I’m currently reading a book called Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air. In it, Greg Koukl and Frank Beckwith offer a discussion of how we seem to have nothing grounding our morality anymore. One of the ways this has manifest itself, is the public school system and universities teaching something called “values clarification” (which I’ll have to barf up another day). So this morning I ask my 7th grade daughter if she’s ever heard this sort of terminology pop-up. I figure it would probably work its way into politically correct discussions in “wellness” class or something. “No,” says my daughter, “but my social studies teacher told us that Mormons are Christians yesterday.” I nearly had a conniption. Apparently somebody is getting their view of religious differences from mass media, secularists, and relativists who essentially take the position that all religions are the same. Nonsense.
Historically, a “Christian” is somebody who believes Jesus was God incarnate, and who is assumed to be the Messiah predicted in the pages of the Old Testament. Further, the Christian hopes to model his life after the teachings set forth by Jesus and his apostles. A “Christian” is not just somebody who believes there was a guy named Jesus. Even a lot of secularists will concede the historical point that a man named Jesus existed, but they most certainly won’t claim to be Christians. For the below, we’ll assume that a Christian could be described as a “follower of Christ”. Mormons do not fit this description. Rather than sticking with orthodox Christian theology, they follow a line of false prophets who have amended doctrine on a whim as it has suited them through history. Now, Mormons may claim Christianity for themselves, but I can call myself the King of England and that doesn’t make it so. If I were to make that claim, one ought to look into what it means to be a King of England. Even just a surface examination shows Mormon theology does not match Christian theology.
To begin with though, Mormonism is destroyed by its history before you ever even get to its theology, and this is relatively modern history so you don’t have to go back very far. Jesus is spoken highly of by ancient historians like Josephus, the biblical record itself, and you can find no account to the contrary. Unlike Jesus though, the “prophet” Joseph Smith Jr was a man of ill repute. Before Smith supposedly began having visions around 1820 and translating his alleged golden tablets in 1827, he had a habit of digging for buried treasure by means of “peep stones” or “divining rods”. However, the God of the Judeo-Christian texts takes a very dim view of this sort of practice (Deut 18:10). Joseph Smith later denied his involvement in such practices, but cannot escape it as historical fact. Even Smith’s own mother explains a story of how a fellow, “came for Joseph on account of having heard that he possessed certain means by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye”.
A gentleman named E.D. Howe, who researched Joseph Smith’s past while he was still alive, acquired a statement that was signed by sixty-two residents of Palmyra, New York where Smith grew up. It is interesting to note that there does not exist any testimony by people who knew the Smith family well which opposes the below characterization.
“We, the undersigned, have been acquainted with the Smith family for a number of years, while they resided near this place, and we have no hesitation in saying that we consider them destitute of that moral character which ought to entitle them to the confidence of any community. They were particularly famous for visionary projects; spent much of their time in digging for money which they pretended was hid in the earth, and to this day large excavations may be seen in the earth, not far from their residence, where they used to spend their time in digging for hidden treasures. Joseph Smith, Sr., and his son Joseph were, in particular, considered entirely destitute of moral character, and addicted to vicious habits.” (E.D. Howe, Mormonism Unveiled, p.261)
Further, Joseph Smith claims in his book “The Pearl of Great Price” that his colleague, Martin Harris, took partial copies of his “golden tablets” to a professor at Columbia University, Charles Anthon, who supposedly authenticated the Egyptian hieroglyphic characters. However, when Professor Anthon was contacted to confirm this story, he wrote back the following (E.D. Howe, Mormonism Unveiled):
New York, Feb. 17, 1834
I received this morning your favor of the 9th instant, and lose no time in making a reply. The whole story about my having pronounced the Mormonite inscription to be “reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics” is perfectly false. Some years ago, a plain, and apparently simple-hearted farmer, called upon me with a note from Dr. Mitchell of our city, now deceased, requesting me to decypher, if possible, a paper, which the farmer would hand me, and which Dr. M. confessed he had been unable to understand. Upon examining the paper in question, I soon came to the conclusion that it was all a trick, perhaps a hoax. When I asked the person, who brought it, how he obtained the writing, he gave me, as far as I can now recollect, the following account: A “gold book,” consisting of a number of plates of gold, fastened together in the shape of a book by wires of the same metal, had been dug up in the northern part of the state of New York, and along with the book an enormous pair of “gold spectacles“! These spectacles were so large, that, if a person attempted to look through them, his two eyes would have to be turned towards one of the glasses merely, the spectacles in question being altogether too large for the breadth of the human face. Whoever examined the plates through the spectacles, was enabled not only to read them, but fully to understand their meaning. All this knowledge, however, was confined at that time to a young man, who had the trunk containing the book and spectacles in his sole possession. This young man was placed behind a curtain, in the garret of a farm house, and, being thus concealed from view, put on the spectacles occasionally, or rather, looked through one of the glasses, decyphered the characters in the book, and, having committed some of them to paper, handed copies from behind the