Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Law of Witnesses

By Ryan M. of "Blogger of Jared"

It's a familiar refrain; "out of the mouths of two or three witnesses." And who would object? One witness can easily be challenged. Two witnesses (especially independent ones) provide more credibility. And, in my opinion, each additional witness increases credibility exponentially. Knowing and remembering that the Lord uses the law of witnesses as a modus operandi for establishing His word can be especially helpful as we study the scriptures - particularly the Book of Mormon. It seems to me that no other canon is so surrounded by witnesses. They are like sentinels at the gate of truth for "the most correct book on earth." Let's look at a few of these, starting with some that my favorite apostle, Jeffrey R. Holland, gives us in Christ and The New Covenant:

In keeping with this same covenantal principle, it is interesting to note that there were three earlier witnesses—special witnesses—not only of the divine origins of the Book of Mormon but also of Divinity himself. These early witnesses were Nephi, Jacob, and Isaiah, and it is not by coincidence that their testimonies appear so conspicuously at the beginning of this ancient record . . .

. . . What is known is that most of the "greater views" of the gospel found in the teachings of the small plates of Nephi come from the personal declarations of these three great prophetic witnesses of the premortal Jesus Christ—Nephi, Jacob, and Isaiah. These three doctrinal and visionary voices make clear at the very outset of the Book of Mormon why it is "another testament of Jesus Christ."

In declaring the special preparation these three had for receiving and teaching such "greater views" of the gospel, Nephi revealed the most persuasive qualification of all: They had seen the premortal Jesus Christ.

And now I, Nephi, write more of the words of Isaiah, for my soul delighteth in his words. For I will liken his words unto my people, and I will send them forth unto all my children, for he verily saw my Redeemer, even as I have seen him.

And my brother, Jacob, also has seen him . . . ; wherefore, I will send their words forth unto my children to prove unto them that my words are true. Wherefore, by the words of three, God has said, I will establish my word.

Nephi concluded, "My soul [and he could have said the souls of all three] delighteth in proving unto [our] people the truth of the coming of Christ, . . . that save Christ should come all men must perish."

One could argue convincingly that the primary purpose for recording, preserving, and then translating the small plates of Nephi was to bring forth to the dispensation of the fulness of times the testimony of these three witnesses. Their writings constitute a full 135 of the 145 pages from the small plates. By the time one has read Nephi, Jacob, and Isaiah in these first pages, a strong foundation has been laid for what Nephi called "the doctrine of Christ." It is a foundation conforming perfectly to the title page of the Book of Mormon. After reading these three witnesses from the small plates of Nephi, the reader knows two things in bold relief: that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and that God will keep his covenants and promises with the remnants of the house of Israel. Those two themes constitute the two principal purposes of the Book of Mormon, and they are precisely the introductory themes addressed by Nephi, Jacob, and Isaiah.

And in addition to providing a witness of Christ, these three witnesses fall into another pattern set by the Lord time and time again; that of a type and shadow. These three witnesses of Christ and of the divinity of the Book of Mormon have, by virtue of their testimonies, lent weight to Joseph Smith and the procedure he followed of choosing three special witnesses (Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer). These three men experienced a combination of physical (touching and turning the plates) and supernatural (angelic visitation) manifestations that could, with validity, put to rest any claim that they were victims of an elaborate hoax. They would railroad detractors into the unenviable position of combating the gravity of fervent eyewitness testimonies. Joseph Smith was not alone.

The Book of Mormon is surrounded by men who boldly stood to say "We have seen these things." These include Jacob, Nephi, Isaiah, Martin, David, Oliver, Joseph and the testimonies of the additional eight witnesses.

Why is this all so important? We know that we can ultimately know the truth of all things by the power of the Holy Ghost right? So why would/does the Lord bother to use such an archaic method to establish His word? Holy Ghost vs. farmers and nomads seems akin to using an abacus to prove an equation instead of using a graphing calculator.

Sadly, it's because all we understand is the abacus. How glorious it would be if all people were so spiritually inclined that when a missionary eventually arrived with the gospel in his hands, the Holy Ghost could immediately "witness" to the truth of the message. Wouldn't it be nice if we, as members, could be converted to each of the lessons that come from General Conference the first time? Instead, we have to hear at least three apostles reinforce the message of the dangers of Internet pornography, before we start to get the hint!

