When viewing an idea analytically, the conclusions drawn should be based on an acknowledged premise or several premises. “The sun provides warmth, therefore the sun is what keeps us warm.” If you don’t accept the premise of the sun providing warmth then you won’t accept the conclusion that the sun is what warms us. The premise or premises are followed by a logical flow of arguments and should be based on or around as many facts as possible. “Without the sun, plants don’t grow and our bodies feel heat in direct sunlight”. This can become difficult when dealing religious concepts, many of which are not contained within the bounds of traditional logic, but it’s still possible to be objective about many of the issues. With that being said I’d like to make a religious claim and then view it analytically.
Here’s the claim: If you can believe in Jesus Christ, you can believe in the Mormon church.
Of course I’m not saying you will or even that you should, I’m just saying that you can. And if it’s something that you can do, my hope is that it might give you some insight into why anyone else would do it and therefore be more accepting of it. You see, most of my life I’ve had to explain why I was a Mormon- why I believe so many unusual things. The general sentiment was very much that it was strange that I would choose to live a Mormon lifestyle. But is it that strange of a choice? Sure some of the practices might seem unorthodox, but I contend that if you follow the logic, it is actually very plausible and sensible to consider the Mormon church as an viable option for salvation, especially if you are already a Christian.
It all begins with Jesus Christ. He is the cornerstone of this argument, and I’m assuming that you believe in Him. When I say “believe” in Him, I mean that you, like me, believe that there truly was a person who came to this earth 2000 years ago, and that He was the son of God. You believe that He is the Redeemer of the world and His death and atonement is ultimately what saves us from our sins and grants us salvation. I’ll even let that last part slide if you don’t want to extend that far. But as a Christian you believe that Jesus Christ was killed and then subsequently resurrected.
That is the first premise.
Let’s examine that premise for a bit. Of course, I grant that the belief is genuine, but how did this belief in Jesus Christ come to be? Where was its inception? Well if you’re most of the religious body, it came from tradition. You believe because those before you believed- your parents, people in your community, athletes and strangers. You are an extension of their belief in a long line of believers. In fact, Jesus Christ is very much a part of most western civilization, and you would likely be a minority to grow up where the name Jesus Christ was not mentioned on a regular basis.
But where does this general belief in Jesus Christ originate? Tradition has to be pulling from some reference. As it turns out, the Christian beliefs can be deciphered from one book. Or rather a collection of books called the Bible. This is a book that contains several religious and historical records that are sacred to both Judaism and Christianity. But while we could go into great depth on what the Bible is and how important it is, for the sake of this argument, we will just confirm that the Bible contains the record of Jesus Christ and is the essential foundation for the Christian faith.
That is the second premise.
At this point I would like to pose a question. Why do we trust the Bible? It’s clear that many people believe in it, but that’s not exactly ideal grounds for a belief. Most people believed that the world was flat for thousands of years, and it wasn’t until scientific evidence was produced years later that people were convinced otherwise. Whereas the accounts in the Bible haven’t and likely will never be confirmed by scientific evidence. There might be some vague records that a person named Jesus lived during the time period purported in the Bible, but his life, miracles and resurrection from death cannot be definitively proven. So why do we trust it? Simply put, it’s because we have faith in it. We believe in the record of Jesus Christ as its transcribed in the Bible solely on Faith.
That is the third premise.
But herein lies the real question: how much of it do we believe? Take a second and ask yourself how much of the Bible you really believe. Most will agree there are probably some stories, especially in the Old Testament that are more…let’s call them faith-promoting anecdotes. But most devout Christians will affirm that the accounts in the New Testament all really happened and the miracles were a testament to the glory and divine nature of Jesus Christ.
But how much to we really believe?
You see, I’m not the first person to ask this question. In 1517 a man named Martin Luther challenged the predominant Christian religion by putting 95 thesis on the door of a church. This act would prove to become the catalyst for the Protestant Reformation and is arguably the reason there are so many churches in the world today. Martin Luther challenged the church on many of their extra-biblical practices but in a sense asked the same question I asked, “How much of it do you really believe?”. His actions questioned the authority of the church and in turn their authority to interpret the bible. He paved the way for religious pioneers like Smyth, Wesley, Knox and several others who all determined that the mainstream faith had misinterpreted many key aspects of the gospel.
If we do, in fact, believe that Jesus Christ was real based on the biblical account, then surely we must believe that the acts that he performed served a purpose. We believe that he was born from a virgin, but do we believe he was baptized in a certain way and for a reason? We believe he performed miracles, but do we believe that he ordained apostles and gave them the priesthood? We believe that he was crucified for our sins, but do we believe that he established specific ordinances and commandments to follow? These questions were all justly raised, but was the right answer ever given?
If we accept the account in the New Testament, shouldn’t we accept all of it? Of course many things in the New Testament are open to honest interpretation. Certain counsel given to the Corinthians might very well have been intended for only them. But when Christ says:
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
(Matthew 28: 19-20)
Do we just ignore that command? Those commandments were given to the apostles that he ordained to do his work once he left the earth. Is it fair to say that he only meant for that to be important for 30 years? If so, then could we not say the same thing about all of his commandments? Picking and choosing what we deem important from the Bible is a slippery slope. Who draws the line? We shouldn’t be surprised that there is no consensus within the many Christian churches about the specific doctrines of Christ’s church for this very question: Who has the authority to draw the line? It’s a question we should all be asking ourselves.
