A New Beginning Again

In 1832 the first known written account of Joseph Smith “First Vision” was created. Leaving aside any debate about the compatibility of this accounting and the version that was canonized, I thought this would be interesting to explore.

I was quite encouraged by this accounting. There is really nothing here I would object to from a theological perspective. It’s mostly what is lacking from this version that gives me hope for greater reconciliation between Mormonism and Historic Christianity. There is no condemnation for any creeds and there is no description of God as a “personage”.

It’s Joseph’s own description that there are no churches like the New Testament church, not God’s (I would agree with Joseph, and don’t find the LDS church any more similar to the historic New Testament church than any other). God’s words are limited to telling Joseph to follow his commandments, that there is no one without sin (Romans 3:23) and that God’s wrath awaits them (Romans 6:23).

I can live with all of this. I might still not believe Joseph had this heavenly vision, but I find nothing offensive or heretical about it. I think such a vision is completely compatible with Christianity as I understand it. If the Mormon restoration and the Mormon concept of God were built upon this “First Vision” there would probably be little for us to discuss. I imagine that there would be little remaining in Mormonism that would be incompatible with Historic Christianity (though a lot would probably still remain that would make it unique).

Read through it and tell me if you disagree. (I took the liberty of correcting some spelling and adding punctuation and line breaks. I also made some minor clarifying edits. I made these edits for the benefit of the reader. If you’re concerned that I may have corrupted the text I encourage you to look it up for yourself).

I was born in the town of Charon in the State Of Vermont, North America on the twenty third day of December 1805, of goodly Parents who spared no pains to instructing me in the Christian religion. At the age of about ten years my Father, Joseph Smith Senior, moved to Palmyra Ontario County in the State of New York and being in indigent circumstances was obliged to labor hard for the support of a large family, having nine children. As it required the exertions of all that were able to render any assistance for the Support of the Family therefore we were deprived of the benifit of an education. Suffice it to say I was merely instructed in reading and writing and the ground rules of arithmetic which constituted my whole literary acquirement.

At about the age of twelve years my mind became seriously impressed with regard to the all important concerns. For the welfare of my immortal soul which led me to searching the Scriptures. Believing as I was taught, that they contained the word of God thus applying myself to them and my intimate acquaintance with those of different denominations led me to marvel exceedingly far. I discovered that instead of adorning their profession by a holy walk and Godly conversation agreeable to what I found contained in that Sacred depository. This was a grief to my Soul thus from the age of twelve years to fifteen I pondered many things in my heart concerning the situation of the world of mankind, the contentions and divisions, the wickedness and abominations, and the darkness which pervaded the minds of mankind.

My mind become exceedingly distressed for I became convicted of my sins and by searching the Scriptures I found that mankind did not come unto the Lord, but that they had apostatized from the true and living faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the new testament. I felt to mourn for my own sins and for the sins of the world for I learned in the Scriptures that God was the same yesterday today and forever, that he was no respecter to persons for he was God. For I looked upon the sun the glorious luminary of the earth and also the moon rolling in their majesty through the heavens and also the stars shining in their courses and the earth also upon which I stood and the beast of the field and the fowls of heaven and the fish of the waters and also man walking forth upon the face of the earth in majesty and in the strength of beauty whose power and intelligence in governing the things which are so exceeding great and marvelous. Even in the likeness of him who created them and when I considered upon these things my heart exclaimed well hath the wise man said it is a fool that saith in his heart there is no God. My heart exclaimed that all these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotent and omnipresent power. A being who makes laws and decrees and binds all things in their bounds, who filled eternity, who was and is and will be from all eternity to eternity. When I considered all these things and that being sought to worship him in spirit and in truth. Therefore I cried unto the Lord for mercy for there was no one else to whom I could go and obtain mercy and the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness and while in the attitude of calling upon the Lord in the 16th year of my age a pillar of light above the brightness of the Sun at noon day come down from above and rested upon me and I was filled with the Spirit of God. The Lord opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph, my son, thy sins are forgiven thee. Go thy way, walk in my Statutes, and keep my commandments. Behold I am the Lord of glory. I was crucified for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life. Behold the world lies in sin at this time and no one does good, no not one. They have turned aside from the Gospel and keep not my commandments. They draw near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me and mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth to visit them according to this ungodliness and to bring to pass that which hath been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and Apostles. Behold and lo, I come quickly as it written of me in the cloud clothed in the glory of my Father.