Until then, we can certainly be grateful for the law of witnesses. We can thank the authors of the Book of Mormon and others for helping us understand the great lengths to which the Lord will go to bring us back to Him. Even if it means breaking out His dusty old abacus and teaching us slide by slide, witness by witness.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Tree of the Atonement

By Connor B. of "Connor's Conundrums"

Tree of Life

The Tree of Life is a symbol familiar to all who have read the Book of Mormon. Nephi learned from an angel that the tree in his father's vision represents the love of God. The vision shows a tree bearing white fruit, with a single path leading up to it, for all to navigate in order to approach the tree.

The Tree of Life in Lehi and Nephi's vision is one of two types presented in the Book of Mormon. This specific version is the communal Tree of Life where all may come and partake. Once Lehi himself had partaken of the fruit, his immediate reaction was to invite his family to do the same.

And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit.
And it came to pass that I beckoned unto them; and I also did say unto them with a loud voice that they should come unto me, and partake of the fruit, which was desirable above all other fruit. (1 Ne. 8:12,15)

The tree in this instance is a single tree from which everybody may partake of the fruit. Also representative of Christ's atonement, a profound manifestation of God's love, one sees the symbolic association of "coming" to a central location. We are counseled to come unto Christ, where all may partake of the heavenly gift. As all may come unto the communal Tree of Life, so may we all come unto Christ, our only Savior, to partake of his salvation.

The other type of the Tree of Life we see in the Book of Mormon is the individual tree. This version is found in Alma 32, where Alma discusses planting the seed of faith, that it may begin to grow into the tree of life.

And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.
But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.
Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you. (Alma 32:40,41,43)

I learn from this comparison how individual and personal the atonement can be. While he suffered the sins of all mankind, he suffered for my sins, and that fact alone endears him to me. While I can tread the path with everybody else, and arrive at a central tree to share the fruit and its joy with those I love, I can also have my own tree, planted deep within me. Resulting from the laborious care of nurturing my seed of faith, I am rewarded with a personal and individual tree to be enjoyed alone. Instead of sharing communal fruit from a central tree, I can plant seeds from my tree in other people, so that they too may one day see the tree of life grow within themselves.

Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you.
Yea, he saith: Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life; yea, ye shall eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely; (Alma 5:33,34)

God's love (and the manifestation of it through his Son's atonement) is both communalistic and individualistic. We feel it universally, knowing that he is no respecter of persons, and loves all of His children. Yet at the same time we know that he knows us personally; he knows our names, our cares, our worries, and doubts, and He, the Master Gardner, will assist us in nurturing and pruning our own tree.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Little Known Omni

By Mary of "By Study and Also By Faith"

The Book of Omni in the Book of Mormon is one of the more neglected scriptures we have. We tend to think of it as that short book by five different authors who had very little to say. But did they really not say much?

In the very first verse Omni, the son of Jarom, tells us that he was commanded by his father to write on the plates to preserve their genealogy. This tells us that they understood the importance of family and family history, and it is a reminder to preserve our own genealogy and history. Verse 2 tells us that Omni did much fighting to preserve his people, the Nephites, from falling into the hands of their enemies, the Lamanites. So freedom and liberty were as important to them as they should be to us in our day. Living the gospel requires freedom from oppression and the liberty to worship as we see fit.
The plates are passed to Amaron, Omni's son, and he tells us in verse 5 that the more wicked part of the Nephites were destroyed. Why? In verse 6, Amaron tells us,

"For the Lord would not suffer, after he had led them out of the land of Jerusalem and kept and preserved them from falling into the hands of their enemies, yea, he would not suffer that the words should not be verified, which he spake unto our fathers, saying that: Inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall not prosper in the land."

This is the second part of the phrase that has played a prominent role throughout the Book of Mormon--that we prosper in the land only as we keep the commandments of the Lord, a statement that the Lord made to His prophets specifically about the promised lands of the Western Hemisphere, to which He led Lehi.

The record is passed to Chemish, brother of Amaron, and then to Chemish's son, Abinadom, who says that what has been written is sufficient and passes the record to his own son, Amaleki. Though Chemish and Abinadom had little to say, they kept the commandment to write at least a little on the plates to preserve the genealogy. It also shows that they placed importance on safeguarding the records and passing them on for the benefit of future generations.

