Submitted by Bret
Recently at work I have been listening to some fascinating Old Testament commentary tapes. The lecturer is not LDS but has some wonderful insights and is pretty dang close most of the time on a majority of things. However, on the things he doesn’t have right I started to think again upon the age-old controversy that has waged in my mind all my life and for millenia within Christian realm. Do we interpret the Bible (or scripture in general for that matter) literally or proverbially? I know this is a ridiculously huge topic, but please stay with me as I go through this a bit.
I fully understand that we believe the events as described in the Bible and Book of Mormon to have actually happened and I have no problem with that. Where the line gets fuzzy is when it comes to prophecy and interpreting doctrines and such. This particular commentator says that he gets into the most trouble when he doesn’t take the scriptures literally enough. I’ve found wonderful truths when applying that advice, but I’ve found wonderful truths when doing the opposite as well.
A few examples to get at what I mean:
The doctrine of the Anti-Christ: As far as I understand the church has never taught (the BD and Mormons Doctrine seem to go against the idea) what most other Christian churches (Evangelicals/born-agains especially love this topic) teach regarding there being one physical person who will take over world government and send the nations into war against Israel, etc, etc. However, I have heard some members teach this because they believe it is what the text is saying and the teachings of the prophets do not disagree, etc, etc.
The Fall of Man: Did Adam and Eve actually live in a physical garden and actually eat some fruit to give them knowledge? Or is this just a metaphor to help us understand what happened? Again, I’ve listened to some wonderful lessons both ways on this. (one lesson favoring it as a metaphor opened my eyes more then any other on understanding the fall)
Waters shall rush from the Temple and heal the waters of the Dead Sea: This one is more specific but still begs the question. Is it literal or is it telling us something in regards to the baptism and/or cleansing of the peoples of the region or something? If it is literal, what’s the point of that happening and happening in the manner described?
An old favorite–The Lost Ten Tribes: Perhaps the most hotly debated in the church. I knew a very intelligent/well read bishop that said it was obvious they were on another planet while I also had Gerald Lund (who happened to be the 2nd counselor in my MTC branch) tell my MTC district that they obviously had to be scattered throughout the nations.
The list goes on and on and we could debate each one (Honestly, I’d be interested to hear your responses) but I think you understand my point–how do we know? Or does it matter at this point in our existence to know for sure? Are we supposed to make our own theories and wait till they actually come to pass? Or, are we to wait for interpretations by the prophets themselves?