The Book of Mormon as a really interesting, well, piece of literature

Grant Hardy became intrigued with world religions, especially those of East Asia, as a young missionary. He has reasearched and written widely on various topics, but his study of the Book of Mormon led him to publish two landmark books that share important insights.

In his brief overview to Understanding the Book of Mormon, Hardy gives us ten observations about the Book of Mormon:

  1. It is a long book.
  2. It is written in a somewhat awkward, repetitious form of English.
  3. It imitates the style of the King James Version.
  4. It claims to be history.
  5. It presents a complicated narrative.
  6. It is a religious text.
  7. It is basically a tragedy.
  8. It is very didactic.
  9. It is a human artifact.
  10. Its basic structure is derived from the three narrators.

It is this last observation that forms the thesis for the majority of his work. Hardy contends that “If you’re not seeing the narrators at every turn, you’re not really reading the Book of Mormon–because that’s how the book is constructed, regardless of who the author(s) may have been.”

The three main narrators (Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni) each had distinct approaches as they presented history and revelation in their writings.

Join Laura Harris Hales of LDS Perspectives Podcast as she has an enjoyable back-and-forth with an outstanding Book of Mormon scholar.

Check out LDS Perspectives for links to materials referenced in this podcast.

31 thoughts on “The Book of Mormon as a really interesting, well, piece of literature

  1. I appreciate a scholar’s view of the Book of Mormon, and always have since Nibley. But I don’t agree that I need Hardy to ‘understand’ the book. The Book of Mormon speaks for itself. It is there to save my life, and the Voice of God is a hugely better and more reliable guide. I am more and more wary of scholar-worship, perhaps because I see so much of it. I was just not impressed by his book.

  2. In his Mormon Scholars Testify piece, Grant Hardy writes that he is troubled by “the lack of direct archeological evidence for the Book of Mormon.” As he ‘testifies,’ he also lays out a slew of other things that trouble him. Aside from the fact that MST is polluted with such no-faith statements, it tells me something about Mormon Liberal writers who doggedly insist they are faithful. “Faithful” must include bonifide discipleship and a commitment to Faithful Perspective. In his book, Hardy uses scholarly head-play to deal with the Book of Mormon like a cat plays with a ball of yarn. It stuns me that so many have ascribed value to its pseudo-insights.

    With regard to his stated objection that the Book of Mormon ‘lacks’ archeological proof, I would say this: I am verily thankful that we don’t have ironclad proof of the Book, because if we did we would have a church full of insincere, shallow people who are there only because of museum evidence. That is faithful perspective. I suggest avoid scholar-worship.

  3. I think there is place for scholarly perspectives on certain things. Does the author not regard NHM, Bountiful and Jerusalem as archeological evidences for the Book though?

    I do concur though that the Book of Mormon speaks for itself, and that is a very encouraging thought. It did great in the 19th century, thrived in the 20th and is as strong as ever in the 21st.

  4. In fact, the vision of the tree of life and the sermon on the word of God by Alma and Amulek are my favorite portions of the book. Those sections are well beyond my capacity to produce, let alone a farmboy doing it “on the fly”. The first paints a picture that applies very well to the Church today, people in general, and the values of the world. The second clarifies beautifully what faith is and how to obtain and strenghten one, a common struggle I read online and hear when speaking with family and friends. This book is trully marvelous and a wonder.

  5. When an author puts a book out, he or she hopes to grab as large of an audience as possible, realizing that not everyone will appreciate their offering.

    I know that friends have suggested books to me that simply haven’t resonated with me. I wonder why they even liked them. My husband and I have different tastes in literature as well.

    Understanding the Book of Mormon may not be a book that everyone appreciates, but it is appreciable scholarship that has helped many gain a better understanding of the Book of Mormon. (Did you see what I did there?)

    Grant Hardy believes in the historicity of the Book of Mormon. Here are some statements from a recent address:

    Q. What do you think about the historicity of the Book of Mormon?

    I believe that Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni were actual, historical people. Partly that’s a matter of faith, but they also sound like distinct voices to me, and perhaps even more importantly, I think they are the wisest, most admirable voices in our religious tradition. …

    For me, I expect to see the resurrected Nephi and Moroni at the judgment bar. It matters to me that they are real individuals. At the same time, I’m not sure that God will ask, “Did you believe the right things about the Trinity, Joseph Smith, the plan of salvation, and the nature of revelation,” let alone my opinions about polygamy, same-sex marriage, blacks and the priesthood, women’s ordination, politics, or Mormon history. Rather, I believe he will say, “Were you my disciple? Did you strive to know me better? Were you constantly trying to refine your ideas and actions in light of your growing understanding? Were you fully engaged in the Church? How did you treat those with different beliefs and values? And by the way, you were wrong on a number of things you felt strongly about.”

