Because Joseph Said It Was True

Leviticus 18:18
Do not take your wife’s sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is living.

In March of 1843 Joseph Smith took two sisters, Emily and Eliza Partridge as polygamous wives. (Actually he married them twice but that’s another story.) In discussing Old Testament polygamy, defenders of latter-day polygamy are quick to point out the provisions and restrictions on polygamy listed in the Bible as justification.

As interesting as polygamy is, this post is not about that.

A problem I think Evangelicals and Mormons encounter in discussing Biblical doctrine is that we’re really not on the same playing field. We have different rules for its application. We Evangelicals want to show why Mormonism is false by illustrating through the Bible why Mormon doctrine is in contradiction to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. The slipperiness or non-existence of Mormon doctrine not withstanding, this is a difficult proposition.

It is difficult for one reason. Despite the fact that Mormons claim that the Bible is scripture and hold it up as such, the Bible will always take a seat when something Joseph Smith said or did comes in contradiction to it. Joseph can do or say anything because he says he’s a prophet with authority over the Bible. I point out the passage from Numbers as an illustration of this. Here on one hand, we have a clear Biblical passage restricting polygamous wives from being sisters. On our other hand we have Joseph Smith’s direct violation of this commandment. Mormons will wave this off quite simply by saying “But God commanded him to do it.”

So it seems that no matter how clearly the Bible might or might not illuminate to us that there is and only will be ONE God, it’s generally fruitless for me to point it out because Joseph was told something different. Mormons will always hold the words of Joseph Smith over the words of the Bible.

What troubles me about that is that I have friends who are willing to reject teachings of the Bible in favor of something one man merely says Gold told him. There is no evidence for any of Joseph’s revelation whether it is the plurality of gods or the plurality of wives that anyone experienced other than Joseph Smith. The only thing anyone has ever had to go on is “because Joseph said it was true” (and perhaps “I’ve got a good feeling about it”).

I could point out Biblical passages which instruct us to accept new prophecy only when it conforms to scripture. But here again, there’s no point in directing Mormons to the Bible, as long as Joseph tells them that his new revelations supercede scripture and they decide to take his word for it.

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59 thoughts on “Because Joseph Said It Was True

  1. I take it you reject that Jacob was a prophet, since he married sisters. (Genesis 29:14-30).

  2. It may be obvious to you (speaking to Tim here), but it’s not obvious to me that Joseph Smith’s teachings contradict the Bible.

    As to the specifics mentioned: Well, I’d be lying if I said that I don’t have any problems with polygamy as it was practiced by Joseph Smith; I’m still sorting that one out. But I don’t see the restriction on marrying sisters as any more binding than the following verse, where it is prohibited to have sex with a woman who is menstruating.

    And as to the plurality of the Gods: 1) The Bible doesn’t consistently support a strict definition of monogamy. 2) Most if not all of Joseph Smith’s statements suggesting a plurality of the Gods have never been canonized and aren’t binding on members of the church.

    I don’t see anything Joseph Smith said as superseding the Bible, certainly not beyond the New Testament superseding the Old. I see many of the church’s teachings as adding to the Bible or suggesting an interpretation of it, which isn’t the same as contradicting it. But I am unable to think of any part of the Bible I don’t believe in (although I recognize there may be historical mistakes that are unimportant to my salvation, there likely were errors and omissions in transmission, and portions aren’t meant to be understood literally).

  3. Stephen,

    When did Jacob live? When was Leviticus written?

    Kullervo,

    At least the Israelites had the benefit of seeing the cloud and the pillar of smoke that led them, they also experienced the plaques and experience the events of Mt Sinai from the base and were too scared to approach. Granted they had no idea what God really said to Moses, but they at least knew something was really happening.

    Eric,
    If Joseph teachings don’t contradict the Bible, why is it important to say they aren’t canonized?

