According to the Bible, King David and Solomon had hundreds of wives and concubines, yet the Book of Mormons condemns this practice. How does this square with the polygamy revelation in Doctrine & Covenants 132? Dr. Bill Smith will answer questions about Biblical polygamy in just a moment.
Bill: Let me preface this by revealing to you something about how I think about scripture. My personal point of view is really colored by what I’ve read or studied or worked through in terms of scholarship of the Bible. I tend to trade on that in how I think about Mormon scripture. The main point is this: I think it’s a mistake to try to really seek for a continuity of narrative between how people did this 3,000 years ago, or how people thought about this 1,000 years ago or 2,000 years ago, or what the New Testament says about this or that.
I think that Joseph Smith saw a continuity. He makes the Old Testament elites, he turns them all into Christians, which I think is utterly interesting, remarkable and strange. There is a kind of hermeneutic that is kind of a conservative Protestant one that sort of fits in I think to how we, at least in the 20th century in the LDS Tradition have thought about scripture as being one continuous revelation. It’s all really got to be reconciled as one thing. I think that’s a mistake and not really justifiable historically.
We will also discuss how biblically literate Mormons are.
Bill: One general authority wrote to the First Presidency about his experiences with missionaries, after he had toured some missions on the east coast and said, “We have got great missionaries with testimonies, but they just don’t know anything about religion. It makes it very hard for them to interface with people who do, or who have experience in their own religions. They need to know how to deal with such people, or at least have a knowledgebase from which to go.” I think that’s kind of a controversial statement, but it is interesting that he thought we didn’t, or the missionaries didn’t have that.
GT: Yes, to me that’s not very surprising, although I would say I guess in defense of Mormons, I do think that we have a better understanding of the Bible than a lot of Protestants do.
Bill: I think that’s absolutely true, especially post-missionary people. You know you have to deal in the Bible because most of our missionaries go to Christian peoples, people who know about the New Testament, and at least through their churches or their ministers or preachers that they have heard. They know passages of the New Testament. They may have even been schooled in how to deal with Mormons. All of that is biblical.
What do think? Are LDS better or worse than Protestants or Catholics with regards to biblical literacy? Who needs more improvement?