Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Scriptures we ignore

Posted by Matthew on November 30, 2007

There’s been a lot of discussion of late about prioritizing one scriptural text over another. So I thought it might be a nice exercise to think through some scriptures we simply ignore.I don’t mean a list of scripture that we spend a bunch of time thinking about because it seems to rub us the wrong way and so we spend a lot of time explaining why it really doesn’t mean what it would seem to on face value. That isn’t ignoring. I’m interested in those scriptures we simply read and dismiss (maybe without even realizing we are).

Here’s an example: Luke 6:34-35

I don’t think most of us really think about what it would mean to make lending money without expecting anything back in return the rule rather than the exception. (But I think it would be nice if all you who have leant money to the financial institution I work at stopped expecting to be able to withdraw it whenever you got to an atm or branch :) )

Note: My point with these examples is not that we should be giving more priority to these scriptures than we do. I’m interested in a list of ignored scriptures whether or not they should be ignored. Because with this list we can then think about whether/how we go about the process of discounting scripture and when maybe that is the right thing to do. Contrary to the way people talk about this, I don’t think it all comes down to personal revelation–or at least not personal revelation in any formal sense. One good indication is that to sit down and pray about a scripture and decide that you can discount it–isn’t really to ignore that scripture, it is to take it seriously. But we do ignore some scriptures, and maybe rightly (or that’s the question anyway).

Another example: Matt 25:36

I don’t think most of us really think about the last time we tried to help someone who was in prison when we read this.

And this one: 1 Cor 14:34

I know that many of us didn’t ignore this scripture. We just had a long discussion of Paul’s (at least seemingly) sexists comments on this blog and there are plenty of other similar examples in the bloggernacle. But I still wanted to include this because for a vast majority of members who read this verse they simply dismiss it and are fine with that.

Finally I want to end with a single item which represents a huge list. All sorts of commandments in the old testament–lots and lots of them–are simply ignored. We dismiss them as part of the Law of Moses. But most of us at least have no rigid concept of exactly what constitutes the Law of Moses. This is why we seem to be just fine dismissing a commandment in one verse and then citing the next on some other occasion as though it is authoritative and binding.

What are some of examples of ignored scriptures you think of?

And if that question doesn’t interest you, how about this one. When is it really okay to ignore verses of scripture?

(It is hard to think of what you are ignoring.)

20 Responses to “Scriptures we ignore”

  1. NathanG said

    Your Matthew and Luke example make me think of Lehi’s experience with the river in his vision. Nephi explains to his brothers:

    1 Nephi 15:27 And I said unto them that the awater which my father saw was bfilthiness; and so much was his mind swallowed up in other things that he beheld not the filthiness of the water.

    With each reading of the scriptures and many discussions/lessons/talks etc. I’m bound to see something that I’ve never seen before.

    I’m personally not comfortable with the idea of reading and praying to see what I can justifiably ignore or discount as a mistranslation or not accurate. I don’t know which of those scriptures I feel justified in ignoring today will hold a significant lesson for me tomorrow.

    It can be frustrating when one person has been struck by certain scriptures and he is trying to discuss with someone who has been struck by other scriptures and the two struggle to come into harmony with each other (war and peace for example). That’s not to say that discussions like that shouldn’t happen because it forces us to rethink what we have “ignored” and it hopefully strengthens our understanding of the scriptures. We can then decide if we stubbornly refuse to acknowledge other ideas.

    Maybe when I have had another 30 years of experience with the scriptures I’ll have a different explanation for why things are ignored, but for now there’s just too much for me to have processed everything and considered everything (but 30 more years ought to do it:)).

  2. cherylem said

    I really do think that there are times when we have to separate ourselves from the scriptures as a source of spiritual truth and read them as historic documents, written in time and place, as we would read any other ancient text.

  3. brianj said

    I think you nailed a big one with the Old Testament and Law of Moses.

    The examples you listed are scriptures that tell us what to do—now I’m trying to think of ignored scriptures that tell us what to believe. Good exercise.

  4. Joe Spencer said

    “I really do think that there are times when we have to separate ourselves from the scriptures as a source of spiritual truth and read them as historic documents, written in time and place, as we would read any other ancient text.”

    I entirely agree in one sense, and entirely disagree in another. That is, I think we must always recognize the historicity of the texts, always be quite aware of the historical circumstances that had a hand in producing a given text. But we must also always take the scriptures as a source of spiritual truth, always be profoundly an unerringly faithful to them.

