Obsessed with Christ

This is a response to  Steven E. Webb on Mormonism’s obsession with Christ.

“I have come to repent of this view, and not just because I came to my senses about how wrong it is to be rude toward somebody else’s faith. I changed my mind because I came to realize just how deeply Christ-centered Mormonism is. Mormonism is more than Christianity, of course—most obviously by adding the Book of Mormon to the Bible—and that makes it much less than Christianity as well. Nevertheless, the fact that Mormonism adds to the traditional Christian story does not necessarily mean that it detracts from Christianity to the point of denying it altogether.

After all, what gives Christianity its identity is its commitment to the divinity of Jesus Christ. And on that ground Mormons are more Christian than many mainstream Christians who do not take seriously the astounding claim that Jesus is the Son of God.

Mormonism is obsessed with Christ, and everything that it teaches is meant to awaken, encourage, and expand faith in him. It adds to the plural but coherent portrait of Jesus that emerges from the four gospels in a way, I am convinced, that does not significantly damage or deface that portrait.”

Does anybody have an idea how common this logic is used to support the church? I think it is honest, but unsettling. I am with Chesterton on this:

“[T]he next best thing to being really inside Christendom is to be really outside it. And aparticular point of it is that the popular critics of Christianity are not really outside it. They are on a debatable ground, in every sense of the term. They are doubtful in their very doubts.”

Yikes, sounds a lot like my boy Uchtdorf.

I think Mormons need to be wary of anything that is “much less” than Christianity. Anything less Christian than the run-of-the-mill non-Catholicism that parades around as Protestantism needs to be highly questioned.  The Church needs to become closer to the type of Christian Joseph Smith was, however ironic that sounds.  It seems like Joseph Smith simply shot a bunch of charismatic and smart guys on an incredible trajectory.  They did amazing things and all that, but can they really settle for something “LESS” than the Christianity of legend?

Advertisements

143 thoughts on “Obsessed with Christ

  1. I appreciate the thoughts. I think that takes courage to say what you said. I am a member of the church of Jesus Christ, and I do have a few comments or thoughts about mormons being “much less than Christian”. Just to give you a second perspective or help you see how we might view the Book of Mormon and the Bible working together. It seems that the biggest reason you mentioned for Mormon’s being much less than Christian is because we believe in additional stories of Christ that evangelicals think don’t think actually happened. I think there is a great Biblical verse that shows how we view this topic: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” (John 21:25).

    My question for you is: if you had an accurate record of these countless things that Christ did, would you believe in them? If they are truly the acts and teachings of Christ, our Savior, of course you would! Even if these acts aren’t specified in the Bible. We believe the Book of Mormon is just that. I don’t think the real question is if it is in the Bible or not, but the real question is whether it is true or not. For the Bible itself testifies that His works are without number. So how do we know if it is true?

    I can promise that the Book of Mormon has brought me closer to Christ. It has brought me an increase of peace, self control, and love for my family. By his fruits, I have come to know the prophet Joseph Smith is a prophet of God.

  2. Nick, thanks for sharing your belief. I once had the same testimony. I honestly think that the Book of Mormon can be the word of God to people but I also tend to think, like Webb, that it is “much less than” traditional Christianity on some important points.

    I don’t think the real question is if it is in the Bible or not, but the real question is whether it is true or not. For the Bible itself testifies that His works are without number. So how do we know if it is true?

    The argument you are making is sound. The story of history is not exact and it is created by those in the present. I think it is reasonable to believe the Book of Mormon to be the “word of God” because the view of Christ it may leave you with might enlighten you of your salvation in Christ. However, I question whether the more expansive history of Jesus actually adds to the message rather than takes away from it. Joseph Smith was clearly unnerved by the suggestion that those before Christ did not know of him, considering how important this information was. When this stopped bothering me, I saw Jesus very differently, as a revolutionary rather than as someone who was repeating a lost truth. I think because he was a revolutionary, we have to be careful about his message, and be very selective on what we call his Gospel, otherwise we will be instituting something that will lead us from the promise of God that he claimed to fulfill. I would not want to settle for less than that message, even if it came from a prophet. The prophets of the old testament are valuable, but they also had less than the Christian message. I think Mormons should recognize that they can fully embrace the traditional Christian Gospel without jettisoning the Book of Mormon if they subordinate the amazing messages of that book with the more simple message of the traditional Christian faith.

  3. First, Steven, thank you very much for your repentance! 🙂 Repentance is always most desireable and helpful, for all of us.

    Allow me a little sidenote to your “sounds a lot like my boy Uchtdorf” (and please forgive me for not trying an in-depth-analysis of your valuable contributions in this and other contexts), as I see the following detail as most crucial in our relevant interactions: For many years already (close to four decades) I have been very interested in, and actively building bridges between Christians of different faith tradtions. What I have learned during that time is that the basis of mutual understanding is mutual respect. It makes sense then to ask ourselves if certain wordings reflect mutual respect, respect that everybody deserves, especially as (even) the God I/we desire to serve is no respecter of persons (Romans 2: 11). I have known Dieter F. Uchtdorf personally for more than 21 years now, and I realize that most of us, if not all, may only dream of one day growing up to become such a “boy” as “Uchtdorf”.

    Thanks for all you do to build a basis of mutual respect in our interactions,as we surely still have some way to go to reach more in-depth mutual understanding.

  4. “I can promise that the Book of Mormon has brought me closer to Christ. It has brought me an increase of peace, self control, and love for my family. By his fruits, I have come to know the prophet Joseph Smith is a prophet of God.”

    Just by way of comparison, the obsession for Jesus gets lost in comments like this. Whether or not Nick is closer to Jesus the emphasis on faith could be argued to be that Smith is a prophet, not that Jesus is Lord.

  5. Markus G,

    It seems you like my boy Uchtdorf too. I am delighted he is doubtful in his doubts and doubting of dubious doctrine. Thanks for the encouragement and mutual respect.

  6. Hey Jared, quick question. Feel free not to answer if you choose not to, but let me know you are choosing not to answer. The reason should be apparent.

    But the question is: have you had your name removed from Mormon roles?

    Thanks.

  7. Just by way of comparison, the obsession for Jesus gets lost in comments like this. Whether or not Nick is closer to Jesus the emphasis on faith could be argued to be that Smith is a prophet, not that Jesus is Lord.

    A similar argument could be made for you with regard to Paul. We’d both be wrong.

  8. JT, I would never say:

    “I can promise that the Book of Mormon has brought me closer to Christ. It has brought me an increase of peace, self control, and love for my family. By his fruits, I have come to know the prophet [Paul] is a prophet of God.”

    That’s the difference. There is an emphasis on Joseph Smith within Mormonism that clouds any emphasis on Jesus as being prime, at least to non-Mormons. This, I think, is likely one of the areas that make Mormonism much less than Christianity.

    Does that damage or deface Christianity? I would argue yes, it does, but you I am sure would answer differently. But that is beside my point, which is merely that a Christian would never say something akin to what Nick wrote and apply it to Paul.

  9. Slowcowboy,

    I think you are a bit off base. In my experience, Protestants are even more devoted to Paul than Mormons are to Joseph Smith, often to the point of idolizing Paul’s words. Explicitly they may not mention Paul as important, but he is probably more important than Joseph Smith is to the Mormons. Paul’s words are often considered divine, Joseph Smith is generally merely considered prophetic.

