The Rise of New Religious Voices to Counter the Religious Right

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 8 March 2006 0 Comments
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Why aren't the historical persons and events in the
additional Mormon books of the Bible recognized by
scholars? They talk about how we were all spirit
children in a spirit world before we were born, how
our families must be "sealed" in the temple, so that
they can stay together when we die and hopefully go to
heaven. Have biblical scholars the world over
researched these and other Mormon issues and,
obviously, not accepted them? There are some
brilliant men presiding over the Mormons at this time
and it bothers me that they accept all the Mormon
doctrines. I am constantly involved with Latter Day
Saints persons and find them to be wonderful people
and devoted friends but I just can't accept all of the
history and teachings of Joseph Smith. Maybe you
could direct me to some reading material to clarify
this problem.


I think you have answered your own question. There
is no debate going on in academic circles about the
validity or truthfulness of the narratives in the Book
of Mormon because the consensus is universal that
these books are not history and they are certainly not
part of the original biblical tradition. That does
not mean they are not edifying to Mormons and
treasured by Mormons. They are simply not recognized
as authoritative for the larger Christian community.
This puts them in the same status as many other
Christian writings.

I might add that scholars during the last 200 years
of biblical scholarship have taken away much of the
aura that once hung over the Bible and I regard that
as good. It is the God pointed to by the Bible that
we worship not the Bible. That is a lesson that many
who call themselves members of the religious right, or
fundamentalists of both a Catholic and Protestant
variety need to understand and accept. No sacred
writings whether they are by Joseph Smith or in the
Bible itself are either inerrant or absolutely
authoritative. One can be idolatrous about both the
Book of Mormon and the Bible. The time has come to
stop such idolatry.

John Shelby Spong

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Exposing the Bible's Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love
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