Other things have been keeping me busy, but Nate reminds me that I have yet to follow up on my comments about Native Americans and Lehite descent. Nate suggests that:
Yes it is true that lots and lots of Mormons think that the Book of Mormon provides the only account for Native American ancestry. Yes it is true that there are probably a whole lot of general authorities that subscribe to this view. So what?
I find this assertion absolutely baffling. “A bunch of general authorities — the people we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators; the people who are in direct contact with God — subscribe to a certain view of scriptural interpretation. And Nate’s response to this is “So what?”?? Wow.
Let me make what is apparently a radical assertion — when a general authority speaks about scripture, I believe those statements are to be accepted as controlling. I have great respect for professional Mormon scholars, but, with all due respect to Noel Reynolds, Terryl Givens, and their colleagues, I believe that the premier expositor of the Book of Mormon is neither Reynolds, nor Givens, nor Sperry, nor any of the others like them. I believe the premier expositor of the Book of Mormon is Gordon B. Hinckley. He is the Prophet, and the Book of Mormon is a work of scripture. He is the source we have who is actually in contact with the Author.
(Side note: If one does not think the general authorities have anything useful to say about scripture, then in what areas does one believe they are authorities in? Isn’t scripture the most obvious — whether or not one believes the general authorities are experts in politics, or science, or law, one has to believe they are experts in scripture.)
Thus, I acknowledge that Mormon scholars have produced arguments in favor of non-Lehite descent. I reject those arguments, since more persuasive expositors of scripture have asserted the opposite. However, rather than arguing “The general authorities ascribe to Lehite descent, but so what? Sperry and Givens disagree”, as Nate has, I reply “Sperry and Givens ascribe to non-Lehite descent, but so what? The general authorities disagree.”
As far as characterizing the Historian’s position as intellectually dishonest, I stand by that characterization.* Note that I was adding to Dave’s discussion, which was that:
When The Historian holds out theories of “Mormon scholars” (i.e., FARMS) as representing anything like actual Mormon beliefs or statements on the origin of Native Americans, I think he is being disingenuous.
I think that we can all agree that the Historian’s letter purported to represent “Mormon belief” (arguing that it was refuting a “supposed” Mormon belief). Given the apparent schism between the position of Mormon intelligentsia and that of most Mormon leaders and members, is it honest, as the Historian writes, to expect that other churches, when discussing Mormon belief, discuss only the views of the intelligentsia, and ignore beliefs which are endorsed by church leaders and accepted by most members?
I think it is unreasonable to expect other churches to discuss only FARMS-published scholarly church writings, ignoring the beliefs of the masses and of the church leadership. And I think that characterizing a position accepted by leaders and most members as a “supposed” Mormon belief, due to the clash between this belief and the views of the intelligentsia, is intellectually dishonest. There may, of course, be room for disagreement on that topic. (After all, commenter Dave only thought that characterization was disingenuous).
Well, that’s enough on this topic for a while (I hope). Thanks for all the comments; this is as always a fascinating topic.
*Note: The Historian also raises a strange, tautological defense, arguing that all “informed” Mormons agree with him, because any who do not (and he admits that many do not) are necessarily “uninformed”. If his definition of an informed Mormon is one who agrees with the Historian’s position, I must concede that all informed Mormons agree with him.
Dave notes in his comments that I am using his “disingenuous” characterization without its qualifier (that it might be justified under the circumstances). Dave also argues in an informative post on his blog that the Historian is not being intellectually dishonest; however, Dave has evidence that the limited geography hyposthesis is not a unanimous view even among FARMS Book of Mormon scholars.