I've had the privilege of talking to different sets of folks from the LDS church. There have been at least 6 Mormons who I've been able to talk with for more than one session, over the course of about 6 months. I appreciate their desire to further what they believe is true in a peaceful manner, and I welcome conversations about God.
After holding different weekly discussions, I realized there were several areas that prevented me from continuing to investigate the Mormon religion. These apply before wanting to look up historical evidence (i.e. verifiable people, places, times, events) in the Book of Mormon, or the credibility of the founder Joseph Smith, or testing the authenticity of the prophecies, etc.
If I were to summarize the message from Mormons, after multiple discussions on the list below, it's that I just need to believe what they had been told - without any compelling reason. And my response to that type of mentality is that the faith discussed in the Bible is not a blind faith at all; it's action and evidence based. The type of faith asked of me here, is exactly the type of faith that Aetheists say Christians hold... one that is blind and without substance. And something like that has no value to me.
Areas that prevent me from seeing a reason for the start of the LDS church:
- The language around the Great Apostasy (when God lifts His hand/turns His face away) is always referencing the end times (antichrist/rapture/second coming), which has not yet happened in my viewpoint.
- When the great apostasy happens, God uses 2 witnesses (not Joseph Smith and those that follow) to prophesy for 3.5 years (not a couple hundred years in the LDS timespan), then get killed, and then resurrected after 3.5 days. Then follows a big earthquake, after which people glorified God (Rev 11:13).
- After sending Jesus in the fullness of time (Gal 4:4), followed by the Spirit once Jesus leaves - we have a model of God being with us until the end of time. Questions follow:
- Why would God revert to using another prophet (fallible man) as a figurehead to lead his people, if Jesus Christ (infallible God) already started the church and placed Himself as the head?
- Why would God need to restart the church that he personally started, and against which not even the gates of Hell could prevail? (Matt 16:18)
- When Christ died, the holy of holies temple curtain was torn in two, in order to illustrate that mankind no longer needed a priest or middle man. We could have a direct relationship with God (Eph 2:18) in the new covenant, through our one mediator Jesus Christ. (1 Tim 2:5). What would be the purpose of a new organizational mediator?
- Why would God add new inspired scriptures after establishing them from the start? He would have certainly been capable of doing all of that at once, right? We commonly refer to the books in the bible as the Protestant Cannon. I was surprised to hear that no council actually chose those books. The counsels that occurred much later (listing some below for reference) only recognized what people were saying up until that time. We have historical evidence that represent acceptance of the same "book" listings as found in my Bible today, which date well before any of the councils (i.e. 1500's). For example, the Muratorian fragment (a document dated around 170 AD) is a partial document that is unfortunately broken off at the end. But up until the part that is cut off, it contains the same listing we have up until 2 Peter. Furthermore, the Old Testament books were widely accepted before the acceptance of the New Testament books. The first and second century church had access to all the inspired scriptures (books) we use today, but the context for the Book of Mormon doesn't enter the picture until the 1800's.
Counsel reference dates:
- Council of Trent (Roman Catholicism) - 1546
- Thirty-Nine Articles (Church of England) - 1563
- Westminster Confession of Faith (Calvinism) - 1647
- Synod of Jerusalem (Eastern Orthodox) - 1672