Amaleki had the most to say and he refers to some important doctrines of the gospel. Verse 12 speaks of the following of the prophet and king, Mosiah, as being the same as following the Lord because it was the Lord who warned Mosiah to lead his people out of the land of Nephi. Verse 13 says,

"And it came to pass that he did according as the Lord had commanded him. And they departed out of the land into the wilderness, as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord; and they were led by many preachings and prophesyings. And they were admonished continually by the word of God; and they were led by the power of his arm, through the wilderness until they came down into the land which is called the land of Zarahemla."

In other words, follow the Lord, follow the prophet. Listen to the word of God and trust in His arm rather than the arm of the flesh. Basic teachings of the gospel as reiterated by Amaleki.

Amaleki then tells us briefly that Mosiah discovered the people of Zarahemla, who had come out of Jerusalem at the time that Zedekiah, king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon. Amaleki also mentions the Jaredites, though not by that name.

In verse 25, Amaleki pleads with "all men" to come unto God:

"And it came to pass that I began to be old; and, having no seed, and knowing king Benjamin to be a just man before the Lord, wherefore, I shall deliver up these plates unto him, exhorting all men to come unto God, the Holy One of Israel, and believe in prophesying, and in revelations, and in the ministering of angels, and in the gift of speaking with tongues, and in the gift of interpreting languages, and in all things which are good; for there is nothing which is good safe it comes from the Lord; and that which is evil cometh from the devil."
In verse 26, he pleads that all will come unto Christ:
"And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved."

In those two verses, Amaleki reminds us of some of the most important doctrines of the gospel and of their supreme importance in a very meaningful summary. Verse 25 reminds me of the 13th Article of Faith:
"We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul--We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."

Main Messages in Omni:

  1. Come unto God/Christ
  2. Duty to God, family, and community (i.e., in keeping the records, fighting for freedom, etc.)

Some of the gospel doctrines referred to in Omni, either implicitly or explicitly:

  1. Family, genealogy
  2. Commandments to preserve and pass on spiritual writings (teaching the gospel), as well as genealogy
  3. Keeping God's commandments leads to prosperity, while not keeping them leads to the Lord's judgments
  4. Follow the prophet, who speaks for the Lord
  5. Prophesying and revelation
  6. Ministering of angels
  7. Gifts of the Spirit (i.e., speaking with tongues and interpreting languages)
  8. Good comes from the Lord and evil comes from the devil
  9. Salvation and redemption
  10. Offering our souls to Christ (i.e., doing His will rather than our own)
  11. Fasting and prayer
  12. Enduring to the end

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

How Nephi Uses Isaiah

By Jettboy

Many people who read the Book of Mormon have a hard time getting past two parts of the book. One of them is the war chapters of the Book of Alma. The second is the Isaiah quotes of Nephi that some people simply skim or skip. Those who don't pay attention to the Isaiah chapters are missing a very important message that Nephi wants to illustrate through his favorite prophet. He wants us to understand the destiny of Israel, the hope of the Gentiles, and the mission of the Savior.

Nephi continually praises Isaiah as the greatest prophet after Moses. His teachings are essential for comprehending the world's spiritual destiny. Behind the hard to understand language is eternal hope for humanity.
2 Nephi 11:8

8 And now I write some of the words of Isaiah, that whoso of my people shall see these words may lift up their hearts and rejoice for all men. Now these are the words, and ye may liken them unto you and unto all men

He first quotes chapters of Isaiah after explaining that the God of Israel will come down to be mocked, smitten, and crucified by the wicked. In return the World will do the same with the house of Israel that the wicked did to God. Eventually, however, God will remember Israel even on the isles of the sea. The World will witness the Salvation of the Lord and be blessed. Isaiah chapter 48 is used to demonstrate the wickedness of Israel. They go against the very God they are supposed to worship. Yet, God will continue to have mercy.
1 Nephi 20:8-11

8 Yea, and thou heardest not; yea, thou knewest not; yea, from that time thine ear was not opened; for I knew that thou wouldst deal very treacherously, and wast called a transgressor from the womb.

9 Nevertheless, for my name’s sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain from thee, that I cut thee not off.

