maintain belief in claimed D&C revelations that quote (from your view) now fictional BoM Prophets?  I fear that once you pull at the string of historicity the entire clothes starts to unravel...

I agree with you.

Okay, now I feel unclean. I need to take a shower now.

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JulieM    1,822
37 minutes ago, Glenn101 said:

I have to disagree with that position. As noted by Bobbieaware, that scenario would reduce Joseph's claims to having been visited by the Angel Moroni to the realm of hallucinations and would cast (more in some cases) doubt on the vision in the grove also. A fictional Book of Mormon with a real Moroni doesn't compute in my mind. Or an angel Moroni as the product of a hallucination with a real visit by God the Father, and Jesus Christ in the grove.

What is the truth about Joseph originally stating the angel was named Nephi?

I just read this and wondered if it was accurate:

If Joseph identified the angel who visited him in September 1823 by the name “Nephi” throughout his life, using it in three drafts of his history, using it in the newspaper he edited, and not changing when given many opportunities to do so, the conclusion it was a “clerical error” that was corrected by “an unknown hand” is at best insufficient.

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The Nehor    13,511
11 minutes ago, JulieM said:

What is the truth about Joseph originally stating the angel was named Nephi?

I just read this and wondered if it was accurate:

If Joseph identified the angel who visited him in September 1823 by the name “Nephi” throughout his life, using it in three drafts of his history, using it in the newspaper he edited, and not changing when given many opportunities to do so, the conclusion it was a “clerical error” that was corrected by “an unknown hand” is at best insufficient.

Nope, the original name was Moroni. Someone screwed up writing an article for the Times and Seasons either Joseph or a scribe and put in Nephi. The article was copied and quoted a few times in other publications (including over in Britain). No indication in sermons or anything directly attributable to Joseph that he was flip flopping or changed the name at some point. Just a stupid mistake. 

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champatsch    87

I would like to get some more specifics on this question.  I get that those who don't believe in historicity think that Joseph produced the text, that the Lord didn't.  Is that accurate?

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JulieM    1,822
5 minutes ago, The Nehor said:

Nope, the original name was Moroni. Someone screwed up writing an article for the Times and Seasons either Joseph or a scribe and put in Nephi.

Do you have a reference stating this happened? (Not saying it didn't, I'm just interested in reading about it.)

How about it appearing in the 3 drafts of his history (Nephi instead of Moroni)?  Do you know more about that claim?

 

Edited by JulieM

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Gray    4,372
5 minutes ago, champatsch said:

I would like to get some more specifics on this question.  I get that those who don't believe in historicity think that Joseph produced the text, that the Lord didn't.  Is that accurate?

God is not a published author, full stop! If you mean is the Book of Mormon inspired, yes. Is it historical? I don't think so.

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champatsch    87
7 minutes ago, Gray said:

God is not a published author, full stop! If you mean is the Book of Mormon inspired, yes. Is it historical? I don't think so.

So, do you mean that Joseph composed it but he was inspired by God?

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Gray    4,372
12 minutes ago, champatsch said:

So, do you mean that Joseph composed it but he was inspired by God?

Yes - that's what I think.

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