  10. Praise to the Man

    1. Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!
    Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer.
    Blessed to open the last dispensation,
    Kings shall extol him, and nations revere.
    (Chorus]
    Hail to the Prophet, ascended to heaven!
    Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vain.
    Mingling with Gods, he can plan for his brethren;
    Death cannot conquer the hero again.
    2. Praise to his mem’ry, he died as a martyr;
    Honored and blest be his ever great name!
    Long shall his blood, which was shed by assassins,
    Plead unto heav’n while the earth lauds his fame.
    3. Great is his glory and endless his priesthood.
    Ever and ever the keys he will hold.
    Faithful and true, he will enter his kingdom,
    Crowned in the midst of the prophets of old.
    4. Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven;
    Earth must atone for the blood of that man.
    Wake up the world for the conflict of justice.
    Millions shall know “Brother Joseph” again.
    Text: William W. Phelps, 1792-1872
    Music: Scottish folk song

    Do you think this does not highly venerate Smith?

    Now, tell me how Christians venerate Paul in the same way.

  11. I am asking the relevance of whether Protestants sing hymns to Paul to the question whether they idolize what Paul said. My thesis is that Protestants believe that Paul was God’s authoritative mouthpiece. They smuggle this into their practice by praising the Bible instead of the men who wrote it. Mormons may sing praises of Joseph Smith, but arguably they don’t respect his words in the same way as Protestant’s respect Paul’s.

  12. Many idolize the books that Paul wrote, even if they don’t sing praises. Your argument is that somehow singing a song is more indicative of reverence than what Protestants do with Paul and his words. In order to contradict my thesis you have to show that Protestants don’t consider Paul as important of a figure in their faith as the Mormons see Joseph Smith. Pointing to difference in hymn-singing practice doesn’t prove your point.

  13. And I am asserting that Mormons raise Smith precisely because they have hymns they sing about Smith. If you do not see the elevation put to Smith by the very fact of hymns written about Smith himself, you do not see the problem.

    As to Protestants and Paul, I think you could argue as you do, but bear in mind that Protestants can still praise the Bible without Paul’s writings in there.

    And do you not destroy your thesis by saying that we praise the Bible rather than the men who wrote it? Does this not infer that we worship God’s word, no matter who wrote it?

  14. There is a lot of assumptions packed into saying that the Bible is “God’s word” that are decidedly outside the text. Worshiping God’s word is far more idolatrous than singing hymns to Joseph Smith.

    You sing the “Star Spangled Banner” with your hand over your heart, I can’t see this any differently than singing “Praise to the Man”.

  15. “In order to contradict my thesis you have to show that Protestants don’t consider Paul as important of a figure in their faith as the Mormons see Joseph Smith. Pointing to difference in hymn-singing practice doesn’t prove your point.”

    True, but it demonstrates my point, if not proving it. You seem to give no importance to the hymns that show a huge, almost godlike reverence to Smith, something that does not exist within Christianity concerning Paul.

    Further, the argument itself is a bit silly, don’t you think? You assert, as did JT, that Christians place too much emphasis on Paul as opposed to Jesus. You get there by asserting the reverence Christians put onto Paul by way of his letters to early churches and individuals stating what Jesus stands for and how Christians should live. That is a far cry from what Mormons have done with Joseph Smith, who restored their one true church as a humble, uneducated boy, and was martyred (though he actually fought back and tried to escape).

    On the one hand, you have someone who basically interpreted Christ for early believers and on the other one who started a religion by restoring the supposed early church and who claimed Jesus visited North America. The former can be affirmed through other contemporary letters and the Gospels themselves, and the latter has little to no support.

    So, do Christians elevate Paul to highly? Or do they give too great a credence to his letters? These are not the same thing. Anyone could have written what Paul wrote, so it is not Paul who is elevated.

    As to Smith within Mormonism, is there any indication that Smith is secondary to what he discovered? Honestly, whether this is correct or not, it seems the answer is no, Smith is not secondary to what he claims to have discovered, as he was the first of the restored prophets who come from the same line of authority that Smith restored.

    The argument you bring up is silly because it does not compare the same things. We are not looking at apples and apples here. If you take away Paul, you are very much left with Christianity. If you take away Smith, Mormonism falls upon its face as its claim to authority is destroyed..

    Its silly because it becomes a pissing contest. Its an argument that your side is just as bad as ours. Its not a comparison of like things, and upon closer examination, really falls apart.

  16. “Worshiping God’s word is far more idolatrous than singing hymns to Joseph Smith.”

    How do we worship God’s word? That is quite the assumption and charge. Do explain.

  17. You said: Does this not infer that we worship God’s word, no matter who wrote it?

    I think there are plenty of people that would say that without Paul’s writings “Christianity” would look dramatically different, and perhaps, not exist at all.

    It is silly, and a pissing contest, at this point your entire point seems to be, Mormons do not have proper faith that Jesus is Lord because they praise Joseph Smith and claim the Book of Mormon brings them closer to Jesus. This is not really defensible. Whether Mormons praise Joseph Smith is completely independent of whether they consider Jesus as Lord. It is a silly way to attack the Church.

  18. “Praise to the Man” is certainly relevant to this discussion. But, the poem was written and set to music during an emotional time in the history of the Church – shortly after the death of JS. For that small community of Mormons, who felt persecuted and on the edges of society, it served as a healing balm. A rallying cry. It seems there was a lot of love for that man, because of what God was doing through him who they believed to be a prophet, in every sense. I, frankly haven’t sung it in many years in church, though maybe that’s even too much. If not for that catchy (stolen) tune!

    I actually think the fact that early Christians saved so many of Paul’s letters (even the disputed ones) and elevated them to scripture says a lot about how they felt about the man. That’s a really radical move, to start equating letters from a man in the same context of the Jewish scriptures. And since they only had a letter here and there (instead of the whole NT), its hard to imagine they could divorce themselves from the individual authors, the way that modern Christians do.

    “And do you not destroy your thesis by saying that we praise the Bible rather than the men who wrote it? Does this not infer that we worship God’s word, no matter who wrote it?”

    Time makes it easier for modern Christians to view the Bible as some author-less novel, written in the heavens by the hand of God. Mormons have the harder task. But, I’ve recently started to wonder if its such a bad thing. In the Doctrine and Covenants, for example, the voice is most often the voice of Jesus – God. And yet, Mormons know full well that a man sat down with a writing device and dictated the words that the man JS spoke to him. And that it was later edited and updated for spelling, punctuation and the like. The English at times is awkward and reveals some things about the time and place it was written.

    The Bible went through its own process, except multiplied by 100’s of years. Modern Christians seem mostly unaware of this. And that, I think, is a cryin shame. It actually hurts our understanding of the text. Example: Did you know that Revelation was first penned in shitty Greek? It really helps us understand the background and mindset of the author.

  19. “Mormons do not have proper faith that Jesus is Lord because they praise Joseph Smith and claim the Book of Mormon brings them closer to Jesus.”

    Jared,

    That wasn’t really my point, though. Here is my original comment:

    “Just by way of comparison, the obsession for Jesus gets lost in comments like this. Whether or not Nick is closer to Jesus the emphasis on faith could be argued to be that Smith is a prophet, not that Jesus is Lord.”

    I leave it open. I don’t say that it is conclusive, do I? That it could be argued that it is greater that Smith was a prophet than Jesus as Lord is not saying that is definitively the case.

    I then wrote: “There is an emphasis on Joseph Smith within Mormonism that clouds any emphasis on Jesus as being prime, at least to non-Mormons.”

