Is there a definitive line that makes one a good standing member of the church on one side, and a not so good member on the other? One could argue that the Temple Recommend questions could be the defining guide for this line. But the TR questions do not ask if you believe in the historicity of the Book of Mormon, yet I think most orthodox members would say not believing in the historicity of the Book of Mormon would disqualify you as a “member in good standing”.
(This post is not a post about the historicity of the BofM, as that was touched on quite well last week on Wheat and Tares by Churchistrue)
At the time I was called as bishop, I had already decided that the Book of Mormon was not historically true. There was never a Nephi, Mormon or Moroni. I wasn’t about to blurt this out to my Stake President, but I had a former missionary companion who was a SP in another state at the time, and I asked him what I should do after I explained my feeling on the BofM. He asked if I could answer all the TR questions correctly, and I said yes. He then said I could be a bishop. Now maybe it was just “friendship roulette”, and another friend or maybe even my SP would have not said the same thing.
According to Elder Holland, it is pretty black and white:
Prophet Joseph Smith’s account of how it came forth, can be a little breathtaking. It sounds like a “sudden death” proposition to me. Either the Book of Mormon is what the Prophet Joseph said it is or this Church and its founder are false, fraudulent, a deception from the first instance onward.
Not everything in life is so black and white, but it seems the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and its keystone role in our belief is exactly that. Either Joseph Smith was the prophet he said he was, who, after seeing the Father and the Son, later beheld the angel Moroni, repeatedly heard counsel from his lips, eventually receiving at his hands a set of ancient gold plates which he then translated according to the gift and power of God—or else he did not. And if he did not, in the spirit of President Benson’s comment, he is not entitled to retain even the reputation of New England folk hero or well-meaning young man or writer of remarkable fiction. No, and he is not entitled to be considered a great teacher or a quintessential American prophet or the creator of great wisdom literature. If he lied about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, he is certainly none of those.
As the word of God has always been—and I testify again that is purely and simply and precisely what the Book of Mormon is—this record is “quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, to the dividing asunder of both joints and marrow” (D&C 6:2). The Book of Mormon is that quick and that powerful for us. And it certainly is that sharp. Nothing in our history and nothing in our message cuts to the chase faster than our uncompromising declaration that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. On this issue we draw a line in the sand.
Jeffrey R. Holland, “True or False,” Liahona, June 1996
There could be an argument made that Elder Holland is talking about the BofM being “revelation” and the “Word of God”, but I think in his mind the historicity goes along with that, and the two cannot be separated.
One might say tithing is part of the line, but even that has several interpretations. Gross, net, or on your “increase” are all valid, and your bishop is not to ask how you pay, only if you are a full tithe payer.
I think the members to the right (orthodox) side of this hypothetical line think there is a line, and it is clearly defined, while those on the left (heterodox) of this line don’t think there needs to be a line.
What do you think? Is there a black and white division between a faithful member of the church and a not faithful member? Is there a line? Does there need to be a line, or can we live with “Fifty Shades of Grey” between the black and white? Is there room for a grey member like me?