  4. A few thoughts…

    Do we have any evidence that Joseph had sexual relations with these women? You may call me naive to think he may not have, and I really don’t have aproblem with it if he did (except for the wives that were married to other men, I would have problem with that), but it just isn’t clear how many or which of josephs marriages involved a sexual relationship. I can cite the fact that few (if any? again, I am no scholar and am open to being linked to where it says otherwise) children were ever born of him by anyone other than Emma as, at least circumstancial, evidence. But even if it were the case that he had, eric brings up a good point, which is that this verse applies to restrictions within the Law of Moses, and do not necessarily apply to future generations.

    could point out Biblical passages which instruct us to accept new prophecy only when it conforms to scripture

    Would these passages be from the new testament? What prophecy and/or scripture would they refer to? Because there has to be a strict temporal cut-off point, otherwise it would invalidate the very first scripture, and thus all scripture. In other words, how could the writings of moses (the first scripture of the bible) conform to scripture if no previous cannonized scripture existed?

    What troubles me about that is that I have friends who are willing to reject teachings of the Bible in favor of something one man merely says Gold told him.

    The truth of the matter is, with all scripture and with all prophets, we are accepting the words of men who merely say that God told them such and such. We rarely have evidence except what the self-same prophet provided us (such as “evidence” provided about the day of pentecost). The same sorts of experiences abound in the records of early (and current, for that matter) LDS members and the church in general, but you see them as invalid, because they were written by men, and no evidence exists. I would love to see your evidence that the day of pentacost events actually took place, thus validating the words of the Apostles as more than just that, words.

    I think it is overly simplistic to say that we accept what he taught simply because he “said it was true” or because we had a “good feeling” about it. I think we could characterize all religious belief the same way, including your own. On what do you base your faith, if not on what someone (prophet, apostle, pastor, teacher, priest, best friend, mother, what-have-you) told you or/combined with some set of “good feelings/spiritual affirmations”?

  5. “When did Jacob live? When was Leviticus written?”

    But don’t you see Tim, that is exactly the problem.

    Evangelicals are trying to dredge up these Israelite prohibitions and apply them a couple thousand years into the future.

    So obviously, you think this verse has a certain timelessness in its application, am I right?

    So why are you now unwilling to apply the restriction back in time to Jacob?

    If the principle is correct, isn’t it as correct for Jacob as for Joseph? Regardless of when it was written?

    Or is it just remotely possible that God tailors different rules for different human societies?

  6. At least the Israelites had the benefit of seeing the cloud and the pillar of smoke that led them, they also experienced the plaques and experience the events of Mt Sinai from the base and were too scared to approach. Granted they had no idea what God really said to Moses, but they at least knew something was really happening.

    Says who? Is there one shred of corroborating evidence for those events? The same source that claims that Moses got revelation on Sinai tells us that a bunch of Israelites saw the evidence. That’s… pretty convenient.

  7. Frofreak,

    Would it really matter to you if Joseph had sex with his wives? Would you really change your mind about any of it based on that? Why would it be a problem if he were having sex with married women? Wouldn’t you just say that God was giving a new set of principles for people to live by today?

    Seth,
    I don’t think Jacob’s (or anyone else’s) polygamy was righteous, but I do think it was permitted. I think Paul sets up a model of prohibition on polygamy that is still in effect. It is the apologist of modern polygamy that point to the OT as justification. If the justifications apply then so should the restrictions.

    F, S & K,
    Mormons and Evangelicals agree that the Bible is true and authoritative. That’s our baseline of agreement. If someone wants to add something else that trumps that authority, I think the burden of proof is on them. This post is about the fruitlessness of pointing to Biblical authority when something else is going to trump it.

    It’s slightly off the point, but I trust the Bible because I believe the historical accounts of the resurrection of Christ are reliable and trustworthy. The rest of my belief concerning the Bible stems from there.

    I’m quite content with believing the words of someone else. I believe the words of the Gospel writers. But I don’t think “just because I said so” is enough to justify following someone who is setting themselves up as prophet.

  8. Thing is, with polygamy, I honestly don’t have a problem with the bare idea of polygamy. The thought that I might have more than one wife in the afterlife, or conversely, that my wife might have more than one husband does not particularly bug me.

    The only reason these sorts of things are repugnant to us now are due to feelings of possessiveness, insecurity, and jealousy. These are powerful emotions and the reality of them is such that I just don’t see polygamy as a practical option for most people, myself included. But we can expect that these emotions will not have the same play in the afterlife.

    For myself, I do not believe that the human heart only has room for one person. I would expect the eternities to reflect that. What are we to say of a man who loses one wife to mishap or sickness and then remarries (or to a woman who loses a husband and then remarries for that matter)? Are they supposed to choose which one they loved more?