    This also leaves it open, and expresses an area that could show to non-Mormons that Mormons place an overly broad emphasis on Smith.

    My following statement that this makes Mormons less Christian was my opinion, but given the above, I had hoped would be clear that the matter is debatable and that the elevation of Smith looks to Christians like Mormons put him on a pedestal that compares with Christ.

    Now, Jared, I encourage the discussion, but I happen to already know that Mormons do not worship Joseph Smith. I never said they do. I do, however, maintain that a Christian would never say what Nick said.

    Do you think a Christian would ever say what Nick said?

  20. “It is silly, and a pissing contest, at this point your entire point seems to be, Mormons do not have proper faith that Jesus is Lord because they praise Joseph Smith and claim the Book of Mormon brings them closer to Jesus. This is not really defensible. Whether Mormons praise Joseph Smith is completely independent of whether they consider Jesus as Lord. It is a silly way to attack the Church.”

    Is it a good way to defend by saying: you do it, too?

    Now, to be more explicit, the critique aimed at Nick is not that he worships Smith, or thinks too highly of Smith, or anything like that, it was about optics. It was about how such a comment is perceived. When you say something like how the Book of Mormon has led to a conclusion that you’ve never been closer to Christ AND that by his fruits (assuming he means the BoM) Smith is a prophet, what does that say? One wonders the purpose of inserting that Smith is a prophet in that context? Couldn’t he be closer to Christ without disclosing that Smith is a prophet?

    That he felt compelled to add that Smith is a prophet is perhaps indicative of something. Perhaps not. But many Christians see that addition and wonder why the Mormon needs to express that Smith is a prophet.

    You’re right that it does not prove a thing, and it need not infer that the Mormon does not see Jesus as higher than Smith. The reality of that point is secondary to my purpose here than it is to bring about the optics of how Mormons treat Joseph Smith, Jr.

    To many of us, it just looks funny and that something may be amiss, even if the reality is something different. At the risk of repeating myself too often, a Christian would never say:

    “I can promise that the Book of Mormon has brought me closer to Christ. It has brought me an increase of peace, self control, and love for my family. By his fruits, I have come to know [Paul] is a prophet of God.”

  21. OK, quote them.

    Quote me something akin to this:

    “I can promise that the Book of Mormon has brought me closer to Christ. It has brought me an increase of peace, self control, and love for my family. By his fruits, I have come to know prophet Joseph Smith is a prophet of God.”

  22. “In the history of extra-biblical study and research tools there has never before been a resource as useful as the Puritan Hard Drive… The Puritan Hard Drive is a tremendous blessing… It is almost as if God is saying, “Here is a tool that will lead you to more truth faster than ever before. Make the best possible use of it and bring much glory to My Name.”

    Pastor Paul Washer, Founder and Director of HeartCry Missionary Society, Author, Conference Speaker, etc.

  23. “In the history of the church’s sanctification I do not believe there is a more valuable extra-biblical resource and tool than the Puritan Hard Drive.” Dr. Matthew McMahon

  24. Here is a great one: “If necessary sell what you have (that does not draw you closer to God) to get the Puritan Hard Drive, and prayerfully use it until you become by the Lord’s sovereign and sanctifying grace, the most extraordinary Christian you can be (for His glory)”

    Paster W.J. Mencarow -Reformation Church, Boerne, Texas

  25. Another one: “Wow! I’m impressed! The material I have read so far has literally changed y life. My heart burned within me as I discovered truths from hundreds of years ago.” Pastor Phil Gibson.

  26. Lol. You’re using ads for a product to suggest Christians say what Nick said? Where do they say by their fruits they know Paul is a prophet?

    I see no connection at all. Morris, its no evidence Christians use the thinking all the time.

  27. I can see Cowboy’s point.

    A parallel would be for Catholics to go around saying that based on the improvements in their lives due to having embraced the Gospel, they can testify that the Pope is the true head of the Church.

    Now some Catholics do say things like this. Nevertheless it’s nothing like standard phraseology among Catholics, the way that bearing testimony to Smith’s being a prophet is typical among Mormons. A Catholic would bear witness to the papacy as a matter of fact, if it were being discussed for some reason, but not as an oft-repeated “selling point”, so to speak.

    Therefore I’m not making a value judgment, but still I think there really is a difference. And it’s probably because Mormons re reliant on Smith in a way that Catholics are not reliant on the Pope: Smith is the “foundation” of the Mormon religion, so to speak. Whereas the Pope is more of an outgrowth of the Catholic religion, and not its cause nor a proof of its veracity.

  28. Slowcowboy, maybe you can provide us an example.

    How do you know that Galatians is the word of God and that Paul was “sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father”?

  29. Jared, the words of Paul in Galatians are primary, not Paul. Though you can argue Christians give too great a weight to the words, you will not find a Christian who says “the fruits of Paul prove to me he is a prophet.”

    Your quoting an advertisement of a collection of Reformed writings to show how that collection changed the speaker’s lives is completely irrelevant. Your asking me how I know Paul was sent by God and not men completely misses the point.

    I feel like you are trying to defend against something that is not being asserted. All I have said is that you won’t find a Christian saying what Nick did. There is no value in that statement in and of itself. Any value comes from how we view Smith. It is what it is. I’ve admitted it does not prove Mormons worship Smith. The only meaning I have given us that it demonstrates how highly Mormons value Smith and that it raises an eyebrow to Christians because we would not say such a thing about Paul, the Pope, whomever.

    I left it open for someone to explain but you have asserted Christians do it, too. I urge you to really think about what I am saying and not be put off by it. Christians would not say it. The messenger is less important than the message. There is no need to lift the messenger up, as he is a mere tool for God’s mission.

  30. Is the “you are so wrong” directed to me?

    You can do better. And I have to ask, sincerely, (i hate online forums for moments like this) but what is so offensive about my original statement to Nick?

    I don’t see it as offensive in the slightest. Please educate me on how it is offensive.

  31. It’s not offensive, but from nicks perspective, if you judge Paul by any other standard but his works, you are begging the question.

  32. A common question I’ve heard from Tim over the years is something along the lines of “If a prophet turns out to be false in one way or another, do you think you should continue following that prophet?….”

    Joseph Smith being a prophet or not matters, and not just to Mormons. There is a long history of attacks (legit and not) on that man – for the sole purpose of undermining Mormonism (for good or ill). Likewise, the Bible is where people go when they want to undermine the faith of modern Christians.

    Mormons don’t think of JS as infallible, but I see no difference in a trad. Christian view of the Bible. Its pivotal to their faith. How people think about the Bible matters. If its authoritative or not matters.

    Why?, because Christians believe it to be God’s word through human writers. Well, Mormons believe that JS also brought God’s word. I don’t think its that hard to wrap your head around.

  33. What works can we look to from Paul to determine he is a prophet?

    I think we have radically different definitions of the words works and fruit.

    I mean, what do we include?

    You’ve not shown that a Christian would say what Nick said

  34. What works can we look to from Paul to determine he is a prophet?

    Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon

  35. Good of you to list his letters. So the way he lived his life is of no importance; those fruits don’t matter?

    Again, I am trying to figure out what is so controversial that you won’t accept that statement.

    Do you have that much loyalty to Smith that you have to equate him to Paul? Does it diminish Smith having someone say that Mormons do, in fact, lift him up more than Christians do Paul?

    Help me understand why you keep going on about this. I have admitted it is fair game to state Christians put too much emphasis on the written word, a lot of that is written by Paul. But that is not the same as saying that by Pault’s fruits, we know Paul is a prophet. Even if we establish, for the sake of argument, that is true, a Christian still would not end a statement about how great the Bible has been to them that Paul is a prophet.

