Monday, January 3, 2011

Response to TheWoodsofJordan - Leaving Mormonism

Jordan is a young man I can somewhat relate to. A religious seeker very much like myself. His explorations have received a considerable amount of attention on Youtube. I think he's made a hasty decision recently, and this is my case as to why he should reconsider.

Part 1

Part 2

Notes I used to make these two videos:

Jordan, I'm Gary.

I'm a Mormon who frankly admits that Joseph Smith taught some things that don't stand up to scrutiny. I don't think that it is necessary to agree with absolutely everything a religious teacher ever had to say in order to find value in his teachings.

First of all, let me say that this all or nothing, the church is true or it is not, either everything is 100% true or it is 100% worthless, is not reasonable. The missionaries and the members may have been of such a mindset, but I'm telling you right now, throw that nonsense away. Mormonism, like every other philosophy, is a collection of ideas. Ideas should be taken one at a time, considered each on it's own individual merits.

I think you're being hasty in throwing throwing away a tremendous source of truth, and the resources that really helped me as a 19-year-old, when I converted. At that time, psychologically, I was a mess, completely unprepared by the California public school system to succeed in college, and function as a self-sufficient, productive adult in society. Through the church and it's unique programs, especially in my case the missionary program, I found helpful people who enabled me with the tools to take the pieces and put together the foundation for a great adult life.

The Bible says that if a prophet proclaims a false prophesy, you should not be afraid of him. Evangelical Fundies may WISH it said that if he issues a false prophesy, he never was a prophet in the first place, and that none of his previous pronouncements have any validity, but that simply is not what it says.

Sometimes the material we have from Joseph was on par with what we would expect from someone of his educational level and frontier surroundings, sometimes downright silly, other times we have things that were extremely profound. And Therein lies the proof. A man who exhibits knowledge and wisdom far beyond what he (and all those he associates with) are normally and naturally capable of is obviously getting this advanced information from an external source.

He taught that death was not the final opportunity to accept Christ, that there will be preaching in the afterlife while we await the day of resurrection, and the opportunity to accept, answering the hopeless dilemma of how a just God could deny heaven to people for not accepting a Savior that they never had the opportunity to learn about. The entirety of Christendom, and not just Evangelicals who think that their faction of Christianity are the only real Christians, but all the sects who accept Jesus of Nazareth as the promised messiah, seems to be in unison in the belief that death is the final opportunity to accept Jesus. Yet this one young frontiersman steps forward and challenges them all, in this unfair standard, that unjustly condemns so many souls, and is not supported anywhere in the Bible.

Then there's the Book of Mormon, intelligent educated people to this day find it's teachings deeply meaningful. In the day, it was dismissed as a stolen manuscript of an incomplete novel written by a deceased preacher. The real manuscript has been discovered, and only superficial similarities, a few still cling to this, trying to put forth a speculation that there was a second Spaulding manuscript, though the critics have mostly moved to another book, View of the Hebrews, but I've read it, again found only superficial similarities, and major differences. It's about a completely different tribe of Israel coming across the ocean for an entirely different set of reasons. A plausible naturalistic explanation to the origin of the Book of Mormon has simply not been given, though many have tried. The fact remains that producing this book was beyond the capabilities of Joseph and his associates, unless they had otherworldly help. It leads people to Christ, and that answers the question of whether negative supernatural forces could have been behind it.

Some people, who don't actually know any Mormons, or at least don't know any very well, may think that Ed Decker's cartoon, that get's so many views here on YT, and the rest of the defamatory material being passed around by those with an agenda against the church, represents what real Mormons believe, and therefore Mormons must, one and all, be psychotic, completely detached from reality, in order to believe such obviously absurd things. But c'mon Jordan, you've actually gotten to know us, you know that the church is full of thoughtful and reasonable people.

It sounds like one of our missionaries has done you a great disservice by discussing his personal speculation about multiple gods in existence. As if we don't have enough problems with our detractors taking the Lorenzo Snow couplet, "As man is, God once was, as God is, man may become", drawing their own absurd inferences, and proclaiming that their own absurd inferences are what Mormons believe. Forget this nonsense about space gods having endless celestial sex in order to populate new planets. It's all a load of speculative, unauthoritative crap. Real Mormon doctrine teaches that this earth, after it has been made perfect, will be the location of the Celestial Kingdom.

[pt. 2]

In your explanation of your reasons for renouncing Mormonism, you cite and challenge Joseph Smith's description of the nature of God as being unbiblical, advocating the traditional trinitarian position. The third and final point I will make, supporting the strength and value of Joseph Smith as Christian theologian, who introduced bold new ideas that deserve much more thoughtful consideration than they have received (outside his own church), is for the clarified information about God that he gave us, information that is not in conflict with what we already have from the Bible.