    The LDS already practice polygamy in this sense, and the doctrine never was refuted (it’s just not mortally practiced anymore). If you believe that the family structure endures beyond the grave, then you are almost compelled by necessity to allow God and His children the flexibility to structure things for the best, regardless of human prejudice, weakness, or social constraints.

    For me, the eternal doctrine of polygamy is not something ugly, but says something beautiful about human relationships and the reality of the family in the eternities. It’s a doctrine I like in its conception (not necessarily in its mortal application) and I actually do believe that Joseph Smith was divinely commanded to practice it. I believe this was a source of great anguish for him and for many of the other men who were commanded to do it. It was an Abrahamic trial for them – much like Abraham being ordered to give up Isaac. It was a trial for the saints as well and they suffered greatly for it. But I believe it was of God and in the end, it will stand as a witness that God’s ways are not our ways and there are greater things in store for us than our current petty concerns.

    The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath, as Jesus pointed out.

    So to with marriage. Marriage was made for us, not we for marriage. Marriage structure is not immutable. God can change it. I would assert that He has and that He will.

    So yes, I internally add quite a bit more to the polygamy question than a mere “Joseph said so.”

  9. I don’t think I was ever taught to believe anything in the church just because Joseph said so. There have been well reasoned defenses of polygamy based on the Bible alone. (certainly nothing in the Book of Mormon can help support the doctrine).

    I think one problem with the debate is that although Mormons believe the Bible is authoritative, they don’t see it with the same rose colored glasses that some evangelicals due. The bible is riddled with with strangeness, unexplained complexities, contradictions. Mormons acknowledge this while admitting that it contains the word of God. Mormons, in principle ultimately judge whether Joseph was a prophet by the same standard that they judge the veracity and authority of the Bible, i.e. by a spiritual witness supported by available evidence and reason.

    If I see something in Joseph’s conduct that was strange, i.e. when he married women, and bore children with them while they were married to other men, because and angel told him to, this doesn’t necessarily negate other things he said, nor do the other revelations justify this conduct.

    Just as I can judge different passages of the Bible as either from God or just one-sided history of the Isrealites. (I personally don’t believe the God I worship told the Isrealites to kill every man, woman and child, goat and dog in Jericho) You can also judge some of what Joseph said and did to be misguided, sinful or wrong without throwing out everything he said and saw.

    I admit Mormons are not likely to be cognizant or accepting of the full extant of Joseph’s sex life. But for most it really is, and should be, irrelevant to their faith in the other doctrine.

  10. I think the whole story of Jacob in the OT is just illustrative that you don’t have to be a good husband, or a good father, to be a prophet.

  11. Tim, I think that by dismissing the personal spiritual experiences that people have as just ‘good feelings’, you’re doing them a disservice. Did I believe Joseph Smith because he said to? No. I joined the church because I had incredibly powerful spiritual experiences that I still believe came from God that led me on that path.

    Were those ‘good feelings’? Yes. But that very much minimizes what have been some of the most significant trials and periods in my life.

  12. Tim, “At least the Israelites had the benefit of seeing the cloud and the pillar of smoke that led them… [but Mormons didn’t].” Easy there. I think you discount a lot of people’s experiences (e.g. the temple dedication in Kirtland).

    As for historical evidence…. You’ve brought this up before. I have to admit that I’m surprised by how important it is to you (please don’t take “surprised” as an insult—as you say, I approach my faith and religion differently). How does this idea fit for someone living in Ephesus in AD 45? Or Corinth? Or Rome? Did they have anything more than just Paul’s testimony? I don’t think they had archeological/historical records. Did their embrace of Christianity (and semi-rejection of Judaism) amount to “Because Paul Said It Was True”?

  13. Tim,

    I explicitely said that it wouldn’t bother me if he had had sex with them, for just some of the reasons you mentioned. Check my post. I only mentioned that there is no real evidence that he had had sex with them in response to the verse you cited, which mentions sexual relations with the sister plural wives as being part of the prohibition. But it is unimportant.

    You state later:

    “I’m quite content with believing the words of someone else. I believe the words of the Gospel writers. But I don’t think “just because I said so” is enough to justify following someone who is setting themselves up as prophet.”

