In a previous article we looked at the latest revision of the missionary discussions and how they present the Book of Mormon in such a way as to lead their investigators to infer that it has answers not found elsewhere. We looked at the questions and challenged readers to answer them from the Bible. Here are the questions again along with just some of the answers offered by the Bible. See what you think, see if you can come up with more:
The Book of Mormon Answers Questions of the Soul (As Does the Bible)
Is there a God? Romans – 1:19 Psalm 19:1-3
What Does Jesus Expect of me? – 1 Peter 2:1 John 6:28-29
How can belief in Jesus Christ help me? – Acts 16:31 John 3:15-16
Is there a Life after Death? – 1 Corinthians 15
What is the Purpose of Life? – John 17:21-23
Why does God allow evil and suffering? – Genesis 3:17 Romans 2:5
Does my infant need to be baptised? – Mark 16:16 Acts 2:38
Does God know me? Matthew – 6:25-34
Does God answer prayer? – Psalm 65:2; 145:18-19
How can I find peace and joy? – John 16:33; 14: 27; 15:11
How can my family be happier and more united? – 1Timothy 3&5, Colossians 3:18-25. Ephesians 6:1-4
How can I balance my family and career? – 1Timothy 3&5, Colossians 3:18-25. Ephesians 6:1-4
How can I strengthen my relationship with my spouse? – 1Timothy 3&5, Colossians 3:18-25. Ephesians 6:1-4
How can I avoid the evils that threaten my family? – 1Timothy 3&5, Colossians 3:18-25. Ephesians 6:1-4
How can I avoid sin? – Colossians 3:1-17 Ephesians 6: 10-20
By Irrational Means
I gained a valuable and interesting insight into the thought processes of a Mormon as he/she considers the relationship between Scripture and the Spirit. A correspondent wrote of the importance of the Spirit in gaining knowledge of the truth. Arguing from 1 Thessalonians 1:5, he insisted that finding truth requires “a mystical experience which transcends rationality”, further stating, “It is only by the Spirit one understands the will of the Father (John 14:21)”. Anyone familiar with Mormonism will recognise this oblique allusion to the famous “Moroni’s promise” which assures readers of the Book of Mormon that if they will pray sincerely God would reveal its ‘truthfulness’ by “a mystical experience which transcends rationality”, as my friend eloquently states it.
Now, while to many this typifies the problem with Mormonism, i.e. an irrational experience by which ‘truth’ is established, a faith that believes in spite of the evidence not in light of the evidence, to a Mormon this makes perfect sense. What is more worrying is that it characterises to many people what faith is in general, whether Mormon, Evangelical, or any other, i.e. irrational and based on warm fuzzies. However, Christianity relies on no such experience to help us understand what the Bible is telling us.
Lets take the text he quotes from Thessalonians clause by clause and see what it is telling us:
“Our gospel came to you not simply with words”
The gospel does come with words, i.e. it is capable of being understood plainly by someone with a grasp of the language into which Scripture is faithfully translated and with a basic understanding of Bible interpretation. The notion that there is some sort of spiritual insight to be gained by becoming a Mormon, or a Presbyterian, or a Catholic etc. is simply not true. When Jesus declared, “No one comes to the Father except by me” you don’t need a degree in advanced celestial linguistics to understand that he meant he was the only way to the Father.
This is important because, if we have a special insight available only to the initiated and spiritual, then those without the insight cannot be judged. However Paul tells us that we all stand condemned because God’s truth is made plain (Romans 1-3). It cannot be plain if it is, at the same time, hidden to the uninitiated. The question, of course, is not whether you know the truth but whether you believe it and will act upon it.
“…but also with power”
This is important because it is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16) and it must have an impact for real change in people because that is what it promises. We can understand it because it comes in words that we understand, and we can trust it because it self-evidently does what it says it will do.
