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difficultfigurative (Figurative or literal)

Difficult Questions — Figurative or literal

by Brother Joseph Fielding McConkie


This discussion of ‘figurative or literal’ is taken from chapter 15 of Joseph Fielding McConkie’s book entitled ‘Gospel Symbolism’.  His thoughts and sentiments are inspiring and illustrative.

“If the cloud of darkness created by confusing that which is literal with that which is figurative and vice versa in the scriptures were to be blown away, it would disrobe the devil himself.  Turning things inside out is high fashion among the legions of hell and has provided many a devil with a clever disguise.  Plain and precious truths, from the greatest to the least, have been dressed in costumes of myth and allegory, their glory hidden, and their purpose lost, while the threads of metaphors have been stretched to cover the most ridiculous of religious garb worn in the name of piety.  From Christ’s claim to Divine Sonship to the reality of his resurrection, the letter has been used to kill the Spirit and the Spirit to kill the letter.

“The idols of our day have not been cast in molds or hewn from wood or stone; rather they have been shaped in sophistry and gilded with false traditions.  As with our ancient counterparts, we too have been fed on meat offered to idols and have dressed ourselves in robes of heresy that we might be fashionable in a world “ever learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  (2 Timothy 3:7)

“The greatest heresies stand opposite the greatest truths.  Their ploy is to feign acceptance of principles while cleverly redefining them in such a way that their true purpose and significance have been lost.  One need not deny the existence of God if he can, by definition, describe Him as uncreated, invisible, incorporeal, and incomprehensible.  The whole thing works out rather nicely.  Truth is slain with the dagger of definition while the schemer sits in church piously saying his amens.  No saving doctrines have escaped the purge.  God, the Creation, the Fall, the Atonement, baptism, marriage, priesthood, temple — all have felt the blade of the assassin as the literal is said to be figurative and the figurative is said to be literal.”


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