Thursday, January 19, 2012

Why Mormons are Christians, Part 2

This podcast validates my own position that Mormons are Christians.  Historically speaking, Abrahamic religion lives in a milieu defined by pseudepigrapha ("false writings" whose historical authors assign their work to some mythical hero, e.g. Moses or Paul or some other legendary Christian apostle or associate of the prophet Muhammad).  Like other religious leaders before him (e.g. the Deuteronomists, the Christian writers who gave us the Gospels or some of the dubious Epistles, and Muslim authors of hadith), Joseph Smith (and/or his collaborators) made up stories, sacred stories that he credited to mythical heroes (Moses, Abraham, Mormon, Moroni, Nephi).  

Mormonism is just one outgrowth of the giant body of folklore that is Abrahamic religion (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, with all their different sects).  Folklore can be profound.  Folklore can be moving.  Folklore can teach you useful things.  But it is not history.  It cannot teach the lessons of history.  Its lessons are about human nature, not what really happened at some point in historical time, since most of it never did (certainly not as advertised): no historical Exodus, no Resurrection, no appearance of the Angel Gabriel to Muhammad, no First Vision for Joseph Smith.  These events are myths that explore human nature outside of history--myths like the Lord of the Rings, the Kalevala, the Nibelungenlied, the Volsungasaga, the Homeric epics, the Mahabarata, and the Ramayana.

There is definitely a useful place for myth in the world.  I can learn from Tolkien's work without believing in a historical place known as Middle Earth.  The character of Bilbo Baggins offers insight into modern human nature, not the nature of a nonexistent tribe of midgets living in a culture that has disappeared from the face of the earth (leaving no physical trace, just like the Lamanites and the Nephites!).  All these years I thought I was trying to be a "faithful" historian, I was really just doing my utmost to turn ancient science fiction into factual history.  I attended seminars in ancient history that were functionally equivalent to courses in "hobbitology" (complete with the latest research tracing the real history of Homo floresiensis: the Liang Bua cave is all that remains of the Shire)!  It would be funnier if people didn't take it all so seriously.

Bob Price is my kind of Southern Baptist, and I am his kind of Mormon.

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