This Mormon Matters episode hosted by Dan Wotherspoon examines the status of the claim that the Book of Mormon teaches that dark skin is a curse from God, that because of their wickedness God cursed a group of people and actually brought about a miraculous change in their skin color so as to make them seem “loathsome” and not enticing to a more righteous group with whom they were in conflict. This claim relies upon a literal reading of various passages in the Book of Mormon that seem to draw this conclusion, as well as an extremely strong view about prophetic and scriptural inerrancy.

But is this the best way to read the text, and the only real plausible conclusion to draw concerning God’s use of skin color as a marker of either displeasure or favor? Brian Dalton, the creator and star of the videocast series Mr. Deity, thinks so, and it has led him recently to create a new episode of one of his side projects, The Way of the Mister, that he titled “Mormonism is Racism.” In that episode, Dalton spells out the ways in which he believes Latter-day Saints are forced to hold to such contemptible racist beliefs because they can neither jettison the Book of Mormon nor the idea in it about skin color being connected to righteousness. Through this episode and the logic he employs in it—that this conclusion about God and skin color is “so essential to the Book of Mormon story that to get rid of it would be to undermine the entire Book of Mormon and thus the entire Mormon faith,” that Joseph Smith suggested the Book of Mormon could only be read literally, that because of the LDS teaching that its leaders speak directly with and for God, “you’re either all in you’re all out”—Dalton urges people everywhere to confront this vile message by exposing its centrality in Mormonism. He claims that because it’s a religious belief, “Mormons have gotten a pass,” but he is adamant this kind of religious cover for blatant racism should not be allowed to stand any longer. “Mormons have to be held accountable—even those running for high public office.”

In this two-part Mormon Matters episode, Brian Dalton joins Charley Harrell and host Dan Wotherspoon in a lively discussion of the Way of the Mister episode and its claims, whether there are fair readings of the Book of Mormon passages and sensibilities in question that might complicate the straight lines that Dalton draws about the message or its centrality to (or consistency within) the Book of Mormon’s story, as well as quite a bit about the value or harm that religion as a whole adds to this world. Parts of the discussion get a bit feisty, yet even amid some chaos (you’ll discover some “on-air” producing going on in efforts to re-orient and make new plans when the discussion takes unexpected turns) it presents important and clear contrasts in worldviews, especially related to definitions of God, scripture, what “revelation” or something being “inspired” might mean, the promise of science and if secularism is leading to a better world and more fulfilled lives than religion does (or can), and much more.

Part Two presents a continued conversation between Harrell and Wotherspoon that presents looks at two perspectives that the conversation with Dalton left nearly untouched: (1) alternate possible readings of the Book of Mormon if it were to be examined it on its own terms, and from the perspective that it is a thousand-year abridged history of actual, ancient people and what this might yield in terms of a different framing about racism present in the passages in dispute, and also what the implications would be for Mormons today in terms of their being forced by logic to believe in the skin color claim; and (2) how these passages and their centrality to the Mormon faith might look from a perspective that admits nineteenth-century origins for the Book of Mormon, either as the sole creation of Joseph Smith’s imagination or through some kind of “revelation” that involves both divine and human influence on the text that resulted. And, if any of this is admitted, how might this new perspective on prophetic production affect statements such as Smith’s declaration that the Book of Mormon was translated by “the gift and power of God,” and that it is “the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book”?

Both parts are longer than what we typically aim for at Mormon Matters, but we think you will enjoy these discussions and find them to represent well important currents for how to best frame religion in general, and Mormonism and its holy scriptures and sensibilities about prophets and revelation, in particular. We hope you will listen carefully and then contribute to a lively discussion in the comments section below.