    I believe that at the judgment day, when Mormons and ex-Mormons, Jews and Christians, Hindus and Buddhists, Muslims and Sikhs, agnostics and atheists are gathered together, we’re all going to be surprised in one way or another. In fact, I’m sure of it. If I’m not surprised, that would be a huge surprise.

  6. Kidding. Kinda.
    I can personally think of nothing more antithetical to the Gospel than the modern concept of social justice, but that’s a debate for a different thread.
    I appreciated Bro. Hardy’s commentary because, as somebody who sometimes lacks a zeal for studying the BoM, discussions like this inspire me to dig back in.

  7. Glen Danielsen: “‘Faithful’ must include bonifide discipleship and a commitment to Faithful Perspective.”

    What is bona fide discipleship, or more importantly, who gets to decide what that looks like? Is it Church service? Grant Hardy has served in a Stake Presidency. I think he is serving. But I don’t know the man. But I’d love to discover this one-and-only “faithful perspective.” Did not God state that His thoughts are not our thoughts? That knocks us all out of the running. I’m afraid I’ll side with Joseph Smith and his abhorrence of creeds and Brigham Young and his abhorrence at the notion of stereotypical Latter-day Saints.

    Brother Hardy’s writing has stimulated my thinking. It has improved my reflection upon the Book of Mormon. I’ll leave it at that.

  8. I love Grant Hardy! Yay! He helped get my boy on a mission! Understanding rocks!
    Thank you, Grant and thank you, MS, for making me aware of this Podcast which enlarged and confirmed my faith.
    Beloved, let us love one anotherbecause love is of God.

  9. “What is bona fide discipleship, or more importantly, who gets to decide what that looks like?”

    The answer to your question is found in the Temple Endowment. And it is found in the scriptures, and in the words of called and ordained Special Witnesses. It is also found in the hearts & minds of the honest-in-heart.

    It is not found in inane blog posts that abound, or in Mormon Liberal wordplay and symposia. Since earliest Eugene England/Dialogue/Sunstone days, the psuedo-faithful have used their sophistry to confuse and distort real discipleship. It is crystalline-clear in the chaos of their constructs. They routinely promote, showcase, and sympathize with known apostates. In truth they are not interested in the body of Christ, but rather in its hangnails. Mormon Liberal culture is characterized by its refusal to provide or even acknowledge Faithful Perspective while they happily showcase the problems in our LDS history and our leaders’ bowel habits. All cloaked in talk of “intellectual honesty” and “a more mature discipleship.”

    As example, scholar-deity Bushman has described seer stones as stumbling stone issue. I don’t know why. Moses used a burning bush that did not consume. What if the Prophet Joseph had used an ignited tumbleweed? That is Faithful Perspective.

    I have an image stuck in my mind. It is seeing Richard Bushman bestowing the Mormon History Association’s highest achievement award on an apostate D. Michael Quinn. And I remember how the MHA awarded their best biography award to Dan Vogel’s book, whose thesis is that the Prophet Joseph Smith was a pious fraud.

    There is nothing vague about real discipleship, old man. Unless you want to make it vague. Cheers, have a good weekend.

  10. SmallAxe on January 26, 2017 at 6:42 am said:
    “These comments, brothers and sisters, are why we can’t have nice things.”

    I’m not sure how you meant that, but in the way I interpreted it, that is hilariously true.

  11. Glen Danielsen on January 25, 2017 at 4:46 pm said:
    ‘ “Faithful” must include bonifide discipleship and a commitment to Faithful Perspective. In his book, Hardy uses scholarly head-play to deal with the Book of Mormon like a cat plays with a ball of yarn. It stuns me that so many have ascribed value to its pseudo-insights. ‘

    Glen, I think you’re being rather uncharitable towards apologetics in general and Grant Hardy in particular.

