From other publishers
Latest Research on Book of Mormon in 20th Century, Parable of Good Samaritan
Two articles in the latest issue of BYU Studies (volume 38, number 2) will be of great interest to FARMS readers. By special arrangement, the Foundation is making that issue available to its subscribers.
The first article, "The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon in the Twentieth Century," by past FARMS president Noel B. Reynolds, is a paper he presented at a FARMS conference in 1997. Looking back on the past century, he documents the dramatic emergence of the Book of Mormon from earlier obscurity. Few people are aware of this remarkable story.
Despite the warning in D&C 84:57 to "remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon," and later, periodic admonitions by church leaders to the same effect, the Book of Mormon was "largely overlooked throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries," writes Reynolds. He cites studies showing that early Latter-day Saint sermons and writings greatly favored biblical citations. Another indication that the Book of Mormon was underutilized until recent decades was its marginalized role in missionary work (again, the Bible was emphasized) and church education. Regarding the latter, Reynolds notes that not until the 1940s were Book of Mormon classes regularly taught at BYU, and not until the 1960s did they become a graduation requirement. He attributes the earlier resistance to those classes on the part of influential BYU administrators and faculty to their acceptance of prevailing scientific and philosophical views that discounted the historical reality of scripture and nurtured the skepticism of "untestimonied" cultural Mormons.
The study also presents interesting data documenting the Book of MOrmon's rise to prominence in recent decades. Reflecting this steady trend are sharp increases in publications on the Book of Mormon (both critical and apologetic) and in citations from it in general conference addresses. Reynolds discusses key factors behind this change, including the church's correlation efforts begun in the early 1970s and President Ezra Taft Benson's clarion emphasis on the Book of Mormon. He then turns attention to scholarly studies of the Book of Mormon as a "final indicator of the strong maturation of knowledge about the Book of Mormon" during this century. Reynolds concludes that "the last few decades have produced a significant revolution in the LDS community in terms of the increased understanding and competent appreciation for the Book of Mormon as an inspired work of ancient scripture. . . . Increasingly, non-LDS scholars are also willing to take a more serious look at the Book of Mormon in light of LDS scholarship."
This article will give readers a better understanding of the intellectual history suttounding the Book of Mormon, the social forces that impeded its full utilization earlier in this century, and reasons for its robust, expanding influence in recent decades.
The second article, "The Good Samaritan: A Type and Shadow of the Plan of Salvation," by John W. Welch, is an insightful analysis of that well-known parable. Welch's research shows that since the early days of Christianity, the parable of the Good Samaritan was understood as an extensive allegory: the man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among robbers represents mankind's fall from paradise into a world of sin. The Good Samaritan represents the Saviors, who rescues the man left for dead by washing his wounds of sin away with wine, anointing him with oil, and taking him to an inn (the church), where he promises to reward the faithful innkeeper upon his return.
Welch documents the surprisingly extensive history and strength of that early Christian reading. He argues that the parable is best understood in light of the plan of salvation as understood by Latter-day Saints. After all, Welch reasons, Jesus gave this powerful parable not only to answer the lawyer's second question, "Who is my neighbour?" (Luke 10:29), but also to explain on a deeper level (for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear) the plan of salvation in reponse to the lawyer's first and primary question, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (Luke 10:25).
Viewing the complex parable as a typological allegory, Welch notes that "each point included by Jesus in the story helps to place the Samaritan's act of saving mercy in the broader context of the plan of salvation that was established from the foundation of the world and made possible through the atonement of Jesus Christ. The story is not simply a moralistic fable or generic ethical hypothetical, but a thoroughly Christian contextualization of the perils of mortality and the deeds of saving goodness in an eternal setting of God's redeeming love and compassion."
Welch's step-by-step analysis of the parable brings together insights from early Christian commentators such as Irenaeus and Origen and shows how LDS teachings can enrich those readings. For example, rather than assume that the victim fell among robbers as the result of sin (an early Christian view), or suffered great misfortune through no fault of his own (a modern secular view), Welch points out that the "LDS framework of the plan of salvation offers a felicitous middle ground, allowing one to see the plight of the victim when he falls among the robbers as an expected, necessary, and valuable part of the fallen experiences of mortality without overemphasizing the negative aspects of entering into the mortal condition and becoming vulnerable to sin."
After developing several intriguing implications of his study, Welch concludes that "seeing the parable of the Good Samaritan as an allegory of the plan of salvation offers a powerful, spiritual avenue for recognizing that the same truths were taught by the Lord Jesus Christ during his mortal ministry as were restored in this dispensation by the Prophet Joseph Smith. Knowledge of God's eternal plan of redemption indelibly transforms and enriches the meaning of this quintessential Christian text."
This issue of BYU Studies may be ordered directly from FARMS using the enclosed order form or from BYU Studies by contacting that office at 403 CB, BYU, Provo, UT 84602.