Tuesday, March 18, 2014

# 35: The Bible Isn't a Literal Book of History, Either

Once you find out that the Book of Mormon is not a literal book of history, you might feel like leaving the Church.  That's understandable.  But please don't leave so quickly.  Take your time.  Leaving a religion could be the biggest decision of your life.  Consider your options.  In my mind, the best option for most people who lose their traditional testimonies in the Church is to stay LDS.

We've all heard this advice: don't quit your job until you've found another job.  I think the same principle applies to quitting a religion.  Don't leave the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints until you've found another religion to convert to.

When I had my faith crisis two years ago, I looked around at other religions.  I attended a few Christian churches.  None of them felt like home.

I also read the accounts of other people who left the LDS Church.  Very rarely did I find ex-Mormons genuinely converting to another religion and finding the peace, comfort, community and identity that they once had in the LDS Church.  It seemed like most ex-Mormons became agnostic or atheist, and I think that's very sad.  The exception I saw was Mitz Nelson who appears to have successfully transferred to a good non-LDS Christian Church.  Another exception I've found is the Wilder family.  They've all become born-again Christians.

But most of the ex-Mormons I've encountered have gone agnostic or atheist.  And then there's the example of the first openly bi-sexual and agnostic U.S. Representative from Arizona, Kyrsten Sinema.  She's an ex-Mormon. That breaks my heart.  I wish ex-Mormons could find more faith in Jesus.  But God loves everyone, and he understands the struggles of his children in this complicated modern age.

If you believe in a literal Bible, you believe that the Earth is 6,000 years old.  I believed that until my faith crisis.  I had heard all the scientists and archeologists explain how the human species is millions of years old, but I thought they were all wrong.  I thought that Doctrine and Covenants 77:6 trumped every opinion of every scientist.   After all, I thought that the Doctrine and Covenants the infallible word of God, even more pure than the Bible.  I also read and believed just about everything in Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie, and in that book, McConkie asserts that the Earth is 6,000 years old.

But probably the hardest Bible story for me to believe in these days is the Tower of Babel.  It seems like a myth that explains where the languages of the Earth came from.  And it seems crazy that a group of people really thought they could build a tower to get to heaven, that they could really attain salvation by increasing their altitude.

So, I don't believe that the Bible is a literal book of history anymore.  But I still regard it as scripture.

Mormons shouldn't have a rough time swallowing the fact that the Bible is not a literal book of scripture.  Their whole life they've been taught "We believe the Bible to be the Word of God, as far as it is translated correctly."  And they've been taught that the great and abomidable Church purposely took things out and added in false stuff just to confuse people.  So, I feel like whenever Mormons have read the Bible and come across a story that's hard to believe, they just say, "well, maybe this is a mistranslation, or an interpolation by uninspired men."  Such stories include the blind and elderly Isaac being tricked into giving his birthright to Jacob instead of Esau, in Genesis chapter 27, and Saul consulting a witch of En-dor to summon up the spirit of Samuel in 1 Samuel chapter 28.  In Sunday School and seminary, it seems like these stories are either ignored or cleverly explained away.

If you convert to a fundamentalist Christian religion, you'll have to listen to pastors claim that the Bible is the infallible Word of God, that it's a literal book of history, and that everything in that book really happened in actual reality.  Can you make yourself believe that?  I don't think I can.

So I think there's a danger in taking the Bible completely literally.  But there's more danger for the person who disregards the Bible in its entirety.  There are some "Christians" at the other end of the spectrum who don't take any scripture literally, even the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  These "Christians" often find their home in the Unitarian Universalist church.  But that Church has a lot of problems of its own.

How should we approach scripture study, when we no longer regard the scriptures as 100% literal or historical?  That's a good question, one that I think Elder D Todd Christofferson addresses here:

Elder D. Todd Christofferson gave the following insights about how we should study the scriptures:

“You should care more about the amount of time you spend in the scriptures than about the amount you read in that time. I see you sometimes reading a few verses, stopping to ponder them, carefully reading the verses again, and as you think about what they mean, praying for understanding, asking questions in your mind, waiting for spiritual impressions, and writing down the impressions and insights that come so you can remember and learn more. Studying in this way, you may not read a lot of chapters or verses in a half hour, but you will be giving place in your heart for the word of God, and He will be speaking to you”(in Conference Report, Apr. 2004, 9-10; or Ensign, May 2004, 11).

Elder Christofferson emphasizes that Scriptures are a vehicle to communing with God.  They're not meant to be historical.

For more information on how to use scriptures in your worship of God and in your life, even though don't accept their infallibility or literalness, read these nine affirmations from the Community of Christ, formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  I think the Community of Christ has a good attitude about what scripture is all about.

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