    I’ll agree with others, that no one (at least no one here) is arguing that we take Joseph as a prophet because he said so–therein lies the over-simplification I referred to earlier. And honestly, I don’t think you can claim that we are accepting Joseph’s word “because he says so”, but that you accept Paul’s words for “legitimate” reasons, and retain intellectual honesty. I think a prophet is a prophet, whether we accept them or not. That fact that you accept Moses as a prophet is in no way more valid than my accepting JS (and Moses) as a prophet (based on no more “evidence”), except that you believe JS to be a fraud, so obviously my criteria for determining he is a prophet must be flawed, since you don’t buy it. And I am still waiting for someone from the evangelical community to give a convincing explaination of where the doctrine came which claims that there would be no prophets needed or no revalation after John the revelator, since that seems to be the most common bases for dismissing off hand the possibility that God may continue to call prophets today.

  14. “As for historical evidence…. You’ve brought this up before. I have to admit that I’m surprised by how important it is to you (please don’t take “surprised” as an insult—as you say, I approach my faith and religion differently). How does this idea fit for someone living in Ephesus in AD 45? Or Corinth? Or Rome? Did they have anything more than just Paul’s testimony? I don’t think they had archeological/historical records. Did their embrace of Christianity (and semi-rejection of Judaism) amount to “Because Paul Said It Was True”?” (BrianJ)

    A valid point, indeed.

  15. I have to agree with the others that to say that we accept something as overriding scripture simply because “the prophet said so” is mischaracterizing things a bit. If we believed everything simply because the prophet said so, we’d believe in the Adam-God doctrine (taught by Brigham Young), yet Young’s views on that matter were, at least over the long term, pretty much ignored.

    Seth — I appreciate your comments on polygamy. It gives me a different way of looking at (or at least thinking about) it.

  16. Brian, read I Corinthians 15. Paul sets the resurrection up as a historical fact and THE reason to believe in Christ. He encourages the Corinthians to ask the witnesses of the event themselves and names several of the most prominent of the 500 people who experienced the risen Christ (although some had already died). He doesn’t offer personal spiritual experience in any of his epistles as a way to know that his story is true (despite having had a profound spiritual experience himself).

    What did those at the Kirtland temple later have to say about Joseph while under financial despair? What did those at the Ascension later have to say about Jesus while under torture and death?

    Frofreak said:
    And I am still waiting for someone from the evangelical community to give a convincing explaination of where the doctrine came which claims that there would be no prophets needed or no revalation after John the revelator, since that seems to be the most common bases for dismissing off hand the possibility that God may continue to call prophets today.

    I’m not going to claim that God is not still speaking through prophets and prophecy, in fact I believe he most certainly is. But all of those continuing prophesies need to be set aside if they differ from scripture. Canonizing those new prophesies is another thing altogether.

    Seth,
    I’m resisting as best I can your comments on polygamy. Because I need to remind myself that this post is not about polygamy. But two quick things: 1)I think you mistakenly call righteous jealousy wickedness. See this previous post on that subject. 2) Interesting that Abraham didn’t have to follow through with his test of faith, but all of those involved in modern polygamy did.

    ——————————————————————————————————–

    Truly my apologies to all if I too quickly disqualify or flippantly toss aside your personal spiritual experiences. I have my own spiritual experiences and recognize how important they are to my own faith. Though I share those experiences I don’t approach my faith making them the main reason I believe. In my efforts to “cut to the chase” I need to be careful to be sensitive to those whose faith is different than my own.

  17. That misses the point Tim, that Abraham was fully ready and willing to kill his own son with a knife.

    If the angel had not stopped him, he would have. Granted, God did not require him to follow through. But then, polygamy is not analogous to murder.

    I understand what you are trying to say about jealousy. I realize it is described in the Bible as one of the attributes of God. But I really don’t think that the jealousy I’m speaking of and the jealousy of God are the same thing. Neither is the call to worship only one God really analogous to the mandate to be married to only one woman.

  18. BrianJ,

    I appologize if I missunderstood. You comment gave me food for thought nonetheless.

