Daniel Peterson on his recent blog post made 4 points for which he argues the following
#1 “I don’t believe that the Church should ever welcome it (a non historical view of the Book of Mormon) as a viewpoint on a par with belief in Lehite historicity.”
The trouble we get into when we make assumptions is obvious. We are often wrong. Dan here seems to make the argument that the Church and hence God does not want to allow a non-historical view of the Book of Mormon to be valid. Put yourself in God’s shoes for just a second. You love your children and have given them the gospel to bring them home. What about your children’s beliefs are important to you? What is it that is crucial for them to hold a stance on that you see as needed for their salvation. In no world, Bizarro or otherwise, can I hold ground on a God who feels it is crucial to the salvation of his children that they ascend to a belief in historicity of something other than the atonement and resurrection in order to participate full in my gospel and my church. Good grief, that seems utterly ridiculous to me. I should be clear here. If God, as I “assume” him to be places no salvific value for his children in mortality, in beliefs regarding historicity and instead values the development of his children spiritually and the good they do to serve each other, then there is little room in my mind for our church stepping into this space. Picture a person who is good and who loves to serve humanity and who makes it their life’s errand to make the world better. Now picture that person dying and meeting God and God telling them that they need to hold Moses to be literal, or they need to believe in a literal global flood, or literal Nephites in order to move into heaven (Celestial Heaven even). Do you sense the silliness in having a belief determine salvation rather then one’s heart or desires or even behavior. Whether one can or can not ascend to a belief where evidence is all over the place is a ridiculous way in my “opinion” to determine anyone’s salvation. And if truly ridiculous then God’s Church must also abdicate such a stance in order to be “all-in” in the Lord’s Church.
Edited to add: I should be clear we are talking historical beliefs. I realize the one exception that butts heads with my perspective here is the Atonement & Resurrection. One could argue against my view that our Church and God himself requires us to believe in the atonement and resurrection of Christ and to accept on faith those two historical events. I could spend time arguing that the atonement s incomprehensible and that the resurrection is as well and that to proclaim faith in those two could very well be interpreted in a whole host of ways (ex: historical Jesus vs Christ of faith, literal vs mystical) but will concede here that these two items may very well be the exception to my argument.
#2 “I do not believe, however, that the Church can relax or change its standards regarding sexual behavior without direct and powerful divine revelation. And, frankly, I don’t expect such revelation — if what is expected is, say, authorization for sexual relations outside of heterosexual marriage.”
The Mormon perspective of God’s plan in this regard hinges on the Old Testament being a literal account of God’s dealings with his children. The realty is once you allow the Old Testament to be man’s effort to interpret God and that many if not most or all of the stories are mythological tales developed over centuries of oral tradition created to help a people feel chosen and to have a sense of identity and importance in the world, then having any rule or law based in such myth become a very fragile foundation. We acknowledge this in many places. Many of the Old Testament laws have been done away and now are seen as no longer valid. Scholars have for a long time understood scripture, especially ancient scripture, in its context and as lay people come to understand the scholarship and social constructs of their day we slowly must come to grips with how much we attribute to God and perhaps just how little he actually had a hand in. In the end I simply don’t see the social (including sexual) constructs of the Old Testament to be a wise approach to gauging what is healthy and what is not and what God is okay with. Once you remove the Old Testament as a gauge you also have removed the authority on this issue from Paul’s words. Once you remove the authority of Paul’s words on this subject and allow his teachings to be just as fallible as the church leaders whose teachings we now disavow, then it is only a matter of being willing to ask “could we be wrong” before room to change is laid out on the table. Why are we willing to say Brigham young was racist and it influenced his teachings? Why are we willing to say that George Albert Smith held racist views as Doctrine? And yet Paul or Moses get a free pass? In the end we have not yet been told who inhabits the lower two glories in the Celestial Kingdom and while we preach of a resurrected man and woman sealed in a heterosexual marriage receiving the exalting powers of God and creating worlds, our only doctrinal example of those powers being used was by two pre-mortal men (Michael and Jehovah) having created this earth. I am open, as I wish we all were, to the possibility that at any given moment we might be wrong especially when we consider how many people are hurt by an insistence that we are right.
#3 “I don’t believe that we can back away from our exclusive claims without effectively transmuting Mormonism into another faith and casting aside the claims of the Restoration.”
This statement seems so Black and White. Why is it all or nothing? For example we could find the following middle ground. It actually exists in our theology and teachings. We could do more to acknowledge that God is truly working amongst all his children. That God calls and authorizes people both inside and outside of the LDS Church to carry out his work. That the while the LDS Church is perhaps just one instrument in the orchestra its responsibility is to oversee the saving ordinances and to hold the keys for them. And while it has that exclusive role and it is unique to Mormonism that there are other unique gifts and roles played by those outside the Church that still carries the authority of God in them doing so. This allows more exclusivity and more of a big tent while still maintaining uniqueness and holding truth claims.
#4 “I cannot, frankly, regard Gina Colvin as a reliable guide to the Church’s optimal future.”
I would simply say over the Church’s history it has shifted towards the progressive voice. Take any time frame in the Church and what the progressive vs conservative debates have been. and then fast forward 50 years and ask yourself who was more prophetic….. the progressive voice or the conservative voice? Polygamy, race, feminist issues, stay at home mom as the taught standard, birth control, what a couple does behind their bedroom doors, temple garments or ordinances can’t change, transparency, and a thousand other issues. Which way does the Church shift generally? It may be slow and it may be resistant to the point that it lags decades behind but don’t kid yourself. The church heads generally in the direction of the progressive voice. So as someone who respects Gina’s work….. I would simply ask us as a people to make a list of what she has called for us to consider and then tune back in in 50 years and my guess is she is a whole lot more prophetic then folks like Daniel Peterson wish to give credit.