Links to media and articles mentioned in podcast or relevant to the topic:

“Mormonism is Racism,” Way of the Mister videocast, 10 October 2012

Mormon Stories Interview with Brian Dalton, 20 October 2010

Mormon Stories Interview with Charley Harrell, 25 January 2012

Mormon Matters episode, “How Can We Truly Confront Racism within Mormon Thought and Culture?” 9 March 2012

Utah Lighthouse Ministry list: Racial Statements in LDS Scripture

Matthew Roper, “Nephi’s Neighbors: Book of Mormon Peoples and Pre-Columbian Populations,” FARMS Review15, no. 2 (2003)

Blake T. Ostler, “DNA Strands in the Book of Mormon,” Sunstone, May 2005

Blake T. Ostler, “The Book of Mormon As a Modern Expansion of an Ancient Source,” Dialogue 20, no. 1 (Spring 1987)

Scott C. Dunn, “Spirit Writing: Another Look at the Book of Mormon,” Sunstone, June 1985

C. Jess Groesbeck, “The Book of Mormon as a Symbolic History: A New Perspective on Its Place in History and Religion,” Sunstone, March 2004

White and Delightsome: Racism in the Book of Mormon” by Michael Barker (post at Rational Faiths blog)


  1. Chicago OG November 5, 2012 at 5:11 pm - Reply

    I find myself on the liberal side of the argument. Thank you Brian for willingly debating the racial and disaffection issues. I get dizzy with the spin….from the apologists. As much as I have tried to find the “moderate”/middle way I realize that personal integrity will always be sacrificed. Thank you for being straight forward, to the point and spot on. Love Mr. Diety!

  2. Mike November 5, 2012 at 7:51 pm - Reply

    I really enjoyed this lively debate. and would simply like to add that even taken at face value the Book of Mormon is only racist if you ignore the other passages that address race. Jacob 3:9 admits that the Nephites had a problem with racism but proves in absolutely unmistakable language that God did not approve of it.

    “a commandment I give unto you, which is the word of God, that ye revile no more against them because of the darkness of their skins”

    Furthermore 2 Nephi 26:33 states:
    “and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”

    So Yyes, the Nephites had racist tendencies, (not at all unusual in global history) and culturally they seem to have found light skin to be more attractive than dark skin. God doesn’t praise them for this, but he does used it to effectively cut off the Lamanites which was his stated purpose just before detailing the curse in 2 Nephi 5:20:
    “Inasmuch as they will not hearken unto thy words they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord. And behold, they were cut off from his presence.”

    God wanted a separation, and we see throughout the book that the skin color was generally effective at doing this. God doesn’t say that dark skin is universally “loathsome” but says to Nephi that it is “loathsome unto THY people”. He also doesn’t say that all dark skin is the result of a curse. He only states that it was for the Lamanites because it would separate them from the covenants he makes with the Nephites. He doesn’t say the Nephites were delightsome because they were white, but he says that they were white AND delightsome. Most importantly, as stated above, God sharply condemns racism with very clear language.

    We don’t have to wait for the church to change the Book of Mormon. We just need to read the rest of it. I would also like to point out that although the Nephites in Nephi’s day may have found dark skin loathsome, it seems that not all men of nephrite decent felt that way. See Mosiah 20:5 and Alma 39:3-4.

    • brett leigh bair November 7, 2012 at 4:16 am - Reply

      It is amazing to me how, with a clear conscience, members will spin this until they make it stops where they want it to land. Could you get a nonmember to see the ridiculous interpretations proposed? You decide your conclusions before you consider the facts and information. This is not a plan for truth let a lone any kind of success in decision making.

      Is god racist? Of course, look at the evidence and actions in most holy books and how the prophets interpreted what god told them.

      Were mormon prophets racist? Yes. The real question is why and spin a good reason why god is racist… least in the past? Now we need black atheletes at BYU.

    • Wayne November 9, 2012 at 2:10 pm - Reply

      It’s kind of confusing – not to mention jerkish – for God to tell the Nephites to loath dark-skinned people, even if only for reasons of procreation, and then tell them to “revile no more against them”. Maybe the initial loathing was only meant to be temporary, but then you have to consider that Mosiah 20:5 and Alma 39:3-4 talk about sinful Nephites being attracted to dark skin, that God makes Lamanites white in 3 Nephi 2:15 as though that some kind of blessing, and that several generations after the coming of Christ God changes the color of bad people’s skin yet again (Mormon 5:15). Dark is evil, light is righteous. It sounds like God has racist tendencies which the Nephites quickly adopt. The fact is the light-good/dark-bad dichotomy is a classic trope that extents far beyond religious texts, but it’s not a moral reality worthy and in no way worthy of defense.

