Monday, 16 May 2011

Monday Mormon: Blinded by Faith

Reason demands that you can examine the arguments from both sides and reach a conclusion based on the facts.  The facts about Mormonism are very clear, and the arguments which they put forward can be shown to be full of holes. Any Mormon who was shown the errors in that faith would leave it – right?  This is plainly not the case.

There are of course emotional, social, and cultural reasons which make leaving difficult.  It means a drastic change in lifestyle, a loss of friends (and sometimes loved ones) and giving up the security and support that membership of a tightly-knit group brings. But there is more to it than that. Mormons will not listen, will not even concede that the points you make may be valid because they are blinded by faith.

Your Own Personal miracle

When you investigate the Mormon Church, you are told the story of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. You are invited to follow Joseph's example and find out for yourself whether these things are true by asking God. They use three scriptures:

From the Bible, James 1:5: "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." 

This is the verse which inspired Joseph Smith to ask God for wisdom. You are encouraged to do the same, and promised that God will give you the same answer.

From the Book of Mormon, Moroni 10:4,5: "And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost.  And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things." 

This is known as Moroni's Promise. You are encouraged to try the promise, and you will know that what you have been told is true.

From the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 9:8: "But behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right."

This is the way you will know the truth - by a burning in the bosom.
The anticipation this engenders is enough to create the glow of excitement which can be taken as confirmation that the Mormon Church is true. Having had the Mormon message explained to you, you now have your own personal miracle to confirm it.

The noble bereans and the company of the saints

Compare this with some investigators of the early church. In Acts chapter 17 we meet the Bereans. Paul came and preached the gospel to them but they did not go away and pray about it - they searched the scriptures  to see if what they had been taught was in agreement with God's word. "...they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." (Acts 17:10-12)

Jesus encouraged people to search the scriptures. "You diligently study the scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life.  These are the Scriptures that testify about me." (John 5:39)

Having decided that the things you have been taught are true, you are told that the next step for you is to join the church through baptism. You are baptised "into the church." Compare this with the response of the Christian church when someone professes faith.

The Christian invitation is to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and entry into the body of believers, the company of the saints, who share that relationship. This relationship is life-giving and enabling, supplying saving grace and power to live the godly life. Joining an organisation will give you rules to live by, but you must conform by your own strength.

Because of the way a Mormon testimony is gained, it is not about relationship and power, but about things. A typical Mormon testimony says "I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church on earth today, that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God."

meeting challenges

With this as a foundation, it then follows that everything taught by the Mormon Church, the prophet, and the Book of Mormon must be true. In fact, there is a saying in the church: "When the prophet speaks, all debate is ended."  Doctrines which, explained in the cold light of day, would not be accepted are accepted without question in the warm glow of the Mormon testimony.

When a Christian is met with an argument that challenges their faith, they ask "Can the argument be borne out in scripture and experience? Like the Bereans, they will examine the scriptures to see what God has already revealed that will shed light on the question. The Mormon criteria in facing a challenge to their faith is "Does this agree with the church?"

For example: James 2:17,18 appears to teach that salvation is by works which prove your faith. This challenges the Christian belief that salvation is by faith alone. The Christian reaction to this scripture is that the belief in salvation by works does not fit with the bulk of gospel teaching in the rest of the New Testament (see Romans 4 & 5; Gal. 3; Eph. 2:8-10; Philip. 2:13) nor, on closer inspection, with the context within the book of James (see James 2:14-26).

The challenge of salvation by faith, not works, is met by the Mormon with the reaction that the church is true, and its teachings must be right.

another testament or a different testament?

The Book of Mormon is presented as “another testament of Jesus Christ” but it goes to great lengths to undermine the first testament. The Bible, it insists, has been corrupted over the years:

"...for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.  And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men." (1 Nephi 13:26-27)

The Mormon 8th Article of Faith states "We believe the Bible to be the word of God ‚as far as it is translated correctly."

Joseph Smith said that the Book of Mormon is "the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book."

Is the Book of Mormon “another testament”, a supporting testament alongside the Bible? Or is it another gospel (Galatians 1:8-9) that undermines the gospel clearly preached in the Bible?

If you start with the assumption that Mormonism is true and all things Mormon are "most correct", the only way to handle criticism is to deny and denigrate all authority outside the church no matter how reliable or trustworthy. In the mind of the Mormon there is always something beyond mere facts that explains attacks on the church.

So Mormons can, with impunity, criticise whole chunks of the Bible as being incomplete or translated incorrectly without having a shred of evidence or even the first idea of what they are talking about. But after all if the Bible contradicts the church this is the only possible conclusion.

the sin of doubt

As in many cults, doubt is sin.  If you are unhappy with some of the teachings of the "only true church on earth today," then there must be something wrong with you.

"Apostasy usually begins with question and doubt and criticism. ...  They who garnish the sepulchres of the dead prophets begin now by stoning the living ones.  They return to the pronouncements of the dead leaders and interpret them to be incompatible with present programs.  They convince themselves that there are discrepancies between the practices of the deceased and the leaders of the present. ... They allege love for the gospel and the Church but charge that leaders are a little 'off the beam'! ... Next they say that while the gospel and the Church are divine, the leaders are fallen.  Up to this time it may be a passive thing, but now it becomes an active resistance, and frequently the blooming apostate begins to air his views and to crusade. ... He now begins to expect persecution and adopts a martyr complex, and when finally excommunication comes he associates himself with other apostates to develop and strengthen cults.” (Mormon prophet Spencer W Kimball)

Critics are branded as, knowing or unknowing, conspirators against the truth.  But this paranoia is understandable when it is realised that it is something beyond mere facts that puts Mormons into such an untenable position in the first place -  its feelings. Feelings that are mistaken for faith, a brand of faith that blinds.

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