    Literary analysis of the Book of Mormon is just as legitimate as the kind of historical analysis and comparisons that Hugh Nibley did for apologetic purposes. (_Some_ of his work may have been deprecated in the intervening years, but not all,)

    I consider much of Grant Hardy’s work to be “pro-active” apologetics.

    Illustrating and defending plausibility is important. Apologetic defense doesn’t create faith, but plausibility creates room for faith.

    Even apostle Neal Maxwell said/quoted this, giving/adding legitimacy to Mormon apologetics: (emphasis mine, because it is oft-quoted by many apologists:)

    A fundamental challenge was well described by Austin Farrer, who wrote of the need for articulate Christians: “Though argument does not create conviction, lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.” (Austin Farrer, Light on C. S. Lewis, Jocelyn Gibb, ed. [New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc., 1966], p. 26.)

    We can and should be articulate believers. We can and should so proclaim, testify, and teach, readily and humbly. (But for a Small Moment, p.56)

    In my view, and I think church leaders have said it too, there is no wrong reason to read the Book of Mormon. It is not just for believers and investigators, it is for all the world. Hardy is helping to entice outsiders and doubting insiders to read the Book of Mormon.

    Grant Hardy has strived to give doubters, both inside and outside the church, reasons to read the Book of Mormon. And I think that is a good thing.

    My schtick has been to offer _pairs_ of the Book of Mormon in foreign languages and English to be used as bilingual/ESL material. (If you’re ever at a Chinese restaurant in Indiana, and the waiter/waitress brings out your food and says “Behold!”, they might have picked it up from the Book of Mormon!)

    Once someone is reading the Book of Mormon, for any reason, the Holy Ghost knows what to do if/whenever that person is ready for higher truths and a testimony. And the testimony doesn’t have to come at the time of reading. The Holy Ghost can also “bring all things to remembrance” when the time is right.

    Dan Peterson gives a good overview of positive apologetics here:

  12. Hello Book,
    To be brief: I think you misunderstand my post, and it’s partly my fault for not being clearer. The reason I am not a fan of Grant Hardy is not so much because of his book, but because of his other public statements. For example, he has a piece in Mormon Scholars Testify, In his “testimony,” he lays out a long list of objections to the faith, saying he is “bothered by a number of things—the lack of direct archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon, its anachronistic quotations from Second Isaiah, polygamy, the Mountain Meadows massacre, our exclusive reliance on the King James Bible, our tendency to mythologize our history, our preference for sentimentality over substance, our quickness to label honest disagreements as anti-Mormonism, our devotion to the Boy Scouts, and my own impatience when the church doesn’t speak out more forcefully on moral issues such as torture or access to healthcare,” and, “And since 1830, the Mormon Church … excludes women from most leadership positions.”

    Besides exposing his stunning ignorance of things, and a classic Mormon Liberal refusal to render Faithful Perspective to the objections he spews, he showcases his absence of commitment to foundational truths. It is quintessential Mormon Liberal gameplay. They mix non-belief and non-discipleship with sophisticated concession statements, saying they still believe in the Church, Nephi was real, etc. Re-read my three posts above.

    I am 110% pro-apologetics! But to me, Hardy’s treating the Book of Mormon as mere literature is demeaning to it. The Book is not merely a novel with narrators and characters. I object to Liberal scholars treating it like a head toy. Nibley, for example, was far different — always keeping his awe and wonder of the Book apparent.

    Here I go babbling again. Just an opinion here, then. Have a delightful weekend, fellow traveler.

  13. I asked a simple question: ““What is bona fide discipleship, or more importantly, who gets to decide what that looks like?”

    Glen responded: “The answer to your question is found in the Temple Endowment. And it is found in the scriptures, and in the words of called and ordained Special Witnesses. It is also found in the hearts & minds of the honest-in-heart.”

    Glen, this is essentially a non-answer. The answer is found in the temple endowment? No, it is not. Covenants are outlined and created in that sacred ritual. But some of the people you attack, by all accounts, are covenant-keeping Latter-day Saints. Yet you claim that their discipleship is not genuine. What scriptural or apostolic teaching have they violated by engaging in academic exercises? And while I fully defend your right to disagree about the theories presented in any scholar’s writings, you did not do that. You simply attributed characteristics and motives to individuals without reasonable evidence. In several instances in your post, you utilized a “guilt-by-association” tactic (ad hominem fallacy). As noted in a previous comment, that is extraordinary uncharitable.