10 For, behold, I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.

11 For mine own sake, yea, for mine own sake will I do this, for I will not suffer my name to be polluted, and I will not give my glory unto another

The next chapter, Isaiah 49, explains though Israel will suffer, ultimately it will be for the greater good.
1 Nephi 21:6-8

6 And he said: It is a light thing that thou shouldst be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel. I will also give thee for a blight to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the ends of the earth.

7 Thus saith the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nations abhorreth, to servant of rulers: Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the Lord that is faithful.

8 Thus saith the Lord: In an acceptable time have I heard thee, O isles of the sea, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee; and I will preserve thee, and give thee my servant for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages

The Isaiah chapters are not directly picked up again until Nephi quotes a long talk of his brother Jacob. In the oration, Jacob uses Isaiah to expand on the idea of Israel's blessed future. With the help of the Lord, Israel will rise above all nations and become glorious when it repents of its sins.

Finishing up his brother's talk, Nephi is inspired to again quote Isaiah. At this point many reader's eyes glaze over. A careful reader will pay attention. The first chapter of Isaiah is a warning of the terrible day of the Lord when the righteous prosper and the wicked fear. By the 4 and 5 chapter of Isaiah, Israel has been given a promise of purification and power.
2 Nephi 14:4-5

4 When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning.

5 And the Lord will create upon every dwelling-place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for upon all the glory of Zion shall be a defense.

There is a question why God was so angry with Israel for making alliances. After all, they were trying to protect themselves against other equally powerful nations. The problem was they had, like the Nephites of later years, forgotten the Lord and believed in their own strength. Instead of protection, the nations become a spiritual crutch.
2 Nephi 18:12-13

12 Say ye not, A confederacy, to all to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.

13 Sanctify the Lord of Hosts himself, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.

Knowing the reasons behind why Nephi quotes Isaiah, it would not be surprising if he found the following of comfort:
2 Nephi 20:20-23

20 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them, but shall stay upon the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.

21 The remnant shall return, yea, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God.

22 For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return; the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness.

23 For the Lord God of Hosts shall make a consumption, even determined in all the land.

Most of the other chapters continue the same pattern of wicked destroyed and righteous finally glorified. Israel is continually chastised for sins and promised better days when it repents. There is no mistaking the promises made in the first chapters of the Book of Mormon are repeated in the Isaiah chapters. The righteous will prosper and the wicked will perish. This is made completely clear by Isaiah 14, the last chapter quoted in the largest grouping. Lucifer and the wicked, symbolized by Babylon, will be completely destroyed. From the smoke and ashes will come Zion.
2 Nephi 24:32

32 What shall then answer the messengers of the nations? That the Lord hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it.

The final Isaiah section that Nephi uses, Isaiah 29, is perhaps the most personalized. He feels a close enough connection that it often is hard to recognize where Nephi starts and Isaiah ends. 2 Nephi 27 is more of a commentary than a quotation.

Most Latter-day Saints will recognize the chapter is about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. It tells about a book that the learned will not read and God lets the unlearned read it instead. Of course, Nephi is talking about the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, and the Restoration of the Gospel. It is not surprsing that Nephi, who likens Isaiah to his people, would see himself in the great prophet's teachings. Perhaps it is at this point that he realized the importance of writing on the plates.

For Nephi, Isaiah is a guidebook for and prophecy of the Lamanites and Nephites. Him and his people are a remnant of Israel scattered to the isles of the sea. Eventually, as Isaiah promises, they will help bring salvation to the Gentiles and be gathered back into the covenant family of God. There is nothing more important to him, or to us, than becoming a part of that history.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Resurrection and Restoration

By Wade of "Blogger of Jared"

My first real introduction to symbolism came while I was serving my mission. It was in my last area (Aurora Colorado), and I was with my last companion. I was lucky to have a dedicated companion during my final months.

This companion happened to bring along an audio tape that would end up changing my general perspective about God and the Gospel of Christ. It was an obscure recording of a CES instructor, Todd B. Parker. I have tried to find a copy of the tape; my efforts have been in vain. However, the lecture impressed me so much that I took notes. Moreover, I have been able to find parts of this lecture on-line (in a FARMS publication).

This post will serve as part one in a series of posts in which I plan to share insights from the lecture.