    We just don’t think that way. Christian J has said that Smith is vital to Mormonism in the same way the Bible is vital to Christianity. Maybe, but we won’t go out of our way to lift a single person up.

    Bear in mind that the Bible is a huge document, written by several authors through many years. Smith is a single person who is credited with restoring an ancient, true church. Like it or not, questions of Smith’s integrity exist.

    As I said much earlier here, Jared, the statement that by his fruits, we know Smith was a prophet raises questions and is not something a Christian would say about anyone. However, the existence of questions does not prove a thing and should have an answer apart from “Christians do it, too, with Paul.” The problem with that answer is that we don’t do it with Paul.

    You can argue until you are blue in the face, but that won’t change that we don’t do that. Heck, you’ve already been all over the place in an attempt to prove your point that we do…

    So, what gives?

  36. Christian, yes Christians view the Bible as the word of God and hence value the Bible. Its where we learn about God, his past dealings with us and his instructions on how he wants us to live.

    Smith is supposedly a mouthpiece of God to Mormons. He reorganized the church and brought forth their present day faith. Of course he is valued.

    And there is nothing wrong with that.

    However, my point is that Christians won’t say something like this:

    “I can promise that the Book of Mormon has brought me closer to Christ. It has brought me an increase of peace, self control, and love for my family. By his fruits, I have come to know the prophet Joseph Smith is a prophet of God.”

    Moving things around to read something like this: “I can promise that the Bible has brought me closer to Christ. It has brought me an increase of peace, self control, and love for my family. [Stopping here would be great and would not be surprising. The Bible has brought people closer to Christ and improved relationships all around. But its the next sentence that is the problem.] By his fruits, I have come to know Paul [or pick a figure in the Bible] is a prophet of God.” That last sentence you just would not see.

  37. The way Paul lived his life doesn’t matter. It is by his written works and what he said that people consider him inspired. That is all we have.

  38. I keeping butting in, but….

    The integrity of early Christian authors is frequently summoned, whenever you show a Christian evidence that certain books are pseudonymous.

  39. Jared, even if I grant, for the sake of argument, you are right about how we judge Paul, you still won’t find a Christian saying it.

    And I am still not sure why you object to it.

  40. Are you calling Christians dishonest in this, Jared? Me? Wrong?

    I am not sure your point…

    You attempted to find quotes but that didn’t do it, as they were quotes to sell a product, not even the Bible. You’re now trying to say that we have to judge Paul by his letters and that somehow means that Christians actually do go out of their way to say they know Paul is a prophet by his works.

    At best, you will end up with an inference that is true, but even for the sake of argument if that inference exists, a Christian is not going to say something like what Nick said. Not on anyone in the Bible. Not on Luther. Not on Calvin. Wesley, Spurgeon, or Charles Stanley or NT Wright.

    I am quite bewildered as to why you are compelled to push that Christians would say something like what Nick said.

  41. Christian:

    You write, “Mormons don’t think of JS as infallible, but I see no difference in a trad. Christian view of the Bible. Its pivotal to their faith. … Why?, because Christians believe it to be God’s word through human writers. Well, Mormons believe that JS also brought God’s word. I don’t think its that hard to wrap your head around.”

    I think you’re trying to have your cake and eat it too: JS is bringing God’s word, yet JS is not infallible. But God’s word is infallible. If it’s fallible it’s not God’s word.

    And herein lies the problem: You make JS the foundation of the Mormon religion, comparable to the Bible. For trad Christians, if his teaching is comparable to the Bible then he must be infallible because the Bible is infallible.

    The difference between JS and the Biblical authors is that in the case of the latter, infallibility inheres in the fact that a writing has been included in the scriptures, and thus judged by the Church to be inspired, and not in the authors themselves.

    But with JS it seems that everything hinges on him, personally, being what he claimed to be. This strikes trad. Christians as odd and incongruous with Christ being “all in all”.

    Some Protestants make the same argument against the Pope. But the difference between JS and the Pope is that no Pope is pivotal to the faith — the office of the Pope is, but individual popes are replaceabale. Infallibility inheres in the office of the papacy and not in any individual.

    You could argue that it’s not JS who is pivotal or infallible, but only the fact that the Church, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has judged JS’s teachings to be God’s word. That might be a little easier for trad. Christians to swallow (Catholics at least). However, that’s incongruous with the constantly repeated refrain, “I testify that JS is a Prophet”, etc. It’s that constant testimony about JS personally that grates on trad. Christian ears and seems to elevate him to a level that’s unbecoming and disturbing.

  42. Jared, even if I grant, for the sake of argument, you are right about how we judge Paul, you still won’t find a Christian saying it.

    Right, they nearly always beg the question about whether Paul was inspired and whether his writings are the word of God. They never say “I know that Paul was inspired and you can too if you read his works.” But I am struggling to see why that makes any difference whatsoever in the way trad. Christians approach the truth of Paul’s writings.

    There is also no reason to establish that Paul was “true” Apostle because all the works we can reliably attribute to him are found in the bible. His “first vision” is legendary and generally unquestioned by tradition.

    Mormons don’t beg the question of whether Joseph Smith was a prophet is not because the answer is not assumed in the conversation. Mormons are attempting to convince others that Joseph was a prophet. That is why they say “After reading the Book of Mormon I know that Joseph Smith was a Prophet” It provides the basis for the belief that Joseph was a prophet to those who do not believe.

    Traditional Christians don’t generally do this because it is generally assumed in the conversation, and Paul is generally part and parcel to the entire Christian tradition.

    If Paul’s calling was questioned within the church you would see a lot of traditional Christians saying: “I know the New Testament is the word of God and thus Paul was a true apostle” just like you find Mormons saying “I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God and thus Joseph Smith was a true prophet.”

  43. I disagree wholeheartedly. Its not about an assumption that Paul was or is questioned. Its about a point of emphasis. Paul, though he may be a prophet, is not what is important– the Word is important. By emphasizing Smith, Mormons by definition elevate the importance of Smith.

    To Christians, Paul is just the messenger, and while we acknowledge him and his role in defining early Christianity and its spread, we don’t hold him above God’s word. Mormons may not be doing that with Smith, but we find it curious nonetheless.

    The lifting up of Smith is foreign to us, and your assertion that we WOULD do that is pure speculation. I am baffled why you make the conclusion you do in your speculating.

    Frankly, it seems you have a need to defend Smith that is not entirely clear to me. Its as if you wish to exonerate Smith from something… But from what? And if its not exoneration, why?

  44. Jared:

    You write, “Mormons are attempting to convince others that Joseph was a prophet. That is why they say ‘After reading the Book of Mormon I know that Joseph Smith was a Prophet’. It provides the basis for the belief that Joseph was a prophet to those who do not believe.”

    I have no quarrel with that. A trad. Christian could just as easily affirm that Paul was a true Apostle of God and a saint, based on his writings having been judged inspired and included in the scriptures. But usually that’s not what people are saying with regard to JS. In my experience they testify to JS being a prophet, period, and to having a direct testimony of that fact, without basing that testimony on knowing that his writings were inspired.

    A quick Google search turned up the following:

    “I felt an assurance when I first beheld Joseph Smith that he was a Prophet of God.” Not based on a belief in the BOM, but on having beheld JS personally.