  19. I think the best description of the LDS conception of knowing the truth comes from Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:

    And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.. . .
    ….
    . . . But as it is written:
    “ Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
    Nor have entered into the heart of man
    The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

    But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. . .

    Spoken like a true Mormon.

    The primacy of the Spirit and experience by the Spirit is critical and biblical and the most important element of the Mormonism I was taught. The Spirit can override what Joseph says and what Paul says. My question to Evangelicals is, why not trust the Spirit over some scholar’s biblical exegesis?

    Wouldn’t Paul?

  20. Jared,

    That’s a great scripture, but you can’t take it in isolation from where Paul says in the same letter that if none of it is actually true then our faith is futile and we’re to be pitied over all men. Our spiritual experiences being grounded in reality is important.

    There is a group of people that have tremendous spiritual experiences that testify to them that aliens visited a man named Rael. There’s also a group of people who believe an evil Galactic overlord named Xenu threw us into volcanoes and bombed our spirits. They too have spiritual testimonies that it is true. This is why we take Paul’s advice and test the Spirit.

    As far as I can tell, the belief that Jews migrated to the Americas and that Joseph Smith was able to translate Egyptian scrolls is grounded in as much reality as a spaceship that’s coming to rapture us hiding behind a nearby comet.(we don’t just have a lack of evidence for those things, we have contradictory evidence).

    If the LDS church had any actual physical evidence that supported its truth claims I can guarantee you that it would be leading with that in its evangelism.

  21. Good point, but doesn’t Adam and Eve story look just as crazy as the Scientology example when you step back a bit? The only reason it doesn’t sound crazy is that it is too familiar. Mark Twain, for one, masterfully, and entertainingly reduces this account to absurdity.

    Those that believe the Bible to be true because of some sort of scientific or historical evidence strike me as naive, ignorant or or dishonest. Every passage of the bible that has any religious significance is woefully unsupported by solid scientific or historical evidence. There may be some, slim historical evidence that there was a Moses, but none that he parted the red sea or received the law of God from His mouth.

    Evangelicals seem try to claim the “rational” high ground over Mormons by arguing from the Bible alone and discount reliance on spiritual experiences. However there is nothing in the Bible that says that it is the “inerrent” word of God and nothing even close to scientific evidence that establishes its religious significance.

    Ultimately Paul himself was converted not by testimony of the Christians that Jesus was resurrected, but a powerful spiritual experience. By all accounts, he was fanatically anti-christian prior to that experience, despite having heard the testimonies of those who saw the resurrected Jesus. But for his spiritual experience he would have been convinced by the biblical interpretation that Jesus was not the Messiah.

  22. Also, Mormons have a lot of scholarship to support the Book of Mormon, almost none of it is used in evangelism. FARMS is really a side show, even though some think its scholarship is ahead of those opposing the church.

    I think its pretty much the same way with every Christian church I have run into. Who has real proof of the resurrection that is not spiritual? The bible itself is third-hand hearsay. Does any serious Christian sect leat with the “historical” evidence of Jesus’ divinity?

  23. Tim—thanks for the reply. I want to take some time thinking this over, but I’m swamped on several fronts right now. Please accept this as a “bookmark” until I can come back. (P.S. I’m not waiting for time to drum up a counter-argument; I’m really interested in your position because it is quite different from my own.)

  24. No no. You’re the ones making the outrageous claims. I’m calling you on it: FARMS has virtually nothing. Pony up if you know otherwise.

  25. Brian,

    I appreciate your willingness to understand my approach to faith. I’m pretty much mimicing Mormon-friendly Craig Hazen.

    You can listen to a lecture of his here about how Christianity is testable and objectively true. He specifically mentions Mormonism in this talk.

    [audio src="http://calvarylife.org/explore/podcast/apologetics/hazen.mp3" /]

  26. I am curious about the converstation regarding the Bible and the assertion of its infallibility and authority in all matters pertaining to whether a religion is true or not.

    It appears from historical record that “the pope was dethroned and the Bible was enthroned’ by the European reformers of the 16th and 17th centuries. The reformers claimed in different manners that the Roman church was apostate in its teachings and therefore its authority. The reformers then had a need to replace the authority that they had thrown down with the church in order to defend their” new” beliefs. The only available place they could go for a defendable position on this new doctrine was to claim that their new authority came solely from the “Word of God.”

