Disclaimers | Links | Search | Contact
Why "Liberal"?
Why "Mormon"?
Why "Spirituality"?
Symbols and Icons
A Spirit of Discernment
Faith, Not Doubt
Does Historicity Matter?
Only One True Church?
A Place for Liberals?
Staying in the Church
Living outside the Church

Does Historicity Matter?

Does it matter if the Book of Mormon is a 19th-century creation rather than a translation of an ancient document? Is Christian faith meaningless if Jesus did not literally rise from the tomb? Do we have to regard Adam and Eve as real, historical figures? Do scriptural teachings about the Second Coming or the afterlife describe the future as it actually will be?

Many Latter-day Saints insist that the answer to these questions must be yes. Conservatives who maintain that Mormonism is the only religion authorized to provide access to the blessings of exaltation must, by extension, insist on the literal reality of the Fall and the Atonement, the Restoration, and the future resurrection and judgment. In this view, if LDS claims are not historically true, then the religion is an illusion or a fraud. This "either/or" perspective is held not only by conservative Mormons but also by many disillusioned Mormons.

This website testifies that the Spirit can touch lives through Mormon teachings (as well as through teachings of other faiths) even if those teachings are not historically true. As it happens, there are liberal Mormons who believe in the historicity of many LDS claims. Still, the premise of this website is that the question, "Is Mormonism historically true?" is unimportant for the purposes of spirituality. For those purposes, the essential question is: "Does the Spirit speak to me, and move me to holier living, through Mormonism?" If the answer is yes, then Mormonism is a spiritual tradition worth committing to. A person who has committed to Mormon spirituality on those grounds can decide later what to believe about historicity.

Related Topics:
The Scriptures The Book of Mormon  

Leonard J. Arrington: To say that something is a myth is not to say that it was deliberately fabricated, but to identify it as an account that may or may not have a determinable basis of fact or natural explanation. Examples are the Christian story of the Resurrection, the immaculate conception, and the creation of the world in Genesis. These are ways of explaining events or truths having religious significance that may be either symbolical or historical.

To say this another way, one can find philosophical and religious truths in a Shakespearean tragedy even though the characters and events are wholly fictional. Examples of novels disclosing religious truths that I had read during the formative stages of my religious beliefs include: Pearl Buck, The Good Earth; Knut Hamsun, Growth of the Soil; William Henry Hudson, Green Mansions; Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment; and Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina and War and Peace. And, for that matter, the philosophical drama in the Old Testament, the Book of Job.

Because of my introduction to the concept of symbolism as a means of expressing religious truth, I was never overly concerned with the question of the historicity of the First Vision or of the many reported epiphanies in Mormon, Christian, and Hebrew history. I am prepared to accept them as historical or as metaphorical, as symbolical or as precisely what happened. That they convey religious truth I have never had any doubt.

"Why I Am a Believer," Sunstone, January 1985, 37

This website is an independent effort to discern the Spirit's voice in LDS teaching. The site is not sponsored by the LDS Church. Quotations from the teachings of any individual should not be taken to imply that the individual does or would endorse this website or other statements made here.