The Apostle Paul: the first Mormon?

St. Paul on road to Damascus

St. Paul on road to Damascus (Photo credit: bobosh_t)

Christian J pointed out in the discussion of my last post that he thought the Mormon model of seeking spiritual confirmation of doctrine was biblical. I think he is right. When I was LDS, I was very impressed by Paul’s discussion in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 2.  It captured perfectly my view of the core of Missionary work.  Those interested in Mormonism would do well to understand how Paul’s words are lived by LDS today.

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Filling the Gaps in the Divine Game of Telephone

When Protestants attack the LDS prophet model there is often an exchange where LDS point out how the process of compiling the bible is as open to the same failings as the LDS model of venerating the words of prophets and forming scripture.   In the previous post, Tim and Seth (and I) got into an exchange regarding the similarity between the belief that a prophet won’t lead the church astray and the position that the Bible is inerrant.

As I see it, Mormons and Protestants have the same rough model of receiving information from God:

1. God uses spiritual experience or historical events to convey messages to people

2. People (lets call them prophets) have these experiences and witness these events.

3. Prophets speak about these experiences and events.

4. Authors write down what the prophets speak.

5. Scripture is chosen from the available writings of these authors.

6. Interpreters/Preachers explain the scripture.

Even if you believe that the God does reveal things to people and everybody in the process is acting conscientiously, there seems to be editing in every step of the process:

1. A prophet doesn’t always say (or can put into words) everything he feels/thinks. He might not be able to understand all of it.

3. Not everything prophets say is clear because some people are not as smart, analytical or eloquent as others.

4. Not everything every biblical prophet said, (especially Jesus) was written down.

5. Writings could be lost, mis-copied, or left out by compilers of the canon.

6. Not every scripture is considered equally important or worthy of focus by preachers/interpreters.

This editing occurs with regards to every biblical event and every prophet or revelator and is compounded in the Bible because there are so many events, authors and revelators.

I have always had a hard time with trusting this sort of process for a full or final picture of what God is offering people.  Even if everyone is acting with complete honesty and integrity, without a belief that God is intimately involved in every step of the process ( a belief that is not justified by the biblical text) you have to expect significant gaps.

The beauty of the LDS model is that it acknowledges these gaps and has a way of correcting it (at least in principle), i.e. by continuing clarification and revelation from God.

However LDS have not reconciled the real problem because when it comes to modern prophets and scripture, they do not have a principled or consistent way of delineating what makes the cut and should be focused on by the current teachers/interpreters.  Right now it almost comes down to a purely authoritarian/military model of whoever is in charge is in control of the editing.

Protestants deal with the the problem of the mess  in the early stages by arbitrarily eliminating it and leaving everything to the interpreters.  They set the canon as the only (and complete) explanation we have from God. However they have the problem of explaining why the current Bible is not suffering from gaps and has no need of continuing the kludgy cycle of receiving and interpreting messages from God.   I can understand the concept of using past revelation as a benchmark, but postulating that the bible is complete or completely correct seems quite a stretch.  Of course this “solution” simply ignores all of the problems up to stage 5, but it at least gives some common ground to judge various interpretations.

Without some sort of explanation that is more than simply an article of faith, its hard to see where Protestant biblical interpreters and Mormon Prophets/interpreters have the ability to come up with ultimate answers that are more trustworthy than seeking personal experience with God.

So, I am actually looking for answers for myself here and would be interested in what believers have to say:

What would you say to convince me that either the Mormon or the Protestant answer is more trustworthy?

How do you resolve the obvious problems with the chain of communication, and why is that resolution satisfying?