  3. Tim Grover November 6, 2012 at 11:23 am - Reply

    I’m sorry, I had to turn this one off because I was so disgusted with the whole thing. I don’t know how it’s possible to believe that that’s not what Joseph Smith meant when he dictated those words to Oliver Cowdery. I was SO disappointed listening to Dan go on in this creep, passive-aggressive, pseudo-happy mormon voice about how there’s other ways to take the phrase “skin of blackness”. Awful. I keep hoping that I’ll find a way to return to belief, but Dan, you’ve made it that much harder. Brian, thanks for your show and for the way of the mister stuff. You make 100% more sense than does Dan.

  4. ian November 7, 2012 at 2:47 pm - Reply

    I will be honest, I couldn’t handle this “discussion” as it was the opposite equivalent to having a conversation/lecture from my TBM father in law.

    I was really looking forward to a true discussion on the issue, not the rantings of an evangelist. Brian seemed to show no tolerance and clearly didn’t seem to be interested in discussion. It seemed like he wasn’t even willing to search for a middle ground to have the conversation in. After about half an hour I had to shut it off and wish I could get a refund on my time.

    • Brian Johnston November 13, 2012 at 8:50 am - Reply

      It’s people still drinking Kool-Aid, just switching to a different flavor.

  5. Glen November 8, 2012 at 7:49 pm - Reply

    I don’t normally participate in these discussions. Notwithstanding Dan’s solid attempts otherwise, Brian pushed the tone and rhetoric into an argumentative area that is uncomfortable and unproductive. I didn’t like that.

    But, Brian’s extreme viewpoint, however, must, must, must be resolved (I’d really rather not wait until I die to find out) because the impact of Mormonism’s life view upon people can be very exteme. I agree with Brian that Mormonism conveyed the idea that scripture is the word of God (particularly the Book of Mormon, D&C and Pearl of Great Price)(i.e. what God would say to his children if he were here in the flesh…that is serious stuff, if true); that God will reveal his secrets to his prophets and that disobedience to a prophet is the same as disobeying God; that what transpires out of SLC from the pulpit, the missionary assignment office, the Bishop’s extension of a call, is what God would do if he were here and made the decisions; and, last but not least, that God told Joseph Smith no other church was true and that he was called to restore Jesus’ religion. Brian’s viewpoint must be resolved because there are some people–Brian identified as one of those–who really, really, totally, and fully believe it. Such a belief persuades one to literally believe what the scriptures state (i.e. the statements about skin color in the Book of Mormon) and to follow exactly what the prophet says with the assumption that it is what God would say if he were here on earth.

    So, I humbly ask John and Dan and others to not duck the issue that seems to be avoided in difficult discussions such as the interview with Brian. The issue is this: If our modern day scripture should be viewed through the writers lens and we must figure out an interpretation that takes into account the writers upbringing and cultural beliefs, how is that any different than asking you, Dan, to write and share with me your own viewpoints on faith, repentance, baptism, the purpose of life etc. I think you would do a pretty good job with such topics; however, you would be the first to agree that your response is not the word of God. Consequently, where does one find God’s unfiltered teachings about life?

    I am looking for a “true” messenger. A messenger sent from God, with God’s words in his mouth, so I don’t have to guess, interpret and hope because I don’t want to be wrong about such an important matter. If there is no such a messenger, then I don’t want to deal with what somebody else wrote because those are just their ideas. I’m looking for God’s ideas, what he thinks, what he wants us to know.

    There is, however, another part of me that wants to cleave to Phillip Barlow’s idea that we are mortal beings responding to the divine. There is room in his thought to both embrace the writings of a man we sustain as a prophet who is trying to put into words his encounters with God (which is a lot different that God dictating word for word a revelation to a prophet) and to maintain an area of doubt that forces one to test, evaluate and decide whether whether such a mans expression of his encounter is correct.

    So, I’d like to see how others would address this issue which would, i think help a person like Brian.

