This week’s Newsweek cover story on Mormonism produced some hilarious lines. (I assume it was unintentional given that the author is Mormon). Among the best:
For Mormons, [Joseph] Smith’s importance is singular. "He stands alone as a
source of doctrine," says Dallin H. Oaks, member of the Quorum of the
Twelve Apostles, one of the church’s highest governing bodies. The
characteristic features of the LDS Church—sacred temple rites, personal
revelation, tithing and a history of polygamy—come directly from Smith.
So does the emphasis on high moral standards, family ties and community
Now let’s get this straight. Joseph Smith is the source of truth about God, who is the standard for morality. That would make everything Smith said regarding ethics, by definition, the highest standard of morality. How could it be, then, that polygamy is not of the highest moral standard? Just wondering. There’s more:
After explaining that "Smith knew that his testimony required a leap of faith", the author (knowingly or not) describes why that was by recounting some Mormon history and beliefs. She concludes,
Central tenets of Mormonism seem confusing—even literally incredible—to those outside the faith.
Uhh…ya. That is because Mormon beliefs are confusing and incredible and they should be to even those inside the faith. Their teachings are simply unsupportable. Unfortunately, as the author readily admitted to Newsweek’s editor, many Mormons don’t know much about the central tenants of Mormonism.
Although she is a lifelong member of the Mormon Church, Elise Soukup was surprised to discover in reporting this
week’s cover story how much she didn’t know about her own faith. In her
congregations in Utah and in New York, they studied Joseph Smith, the
founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as much as Jesus,
but she had never read a non-church-approved account of Smith’s life. And when
she met with Mormon historians Richard and Claudia Bushman, Richard encouraged
her to address the "tough stuff" in church history: the questions
about Smith’s character, the validity of the Book of Mormon and the once
encouraged practice of polygamy. "I must have looked shaken," Elise
recalls, "because as we wrapped up the meeting Claudia squeezed my hand
and said, ‘We’ll pray for you’."
Those last few words expose another problem. Not only do
Mormons not know all of the religion’s beliefs, but they accept the ones they
do know on blind, unthinking faith. They don’t analyze the teachings, they
"pray about them." Rather than rational, objective truth seeking,
they look inside themselves. Every time I have asked a Mormon why I should
believe Mormonism is true I have been told to "pray about it" and
wait for some type of inward "burning" that will confirm what they
tell me. This is ridiculous. One would be better to pick a religion based on
the roll of a dice – at least it would be less subjective.
Before I digress too far, one more funny section of note. In it Soukop
explains how one of the Mormon doctrines teaches that man can become a god.
She quotes Lorenzo Snow, fifth LDS prophet: "As man is, God once
was; as God is, man may be." The great part is that she follows this
heaping pile of heresy with the understatement of the year:
Because of Mormonism’s unique theology, some of which
challenges early Christian creeds, many Christian denominations don’t consider
the LDS Church to be Christian.
No kidding. At least she quotes Norman Geisler, who rightly
"There is no rightful claim by historic Mormon doctrine
to the name Christian, because they deny almost every one of the major
fundamental doctrines of Christendom,"
But then she follows up with this beauty
for Latter-day Saints, who believe in the Jesus Christ of
both the New Testament and the Book of Mormon, the cold shoulder from other
denominations is baffling. "I am devastated when people say I am not a
Christian, particularly when generally that means I am not a fourth-century
Christian," says Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Quorum of the
be clear that Mormons believe in the Jesus of the New Testament only as far as
they can misinterpret and ignore the text. What is surprising to me is that
they want the label Christian at all, given that, according to Joseph Smith,
every other "denomination" in existence is supposed to be part of the
apostasy and headed for hell. Why are they suddenly so eager to be associated
with them? Just one more thing to wonder about.
Speaking of wondering, the last paragraph of the story is a mystery.
Smith founded cities, built temples and ran for president.
But his most meaningful contribution was as "prophet, revelator and
seer," as he called himself—and as the architect of a church that tends to
nurture the bonds between its members in a spirit of charity. Smith’s
vision—optimistic, vigorous, a source of continuing personal growth for all who
accept its blessings—in many ways echoes the American Dream. Millions around
the world now see in their own lives what a young man found for himself in that New York grove.
I guess the "found for himself" part sounds about
right, although perhaps "made up for himself" might be better (not
that I would completely rule out the role of spiritual deception in these
cases.) But what is all this other stuff? So what if people find a source of
"personal growth" (whatever that means) in Mormonism if it isn’t
true? And so what if it nurtures bonds in a spirit of charity (whatever that
means) if it isn’t true. The bottom line question for any religion is always
"Is it true?" Mormonism gives us no good reasons to answer that affirmatively.