  14. Wow. This is a strange turn of comments. I don’t agree with all of Harry’s theories or politics, but I have really enjoyed his books, especially “Understanding the Book of Mormon”. I loved it and have been blessed while reading it. I know that it is of God. Thank you, Brother Hardy.

  15. “I don’t agree with all of Harry’s theories or politics. . .”

    Hi Tom. I tend to think it’s not about politics, but rather discipleship. Maybe it’s my own hang-up; I can’t help but consider the source. I want to know about an author before I drink from his fountain. Hardy’s “testimony” in Mormon Scholars Testify is more of a diatribe of non-belief. Every one of the acidic objections in his lengthy list can be rendered a faithful perspective — something he doesn’t bother to even hint at. And Perspective is everything. Can we question someone’s discipleship? Based on their own public statements, you bet we can. We have every right to consider the source. I’ve noticed that only ones who play the Ad Hominem complaint card are apostates and Mormon Liberals — who loath being called out. I’m sure Hardy can smile and sing a beautiful song in writing. But I cannot help but consider the source.
    Thanks for comment. Nice weekend.

  16. Glen, I have (now) looked at Grant Hardy’s entry on Mormon Scholars Testify and found it to be about what I expected: a “liberal” Latter-day Saint scholar’s testimony. It was rather long and wordy and seems fairly clearly to be aimed at his liberal colleagues rather than at orthodox latter-day saints like ourselves. I’m loath to judge someone else’s discipleship, but he appears to be doing okay. As he says at the end, “I believe a bit differently than [my parents] do, but I believe just as passionately.”

    I do find some liberal Mormon writing to be irritating both from the manner of writing and from the liberal political positions they sometimes espouse. (The way Bushman referred to Joseph Smith’s revelations in the otherwise wonderful “Rough Stone Rolling” jumps to mind here.) But, I think we need to give liberal Mormons some slack. They are often living and working in very different cultures that are often very hostile to God and anti-Mormon by unreasoning reflex. This cannot help but have some impact upon them. On the other hand it may also be that “liberal” writing may be the only way of getting through to certain audiences. It may even be that—some—liberal causes may actually be right.

    I think it essential to follow the counsel in Moroni 7:16-18 to “search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil” and to “lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not” to be “a child of Christ”. My experience with reading his “Understanding the Book of Mormon” was very positive. I was less impressed with his “Reader’s Edition of the Book of Mormon”, but that was mostly because I prefer reading scripture with double columns and verses rather than paragraphs.

    Hardy is undoubtedly not perfect, but I think his fruits are good. Take care and have a good weekend.

  17. “Bushman has described seer stones as [a] stumbling stone issue. I don’t know why.” Um, because that’s what many members said? He’s not making it something it wasn’t when he describes it like that. And given that he’s spent a good stretch of his professional career explaining that it doesn’t have to be a stumbling block, it seems ludicrous to me to characterize him as part of the problem. I just read his contribution to “A Reason for Faith” about Joseph Smith’s early life and he wrote that he was very pleased that facts like this are no longer as concerning to members as they were a couple of decades ago.

  18. It’s far from ludicrous. It might help for you to check your facts. Like Hardy, Bushman has spoken differing views of the validity of our history, usually as they have pandered to different audiences. I think I’ve blabbed enough on this blog, so I’ll leave it at that.

  19. Last year, because I was teaching the book of Mormon in Primary and because it was timely for me personally, I immersed myself in both the Book of Mormon and in various books about it. I read several volumes of Brant Gardner’s “Second Witness” and his shorter works “The Gift and Power” and “Traditions of the Fathers”. I found Royal Skousen’s work “The Book of Mormon:The Earliest Text” fascinating and explored other authors’ contibutions. This was far from my first encounter with Book of Mormon scholarship. I read “Lehi in the desert in the world of the Jaredites” while I was in college in the ’60s. In this context I found Hardy’s book useful and informative although it seemed to me that sometimes he stood with one foot on either side of the stream, faithful but a bit apologetic toward a supposed sceptical reader. There’s no substitute for reading the book itself. Every time I read it I am delighted and surprised by its beauty and doctrine. Hardy did help me have a better perspective on the voices of the various authors.

