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Buckle up, Saints. We’re about to spend the next few months with the Apostle Paul.
The curriculum of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has its members around the world devoting August, September, and October to studying portions of the letters of Christianity’s most indefatigable early missionary.
Manual - Curriculum - Living - Aspect - New
But just like the old manual, the new curriculum is far more focused on the “practical Christian living” aspect of the New Testament than it is on actual history or theology.
In part, that’s just what church curriculum does, in an effort to keep things simple and applicable to daily life. But I believe there are particular reasons why the Pauline section is even more historically acontextual (or even downright anticontextual) than the program’s other sections on the New Testament. And that’s because Mormons still don’t know quite know what to do with that irascible outsider, Paul.
Apostle - Twelve
1. He was an “apostle,” but outside the Twelve.
Latter-day Saints are fine with calling Paul an apostle; that honorific is right there in the KJV, after all. Dig a little deeper, though, and people’s discomfort begins to show. How could Paul be an apostle when those seats were already filled?
Saints - New - Testament - Structure - Leadership
Contemporary Latter-day Saints like their New Testament to resemble in every particular the structure and leadership of their own 21st-century church, so it’s discomfiting to realize that Paul’s apostleship was entirely of the self-proclaimed, charismatic variety. Paul’s leadership self-help bestseller could be broken down into three basic stages. Step One: Have a vision of Jesus. Step Two: Stop persecuting Christians and become one. Step Three: Put yourself in charge of the movement you just joined five minutes ago.
In Mormon eyes, the first two are fine, and the third is damnable heresy. Why, there are channels of authority! There is an expected chain of command! Paul never even met Jesus,...
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