Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Memory and Identity in the Book of Mormon

Steven L. Olsen is senior curator of the LDS Church History Department, so he is well-qualified to write on the topic of memory and the importance of remembering. His article here supports his thesis (The overall thesis of this study is that the Book of Mormon concept of memory is more than a cognitive awareness of the past. Rather, it represents a special kind of historical consciousness—one that is fundamental to the identity of a covenant people of God.) quite well, but it leaves me wondering how the Maxwell Institute completely disregards his point in the context of geographical setting.

Here's the article:

Memory and Identity in the Book of Mormon

Steven L. Olsen


Here is the key point of Olsen's conclusion:

According to the Book of Mormon, covenants are established by God with his children through revelation to a prophet. They serve as the basis of a unified community of committed believers and of an enduring relationship with God as well as a primary mechanism for realizing the blessings of salvation, partially in mortality and fully in eternity. Thus the Book of Mormon portrays history as the record of covenants that distinguish a chosen people and give eternal meaning to their lives, including their eventual destruction. While Mormon and Moroni include only a small portion of the available material in the final Nephite record, the narrative illustrates the extent to which an impressive array of information— military, domestic, spiritual, ecclesiastical, political, economic, social, and so on—can be accounted for within a covenant framework. Keeping such a record is crucial to Nephite identity, and thus this function is entrusted to supreme spiritual leaders. In addition to being a key to understanding the people of Nephi, this covenant pattern is shown in the Book of Mormon to be equally relevant to other peoples of the past and future. The Book of Mormon presents itself as both a record of God's covenants among an ancient people and the agent of covenant renewal in the latter days.

So if the covenant was so critical in distinguishing the chosen people, and to Nephite identity specifically, why would we conclude that the covenant land is just anywhere? To counter the position that the Nephite promised land was within the modern United States, Mesoamerican advocates insist the promised land is all of North and South America. How does that position help to distinguish the chosen people?

Anyone not familiar with the Maxwell Institute approach on this should read this piece by Matthew Roper: http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/review/22/2/S00003-5176a03b6d5fc3Roper.pdf

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