Slavery, Homosexuality, and the Authority of the Bible

Slavery, Homosexuality, and the Authority of the Bible November 22, 2006

I’ve been thinking about the status of the Bible in Mormon culture. Really, my thoughts apply to all scripture, but the Bible focalizes the issue in key ways. What is the value of the Bible for Latter-day Saints? What are we supposed to take from this strange document? I take it that we are not biblicists (fortunately!), deriving our beliefs from the Bible, but then where do we turn? The biblicist/inerrantist/Protestant position roots its interpretations in the Bible, arguing that the correct interpretation of the Bible is the source of authority. The hermeneutics of this position are highly problematic. The Bible never tells us anything without first passing through our own interpretive frameworks. Its world is wildly different from our own. For instance, the Bible condones slavery but rejects homosexuality. If we accept the biblicist position, how can we reject the Bible’s position on slavery as a moral evil and yet accept the Bible’s view on homosexuality? On what basis do we interpret one as morally binding, and the other as relative?


Inasmuch as we appeal to scripture in our justifications for any anti-homosexual arguments, we must deal with this hermeneutical problem. However, it doesn’t seem to have quite the same force for us as it does for those who base their arguments solely on the authority of the Bible. For Latter-day Saints, this issue is actually resolved quite easily. We simply point to our modern revelatory tradition to mediate the interpretation of ancient scripture. The ancient revelation is always secondary to the modern revelation in authority (despite the rhetorically assertion that they are in harmony). But this forces the issue of precisely why have a secondary authority at all? If the Bible (and Book of Mormon, and D&C) are always of secondary authority, do they really have any authority at all? Is the reason that the Bible is practically irrelevant in Mormon culture simply because it is irrelevant? What authority if any does the Bible have. I submit that it has none.

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