I wrote recently that there’s no reason why God, who spoke to ancient Israelites “in their weakness, after the manner of their language” could not adapt familiar myths so “that they might come to understanding” (D&C 1:24.)
Here, I cite that prophet-with-a-small-p “Elder” C.S. Lewis, who argues that inspiration can include adaptation of uninspired sources.
I have therefore no difficulty in accepting, say, the view of those scholars who tell us that the account of
Creation in Genesis is derived from earlier Semitic stories which were Pagan and mythical. We must of course be quite clear what ‘derived from’ means. Stories do not reproduce their species like mice. They are told by men. Each re-teller either repeats exactly what his predecessor had told him or else changes it. He may change it unknowingly or deliberately. If he changes it deliberately, his invention, his sense of form, his ethics, his ideas of what is fit, or edifying, or merely interesting, all come in. If unknowingly, then his unconscious (which is so largely responsible for our forgettings) has been at work.
Thus at every step in what is called —a little misleadingly— the ‘evolution’ of a story, a man, all he is and all his attitudes, are involved. And no good work is done anywhere without aid from the Father of Lights. When a series of such retellings turns a creation story which at first had almost no religious or metaphysical significance into a story which achieves the idea of true Creation and of a transcendent Creator (as Genesis does), then nothing will make me believe that some of the re-tellers, or some one of them, has not been guided by God.
Thus something originally merely natural—the kind of myth that is found among most nations—will have been raised by God above itself, qualified by Him and compelled by Him to serve purposes which of itself it would not have served. Generalizing this, I take it that the whole Old Testament consists of the same sort of material as any other literature—chronicle (some of it obviously pretty accurate), poems, moral and political diatribes, romances, and what not; but all taken into the service of God’s word.
So wrote “Elder” Lewis in his 1958 Reflections on the Psalms. Note that I emphasized his conclusion about different genres within the Bible: the same sort of material as any other literature—chronicle (some of it obviously pretty accurate), poems, moral and political diatribes, romances, and what not. Obviously not a comprehensive list, but compare it to the also non-comprehensive list made by Horace Cummings in 1911, summarizing some problematic approaches at BYU which asserted the Bible was a collection of myths, folk-lore, dramas, literary productions, history…
What’s my point? Lewis is warm and fuzzy. People know him. He is, as I joked earlier, often cited in General Conference and well-respected. It’s one thing for me to cite random scholars, and the average Mormon reader has no idea who s/he is, their theological leanings or associations, or a way to judge their scholarship. It’s why I tend to mine Church history for those General Authority statements I can marshall in support of this or that idea. It’s not to prove that idea X is correct and True Doctrine, as much as to show that X has had a place in LDS thought in the past, and General Authority Y didn’t consider it a foreign apostate idea completely incompatible with Mormonism. (To see a good example of this, note how the different perspectives presented here, and that you can simply cite different authorities in support of different positions. Talmage and Lee on the one hand, Clark and McConkie on the other. Theological diversity.)
But when I don’t have a good General Authority, I’ll settle for the pseudo-authority of Lewis as the sugar which helps the medicine go down.