Well, my latest ponderings. Your feedback will be welcome.
Mormonism is unique among America’s religions in that it travels along two paths simultaneously, and each path is buttressed by a belief in historicity.
The first path is that of the historicity of the Book of Mormon. So much is invested in Nephi and Lehi being real people, and the migrations actually happening. Mormon children learn to speak and sing of these heroes as they would of documented historical characters.
The second path is that of the historicity of the founding of the Church. Yes, Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Emma Hale, etc., existed in history. And yes, they left a living legacy for the rest of us to enjoy. But how much of the reported history of the Church is dressed up in myth and legend? How reliable are the official histories of the Church?
These dual tensions are likely to take their toll on anyone living on the fringes of belief, and may impact those who are beginning to ask questions.
I have become convinced (at least for now) that the following observations are true:
1. Although these are separate and distinct tracks, it would be a mistake to think that the weakening of one track will have no effect on the other. Once you figure out that Lehi did not exist in history, for example, the rest of the Church’s foundation begins to collapse, including any study of Mormon origins.
2. In order for the Church to maintain its stance re: historicity, it must therefore continue to support both lines of thought. It cannot permit weakening on either front, lest the entire structure collapse.
3. And therefore the Church has no choice but to continue its emphasis on obedience and loyalty. Anything short of this can only create doubt and questioning.
I think other institutions can tolerate dissent because they don’t have such an investment in historicity. Mormonism has two tracks, making the job doubly difficult.
Do I read this situation correctly?