Sunday in Outer Blogness: Literally edition!!

You may or may not know this, but this year is the year (of the four-year-four-standard-works cycle) in which Mormons around the globe are studying the Old Testament. And it seems that all the cognitive dissonance from reading the tales of Adam, Noah, Lot, et al, came to a head this past week — everyone is asking whether Mormons take these stories “literally”!!

This is my new pet-peeve misuse of the word “literally.” When you use the word “literally” in this context, it carries the connotation that the stories are true, but that maybe some of the text contains metaphors or figures of speech. As in: maybe it didn’t rain for literally forty days and forty nights — that was just an expression that meant “a long time.” But that’s not what folks here are talking about. I think it’s clearer to use words like fiction / non-fiction if you’re talking about whether Noah existed at all, and you think the whole universal flood thing is — at best — a wildly exaggerated legend (or maybe an allegory, like this one).

The early bits of the Bible just don’t match up with the evidence (though its flaws can’t match Joseph Smith’s work for entertainment value).

I agree with TT on this point:

Part of the reason for having to clean up these stories is that they no longer make sense to us as they would have in their original context. Their status as sacred literature leads us down the path of thinking there must be something about morality here. However, these stories cannot make sense to us today without some historical knowledge.

And I was a bit disappointed when he wrapped up by finding a moral for us today in the stories after all, instead of just taking them as an interesting window to an ancient and foreign culture. Apparently, there’s some sort of argument going on between TT and the far end of Mormon discussion.

When J. Max Wilson announced a friends-and-foes dialog, I hoped he was planning to include the non-believers (since we invited him to speak on a panel with us), but no such luck — apparently he would rather talk about us as if we’re not here. (Fortunately, the Church of the Fridge can return the favor by explaining religiosity.) All the more reason to come out as non-believer, and not be shy about it.) Bruce won’t even spare a link for the Mormon Open Letter — but I will link to M* because, hey, let’s put all the ideas on the table, and let the best ideas win. 😀

On a related note, it was Darwin Day. Mormon 411 has taken the opportunity to analyze the intelligent design of snowflakes, and I have always been a huge fan of Sir David Attenborough.

We have some more information about the legal challenge against Thomas Monson. Writing to the ward did not have the intended effect. (Hopefully this letter will fare better!)

For those who have trouble telling the CoJCoL-dS from a real-estate corporation, try to guess which of these two is satire. I want to be more positive, but they just keep acting like a for-profit corporation, one whose products are declining in quality. I think this week’s most shocking theological revelation comes from Thinker of Thoughts, with an explanation of how to calculate tithing, following the policies outlined in the Mission President’s Handbook (that you’re not allowed to be reading):

Would the family that faithfully paid tithes and yet is undergoing foreclosure of their home like to discover that the wife of a mission president received a modest necklace as an anniversary gift, paid for out of those tithing funds? Would the family that paid tithing, but had to forego Christmas gift giving like to hear that the children of the MP received a bounteous Christmas morning full of modest gifts at the tithe-payers expense?

I myself had some very sparse birthdays growing up, as my family had many children and my father worked several jobs to provide for us and it was frequently not enough. He always paid tithing on the gross. One year I really thought that I would get a surprise party and I wanted to make it easy for my family to make it happen. I asked to be able to spend the afternoon at the library. I thought that this would surely give them the time to set it all up. Upon being picked up and taken hope I was asked how I liked my birthday. There was no party. My visit to the library was my gift. The children of Mission President’s will never have that feeling. (that being said – libraries are awesome and my parents earnestly did the best they could and I have no complaints. I loved my childhood!)

There were a lot of interesting side topics this week!! Troy Williams got arrested for protesting anti-gay legislation. Both Knotty and Dad’s Primal Scream are leery about impersonal intimacy. Patriarchal blessings: read these two stories about how the Patriarch’s fanciful guesses can mess up people’s lives. I must try this recipe — looks like a Brodie contender for 2014. Mormon X revealed his identity — I could swear I know that guy, but I thought he was older than 24. And, if someone here has expertise in depression and thoughts of suicide, maybe it would be a good idea to go offer a hand of friendship to Suede Swayzee.

Regarding advice to women, what year is this? The story of the Mormon bishop telling young women that if they are depressed, they just need to lose a few pounds and find a man came true!

And let’s wrap up with a bit of Valentine’s Day fun with church-joke cards!! Lucky thing the Holy Ghost goes to be early! I seriously want to make a board game of this. And this piece on the causes of gayness — it’s funny, but sadly I think people really believe that stuff…

That’s it. Don’t forget to congratulate this year’s Brodie winners!!! I love seeing those award buttons in the sidebars of cool blogs. 😀


C. L. Hanson is the friendly Swiss-French-American ExMormon atheist mom living in Switzerland! Follow me on mastadon at or see "letters from a broad" for further adventures!!

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