Saturday, April 21, 2007


A couple of weeks ago, while I was filling up my car with gas, a Mormon asked me if I believed in Jesus. I asked him, "Historical or metaphysical?" He said, "Both." I replied that I wasn't sure if there was a historical Jesus, or if Jesus was a creation of a sect of Judaism shortly after the fall of the temple to give people hope that the messiah did come, and the end of the world is soon. There were a bunch of messianic preachers around that time, maybe the Jesus story is a mish-mash of those people, with some choice heroic mythology thrown in for divinity sake. Anyway, the Mormon said that he believed Jesus was born of a virgin, was killed, and came back to life three days later. Then he explained that when Jesus died, and all the apostles died, Jesus' church died too. In Galatians, which can be said to be a pretty pivotal book, not just for Mormons, but Martin Luther interpreted the text to justify grace through faith, not works. Although it could be said that "works" really means Jewish rituals required by Jews. Galatians does provide for a separation from the Torah, and the rituals which make up Jewish culture, and distinctiveness, which may have been seen a burdensome to gentiles seeking a conversion to Jewish Christianity. As you can see, Galatians is pretty important, it's why Christian's don't follow mitzvot today. Galatians can also be seen as a rebuttal to Acts, at least the first two chapters, which may be been written by Marcionites, and tacked on to his work (probably chapters 3 through 6.)

Anyway, the Mormon's like to quote Galatians 1:6-9 often, to convince Christians that Mormonism is the true way to Christ, not these other religions, or versions of Christianity. If you really real Galatians, it's easy to get the theme. Christians shouldn't be like Jews. The Mormon I met quoted that passage to me, explained that in Amos, God predicted an apostasy would happen, that everyone turned their back to God, and that God appeared to Joseph Smith in the 1800's to start his own church. He read gold plates in a hat, and translated the Book of Mormon.

I had never talked with a Mormon before, at least not about what Mormon's believed, so I was glad when he offered to stop by later, in about a week, to talk about the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints.

Ok, right now, Mormonism sounds like it sprung from a totally nuts idea, but I wanted to see if the origins didn't matter as much, if there was a good message, a good philosophy behind the origin story. When the Mormon's came, there were three of them, two Elders, and one Priest. They told me more origin stories. Jesus came to America, showed himself to the natives there. Also, there was Lehi, who in 600 BC, came to America, and started a civilization. Mormon, a prophet living in American in the 4th Century, wrote the Book of Mormon.

I asked them if there was anything really that different from Christianity that they believed in, besides the Book of Mormon, they answered, "No." The belief in the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon is so strong with Mormons, that I was told that I must pray, and ask God if the Book of Mormon was true. If it was true, I'd get a burning feeling inside of me. The key, however, was that before you prayed, you have to really want to believe that the Book of Mormon is true. The feeling you get validates the authenticity. I wish that worked for answers on a test, or scientific research, or on Jeopardy.

I like to learn about the philosophical backgrounds of different religions, to look at things from their way. I wasn't able to take much away from my meeting with the Mormons. They didn't give me a copy of the Book of Mormon to read, so I couldn't decide for myself whether it was true or not. They emphacised that family is most important for Mormons, and that polygamy isn't practiced by members of the LDS any longer. I asked about the role of women, having attended a panel discussion on religion's suppression of women's rights. Their response was that women could never be priests or elders, but they will give talks during the service which are like sermons, but aren't. There is a Relief Society for women, which gives them something to do, because they can't be involved in the leadership of the church. I think they got this question a lot. I helped them in their description of it a bit, by explaining the way the Muslim women explained how they aren't suppressed. It's just their role as women. God has roles for certain people, and for women, it's to be obedient to their husbands, and to cover their bodies. That's not suppression, that's obedience to God, which is different. They liked that answer.

The priest said he's come by tomorrow with a Book of Mormon for me, I have yet to see him, and that was Wednesday. I've been reading parts of the Book of Mormon online, as I can. I've noticed that the Book of Mormon from 1830, has been changed since then. Here is one passage, as it exists today, from Second Nephi:
30:6 And then shall they rejoice; for they shall know that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God; and their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a pure and delightsome people.

The 1830 version, with the included racism:
30:6 And then shall they rejoice; for they shall know that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God; and their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white and delightsome people.

Of course, selected quotes taken out of context from scripture don't provide a whole picture of a faith, but key beliefs are often formed from picking a single sentence from a book, and determining that women can't lead a church, homosexuality is an abomination, or all the non Mormon churches will be destroyed soon.

I hope the Mormons come back, I doubt they would give up on me this easily. They want to save me, after all, and all non-Mormons from earthquakes, fire, storms, war, disease, and starvation.

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