    In other words, I don’t think these are two separate tasks: an absolute historicizing of the scriptures is a way of doing profound violence to them, and an absolute spiritualizing of them is a parallel way of doing profound violence to them. And, really, doing both at once is an awful double violence. It seems clear to me that we have to read them radically: the scriptures rupture history precisely because they are at once eminently historical and eminently spiritual. If we read them in any other way, I would suggest that we are not reading scripture.

    A really obnoxious Continental sort of guy wrote a really strange book about that very idea… but who would ever publish it?

  5. Joe Spencer said

    Which is all another way of saying: Thank you, Matthew. Your faithfulness to the text is, as always, exemplary.

  6. cherylem said

    Joe #4
    As happens so often (about 99% of the time) you are one, or multiple, steps ahead of me.

  7. Joe,

    so what exactly are you saying? I agree that we should always recognize their historicity, and always take them as a source of spiritual truth, and always faithful to them (faithful to what exactly?). But, that still leaves me wondering how one interprets them because many do all these very things and yet interpret them differently

  8. Sterling said

    I have a question that might be related. Why are some scripture mastery passages cited in just about every general conference, while other scripture mastery passages are rarely mentioned? I did some comparisons, for instance, and found that some Book of Mormon scripture mastery passages get cited a lot in General Conference and others rarely get mentioned. Am I expecting too much to think there should be a correlation?

  9. s james said

    #2;#4 One aspect of making sense of things is the often overlooked attention to practices of projecting our own cultural practices (including our reading practices and positions) onto the text. Our interpretations must take account of the conditions of their production.

    In this sense is separation possible? Is it possible to remove oneself from the text? We seem condemned to seek the historical past (including its truths) through the categories and practices of the present.

    #7 to make an observation: we have the option of taking up a dialogic position (rather than a purely interpretive one) in relation to scripture. We can ponder it, meditate upon it, engage it, until it expands and takes on additional meanings. We can bring it into dialogue with other texts and other discourses.

    Which brings me to the question of ignoring scripture: for me its those I cannot yet (for whatever reason) develop a dialogue with.

  10. cherylem said

    Matthew original post:

    You pulled out some fascinating scriptures that we ignore. Reading too quickly yesterday and lazily not following the links you provided, I think my original comment (2) was less than helpful. I apologize for this.

    So, here is the first scripture you cited (Luke 6:34-35):

    31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
    32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.
    33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.
    34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
    35 But alove ye your enemies, and do good, and blend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the dchildren of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

    Do we ignore these verses? In what way? (I can’t remember when these verses were last used as a text in GC or Sacrament meeting, for instance).

    Should we be doing more with these verses? In our study? In our lives? If so what?

    (and of course, Matthew cited others as well that we ignore – a very interesting selection.)

  11. cherylem said

    #9 sjames,
    very thoughtful. And I do think a separation of some kind is possible, and necessary.

  12. robf said

    Some of my favorite “forgotten” scriptures:

    1) The promise to the remnants of the Nephites and Lamanites in 3 Nephi 20-21, and warning to the Gentiles. Do we really believe this stuff?

    2) D&C 93:39–we are losing light and knowledge because of our false traditions.

    3) D&C 121:33–so much knowledge promised. How many Saints are standing with their puny arms out trying to shield themselves from it? Think of all the knowledge that the world has received since this revelation was given. Can you say, modern science, anyone?

    4) D&C 6:7–seek not for riches, but for wisdom.

    5) How about the Lectures on Faith? Talk about lost scriptures, we walked away from these babies.

    I wonder if rather than ask which scriptures we ignore, if it might be easier to determine which scriptures we actually use regularly? I think most Saints have maybe 100 scriptures and stories that make up more than 90% of their regular scriptural thinking. Maybe the number is higher? Lower? Whatever the number, I think very few Saints have a) read the complete standard works or b) have thought very deeply about more than a handful of scriptures. That makes it very easy to pick and choose favorites in the development of our own personal theologies.

  13. NathanG said

    More on scriptures we use regularly:

    How about scriptures we essentially ignore by applying them to someone else? When we had the gospel doctrine lesson dealing with the parable of the sower the teacher allowed us to consider our regular interpretation of how various people respond to the message of the gospel as a whole. (We in the Sunday School class would obviously be the fertile soil since we were there doing what was right). He then turned it around and described how there were various doctrines/commandments that fell on various types of personal soil. There were things he had felt great about from the beginning and really shaped how he lived and some things taught that have yet to become part of his life. This reading makes it harder to justify our lives with blanket statements (I accepted the gospel or I’m a member of the true church, so I must be the good guy).