    • Joseph McKnight November 9, 2012 at 10:31 am - Reply

      I echo the thoughts of Glen and add one more that relates to it. In listening to this heated discussion, I kept thinking how very huge the gap, more like a grand canyon, is between Dan’s and Charley’s views and many Mormons (likely most active Mormons) who follow the religion in a very orthodox way. That orthodoxy is what leads us right into the logic that Brian has followed. It’s the church’s leaders who are pushing the orthodoxy and subsequently the journey out because there is no middle ground taught, no moderation accepted. It’s not like Dan and Charley’s views are taught in church; we get only ocassional comments in sunday school, like Dan mentioned, where someone like him brings up the controversial issue like this Book of Mormon scripture, but that view is tolerated at best, not taught as truly following the prophets. Our mantra of follow the leaders is the wrong one, but it’s the one that’s being taught so there is the ever-widening gap.

      • Tim Grover November 9, 2012 at 12:38 pm - Reply

        I honestly can’t see where there is any room for a middle ground on this issue. I can’t fathom how anyone can read the passages in question and read the thoughts of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young etc. and think that there’s any other possible interpretation. To me it’s just believing what you want to believe and seeing what you want to see. It feels so dishonest to me that I couldn’t get through the podcast either. But not because of Brian, I couldn’t handle Dan.

        • Tim Grover November 9, 2012 at 12:40 pm - Reply

          Plus, Dan’s whole passive aggressive “this isn’t what we agreed upon” approach just rubs me the wrong way. Blech!

        • Rude Dog November 20, 2012 at 9:40 am - Reply

          I agree, and what apologists don’t realize that what they’re doing is what’s been done throughout the ages, and that is the starting of an entirely new belief religion based on differing opinions of the main religion by a few members. The evolution of religion looks a lot like the evolution of man, it’s more like a bush than a tall branched tree. The church is what forces and creates both the critic and the apologist. Through the orthodoxy of the historic and modern LDS church a moderated view with metaphor at its foundation is an untenable position. We critics accept that and leave the dogma and often time the church, the apologists try to reinvent and reinterpret the dogma, and redifine the church into friendlier Universalist positions, both of us being far removed from the Mother church, but at least we critics admit and embrace it while apologists place themselves in a rhelm I term “the new Mormon elitists”.

  6. Wayne November 9, 2012 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    Dan’s great and I think he’s ability to create dialogue is extremely important but he’s wrong when he implies that religion concerns itself with spiritual life and not “science”. Religion has a long tradition of explaining every aspect of the world from its existence, to the order of nature, to human society, territory disputes, genealogies, money systems, the afterlife, etc. Religion claims to have all of the answers (at least all of the answers the gods want us to have). Dan’s claim about religion leaving science alone doesn’t make sense given that “science” (i.e. modern science) is only a few centuries old and therefore couldn’t have been addressed by texts predating the 17th century. Before that time “science” simply meant knowledge and in that case it was very much part of scripture. Predictably enough, The BoM, a text produced after the birth of modern science, does incorporate updated scientific knowledge (e.g. Hel. 12:15). What’s most significant about the inclusion of scientific knowledge in scripture is that it consistently fails the test of time (in the case of the Heleman example it’s simply childish and out of place) which then calls into question the other facts of life scripture purports to explain so clearly. Are the spiritual and moral truths of these books withstanding the test of time? In so many cases (e.g. explanations of sexuality, racism, genocide, crimes warranting death, causes of guilt, justification for sacrifice, etc.) the scriptures become extremely dangerous references and a major cause for human grief and suffering. Can the jewels of the scriptures warrant saving the religions that sprung from them. I don’t think so. Gambling our spirituality on faulty authority can only complicate our lives. We have updated books that caring on the best messages offered in religion. We have thousands upon thousands of them. Let’s stop wasting our time worrying about who’s registered to which tribe and open up to conversation and learning from all.

    I thought this was a great episode and I thank all the participants, especially Charley, who pretty much saved this thing by helping Dan and Brian find grounds for an actual discussion.