My soul was filled with love and for many days I could rejoice with great joy and the Lord was with me but I could find no one that would believe the heavenly vision. . . . Nevertheless I fell into transgression and sinned in many things which brought wound upon my soul and there were many things which transpired that cannot be written and my Father’s family have suffered many persecutions and afflictions.

Advertisements

39 thoughts on “A New Beginning Again

  1. It’s mostly what is lacking from this version that gives me hope for greater reconciliation between Mormonism and Historic Christianity

    The big question is whether modern Mormonism can reconcile itself with original Mormonism, and reverse a heavy train that has 180 years of theological momentum. This would mean completely reconfiguring the doctrine of the apostasy (back to the idea that it was simply a loss of the practice of spiritual gifts; nothing to do with Nicene creed, etc), of going back to a time when Mormonism had yet to introduce new temple ordinances, back to a time when Mormonism was wavering between trinitarianism, modalism, and binitarianism (yet remaining more classically monotheistic), and back to a time when it was speaking of God in more classical ways, ways that modern Mormonism essentially (in meaning) derides as creedal distortions (cf. the Lectures of Faith [later called the Lectures on Faith]).

    Original Mormonism was in many ways still evangelical. Of course Evangelicalism can reconcile with those components. But the larger problem is that Mormonism itself has abandoned many of its own roots.

  2. I meant to include this also: It was also mean going back to a time when Mormonism had yet to develop its theology of ordained Aaronic and Melchedizek priesthood, something retrofitted into later publications of the Book of Commandments.

  3. I do agree with you. I have asked myself many questions about Joseph Smith and the First Vision over the years, questions that I have never found the answers to. But, I am willing to entertain the possibility that this 1832 vision may, just may be what really happened, or very close to it.

  4. “If the Mormon restoration and the Mormon concept of God were built upon this “First Vision” there would probably be little for us to discuss.”

    I think it’s more precise to say, “…were built only upon this ‘First Vision’…”—or do you mean to say that later Mormonism is in contradiction to this first account?

  5. If this had been the canonized version of the First Vision it’s not as likely Mormonism’s heretical ideas would be as predominant. They may have still been stated, but their authority would have been greatly diminished.

    For example, Adam-God is a historically stated heterodox doctrine. But because it wasn’t canonized in any way it’s easy for present day Mormons to disregard it as anything serious.

  6. But so much of what you find heretical in Mormonism is canonized. The stuff in the D&C and PGP is far more explicit than the 1842 vision account. Do you think it would not have been canonized/included in the D&C without the 1842 account preparing the way?

    Either way, I wonder what you make of all the doctrines in the earliest versions of the D&C (1833, 1835) that (I assume) you find heretical: priesthood, degrees of glory (though not quite into the exaltation doctrine yet), and the “retranslation” of the Bible. Weren’t we already sufficiently heretical that early members weren’t cross-checking what Joseph taught with what other churches taught? (Or, perhaps even liking the divergences even more so because they were different?)

    The 1842 account “works” in large part because it dovetails with so many other canonized scriptures; the case for Adam-God is not nearly so simple, thus it suffers in a way that the 1842 account wouldn’t even if the 1842 account had never been canonized.

  7. Good post Tim.

    Even on my mission I was troubled by my church’s formulating doctrine regarding the nature of G-d based on a literal interpretation of the canonized account of the first vision. I find that teaching G-d has a physical body because that’s how JS saw Him in a vision is just moronic. Nobody reads Moses’ vision account and says G-d is a burning bush.

    In short, while I’m not uncomfortable with the idea that G-d has physical body and this may make sense because Jesus does, I am not at all comfortable with LDS de facto creeds to that effect or turning such utter speculation into Mormon dogma.

    Of course I’m an Evangelical Mormon and a closet LDS apostate of sorts.

  8. SteveEM: I’m sure you are familiar with D&C 130:22,

    “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also….”

    I don’t quote it to prove anything regarding the nature of God, but rather to illustrate that Mormons have significantly more than just “a literal interpretation of the canonized account of the first vision” to go on, and that it is more than just how “JS saw Him in a vision”; it is how JS taught the Saints about God.

  9. I don’t quote it to prove anything regarding the nature of God, but rather to illustrate that Mormons have significantly more than just “a literal interpretation of the canonized account of the first vision” to go on, and that it is more than just how “JS saw Him in a vision”; it is how JS taught the Saints about God.

