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Mere Belief


Jared Livesey

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  1. We accept a statement as true if, and only if, we believe it.
  2. We believe a statement if, and only if, we believe it literally.
  3. If we do not believe a statement then we reject it outright or by interpreting it.

Methods of textual interpretation purporting to produce the author's intended meaning either result in statements to be taken literally, or else the results must themselves be interpreted.

In a FAQ Joseph Smith wrote concerning The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he addressed the issue of the proper interpretation of scripture.
 

Quote

 

Question 1st. Do you believe the bible?

Answer. If we do, we are the only people under heaven that does. For there are none of the religious sects of the day that do.

 

Question 2nd. Wherein do you differ from other sects?

Answer. Because we believe the bible, and all other sects profess to believe their interpretations of the bible, and their creeds.

 

Question 3rd. Will every body be damned but Mormons?

Answer. Yes, and a great portion of them, unless they repent and work righteousness.[1]

 

Elsewhere, again speaking of the scriptures, Joseph said: "What is the rule of Interpretation? Just no interpretation at all; Understand it, precisely as it reads."[2]  We may call this Joseph's "Rule of Interpretation."

While additional statements from Joseph to this effect may be adduced, we can see from these that he taught the correct method of interpreting scripture is to take the text at literal face value, which is what is today called "literalism" or "naive literalism."  Literalism, in Joseph's language, is "no interpretation at all."  Literalism is how a small child approaches speech: he takes what you say as what you mean according to the language he knows at face value.  When you give him the verbal token "cat," the literalist understands "cat."

The purpose of Joseph's "Rule of Interpretation" is not to produce the "best" interpretation, understood as the clearest possible contemporary expression of the original author's intent; communicating his intended meaning is the original author's problem to solve in his writing.  The literalist simply accepts the text at face value as it is given to him as the intended meaning, howsoever he as the reader may understand the language.  Literalism may therefore produce as many interpretations of a text as there are readers.

The purpose of Joseph's "Rule of Interpretation" is to help people to believe the word of God as they have received it so that they may pass the very first test of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

For the very first thing God desires out of us is merely to believe on his word.[3]  Believing on God's word is to believe his words at literal face value just as you have received them, for that is what it means to believe something, and put your trust in them - just as a small child uncritically understands and believes and trusts his father's words.

"Whoso repenteth and cometh to me as a little child, him shall I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God."

 

 

1 ("Elders’ Journal, July 1838," p. 42, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed February 15, 2020, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/elders-journal-july-1838/10)

2 ("History, 1838–1856, volume D-1 [1 August 1842–1 July 1843]," p. 1459, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed February 15, 2020, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1838-1856-volume-d-1-1-august-1842-1-july-1843/102)

3 (Alma 32:22)

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I really wouldn't know if any who frequent this board believe on Jesus Christ unless they tell me, one way or another.  If there are any who believe on Jesus Christ, then they might be pleased to meet a fellow-traveller who understands their burdens as they keep and teach his commandments as they are written.  If any do not, then the OP may be helpful.

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On 2/23/2020 at 7:21 PM, Jared Livesey said:
  1. We accept a statement as true if, and only if, we believe it.
  2. We believe a statement if, and only if, we believe it literally.
  3. If we do not believe a statement then we reject it outright or by interpreting it.

This is heretical mainstream Protestantism, which rejects the Holy Spirit, and substitutes sola scriptura..  For, to the contrary, all Scripture is best interpreted by the same Holy Spirit which gave it (2 Peter 1:20-21)..

 

On 2/23/2020 at 7:21 PM, Jared Livesey said:

Methods of textual interpretation purporting to produce the author's intended meaning either result in statements to be taken literally, or else the results must themselves be interpreted.......................
Elsewhere, again speaking of the scriptures, Joseph said: "What is the rule of Interpretation? Just no interpretation at all; Understand it, precisely as it reads."[2]  We may call this Joseph's "Rule of Interpretation."

While additional statements from Joseph to this effect may be adduced, we can see from these that he taught the correct method of interpreting scripture is to take the text at literal face value, which is what is today called "literalism" or "naive literalism."  Literalism, in Joseph's language, is "no interpretation at all."  Literalism is how a small child approaches speech: he takes what you say as what you mean according to the language he knows at face value.  When you give him the verbal token "cat," the literalist understands "cat."

The purpose of Joseph's "Rule of Interpretation" is not to produce the "best" interpretation, understood as the clearest possible contemporary expression of the original author's intent; communicating his intended meaning is the original author's problem to solve in his writing.  The literalist simply accepts the text at face value as it is given to him as the intended meaning, howsoever he as the reader may understand the language.  Literalism may therefore produce as many interpretations of a text as there are readers.