    It is interesting to me that when participants are separated from actual events by a significant time, how absolute their position becomes. The early controversies that surrounded these early events of the Protestant reformation are diminished by the fog of forgetfulness.

    If your argument today is that every word in the Bible is the true and absolute Word of God and therefore if someone’s belief contradicts the Bible, they and their beliefs are fatally wrong, I ask you from which Bible (what auhority) do you make your claim?

    Isn’t it true that there are many Bibles and that they all differ in content and meaning. Even if your current scripture is the result of translation using earlier versions of different text, what then was wrong with those earlier scriptures that they had to be retranslated?

    And finally, if today you claim that your authority comes solely from the Bible, it being the word of God, how can you reconcile that you have the truth today when it surely was not the claim by any in the early churches that existed much closer in time and proximity to the Savior and his disciples, that their authority came solely from the Bible?

    Your thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated.

  27. I think that the typical claim is that the general message of virtually every translation is identical. The differences between “different Bibles” are not nearly so prevalent as is claimed.

    The Word of God is the Bible as originally given, thus the better a translation is, the closer it is to God’s word. But even then, the exact wording is rarely as important as the message, God’s meaning.

    For the record, I don’t necessarily agree with any of this; i’m jsut summing up the position as I understand it, and indicating that I think it is not an unreasonable position.

  28. Wulfstan,

    I think you’ve overstating our case for the Bible a little bit, but I’d love to answer your question. Unfortunately I am headed out of the country for the next 10 days. I’ll try to answer you sometime after that.

  29. Interesting point, but what I understand historically about the reformation period is that the “established” religion of the day was claiming that the new Bible based Protestant theologies were heretical in nature and thereby lacked the authority required authenticate itself as a viable entity.

    Your claim that the differences of the various Bibles are not important so long as the messages are the same seems like a bit of sophistry to me. I hear evangelicals everywhere, even in the Republican Presidential debate last night, state categorically that every word in the Bible as being true, not every message in the Bible being true.

    How can one speak from what appears to be both sides of ones mouth and still claim divine authority? How can one claim that present translations made at a time further from when the actual events occurred be more correct than the words that were written contemporaneously with the actual events and participants?

    We don’t know the context in which all these various Bibles were translated, but with some of them we do. For example, the King James Version was translated / written by men wanting to protect their own religious standing and position and that of the Anglican Church through a new King who was wanting to secure his authority over a kingdom and, at the same time, subordinate the Puritan and Roman Catholic encroachment into the political and theological institutions of the day.

    Finally, when all is said and done, the only thing that matters is to leave it up to “God’s meaning”, not his word.

    This is where you lose me.

    Can you see my dilemma? I don’t see how you can claim the necessary authority to condemn another’s beliefs based on what you say is the intended meaning of God. Especially when you state that your conclusions are solely based on “your” interpretation of what someone else, for whatever reason, concluded should or should not be included into the text as a representation of God’s word.

    It’s not that I’m saying the Bible isn’t the word of God. It’s just that I have difficulty with people who claim that every word of the Bible is infallible and that if a belief contradicts the word then you are wrong, when what is really happening is that the belief appears to contradict an interpretation of a message attributed to God.

    I think that baptism might be a good example of what I am trying to say here. It might be argued that in the not so near future baptism might not be considered a requirement for Christian belief. To accept Christ as your Savior will in itself suffice, even though Christ himself was baptized in order to fulfill the law.

    Ultimately you can’t have it both ways, if you try you could end up being just as wrong as anyone else.

  30. Again, you’re confusing the issue.

    Yes, some Christian Fundamentalists believe that one particular version of the Bible (often the King James Version) is literally word-for-word exactly how God intended it to be.

    That’s not all Protestants, or even all Evangelicals.

  31. Kullervo,

    Again thanks for the response. I guess what I am really asking is how can Evangelicals and Protestants claim their authority from scripture when that was not the claim by anyone for the first 1500+ years of Christianity after Christ?

    I hope I’m being too obtuse, but I feel that this is a key issue for me regarding any religious belief structure. I’m not so hung up on the word v. message thing as I am about the Bible being the sole source of authority for anyone to interpret how they may, a specific part to the scripture, and bam, you have a preacher off in east Texas preaching his version of the truth on TV and asking people to send him money.

