Monday, May 29, 2017

There Must Be Opposition in All Things: Including to Mormonism

A fundamental truth taught in the Book of Mormon says that there must be opposition in all things. If this were not the case then what would we be? We would be mere pawns in a neutral playground, not growing or learning by making choices and experiencing the consequences.

All things have some type of opposite or opposition otherwise we would not have any choice in the matters we face. Good things have opposition to them. Good and evil exist in an eternal state of opposition to each other. 

The question to ponder is where does the opposition come from?  Apologists in creedal trinitarianism have determined that if a group of Christian believers does not adhere to the creed of the Trinity, then that group is not "Christian".

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has been opposed from many sources since it was founded. Mormonism is the nickname for the teachings and theology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormon church, again a nickname initially meant to be a slur against the organization and its members.

For almost 200 years Joseph Smith has been the Prophet of the Restoration, now to millions of Latter-Day Saints. To a handful of active critics and their proteges, he was a simple 14-year-old boy that orchestrated a grand religious scheme. He never preached a sermon inside of a chapel and died when the church was in its infancy.  There were less than thirty thousand members yet he is somehow the genius leader of a cult that now has 30,000 plus diverse congregations all over the world and each is led by an unpaid clergy. Quite the opposite of mainstream churches where the gospel is preached for money.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints attests that it is the true and living church of Jesus Christ and that he stands at the head of it.  Creedal Christianity professes that its lack of cohesiveness and divisions are unfortunate and its unregulated nature allows for many preachers conjuring up any wind of doctrine.

The sectarian churches guided by its many apologetic scholars invented the term Biblical Christianity in order to more easily franchise a fabricated authority using the Bible. There is no such pattern in the Bible. Besides, it would not be convenient to be known as a creedal trinitarian.   

The Savior established a church when he was on the earth. Catholics make some claim to being the "true" church but Protestants can't make such a claim.  Protestants are simply anti-Catholics and Evangelicals are often anti-Protestants.  None of them carries the name of the Savior or claims authority to be what is termed the Kingdom of God on the earth, except the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Why is this?

Some critically minded people just can't seem to accept the fact that even the Lord's church is full of imperfect people. Leaders and members alike are such people. Certain events and practices they don't agree with have occurred in its history.

The critics represent themselves and have no claim to any authority and claim no credentials to speak for God. They speak for themselves. Their opinions are not designed to lift others or to take a person anywhere except away from the church.

Critics use bias and deception to portray their story to misinform people. I joined the church is 1973 as a 17-year-old. I have witnessed this for about 45 years. I have attended many "anti-Mormon" presentations at various churches with friends and family members.

The claim of these critics is that Joseph Smith managed to establish a 200-year ruse and do or cause to be done other evil things in the process. In so doing they set up a burden of proof that can't be met and yet proclaim it anyway. Joseph Smith was willing to die for his claim and his earliest critics that it would go away when they killed him. He was a prophet of God bearing testimony of truth and restoring the authority of Jesus Christ to the earth?

Mormon critics practice what can be described as a "wilderness of mirrors." They create an environment where the information provided blends truth, half-truth, opinions, lack of historical context and fiction so that uninformed readers or listeners have a difficult time telling what is true and what isn't. Someone with certain doubts may gravitate to it and use it as a reason to justify their doubts.

The critics that accuse Joseph Smith of being a false prophet do so at the behest of a few vocal critics that have propagated stories out of context and mixed them with opinionated statements. They accuse the church of lying to cover up Joseph's "true" character based on little-known facts of cultural insignificance from the early 1800's, or of allegations regarding the practice of polygamy and other practices that may seem strange or out of the ordinary without other information.

They use fallacies in defining their narrative of Joseph's youth. They tell of things that were normal and cultural in the 1820's that would seem strange if you did them in our day and age. It is like comparing the practice of bleeding sick patients in early medical practices to how a disease is cured today. 

The critical narratives depend on a listener's lack of knowledge and lack of desire or opportunity to get all of the facts to know what the actual circumstances were. If the false narrative comes from someone they trust, like a Christian church there is a tendency to dismiss the need for more information. These narratives have been repeated over and over in churches and on the internet around the world.

The process is readily identifiable for the purpose of spreading false information. Such was the case with me after I joined the church in 1973. I was taken to a church where a lecture was being given to explain why the Mormon Church was the fabrication of a "con artist". Their methods and actions of teaching and disseminating are the real work of "con artists". Here is what they suppose.

The critics base their overall antagonism against the church from an irrational standpoint. They want people to believe that a 14-year-old boy, Joseph Smith made up a story and told multiple lies to support it over a 30 year period. These lies would become a con for centuries to come over a changing leadership and uncertain conditions. The church would endure substantial persecution and eventually become established throughout the world and known for its moral and family values.

Could a 14-year-old boy really stick to a story so profound as saying he saw and talked to God and angels for his whole life while being persecuted for it? A story that led directly to his early death at 44 years of age. Several versions of the first vision have surfaced but if you have ever tried to write about something in your past you will soon discover the weakness of the mind in recalling exact events. Some were accounts he told to others that later wrote them down.

