Friday, July 11, 2014

Meeting the Mormons

A few weeks ago I had two young Mormon boys ride up to my house—you know the picture—prepared to tell me the good news that Joseph Smith had to offer me. I’m actually quite ignorant when it comes to Mormon theology, so I felt it might be interesting to invite them in and see what they had to say. They were very friendly and inviting, and seemed to be genuine “god-fearing” individuals. We proceeded to sit down, whereby the elder began the discussion with a prayer.
After the prayer they began by asking what I knew of Mormonism, and though I knew a little, I asked them to enlighten me as best they could. The novice (unfortunately, I don’t remember his name) decided to demonstrate why and where the Mormon church came from, and began by speaking of the early Christian church. He basically stated that after the apostles were martyred, there was no longer any authoritative appointed leadership in the church. This immediately struck me as blatantly false, since he was only begging the question regarding in what fashion church leadership is constituted as authoritative or divinely appointed. (Also, I’m not sure the Catholic Church would have agreed with such a statement.) Nevertheless, I stayed silent and respectfully listened to this young gentleman—I call him young as if I’m old, heck, I’m only twenty three—finish his point. He continued by claiming that this loss of leadership in the church is what led to the current Christian denominational branching that has taken place lo these past two-thousand years.

The novice continued by telling the story of Joseph Smith. Smith apparently prayed to God and asked him which church was the One True Church. God replied that none of them were, and subsequently arranged it so that Smith could translate some ancient golden tablets—which said that Jesus apparently found it necessary to float over to the Americas and evangelize to the Native Americans--and found Mormonism— which would now be the One True Church. Such is the happy ending of the Church of Latter Day Saints.

After the novice finished with his elucidation, I had several thoughts floating in my head. I knew I could attack the historical credibility of such a story, though I know the Mormons have several “explanations” for the complete lack of historical evidence of said story. But, I decided to take a much more subtle approach. I conceded the fact that Christianity has thousands of denominations, and that this manifests problems regarding whether or not there exists a “One True Church” (I bet it’s my church!). Then I asked them a question of my own, based on pure curiosity: “Does the Church of Latter Day Saints have any denominational splits?” The novice answered (apparently the elders don’t speak as much) that there have been a few splits in the church, but that the church recognizes these as apostates. Well well well, I think my point was made right there. His central argument against the complete validity of Christianity, and for the validity of Mormonism, was that Christianity has too many denominations, and this obviously blurs the lines between what constitutes orthodoxy and heresy. But, here was Mormonism with the same problems. I mean think about it, Christianity has been around for two-thousand years, and Mormonism has only been around for a few centuries. Give them a few more hundred years and you’ll see the same thing happen, namely, dozens and dozens of Mormon denominations.

After making this point I asked them how the unique truth of Mormonism can be validated by the disparity of Christianity churches, when Mormonism is already showing signs of the same. They quickly changed their tune, by then claiming that their leaders are divinely appointed. Well, if you say so! They seemed oblivious to the fact that the same argument could be promulgated by the Catholics regarding the Pope. I asked how I could know that their leaders are divinely inspired, as opposed to, say, my own pastor. They answered that the preaching of their leaders registers with their spirit and that’s how they know. Well…alright. I’m sure the reader can predict what my response was. The discussion ended with them handing me a Book of Mormon (yay!) and suggesting a few passages to read. “Just read it, pray, and let the Spirit lead you” they said, to which I replied “you got it!”

Needless to say, the discussion went just as I had expected. There were objective claims made in order to validate Mormonism, but when these claims were shown to be empty, they resorted to the old “let God lead you there” line. And obviously God has not done so. (Although The Mormon Agnostic might have a better ring to it!)


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