    “My testimony of Joseph Smith is that he was a Prophet of the living God, and held the keys of the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood, and of the everlasting gospel to this generation; and that he saw God and His Son Jesus Christ, and talked with them, and also holy angels who ordained him to this priesthood, and talked with and called him to establish God’s Church upon the earth again in our day. I know these things are true by the testimony of the Spirit given unto me.” Again not based on the BOM being inspired but a witness of the Spirit concerning JS himself.

    “My subsequent acquaintance with him more than confirmed my most favorable impressions in every particular. He was a great statesman, philosopher and philanthropist, logician, and last, but not least, the greatest prophet, seer and revelator that ever lived, save Jesus Christ only.”

    “To me he seemed to possess more power and force of character than any ordinary man. I would look upon him when he was with hundreds of other men, then he would appear greater than ever. My testimony is that he was a true Prophet of the living God; and the more I heard his sayings and saw his doings the more I was convinced that he had of a truth seen God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, as also the holy angels of God. I cannot call to mind that I ever had a doubt enter my heart, since I first heard the gospel preached, which was in the spring of 1832, as to his being a true Prophet. It always seemed to me that if I ever did know anything on this earth I surely knew that he was a Prophet.”

    http://www.boap.org/LDS/Early-Saints/REC-JS.html

  45. Just one more example:

    “As a people we have not seen our Savior and talked with Him face to face; our prophets have that high honor and privilege, as far as the Lord designs they should have; but the Saints generally have received the impress and the power of the Holy Spirit; and although most of them have not seen the Lord face to face yet they testify that Jesus is the Christ. How? By the power of the living God, and by the witness of that Holy Spirit which he gives to every earnest and faithful believer. So the saints, who have yielded obedience to the Gospel, know that Jesus is the Christ, and that Joseph Smith is a prophet of the living God, the President of this great dispensation of the fulness of times.”

    Elder Seymour B. Young speaking at General Conference in 1902 [https://books.google.com/books?id=IKHtAAAAMAAJ&pg=RA3-PA6&lpg=RA3-PA6&dq=i+testify+that+joseph+smith+was+a+prophet&source=bl&ots=zsSTVNaYPI&sig=SlugFODDY3d9jRyfl5lyq4q9yPc&hl=en&sa=X&ei=RU8tVbKbOMfloASMmoDQAw&ved=0CFcQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=i%20testify%20that%20joseph%20smith%20was%20a%20prophet&f=false]

    Again, the claim is that you can know that JS is a prophet in the same way you know that Jesus is Lord: by a direct witness of the Holy Spirit concerning him personally. No one does this with regard to Paul.

  46. “Again, the claim is that you can know that JS is a prophet in the same way you know that Jesus is Lord: by a direct witness of the Holy Spirit concerning him personally. No one does this with regard to Paul.”

    Exactly.

  47. Slowcowboy,

    I am not arguing that Mormons have the correct method of determining knowledge of the truth, I am just saying that many Christians have equally sketchy methods. The methods do vary, no question.

    I have seen you place a lot of weight to Paul’s words, including his legal positions. How is it that you know Paul was a true Apostle and has authority to tell the Church how they should behave?

  48. Agellius,

    Glowing rhetoric about Joseph Smith seems very much like the glowing rhetoric in the Puritan Hard Drive examples above. I think it is hard to judge a person’s faith in Christ based on the stuff they give glowing endorsement to.

  49. Jared:

    “Glowing rhetoric about Joseph Smith seems very much like the glowing rhetoric in the Puritan Hard Drive examples above.”

    I don’t understand what “Puritan Hard Drive” means. Can you explain?

    “I think it is hard to judge a person’s faith in Christ based on the stuff they give glowing endorsement to.”

    It’s not about the glowing endorsements. Trad. Christians give glowing endorsements to Paul all the time, and to some popes. It’s the idea that you can know that some individual person is a prophet by a direct witness of the Holy Spirit concerning that specific individual; and the extent to which your faith is based on a testimony of some individual besides Christ.

    By the way, I agree that it’s hard to judge an individual’s faith in Christ. I’m not talking about any individual Mormon, but mainly trying to explain how such things come across to non-Mormon Christians.

  50. Do you even know what Puritan Hard Drive is? The quotes you posted were advertisements for it, and the it is a collection of reformed writings.

    Are you suggesting the glowing rhetoric for Smith is mere advertising?

    And you are evading my bringing up your insistence on defending Smith.

    No matter what you say to equate Paul with Smith, you are not addressing the core point that Christians just wouldn’t say what Mormons say about Smith. All you are doing is saying both suck, at which point I would have to ask why we should believe any of it, and guessing what Christians might say if…

    I am reminded of a judge who told a group of us the thing he hates most in child custody cases is a case that seeks to destroy the credibility of the other parent. In such cases, and it happens quite frequently, I gather (I don’t do family law), the judge sits there thinking why he should give the kids to either parent. He’d rather see a reason why a client/parent is a good parent, not why the other side sucks.

    You’ve been given reasons why Christians are concerned when they hear Mormons proclaim a testimony of Smith as prophet. You’ve been given reasons why Christians don’t see the equation the same way, and all you are doing is comparing comments to an advertisement about a product and guessing about what Christians might say if an assumption did not exist.

    I’d really love to know why you continue to double down on your position.

  51. “You could argue that it’s not JS who is pivotal or infallible, but only the fact that the Church, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has judged JS’s teachings to be God’s word. That might be a little easier for trad. Christians to swallow (Catholics at least). ”

    Then I think we’re talking semantics here. Is JS elevated too high in Mormon “rhetoric”? You’ll get no argument here. But, officially, the Church puts emphasis on him because of what God did through him. Full stop. Also, you may just not be familiar with the history of the Doctrine and Covenants or other modern Mormon scripture – it was most certainly received by the body of the Church – men and women alike – by common consent. It was voted on. And some of it didn’t make in there.

    “However, that’s incongruous with the constantly repeated refrain, “I testify that JS is a Prophet”, etc. It’s that constant testimony about JS personally that grates on trad. Christian ears and seems to elevate him to a level that’s unbecoming and disturbing.”

    Again, I think I’m with you on toning down that rhetoric. I personally don’t like to hear a lot of JS, because it takes some focus on Jesus – even if Jesus was in fact the one who called JS (Mormons believe he was of course) But I think its apples and oranges as well. Because of the nature of what Mormons believe is a restoration of divine truths – by God through an individual – who was killed at a young age by a mob – that individual has some prominence in the minds of Mormon believers. I think its more understandable when you know the history, but I completely understand the trad. Christian point of view.

  52. Slowcowboy, I am not saying “both suck” I am saying that LDS rhetoric regarding JS is an attempt to argue that he is a prophet — a question that is very open.

    Traditional Christians don’t use this rhetoric for Paul, even though a parallel argument assering Paul was inspired would take the same form — i.e. I know Paul was inspired because I read his works and the Spirit bore witness. Paul explicitly explained that his authority was based on the witness of the Spirit, which is nothing more than what the LDS say about JS.

    You seem to be missing my point. I could illustrate it better if you would tell me why you think Paul was an inspired representative of God and Christ.

  53. The entire discrepancy between how Traditional Christians talk about Paul and how LDS talk about Joseph Smith is 100% due to the fact that Paul is assumed to be a prophet and Joseph Smith is assumed not to be a prophet.

    The only reason the rhetoric concerns you is that you don’t accept the possibility that Joseph Smith is a prophet

  54. Right, the question of whether any particular biblical author is inspired is begged by calling the book the “Holy Bible”.