“…with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction”
We can understand it because it comes in words that we understand, and we can trust it because it self-evidently does what it says it will do, but man is rebellious and it is the Holy Spirit that convicts us and brings us to repentance in the face of what we have already understood (so we are without excuse) and what has already been demonstrated to us as powerful to save (because we have seen it in others).
Depend upon some mystical experience, like Moroni’s promise, to give insight to plain truth and we negate what God makes plain in Scripture and end up inventing excuses for why people leave, or find fault with the Mormon Church, i.e. they’ve “lost the Spirit”. It is easier, I’ll grant you, than facing and dealing with the serious criticisms people bring but in the end it is not a godly way to behave and, frankly, it is rather weak.
Doubt is not a healthy preoccupation but neither is it a sin if it causes us to question closely our preconceptions. If we find, after such investigation, that we were right all along then our faith is strengthened. If we were wrong then the sooner we find it out and change the better.
Anti-Mormon? I Don’t Think So
Typical of the response of Mormonism to criticism is an attempt to isolate its critics from the mainstream of Christian thought and civilised society. This is done by labelling critics “anti-Mormon” and by ascribing to them mean and base motives far removed from those of true, good-hearted Christians. It suggests that Mormonism’s critics hold to beliefs that are peculiar even to Christians, and have problems with Mormon theology that other Christians would not have. There is a history to this kind of approach, represented by such Mormon books as How Wide the Divide and Are Mormons Christians?
In an attempt to legitimise theology that is peculiar to Mormonism, and alien to traditional Christianity, Mormons seek to redefine what are often settled issues for the Christian Church – the nature of God, the condition of man, the meaning of salvation, the purpose of life – creating something more in their own image and then calling it Christianity. They then compare the views of Christian apologists looking critically at Mormonism with this creation and represent these apologists as though they are out on a limb as far as most Christians and descent minded people are concerned. Anyone reading the extensive literature produced by so-called ‘anti-Mormons’ will readily see that, with few exceptions, Mormonism’s critics stand squarely within the Evangelical Christian tradition on the issues under discussion and, in challenging Mormon thought, represent accurately the problems most Christians have with Mormon theology.
I really wish Mormons would think through what they are claiming. There are almost fifty-four thousand full-time Mormon missionaries around the world today, as well as the ‘lay members’ to whom th
e aphorism “every member a missionary” applies. They are calling on our neighbours with their message of families, temples, extra-biblical revelation and the rest, and insist that, unlike their detractors, they are simply proclaiming their gospel and sharing what they believe. However, in “teaching what they believe to be the teachings of Jesus Christ”, they do not, themselves, simply present their view. Their message is grounded in the doctrine that all other churches are in apostasy, their creeds are an abomination, their practices ungodly and their ministers without authority. In other words, an integral part of their message is an attack on the beliefs of others. In light of this, I suggest their familiar cry, “why do you have to tear down other people’s beliefs?” is breathtakingly disingenuous since, in presenting Mormonism, they inevitably tear down the beliefs of Bible-believing Christians everywhere.
Many Mormon books have been written about, and web sites dedicated to the defence of Mormonism against those who criticise it. There are also publications ‘correcting’, in light of Mormon beliefs, ‘apostate’ Christian beliefs and practices and educating people in the ‘restored’ Mormon gospel. I think of books like Jesus the Christ, Mormon Doctrine, A Marvellous Work and a Wonder, Doctrines of Salvation, and many more, all of which compare Christianity unfavourably with Mormonism. The Book of Mormon itself is scathing in its attack on the Christian Church, stating:
Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth. – 1 Nephi 14:10.
Joseph Smith’s account of his vision styles Christianity, as currently practised and believed, as abominable. If Mormons are permitted to ‘apologise’ for, defend and spread their views by casting Christianity in a poor light I fail to see any justification for Mormon complaints about works that closely and critically examine Mormonism. We might justifiably claim to be simply defending our own faith against Mormon critics calling at our doors. Ours is not a high-minded argument over semantics, but a fundamental battle for souls.