I recently read an article written by someone whose purpose was to help those in a faith crisis, to show through logic that many anti-mormon arguments aren’t as sound as they may seem. I appreciated the article, it was a good defense of the Book of Mormon, of Joseph Smith as a prophet, and of the restoration. I read it because I know that this article was meant for people like me. Many people will consider my journey of late to be a crisis of faith. In a way that’s true. I went through a crisis of faith in the LDS church, and on the other side of it, I realized that my faith was never meant to be put into an organization or church. However, I could safely put my faith in the gospel of Christ, and rely on Him to receive answers to my many questions.
In reading the article, I couldn’t help noticing the logical flaw that the writer was ignoring. The article makes the assumption that if the Book of Mormon is true, if Joseph Smith was a prophet, that means that the LDS church today is “true”.(I’m not sure how a church organization can be true. Points of doctrine can be true, principles can be true, but should an organization be labeled “true”? Is my book club or Walgreens true?)
But I don’t believe that one equals the other. I believe that Brother Joseph was a prophet because he spoke the words of the Lord. He received revelations, recorded them, so that we now have them in the Doctrine and Covenants. He delivered to the world a collection of God’s word. Many who have read it, as well as the Book of Mormon, have received our own witness from the Lord that they are from Him. The Holy Ghost has testified of their truthfulness.
However, saying that this Godly evidence means that the LDS church is true, or has all the Lord’s truth, or is God’s authority on earth, isn’t a logical conclusion. Just because something starts with truth doesn’t mean it retains it. We see evidence of this over and over in the scriptures. The Lord calls His people to repentance through a prophet, some few (and sometimes many) repent and come to Him, but over time—often only a couple generations—that connection with God is lost. We’re not immune to this in our day. We do have a better chance than most because we have the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Mormon does contain the fullness of the Gospel. But the Book of Mormon also has example after example of the righteous falling into apostasy. We need to take that warning seriously and not just assume that we are safe from it, either individually or collectively.
I know most in the church members believe that we are lead by a modern day prophet, and thus all is well and we cannot be led astray. It’s a comforting thought to be sure. We receive constant reassurance that we are on the right path because we are part of the organization. But is that confidence warranted? How can we know if someone who takes the title of prophet is, in fact, a prophet? I would think that the simplest way would be to ask if they have prophesied? Have they revealed? We know that Joseph Smith DID receive revelation. The members were able to read them and ask the Lord for confirmation that the words printed were His words. These revelations followed the pattern of revelations recorded in the Book of Mormon. They weren’t inspired thoughts, or thoughtful talks on gospel subjects. Joseph gave plenty of those as well, but what we call revelation are the Lord’s words.
“And the Lord said unto me: John, my beloved, what desirest thou? “ (D&C 7:1)
“And the things which I shall tell you are made known unto me by an angel from God. And he said unto me: Awake; and I awoke, and behold he stood before me.” (Mosiah 3:2)
“I, the Lord, am God, and have given these things unto you, my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and have commanded you that you should stand as a witness of these things;“ (D&C 5:2)
“Behold, I am God; give heed unto my word, which is quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword,” (D&C 6:2)
They are direct quotes from God or His angels. Visions are shares in the scriptures with the same clarity. “I have dreamed a dream; or, in other words, I have seen a vision.” (1 Nephi 8:2)
There are wonderful, inspired leaders in many churches that can help others come to Christ if they truly are being lead and inspired by the Lord. But that does not make them prophets, seers, or revelators?
Countless people join the LDS church for very good reason. They read the Book of Mormon, they read or hear the story of the first vision, and the Holy Ghost testified to them that these things are true. Then the church teaches them that because those things are true, everything now taught in the church is true.
Once again, that isn’t actually a logical conclusion. All that proves is that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith had the truth and was a true servant of God.
There are quite a few instances of church teachings contradicting scripture. We are taught that the Word of Wisdom is a commandment, when the revelation reads, “not by commandment or constraint…given for a principle with a promise.” (D&C 89:2-3) We’ve decided not to use wine for the sacrament even though it specifically states in D&C 89:5-6 that we should use wine for the sacrament. It’s even recommended that we make the wine ourselves.
That’s not nearly so worrisome to me as the restrictions that the church has put on baptism. If anyone wishes to be baptized, they must have a testimony that the current church president as a prophet, seer and revelator, (it’s in the baptismal interview) when in the scriptures, the only requirements for baptism are to repent and come to Christ. (3 Nephi 21:6, 3 Nephi 27:20, 3 Nephi 30:2, Moroni 7:34) There are plenty of other restrictions put on baptism by the church, likely all were well intentioned, but that doesn’t change the fact that Jesus laid out the rules for baptism Himself, and we’d do well to follow them.
In 1837, the fullness of the priesthood was restored, but in a revelation received in 1841, wherein the saints were commanded to finish he Nauvoo temple in a certain amount of time, we are told: “For there is not a place found on earth that he may come to and restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood.” (D&C 124:28) The fullness of the priesthood was lost to the saints, and I have yet to find any record of it being restored again. We retained a portion of it, but the revelation states that Christ must visit the temple in order to restore the fullness. There is no record of him visiting the Nauvoo Temple, in fact it was never fully completed. I ask people about this fairly often and no one seems to be concerned about it. But it very much concerns me.
The church being put under condemnation also concerns me, and is yet another thing that no one talks about. D&C 84:
55 Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.
56 And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.
57And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—
When was this condemnation lifted? In Pres. Benson’s April 1986 talk entitled Cleansing the Inner Vessel, he speaks of this condemnation and states that it has not been lifted. I have no reason to believe it’s been lifted since that time either. Why aren’t we more concerned about this?
I don’t say any of this in the hopes that I will destroy someone’s faith. I remember all too well how it felt to have the rug pulled out from under me and to realize that maybe the church wasn’t all it claimed to be. However, on the other side of that, I found my faith in Christ strengthened, and that is something we can all benefit from. My hope is that perhaps there are some out there who are struggling in silence and might find some value in the lessons I’ve learned.
I’ve seen the same droves of people that you have, not only leaving the church, but abandoning their faith in God. We’ve tied the idea of Gospel Truth and church truth so tightly together, that when one recognizes the flaws in the church that claims to be God’s church, they can’t fathom how any of the Lord’s gospel can be true. They throw everything out. If God’s church on earth isn’t telling the whole truth—or is contradicting itself, or is acting in a way that they imagine God would not possibly act—then they throw everything out. Faith in Christ, Faith in God, even the belief in the existence of God.
I was lucky in that I never doubted God’s love or his gospel. I was confused about what was His and what wasn’t, and I’m still trying to figure out a lot of the details, but through my crisis of faith in the church, I never doubted that the Lord was there, that He had restored his gospel and that it was contained in the Book of Mormon. And it hurts to see so many who can’t think of a way to reconcile a fallible organization (including leaders who contradict one another or scripture) with an infallible God.
God can and has spoken for Himself. I personally need to be better at searching out His will and obeying His word.
35 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.
36 And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.
37 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things.
38 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.
39 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.
40 And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them. (3 Nephi 11)
*If you’d like to read the article that got me thinking about this topic, it’s here.