Friday, 10 October 2008

Moroni's Empty Promise

An early Mormon leader stated:

“The Bible has been robbed of its plainness; many sacred books having been lost, others rejected by the Romish (sic) Church, and what few we have left, were copied and re-copied so many times, that it is admitted that almost every verse has been corrupted and mutilated to that degree that scarcely any two of them read alike” (Orson Pratt, The Seer, P.2 Jan.1854)

Based on such pronouncements, it is commonly, though mistakenly, believed among Mormons that our modern Bible is 'a translation of a translation of a translation...etc.' that in the process of transmission it has “passed through profane hands” and been interfered with by “corrupt priests” with no recourse to early documents. If this were the case it becomes immediately obvious why the Mormon is not encouraged to put a great deal of trust in the Bible.

If I were to suggest that, notwithstanding such perceived problems, I had prayed about the Bible and 'believed' it to be 100% reliable a Mormon might reasonably question my judgement and demand more objective evidence. Why should the way I 'feel' about the Bible satisfy anyone’s honest questions? Why shouldn't people be suspicious if I refused to address the issues and concerns that may be raised by Mormons about translation and transmission and offered my impressions instead of honest and thoughtful answers?

Such answers are amply provided today by comprehensive Bible scholarship of course and a Christian is not short of evidence to justify our trust in the Bible and need not fall back on feelings. And yet Mormons expect people to do exactly that. Questions are asked, concerns raised, clear and objective evidence counter to Mormon claims presented and yet the Mormon answer is Moroni's promise:

“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

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.”
(Moroni 10:3-5)

As though prayer can make clear discrepancies in Mormon teaching go away, as though it makes wrong right, falsehood true or truth false.

One of the most wrongheaded ideas about the Christian faith is that it is purely subjective, i.e. that spiritual truth is nothing like objective truth. Nothing could be further from the truth! The Christian story is the story of God acting in history, and the evidence of God's acting in history can be observed just as can any other events of history. The Bible positively encourages us to look at historical evidence as part of our 'investigation' of the Christian faith.

Mormonism, on the other hand, discourages such investigation, asking us to ignore historical, archaeological evidence that militates against Mormon claims, and instead simply rely on feelings. It begins by claiming to be a record of God's dealings with the ancient peoples of America, naming cities, coins, animals, people, wars etc. then offers absolutely no evidence, such as we find for the Bible, for any of its claims.

Far from proving anything, Moroni's promise becomes a form of emotional blackmail, putting the burden of proof on the person investigating Mormon claims instead of where it should be, on the church that makes these claims. If the Mormon says that the Book of Mormon is a reliable witness the onus is squarely on the Mormon to answer honest questions, offer reasonable arguments, and otherwise encourage further investigations.

The Bible story is not entirely dependent on historical evidence and God “speaks” in many ways to people’s hearts and minds. However, God has spoken and acted in history and it is reasonable to expect that historical activity to be apparent even if some would offer different explanations for the attendant historical events.

There is a Jerusalem, even if some don’t believe God’s Son died there for our sins; there is a Jewish nation, even if some deny their role as God’s people; the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD, even if some people question the biblical explanation for its destruction; a widow’s mite may be seen today; the type of coin Jesus took to illustrate his lesson that people should “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” is a reality and ample evidence exists for the many character’s populating the Bible story..

Christianity presents compelling historical evidence for the Christian faith and challenges people to consider seriously what the facts point to (Ro.5:20) Mormonism, on the other hand, claims to be based in historical events but asks people to believe historical accounts when there is not an item of historical data to believe in. Faith, in biblical terms, is trust but, while Christianity has presents people with something in which to trust, Mormonism asks people to trust in how they feel about something for which there is no evidence.

Moroni’s promise is an empty promise because it is a challenge from someone who never existed to pray about something that never happened in places never built to people who never lived as recorded in a book that is completely fictional.

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