The Dehistoricizing Impulse

The Dehistoricizing Impulse October 27, 2014

It seems to me what is happening in both the “new” CES/BYU curriculum and at the “new” Maxwell Institute (better known as “Sunstone South”) is manifestation of parallel dehistoricizing impulses in the study of LDS scripture, though for precisely opposite reasons.

The liberal impulse, reflected in the new direction of the Maxwell Institute (MI), seeks to dehistoricize LDS scripture by ignoring (they say “bracketing”) the claimed ancient context of LDS scripture.  This means, for the new MI, the BOM should be examined in its 19th century context as part of “Mormon Studies” rather than in its claimed ancient context as part of “Ancient Studies.”  The result is the dehistoricization LDS scripture–that is, to study it apart from its authentic ancient context.  (Many of these liberals, of course, believe that the 19th century IS the precisely proper historical context for all LDS scripture.)  Paradoxically, this “bracketing” methodology is not, however, applied to the Bible, which they insist must be read in its ancient context.

The CES impulse, on the other hand, is to decontextualize both the Bible and LDS scripture in the search for prooftexts regarding the three-Ds–doctrine, daily application, and devotion.  This, they believe, can be done perfectly well without consideration of the historical context of scripture.  After all, a true doctrine is a true doctrine no matter where, when, or by whom it was said.  For, as Jesus said, “search ye the scriptures, for in them ye find thematic doctrines.”  Thus, the move towards the new thematic-based curriculum is the logical result of a belief that historical context of scripture doesn’t matter for understanding the eternal truth and doctrines of scripture.

The result is that CES/SI/BYU RE have dehistoricized our scripture just as much as have the new administrators of the Sunstone Sou … er, I mean the Maxwell Institute.  The consequence–intended or otherwise–is that the serious, faithful, historically contextualized study and teaching of LDS scripture is not supported anywhere in the Church.  Where can you find it?  The Ensign?  Conference Talks?  Gospel Doctrine?  Seminary?  Institute?  CES?  BYU?  The Maxwell Institute?

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