23 January 2012

On Prophets

Really liked Jana's take on prophets.  This comes from an interview at Mormon Stories, but I got the transcription here.

Jana: "...If the Book of Abraham is not a divine translation of this ancient document, if it is in fact an ordinary funerary document that Joseph Smith completely expanded, embellished, elaborated on or if you are looking at a more cynical view, just simply lied about, then what do we do with the rest of our faith?

"Well, let’s step back first of all and think about how important is the Book of Abraham to the Mormon faith in general?  I don’t think it’s terrifically important, but that’s just me.  But we need to have a tradition of midrash.  We need to have a tradition where we can look at a prophet in the way that Jews have looked at prophets of old and say, ‘this is a midrash’ on a revelation, or this is a midrash on an earlier work of scripture."

John: “What does that word mean?”

Jana: "Midrash, well it’s basically any expanded teaching.  I don’t know what the exact definition would be, but an expanded teaching is something where in midrashim, you are taking a core text and then thinking about it cosmically, you’re thinking about it theologically, and you could look at, for example, the entire Pearl of Great Price as a midrash. You have Moses as a midrash on Genesis, right?  If you think about it in those terms, the literal nature of it is less important than what the book is trying to teach us about who we are as children of God.  I think that is where we need to be looking, and I frankly don’t give a hoot about some of the arguments about historicity, DNA, the more troubling avenues is of course Joseph Smith, the more troubling aspect is not the scripture itself, but what Joseph Smith said about and whether he can then be relied upon as a prophet of God.  Based on my work on the Hebrew Bible, I would say yeah.  Have you looked at those guys lately?

"I mean we have this completely ridiculous idea of what a prophet is supposed to be.  No human being can measure up to that and there’s certainly no biblical example that does, and yet we conveniently forget about it. We come up with these stupid Gospel Doctrine lessons that encourage us to look at people in the Old Testament as if they were perfect and they we look at our own leaders to be perfect as well, and when they aren’t, well we leave."

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