Got an e-mail today from the Mormon Artists Group announcing a new book called On the Road With Joseph Smith. It is “Richard Lyman Bushman’s private account of the events surrounding the publication of his great work, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling,” and one of the excerpts was striking:
August 9, 2005
[In response to a Presbyterian critic’s query about believing scholarship]
I wish I could strike a responsive chord in Christians like you. We wonder why all Christians don’t understand that we believe in the Book of Mormon on the basis of a spiritual witness. It is very hard for a Mormon to believe that Christians accept the Bible because of the scholarly evidence confirming the historical accuracy of the work. Surely there are uneducated believers whose convictions are not rooted in academic knowledge. Isn’t there some kind of human, existential truth that resonates with one’s desires for goodness and divinity? And isn’t that ultimately why we read the Bible as a devotional work? We don’t have to read the latest issues of the journals to find out if the book is still true. We stick with it because we find God in its pages or inspiration, or comfort, or scope. That is what religion is about in my opinion, and it is why I believe the Book of Mormon. I can’t really evaluate all the scholarship all the time; while I am waiting for it to settle out I have to go on living. I need some good to hold on to and to lift me up day by day. The Book of Mormon inspires me, and so I hold on. Reason is too frail to base a life on. You can be whipped about by all the authorities with no genuine basis for deciding for yourself. I think it is far better to go where goodness lies.
I keep thinking other Christians are in a similar position but they don’t agree. They keep insisting their beliefs are based on reason and evidence. I can’t buy that — the resurrection as rational fact? And so I am frankly as perplexed about Christian belief as you are about Mormons. Educated Christians claim to base their belief on reason when I thought faith was the teaching of the scriptures. You hear the Good Shepherd’s voice, and you follow it.
I guess we could go on and on. I hope I am telling you the truth about myself. The fact is I am a believer and I can’t help myself. I couldn’t possibly give it up; it is too delicious.