Having Faith in the Book of Mormon

A friend of mine was recently answering a question about the historicity of the Book of Mormon, the reality of the people mentioned within it, and whether it's necessary to prove that. We agreed that the historicity of the Book of Mormon isn't necessary, and I wanted to share my breakdown as to why that is.

To insist that the Book of Mormon be viewed as a historical text means opening the record to scrutiny and standards of proof it will never be able to meet. It's completely contradictory to the development of faith. Faith, in its most fundamental form, always comes back to a belief in events and stories that aren't knowable through evidence. No amount of historical analysis into the Book of Mormon will ever change the fundamental nature of believing as an act of faith, rather than empirical knowledge.

The purpose of the Book of Mormon isn't to provide a historical record for us to intellectually prove or disprove. The text itself points out that there was a historical record upon which the Book of Mormon is supposed to be based, and we weren't given any of that because that's not the purpose of this record.

The purpose of the Book of Mormon is to testify of Jesus Christ. It accomplishes that purpose though faith, not intellectual certainty. There is no scholarship, no physical evidence, no probative inquiry into any of the historical elements of the Book of Mormon that can replace the personal experiences Latter-day Saints have with in pursuing that purpose.

So when I say I only care about the Book of Mormon because of what it has to say about Jesus Christ, that's truly the only reason it matters to me. It serves no other purpose in my life, including as a source of historical truth. I don't care about Book of Mormon geography, the debates surrounding horses on the American continents, the Nephite coinage system, or about proving the literal existence of anyone in the text. That simply has nothing to do with the value the Book of Mormon has had in my life.

The first time I read the Book of Mormon, I had a transformative spiritual experience in which I felt like God and I were communicating, openly and uninhibited, for the first time. That's why I believe in it. It's not because of Joseph Smith, what he said he saw in the First Vision, the divine authority he claimed to have, or what he claimed the origins of the book are. Joseph Smith, has no bearing on why I believe in the Book of Mormon.  

That doesn't mean I disbelieve Joseph Smith. I just fully embrace the fact that I'm never going to know, empirically and with absolute certainty, whether what he experienced and described was literal or not. My belief is an act of faith that doesn't need to be justified by historical evidence in order to exist. It's the same allowance that exists in every religious tradition. For me to say historicity isn't central to my decision to believe, I think, acknowledges that reality.

If the only truth someone gains out of the Book of Mormon is historical proof that Joseph Smith was a living prophet and Russell M. Nelson is his modern successor, I can't imagine a more wasted opportunity. This is why I've never supported the logical progression in the missionary discussions that assert if the Book of Mormon is true, then Joseph Smith is a prophet and the Church is true. 


Because it completely distracts from the fact that Jesus Christ acts, appears, and speaks within its pages. To choose to focus on anything else, to me, is to miss the most valuable thing in the text.

Making Virtual Church Attendance Permanent

I just found out that my stake is making virtual church attendance permanent.

The only thing that can kill it now is the kibosh from Salt Lake or a refusal to cooperate from other members of the stake. Here's why that would be a mistake, based on every person I can think of who would benefit from this change:

