It’s the last day of the month, and I haven’t yet blogged this month. So far I have blogged at least once every month since I started the blog in May 2015, and I feel a bit like a home teacher who doesn’t want to blow his consecutive streak of visiting his families! So with that in mind, this will be a quick post. I do still want to do a recap of my experiences at Sunstone Northwest 2016, but that will have to wait until I have more time.
I have been thinking a lot about what defines “scripture”. In my mind, scripture is something someone has written down to try to explain his (where is the scripture written by women? But I digress) interaction with the divine. In addition, for it to be scripture, it has to be accepted by a group of people who see the writings as inspired. So to Muslims, the Holy Quran is scripture. To Jews, the Torah is scripture. To Christians, the Old and New Testaments are scripture. To adherents of the LDS church, the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price are scripture. I can find inspiring writings in all of these works. But they still have all been written through the filter of those who wrote them, in the time period they were written. It helps a lot to understand these scriptures if you can go back to the time period in which they were written, and try to understand what was going on then.
For example, the gospel of Matthew and was written after Jerusalem was sacked in 70 AD. When the author of Matthew has Jesus talk about the temple and how it’s going to be destroyed, the temple had already been destroyed, as Matthew was written between 80 and 90 AD. The rest of the apocalyptic description in Matthew 24 is really describing what the author and his people already experienced when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. So, we can get insights into what that was like by reading Matthew, instead of thinking it refers to a revelation of what will one day happen to us.
In the same way, the Book of Mormon was written in the 19th century. It is useful to look at what was going on in Joseph Smith’s time to get a better idea of what Joseph Smith was trying to say with the book of scripture he dictated. For example, back in Joseph Smith’s time, it was common for people to have very dramatic religious experiences, including passing out and then later reviving to then exclaim Jesus had saved them. This same thing happens several times in the Book of Mormon. Why does this not happen anymore to people learning about the LDS church? Because that kind of experience is no longer part of our modern experience. It seems foreign to us, but just 190 years ago in Joseph Smith’s part of the world, it was pretty common.
To me, all scripture includes the philosophies of men, which are the result of someone trying to explain an interaction with God or the divine. We do ourselves a big disservice if we pretend God whispered every word into a prophet’s ear, because it doesn’t take a lot of research to figure out that’s not how it works. Otherwise, we are likely to take things way too literally, when some scriptural teachings may no longer make sense in our current culture.