  7. Richard Lester November 9, 2012 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    Brians responses are either-or, very easy to follow and support via arguement. Much of spirituality and mormonism is abstract and difficult to define, this is the contrast between the two in arguement, Dan attempts to utilize the abstract spiritual-pondering approach to support his views, whereas Brian uses a scientific method, evidence based arguement. The two approaches dont mix, yet niether should be dismissed.

  8. Samuel Rogers November 10, 2012 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    Brian mostly seemed completely unwilling to engage in any sort of thoughtful dialog. You can’t just say you’re not an academic and refuse to engage in meaningful conversation because you don’t feel qualified, but then go on to call the work of apologists BS. Brian’s really good at spitting out inflammatory rhetoric, though.

    If he isn’t willing to get rid of his assumptions that everything about the Book of Mormon is made up during conversations, he’ll never be able to converse with believers in a matter that makes sense to them. He is not even willing to examine if explanations or theories make sense in light of the context of the text of the Book of Mormon, and so most Mormons including myself will just assume that Brian lacks intellectual honesty and dismiss him.

    It’s especially disturbing that this is how he makes his living.

  9. K.C. Krisher November 11, 2012 at 6:02 am - Reply

    I enjoy Mr. Deity very much, and I think that both sides made some good points. But it’s hard for me to take Brian Dalton’s position very seriously.

    What people sometimes fail to realize about the New Atheists (Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Lawrence Krauss, et al) is that they are really polemical atheist entertainers, and not thoughtful proponents of the atheist position. Their goal is (or, in Hitchens’ case, was) not to wrestle with difficult questions, but to lambast, mock, sneer, and rant for the enjoyment of others who are already inclined to agree with them. Looking to the New Atheists for serious religious or philosophical ideas would be like looking to Rush Limbaugh or Michael Moore for serious political ideas.

    On the other hand, the Old Atheists are willing to really engage with the issues. The New Atheists simply duck them. For example, Hitchens dealt with the question of “Why does the universe exist?” by saying that “It’s a brute fact.” Now I don’t suppose that anyone could disagree with the fact that the universe is, well, a fact. But what does this have to do with the question?

    Krauss is even dodgier. He simply states that the universe arose from nothing, but redefines “nothing” to mean “something.”

    It’s disappointing that Brian Dalton thinks it would be a good thing if more people were somehow drawn into the incoherent shouting match between the New Atheists and the fundamentalist religious believers. I don’t see much point in it.

  10. wayfarer November 13, 2012 at 7:02 pm - Reply

    I absolutely hated the way this podcast was set up and moderated. hated it. The idea of defending the literalness of the Book of Mormon is an futile exercise in self-deception. Whatever we think of the process of revelation or translation, the Book of Mormon reflects the mindset of the nineteenth century. To try to ascribe an intent to Nephi, or any of the other mental mastication that involves apologetics is an insult to anyone’s intelligence.

    So my question for Dan and any other apologist out there is this: if revelation is to the mind and heart of the prophet, then is not it distinctly probable that a 500 page revelation involves a not of human mindset mixed into the revelation?

    • Samuel Rogers November 13, 2012 at 7:47 pm - Reply

      An insult to anyone’s intelligence? Please, that comment comes off as dishonest and closed minded. If the Book of Mormon is some sort of ancient record, then of course it’s possible the revelatory translation process involved contamination from the 18th century mindset that Joseph Smith lived in. But why can’t you ascribe anything in the text to Nephi? If you bring the assumption to the table that Nephi never existed and that Joseph Smith authored the book, not translated it, then sure.

      It strikes me as intellectual hypocrisy when one assumes something is false and thus refuses to ponder the implications of an explanation that rests on the assumption that it’s true. Both assumptions cannot be proven, so theories that stem from these assumptions must both be given fair hearing.