The purpose of Joseph's "Rule of Interpretation" is to help people to believe the word of God as they have received it so that they may pass the very first test of the gospel of Jesus Christ.......................................

Joseph Smith gave no canonical Rule of Interpretation.  Even a child understands that a fairy tale is not to be taken literally, so that the Parables of Jesus, for example, are not to be taken literally.  Like the fables of Aesop, they are to be taken as imaginary stories with a moral.  Nor should we take biblical poetry, metaphor, or symbols as literal.  That would be to completely miss the point about an author's figurative intent.  Not everything in the Bible is just narrative.  That is certainly not what the biblical poets and prophets were doing.

Moreover, as an avid student of Hebrew, Joseph pointed out:  "It seems as if the Lord opens our minds in a marvelous manner, to understand His word in the original language." (HC II:57b, from journal entry, Jan 9, 1836, Kirtland, Ohio)  Indeed, during his King Follett Funeral Sermon, Joseph went out of his way to make some very specific exegetical comments on the Hebrew meaning of Genesis 1.

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On 2/25/2020 at 3:39 PM, Jared Livesey said:

My point is to persuade men to believe on Jesus Christ, if they may be so persuaded.

Wonderful, we do believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and that salvation comes in and through his Atoning sacrifice, and in no other way. How bout you? 

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On 2/26/2020 at 12:03 AM, Robert F. Smith said:

the Parables of Jesus, for example, are not to be taken literally

I agree, yet it is possible that one or more of his parables did in fact reflect actual events that occurred in the past (or the future, for that matter). 

For example, the book of Job might be considered to be an extended parable and not a re-telling of actual events. But again, perhaps it did happen.

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On 2/25/2020 at 9:06 PM, Kenngo1969 said:

Hmm.  Okay.  You think that those who frequent this board do not?  Why?

I think he's just trying to ignite a revival, of sorts.

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On 2/25/2020 at 10:13 PM, The Nehor said:

I just think it is neat that Satan is a literal dragon.

You would! Of course, so would I.

But he's not. 

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On 2/25/2020 at 8:39 PM, Jared Livesey said:

My point is to persuade men to believe on Jesus Christ, if they may be so persuaded.

 

On 2/27/2020 at 9:19 PM, Bill “Papa” Lee said:

Wonderful, we do believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and that salvation comes in and through his Atoning sacrifice, and in no other way. How bout you? 

 

I agree, Papa, but Jared might be interested to know that we do have atheists or other non-Christians on the board, too. Not that we Christians haven't been trying to lead them back to the light, as it were!

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4 hours ago, Stargazer said:

I agree, yet it is possible that one or more of his parables did in fact reflect actual events that occurred in the past (or the future, for that matter). 

For example, the book of Job might be considered to be an extended parable and not a re-telling of actual events. But again, perhaps it did happen.

Yes, Job is a prime example of what could be considered to be a masterful literary creation in the Wisdom tradition.  He is practically a plaything of God and Satan.  His buddies have all sorts of advice, and his wife wants him to just curse God and die.  He ignores the nonsense and maintains his admirable gravitas.

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3 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Yes, Job is a prime example of what could be considered to be a masterful literary creation in the Wisdom tradition.  He is practically a plaything of God and Satan.  His buddies have all sorts of advice, and his wife wants him to just curse God and die.  He ignores the nonsense and maintains his admirable gravitas.

It kind of puts a different light on some of Paul H. Dunn's stories that he presented as actual history that turned out to be made up to make certain points.

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On 2/28/2020 at 7:37 PM, Stargazer said:

It kind of puts a different light on some of Paul H. Dunn's stories that he presented as actual history that turned out to be made up to make certain points.

Not really. When telling a ghost story for example you never tell everyone it is made up. It is assumed. That is not the case in modern times when you tell a story and say you were there. Job may have been a story based on real events (literally true I doubt mostly because it is a little absurd to imagine someone recording all those long speeches verbatim or remembering them) or it might be fiction to tell a point. It is quite possible the initial writer and the readers knew which so there was no intentional deception. Elder Dunn was intentionally deceiving and, while he gave God a lot of glory, he also glorified himself A LOT.

I personally suspect it was based on something real just because God comforted Joseph Smith by saying he was not as bad off as Job. Doing it with a fictional character lessens the impact for me but that does not mean much.

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On 2/28/2020 at 3:24 PM, Stargazer said:

You would! Of course, so would I.

But he's not. 

I know, but everyone I know who claims to take everything in scripture literally is either lying or unhinged.

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