  20. Glen, i still think you’re not viewing Hardy’s piece at MST with the right lens.

    He’s writing there for intellectual outsiders and doubting intellectual insiders. He’s using persuasion techniques by agreeing with outsiders that some things don’t look right in the church. He did not address each point, but that’s not the purpose of those pieces. In the aggregate he affirmed his testimony of the restoration and the Brethren _in spite_ of those things. He did not say they are unanswerable. He deftly illustrated that there is plenty of room for faith in spite of those things. He slyly opened the door for readers to contact him, or otherwise research HOW those things are answered.

    Also, you uncharitably parsed how he meant “the church” when enumerating those concerns. Some of those refer to the leadership body/corporate structure, and some of those refer to MEMBERS and their cultural beliefs. Outsiders don’t usually see the real differences between the ideal that the Brethren preach and what the dominant culture is at the grass roots level of the church. It’s too easy to see something at the grass roots level and ascribe it to “corporate”, and vice versa.

    If you charitably parse it, all those things are or have been true, and are legitimate things that have caused people concern. ANd I agree with you that they all have been answeered! But part of the art of persuasion is to not dismiss the other’s concerns. And _acknowledging_.concerns is definitley not the same as admitting they are unanswerable. Dismissing a concern prior to explaining how it has been answered is downright offensive to an intellectual. And if you don’t have time to go into detail, just acknowledge it, and leave the details for later.

    i think you totally misinterpret his reasons for mentioning them, and the persuasive effect that mentioning them as “concerns” has on outsiders. He’s illustrating that we are not blind idiots, that we are allowed to ask questions. And he is _implicitly_ saying that he has found answers, or at least found out _how_ to maintain belief in spite of those challenges. He’s strongly implying that those things that antis point to don’t, or shouldn’t, affect faith in the restoration.

    For all of his “concern points” you quoted above, I bet my answers or rejoinders to them are the same as yours. However, it is not an indication of faithlessness to bring those up to outsiders who are looking at the church with an intellectual eye. They see them anyway. They read the anti-mormon stuff. We essentially have to admit that some things look goofy, like angels visiting 14 year olds, but Hardy also said those things are no more implausible than ancient relgious events.

    If you expect Hardy’s public outward-facing testimonies to mirror the standard Mormon “testimony-speak”, in either content or format, that we hear on Fast and Testimony Sundays, or even what is said at Gen Conf, then you don’t “get” the purpose of MST. And I might suggest that your view of missionary work is affected with tunnel vision.

    You just don’t preach to outsiders like you do to insiders. Look at Ammon and Aaron. Aaron preached hellfire and damnation (Alma 21:6, repent or die) and got thrown into jail. Ammon joined their sheepherders, used “pacing” and generous/charitable parsing with the king when he said “Yeah, sure, we believe in the ‘Great Spirit’.”

    Bruce McConkie said (I saw it on video, so it was at gen conf or at some devotional) that we don’t worship Christ, that rather we worship the Father in the name of Christ. (But…. his last Gen Conf talk said he would kneel at Christ’s feet, so isn’t that worship?) I also saw on video, either during Gen Conf or one of his public interviews, President Hinckley saying he does worship Christ. It was a direct contradiction, it really stood out to an old-timer like me who saw/heard McConkie say the original. Though Pres Hinckley never mentioned BRM by name. Yet, I choose to charitably parse both of them, and neither of their statements diminishes my testimony of the restoration, nor the current authority of the church. But which is the better way to explain things to outsiders, and which is the better way to explain things to those who worship in the temple?

  21. Hola Book,
    Thanks. Well, I guess you & I agree some, and disagree a wee.

    I like your point that people learn differently. I agree too that the Lord speaks to people’s understanding, and we should too. Where we part a little I think, is how we should do that.

    First, anyone—intellectual, secularist, or not—must humble themselves to experience a rebirth and enter the Kingdom. We don’t speak to their understanding by pointlessly, needlessly airing dirty laundry. We do it by being ready to answer their concerns when they come up, with candor, honesty, but with Faithful Perspective.

    And That is the key: Faithful perspective. Since earliest Dialogue/Sunstone/MHA days (sounds like you & I are about the same age), faithful perspective is what Liberals have refused to provide or even admit to. That is what I detest about their culture. That is why I use strong language to describe them—because they dang deserve it, and they need to be warned of. Mormon Liberals are far more dangerous than apostates because Liberals have greater access to the Saints. Their books sometimes even get marketed by Deseret Book.