    I think Tim’s point stands. The theology of D&C 130 is close to the theology of the canonized first vision story in JSH because it’s close to it in time. The theology of the 1832 account is closer to the theology in Mosiah 15 because they are close together in time.

    If the 1832 version had been canonized then the theology that most agrees with it (Mosiah 15) would be the one that everyone would turn to when discussing Mormon concepts of God. The theology evolved over time and the first vision account that best represented the later theology was the one that got canonized. That’s probably not a coincidence.

    And that’s Tim’s point, if Mormons put forward Mosiah 15 and the 1832 version of the first vision as the Mormon doctrine of God, most evangelicals would have a “we can work with that” attitude as both are much more trinitarian than later Mormon theology.

    Finally, from a purely historical standpoint, it makes sense to put forward the 1832 account as the best one. By all of the standards of historical evidence, the 1832 account is the one to be trusted as the most accurate (assuming of course you believe there was a first vision).

  10. And I suppose Tim that Jews would have “great reason for optimism” if you were simply willing to turn back the clock and embrace Christianity as Peter saw it (“Judaism – the Sequel”) and just ditch all that troubling and schismatic stuff Paul said.

    Would you consider this “original Christianity” Aaron?

  11. And I suppose Tim that Jews would have “great reason for optimism” if you were simply willing to turn back the clock and embrace Christianity as Peter saw it (“Judaism – the Sequel”) and just ditch all that troubling and schismatic stuff Paul said.

    They are both original Christianity, provided you see them in their proper cultural contexts.

    Peter was preaching to Jews, born and raised. Hence for their culture, a form of Christianity which was Jewish was entirely appropriate and practical. In fact Jewish Christians were largely left alone in the Israel/Palestine area for a few centuries before that form of Christianity died out.

    Paul had a different problem. He was preaching to people who were not Jews and making them become Jews in order to be Christian was one step too many. Paul figured, why become Jews to become Christians, just become Christians and skip the intermediate step. To force gentiles to become Jews would be like forcing male converts to the Mormon church to complete all Eagle Scout requirements prior to receiving the Melchizedek priesthood. Not a completely accurate analogy I admit, but the gist is correct.

  12. I don’t see what you’re driving at David.

    I think equating “becoming a Jew” with “completing Eagle Scout requirements” would be a rather breathtaking trivialization of what it meant to be a Jew in those days.

    Either way, I don’t think my point has changed at all. Maybe Christianity should return to its Peterine Jewish roots, and simply chuck Paul’s attempts to thrust it beyond the “covenant people.” Am I supposed to call the Jew-centric religion of Peter “original Christianity?”

  13. I’ve long found the 1832 account of the First Vision fairly unobjectionable.

    However, I don’t see any chance that Mormons are going to abandon the theology and implications of the canonized 1838 version in the near future, no matter how many historical problems there may be with trusting that account. It’s here to stay.

  14. I don’t see what you’re driving at David.

    How much NT/early Christianity scholarship have you read Seth? FARMS/FAIR do not count here. How much have you read on second temple Judaism? Again, FARMS/FAIR do not count here. I ask because your original question to Aaron seems to stem from a lack of how second temple Judaism and early Christianity worked. I don’t want to make any assumptions here, so I am asking, not assuming.

    I think equating “becoming a Jew” with “completing Eagle Scout requirements” would be a rather breathtaking trivialization of what it meant to be a Jew in those days.

    which is why I said:

    Not a completely accurate analogy I admit, but the gist is correct.

    It’s the best I can come up with because I don’t think there is an accurate analogy in the modern world to the Jewish/Gentile Christian question in the ancient. So, I reached for something sort of close, and that’s the best I could do. To be honest, I think the way you framed the original question is just completely wrong given the nature of Judaism in the Hellenistic Roman world.

    Either way, I don’t think my point has changed at all. Maybe Christianity should return to its Peterine Jewish roots, and simply chuck Paul’s attempts to thrust it beyond the “covenant people.”

    So now it’s Paul’s problem for trying fulfill the great commission at the end of Matthew?

    Am I supposed to call the Jew-centric religion of Peter “original Christianity?”

    I think this is where you are misunderstanding how Judaism functioned. It wasn’t a religion, it was more than that. In truth, there was no concept of religion in the ancient world. Religion, culture, and politics all mixed together in a way we simply don’t experience any more.

