Sunday, 29 August 2004
HOW "THE BOOK OF MORMON" WAS PRODUCED
CONFIRMING THE INSPIRATION OF SCRIPTURE
SCRIPTURE AS INSPIRED FICTION
And yet Christ himself used fiction as a tool for teaching and inspiring.
“And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. But without a parable spake he not unto them...” (Mark 4:33-34)
PICASO’S BLUE PERIOD/ A PROPHET’S PROGRESS
When one examines all the works produced of any given artist, one often finds that the artist returns again and again to a particular theme during the course of his life. Often a writer or poet will retell a story several times. Each time the retelling is different. Sometimes the differences are subtle. Sometimes the difference are profound. But when considered in light of the artist’s life, the differences make sense. One can look at the various retellings and see how the writer progressed in his understanding of things, how he grew as an artist.
Sometimes certain artists will go through various “periods” in their life--such as the painter Picaso and his so-called “Blue Period.” Perhaps one of these “periods” will become synonymous with the artist. Yet no one who appreciates the artist would denigrate his earlier work--even if it were of a lesser quality.
The same principle can be applied to scripture and the writers of scripture.
For instance the New Testament accounts of the Easter story contradict one another on many essential points. Does this mean that the Christian world should cease celebrating Easter, or just ignore the stories of the resurrection? On the contrary, by studying these contrasting accounts, we can gain insights into the minds and faith of their authors.
In the Mormon scripture, “The Pearl of Great Price,” is found the story of Joseph Smith’s First Vision. Yet this account, dictated by Joseph Smith himself, contradicts in many essential aspects earlier accounts that he either dictated to others or wrote in his own hand.
Yet when these accounts are viewed as works of art--as Joseph’s attempts to revisit a particular story and, by changing certain details, convey newly discovered insights--one can see and more fully appreciate the progress that he made in his understanding of existence, of human nature and the nature of the Divine.
What are the advantages of viewing scripture as art?
Why do you suppose Christ taught “the mysteries of the Kingdom of God” by using fictional stories, rather than using only historical references?
How can historical fiction explore moral, philosophic and theological issues more effectively than a mere recitation of historical facts? How can fiction illuminate facts?
What are some works of historical fiction that have inspired you or caused you to ponder your relationship with God--even though these works may have taken great liberties with historical facts?
How can viewing scripture as art help us to understand and reconcile the differences and seeming discrepancies found in the Bible, The Book of Mormon and Mormon history?
REFORM MORMON THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK:
Since people write all scripture, all scripture is art. A work of art is greater than the sum of its parts; it can inspire one with a sense of meaning and purpose. Whenever artists create such works, they are engaged in a similitude of the creative act of God. With every such act, an individual becomes more like God.
To respond to some of the questions raised in this Gospel Doctrine session, or to make a comment or ask a question, email:Reformmormons@aol.com.
Catholics have saints that are similar to polytheistic gods except your not supposed to worship them as you do G-d the father. There are saints for everything, even bicycles (maybe the LDS missionaries should look to the patron saint of bicycles for protection? :-p) Even the authors of the Torah, or old testament, whichever you prefer to call it, had there ways of explaining certain ways of being. An example could be Adam and Eve.
G-d made man out of dust from the ground. When man (and woman) partook of the tree of knowledge of good and evil G-d cursed Adam. G-d sent Adam out of the garden of Eden, and was forced to till the ground. “You will eat bread until you return to the ground. For from it you where taken, dust you are and to dust you will return.” Eve was cursed with the burden of intensified labor pains and child rearing difficulties.
Adam derives from the Hebrew word Adamah, which means “ground”! Eve comes from the Hebrew word Chavah, which means “life also “mother”. So, is it coincidence that Adam and Eve where named what they where? Is it a historical fact that they are indeed named Adam and Eve? Or, was it wordplay used by the Jews of the time to explain what they believed to have happened? Was Adam and Eve made up? Maybe the names where but we must have an original set of parents some where. Was there really a garden of Eden where we didn’t have to till the ground for food? But then as a curse we must? There might have been.
When reading scriptures and interpreting them, one should look at everything for what it is. Some stories are just that, they are stories and myths. It is our job to look deep, past the magic and see what the point of the scripture is. What does the Adam and Eve story teach us? What was the purpose in creating it? That is how I think one should approach all scripture. Even, the Book of Mormon. You need to find a balance between historicity and literalism. That is where the true beauty of the scriptures lie.
(The new definitive biography of young Joseph Smith--nearly a third of which explores the stories and characters of “The Book of Mormon” as Joseph’s literary creations.)
“JOSEPH SMITH’S FIRST VISION”