Sunday, October 19, 2008

Reply to the Reverend Goldberg

I wrote a letter to the editor of the Standard Examiner concerning another letter written by a local minister about the Church and the Book of Mormon, which Mom thought you might like to read. So, here it is.

11 August 2008

The Reverend Goldberg writes, "The Jesus of Mormonism is not the Jesus of Christianity." In fact, Mormons worship Jesus of the New Testament, as do Protestants and Catholics . . . the Messiah who was born of the virgin Mary, who taught the Gospel of Salvation, who performed miracles, who was crucified, who rose the third day, and who is now at the right hand of his Father. It is the same historical person, God come to Earth. There is no other.

Mormons, who believe Christ to be the Son of God and who therefore call themselves Christians, believe in the Trinity, but not the Trinitarian doctrine that Catholic Christians and Protestant Christians espouse. We are at odds with the deliberations of the Nicean Council convened by the pagan emperor, Constantine in 325 A.D., and adopted by the ancient Christian world, a world now fractured as to belief and doctrine.

Mormons do not conform to this Trinitarian dogma because of the visions and revelations received by Joseph Smith Jr., beginning in 1820 and continuing until his death in 1844, which revelations, totaling some 850 pages, are accepted by Latter-day Saints as scripture. The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, have given Mormons new understanding of not only the Trinity, but Salvation, Marriage and Family, Heaven and Hell, Grace and Works, the Atonement, the Priesthood . . . virtually every doctrine associated with Christianity and have drawn the ire of Catholics and Protestants, especially Evangelical Protestants, who believe the Bible contains the totality of God's revelations. Reverend Goldberg says that Mormons consider the Bible to be "unreliable and untrustworthy." Mormons, in fact, love the Bible and hold it to be scripture, the Word of God. They do not, however, believe that every letter of every word in it is infallible, but that parts are missing or have been translated incorrectly, hence the need for living prophets and apostles and current revelation.

The Reverend Goldberg, speaking for many Evangelicals, asks the question regarding Mitt Romney, and I paraphrase, "How can any thinking person believe this stuff?" The Bible, he says, is proven true by archaeology and the Book of Mormon is not. The good Reverend surely knows that archaeology offers no proof of the existence of Jesus or any of his followers. This is also true of Book of Mormon prophets and writers. All we have, in each case, is circumstantial evidence, much of which is yet controversial and certainly undecided. We do have, in each case, the text itself . . . the word of God . . . to be read, thought about, prayed over, and decided upon. Furthermore, should archaeology prove the existence of any of these prophetic writers, it could not settle the truth of their assertions and doctrines. Proof in spiritual matters will be determined by faith, prayer, study, revelation and practice, that is until the Lord returns. Then we will have our proof.

Critics of the Book of Mormon should understand this: Either Joseph Smith invented the 587 page Book of Mormon and dictated it to his scribes from memory, or, he translated an ancient record from gold plates and dictated it to his scribes, as he, and they, said it was done. No third option presents itself, and in 179 years, there is not a molecule of evidence to support the first thesis . . . no preliminary notes, no first draft, no tales from family members, neighbors, or colleagues, of a young student of the Old Testament and the Middle East, conversant in theological intricacies, working nights on his project, asking questions, visiting libraries . . . just an intelligent but barely educated 23 year old, newly married, western New York farm boy, who, according to his wife, a school teacher, was perfectly incapable of producing such a book. We have also the testimonies of eleven other men, including his principal scribe, Oliver Cowdery, age 22, that they saw and handled the gold plates. The original manuscript was written in 30 working days, and the book itself with its complex structure and Hebraic forms, customs, and names, its powerful witness of the Savior, its profound theological arguments and treatises, is now witnessed by millions of believers convinced that it, like the Bible, comes from God.

If the Reverend is also asking, "Who can believe this stuff?" he should take a look around. These believers are comprised of educators, scientists, businessmen, housewives, doctors, nurses, lawyers, engineers, writers, editors, mechanics, architects, painters, carpenters, musicians, artists . . . the entire array of professional and occupational endeavor, both men and women, and politicians as well, past and present . . . Senators, Congressmen, Cabinet members, and Governors.

We have a flourishing, vital Church, with members like Governor Romney and many others, who may well be capable of leading this nation, but who may be denied the opportunity because many Evangelicals, in particular, can't fathom that good, moral, intelligent human beings can "believe such stuff." They think that something must be fundamentally haywire with these folks.

They have a deeper concern. Evangelicals fear that a Mormon President would open the door to further Mormon conversions, in their view, a sure ticket to Hell. The answer, beneficent in their minds, is to stop some potential converts from wandering into the Mormon fold by assuring that these United States are never led by a believing Latter-day Saint, regardless of his qualifications and love of country. So it is that this favored but troubled land could be deprived of sound leadership, because a powerful religious minority fears those who hold differing perspectives of Christian doctrine, never mind they may be persons of integrity, capability, vision and patriotism.

R. Thomas Price
North Ogden