This point is no more poignant when we examine the conversations between Christ and the Scribes and Pharisees. You will see that this isn’t the first time this has been an issue. Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes were all sects of the same Jewish faith, but all executed the Jewish law differently. Christ openly condemned them for determining their religion off their own zealous interpretation when in reality, He was the only one who had the authority to have any say in the matter. In fact, Christ gave that same authority to 12 men who were spokesmen for Him and could act in his stead (Mark 3:14). We know that several times in the New Testament they performed ordinances by that authority, (Acts 8:12-21) and it was received and passed on in a very particular way (Heb 5:1-10). But sadly all of those apostles were eventually killed. Would it not be fair to surmise that the authority was lost as well? I’d submit that in a way the world slowly became what the Pharisees and the Sadducees were all over again but with Christianity. Everyone is trying to do what is right with what they have, but without a Moses to guide them to the promised land, no Samuel to steer them from deception, and no Peter to lead their church.
Now, let’s fast-forward 1,800 years to a boy in upstate New York in a time that was right in the thick of the renaissance of the Protestant Reformation. At this time the Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Catholics, Lutherans and several other churches were all preaching what to do and how to achieve salvation. It was undoubtedly a perplexing era for the curious believer. At this time a young boy was confused by all the religious rhetoric. He said a prayer in a grove of trees and, as the story goes, was visited by God and Jesus Christ. They commanded him to translate a new religious historical record and to re-organize the original Church of Jesus Christ but in these modern days. This historical record would be called the Book of Mormon and would be the keystone to the validity of the truthfulness of the religion he was about to form.
Now this is important. That event either happened, or it didn’t.
But doesn’t this remind us of something? Think about the account in the Bible- is it really much different? The events in the Bible either happened or they didn’t. There is no evidence that Christ turned water into wine or walked on water any more than there is evidence that Joseph Smith had golden plates or that angels came and ordained him with the priesthood. We simply can’t prove it. We’re left with one option. We have to take it on faith.
And I resolutely claim that if you can believe by faith that Jesus Christ is our redeemer, you can also believe, by that same faith, that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.
Is that an easy thing to do? No, of course not. And when the apostles of Christ went around to the churches in the Mediterranean and were all eventually killed because of their message, that wasn’t easy either. They died defending a truth that they knew to be true- a declaration that Jesus Christ was the son of God and came to the world to save us from our sins. If it was easy or obvious to everyone, then the church they sought to established would have likely thrived, and there would be no question about the true order of the Church of Christ. But it wasn’t easy. People didn’t believe the; people persecuted them; people killed them. John the Revelator couldn’t prove it and was thrown into jail while the rest of the apostles were all captured and murdered. The Apostles trusted that people would act on faith to believe in the things that they were saying regardless of their persecutions.
And so we must act in faith, believing the accounts written in the Bible and any other thing might be heaven sent.
Recently I asked a friend of mine about salvation, and he said to me, “Scott, it is very clear that you need to call upon the name of Jesus Christ to be saved,” and I replied “Is it? Is it that obvious?”. If anything, the contrary couldn’t be more true. It’s hard to know what is right and what is wrong. Understanding the will of God is difficult. Everyone claims to have the right answers, but they all seem to contradict one other. It would be much easier to believe in the simplicity of my friends claim if there weren’t 41,000 different Christian denominations all telling me different rules for salvation.
I asked another friend about salvation and he said, “Scott, it doesn’t matter. All roads lead up to the same destination.” But I’m not so sure that’s true either. In the Bible, Christ was very clear when he said that not all would partake of salvation:
14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
(Matthew 7: 14,23-23)
I’m not trying to say that his theory is absolutely wrong, but it seems like the scriptures spell out something a bit more particular than just, “Believe anything.”
Now if you’re the type of person who is reading this particular blog post, I probably need to make a few quick reminders. First off, my intention with this post is not to offend or insult. I’m passionate about my convictions, but in no way do I wish for the sentiment of this post to sound patronizing or condescending. This is not an “I’m right, and you’re wrong” kind of post. In my experience I’ve found that many people are quick to dismiss the Mormon religion for a myriad of reasons. My intention is simply to merit the possibility that the the Mormon doctrines are plausible and to give an analytical perspective to why people would prescribe to its fundamentals.
We all are searching for truth in this life. Everyone of us wants to know our place in the universe and is curious about the afterlife. Personally, I have seen too many miracles in my life that I account to my faith, and I know many people would likely say the same thing about theirs. All I would hope is that you can maybe understand a little more where a Mormon might be coming from when they choose to pay 10% of their salaries and choose to stop drinking coffee. To us, it’s not the vain delusions of a charlatan, it’s the direct commandment of a holy prophet. One we choose to believe in because of faith- that binding eternal principle that gives us belief in the Bible, in Jesus Christ and ultimately brings us closer to God.
So is it completely unrealistic to be a Mormon? I would argue no. I think that logically it takes the same amount of faith to be Mormon as is does to believe that Jesus is the Christ. Of course we are all agents unto ourselves, but in my life, I’ve seen the blessings of choosing to be a Mormon every single day. I know that my happiness is because of my faith in Jesus Christ and faith in every word of his gospel. A gospel I believe extends past the Bible and into the Book of Mormon. But more than anything I know that Jesus Christ lives. He truly has the power to change lives.