  • Parents with young or sick children, especially mothers recovering from the physical demands of pregnancy.
  • Folks with mobility issues who physically cannot get to the church building, especially our elderly friends with all kinds of physical challenges.
  • Those who are investigating the church who want to see what a congregation is like before they commit to show up in person.
  • Those with mental health challenges (myself included) who find it difficult to be around large groups of people, especially of the touchy-feely variety.
  • Those who are immune compromised, who really need to limit their social interactions for their ongoing well being and safety.
  • Those who have been away from church for many years who aren't sure if they want to commit to taking the plunge to return. It gives them a chance to get acquainted with people from a distance so learning new names and faces isn't so intimidating.
  • Marginalized groups who are afraid of how they would be received if they showed up in person.
  • Folks who live in neighborhoods that don't get plowed in inclement weather.
  • Poor and broke folks who can't afford the money in gas to go to the church building, especially if they live far away.
  • People in part member families who are constantly away from their loved ones on Sundays. This can create so many bad feelings and unnecessary stress for our friends.
  • People who are traveling, but still want to go to church with their families. Rather than crashing other people's wards, they can attend their own.
  • People in stake callings who can't remember the last time they went to their own wards and have no idea what's going on.
  • Underage folks whose parents can't bring them to church, but who still want to participate in church meetings—without getting rides from strangers they don't know.
  • People in the pews who want to invite their friends and family members to church in the least intrusive way possible.
  • Families going through terrible divorces who need separation from each other.
  • Chronically ill people (think IBS, terrible menses, etc.) who spend more time in the bathroom than in the pews anyway.
  • People who get to the building after the parking lot fills up and the foyer couch is already occupied.
  • People who have to work on Sundays.
  • Missionaries who are homesick and just need to see some familiar faces.
  • Single parents who can't wrangle children on their own.
  • Those with religious trauma who struggle to attend in person, but want to work through their feelings from a safe, more comfortable distance.
And these are just all the situations I could think of off the top of my head. I'm sure there are others. It should be clear now this is a change that would bless pretty much everyone in a congregation at some point, in all kinds of situations.

Being "One Flesh" at Church

In light of Harry and Meghan's interview with Oprah, it got me thinking about my temple recommend interview yesterday. What I loved about it was seeing two people love and prioritize each other over an institution that doesn't know how to love or care for them at all.

To have that when your relationship is connected to an institution that feels it has a claim on you is a beautiful thing. It involves saying "no" and facing fears so many times. Being willing to be punished because you won't kiss the ring.

Yesterday, I was honest about my concerns on so many subjects during my temple recommend interview. I was told those concerns were not nearly as important as my performance and presence in person at church, even when it contradicts the decision my husband and I made together to continue socially distancing. This isn't the first time someone from the institutional church has tried to come between me and my husband. It won't be the last. We learned from the very beginning, before we were ever even married, not to give anyone outside our marriage space to do this. Not even the Church.

So when I see Harry and Meghan talking about an institution using this same tactic against them, I know what that's like. I know how it feels. There are lessons our institution can learn from this, how toxic it is when this is what we tolerate in our marriages from someone else.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, especially for those from my current ward watching me. My husband and I are a united front. We make our decisions together. A "no" from me is in equal force a "no" from him. You won't use us against each other, so don't try. If you talk about me behind my back or try to conspire with him to get what you want out of me, I will know because he will tell me. He always has. He always will. 

That shouldn't surprise you. It's what a loving, loyal family looks like. It's what you taught him to be.

My friends who stay, this is some of my distilled wisdom from my oil lamp to yours. Don't believe the myth that allowing outside forces to interfere in your marriage will somehow strengthen it, especially when the one doing it is the Church. 
"One flesh" doesn't include them.

Lighting the Y on Rainbow Day

Let it be absolutely clear to everyone who is watching the fallout from the Rainbow Day Y Lighting last night.

Brigham Young University cares more about the non-existent harm to a letter in the dirt than the active discrimination of its own LGBTQ+ students.

When Christ taught about cleansing the inner vessel, whited sepulchres full of dead men's bones, and priests and Levites who leave people to die on the side of the road, this is what he was talking about. (Matt. 23:25-27, Luke 10:25-37)

If you can't see that, don't bother calling yourself a Christian.

You may think you know Christ, the man who ate with sinners and publicans before the whole who needed no physician, but make no mistake:

He does not know you. (Matt. 7:21-23, 9:10-13)

What you have done to the least of these, your LGBTQ+ brethren, you have done unto him.

We are not just commanded to love our neighbors, we are commanded to do so with "love unfeigned." (D&C 121:41)

This thing y'all keep doing where you say you love all people, but call police on them for being visible behind their backs? That doesn't make you a disciple. It makes you a liar.

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