Second was a column about how Latter-day Saints are "obsessed with Christ" in the religiously oriented website First Things. In it, theology professor Stephen Webb describes how the way he teaches about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has evolved from one of condescension to one of respect:
"I have come to repent of this view (of condescension), and not just because I came to my senses about how wrong it is to be rude toward somebody else's faith. I changed my mind because I came to realize just how deeply Christ-centered Mormonism is."
Webb writes, "I came to this conclusion when I read through the Book of Mormon for the first time." He said he already knew a basic outline but, "When I actually read this book, however, I was utterly surprised."
Next, Webb and I part company because he describes the Book of Mormon as dull and unmoving, but the conclusion he draws from its dullness is that "nobody stands out but" Jesus Christ. In his view, it is so totally about Jesus that no other character rises up. And that is how the book is Christian.
In his essay, Webb tries too hard to find a way of appreciating the Book of Mormon without truly exploring whether Joseph Smith was a prophet, but, in fairness, his approach seems generously trying to place Latter-day Saints at the Christian table.
While I disagree with some of his seeming premises — you have to come to an answer about whether Joseph Smith was telling the truth — I truly, really appreciated that someone, somewhere was talking with respect for the Book of Mormon and trying to place it as a place of respectable discussion.
I hope we will see more of this in the coming days, more discussion of what the Book of Mormon actually teaches and what revelation is to a Latter-day Saint — more depth. In my view, these simple articles hint at the possibility of a welcome trend.
Lane Williams teaches journalism and communication at BYU-Idaho.
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