  32. Interesting discussion.

    What have the LDS had to say regarding the Book of Abraham actually being “translated” from Egyptian Book of the Dead papyri and the American Indians’ DNA not coming close to matching anything that could be construed as the lost tribes of Israel?

    We’ve got a bit of a discussion going on in the Conversation With A Mormon series at http://rei-resource.com/blog/ if anyone would care to chime in.

    Blessings all around,

    Bruce
    http://christiansoldiersonline.org

  33. Tim:

    Even if there is objective evidence that Jesus appeared after his crucifixion, how can this ratify Evangelicalism (to the exclusion of Mormonism), or even necessarily Chrisianity. I listened to Hazen’s recording. I agree that Christianity, as a religion based in History is essentially connected to historical facts to support its claims. The problem is, of course, that all the historical and present facts to not point to Christianity’s veracity, hence there is no “scientific” proof of Christianity even if it is objectively true.

    Placing your faith fundamentally in a certain interpretation of certain historical witnesses seems like a weak alternative to present direction of the Spirit of God. E.g. Jesus’ appearance after the crucifixion does not prove the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, the veracity of Paul’s claims, the authority of Paul to propound Christian doctrine etc.

    (Muslims affirm the divine calling of Jesus but often deny that he actually died on the cross or that he was revived by the power of God after he was taken down)

    Fundamentally, Paul is on the same footing as Joseph in his ability to propound Christian, they both claim to have been called by a visionary appearance of Jesus. There is an assumption that Paul could fill in the gaps that Jesus left doctrinally. Paul is not teaching what Jesus taught, he is teaching something very much expanded from the often cryptic teachings of the parables. To accept his epistles as scripture you have to assume that he had Divine direction by the Spirit in the way similar to what Joseph claims to have had rather than a simple reliance on historical facts. The only solid testimony of Paul’s divine calling came from his own lips.

    Also:

    In the context of the Mormon/Evangelical Debate- Mormonism is on the same footings as Evangelicals, it is intimately connected to a strange history that is filled with outrageous claims that are hard to square with the totality of the historical/scientific record. From an outsider’s standpoint are the differences on this front marginal at best?

  34. The fact that mainline Christianity’s faith claims have been around a couple millenia seems to make them more respectable than Mormonism’s.

    But it doesn’t make them any more credible, or less fantastic.

  35. Mainline Christianity’s only been around since the Protestant Reformation, so 500 years more or less. Don’t confuse your categories.

    But Jared makes good points about Paul.

  36. When I say it, I mean the “main line” of traditional world Christianity – which of course, includes the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox.

  37. “Oh, then you’re using a word in an atypical way, and to mean something else other than what it generally is accepted to mean. Don;t be surprised when people get confused.” Sounds a lot like an argument I read on this blog a while ago, but on a different topic. (The term was “Christian” and the question “Are Mormons Christian?”)

  38. No offense taken. Words don’t have meanings inscribed into the tablets of the cosmos, but language isn’t completely malleable either.

    The difference is that in the “Are Mormons Christian” debate, we were talking about two commonly used, overlapping but non-identical meanings for the term “Christian.” Evangelicals use “Christian” to mean something more specific than Anthropologists probably do, but both are legitimate definitions in common use among different groups.

    Here, we’re talking about Seth using a word in a unique way, i.e. making up a definition. If lots of people use Seth’s definition, it will gain legitimacy, but it will still be confusing when you use it when talking descriptively about Christian denominations, because the word already has a different meaning when used in that context.

  39. Kullervo – Oh, I appreciated the subtle differences between the two discussions. And I agree, for the most part, with how you parse them in #45. My one _small_ reservation is this: I think Evangelical (and Catholic) scholars “use ‘Christian’ to mean something more specific than” most common or lay people do.

    Seth misused “main-line” and made it more inclusive than it is normally understood to be. It’s debatable what happened to the term “Christian”: have scholars made it less inclusive, or have average Joes made it more inclusive?

    (My apologies for feeding this threadjack)

  40. I don;t think it;s scholars at all. I think it’s the common theological understanding of most Evangelicals and many Protestants.

  41. Look, maybe I’m just an uncultured hick on this, but I don’t see how you can leave Roman Catholicism out of the word “mainline” just on a commonsense basis.