This story and movement also included the development of theological teachings the were starkly different from mainstream Christianity. He explained the contradictions in their teachings and doctrinal conclusions. This increased the persecutions in attempt to defame him.

God was a person he said, with a glorified and exalted body and so was Christ. We were created in their image and likeness. Current orthodox teachings taught that God was a genderless incorporeal intelligence that assumed 3 personalities and was worked into the narrative of the Bible.

As a boy prophet in 1820, in the United States, he saw God and was visited by resurrected apostles and prophets that laid their hands on his head to ordain and give him authority. No other church founder has made such claims of authority that the fullness of Christ's gospel would be restored to actually prepare the world for the second coming of Jesus Christ. The only things that had taken place before were reformations of the existing churches. None claimed authority to be the true church. 

One of the angels that ministered to him told him that his name would be had for good and evil throughout the world. A very unlikely scenario for a 14-year-old boy in upstate New York in 1820 yet it is so. 

Today 190 years later that you can speak his name in religious circles around the world and they know his name, some for good and others for ill. His critics have fulfilled the prophecy.

It wasn't enough to see God and angels and to tell all the other churches their theology had certain flaws. He brought forth another book calling it scripture and that he had translated it from gold plates. How does one get such an idea for a story, let alone come up with a whole book and calling it scripture? According to his critics, the whole story is a fabrication from Joseph's imagination or copying some other book.

He wasn't deemed just a book but a sacred record, another testament of Jesus Christ.  His testimony was that he translated it from the plates. 

Anyone that reads it with a sincere desire will see that it could not have been written by a person of ill intent. An evil man could not have written it as its content inspires pure faith in Jesus Christ.

He declared that this book was a correct scripture containing the pure doctrine of Christ. After 190 years no one has proven it not to be so. Millions testify that its content is divine. Hundreds of millions of copies have been distributed throughout the world in 110 languages.

Over the next 20 years or so he said he received the mind and will of the Lord regarding many subjects and the kingdom of God in preparation for the second coming of the Lord in his glory.

He called it scripture too, the Doctrine and Covenants. Imagine the idea of saying that modern revelation came to a latter-day prophet. His detractors would call him a false prophet but they couldn't prove it or stop his testimony.

Through all of this, he was persecuted by many enemies on many fronts. His children dying, his family suffering. But what con man would not endure such acts of persecution and suffering?

Then of all things, 10 years after his first vision at age 24 and with no clerical training he started a church. He said it would eventually be on every continent and spread throughout the world. It would be patterned after the Lord's church in the New Testament. His critics could not stand for such a thing. The made sure to label it a cult lest any consider joining it.

No critics or enemies could stop its progress Joseph testified. Looking at it today, that prophecy has been fulfilled after abundant barriers and challenges that could or should have stopped it, including his death. Today 30,000 plus geographic congregations exist around the globe and are led by a volunteer unpaid clergy.

Was it some grand con to organize the church using local volunteers? Even so, some of the best and the brightest minds would be attracted to it and lead it through all kinds of adversity at all levels. It would survive times of trouble and later prosper much to the disdain of the church's detractors.

The most brilliant part of the con is it would be pulled off for the most part after Joseph Smith was dead. The vast majority of his followers would never meet or know Joseph Smith in person. This would truly have to be one of the greatest cons in history. Using a dead man's story to build a thriving church throughout the world.

The first missionaries travelling through the world would go telling the story on foot and horseback and be travelling across the oceans by ship. Many tens of thousands would join the church. They would cross a desolate wilderness and established a community in the mountains of Utah. A hundred years later the messengers would be 18 to 22-year-old youths leaving their homes and paying their own way for two years at a time and millions would join the church.

Mormon critics don't like the fact that missionaries tell people that they can read the Book of Mormon and pray to find out if it is true. It has happened for millions of us.

They call members of the church ignorant fools that have pledged their lives to the church through baptismal covenants and found ongoing purpose and happiness being aware of their eternal destiny through temples.

Members don't use tobacco or drink alcohol, tea or coffee. This part of the con clearly demonstrates a brainwashing effect. He told believers about health issues unproven by science until at least a hundred or so years after his death. Surely he had some hidden techniques of mind control yet to be discovered by modern psychologists.

"Joseph Smith’s vision of man’s eternal nature and potential reach from an existence before birth to the eternities beyond the grave. He taught that salvation is universal in that all men will become the beneficiaries of the Resurrection through the Atonement wrought by the Savior. Beyond this gift of immortality is exaltation or to become like our Father in Heaven.  This is the purpose of our creation and a mortal life.

Just a handful of modern critics and apostates are the only people confused enough to recognize that what they call a con has become a worldwide church that blesses the lives of millions.

The evidence and testimony of the Spirit of God confirm to me that he was a prophet of the living Christ. His critics are the likely ones that have been deceived as they base their opinions on an irrational viewpoint that a 14-year-old boy could devise such an organization as the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

No comments:

Perspective on Evil, Suffering and Injustice in the World- How Moral Agency, Free Will and Christianity Integrate

One of the perplexing questions about life that philosophers, theologians and thinking people, in general, have considered in all ages, ha...