At BYU-Idaho (the college formerly known as Ricks) Virginia Pearce, daughter of President Hinckley and former member of the LDS Young Women General Presidency, gave a devotional
depicting the Book of Mormon as an example of a "'single point failure' Ė an item that, if [it] failed, would cause the failure of the entire system" (quoting the BYU-I article, not Pearce directly). In her opinion, everything about Mormonism "succeeds or fails in light of this one critical item." LDS leaders have been stressing this a lot lately, upping the ante on the Book of Mormon's historicity (at least in public remarks directed to chapel Mormons). The devotional and BYU-I article are highlighted at LDS.org's Church in the News
First, this shows the prevalence of business-speak in LDS leadership thinking: single-point failure? Give me a break. More directly, the depiction of the Book of Mormon as a "single-point failure" is simply wrong. Thousands of people have come to the conclusion that the Book of Mormon is not historical yet remain active and faithful Latter-day Saints, so the Book of Mormon is not a single-point failure, period. LDS leadership statements on the subject do make it clear it is impolitic to recite this fact in public, but as a literal statement that claim is just another example of how LDS leaders often prefer to deny inconvenient facts rather than deal with them. [Note: The inconvenient fact is that one can reject historicity yet remain a faithful Mormon.] You recall this is exactly the issue that drove the Murphy fiasco last year: Thomas Murphy's Stake President insisted on excommunicating him because he made public statements denying (with good evidence) the historical basis of the Book of Mormon, yet Murphy defended his right to remain a Latter-day Saint of record (he's not presently active but does not choose to resign his membership and resists being excommunicated). The excommunication attempt turned into a PR disaster for the Church and was put on hold. LDS leadership is still struggling to define an alternative approach, it seems.
This "single-point failure" mindset is exactly how fundamentalist Christians tried to define the inerrant Bible in their fight with liberal Christians over evolution and higher biblical criticism one hundred years ago. Liberal Christians rejected inflated claims of inerrancy (as do Mormons) and were willing to make peace with evolution rather than fight a losing battle with science. Seems like LDS leaders should go read their religious history books and try to avoid painting the Mormon Church into the same corner that Christian fundamentalists now find themselves in.
Personally, I think it is obvious that Mormons accept the Book of Mormon only "as far as it is translated correctly." Who would want to affirm the truth of an incorrectly translated document? As our understanding of "translation" increases, the conclusions one draws about the status of the translated English-language text of the Book of Mormon naturally change. One can say whatever one wants about inerrant autographs of the Bible or golden plates of the Book of Mormon. The RLDS Church (now known officially as The Community of Christ) has made reasonable accomodations along these lines. I'll close with a quote from the Summary of Beliefs presented at the RLDS version of LDS.org.
The scriptures provide divine guidance and inspired insight for life when responsibly interpreted and faithfully applied. With other Christians, we affirm the Bible as scripture for the church. In our tradition, the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants are additional scriptural witnesses of Godís love and Christís ministry.
Sounds pretty reasonable, doesn't it?