Jesus cannot be his own father, the idea that trinitarians are trying to convey when they proclaim that, "Jesus is God", is false. In Matthew 4, Jesus is tempted by the devil. Tempted into what? Rebellion against himself? Jesus rejected glory for himself, directing all glory to the Father. He constantly emphasized his subordinate role to the Father. How could he be subordinate to himself? In the Great Intercessory Prayer of John 17, Jesus prays that all his disciples, and later in the prayer all the world, may be one, as he and his father are one.

Earlier in the Book of John, Jesus proclaimed, "Before Abraham was, I am". In Exodus 3, The God that Moses interacted with proclaimed, "I am that I am".

So let's look at this God of the Old Testament.

In the poetry of Psalms, God is once described as having wings and feathers. Prominent anti-Mormon author and traveling speaker Walter Martin was fond of using this verse, in isolation, to ridicule us, saying that our God is a chicken. But let's go back from this literary portion of the Old Testament, back to the historical accounts of Book of Exodus, to Moses and his God, in chapter 33. Can you seriously tell me that there is some alternative explanation, other than that this chapter detailing a literal encounter with a God, who is a corporeal being?

This God traveled in front of the Isrealites, and and periodically came to visit their portable tabernacle, covered in a cloud of smoke by day, and in fire by night. We find this description over and over. Does this sound like the formless spirit-god of sectarian Christianity, whose being occupies the entire universe?

Now if you believe that God the Father was the being that Moses and the Israelites interacted with as their God, then there's your proof that the Old testament God has a physical body. But here's where things get a little more complicated.

Ironically, one of the favorite proof texts used by trinitarian advocates of strict monotheism is actually their own undoing.

[Isaiah 43:10-11] A God that was "formed" (created), a time before this God was "formed" (created), the Savior.

Did Moses see the Father? Not according to John 1:18 and 6:46.

To further demonstrate that Jesus was the firstborn of all God's created beings I refer you to Colossians 1:15 and Revelation 3:14.

Now let's look at a few other proof texts used against the Mormons.

"God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth". Now that sounds pretty clear. Since this idea is Biblical, it must be found all over the Bible, supported by the preponderance of scripture, right?

The closest thing is Numbers 23:19, "God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent". Why do men lie, and need to repent? Because we are corporeal beings?

Evangelicals have a great propensity for taking a single passage, and building an entire theology around it. Just look at all these tales of unoccupied cars, and other fanciful notions about "the rapture".

Wrapping this up, you express that you have grown weary from organized religion. Fair enough. I myself have gone back and forth as to whether to consider myself a loyal supporter of the LDS Church, or an independent, unaffiliated Christian who finds value in the teachings of Joseph Smith. At the present I find that there is benefit in active membership. The crucial thing is accepting Jesus of Nazareth as the foretold messiah, your personal savior. Anyone who thinks Mormons teach that we can work our way to heaven on our own merits is mistaken. We believe that we have all come short, that obtaining a pardon for our sins through the attoning sacrifice of Christ as our only hope. The difference between us and other Christians in the fine details of what puts grace into effect.

Many Mormons don't understand why it is claimed that that we are not Christians. They'll say "We teach Christ, of course we are Christians". Since they are not aware of the notion we supposedly have a "different Jesus", they can't offer a persuasive argument against it. The idea that Mormons have a different Jesus is ridiculous. If I were to look at you and declare, "Behold Jordan, a formless spirit and not a corporeal being", would you look behind you? All that is proven by all the irreconcilable differences is that once side, or the other, has some very mistaken notions about Jesus, it does not prove that one (or the other) is trusting in some different, fictional, imaginary Jesus hat has no power to save, because he doesn't exist. That is why we Mormons challenge the teachings and authority of other churches, but we do not question the Christianity of the people in those churches.

Eternal salvation is dependent on trusting in Christ. Accepting Joseph Smith as a prophet is not as absolutely crucial, but I think that those who reject him are throwing away a lot of blessings that have enlightened my mind and have enriched my life and my relationship with God. If Joseph Smith was indeed acting on behalf of Jesus Christ, then there is some danger that rejecting his works are a rejection of the works of Christ, constituting a rejection of Christ, at least in part.

If you can't bring yourself to believe that Joseph Smith was a proven true prophet, then why not at least keep an open mind? You expressed an intention to seek formal cancellation of your baptism and church membership. I have to ask what would this accomplish? I was christened in a Presbyterian Church as a small child, and I have no problem with that. At the very least, I figure I've got both bases covered. Keep in mind that LDS leaders consider renunciation an act of wrongdoing, and if you ever do reconsider, they will expect a lot more in penance than simply being told that you want back in.

I find there to be unnecessary authoritarian rhetoric in the church, but as long as I'm free to leave at any time, then I'm not going to get worked up about it. If that's more than you can abide, then you can still study Joseph Smith's teachings, and accept those things that make sense into your own belief system, without accepting everything, calling him a prophet, or without being an active participant in church meetings.