    Put simply, it would have been impossible for Gentile Christians to be Jewish Christians. To be Jewish in those days largely entailed living in a Jewish community. Otherwise there was simply no way they could keep kosher laws. They would have had to be recognized as Jews by the Romans, otherwise they would not get military exemptions which would have forced them to break the Sabbath continuously. And for this to happen the Jews would have had to accept them as Jews. And here the problem is that Judaism itself was undergoing rapid changes at the end of the first century. They were dealing with the loss of the temple and with this young sect called Christians. This was the era when the rabbis came to define Judaism, and belief in Jesus as the Messiah was not what they had in mind.

    Bottom line, things unfolded the way they did because political, religious, and cultural realities dictated that this turn to a Petrine Jewish Christianity was largely impossible for early Christians, even IF Paul had wanted this to happen.

  15. However, I don’t see any chance that Mormons are going to abandon the theology and implications of the canonized 1838 version in the near future, no matter how many historical problems there may be with trusting that account. It’s here to stay.

    I agree, it’s no going away. I think the only realistic solution is the solution the early Christians came up with with regards to the gospels. Instead of canonizing the one true gospel, they canonized four of them. If Mormons were to canonize the 1832 and the 1838 versions along with two others, I think Mormon theology would have to develop to account for the differences.

    It’s an oversimplification, but a lot of the early trinitarian controversies arose because Mark and John don’t see Jesus in the same way, so a mediating position developed. Something similar could happen if Mormons were to read four accounts of the first vision, instead of the “one true account” that has been canonized.

  16. Somehow I’m missing the point of this discussion.

    Look, you can go back to D&C 20, which is kind of the “constitution” of the new church when it was formally organized in 1830. What is striking about that section is how nonradical it is. With one exception (see next paragraph), any Arminian who believes in believer’s baptism would feel comfortable with its summary of the Christian faith, which describes God in fairly traditional terms. Even its establishment of a priesthood order wouldn’t be bothersome, as it makes no claims of exclusivity.

    But so what? That same section also implicitly teaches the principle of continuing revelation, the possibility that the church’s apostles (the word “prophet” isn’t used here) could bring forth new scripture. Despite the often “orthodox” language of the church’s founding documents, the seeds for a radical version of Christianity were in place.

    Sure, it might be more comfortable today for those with traditional Christian beliefs if Joseph Smith had stopped receiving revelation in 1830 (indeed, the Community of Christ, which was organized in part by people relatively unfamiliar with Smith’s teachings of the Nauvoo era, has been accepted in various ecumenical efforts in a way that the LDS church never could). But that’s wasn’t the way it was to be. And even if (I’m not saying this is the case, just being hypothetical) Smith’s account of his experience in the grove adapted itself to a shifting theology, so what?

    People who have hopes that the LDS church can turn “orthodox” can hope all they want, but “orthodoxy” has never been what the restored church is about. A church that claims revelation didn’t stop with the acceptance of the canon in the 4th century (or whenever it was) should have beliefs that are different than what other churches teach. To teach otherwise would deny one of the Church’s main reasons for existence.

  17. David, I’ve been wading through some of Ehrman, some of N.T. Wright, and a couple years ago, I read a bit of a German Protestant turned atheist – can’t remember the name, but he’s a fairly well-known author (book’s name was “Heretics”).

    And yes, I have read some FARMS stuff too – which DOES “count” even if you would like it not to.

    Your description of Jewish life as being part of a covenant community doesn’t have any bearing on the point I was making whatsoever. Neither does your point about a Jewish-Christianity being politically impractical have any bearing.

    Christianity could have stuck with the Jewish model, but chose not to for political and theological reasons.

    Mormonism theoretically could have stuck with infant-Mormonism as kind of a neo-Methodism, but chose not to for various reasons.

    No real difference there. People move on.

    Aaron seems to be under impression here that the Mormons are the only ones who’ve done any evolving in history – whereas his own tradition has been a solid unbroken line of inerrant biblical goodness – from Jesus onward.

    I call bull.

  18. It may well be that I don’t “get” Second Temple Judaism, but you’re going to have to explain yourself better for me to see it. So far, I’m not seeing it from your comments.

  19. David Clark: “I think Tim’s point stands.”

    Okay….but I am still not sure precisely what Tim’s point is. (btw, the paragraph you quoted was in response to Steve EM, although indirectly it may respond to Tim as well.)

    “The theology of D&C 130 is close to the theology of the canonized first vision story in JSH because it’s close to it in time. The theology of the 1832 account is closer to the theology in Mosiah 15 because they are close together in time.”

