On the one hand, it seems like Mormons are uniquely primed to accept the Documentary Hypothesis (DH) given that:
- The Book of Mormon was compiled by a late redactor (Mormon) in a way that is at least superficially similar to what R is proported to have done in the DH.
- There is a long tradition in Mormonism of suspecting that there were problems in the transmission of the Bible. Not just the problem of translation noted in the eighth article of faith, but the outright tampering alleged in 1 Ne 13.
On the other hand, the JST and the Pearl of Great Price make the DH threatening in ways that are uniquely Mormon, for example:
- Moses 3:5 seems to support the theory that the two creation accounts of Genesis 1/2 are spiritual/physical respectively. This theory, of course, is contradicted by the DH and raises questions about the nature of the JST.
- Abraham 4-5 crosses a P-J seem which is an odd thing for it to do if it was written by Abraham.
We are studying the Old Testament in Gospel Doctrine this year and the DH hasn’t come up in my ward yet. I suspect that is because the people in my ward are not familiar with it. Earlier in the year I would often bring my copy of The Bible with Sources Revealed with me so I could keep track of the sources while I was following along with the reading done in class.
Our instructor is a friend of mine and saw my book one Sunday at which time he made a disparaging remark about the DH, something about “scholars who don’t believe in miracles or revelation” or something ignorant like that. As it turns out he is quite smart and fairly open minded so he took me up on my offer to (i.e. demand that he) read the first 50 pages of that book which summarize the best evidence for the DH. He reported back that the case was better than he had previously been made aware. So I know that at least one of our instructors has a cursory awareness of the DH.
I have come to believe that a genuine study of the OT requires at least a basic knowledge of the DH. Even when source criticism is not informing the interpretation of specific verses, the high level, big picture assumptions we bring to the text will be different if we know something about JEP and D.
I get to teach in priest’s quorum periodically when the instructor doesn’t want to prepare a lesson or is out of town, or whatever. I often pick a theme and do installments. I did four or five lessons on the temple (spread out over as many months) in an experiment in how I would teach temple preparation classes. Recently I started a Bible series. I did a lesson the Synoptic Problem as a lead in to a lesson on the DH, but it just so happened that half way through my DH lesson the bishop became concerned that I not undermine anyone’s testimony of the scriptures, which is, of course, a worthy thing to be concerned with. But it did sort of derail the lesson and I never got to explain why Moses was cursed for hitting the rock at Meribah in one version of the story but not in the other.
I am really surprised about how little interaction with the DH I have seen in Mormon scholarship. In blog posts about the DH everyone always links to Kevin Barney’s paper, which is great. Kevin mentions John Sorenson’s paper in Dialogue which is also quite good. Do these papers tap the full potential for analysis of Mormon scripture as it intersects with the DH? If there are other good papers you can suggest, please add them to the comments.
From time to time the topic comes up in the bloggernacle and it is my recollection/impression that people generally feel that the DH would not be an appropriate topic for lessons in church. That bothers me. If we are going to spend all these hours studying the scriptures it seems like we’re doing ourselves a huge disservice to do so without ever becoming aware of the theories and issues that serious students of the scriptures wrestle with. I’m interested in arguing about that.