I was reminded again of these insights when I visited Tyler’s blog earlier today. In the thread to one of his posts, an anti-mormon attempted to argue that Joseph Smith “fabricated [the Book of Mormon] out of thin air.” My first thought in response to this was: if he fabricated it out of thin air, he must have been a genius inspired by either God or the devil himself. Indeed, the lecture by Brother Parker reveals that Joseph would have to be a genius on many levels!

To begin, Joseph brought forth two verses of scripture that reveal this basic truth: all things are created to bear record of, and to symbolize/typify Christ. (See 2 Nephi 11:4; Moses 6:63).

Of course everyone knows the Book of Mormon testifies of Christ — its subtitle declares it “Another Testament of Jesus Christ”. But the coming forth of the book typifies Christ in a different manner, or from a different perspective. The manner in which it does this, you will see, is not coincidental. A simple list of the physical characteristics of the Book’s coming forth will show what I mean:

  • The coming forth of the Book was declared by an angel (Moroni)

  • Christ’s coming forth was declared by an angel (Gabriel)

  • The Book came forth in a time of apostasy to restore truth

  • Christ came in the meridian of time to restore truth

  • It was taken from the receptacle by a man named Joseph

  • Christ was put into the receptacle by a man named Joseph (of Arimathaea)

  • An angel was there to see the coming forth of the plates (Moroni)

  • An angel was there to see the coming forth of Christ from the tomb

  • The first to see the plates (Joseph) was forbidden to touch them

  • The first to see Christ (Mary Magdalene) was forbidden to touch him

  • The book was attested to by 12 special witnesses (the 8, the 3, and Joseph himself)

  • Christ had 12 special witnesses

  • The Book of Mormon is the Word of God

  • Christ is referred to as the Word of God

  • The Book of Mormon teaches the fulness of the gospel

  • Christ taught the fulness

So, if Joseph did fabricate the book out of “thin air”, he was a genius like the world had never seen, nor seen since. He would of had to consider all of these intricate types and shadows, on top of writing the book without extensive resources. And on top of it all, for some reason he decided not to expound upon his masterpiece; for I’ve never read of Joseph discussing these types.

Truly Joseph was the servant of God and brought forth this ancient record under the direction of the Almighty. This record, known as the Book of Mormon, testifies of Christ in more ways than one.

A comment of interest left by Tyler on July 19th, 2006

Thanks, Wade.

Elder Talmage talks about two general types of evidence for the veracity of the Book of Mormon: internal and external. I have always been impressed by the external evidence: chiasmus and the rest. Recent reading and pondering, however, have led me to be more impressed with the internal veracity of the Book of Mormon (I’m not sure, exactly, if the evidence of which Wade speaks here is internal or external).

I have, in particular, found it quite enlightening to study the Book of Mormon by prophet, searching for themes. I kind of like to pretend that I am compiling a “teaching of the living prophets” book for Nephi, or Jacob, or Mormon. My favorite, though, is Alma. A quick review of his sermons shows a wonderful consistency–no other prophet of whom I am aware gives more touching and profound insights into the process of rebirth effected by the Atonement of Jesus Christ. What is striking, of course, is how naturall this theme flows from his life experience–being snatched from the flames of hell by angel in accordance with the prayers of his Father prepared Alma for his beautiful testament to the saving power of the Christ.

The Keystone of My Faith

When I was in my early teens, my life was floundering between the future and a sense of hopeless dispair. Because of some problems I was having I was losing faith in myself and humanity. There was nothing drastic going on, but I was growing in anger and frustration with the World around me.

It was a typical Sunday when I unloaded my concerns on the shoulders of a friend. The discussion really didn't have much to do with God, although eventually the topic came up. Then came the ultimate question; was there really a purpose to this miserable life? The answer came as a question, "Have you read the Book of Mormon?"

Of course, as a lifelong "Mormon" I was familiar with it and read much of it with my family. Beyond that my reading was not of an intimate degree. Recognizing that the question was possibly the answer - one way or the other - I decided to read on my own from start to finish. It was a task daunting to a 15 year old, but not outside of my already brisk reading habits.

The more I read over the months, the greater my faith in my born religion. There was no burning in the bosum or spiritually blinding experience. Rather, it was a gradual realization of its truth. I was becoming enlightened. Fear was replaced by Hope. Hate was becoming drowned in Love. Understanding wiped away Confusion. I had gained Faith in a book that the vast majority of the World rejected, ingnored, or took for granted.