    Reasonable guess, I suppose. But I don’t see how it applies to Tim’s point—though, again, I’m still trying to figure out Tim’s point, so perhaps you are reading him differently than I am. My point is this: go back in time and destroy the 1842 account so that it never existed: we still have plenty of other canonized scripture that is heretical; i.e., our heresy doesn’t originate from the 1842 account.

    “If the 1832 version had been canonized then the theology that most agrees with it (Mosiah 15) would be the one that everyone would turn to….”

    Only if D&C 130 didn’t exist. But with 130, why wouldn’t we just turn there? It’s more explicit than the 1842 account anyway.

    “And that’s Tim’s point, if Mormons put forward Mosiah 15 and the 1832 version….”

    Yes, if Mormons put forward those and ignored our other scripture then Evangelicals would find little to disagree with. But why not go all the way and just say, “If Mormons put forward only the Bible…”?

    Look, I’m still trying to figure out if Tim is saying:

    a) that the 1842 account was necessary for the other scriptures mentioned to be canonized

    b) that if 1842 would just go away then everything else wouldn’t matter

    c) that 1842 is just one example of the type of scripture that causes friction.

    “Finally, from a purely historical standpoint, it makes sense to put forward the 1832 account as the best one. By all of the standards of historical evidence, the 1832 account is the one to be trusted as the most accurate.”

    I don’t buy that, but it’s probably an argument for another day.

  20. “If Mormons were to canonize the 1832 and the 1838 versions along with two others, I think Mormon theology would have to develop to account for the differences.”

    I don’t see the theological differences between the accounts. How is the 1832 Jesus incompatible with the 1842 one?

  21. David, I’ve been wading through some of Ehrman, some of N.T. Wright, and a couple years ago, I read a bit of a German Protestant turned atheist – can’t remember the name, but he’s a fairly well-known author (book’s name was “Heretics”).

    Good for you, keep reading.

    And yes, I have read some FARMS stuff too – which DOES “count” even if you would like it not to.

    Ain’t scholarship, it’s apologetics. If you were reading Christian apologetics on this it also wouldn’t count.

    Your description of Jewish life as being part of a covenant community doesn’t have any bearing on the point I was making whatsoever.

    It does. How do you become part of a covenant community when given social and political realities you can’t?

    Neither does your point about a Jewish-Christianity being politically impractical have any bearing.

    Let’s be exact here. Jewish-Christianity was practical for those who had been born and raised Jews. I don’t read Paul as requiring those in that situation to give up their Jewish roots. Indeed it survived in the Palestine area for a few centuries. Jewish-Christianity for fully Hellenic gentiles was impractical, I would argue that in most cases it was impossible.

    Christianity could have stuck with the Jewish model, but chose not to for political and theological reasons.

    I agree with the second half of this statement, but not with the first part.

    Mormonism theoretically could have stuck with infant-Mormonism as kind of a neo-Methodism, but chose not to for various reasons.

    Agreed, and that’s Tim’s point as I read it. Had they stuck with the original vision there would be no LDS Evangelical conversations as Mormons and Evangelicals would not be divided by so many theological differences.

    Aaron seems to be under impression here that the Mormons are the only ones who’ve done any evolving in history – whereas his own tradition has been a solid unbroken line of inerrant biblical goodness – from Jesus onward.

    I seriously doubt that. To identify oneself as a Protestant is to acknowledge implicitly that Christianity has been evolving, otherwise Protestants would be protesting against a pristine form of Christianity, which would be a self admission of heresy.

    I call bull.

  22. Hi Brian,

    My point, as it always is, is that there is nothing redeeming in Mormonism and that any and all people associated with the LDS church are in league with Satan . . . . oh wait that wasn’t my point at all. Oh well at least some people will be glad to hear me finally admit it. 🙂

    My actual point was that I don’t find anything offensive or troublesome about the 1832 version and that it makes me yearn for it to be the “official” version.

    I don’t think it’s incompatible with the 1842 version but it is different.

    As for D&C 130 and other scriptures that are problematic; I think they would not have been incorporated or it would be much easier to remove them. Scriptures have been pulled out of the D&C in the past. There’s no reason to think that D&C is a static document. There’s plenty of reason to not trust the Book of Abraham and even plenty of reason to think Joseph Smith didn’t present it for the canon. The Book of Mormon and the First Vision appear to be the bedrock scriptures of Mormonism.

