I decided that I needed to be a glutton for punishment today and went on a Google and Bing rampage, reading up on what high-profile anti-Mormon bloggers are saying these days. Are you ready for this? They are saying the exact same things that they’ve been saying since 1830.
Most Protestant Christians who avidly and vocally oppose LDS theology base their righteous opposition on two things – lack of physical “proof” regarding The Book of Mormon and other parts of LDS theology, and a rejection by the LDS Church of the Nicene Creed and similarly developed Christian theology.
I am not a Mormon Apologetic. I feel no need to defend what I am secure in believing. But today I do want to address these two issues and my feelings toward the discrimination that a small segment (roughly 2%) of the U.S. population receives because of it.
Criticism #1 – Lack of Physical Proof
Many critics claim The Book of Mormon and the “unorthodox” teachings of Joseph Smith Jr. lack physical proof as to their authenticity. Yet, few of these critics understand that all religious texts, the Bible included, lack substantial “physical proof” of the existence of the people and events described within their pages.
Isn’t a belief with a lack of proof central to religion? It is a simple principle called Faith – a belief in the existence of a being (or as philosophers say, a reality) that is greater than yourself. All religious texts require the believer to have faith in their authenticity.
- The Hindu Vedas are so old that nobody is really sure where they originated or when. They were supposedly revealed from the gods to sages, but there is no proof.
- The Jewish Tanakh (Bible) contains stories about the creation of the earth and the first humans and a story of a world wide flood. All of this was supposedly revealed by god to a man, but there is no actual proof. As for the “historical parts” of the Tanakh, even the great king David’s existence is debatable by “physical proof” standards.
- The Christian Bible not only contains all of the Jewish traditions (while simultaneously rejecting Judaism and its practices), it also contains a story about a man who was born of a virgin and was actually god incarnate. He performed miracles, the same as some his Jewish predecessors, and was ultimately killed for setting the neighborhood in an uproar. He then came back to life three days later. There were witnesses who wrote their experiences years after they happened so we know that zero embellishment is possible. But other than their word, we have no physical proof.
- The Islamic Qu’ran. Contains some stories similar to the Bible and was supposedly revealed by an angel to an illiterate man who passed his teachings down by oral tradition until they were eventually written by the followers of his followers. I’m sure absolutely nothing was changed or added. But I’m still waiting for proof.
The Book of Mormon is no different. Joseph Smith Jr. claims to have been told by an angel where to find gold plates upon which was written a redacted history of an ancient people who lived in the Americas, whose progenitors came from the area near Jerusalem. The book contains a story of the resurrected Jesus Christ (the Jewish teacher historically known as Joshua of Nazareth who Christians believe was god incarnate) visiting people of the ancient Americas to teach them his gospel.
How is a belief in The Book of Mormon any different than a belief in any of the other sacred texts of the world’s religions? Detractors claim a lack of physical proof in its authenticity, yet they disregard the lack of physical proof in the authenticity of their own sacred texts.
Criticism #2 – Rejection by the LDS Church of the Nicene Creed and Similarly Developed Christian Theology
To me, the Nicene Creed is a mystery wrapped inside of an enigma. It speaks of a poly-monotheistic god who begot himself by the means of himself and a human woman. It speaks of a god who is fully divine, yet fully human at the same time. When questioned about the apparent discrepancies written into the creed, some will say that we’re not supposed to be able to completely understand god. That’s okay for them.
The generally accepted Christian doctrine of the Trinity – a schizophrenic god who is one being but takes on three different roles or identities, depending on how he is interacting with his followers. LDS theology rejects this and claims that God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are three separate beings united in purpose. In the 5th chapter of John, Christ says, “If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.” Yet, the Nicene (and other man-made creeds) claim that Christ does just that.
Protestant Christians who attack LDS theology based on our nonacceptance of some “traditional” Christian theology forget their own history. What is the story of the reformation? Protestant reformers claimed that the church (Catholic and Orthodox) had become corrupted and that their doctrines had gone astray. Yet, anti-Mormon attacks are based on theology that was created by the church that was deemed corrupted by their own Protestant reformers! Does that make any sense?
I think you can see my points. Unfortunately the debate will always rage on. Apologetics and critics will continue to go back and forth in some vain attempt to prove who is right and who is wrong. I leave you simply with what can be called an LDS Declaration of Faith. We call them The Articles of Faith.
1 We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
2 We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
3 We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
4 We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
5 We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.
6 We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
7 We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
8 We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.
9 We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
10 We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.
11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
12 We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
13 We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.