The Hidden Wisdom of the Gospel

The Gospel of Jesus Christ, when preached to the intellectual Greeks and Romans of New Testament times, was simply laughable. The concept of a physical resurrection and many other core elements of Christianity flew in the face of what was commonly accepted by the elite of those societies. Eloquent and well educated critics such as Celsus were able to spin the message of the Christians as a work of fraud based on the deceptions of Jesus, a man “proven” to have questionable integrity and known to dabble in the magic arts. Uneducated peasants might fall for cheap tricks and babbling rhetoric, but no intelligent man could accept the so-called Gospel. Indeed, the arguments of the snickering elite in the early days of Christianity had much in common with the “intellectual” assaults on the LDS faith today (see, for example, Celsus And Modern Anti-Mormonism by Aaron Christensen, available at FAIRLDS.org).

Efforts to resolve the conflict between Christianity and modern “science” and philosophy after the second century resulted in several significant changes in doctrine, in my opinion – and some “Christian apologists” were at the forefront of the doctrinal corruption. Interestingly, I find myself in the curious position of occasionally being accused of apostasy in my efforts as an LDS apologist to resolve some of the apparent conflicts between modern scientific views and Mormon views.

For example, I don’t see any religious need to believe that the Creation took place in six 24-hour days and that the earth is young. My testimony will not be shot if the flood was actually a dramatic but local event in which Noah’s ark did not need to hold all 4,000 species of cockroaches and 400 species of monkeys. My strong personal testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon does not depend on propping up the common misreadings of the text that are now attacked by DNA evidence from Native Americans (e.g., the notion that Lehi’s tiny group in 600 B.C. and a boatload of Jewish “Mulekites” should be the primary source of all Native Americans). But in making such statements, I have sometimes offended and disappointed those who grew up with other views and who have not confronted scholarship on such issues. It’s odd to be viewed as a driver for modern apostasy, but I also recognize that I may be wrong in many of my views. If I’ve all been fooled by tricks of physics and chronology in missing the evidence for a rapid Creation, then I’m sorry indeed. My religious opinions may be no more valuable than my stock tips, so do your own due diligence.

In trying to deal with issues such as DNA and the Book of Mormon, my desire is not to modify LDS doctrine to be more acceptable to the world. But sometimes I do need to challenge popular misconceptions of Latter-day Saints that are not consistent with what the Book of Mormon actually teaches. Some of our paradigms for interpreting the text may be off, but the Book of Mormon itself is truer than ever, in my opinion, and will stand the test of time.

In saying this, I do not think that the evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon will be allowed to become overwhelming and unquestionable anytime soon. Sorry, but faith has got to remain an essential element for accepting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And that’s why intellectual pride will keep many learned people from ever seeing the power and beauty of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s always going to seem lame, crazy, and even dangerous to the princes of the world. There is powerful intellectual beauty and wisdom in the Gospel but it will remain hidden to the world. That’s how Paul described things in 1 Corinthians 2:

1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.

2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.

4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:

5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:

7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:

8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

The wisdom of the Gospel will remain hidden to the blind, but to those honest in heart willing to open their eyes and see with the power of the Spirit, there is power and richness beyond compare. I speak of the core of the Gospel – the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the Bible and Book of Mormon, the power of the priesthood and the Temple, etc. – and not of every aspect of the Church or the dealings of fallible Mormon mortals.

11 thoughts on “The Hidden Wisdom of the Gospel

  1. “In trying to deal with issues such as DNA and the Book of Mormon, my desire is not to modify LDS doctrine to be more acceptable to the world.”

    Whether you desire to do so or not doesn’t change the fact that that is exactly what your endeavors amount to.

  2. Jeff, this is a fantastic post. I identify with your experiences and often find myself struggling internally and externally with the traditions I’ve been brought up in vs. my views on the same topics you’ve mentioned here. But when those struggles come to a head and I’m left feeling conflicted, I am always able fall back on the foundation of the Gospel and am put at ease.

    I really appreciate this post. Thanks.

  3. Nice post Jeff. I’ve always been amused by those who read the Book of Mormon as a geography text, or a zoology text, and then attack it because it doesn’t measure up to their own interpretation of those kinds of texts, based on their understanding and education. I wholeheartedly agree that “the wisdom of the Gospel will remain hidden to the blind.”

    As promised God has proceeded to do a marvellous work and a wonder, yet, the wisdom of their wise men has perished, and the understanding of their prudent men is hidden.

    There’s a great line from Men in Black, which slightly modified is one I love to use in describing modern day intellectual Romans and Greeks. Eighteen hundred years ago, everybody knew the earth was the center of the universe. Eight hundred years ago, everybody knew the earth was flat. Two hundered years ago, everybody knew the Bible was the only word of God. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.

  4. Jeffrey Giliam,

    RE: your comment (#1)–How is that a *fact*? It seems to me that Jeff’s primary aim has been to help the critics (both mormon and non) to understand that they may not be asking the right questions. How does that constitute modifying LDS doctrine, generally?

