And that’s why I love scripture, even though it’s telling a different story than what we usually say it’s telling. But it also gives the reader an important responsibility to use those human stories well, and not just with the traditional readings. Take Captain Moroni for example, in the Book of Mormon. Lots of people see his story as a great example of self-defense and apply it to today, either to justify war or to go as far as stocking up on crazy weapons in case the government irritates you. And I do think any reasonable reading of the Book of Mormon allows someone to defend herself, even though the Mormon militias are utterly wrong.
But, that’s not all that the BOM has to say about self-defense, because a few chapters earlier we get the story of a group of people who will not defend themselves. That group is generally portrayed as doing something that is excessively righteous, but their non-violent resistance also leads to less death and destruction overall than defending themselves would have. What do we do with that? Why do we glorify self-defense, but not non-violence? And what does that mean for us today?
And then what about the racism in the BOM? And the justification for destroying Native Americans? And lots of other troubling things? They’re not going to go away, even if we change official interpretation now, because those ideas have greatly influenced many members of the church.
I love history, and I love scripture. But what we do with them now is the most important question.