  11. Rude Dog November 17, 2012 at 4:16 pm - Reply

    You know Dan, you talk about complexity, but credit only yourself for supposedly considering it, and assume critics come at these arguments with unconsidered and/or straw men views. You talk about pieces of the puzzle, and using various other pieces and verses to help understand hard to reconcile passages. When it comes to the race issue all I really heard from you is that there may be other passages of scripture that soften and hints to us that God accepts all. You (or Charley) cite the familiar scripture regarding bond and free, black and white, helping to temper the dark and loathsome language, and that’s about it. If you think about it, this was just about the attitude of 19th century America towards both the Natives and the Blacks…just human enough to not be discounted by God, but not human enough to be considered equal. The “bond” in bond and free is specifically addressing slaves and slavery. When critics consider the racist language in the Book of Mormon, we have, believe it or not considered the pieces, the differing shades of light, and the nuance of a complex puzzle. One of those pieces is something I know your apologetics will never bring into the same room of discussion regarding the veracity of the Book of Mormon, and that is in light of the Book of Abraham. Everybody knows, even the apologists that the Book of Abraham is at best speculative writing by Joseph, but probably more likely an attempt just like the BoM to put forth a story or narrative made up completely by Joseph. The BoA is a huge lens in considering the BoM and for us critics, cannot be considered separately, and do I have to mention the racist language perpetuated in the BoA? This was touched upon but not explored, and that is I don’t think the denial of priesthood and BoM racism are separate. You see it separately and more similar to the Abrahamic codes of priesthood assignment, but remember, not only did we deny priesthood to the “Negro” males, but we denied endowment to black men and women, and temple blessings and sealings to black families, We denied letting black boys serve in leadership roles not only in church but also in scouts. This is not Abrahamic assignment, this is racist practice against a people whose position in Mormon folklore as an un-valiant actor in the pre-existence is pretty clear, and I’m not even throwing in the comments of the Prophets concerning the uncouth “Negro”. We critics consider the BoM as a made up product of Joseph. There was no Nephi, nor Mormon. Any examining of the evidence confirms this, for those most familiar with the evidence don’t believe in the Book of Mormon, and those that believe in the Book of Mormon and know the evidence were believers in the BoM first and can’t let it go. We see the BoM as a 19th century construct, as many in Joseph’s day, could not, with the Bible, account for the natives of North and South America and how they fit into the Abrahamic story. One thing the members of this church don’t realize, and this was brought up by Dr. Micheal Coe in a separate Mormon Stories podcast, is the tremendous racist idea of giving the magnificent cultural heritage that belongs to the descendents of the Mayan, giving that heritage away due to racist presumption that the ancestors of the Mayan and the Ameri-Indians were incapable of building such complex societies. I could go on and on, including using mostly the quotes of modern day prophets and apostles to refute your view, let alone a text I studied word for word that completely annihilates both LGT and populated continent assumptions. This, plus so much more I don’t have room to fit, all feeding into what I bring to the table of my dis-belief which seems to me a lot more “complex” than to shoehorn singular views into passages of scripture that make the term “plain and precious” seem like an annoyance.

    One other thing. I at 19 was set apart as a missionary. In that blessing it was given me to understand and teach effectively the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. I sacrificed in a major way to serve the Lord, and I spent many years, including the labor intensive mission months in study to “obtain” the word of God, so that my “tongue may be loosed”. I kept the rules, I studied early in the morning under a blanket in cold damp apartments. I started my sessions with prayer, and took no passage for granted. I consulted the words of the prophets, and I prayed mightily for understanding, and was promised especially that in my capacity as a missionary that I’d be entitled to understanding. Not ever was I prompted to consider the scriptures in a way that even comes close to how you have presented them. I was always close with the ‘bretheren’ and the interpretations of modern day revelation, which begs the question, where was my personal insight to this complexity? Why was it not given unto the humble missionary that sued for understanding? When we consider the billions of humans that have lived, those that live now, and the billions that will live, the vast majority of them not hearing of Jesus Christ let alone Joseph Smith, one would have to question if the Plan of Salvation is a plan for the dead, and not the living, as most of the work has to be done for people who’ve never had a chance to “prepare to meet God in the flesh”. Then I listen to your podcast Dan, and you double down implying that in this, our tiniest of tiny human species Mormon minority who actually get to hear of Jesus and the Restored Gospel, that most Mormons aren’t reading the text in right way and have it wrong in that they have not gone in and really sussed out the true complexity of meaning in the saving passages of scripture. Are you really saying that if God had a plan to try and reclaim as many souls as possible, he’d put it in scripture so obfuscated, that even prophets, seers, and revelators would get it wrong, or need a prophetic evolutionary process replete with huge moral lapses of wickedness before basic human decency could be harvested,(and this behind the worldly secular arrival at such questions) and that Dan Wortherspoon and a few apologists are the only ones truly figuring it out?