  5. Jeffrey, I hope you’ll understand that I draw a distinction between canonized doctrine and popular opinion in the Church. I don’t care how many General Auhtorities and bishops and seminary teachers have offered their diverse opinions on evolution and the age of the earth. I think I am on well documented and very safe ground when I state that there is no official Church doctrine on the timeframe of the Creation and on the theory of evolution. We do teach that God is the Creator and that the Creation occurred in stages, but the mechanisms and timing are not subjects of official doctrinal positions.

  6. Another clarification: when I argue that the Hebrew word translated as “day” in Genesis 1 can also refer to much longer periods of time, I don’t see this as an attempt to change Bible doctrine regarding the Creation but rather as an effort to understand what the text really requires. Ditto for efforts to understand the geography of the Book of Mormon and whether or not it allows for non-Semites in the ancient Americas.

    Significant Church leaders had been suggesting that the Book of Mormon allows for other ancient migrations to the Americas long before DNA evidence came out. It has never been official Church doctrine that all Native Americans had to be descended solely from the House of Israel, and statements to the contrary are not new inventions aimed at circumventing DNA evidence.

  7. “I think I am on well documented and very safe ground when I state that there is no official Church doctrine on the timeframe of the Creation and on the theory of evolution.”

    Gary! That’s your cue!

    P.S.–Even the Gospel Doctrine teacher’s manual points out that ‘day’ doesn’t necessarily mean 24 hours.

  8. In saying this, I do not think that the evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon will be allowed to become overwhelming and unquestionable anytime soon. Sorry, but faith has got to remain an essential element for accepting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And that’s why intellectual pride will keep many learned people from ever seeing the power and beauty of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s always going to seem lame, crazy, and even dangerous to the princes of the world.

    Jeff, it seems to me that this statement is crucial. If you have problems with the Book of Mormon because you believe that “science” contradicts it, you need to redouble your efforts to gain more faith.

    Let me also say that I am very pleased with the high number of Jeffs, Jeffreys and Geoffs involved with this thread.

  9. Outstandingly thought out, written, and worth reading a few times, and what you may have just done is put an end to the need to Apologists everywhere! Thank you, I detest Mormon Apologetics like a bad rash, but I love gospel scholarship and this article is a few steps into the latter and greatly appreciated!

    BTW, the very reasons that I think that Mormon apologetics are a useless foray into the unknown are your 2 quotes listed below for the simple reason that testimony is the greatest proof of all and you have shared yours without any threat of proof, a fantastic slant for one who has spent perhaps too much time trying to tie up loose ends for the rest of us that didn’t really ask the apologetists to do so! BTW, the more important questions of which way the pearly gates of Heaven will swing and hit you on the way out cannot be answered by them, but I am sure they have a superlative description of why they would swing the way they swing, just because — utterly ridiculous!

    These are nicely and faithfully put:

    1. “In saying this, I do not think that the evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon will be allowed to become overwhelming and unquestionable anytime soon.”

    2. “The wisdom of the Gospel will remain hidden to the blind, but to those honest in heart willing to open their eyes and see with the power of the Spirit, there is power and richness beyond compare. I speak of the core of the Gospel – the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the Bible and Book of Mormon, the power of the priesthood and the Temple, etc. – and not of every aspect of the Church or the dealings of fallible Mormon mortals.”

    I see great testimony in these words, and can tell that in spite of the challenges you are facing and the insights you have shared in past apologist extants, you know this gospel is true and that is better knowledge that any proof upon which the gospel will ever stand. Sure, we will know Nephite-Lamanite geography and political structure to the n-th degree one day and those who have speculated now will perhaps have a greater appreciation of those things at that time, but that will never change the fact that faith is the first principle of the gospel and not knowledge or burden of proof because proof always comes after faith – I think a Book of Mormon (that unproveable book) named Moroni talked about this at length in Ether 12:6-27! In closing this chapter of the Book of Mormon, he did not tell us to ‘Seek these ruins that have been created by the destruction of two great cultures’, he wrote ‘seek this Jesus of whom the Prophets and apostles have testified’ and that, my gospel friends needs no burden of proof or an apologist view point but plain old faith!

  10. Thanks for your insights and kind words, Anonymoose.

    BTW, I think there is a need for apologetics, but not for everyone.

  11. Jeff, why shoud a just and loving god HIDE important knowledge from any of His children?
    Don’t the least need the most help?
    People need to realize that a lot of the present world’s problems, wars, intolerance, etc. are rooted in organized religion. Mormonism isn’t the answer either. When mormons were in power, in Utath, there was a theocracy. There were massacres of innocent people;
    the spilling of blood was believed to “atone” for one’s faults, including petty crimes, adultery, etc. The polygamy brought to this country by Joseph Smith has become a present-day scourge for Utah, Arizona, etc. Utah is 70% mormon. What have been its “fruits”? Utah is #1 in depression, suicide, divorce, spousal abuse, bankruptcity, child abuse, child molestation, child neglet. Public schools in Utah are poorly funded in comparison to many other States. The unfortunate list goes on. Why spread more misery?

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