Dave's Mormon Inquiry Weblog
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  Saturday, February 07, 2004

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 page.

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? 9:02:21 AM      

Here are some interesting stories highlighted in LDS.org's Church in the News section.  The LDS Bishop of a ward in Florida was interviewed by the local newspaper; scripted, but interesting. (Hero: President Hinckley.  Ever doubted your faith? Essentially no, never.  Life motto:  Be positive.)  Another small-town paper interview here, this one of a returned missionary.  The "I'm just a regular guy serving Christ" story seems to play well in the South.  Finally, there's a story from the Napa Valley News (California) purporting to be an average resident's comments on Mormon missionaries in their town.  Sample:  Their white shirts, ties and black name tags give them away. They often ride their bicycles in all types of weather including cold and rainy days. These missionaries show kindness to all they come into contact with.

A nice God and football story from the Sacramento Bee.  Talented high school football player with several scholarship offers commits to BYU and plans to put football on hold for two years after his freshman year to serve an LDS mission.  Seems like "God is more important than football" stories are the 21st-century equivalent of "man bites dog" stories -- newspapers just can't resist them.  Just one more way Mormonism is out of step with mainstream Christianity: we teach our kids that religion matters more than football.

Finally, a study conducted through UNC-Chapel Hill reported in the Christian Examiner notes that most teenagers are not alienated from organized religion, and as many as two-thirds closely agree with the religious beliefs of their parents.  Only 21% said their religious beliefs were "different or very different" from their parents' beliefs.  Wow, the sixties are over, aren't they? 8:03:59 AM      

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