Church History Symposium examines Mormonism's global reach
Obstacles to spreading the LDS faith “freed from cultural baggage” are rooted in Mormonism’s history, Givens said, explaining that its sacred roots, including the Book of Mormon, were part of the physical landscape for early Mormons.
Moreover, he said, prominent themes in the Book of Mormon — wars fought in the name of liberty, a land of refuge for the religiously oppressed, the democratization of revelation, hostility to priestcraft — all resonate with what Americans have claimed as part of their national identity.
However, Givens noted, “the Book of Mormon is in large measure the story of the unending transmission of the gospel into new contexts, new settings and new conditions. It is a chronicle of the volatility and fragility of lands of refuge. It is a testament to the portability and ceaseless transmutations of Zion, with the only constant being the eternally present promise of spiritual blessedness and direct access to God’s power and truth.”
That, Givens said, seems to be a warning against the tendency to associate Zion “with a particular place or nationality or historical moment. There is no holy land, only a holy people.”
Givens said revelations given to Joseph Smith, including Section 10 of the Doctrine and Covenants, hint that the institutional church is not the “exhaustive repository of the chosen or the blessed or the eventually saved.”
“The idea of a spiritual church that exists alongside to encompass and eventually transcend the institutional church is persistently reaffirmed.”
He said the LDS Church “holds the keys of salvation for the living and the dead. At the same time, God loves and considers to be his people all those who honor him and will have him to be their God.
“The implications for how Latter-day Saints engage the rest of the world are there for the faithful to plumb. My task today has been to try and reconstruct from Joseph Smith’s own revelatory pronouncements what I take to be his way of balancing his certainty of the divine foundations and mission of the restored church with both the humility of language and self-conception and generosity of vision appropriate to its destiny.”
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