The prevalence of a spirit of contention amongst a people is a certain sign of deadness with respect to the things of religion. When men's spirits are hot with contention, they are cold to religion. - Jonathan Edwards “The Book of Mormon does not supplant the Bible. It expands, extends, clarifies, and amplifies our knowledge of the Savior. Surely, this second witness should be cause for great rejoicing by all Christians.” - Joseph B. Wirthlin

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Is consensus even the proper goal?

Lately, after reading about the conclave in Springville, I've been thinking maybe consensus is not a proper goal.

True, in the abstract, it would be great to have everyone agree on Book of Mormon geography. But short of specific direction from Church leadership, what would such a consensus look like?

The last thing I would want is a group of scholars interpreting the scriptures for everyone else, even if they did reach a consensus. It should be obvious why. First, who would these "scholars" be? How would they be chosen? As we saw from the conclave, if the group consists of like-minded individuals, who have believed a particular theory for decades, how credible could their conclusion be?

Let's say the group of scholars is expanded to include non-credentialed people who have been interested in this topic and have done original research. There may be a hundred or more of such people, each of whom has an individual interpretation. Again, it would be awesome if they all reached agreement, but what about the next group of people beyond them?

Of course, no one is bound by any such consensus. If every LDS scholar agreed on a point that has not been the topic of specific direction from Church leadership, the point is still not binding and is a matter for individual decision.

[There is also the practical reality that it is very difficult for people to change their minds, especially when they have a stake in their long-declared positions. There is also the problem of seeing through a particular lens, as I've discussed before. People are blind to ideas/interpretations that cause cognitive dissonance.]

So instead of pursuing a consensus, going forward on this blog I'm going to abandon the effort to reach consensus and focus on encouraging individual choice based on full disclosure. My post on agree/agree-to-disagree is a start. Next I plan to set out a table of assumptions, interpretations, implications and consequences of each theory, as I explained in this post:

That probably won't fit in a blog, and maybe not even a web page, but we'll figure out the best format and make it as widely available as possible.

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