Sunday, November 25, 2012

Importance of Historicity for Book of Mormon Theology

There has been lots of kerfuffle about if apologetic work is damaging or necessary. My own response is its not dangerous, but it can be spiritually irrelevant or stagnant. At the same time there is a time and a place for defending the faith or some teachings. For each person who might have been turned off by the work, there are an equal number inspired by apologetic arguments and grow more faithful. It isn't a clear cut binary situation no matter how strong the disagreement for one side or the other. There can be a multitude of Mormon Study approaches to history, doctrine, and the like with various audiences reading. One apologetic is critical to fight for and that is defending the historicity of the Book of Mormon.

The importance of the historicity of the Book of Mormon was recognized at the beginning of its production. Even before it was sold to the general public, a mocking thief published what was purported to be part of its pages. It read like what was expected from a farm boy with little education, complete with typical Indian representations that last even today. When the book came out, the complexity and seriousness of it forced a stronger attack. Joseph Smith could no more be the author, but a far more educated individual had to have been responsible. When this didn't seem to cut it (although such arguments still exist) then it was the product of Joseph Smith's environment he got from every and any corner his curiosity could find. This remains the dominant criticism of the book as historical with DNA the supposed nail in the coffin. This ignores that the book is as spiritually and literarily forceful today and reads far more like modern(ist) literature than the romanticism of its publishing era. The authors are self aware, holy scripture is considered amendable and reductionist, editorial comment often contains meta-narrative, and the writing process itself is explored. The depth is absolutely astounding.

Over at Times and Seasons, Steve Smith asks the question, "So why must a scholar of Mormon Studies feel compelled to take a stance with regard to many issues such as Book of Mormon historicity?" He likens it to "bracketing" the Garden of Eden, The Flood, and so forth. This brazen question is astonishing for anyone who is familiar with the Book of Mormon's own text and arguments. Joseph Smith called it, "the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book." He spent a lifetime reiterating and gathering evidence for the historical truth of the Book of Mormon, and not just its teachings. His short commentary on a book about Central American ruins is the most famous example. There was only one other subject that Joseph Smith declared a foundation for Mormonism, and that the Divinity of Jesus Christ. He stated, "The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it." There was no equivocation of the reality of Jesus as Savior and there shouldn't be for the historical truth of the Book of Mormon if you take Joseph Smith seriously.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Mormons and the Paranormal

Some Mormon Ghost Tales

 When leaves start turning bright colors of amber and orange and occasionally the first snow falls, its that time of year again. At the end of October ghosts, ghouls, strange beings, and killers walk the streets. Kids laugh and candy is handed out as if grown on trees. You guessed it; Halloween has arrived.

I have to admit that Thanksgiving is a good day of rest and food while Christmas is exciting and special. Halloween on the other hand has its own pleasures. For once those who are imaginative and don't see the world the same way as others can let loose. Dressing up and acting like a fool or other is just plain fun. With these thoughts having been expressed, I will be writing about a few themes for this time of scares and spooks.

 Mormonism is full of stories about angels leaving messages and spirits roaming the world. Despite or even because of that there aren't too many ghost stories passed along in its history. Part of this could be the specific teachings related to the afterlife and those who hang around. There are only two reasons theologically recognized why a visitor from the other side of the veil of life is seen; to leave a message from the Lord or daemons tormenting mortals. There are plenty of stories about both. One of the first Mormon stories in history is of an evil possession during the First Vision and an excorcism years later. Not many probably put the former in the catagory of ghost story, but it can fit into the genre. These are great starts for the subject of Mormon spooky tales.