While perusing Facebook a few days ago, I came across the following challenge that Hugh Nibley would give his students…
“Since Joseph Smith was younger than most of you and not nearly so experienced or well-educated as any of you at the time he copyrighted the Book of Mormon, it should not be too much to ask you to hand in by the end of the semester (which will give you more time than he had) a paper of, say, five to six hundred pages in length. Call it a sacred book if you will, and give it the form of a history. Tell of a community of wandering Jews in ancient times; have all sorts of characters in your story, and involve them in all sorts of public and private vicissitudes; give them names–hundreds of them–pretending that they are real Hebrew and Egyptian names of circa 600 b.c.; be lavish with cultural and technical details–manners and customs, arts and industries, political and religious institutions, rites, and traditions, include long and complicated military and economic histories; have your narrative cover a thousand years without any large gaps; keep a number of interrelated local histories going at once; feel free to introduce religious controversy and philosophical discussion, but always in a plausible setting; observe the appropriate literary conventions and explain the derivation and transmission of your varied historical materials.
“Above all, do not ever contradict yourself! For now we come to the really hard part of this little assignment. You and I know that you are making this all up–we have our little joke–but just the same you are going to be required to have your paper published when you finish it, not as fiction or romance, but as a true history! After you have handed it in you may make no changes in it (in this class we always use the first edition of the Book of Mormon); what is more, you are to invite any and all scholars to read and criticize your work freely, explaining to them that it is a sacred book on a par with the Bible. If they seem over-skeptical, you might tell them that you translated the book from original records by the aid of the Urim and Thummim–they will love that! Further to allay their misgivings, you might tell them that the original manuscript was on golden plates, and that you got the plates from an angel. Now go to work and good luck!”
Now, of course, this sparked what I like to call a “Facebook troll war.” People who oppose the church were flooding the post with all sorts of mean spirited comments challenging the faith of those who support the Book of Mormon, temples, tithing, living prophets, priesthood power, restored truth, etc.
I was so indignant about the things being said that I jumped in and posted that apostates can leave the Church, but they can’t leave the Church alone– and that their obsession with the church is a fulfillment of a prophecy by Joseph Smith that “When you joined this Church . . . you left the neutral ground, and you never can get back on to it. Should you forsake the Master you enlisted to serve, it will be by the instigation of the evil one.”
Needless to say, my comment enraged a lot of people and the comments started pouring in. I started getting more and more angry in my responses until I realized that my anger was making me feel a very specific and very angry feeling I had felt before. Then it hit me! I had been sucked into a new form of Bible bashing!
For a time on my mission, I would love to “prove” that the church was true to anyone that would want to pick a fight (can you see the contradiction?). Through the help of some great companions, I realized that Bible bashing–and all contentious discussion of that ilk–was totally counterproductive. It drove the Spirit away and wasted a lot of time that could have been spent teaching those who were ready to learn. I came to understand that the adversary loves contention–especially when missionaries bring it! It distracts from important things, creates anger, hardens the resolve of those who dislike the Church, wastes time, and, worst of all, drives away the Spirit that could lead them to greater acceptance of the gospel and understanding.
Christ taught “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?” (Matthew 5:44-46)
Moroni also counseled “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.” (Moroni 7:46-47)
Paul also taught that “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2: 13-14)
Long story short, don’t bash. It doesn’t work. It never has and never will.