  55. Jared:

    You write, “The only reason the rhetoric concerns you is that you don’t accept the possibility that Joseph Smith is a prophet.”

    But you don’t seem to be addressing the question (unless I’m just missing it) of whether it’s because JS is more foundational (i.e. central) to Mormonism than Paul is to trad. Christianity.

  56. You’re right. I don’t accept Smith is a prophet. Why not? His fruit, which is far more than the book of Mormon.

    Do you think he was a prophet?

  57. Paul explains that those that hear him should apply a similar test to what he wrote as Mormons use to test what Joseph Smith said:

    “But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,

    “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
    nor the heart of man imagined,
    what God has prepared for those who love him”—

    these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him?
    So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.”

    (1Corinthians 2)

    If I was talking to folks that had never heard of Paul and only had this epistle, you might have them say “I know that Paul was inspired because I have examined his fruits and works and the Spirit testified of their truth” And this would be 100% in line with what Paul was saying to the Corinthians.

  58. But you don’t seem to be addressing the question (unless I’m just missing it) of whether it’s because JS is more foundational (i.e. central) to Mormonism than Paul is to trad. Christianity.

    In my view, without Paul you don’t have Protestantism. Even, assuming arguendo, it was the case that Paul is not as central to traditional Christianity. Why does it matter in the context of this discussion? It only shows that Mormons have more incentive to testify regarding whether Joseph was inspired.

  59. Slowcowboy, I will tell you my opinion of Joseph Smith if you can explain why you think Paul is a prophet without invoking his works.

  60. My own opinion of Paul is that I would think he was inspired in much of what he said even if he molested children. Why, because what he writes explains important realities that were hidden before he showed up.

  61. Jared:

    You write, “Why does it matter in the context of this discussion? It only shows that Mormons have more incentive to testify regarding whether Joseph was inspired.”

    It matters because the point of the discussion is whether Christ is as central to Mormonism as he is to trad. Christianity. It seems to me that you could have trad. Christianity without Paul, but you could not have Mormonism without JS.

  62. I think it is highly debatable that you could have orthodox Christianity without Paul. I don’t think you can have Protestantism without Paul.

  63. If he molested children, did he repent? If he didn’t he’s got problems under Smith’s own rules.

    Anyway, the differences between Paul and Smith are huge, including what can be verified through scripture, let alone possibilities of molesting children. (and by the way, is a 14 to a child?)

  64. I think it helps establish a person’s wisdom in Christ if what they proclaim is consistent with scripture. Why? Do you think consistency with scripture is irrelevant?

    And do prophets threaten death by Fleming sword for failure to comply?

    I’ll ask again: why the need to defend Smith?

  65. And Jared, I trust God would have made clear everything Paul would have made clear. I am reminded of Esther 4:14 here, so Paul really is secondary to the message.

    Maybe Mormons see Smith the same way in truth, but the advertising seems to suggest something different.

  66. “The entire discrepancy between how Traditional Christians talk about Paul and how LDS talk about Joseph Smith is 100% due to the fact that Paul is assumed to be a prophet and Joseph Smith is assumed not to be a prophet.”

    Sure, I can buy that.

  67. Do you think consistency with scripture is irrelevant?

    Yes, it is irrelevant because consistency is always illusory. Consistency with the illusion we call reality is the only relevant thing to me.

  68. I think it helps establish a person’s wisdom in Christ if what they proclaim is consistent with scripture.”

    With which books of scripture (canonical in 50-60 AD) was Paul consistent?

  69. Jared:

    You write, “I think it is highly debatable that you could have orthodox Christianity without Paul.”

    Well, anything can be debated, but it’s a fact that regardless of Paul, Jesus still walked the earth, was crucified and rose from the dead, and we would still have the Gospels, the epistles of Peter, James and John, the letter to the Hebrews and the Apocalypse. Paul certainly helped to spread the Gospel throughout the world, but he didn’t change what the Gospel consists of. The Gospel was being preached before Paul came along, and there’s no reason to think it would not have continued if he hadn’t.

    Whereas JS was the one and only person who was essential to getting Mormonism off the ground. Paul’s essentiality may be debatable, but without JS there is no Mormonism, there is simply no question about it.

  70. Agellius – I’m with Jared on this one. I think Protestantism would look considerably different without Romans and Galatians, unless you think the doctrines of grace and justification by faith as described by Paul are not essential to the Protestant message. Sure, you could glue together a few pieces here and there from other books, but you would have no idea what the final product was supposed to look like without Paul.

  71. JT:

    You may be talking about Protestantism specifically, but I’m talking about traditional Christianity generally, as opposed to the Mormon variety.

  72. “With which books of scripture (canonical in 50-60 AD) was Paul consistent?”

    Taking into account that the first century canon is probably more complicated than most people need to engage with.

    If by consistent you mean unchanging uniformity, none.

    If by consistent you mean a progressively revealed broad narrative of the mighty acts of the one True God reconciling Himself with His fallen creation, all of them.

    In the second sense, consistency is found in the person and work of Jesus.

  73. JT, yeah, Agellius stated it sufficiently. Protestantism may be different, but the Gospel of Christ would still exist, and any difference that it may look like is pure speculation. I think God would have ensured the great commission was met, either way, ie that the Gospel was spread, if Paul had not come along. Did you look at Esther?

    And Gundek adequately described the narrative consistency with Paul as it relates to the rest of scripture. There is a consistency with the message of God that Paul confirms.

    As to the Fleming sword? Intimidating, I know.

  74. Gundek – I absolutely agree that “consistent” can be understood in many ways. That was actually part of the point I was trying to make in response to Slowcowboy’s comment. In my view, the teachings of Joseph Smith were more consistent with the scriptures of his day (the KJV Bible) than Paul’s were with the scriptures of his day (the Septuagint). Both made unique contributions.

  75. “In my view, the teachings of Joseph Smith were more consistent with the scriptures of his day (the KJV Bible) than Paul’s were with the scriptures of his day (the Septuagint).”

    But failing to point out that Jesus had come, died, and was raised within a couple of decades of Paul’s writing, is quite the omission. Jesus changed things, yes, and still the Epistles ring consistent in that narrative…

  76. Slowcowboy – I agree with you that God would have called another. Same could be said of Joseph Smith.

  77. But failing to point out that Jesus had come, died, and was raised within a couple of decades of Paul’s writing, is quite the omission.

    As would failing to point out that God the Father had come, with His Son and angels, to declare the necessity of restoring His church and several key teachings.

  78. JT:

    You write, “I agree with you that God would have called another. Same could be said of Joseph Smith.”

    Yes, but traditional Christianity could have existed whether or not God called a “replacement” for Paul. The whole thing didn’t hinge on Paul. The only person it hinged on was Jesus. The same could not be said of Mormonism with regard to JS.

  79. On the same point, are you then saying that consistency with scripture isn’t the only, or even a necessary, factor in “establish[ing] a person’s wisdom in Christ”? That certain happenings or major events in the world around them could also be significant (and possibly sufficient) factors?

  80. Agellius – I personally agree with you; I just don’t think a lot of Protestants would if that meant no more Romans and Galatians (not just physically, but also the theological doctrines that were primarily based on them).

  81. I’ll express Agellius’ thought this way:

    Mormons certainly make it seem like Mormonism hinges on Joseph Smith, Jr, and whether or not that is a reality, the way Mormons speak of Smith it appears that no other option was available.