    With regard to Mormon Scholars Testify:
    Ammon spoke to King Lamoni first about his loyalty to him. But he did not do it by disparaging his own people or his faith. Imagine him doing a ‘Hardy’ and giving the king a long list of his personal complaints about the Nephite church — the Mountain Jungle Massacre, Nephites are so gossipy, etc. Ammon bypassed that needless nonsense, and instead taught doctrine.

    In your recollection of hearing Bruce R. McConkie, you might be thinking of the McConkie-Pace incident. George Pace in his talks was angling toward an relationship to deity that was exclusive to Christ with the subtraction of God The Father. Inadvertently he was preaching a fad philosophy. Because of the inertia of the gaining popularity of Pace’s errant idea, Elder McConkie tersely blunted it. A re-reading of Elder McConkie’s words then gives clarity to the whole issue, and show that there is no contradiction between his and Pres. Hinckley’s later words. I simply don’t believe an apostle of the Lord has ever said we do not worship Christ. We can refer to McConkie’s authored hymn, “I Believe in Christ.”

    Regarding Hardy’s and the Liberals’ refusal to provide Faithful Perspective, just one example: In his landmark university text, Westward Expansion, non-Mormon scholar Ray Allen Billington summarized the Mountain Meadows Massacre by writing, “Though the massacre was inexcusable, under the circumstances it was understandable.” Would it have been such a labor for Hardy to be that faithfully circumspect in his long-winded MST essay? I think not. For his failure and the Liberals’ to admit to Faithful Perspective, I have have nothing but contempt.

    I disagree with you on one other point relating to Hardy’s essay. In his heavily qualified, reluctant, polluted “testimony,” his points of belief come off as mere peripherals, footnotes, almost afterthoughts. To me, you seem to disparage a Church meeting testimony, as if it just wouldn’t do for an intellectual. Book, even people stuck in headstuff will need to humble themselves as a little child. That is Christ’s doctrine. To imply that we need to taylor our message by secularizing it or disparaging it is, to me, fad philosophy wrongness.

    It deeply troubles me that secularism and Mormon Liberal sophistry are making gains in our own LDS society, such as the sad morphing of the BYU Maxwell Institute and Deseret Book now selling Liberal’s books. It has been a long time since the September Six; I think it might be time that the Church define boundaries again, and do a more defined, extensive purge. The pseudo-Faithful would lose their sheep’s clothing. I would celebrate that euphoric day.

    Thanks again for your thoughtful post. God bless, and cheers to you!

  22. Glen, thanks for the context of that one talk by McConkie. I was new in the church back then, and didn’t know at the time he was referring to that specific situation at BYU. I had since heard of Pace, and how McConkie came down hard on him, but that one talk stood out separately in my mind. Context is always important.

    JUst a couple more items to bring up. One is called “bracketing”, when discussing things with outsiders, or when discussing amongst ourselves about how outsiders see us. It goes back at least to B H Roberts when he did his piece or pieces on issues and anachronisms with the Book of Mormon that were being used by critics to attack the church. (I think Hardy even mentioned “bracketing” in the above interview with Laura.) Even Roberts’ use of “bracketing” was sometimes misunderstood, and has been taken advantage of by critics of the church.

    Bracketing is just something an apologist has to do for a few reasons: one, to be grammatically consistent when making arguments. Such as “If Joseph Smith was a true prohpet then … (For example) of course he’d be opposed and persecuted by preachers of competing religions, just like ancient prophets were.” Or “If Joseph Smith had been a fraud, then all his inner circle, the 11 witnesses, Emma, Sidney Rigdon, Brigham Young and Heber Kimball would have had to have been in on the fraud too.”

    Two, logically speaking, when one is presenting rational and logical argument/rejoinders, one doesn’t “assume” a conclusion until it has been proven/illustrated.

    A third reason for “bracketing” when talking to non-believers is for persuasion purposes, ie, for not offending them as they think through the reasons/logic you are presenting. (And remember, we have to “create a little space for faith” among those who are already stumbling over publicly known issues.) This might also be called “meet them where they are.”

    Therefore when the barriers to faith, such as misunderstanding the historical issues, or not hearing the whole story/our side of controversial events, are finally removed, _then_ the missionary/apologist can go into “spiritual mode” and create an opportunity for the Spirit to bear witness.

    (I’m going to break this it into two comments.)