    Sure, you could probably leave out Mormons, but Catholics?

  42. Seth, my understanding of it is that Roman Catholicism is its own division of traditional Christianity. It isn’t being “left out” because the RC church is one of the three major divisions of traditional Christianity. Orthodox is another. Protestantism (according to my understanding of it) is divided into Mainline and Evangelical. (I’m lumping Pentacostals, Fundamentalists, and Evangelicals all together.)

  43. “I don;t think it;s scholars at all. I think it’s the common theological understanding of most Evangelicals and many Protestants.”

    I’ll admit that I could be wrong on this—my opinion is based on personal experience, not scientifically sound polling. That is, of the active and semi-active Evangelical, Catholic, Methodist, etc. people I have talked to who are not scholars (or pretend scholars; e.g. bloggers), every one of them used “Christian” to mean “following the guy named Jesus in the NT and accepting his divinity”; as opposed to “non-Christian” which means “Not believing that Jesus ever lived or merely viewing him as a prophet or rabbi.” In fact, as soon as I make it clear that I believe and read the NT, my Christianity is no longer suspect, though my application of it still is.

  44. Generally, Mainline refers to Protestant denominations like the Lutherans, Methodists, and Episcopalians. “Mainline Protestant” is distinct from Evangelical and Fundamentalist.

    Its a subcategory of Protestantism.

    Yeah, the word “mainline” in common usage can mean the same thing as “mainstream,” but when discussing religious denominations, it has a specific application. That’s not to say that Evangelicals and Catholics aren’t in the mainstream. Like I said, it’s a term of art.

    If you mean mainstream, say mainstream. If you mean Mainline, say Mainline. It’s less confusing.

  45. Quote:
    “What troubles me about that is that I have friends who are willing to reject teachings of the Bible in favor of something one man merely says Gold told him. There is no evidence for any of Joseph’s revelation whether it is the plurality of gods or the plurality of wives that anyone experienced other than Joseph Smith. The only thing anyone has ever had to go on is “because Joseph said it was true” (and perhaps “I’ve got a good feeling about it”).”

    You are mistaken. Please read the introduction to the Book of Mormon, where you will find the testimony of 3 witnesses and the testimony of 8 witnesses. The 3 witnesses had a heavenly visitors attest to them of the divinity of the Book of Mormon and they touched and interacted with the golden plates. The 3 witnesses were well regarded as men of truthfulness and honesty. All 3 were eventually excommunicated from the church (two returned before they died), but this notwithstanding, none of them ever denied their testimony of the Book of Mormon and all actively sought to express their witness of the truthfulness of what they had experienced (even when excommunicated).

    The 8 witnesses all felt and saw the golden plates. NONE of them denied their witness though some fell away. See http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/book_of_mormon/witnesses.html for additional writing on this topic.

    Another example, D&C 76, a vision where Joseph saw Jesus Christ, was also witnessed by Sydney Rigdon. He fell away from the church, but never denied his vision.

    There are other examples, but the claim that “There is no evidence for any of Joseph’s revelations” have corroborating evidence is completely false.

  46. The Witness’s testimonies absolutely do not corroborate Joseph Smith’s specific revelations. The Testimony of the 8 witnesses in particular is problematic: they only testified of the existence of golden plates, and the measurements and weights they gave were shockingly divergent. Plus, they were certainly not disinterested witnesses–most of them were in Joseph’s family.

    But the point is, the existence of some golden plates corroborates the Book of Mormon, not Joseph Smith’s revelations. Especially not Polygamy.

  47. Actually, only 3 of the 8 were Smiths. If it was a family conspiracy, how did they get Cowdrey, Harris, Whitmer, a bunch of Whitmers, and a Page to go along with it, never denying their testimonies?

    Harris is a particularly striking example. He mortgaged his farm and supplied the cash to publish the Book of Mormon. He apostatized during the Kirtland period, yet never sought to get any money back, nor did he seek to “out” Joseph as a fraud.

    What is the source of their “shockingly” divergent description of the dimensions? It’s not like there was a TV reporter waiting outside the door of the cabin interviewing them as they exited after seeing the plates. My guess is they all recalled years later in personal histories.

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