LDS Historian Richard L. Bushman says Church’s “Dominant Narrative is Not True”

Recently the distinguished LDS historian and Joseph Smith biographer Richard L. Bushman met with a group of people to discuss Mormonism, a discussion which can be viewed on YouTube. Part of that discussion included this intriguing exchange:

Questioner: In your view do you see room in Mormonism for several narratives of a religious experience or do you think that in order for the Church to remain strong they would have to hold to that dominant narrative?

Richard Bushman: I think that for the Church to remain strong it has to reconstruct its narrative. The dominant narrative is not true; it can’t be sustained. The Church has to absorb all this new information or it will be on very shaky grounds and that’s what it is trying to do and it will be a strain for a lot of people, older people especially. But I think it has to change.

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Same-Sex Marriage as Apostasy and the Ramifications for Church Members

On November 5, 2015, the LDS Church released a new version of its Handbook 1, the administrative handbook that is reserved exclusively for use by stake presidents, bishops, and other church leaders. It is not publicly accessible or available. Several revisions to the handbook pertain to same-sex couples and their families.

One of the most commented changes in the policies of the Church have to do with the children of same-sex couples. The Church has now barred any minor children of same-sex couples from receiving a baby blessing, name, or baptism within the church. Here is the specific language of the changes: Continue reading

A Historical Nephi?

I’d like to highlight a significant problem of claiming the historicity of the Book of Mormon. Not many have written on this subject, if at all. I have written about it several times previously, but I want to make a point of it again.

Let’s start with a simple hypothetical. Suppose that archaeologists working at a dig site in Central American were to discover a stela that had several major rulers names carved on it, and which dates to the pre-Columbian Preclassic time period. Now suppose that these archaeologists were able to decipher the names and translate them into their equivalent English phonetic representations. What if one of the names was discovered to be Nee’fy, son of Lee’hy, or similar. From the perspective of a historical Book of Mormon, this seems to be entirely plausible, even for apologists (see Bill Hamblin’s recent musings on U-Kix/Akish). Continue reading

Special Witnesses of Christ?

While I was growing up, I had the distinct impression that the apostles and prophets of the LDS Church had seen Christ. But not only had they seen him, but that they saw him regularly. It was, after all, Christ’s Church, and he was running it, directing it, and revealing himself to those who he has called to lead the church today, just as he did to Joseph Smith when the church was restored. This is why they were called “special witnesses.” Why was it special? Because they had first-hand knowledge of the reality of the living and resurrected Christ. They were eye witnesses of the Savior, and could therefore bear direct testimony of his existence, his life, his sacrifice, and his resurrection. They had received the Second Comforter, their calling and election was made sure, and they abode often in Christ’s presence. Continue reading

Discussion on Doubt

I posted a note on the Mormon Dialogue forum (MDDB), saying that I was doubting many of the core beliefs of the Church, and if I was in error if someone would point out my errors. I noted that all I wanted was truth. Here were some of the replies:

It is a little off-putting when the first thing I read was how dangerous it was to question anything in the Church.

Yes, it is dangerous. Try bringing up any of the taboos I listed in Sunday School, and see how far that gets you. Continue reading

U-Kix/Akish Fail in Book of Mormon Historicity, and the Tree of Life Stone

A well-known LDS apologist, Dr. William Hamblin, is engaged in debate with Dr. Philip Jenkins over the historicity of the Book of Mormon. After twenty-four posts of establishing “methodological issues,” and the paucity of inscriptions, Hamblin finally decided to put some evidence on the table. This, he thought, would be the closest thing to “objective evidence” he could offer Jenkins:

So, my question for professor Jenkins is: If we had a Mesoamerican inscription which mentioned a Book of Mormon king, with a date and historical context that matched the date and context for the Book of Mormon, would that be “objective evidence” in favor of the historicity of the Book of Mormon?

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The Innumerable Taboos

It seems ok to discuss these sort of issues in anonymous online forums, but it is taboo in any sort of real-world non-anonymous discussion with friends, Church goers, or even Church leaders. The repercussions, shame, punishment, judgement, and other consequences of the latter are too much to bear. That, in itself, is another significant problem with the Church. There does not seem to be any room to question openly and freely these issues. Continue reading