An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Posts tagged ‘Literal interpretation of the Bible’

The Bible Tells Me So

Mormons have a relatively liberal stance toward biblical inerrancy. The 8th Article of Faith (“We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly . . .”) gives us considerable leeway. One verse we do take absolutely literally is the 3rd Commandment: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. . . .” Mormons extend this commandment to include any swearing or vulgar language. Uttering the name of deity without folded arms and bowed head might bring lightning bolts upon the blasphemer—and no one wants to be within range of collateral damage. Utah high school students often substitute “heck” and “darn” for the biblical words when reading from literature— just to err on the side of caution. Curiously, “Good heavens!” is an acceptable exclamation while “Good hell!” is not. This could be a point of logic. “Good hell” being an obvious oxymoron.

 During my Utah teaching career, I saw teachers from out-of-state confused when students objected to their use of the phrase, “Oh, my god.” Outside Mormon circles, that phrase is not considered swearing. To Mormons, Exodus 20:7 means just what it says, but other religious denominations interpret the commandment to mean keeping vows made in God’s name.

While Mormons don’t understand how other faiths fail to interpret the 3rd Commandment literally, we disagree with the prohibition of Harry Potter books and movies proscribed by Jehovah’s Witnesses and some Baptist denominations. Interpreting OT passages condemning witches and witchcraft to include harmless children’s stories seems silly to us. And while Mormons discourage divorce, we do not interpret “what . . . God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” to prohibit divorce entirely as Roman Catholics do. Much diversity exists in what churches choose to interpret literally from the Bible. Fortunately, no churches I’m aware of take Matt. 5:29-30 seriously. At least, I haven’t seen too many one-eyed and one-handed people walking around.

Me? Well, I’m still looking for the church which interprets Deut. 14:22-26 literally. I’d be quite happy to take my tithes to the place God has appointed and “bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after . . . eat there before the Lord . . . and rejoice. . . .”

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