    Ockham’s razor.

  12. Zina, Destroyer of Worlds November 24, 2012 at 12:07 pm - Reply

    I have complete respect for the work of apologetics. I think their work shows a willingness to wrestle with their own belief and find a way to make that resound with a constantly changing framework. Their willingness to talk about it, makes them humanitarians, who are seeking to ease the suffering of others. That is the function of storytelling, which is at it’s heart, the basis of all textual communication. A storyteller is most effective, when their story resonates with an audience, triggering separate memories and images in the minds of listeners. Learning is not an identical process with people, so why do we expect scripture to function like a chemical process?

    This whole conversation made me think of Joseph Campbell and the function of Religion. What Brian seems to miss is the function in the greater context of the narrative and it’s application to people who are not angry about this, and not him.

    He is trapped by his anger at the either all right vs. all wrong level. I hear angry disillusionment, not a desire to understand. I hear a person who is threatened and hurt by other’s dismissal, not a person who is willing to listen to contrary opinions.

    For many members, truth is not absolute. Truth is relative. This is inherently built into the belief system, and there is control process for faulty revelation. It’s called prayer. Faithful mormons have a responsibility to wrestle with these ideas, no matter what prophet/apostle says this, and regardless of the time frame. Failure to address the human component of the revelatory process is failure to catch the point/function of revelation. Truth in a religious context meets a real need, it gives purpose, and defines self.

    Beyond the angry racist claims, I am convinced that Brian has little understanding of how to read scripture. Dan very kindly tried to address this with him, without being insulting, but Brian just dismissed it with the claim, “I’m not an academic.” This doesn’t excuse him from necessity to provide an actual defense for his points. References to the Sept 6, or Fundamentalists in the Middle East, are Red Herrings, and not sufficient support. Are a whole people and their belief system to be thrown under a bus because a few individuals use religion as a mask for their sin. The religion is what you see on the outside, but in neither of those cases, was religion the heart of the matter…

    Brian is reading the text as fact, not poetry, not fables, not mythology. He is reading it at a purely literal level, and the text is, as Dan mentioned, so much more complex than that. As seen through the lens of a “scientist,” I’m not surprised at the inability to understand Metaphor, but I’m not going to accept something as fictitious simply because it doesn’t resonate for Brian.

    For people trying to fight against intolerance (on the basis of race/gender/orientation), I hear an awful lot of intolerance from an unexpected place. I don’t like racism, gender inequality, or gay-bashing, any more than Brian, but I don’t like trivializing things that are sacred to others because I’m explosively angry about my faith transition.

    I find this more relevant and more human, than “Ockham’s razor” dismissing a people and a world of beliefs that aren’t inherently evil.

    Do we question the validity of Jesus’s birth? Has anyone been angry that God essentially raped Mary to beget an heir? She can’t have been morally capable of consent/dissent, and she was his child? Does that strike anyone as incest? Does that make anyone angry? No. We celebrate it every year with nativity scenes…. What is the point? The details of the story aren’t important, the meaning, and function of the account is. Maybe some jerks will try to use details to justify their own iniquity, but unrighteous dominion is nothing new in the history of religion. The point is redemption. Redemption for Mary in the eyes of Joseph her hubby, redemption for the world in a Savior’s birth, redemption for me from the sin of being irritated with Brian’s thrashings … The message of the Book of Mormon is hope and redemption. Using ideological conventions from the 19th century, the book tries to communicate this idea of redemption (and consequently, hope) to people looking through 19th century eyes.

    Pretty sure that religion doesn’t cause intolerance, ignorant people do. If we want to fight that, we should encourage people to act as “academics and apologists” and read more freaking books, maybe the complete standard works, for a start.

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