long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Changed circumstances

A while ago, I mentioned that I thought this blog (BookofMormonwars) had served its purpose and I'd be transitioning to other blogs. But circumstances have changed, so I'll continue posting here for a while.

[Trigger warning: I don't think any scholars are reading this blog, but if you are, I'm not trying to offend anyone here.]

What changed my mind was the council of Springville. For those who don't know what I'm referring to, this was a news item that appeared on Book of Mormon Central. I posted my observations here.

This idea that a collection of scholars--a conclave--can assemble to interpret the Book of Mormon alarms me more than I initially realized. I compared it to the council of Nicea because it seemed to have the same rationale; i.e., that scholars can determine what the scriptures mean.

Here is the opening line from the news item: "Book of Mormon Central convened a working group to consider the sense of meaning of a number of passages in the text whose interpretations have proven controversial."

That's not a bad objective, in theory. But the same can be said of the council of Nicea. It's what comes out of the conclave that matters most, but the idea of scholars interpreting the scriptures for everyone else is alarms me on its face.

The opening line also invokes the online magazine called The Interpreter. Those who follow my blogs know I don't think much of that magazine. Although they often publish some good independent material, the editorial board has a particular point of view that I find fundamentally antithetical to scholarship in the first place. But worse is the implication from the title: The Interpreter. Again, the title suggests that this group of scholars can interpret the scriptures for the rest of us. This has a very medieval sense to it, like we're supposed to read the scriptures through the eyes of these scholars.

I'm all in favor of scholarship, study, and discussion about the scriptures, Church history, and related topics. But only when it is an open exploration. When it is agenda driven, as the Council of Springville and the Interpreter are, I think it impedes the search for truth and does more harm than good.

My goal is to open the discussion, provide different perspectives, and resist the idea that any group of scholars can interpret the scriptures for others. I think each person should interpret the scriptures and not rely on what agenda-driven scholars tell them to think.

As always, feel free to disagree. I just thought my readers want do know where I'm coming from.

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