Monday, August 1, 2022

The most important teaching of the Book of Mormon

Mikhail Vrubel, Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles (1885)

While I was writing my sync post "NPH 421 and spontaneous human combustion," much of which deals with Moroni burying the Golden Plates in AD 421, Bruce Charlton was writing his post "Should Christians hand-over their eternal salvation to... historians? Romantic Christianity at the cutting-edge." Bruce writes:

According to the scholarship of Terryl Givens; the BoM is broadly highly compatible with the Bible. Its production functioned mainly as a sign that new Christian revelations were being made by God, via a new prophet. But the BoM has one theological innovation, which is that individuals ought to seek personal revelations to confirm all significant and foundational Christian claims.

This "theological innovation" comes from what is called Moroni’s Promise. In my 421 post, I linked to Wikipedia’s BoM chronology. For the year 421, it says:

About AD 421: Moroni finishes the work his father and ancestors started, leaving a promise to its readers, and buries it in the earth.

The text of Moroni’s Promise (Moro. 10:3-5):

Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

Moroni did not specify what form this "manifestation of the truth" would take, but it has become conventional in Mormonism to focus on a sensation known as the "burning in the bosom." This of course syncs with the fact that my 421 post is also about spontaneous human combustion -- in which, according to the leading expert on the subject, the body is burned from the inside out.

In my October 2021 post "Who or what is the ultimate spiritual authority? (a Mormon perspective)," I criticized what is perhaps sometimes an excessive focus on the specific "burning in the bosom" sensation, but my ultimate conclusion is nevertheless a soundly Mormon one: The ultimate spiritual authority is the Holy Ghost speaking to each believer's mind and heart, and all other authorities are downstream from that. This is the essence of Mormonism -- and, as Bruce argues in his important post, it is also the essence of Romantic Christianity. There is a very real sense in which we Romantic Christians strive to be "more Mormon than the Mormons."

(And perhaps also more Quaker than the Quakers, with their Inner Light. I say this tentatively, not really knowing that much about Quakerism, but it occurs to me because my 421 post also dealt with Moby-Dick, a novel which is full of Quakers.)


Francis Berger said...

Ah, that puts it very well! Wish I had written that but also extremely pleased that you did.

Francis Berger said...

Sorry, this is the part I referred to in my previous comment:

"The ultimate spiritual authority is the Holy Ghost speaking to each believer's mind and heart, and all other authorities are downstream from that."

Bruce Charlton said...

@Wm - I was pleased to revisit and re-read those earlier posts to which you link - especially the one about the 'burning in the breast' as (supposed) objective evidence of true intuitions.

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