Category Archives: Mormonism Mondays

Debate recap: Introduction.

On July 24th I had the pleasure of joining Jeremy Goff, a popular LDS lifestyle blogger, in a moderated public discussion of the question “Who is God?” Dr. Wallace Marshall moderated for us, which was a real treat, as his past debates have always been very interesting. We had a decent turn out, and I managed to get some video of the event, although technical difficulties prevented us from capturing the whole thing.

While I’ll be taking up a number of topics from the debate, I wanted to take this first post to reflect on how the debate went overall. Here we go.

We followed a pretty standard format with opening statements, rebuttals, cross-examination, closing statements, and then audience questions. I’ve uploaded a copy of my opening statement here if you want to read it. We had flipped a coin earlier in the week and God willed that I go first, so I kicked things off and we went from there.

I have to say, over all, I was satisfied with how things went. I certainly had a good time, and I think Jeremy did as well. We got some good questions from the audience at the end which showed they had been paying attention, and I had some interesting conversations with people after the event.

I wish Jeremy had engaged more with my opening statement, but he did come at it from essentially the angle I was expecting. My argument was, roughly, that if you believe Jesus is raised from the dead you should also trust the Scriptures, and that the Scriptures teach the doctrine of the Trinity. He didn’t engage with my exegesis of John 1 at all, nor did he take up Isaiah 43:10. Instead he kept asserting that God is our literal Father and that the Bible had been tampered with by men.

For my own part, my first response should have spent less time pointing out how Dan Brown-esque Jeremy’s understanding of church history was and more time demonstrating why his points didn’t touch my initial argument. My feet got out from under me and I spent way too long talking about what Gnosticism does and doesn’t teach. I’ve got to be more concise in further engagements, and really tether myself to the topic.

The cross-ex was a lot of fun. Jeremy failed to produce sources for any of his claims there, which was unfortunate because that left him with just assertions. This really showed a lack of authority, from my perspective. Anyone can say “such and such happened,” but as the late Hitch was wont to say, “that which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” Since Jeremy provided no evidences for his claims, his earlier plausible sounding story really fell apart. I wish I’d pinned him down more on the nature of God, though, but he kept side-stepping questions.

All in all, it was quite interesting to hear “straight from the horses mouth” what a lay-LDS member believes about church history, philosophy, the Bible, and the rest. I had a really good time, and I think that for two first-time debaters the event went very well. I’d love to go at it again sometime!

Like I said, a number of interesting points came up during the debate. I’ll be exploring them over the next few weeks, hopefully with video clips from the debate to provide some context. I hope you keep reading! If you want updates you can get them via email/Wordpress (above right) or via my Facebook page.

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Filed under Apologetics, Mormonism Mondays, Theology

Why would Mormons want to be Christians too?

In every conversation I’ve had with a Mormon, whether it be a lay member or a Missionary, they have always told me “Yeah, we’re Christians too.” That statement has always confused me. Here’s why.

The LDS church stands or falls on one idea: There was a Great Apostasy and the Church needed to be restored on the earth. This is first lesson which the Missionaries will teach you if you ever have them over. It’s called “The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” and it teaches the Latter-Day Saint view of church history.

According to the official account of the First Vision, Joseph went into what is now known as the Sacred Grove to pray. There, God the Father and Jesus appeared to him, and he asked them which of the sects of Christianity he ought to join. In Joseph Smith-History 1:19 (which is part of the Pearl of Great Price, and therefore official doctrine) he says:

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

So according to God, all of the creeds (as in the Apostles, Athanasian, and Nicene Creeds otherwise known as Christian orthodoxy) are an abomination, and all those who profess those creeds (Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Eastern Orthodox, Catholics, and even most Baptists) are corrupt. And yet, when I, as a corrupt professor of an abomination, say “I’m a Christian,” Mormons say to me “We are Christians too.”

I think you can see now why I’ve been stressing the “too.” It wouldn’t bother me if Mormons said to me “Well, we think we’re Christians, and you’re not.” It wouldn’t bother me if Mormons said just “Well, we’re Christians.” If they believe that they are the true church that Jesus founded then it would make sense that they think they are the true Christians. But when they say that they are Christians too, as if we somehow share faith, despite the words of their prophet, it is confusing to me and strikes me as, perhaps, dishonest.

If you’re a Latter-Day Saint, perhaps you can help me understand. Why would any Mormon tell me that they’re a Christian too, when 1 Nephi 14:10 teaches:

Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.

Given what Joseph Smith said about traditional Christianity, it cannot be the case that when a Mormon says “we’re Christians too” they mean that both traditional Christians and the LDS belong to the church of the Lamb of God. That would fly in the face of what God told Joseph Smith. But I can’t believe that they would believe the only alternative: That the Latter-Day Saints belong to the church of the devil! They must not mean that we are both Christians, because there’s no way, given Joseph’s revelation from God, that this can be true.

One response I anticipate is what Missionaries have told me from time to time: I, as a traditional Christian, have part of the truth. I just need the Full Gospel restored. The problem with this, as I see it, is that just because someone knows some true things, that doesn’t make them a Christian.  A Sikh believes many true things about the world, but they are not Christians because they don’t believe in the Christian God. So it seems that a traditional Christian, who does not believe in Heavenly Father (at least not in the Mormon sense) cannot, from a Mormon point of view, be called a true Christian despite the fact that they believe many true things.

Would any Latter-Day Saint like to clarify things for me?

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Filed under Apologetics, Ecclesiology, Mormonism Mondays