The arch crumbles – Let’s not have any bizarre middle ground

Let me quote a very powerful comment from President Ezra Taft Benson, who said, “The Book of Mormon is the keystone of [our] testimony. Just as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does all the Church stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. The enemies of the Church understand this clearly. This is why they go to such great lengths to try to disprove the Book of Mormon, for if it can be discredited, the Prophet Joseph Smith goes with it. So does our claim to priesthood keys, and revelation, and the restored Church…

…It sounds like a “sudden death” proposition to me. Either the Book of Mormon is what the Prophet Joseph said it is or this Church and its founder are false, fraudulent, a deception from the first instance onward.

Either Joseph Smith was the prophet he said he was, who, after seeing the Father and the Son, later beheld the angel Moroni, repeatedly heard counsel from his lips, eventually receiving at his hands a set of ancient gold plates which he then translated according to the gift and power of God—or else he did not. And if he did not, in the spirit of President Benson’s comment, he is not entitled to retain even the reputation of New England folk hero or well-meaning young man or writer of remarkable fiction. No, and he is not entitled to be considered a great teacher or a quintessential American prophet or the creator of great wisdom literature. If he lied about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, he is certainly none of those.

I am suggesting that we make exactly that same kind of do-or-die, bold assertion about the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the divine origins of the Book of Mormon. We have to. Reason and rightness require it. Accept Joseph Smith as a prophet and the book as the miraculously revealed and revered word of the Lord it is or else consign both man and book to Hades for the devastating deception of it all, but let’s not have any bizarre middle ground about the wonderful contours of a young boy’s imagination or his remarkable facility for turning a literary phrase. That is an unacceptable position to take—morally, literarily, historically, or theologically.

—Jeffrey R. Holland

More binary thinking that tells us we have no gray space. Either it’s all true and exactly as the church and the church narrative says it is, or it’s all bogus. Well, when we can clearly see that the church narrative has not been honest and complete for some time now, what are we forced to conclude? If we can’t have it all, we’re only left with nothing.

And they wonder why people leave? They tell us that if it’s not working to “consign both [Joseph] and [The Book of Mormon] to Hades for the devastating deception of it all”. They don’t want to allow any wiggle room to say that Joseph was a well intentioned or misguided man, or a good man that was mistaken… “let’s not have any bizarre middle ground”. He was either the holy prophet who cheated on his wife, lied about polygamy, had sexual relations with teenage girls, was heavily involved in treasure digging, etc or he was a master deceiver and should be exposed.

This does not set up a very welcoming space for a doubter or a nuanced believer or a truth seeker for that matter. How does this fit your story? Join and share your story.

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