Beyond that I believe it ultimately saved my life as well as my soul. My contempt for humanity built up from my early teen years still boarders on Calvanistic. However, reading the Book of Mormon reminds me of my potential (everyone's potential) to become greater then the weakness of the flesh. Help is available thanks to Jesus Christ my Savior.

It is with great pleasure that I host this "small and insignificant" blog discussion on the Book of Mormon. My hope goes beyond the success of this gathering of essays. It is that those who read them go away with a love of the Book of Mormon that will make them want to take a closer look at its teachings; and live closer to the Spirit and Christ.


Friday, September 08, 2006

Announcement: Book of Mormon Blog Symposium

I would like to announce a blog symposium here with the Book of Mormon as the subject matter. This would include more than simple Sunday School lessons or testimonials. What I am intending is some short analysis of one of the 15 books, main and unique message of one of the prophets, or a topic that is not usually discussed. The intention is based on my belief that the Book of Mormon has been read by millions, but understood by few in its scope. Discussion will include:

- New essays written by me about the purpose of the Book of Mormon and what we can learn from its words.

- A variety of guest posts presenting different veiwpoints for a more in-depth look at this ancient scripture for modern readers.

- Discussions about blog articles from around the bloggernacle that touch on Book of Mormon teachings.

If you would like to participate by including your own essays, e-mail a request to "" to join the symposium. Include a short (2 to 3 sentence) description of what you would like to write. The short essay will be posted at my "Straight and Narrow Blog" with your byline and site link if you have one.

The Book of Mormon Blog Symposium will go from Sunday, Sept. 17 to Wednesday Oct. 25, with a new article published each Sunday and Wednesday. Come over to read and make your own comments during this project.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Apologetics: Vacuous Study of Minutiae

Looking through other blogs, I am always on the lookout for any place to add to my roster. As stated a few times, my interests are in the more conservative and orthodox writers. There are some that I visit nearly on a regular basis, but have not listed. This isn't from any lack of agreeable positions. While questioning why I don't link to them, my thoughts drift to an opinion I have had for some time. Apologetics (of the "Mormon" kind) has been very interesting and useful. My personal library contains a few of my favorites. Ultimately, however, they seem to be lacking in spiritual benefits.

Some examples of sites that I go to and sometimes enjoy, but don't link include Mormanity, SHIELDS, and FARMS where apologetics are the main subject. Another example that doesn't seem to fit my interest is No Death Before the Fall as a one note discussion even if more conservative in orthodoxy (I am not sure if I agree with it's position). All of these touch more or less on the idea of refuting the critics and doubters of the LDS faith. Yet, I don't feel an overwhelming need to read them beyond an occasional peek.

With some soul searching I have concluded that much of what they say does not touch me at a root level. Sure, FARMS has been a lifelong obsession with me. What it doesn't do is make me want to live my life any better or closer to God than before I read most of the material. The reason for this is hard to put down on paper. My guess is that they don't study the actual teachings of the Scriptures or provide guidance for those looking for meaning behind doctrines and teachings.

There are some instances where apologetics goes beyond the mere esoteric, theoretical, and intellectual. Half of Hugh Nibley's writings for me have more than the mere mosaic of evidence, and say things about humanity and our spiritual relation to God. His predecessors often don't have that same grasp of the importance of what they are trying to defend. At least not in their writings. They list this discovery and talk about that similarity with the detached excitement of spectators.

Improving the dialogue in apologetics is a tricky proposition. On the one hand, they don't exist to deliver sermons or moral lessons. It is a blunt instrument meant to block the blows of other blunt weapons against faith. In some ways the subject matter is determined by "the enemies" goals and arguments. Yet, they are dealing with faith and religion where morality and theology are what make the fight important. That should at least make those engaged in the business think of things better to say than what kind of swords people carried. Many people might be able to recognize instances of parallelism, but how many can explain the meaning of the teachings between the lines? It can be a vacuous study of minutiae.

Such poor conditions of an otherwise robust and professional endeavor have given me pause. They are an important part of my faith development, but do not contribute much to the enlargement of my soul. I wish those in the apologetics business success and I will continue to read them whenever they catch my interest. They have my deepest respect and gratitude. I would just like it to become more inspirational.