  23. Just as intellectual apologetics would (in most all cases) be out of place at the pulpit on F&T Sunday, so can F&T Sunday style testimonies (usually) be out of place when an outsider casually speaks with a member and wants a logical/rational explanation of some publicly known historical issue of the church. Of course, there can be exceptions, so we should always follow the Spirit.

    We have a time and place and a progression for all things. Missionaries (in most all cases) do not knock on someone’s door and say “HI there! We’d like you to stop smoking and drinking, give up coffee and tea, stop having sex outside of marriage, join our church and pay the church 10 percent of what you make from then on.” It’s true we want people to do those things, but they are not typically “doorstep” discussion topics.

    I think I’m with you on the issue of liberal members diluting Mormonism, quenching faith in the miraculous restoration, and more or less “Protestantizing” “Mormonism” into just another “nice” religion. But I don’t think Hardy’s MST piece puts him in the liberal quasi-believer camp. I think he’s been misunderstood due to his use of “bracketing” and who he is trying to reach.

    Sometimes a specific snapshot doesn’t give a true picture and you have to see how a person’s writing evolves. I don’t see Hardy evolving like some of the recent online wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing. And I don’t see the “telltales” in his writing that I saw early on in theirs. He still gives positive affirmation of the Restoration and divine authority of the church.

    Sometimes the details of church history are what I call “messy”. I’ve described Nauvoo polygamy as “messy” because it got conflated with “spiritual wifery”. And many people didn’t and don’t understand the difference of “marriage for time” versus “sealed for eternity”. And people trip up on Joseph Smith being “sealed for eternity” to some women who were “married for time only” to other men.

    I have to hand it to faithful apologists and historians such as Dan Peterson, the Hales, Bushman, Hardy, and Meg Stout for helping me untangle some of the messy history that I had “put on the shelf” and suspended judgement/understanding of. Fortunately, I have had a Spirit-borne witness of the Restoration, so I have always been confidant that there exist logical explanations/rejoinders for all the challenges.

    But there are many, in and out of the church, who don’t have a Spirit-borne testimony yet who need to find at least _plausible_ explanations to those sticking points, or trust that they exist, on their way to getting a testimony of the Spirit.

    I think Hardy is in the camp of Joseph being a true prophet, Brigham Young being the true successor, and all the way down the line to President Monson, with all the foundational claims being true.

  24. I’ve enjoyed the portions of Grant Hardy’s books that I’ve sampled, and I know of others I respect who have gained a lot from reading these books.

    I do recall at least once or twice when the author’s viewpoint was so distinct (to the excluding of other possible interpretations) that I rolled my eyes. But for the most part I like what I’ve read.

    Would that all media that I consume might have a similarly high acceptability ratio.

    By the way, nice to see a rip roaring discussion in a M* comment thread. Reading this almost warranted popping myself some popcorn to accompany the spectacle. Like watching a good wrestling match among friendly family members.

  25. Book, I really like your view of bracketing. It’s the first time I’ve seen it described that way. I do not like Hardy’s version of it, his use of it. I still see him as quintessentially Mormon Liberal, in that he publically spews objections to the Church, it’s called-and-ordained, difficult aspects of its history — without providing Faithful Perspective. I don’t see any need to make excuses for that. If you are a believer, be faithful! To me, faithful perspective is such the crux element. We can squarely own the spicy issues in our history without flinching — but if we have a whit of true discipleship we will also be faithful in How we address them. I think Faithful Perspective is always possible. That’s what leaves Mormon Liberals without excuse.

    I’m convinced this is true even with such painful issues as the Priesthood denial to blacks. I was on my mission in the Louisiana Baton Rouge Mission in 1978 when the revelation on the Priesthood came. We were deliriously happy. We walked around like happy zombies for days. We thought Heaven had come down and kissed the earth and ended a nightmare. But still the pain in talking about the issue is there for all of us. Faithful perspective might be, I think, something like, “We just don’t know what it was about, but our whole church membership and all of its leaders are hugely glad it ended.”

    To me it is clear when I am reading Faithful narrative. I am not fooled by the effusive wordflows and sewer smells of Mormon Liberal think stink.

    Thanks for your great post. Love reading your thoughts. Nice week.

  26. Megness! Love reading your posts! Hope your new historic home is coming together on the inside. What a special place to live & breath.

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