Over the weekend I became aware of a piece written by Stephen Smoot at the Interpreter that reminded me the Book of Mormon Wars are unfortunately alive and well in some quarters. Uncompromisingly, Smoot declares BoM historicity to be an all or nothing affair and identifies those who promote an inspired fiction theory as not only intellectually compromised but faithless to boot. In my opinion, this kind of rhetoric does a real disservice to the Mormon community, since instead of trying to contribute to our understanding of the BoM as a literary, historical, and even religious text, the focus changes to polemical posturing and the drawing of ideological lines. As a result, Latter-day Saints who have honestly come to the conclusion that the BoM is a product of the 19th century and yet value aspects of their Mormon identity and community are stigmatized and made to feel unwelcome, while more conservative and apologetic minded members are encouraged to take a more aggressive and dogmatic stance.
Such rhetoric is not Christlike nor helpful.
Contrast this with the roundtable discussion on BoM historicity that occurred yesterday at Sunstone, in which multiple perspectives were aired in an environment of respect and openness, including David Bokovy’s presentation that the BoM can be accepted as both fiction and meaningful scriptural text.