    As for Mormon priesthood, I’ll be clear that I don’t see anything about it that is in any way a historic restoration to anything in the Old Testament or the New Testament. But it’s not that big of a deal to me. Protestants and Catholics have different priesthoods. Exclusivity claims are cumbersome but not deal breakers. The Church of Christ comes out of the same Restorationist movement as Mormonism and we all get along with them okay.

    Seth,
    Even if I accept your premise about Peter winning out over Paul I don’t think it’s the same thing at all. A more Judaic form of Christianity would make Christians more culturally similar to Jews. But the thing that actually separates us is theology about Jesus. As long as Christians are claiming that Jesus is the Messiah, we’re not going to be accepted as Jews. (Look at the reception Messianic Jews get from the Jewish community for proof).

    Mormons and Traditional Christians are already culturally similar. What actually separates us is theology. The 1832 version of the First Vision might actually change Mormon theology.

  23. “To identify oneself as a Protestant is to acknowledge implicitly that Christianity has been evolving, otherwise Protestants would be protesting against a pristine form of Christianity, which would be a self admission of heresy.”

    You’d think that David. But I’ve never ceased to be surprised at how many Protestants I run into online who seem to think that they are practicing some unbroken “true form” of religion.

    Final point – apologetics IS scholarship. Done right, it’s actually pretty high-quality scholarship.

    Just because someone has an agenda doesn’t mean they aren’t right. And it doesn’t mean you get to ignore their articles either.

  24. Scholarship is about evaluating the evidence and letting that dictate your conclusions. Apologetics is about starting with an already foregone conclusion and marshaling evidence to support that.

    They are polar opposites of one another.

    This has been a running discussion in my history classes here at TEDS, i. e. “can a Christian historian be a true scholar when he or she is starting from the premise that God is at work in human history?” I have discussed it a lot in the past year.

    That doesn’t mean everything FARMS has done is garbage or something, but let’s not confuse the two.

  25. BJJ said:

    This has been a running discussion in my history classes here at TEDS, i. e. “can a Christian historian be a true scholar when he or she is starting from the premise that God is at work in human history?” I have discussed it a lot in the past year.

    If you haven’t read it already, you (and maybe even your classmates) might enjoy reading the book “On the Road With Joseph Smith: An Author’s Diary” by Richard Bushman. A good part of the book is about him dealing with just that question.

  26. I am having trouble understanding the idea that the breadth and scope of Mormon theology is ultimately rooted in the canonized version of Joseph Smith’s First Vision. The First Vision says nothing about The Book of Mormon. It says nothing about Priesthood. It says nothing on the eternal progression of man. I am sure there is a list of the “heretical” views of Mormonism, but I don’t know what they all are. I would assume that these three items are all included, though. So how do you see the 1832 account changing all of these?

    I’ve had a book sitting on my shelf for years, which I think I might finally pick up and read when I finish the book I am currently reading. The book is “Joseph Smith’s First Vision: The First Vision in its historical context” by Milton V. Backman, Jr. I don’t really know much about the book or the author, although I did find an Ensign article from 1985 written by him, and have learned he was a BYU Professor of Church History. The linked article gives an interesting comparison of the different accounts.

  27. EVERYTHING is not found in the First Vision. But a major source of our differences is there.

    Don’t hear me saying that Mormonism will be just like Evangelicalism if it just used the 1832 version of the First Vision.

  28. Tim: thanks for the clarification. I’m not willing to go as far as you and say that 1842 made everything else possible (i.e., the keystone of our apostasy), but definitely agree that it was a major player and that it helps to anchor other scriptures in our canon (and they, in turn, anchor it).

    Interesting thoughts on the priesthood. I can see how “deacon,” teacher,” etc. are innocuous, but I thought most Evangelicals were pretty bothered by our “high priest” office….

    “The 1832 version of the First Vision might actually change Mormon theology.” Maybe in the past, as you argue, but I think we could canonize 1832 today—add it right in there with the rest of JS-H—and it wouldn’t change a thing; we’d treat it the same way we treat divergent accounts in the four Gospels.