    We know that the natural man is an enemy to God, but how often do we excuse our actions as “the natural man” and ignore that we are an enemy to God. I might think, “I, as an active, life long, RM,recommend holding member of the church could never be the “enemy to God,” it must be those terrorists the scriptures were talking about.”

    Since I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I am obviously not a part of the church of the devil (but all those other “Christians” are). However, the descriptions of the desires of the church of the devil can sure strike home if we take the time to consider.

  14. Clark said

    One should note that prison cut a little wider of a swath in the past. But I admit I’ve not gone to prison, but I think that verse’s more general sense is well worth considering. Have we helped the people we (as a people) typically look down our noses at? (The Good Samaritan uses this same rhetorical device) And in practice Jesus did this as well, eating and dining with the publicans and so forth.

    I think this is something Mormons fall down on a lot. Although credit Pres. Hinkley for trying his best to help the community overcome it. But it’s very difficult.

    The bit about usury is an interesting one. Of course that’s a famous issue in the history of the west (and the reason for the stereotype of Jews as bankers). Arguably it is by abandoning the notion that one can’t lend for a fee that allowed the modern world to exist. Economically not having usury would make most of what we take for granted impossible. I’ve actually thought about this one a lot. You’re right that everyone ignores it.

    Regarding D&C 93, while we lose some light because of false traditions one could also argue that a lot of false traditions have been cast away. So are we overall increasing in light? (Consider the sciences, if nothing else)

    I’m not sure I consider Lectures on Faith as real scripture. (Yes, I know they were the “doctrine” part of the Doctrine and Commandments) But they were arranged more as a kind of LDS catechism.

  15. brianj said

    NathanG: very good comment in #13—we ignore scripture by applying it to someone else.

  16. s james said

    NathanG, you have stirred my interest regarding how we use the scriptures to position others, and ultimately marginalise their ‘inspirations’.

    Knowing nowhere else to put this, and not wanting to commit the heresy of diverting this blog, but thinking it may be of interest here is a link to the Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi(In hope we are saved) delivered by Pope Benedict XVI last month.

    It is a fascinating insight into his application of scripture and the works of the Fathers…and yet.


  17. brianj said

    s james, I don’t know exactly why, but I found “…commit the heresy of diverting this blog…” to be hilarious (I almost inhaled my pasta). Thanks

  18. s james said

    …at least you were feasting on something …:)

  19. Matthew said

    Thanks all for the great comments.

    Nathan #1
    >I’m personally not comfortable with the idea of reading and praying to see what I can justifiably ignore or discount as a mistranslation or not accurate.

    I think there are two issues. 1) justifying ignoring 2) justifying discounting as not accurate or a mistranslation–a conclusion one may reach after seriously engaging a text–which isn’t ignoring. I agree though that they are related questions and I’m very interested in both.

    I do feel we must be justified in ignoring some things since it simply isn’t possible engage every possibility that presents itself in the scriptures. But the question of how to justify any particular thing is much more tricky.

    s james, #9:
    >Which brings me to the question of ignoring scripture: for me its those I cannot yet (for whatever reason) develop a dialogue with.

    I like that way of thinking about it. And maybe it does amount to a reasonable justification for ignoring. If something seems to provide no hope of turning up something engaging, why notignore it?

    On those grounds, would we all agree that it is okay to read and ignore something like 1 Cor 14:34 or some of the rules of sacrificing animals in the Law of Moses or a set of begats?

    Of course whenever we ignore a scripture we risk missing out. We may ignore the whole issue of lending money (i.e. the type of lending where you expect to get your money back) because (just like a scripture on women not speaking in Church) it seems to have nothing to do with the world we live in. But in so doing we missing something real to be learned from this passage (as Cheryl is suggestion in #10). But that seems to me just the risk of doing business in the world of reading the scriptures (or any text). We have to pick and choose and sometimes we’ll choose wrong.

  20. Robert C. said

    Matthew, I like this way you put it, “we have to pick and choose and sometimes we’ll choose wrong,” not to use this as an “oh well” excuse to ignore particular scriptures, but as a lament that the scriptures are overwhelming—like the call of suffering in the world is overwhelming: there is too much heartache and suffering in the world for me to tend to, so my heart is wrenched, and I simply pray that such suffering might be alleviated, and in recognizing such suffering my desire to alleviate what suffering I can is redoubled. Yes, the scriptures are overwhelming, and the more I understand this, the more I am motivated to immerse myself in them….

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