Who best knows what Jesus taught, or did or thought (or thinks)?
To some, apparently Evangelicals included, the answer is the Bible. . .
Jesus love me, yes I know, because the Bible tells me so.
To me this song was always a bit baffling. If Jesus loves you, and he is alive. . and is GOD it seems that we would be able to find out from Him directly whether he loves you. Depending on the Bible alone, and the teams of unbiased scholars it would take to approach an accurate exegisis of a 2000 year old document seems like a strange approach indeed. When the bible text is limited and not completely clear, theology becomes a slave to scholarship and scholars, collectively, rarely agree on anything.
Mormons take a different approach, we posit that Jesus must be speaking to some or all of his followers directly and try to find out the truth by listening and recognizing his voice. We teach our kids:
I know my Father lives, and loves me too, the Spirit whispers this to me and tells me it is true.
Personal revelation as well as global revelation is the conceptual center of the Mormon faith. The Mormon mantra, is their testimony that God speaks to us today, Joseph Smith was a prophet and there is a living prophet on the earth today. How do Mormons know this? From the voice of God himself, by the voice of his Spirit.
Joseph Smith, speaking for God, declared:
” For verily the avoice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to bescape; and there is no eye that shall not see, neither cear that shall not hear, neither dheart that shall not be penetrated.” Doctrine and Covenants 1:2
Speaking for himself he taught:
“God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what he will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them…” –Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 150-151
Of course I know that non-mormon eyes start to roll at this point. People who speak for God, or as God, are a dime a dozen and there are always a bunch of suckers ready to buy the story. Any charismatic preacher with a egomaniacal bent can form a sect, cult, following, denomenation (pick your term). Joseph Smith, they say, was just one of a long list of self-proclaimed (false) prophets.
I hear the argument loud and clear, and it is certainly compelling. (Mormons think all those other people were false prophets too! )
However, even if I was convinced (as evangelicals are) that Joseph should be lumped in with the Mohommeds of the world and the Book of Mormon with the Urantia book, Its difficult to argue against the approach and reasoning: i.e. Go first to God to find what God thinks and then listen to his answers. If you want to know what Jesus really taught, why can’t we dial him up now, or least find some sort of spokesman. Even the organizations devoted to Mammon have customer service representatives, how much more should God, our father who loves us, provide contemporary customer support?
As an attorney and a student of philosophy, I have lost my faith in debate and analysis to untangle complicated events such as the life and ministry of Jesus. In my experience, its nearly impossible to figure out with certaintywhat was said and done last year, let alone alone 2000 years ago. It seems that if that examination of the known facts and documents of historical christianity is our best path, then we are destined to be “Ever learning, and never able to come to theknowledge of the truth.”