    BFF: Good point about apologetics, but I think it’s a tad strong. True, apologists start with a conclusion, but they can still discriminate among possible evidences as to whether or not they support the conclusion. For example, a FARMS apologist, who presumes that the Book of Mormon is “true,” might scour a random sampling of religious and 19th Century literature to identify supposed “Hebrew-isms,” track their frequency, etc., and compare them to the Book of Mormon to determine whether the presence of such in the latter support its claimed origins. In such a way, an apologist could theoretically rule out every scrap of evidence available for a particular claim and all the while conclude that the claim is true; i.e., it is true despite enjoying zero support. (The real trick is when/if an apologist tests and verifies contrary evidence….)

  29. I thought most Evangelicals were pretty bothered by our “high priest” office….

    There are all kinds of things Evangelicals are bothered by in Mormonism. It doesn’t mean they are fundamental to our differences. There are all kinds of things in Catholicism that Evangelicals are bothered by as well.

  30. Jack, that is an IDEAL of scholarship. But it does not set the bounds of what is or is not scholarship.

    FARMS Review may not be the KIND of scholarship you seek after, but it is scholarship – and often of very high quality.

    The existence of an agenda is never sufficient reason – in itself – for discounting a source.

  31. I would say that is the ideal of scholarship.

    Apologetics can utilize scholarship to explore issues within its foregone conclusions, but the material is still of a different quality from the material that’s produced by someone who is open to all possible conclusions.

    I never advocated discarding it altogether. And for the record, I feel the same way about apologetics material from evangelical scholars.

  32. Jack, it may be the ideal – but in reality that ideal is never realized.

    Everyone in life has an angle – an agenda. You never get rid of bias from scholarship, and I doubt you ever will.

    Keep in mind as well, that countless advances in human knowledge came from people who were biased as hell – who had obvious and blatant agendas. In fact, often the agenda a person has can provide the vital and needed stimulus and passion to keep them at the task.

    Human knowledge owes an awful lot to bias, and biased people.

    So you can have your ideal of scholarship if you wish.

    But in the meantime, I’d suggest that everyone take FARMS at face value, and stop wasting everyone’s time talking about how biased they are.

  33. Yes, Seth, everyone is biased. But as the old saying goes, just because we can’t make operating rooms perfectly sterile doesn’t mean we ought to start performing surgeries in the sewers.

    And I do take FARMS at face value—“Metcalfe is butthead,” “christopher hitchens” and all.

  34. Someday Jack, you’re going to have to clue me into what exactly FARMS did to piss you off so thoroughly. I imagine our experiences of the publication differ.

    I’d hardly call FARMS “surgery in the sewer.” I’ve been rather impressed with the standard of scholarship in many of their publications that I’ve read, and feel it stacks up just fine to other scholarly sources I’ve encountered in my graduate and undergraduate work.

  35. I’m not pissed at FARMS at all, Seth. Not even a little bit.

    And I wasn’t saying FARMS = a sewer. I was saying, that we can’t be 100% free from bias hardly makes bias irrelevant.

    I put FARMS at about the same level as I put Christians for Biblical Equality & Priscilla Papers in terms of bias and quality of scholarship.

  36. You can read the above comment with a light tone. I’ve just had dark hints from you on more than a couple occasions about FARMS – seemed like a bit of trend to me.

  37. “A more Judaic form of Christianity would make Christians more culturally similar to Jews. But the thing that actually separates us is theology about Jesus. As long as Christians are claiming that Jesus is the Messiah, we’re not going to be accepted as Jews.”

    Interesting point… In a way, educated Protestants don’t have a problem with the Jewish religion, especially in its more reformed or even conservative incarnations. But the belief of Jesus as Messiah is a dealbreaker on the Jewish side, because they don’t believe he was the Messiah, and therefore worship of Him violates the “don’t worship any other god” commandment (oh how stupid I feel; which commandment was that?).

    I don’t know about the Community of Christ argument. I suppose Protestants highly knowledgeable of theology might be more accepting, but everyone I know puts them in the same box as the regular LDS church. Any belief or high esteem for Joseph Smith tends to be the sticking point.

  38. “You’d think that David. But I’ve never ceased to be surprised at how many Protestants I run into online who seem to think that they are practicing some unbroken “true form” of religion.”

    Many branches don’t get a whole lot of education regarding their church history unless they happen to go through confirmation (and even that is skimpy as heck)… a couple of core beliefs about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, and they’re good to go.

    I didn’t learn about the oral tradition of the gospels until a secular New Testament class in college. I would bet people still arrive at seminary thinking Jesus commissioned Peter, Luke watched and wrote it all down, and the rest is documented in the Vatican and Concord somewhere.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s