    Hence there is at least an optics issue. I’ve stated that this can be explained and does not mean that Mormons think Smith is at such a high level that he is the focus rather than Jesus. However, that Mormons DO praise him so much and so readily it certainly SEEMS to suggest something is amiss.

    You won’t find that sentiment within traditional Christianity towards anyone.

  82. Cowboy:

    I agree with you that Mormons do not place JS on the same level as Jesus. I too was arguing that it’s a matter of appearances. I’m really not attacking Mormonism but playing devil’s advocate.

    I suspect that most Mormons would agree that no one is as central to Christianity — Mormon or non-Mormon — as Jesus; but would also admit that (the specific brand of Christianity called) Mormonism would not be Mormonism without Joseph Smith.

  83. I think consistency with the rest of scripture in the context of accurately describing God’s plans, existence, and identity is necessary to anyone claiming to be a prophet. I have to say there can be other factors, but anything must include that consistency.

    Its interesting to note that you bring up world events or other happenings. Contextually, Smith arrived during a period in which we saw a number of other religious groups develop in America and in a time wherein people were hungry for spiritually exciting memes. He was not the only ‘prophet’ to have lived during that time.

    But, no, those other events or happenings would not be sufficient alone. That consistency would be necessary. Smith and Co radically changed many parts of the Christian belief system, in the name of restoration, of course. Personally, I find these changes to be inconsistent with the greater narrative of the Bible and history.

  84. Mormons certainly make it seem like Mormonism hinges on Joseph Smith, Jr, and whether or not that is a reality, the way Mormons speak of Smith it appears that no other option was available.

    I would put it this way: Mormonism hinges on God’s word as revealed through his servants and through the Holy Spirit. The uniqueness of Mormonism hinges on God’s word as revealed through his modern servants, including Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, . . . Thomas S. Monson.

  85. Agellius, I agree. Taking Joseph Smith out of Mormonism appears to kill Mormonism whereas taking Paul out of Christianity does not kill Christianity.

  86. So it is not necessary to believe in the full doctrines of grace and justification by faith (as expounded by Paul) to be fully Christian?

    (And reading Paul’s arguments into bits and pieces scattered in John or Genesis doesn’t count, because Paul’s arguments don’t exist in this little hypothetical :))

  87. Slow Cowboy,
    I think you forget that God himself put Joseph Smith around. To an LDS you are begging the question that Joseph Smith came up with everything he said and wrote all on his own. Joseph said himself that God revealed that if he failed God would appoint another to fulfill the work. You can deny that any restoration was needed, and deny that any further revelation is important, but these beg a different question that is very open to the LDS. And considering the unmitigated disasters that continue to occur within Christendom, it is reasonable to think that some dramatic change in tack might be warranted.

    In my view, Joseph Smith was an unqualified religious genius, perhaps as much of a genius as Paul, this does not mean his religion is “true”, but the fact that it has a high degree of fecundity makes it something that Christians should take seriously, just like they need to take the modern strain of “atheistic” paganism seriously. Begging the important questions is not taking it seriously in my view.

  88. It seems like Paul is at the very heart of why many Christians don’t believe Mormonism to be fully Christian.

  89. Cowboy:

    You write, “Taking Joseph Smith out of Mormonism appears to kill Mormonism whereas taking Paul out of Christianity does not kill Christianity.”

    Yes. If we eliminate hypotheticals from the discussion, i.e. whether God would have raised up another Paul or another JS, but talk only about the actual Paul and the actual JS, there is no question in my mind that removing JS would gut Mormonism to a much greater extent than removing Paul would gut traditional Christianity.

    If we deleted Paul’s works from the Bible, traditional Christianity would be more or less intact. But if we removed JS’s works, e.g. the BOM and the D&C, what would be left of Mormonism?

  90. @Gundek,

    Thanks for the link regarding the response to Webb’s metaphysics in response to the article quoted in the OP. I agree with the critic that the LDS metaphysics quickly erodes into a sort of Hegelism, which has massive philosophical difficulties pointed out by Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Heidegger and almost every other serious philosopher after Hegel. Yet Hegel’s view of Spirit and history is actually still enormously popular and at the heart of a lot of liberal Christianity and liberalism in general. A big reason why I am not a believing LDS is that I can’t accept LDS monistic/materialistc metaphysics. Being as nuts about religious honesty as I try to be, it is hard to swallow a philosophy that is not on a more solid intellectual foundation.

  91. JT writes,

    “So it is not necessary to believe in the full doctrines of grace and justification by faith (as expounded by Paul) to be fully Christian?”

    I submit that the rest of the NT gives a full account of how we are saved. But that’s a whole different discussion.

  92. If we deleted Paul’s works from the Bible, traditional Christianity would be more or less intact. But if we removed JS’s works, e.g. the BOM and the D&C, what would be left of Mormonism?

    I can agree with this, though I think it traditional Christianity would be profoundly affected.

    That said, it would be interesting to see how discussions on this blog would go if references to Paul or any theologies based on his works were off-limits.

  93. JT writes, “That said, it would be interesting to see how discussions on this blog would go if references to Paul or any theologies based on his works were off-limits.”

    LOL!

    And would we also omit the BOM and D&C? : )

  94. And would we also omit the BOM and D&C? : )

    Except that we already established that not much of the uniqueness of Mormonism would be left if these were taken away. Per your point, traditional Christianity is supposed to be intact if we take away Paul.

  95. JT:

    Except I don’t think Mormonism would exist at all without JS (again, eliminating the hypothetical — in both cases — of God raising up a replacement), so there would be nothing to argue about.

  96. “To an LDS you are begging the question that Joseph Smith came up with everything he said and wrote all on his own.”

    That question is there, yes. Did Smith make it all up? And yes, I think there is evidence to suggest this is precisely what he did. Would that cause Mormons to object? I would think so, but I cannot deny that I think he was a brilliant man who was able to come up with a ruse of a restored church.

    But even with all of that, you won’t hear a Christian say what was said above. You can argue it all up and down and side to side, but we won’t say it.

    Paul is secondary to the message, and we speak accordingly.

    You can argue that we actually do think about Paul the same way but just don’t say it. All of that is debatable. What is not debatable is that you don’t here us saying it.

  97. Slowcowboy,

    What you fail to get is that LDS absolutely believe Joseph Smith was secondary to his message. The only reason their rhetoric focuses on Joseph Smith is that anti-Mormon rhetoric has always attacked Joseph Smith more than the message. It is a dialectic reaction.

  98. Was Smith a genius? I think clearly he was. Perhaps he had some valuable insights, but I think even those mostly were captured more by later Mormon apologists in that they softened the edge. In other words, much of Mormonism now

    Its hardly surprising for someone to come up with a believable second world. If we look at the witnesses to the plates, its not entirely clear they actually saw them and handled them in person and in real and tangible way. His story is not the same, and his revelations, such as the flaming sword story concerning polygamy, are inconsistent and questionable. His other attempts at interpretation have proven questionable, and many other aspects of Smith give rise to a very brilliant, creative man who loved power.

    I realize that people can look at some of his actions and words and say he was a gentle and nice and sincere man. That’s fine. What I see is someone who very well could have made the whole thing up.

    I am not looking to start a discussion on all of this at this time. It came up that I was begging the question. I am addressing the question here, but sincerely hope NOT to cause a war here on this topic. This is my opinion on the matter, and am happy to discuss at a more appropriate time.

    This discussion has been about how Christians would not state that Paul is a prophet just after praising how close they have gotten to Jesus after reading the Bible, as Mormons do with Smith and the Book Of Mormon.

