Reconstructing the narrative surrounding the origins of the Book of Mormon

2 thoughts on “Reconstructing the narrative surrounding the origins of the Book of Mormon”

  1. This is a good and fair summary of the scholarly issues surrounding the Book of Mormon! Your efforts that highlight the value of the content are very interesting and inspiring. Your approach resonates with my personal values of searching for truth and accepting the highest degree of evidence for truth, wherever that truth may be found. That approach to truth comes from a phrase from Joseph Smith, of course, but I find that to be quite reasonable, balanced, and I’ve adopted it as my personal religion. I know there are issues with epistemologies of knowledge, whether there are truths outside of social consciousness, or if all truth is socially constructed. I find there are truths in both areas…a chair is a chair and not a construct of social consciousness, but there are truths that only exist as a collective function of culture. I’ve shed the biases of the LDS Corp and what they find useful with the Book of Mormon and authority narrative, but I have come full circle independent of that and as an anomaly against the scholarly consensus, I am 100% on board with the narrative that the Book of Mormon peoples are historical, and resurrection in bodily form is literal. I recognize this as an exception to the idea of accepting the highest degree of evidence for truth given that most evidence only comes from the scholarly world. I do find the scholarly evidence a good place to start, and very valuable. In fact, I think the current LDS have a practice of exercising stubborn loyalty to ideas in the face of mounting evidence against them, and thinking that that qualifies as following the Spirit, is foolishness. But my personal bias is that there are cases where evidence is anecdotal, meaning they can easily be explained away as metaphysical, etc., but in reality, the corporeality of it is still true. I don’t mean that as a testimonial, but instead to be upfront with my own biases. I see the Book of Mormon as a cultural translation that Joseph Smith had nothing to do with except repeat the message. In that sense, with God as the translator, all the issues you mention melt away for me and instead say something very interesting about his character. You take quite an interesting approach, however, and I find it fascinating. Sorry for the long explanation as background for the cultural translation idea. I hope it emphasizes our similarities more than differences. -Brian Z


    1. Thanks Brian for sharing your thoughts on this. I appreciate you adding your perspective and ideas.

      You bring up an interesting idea about social constructs of knowledge. Is a chair a chair outside of all social constructs? I’m not so sure. A chimpanzee doesn’t know what a chair is, nor perhaps someone from an indigenous culture that doesn’t use chairs. Even the word itself “chair” is in English, which of course requires us to know many things about the English language to even begin to understand what the word is referring to. At some point a human invented a chair, prior to which there were no chairs, and he/she had to show others what it was, and the idea spread. When we are babies, we don’t know what chairs are, so we have to be taught what a chair is for, by using one, being shown it by our parents, how to properly sit in one, by falling out a few times, etc. What is absolutely true about the chair, such as its chemical elements, may be true in themselves at some level, but much of the rest of what we know about chairs as humans seems to have evolved from human culture and social conditioning. It seems a chair is a chair because of humans.

      I do think the resurrection is real, but I don’t believe it is literally the reanimation of a dead body, as is traditionally thought. I think that may be a corruption of the original insights of resurrection. I’ve written a few articles on the resurrection, if you’re interested in my take, which can be found in the Topical Guide:

      I think in order for spirituality to be effective, it needs to reconcile to a large degree with other forms of knowledge. If it doesn’t, then there exists a gap, and that gap seems to widen over time, forming significant cognitive dissonance. We have to try to believe two completely different narratives at once. In mysticism there are many paradoxes, but they always reconcile at a higher level. Finding those reconciliations seems to be a large part of the religious/scientific discourse, correlating inner and outer experience of reality.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!


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