Substantial effort is expended to harmonize conflicting texts, such as the Harmony of the Gospels in our Bible Dictionary, Creation account harmonizations, investigations of whether Matthew or Luke got the ordering of the temptations “correct,” and so on. But what if the writers of scripture deliberately put in ambiguities? We have some evidence for this; Joseph Smith, in his revisions, seems to have left differing versions (e.g., Luke 3 versus Isaiah 40, creation accounts in Moses versus Abraham, incomplete harmonization of all events in the Gospels, and so on). Maybe some of these were just that he didn’t have time to finish, but there are passages that he seemed to be comfortable with explicit differing accounts.
It seems possible that these apparent contradictions and ambiguities might actually be there on purpose, and in fact may not even be meant to be resolved. If so, what might the message of such ambiguities be?
Perhaps one message is that life is ambiguous, that in many cases there is not one definite answer, no one-size-fits-all explanation or even historically accurate account. But I’m not reveling in or embracing ambiguity per se; I’m not arguing directly for a Rashomon effect; but rather that the differences might be suggestions to us that we should be looking beyond the superficial. Certainly the differing Creation accounts each have rich symbolic interpretations that I benefit from and would not want to do without. Might Mormon culture, with its firm sense of certainty, be missing a key point of the scriptures?