Sunday, August 24, 2008

CrossTalk Attacks

[The following post was written back in December 2007. I decided not to publish it at that time since I didn't want to mix too much religion and politics. Now that Romney is out of the running, I thought this would be a good time to put it out there since the main point transcends any political race.]

Using Mitt Romney as a launching point, the radio show CrossTalk (a religious program) decided to "explain" the teachings of the Mormon church to their listeners. The thing that astonished me about the program wasn't the anti-Mormonism. That is pretty standard stuff for a lot of "christian" ministries. The amusing thing was how self-destructive their arguments against Mormonism are.

By self-destructive, I mean that most of the arguments they employee against the Church to make it look silly or evil apply just as well to Christianity as a whole. An atheist could talk the transcript of the program, replace "Mormon" with "Christian" and be ready to publish their own anti-Christian rant.

Ironically, I found that their attack on Mormonism served to illustrate how well the Mormon faith fits into the larger Christian tradition. Let me give you a few examples of what I mean. All quotes are from Rocky Hulse, the guest being interviewed on the show.

"Mormonism is so all inclusive that a lot of people, once they are -- they are so indoctrinated. They are so embedded in the Mormon doctrine and its teachings--that it is the only true church on the earth. Period."

For Christianity to be meaningful, it must permeate every aspect of our lives and inform all our decisions. Any loving parent is going to attempt to inculcate values into their children that they believe will lead to happiness. Evangelical Christians and Mormon Christians both do this. Anything else would be neglect. All Christians I know believe that Christ is "the way, the truth, and the life." This is, by definition, exclusive of any other path. Naturally, then, Mormons join all other Christians in echoing the ancient apostles that there is only one faith, one Lord, one baptism.

"...found out the foundations, origins, teachings, doctrines of Mormonism have been altered, deleted, falsified, all those things"

Hulse thinks Mormons will be horrified to learn that every detail of Mormon history isn't presented in Sunday School. Do you think that any other church presents every known detail of Christian history to the parishioners? Would that even be possible, let alone beneficial?

If you are a non-Mormon Christian and you don't have Sunday School lessons about the frailties of early leaders of your denomination, perhaps you should confront your preacher and angrily ask why the church is hiding things from you. For example, I'm certain that there were never any Baptist leaders involved in lychings in the South, right? Right? For the Mormon-haters, the expectation seems to be that Mormons are supposed to have been perfect all along while everyone else is given plenty of latitude.

Hulse goes on to drive at his primary thesis: Mormons can't be trusted in public office because they have sworn an allegiance to the church. The argument boils down to this: Mormons can't be public servants because they will always do what they think God wants.

Isn't this a kind of obvious point for a religious person, Mormon or otherwise? What is the point of faith if it doesn't inform your actions? Should non-Mormon Christian politicians renounce their allegiance to God before they are permitted to swear allegiance to the Constitution?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Mysteriously Important Bodies

There's something very important about having bodies that I don't fully comprehend, but a couple of items recently have given me reason to consider anew the importance of physical bodies in Mormon theology.

First, a quote from Joseph Smith.

So plain was the vision, that I actually saw men, before they had ascended from the tomb, as though they were getting up slowly. They took each other by the hand and said to each other, ‘My father, my son, my mother, my daughter, my brother, my sister.’ And when the voice calls for the dead to arise, suppose I am laid by the side of my father, what would be the first joy of my heart? To meet my father, my mother, my brother, my sister; and when they are by my side, I embrace them and they me.

The "first joy" is to "meet my father" and other relatives? We believe that the the spirit world has a similar social structure to this world. If that is the case, we will have just come from being with our righteous fathers and sons and mothers and daughters. Why then would the resurrection be a time of singular rejoicing? I can only imagine that the thrill of an embrace--a physical embrace--will be something we've been longing for since the separation of our bodies and spirits.

The second point of emphasis for bodies is the work we do in temples for the dead. Let's take baptism for the dead as our example. Baptism is a time to make a covenant. God has specified a particular ritual we must go through to enter into a covenant with Him. We must have an authorized priesthood holder immerse us in water.

I suppose that God could have easily chosen any other act to consummate this covenant. He might have insisted that we all speak a particular phrase, or that we wave our hands in the air, or that we lie on our backs very still for several minutes. For a number of good reasons, he chose the symbol-rich ordinance of baptism.

So now consider those people who didn't have an opportunity to be baptized in mortality. What is so special about the physical-body part of the ordinance that God requires it for all people, even if it must be done by proxy? For the life of me, I can't image why he couldn't have them perform some similar body-free ordinance in the spirit world. But they apparently need water baptism just as mortals do. I don't understand it, but it seems to be saying something very important about bodies.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.