curtain, to those who stood on the outside. Not a word, however, was said about the plates having been decyphered “by the gift of God.” Every thing, in this way, was effected by the large pair of spectacles. The farmer added, that he had been requested to contribute a sum of money towards the publication of the “golden book,” the contents of which would, as he had been assured, produce an entire change in the world and save it from ruin. So urgent had been these solicitations, that he intended selling his farm and handing over the amount received to those who wished to publish the plates. As a last precautionary step, however, he had resolved to come to New York, and obtain the opinion of the learned about the meaning of the paper which he brought with him, and which had been given him as a part of the contents of the book, although no translation had been furnished at the time by the young man with the spectacles. On hearing this odd story, I changed my opinion about the paper, and, instead of viewing it any longer as a hoax upon the learned, I began to regard it as part of a scheme to cheat the farmer of his money, and I communicated my suspicions to him, warning him to beware of rogues. He requested an opinion from me in writing, which of course I declined giving, and he then took his leave carrying the paper with him. This paper was in fact a singular scrawl. It consisted of all kinds of crooked characters disposed in columns, and had evidently been prepared by some person who had before him at the time a book containing various alphabets. Greek and Hebrew letters, crosses and flourishes, Roman letters inverted or placed sideways, were arranged in perpendicular columns, and the whole ended in a rude delineation of a circle divided into various compartments, decked with various strange marks, and evidently copied after the Mexican Calender given by Humboldt, but copied in such a way as not to betray the source whence it was derived. I am thus particular as to the contents of the paper, inasmuch as I have frequently conversed with my friends on the subject, since the Mormonite excitement began, and well remember that the paper contained any thing else but “Egyptian Hieroglyphics.” Some time after, the same farmer paid me a second visit. He brought with him the golden book in print, and offered it to me for sale. I declined purchasing. He then asked permission to leave the book with me for examination. I declined receiving it, although his manner was strangely urgent. I adverted once more to the roguery which had been in my opinion practised upon him, and asked him what had become of the gold plates. He informed me that they were in a trunk with the large pair of spectacles. I advised him to go to a magistrate and have the trunk examined. He said the “curse of God” would come upon him should he do this. On my pressing him, however, to pursue the course which I had recommended, he told me that he would open the trunk, if I would take the “curse of God” upon myself. I replied that I would do so with the greatest willingness, and would incur every risk of that nature, provided I could only extricate him from the grasp of rogues. He then left me.
I have thus given you a full statement of all that I know respecting the origin of Mormonism, and must beg you, as a personal favor, to publish this letter immediately, should you find my name mentioned again by these wretched fanatics.
Yours respectfully, Charles Anthon
We could talk about how the tablets were supposedly translated by Smith who heard directly from God, repeated by his various assistants, and then finally copied down to ensure the accuracy of God’s words being recorded, yet future revisions were made by the LDS church to remove or correct various untenable parts (I guess God must have been mistaken on some parts of the translation in the first go-round). We could talk about how Joseph Smith could never get his story straight, doing things like mixing up the seemingly important name of the angel that supposedly visited him (Moroni or Nephi) in separate publications. We could talk about numerous crazy quotations by Smith like, “I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I.” We could talk about how the Book of Mormon plagiarizes the Book of Isaiah word for word, or how Mormonism can’t decide between monotheism and polytheism let alone monogamy and polygamy. However, we don’t need to talk about those things, even though there’s so much more that can be said, but perhaps another day.
The fact is the Mormon church is built on occult practices (Deut 18:10), lies (Col 3:9-10), false prophecy (Matt 7:15), and the pursuit of money and power (2 Peter 2:1-3). In order to subscribe to Mormon theology you have to be 1) intellectually dishonest and in it for the fame and fortune, or 2) uneducated and willing to let somebody else do all your thinking for you (in all fairness, I think a lot of Christians fall into this category too). I can’t vote for a guy like Mitt Romney because I think he falls in camp number one and therefore he can’t be trusted (really, which politician can though). I feel honestly bad for the people in camp 2, which is probably most Mormons. I think they’re just being taken advantage of. I can say that, for the most part, the Mormons I’ve met are super friendly, family oriented people with whom I have a lot in common. I’ve recently had conversations with LDS missionaries on the street and they are, for the most part, nice kids that have just been trained not to think for themselves and move on when they get challenged.
Not only is Mormonism historically bankrupt, and although Mormons I’ve known tend to be upstanding folks, they do not embrace the doctrine set forth by the teaching of Jesus and/or the early church. Instead, Mormons make up their own as they go by following the teachings of demonstratively fallible modern men (aka “prophets”), therefore, they are not Christians. I offered my daughter $5 to go back in and challenge her teacher on this ridiculous statement that was made as fact in a 7th grade social studies class. She accepted the challenge which made her teacher turn to Wikipedia for an education on the basics of historical Christianity and Mormonism. Maybe she’ll be properly informed the next time she decides to make such a bold claim.
Now I just have to come up with $5.