    Anyway, peace to everyone here, and I hope everyone understands I don’t want to begin a discussion on the veracity of the Book or Mormon of the potential fraudulence of Smith.

  99. “What you fail to get is that LDS absolutely believe Joseph Smith was secondary to his message.”

    Maybe.

    “The only reason their rhetoric focuses on Joseph Smith is that anti-Mormon rhetoric has always attacked Joseph Smith more than the message. It is a dialectic reaction.”

    Kinda like Pavlog’s Dog, huh? And even so, it gives an impression that is different from what you have written.

    You may be absolutely right, but the perception given is that Smith is not secondary to “his” message.

  100. Agellius – Right. My point was that we wouldn’t want to eliminate references to Joseph Smith, the BoM and the D&C here because that would effectively eliminate discussions of Mormonism altogether. However, per your earlier point, we should be able to eliminate all references to Paul and subsequent theologies stemming from his works, because traditional Christianity would remain intact.

  101. “What you fail to get is that LDS absolutely believe Joseph Smith was secondary to his message.”

    Maybe.

    Slowcowboy – Jared is definitely correct on this one. No maybe about it.

  102. Although I am an expert on what I, as a Mormon, believe (that Smith was secondary to his message), I certainly concede that Slowcowboy is an expert on his perception of Mormons’ frequent mention of Smith, regardless of these Mormons’ intent.

    This is good to know – thanks Slowcowboy.

  103. Hey, JT, just telling you what I see. And for whatever it is worth, by bringing it up, we have had quite a discussion as to what Smith and Mr. of Tarsus do mean to our respective faiths.

    I’ve learned a lot from it. And the ‘maybe’ would be appropriate from my point of view. How would I know? And I just see that Smith is brought up a lot in situations that are interesting, such as in Nick’s statement.

  104. JT writes, “per your earlier point, we should be able to eliminate all references to Paul and subsequent theologies stemming from his works, because traditional Christianity would remain intact.”

    Well, I’ve been assuming it was a joke. But it’s fine by me.

  105. “It seems like Paul is at the very heart of why many Christians don’t believe Mormonism to be fully Christian.”

    Keeping intact the distinction between the LDS institution and its teaching from the individual members, why would you say that?

  106. Wow, a lot has been said since last week. I didn’t have time to read everything but I am happy to see all the comments. Out of all that has been said, I would like to clarify one thing, which is this: first and foremost in every Mormon’s heart and testimony is Christ. Joseph Smith is just a prophet of God, who we believe was an instrument in bringing about the restoration of the gospel. But only in and through the atonement of Christ can we be saved and make it back to our Father in Heaven.

    You copied and pasted a hymn praise to the man. That is one of the only hymns out of the hundreds that I know of that speaks of Joseph Smith. The rest speak of God. It was written after Joseph’s death when the members of the church were in mourning. For that reason is the wording and sentiment of the song. We as a church have never worshiped or thought Joseph even close to the same level as our perfect and loving Savior.

    You asked previously why did I mention the name of Joseph Smith in my testimony? I think Luke 10:16 explains a little more: “He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.”

    God calls prophets and apostles to give us His word and to guide us in the same way. If Joseph Smith was a Prophet, then his words are of God. The only reason I mention Joseph Smith is because that is our unique message to the world! I could have mentioned Peter, or Paul, who are all true apostles of Christ, but I was sharing something that makes us unique. Christ always has and aways will be the center of our faith.

    Here is a great scripture in the Book of Mormon to emphasize this: “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”

  107. Nick, again, for the seemingly 100th time: traditional Christians would not say something like that. Your focus on Smith always has intrigued me, for a number of reasons, and you put him front and center.

  108. SC: Why do you keep beating this poor, dead horse? Let’s put aside whether “traditional Christians” do this implicitly (by expressions of faith in the Bible) and just say that you’re right – “traditional Christians” wouldn’t include a specific prophet’s/apostle’s name in their testimony of truth. What exactly is your point in bring this up? That Mormons diminish Christ by doing it? If so, I think Nick’s response was on-point and valuable (especially as the author of the comment that started this whole firestorm), and your second line (“you put [Joseph Smith] front and center”) is completely unfounded.

  109. JT, you’ve now brought this back up, so please, no accusations on beating dead horses.

    I brought it up originally to discuss the optics. Here, in fact, is what I wrote:

    “Just by way of comparison, the obsession for Jesus gets lost in comments like this. Whether or not Nick is closer to Jesus the emphasis on faith could be argued to be that Smith is a prophet, not that Jesus is Lord.”

    Here is also a reminder of what Nick wrote:

    “I can promise that the Book of Mormon has brought me closer to Christ. It has brought me an increase of peace, self control, and love for my family. By his fruits, I have come to know the prophet Joseph Smith is a prophet of God.”

    “…By his fruits, I have to know the prophet Joseph Smith is a prophet of God.” This was written immediately after saying the Book of Mormon brought him closer to Christ. A very possible inference from this sequence of thoughts is that Smith is the reason why he is closer to Christ, which puts a very real and high priority on Smith. After all, because of Smith, and his Book of Mormon, he is closer to Christ, as if God, through Jesus himself and the Holy Spirit, had nothing to do with it.

    By reading the Book or Mormon, which was restored to us through Smith (I can only assume he would say), Nick became closer to Jesus. A traditional Christian is far more apt to say something involving the grace of God and the pulling of the Holy Spirit brought him or her closer to Jesus, and would certainly not state that by anyone’s given fruits he or she knows that the ‘anyone’ in question is a prophet.

    So, back to my original statement, JT, you will see that all I did was state that the focus on Jesus can be lost in a statement like what Nick said. I stated it could be argued, not that it was true.

    I have to say even now I wonder why Mormons don’t be more clear on their position in Christ and why there is a constant evocation of Smith as a prophet. It was explained that this is because they have been treated badly and doubt exists as to Smith’s existence of a prophet by non-Mormons. OK, but doubling down on Smith does not change the perception that an overemphasis on Smith exists.

    I have never argued that Mormons don’t put their primary faith in Jesus. I won’t. They may well, and it seems from the feedback, that this is true. Good. But statements like what Nick said put DO Smith front and center, not Jesus, because the emphasis in his paragraph is on Smith and how the Book of Mormon, of which one must assume is one of the fruits of Smith, brought him closer to Christ.

    In the end, JT, I find the approach to bearing his testimony of coming closer to Jesus interesting. Its not a way of presenting it I would expect to see in any traditional Christian church. That’s all. And my pointing this out does not mean that Nick, or any Mormon for that matter, really places Smith above Jesus. It just means that it leaves open the inference and raises questions non-Mormons have concerning Mormonism and gives impressions that may or may not exist in reality.

    It just means its a question of optics.

  110. “I have to say even now I wonder why Mormons don’t be more clear on their position in Christ and why there is a constant evocation of Smith as a prophet.”

    One word. RESTORATION.

    I’m not trying to speak for Mormonism, but a “testimony” of Smith as prophet is a “testimony” of the role as restorer of the gospel/church/prieshood/keys/authority/etc. Smith has a critical role in redemptive history for Mormon.

  111. gundek, you’re a good spokesman.

    I still think the way Evangelical Protestants talk about the Bible is the near perfect comparison.

    Of course, they’d say, “don’t be silly, Jesus *authored* the Bible”. Mormons would likewise say, “don’t be silly, Jesus *called* and *commanded* Joseph Smith”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s