Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Scriptural Interpretation Is Our Right As Children of God

A while ago I read someone's assertion that, "Apostles and prophets have far more authority to 'interpret' scripture than mere laymen do." In my opinion, that is 100% incorrect. Apostles and prophets have authority to speak for the Church, but nobody has more or less authority to "interpret". That is a right and a responsibility that is inherent in our status of children of God, not our individual callings or positions in the organizational church.

There is nothing within "official" Mormonism that discourages lay members from trying to understand our scriptures. In the end, there is FAR more autonomy to read and interpret and strive to reach individual understanding within Mormonism than within most other denominations - believe it or not.

Actually, that's a central part of the "living church" designation - that the Church empowers individuals to learn and grow and progress by allowing and actually encouraging individual testimonies gained by individual study and prayer.


ji said...

Going back to an earlier discussion, allow me to say that I might have an interpretation of a particular scripture that serves my needs now, and is whispered as true by the Holy Ghost, but which differs from your interpretation which meets your needs today, and is whispered as truth to you by the same Holy Ghost. Well are we counseled to avoid doubtful doctrinal disputations.

No doubt there is some absolute truth. But there are also explanations and illustrations and so forth that help us understand, but these are only helps to understanding correct principles. Correct principles are most often learned here a little, there a little, line upon line, precept upon precept. A man's or woman's learning half-way through on any particular point can be truth, even though it isn't refined or complete.

Anthony E. Larson said...


Papa D said...

ji, I believe that strongly. My beliefs at this moment are different in many cases from my beliefs a couple of decades ago - and I'm fairly certain my beliefs in a few more decades will be different than they are now in many cases.

I'm sure I will look back at some of what I've written here, for example, and wonder at my ignorance - but this understanding works and is "true" for me now. That's good enough.

Matthew said...

Totally agree. My understanding of an apostle's calling is as a special witness of Christ - a missionary calling more than anything else.

I think that there is a real need for all of us to dig into the scriptures and really engage with them, and seek out that personal relationship with divinity that is so generously offered to us.

ji said...

For the sake of completeness, I might add that error also exists -- but in my comment I was only talking about truth.

If one asks a 5-year-old why the sun comes up in the morning, the child might answer because Jesus loves the flowers, and we'll give the child a hug and consider the answer as correct. But we expect a different answer from a 15-year-old in a science class, and still a more complete answer from a 25-year-old physics graduate student. But in their time and place, we accept all three answers as correct -- but if someone else gives the same answer, it might be seen as incorrect.

In a way, we're all children in the schoolroom of mortality. Our headmaster accepts different answers from students, depending on each student's level. We appreciate our headmaster's patience and love. How wrong it would be, and even sinful, for the 15-y-o, when hearing the 5-y-o's answer, to mock the child. How a bully he or she would be if the 25-y-o tried to push his answer on the 15-y-o as the only right answer. No, the more advanced students should nurture the younger students, under the general care of the heamaster, until they all come to a perfect knowledge.