Monday, 18 October 2010

Monday Mormon – Jesus in America?

I hope you had a good weekend. Yes, mine went by too fast too and here we are again with another Monday Mormon. Two more of our 21 questions; one answer – again. Are you getting the picture? You are certainly not getting the answers you expected! As before, we will look at the questions (Q) and answers (A) with comments (C) and quotes (Qu.)

Q: Does the Mormon Church believe Jesus appeared in North America after his crucifixion and resurrection?

A: The appearance of Jesus in the Western Hemisphere shortly after his resurrection is described in the Book of Mormon. Mormons believe that when Christ told his disciples in the Bible He had other 'sheep' who should receive his message he was referring to those people in the Western Hemisphere.

Q: If so, when did this happen? And under what circumstances?

A: The appearance of Jesus in the Western Hemisphere shortly after his resurrection is described in the Book of Mormon. Mormons believe that when Christ told his disciples in the Bible He had other 'sheep' who should receive his message he was referring to those people in the Western Hemisphere.

C: Jesus declared:

“And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd (Jn.10:16)

Of course, the sheep to which Jesus had come were the people of Israel (Mt.15:24) and the “other sheep” to whom he referred and to whom he sent his apostles (Mk.16:15) are Gentiles. If he had meant the “lost sheep” of the Book of Mormon they would have been included in Israel and not the “othersheep” since they are purported to be Jews. There are two folds in Scripture, Jews and Gentiles, and Paul echoed Jesus’ words when he wrote to Gentiles believers in Ephesus:

“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called "the uncircumcision" by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands-- remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph.2:11-19)

The both that are made one are Gentiles who are “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise” and those of “the covenant”, those who are “far off” – Gentiles – and those who “were near” – Jews.

There is an important lesson here. Mormons like to present their “answers” as thought the questions they address are somehow controversial, as though until Mormonism came along Christians were scratching their heads wondering what it all means. There is no controversy in Jesus’ reference to “other sheep” and Mormonism doesn’t bring an answer where there was none, but an alternative answer to what is already well established and has always been known and understood.

Another important insight is gained when we realise that people leave “footprints” in history. If we depended solely on evidence from the Americas there would no reason at all to believe that Jesus existed since there is no evidence of his having ever appeared in the Americas or that the continent and cultures described in the Book of Mormon existed.

In other words, once again, we have only the unsubstantiated claims of the Mormon Church to guide us. Jesus’ life in the old world, its cultural, religious and geographical context, on the other hand, is not in dispute. There we see him coming to the lost sheep of Israel and sending his disciples out to the “other sheep” among the Gentiles.

Prefacing your answers to these questions with the words, “Mormons believe that…” is an abuse of the privilege of believing. Believing doesn’t make it so, seeing that it is so leads us to believe (Acts 17:31 cf) Our faith doesn’t rest entirely on empirical evidence but its complete absence should trouble people looking at the Mormon Church.

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