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I'm a Christian, married to a wonderful man, Steven, and mother to a wonderful little son. I have many interests and a few noteworthy journeys in life and I enjoy sharing them.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

An Atheist's Response to the Book of Mormon

I still have a number of Mormon friends on Facebook, and some of them post a lot of articles related to their religion. It's always interesting to me to see what is currently persuasive or interesting to LDS members. It gives me a chance to see articles like this one, called "An atheist's response to the first 31 pages of the Book of Mormon."

And seeing such articles, I can respond to or critique them, usually after a face-palm, head shaking, or internal ranting.

This one is supposedly a letter from an atheist to a Mormon, from when she was on her mission and visited him and his wife. He was supposedly raised Lutheran, but from a Christian perspective, I think its obvious that he had limited understanding of Christianity and the Bible, or he wouldn't hold some of the views expressed in this letter. I also take leave to doubt that this is really a letter from an atheist, because it sounds very, very Mormon-ish.

My responses will be in (parenthesis and italics.)

To [Miss Mormon],

I hope the following helps to keep you motivated and inspired. I hope it is confirmation that Mormon beliefs are justifiable, and deserve to be respected alongside other Christian denominations:
(If Mormon beliefs are justifiable, why wouldn't he accept them? Why would he want to confirm her beliefs for her? You see why I am skeptical that this is really from an un-converted atheist.)

I just read the first 31 pages of the Book of Mormon, and was entranced by 1 Nephi chapters 8 and 10. I feel as thought I could almost stop there, and come away with something. That something is this:

The Book of Mormon should be read by all Christians.

As an Atheist, that's not the effect I thought the book would have on me. Nevertheless, I can imagine the amount of "push back" Mormons have to face, trying to convince a "Christian" to read it. What a shame. Because it is the most clearly written Christian Biblical Document. If Christians would be willing to read the text, compare it to what they already believe, most would not only agree with it, but would find that it strengthens their faith even further. (The only reason that Christians would agree with things in the Book of Mormon is because most of the theology was taken either directly from the Bible or from 19th century reformation preaching. However, it is only faith-strengthening if we accept the Book of Mormon as legitimate, historical, and truly penned by prophets of God. Otherwise, it is just a work of biblical-sounding 19th century fiction, which isn't particularly useful for strengthening faith. Further, experience to the contrary. I know a number of Christians who have read all or part of the Book of Mormon and do not find that it strengthens their faith, because they reject it as scripture.)1 Nephi 10 provides a greater and more straight forward message than Paul's letter to the Romans. And Romans is considered to be the definitive New Testament Epistle. The Reformation was based on Romans. But Nephi chapter 10 tops it. (I just don't see this. The prophecies contained in this chapter is found in the Bible; for instance, that the Jews would return to Israel, that a Messiah would come, that he would be preceded by John the baptist, etc etc. Other parts are contained clearly in Romans and other parts of the Bible, such as the statement that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that all mankind is in a lost and fallen state without Jesus. This chapter is an extremely simplistic summary; it no way tops the beautiful and deeper doctrines laid out through the epistle of Romans.)

There are really only two hangups to widespread Christian acceptance of the Book of Mormon. The first, is the fact that, the Book of Mormon isn't already in the Bible. If the chapters of the book of Mormon were placed within the standard bible , and Christians just grew up knowing that 1 Nephi was found after Malachi and Jeremiah or Habakkuk...they would bite into it hook line and sinker. It would be accepted as biblical cannon. What could possibly make them object?
(Placement in the Bible would require that it be legitimate scripture written by authentic prophets who really lived. There are many reasons to reject the Book of Mormon on both of those criteria. For instance, Nephi and his family do things that are in direct disobedience to God's commandments to Israel, which calls into question his status as a prophet inspired of God. Another is the complete lack of evidence that these people really lived and really came to the Americas, and the existence of evidence to the contrary, for instance, the DNA of Native Americans.)

The second hangup ins that the origin of the book of Mormon is still relatively new. But they confuse the translation of Joseph Smith in the 1800's with the 600 BC time frame of 1 Nephi. If Christians could accept 1 Nephi as 600 BC writing they would accept what it says. Can you imagine the level of excitement they would have if the dead sea scrolls contained excerpts from 1 Nephi? (ignoring the continental logistical problem). If the ancient text was carbon dated to 600 BC with the quote, " six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem, a prophet would the Lord God raise up among the Jew--even a Messiah...a Savior of the world"... what christian would protest that? They would consider it the greatest confirmation of the actual existence of Christ!
(We can't accept 1 Nephi as truly historical for many reasons. All evidence points to the Book of Mormon being a work of 19th century fiction, and a relatively simplistic one at that, drawing heavily on the King James Bible, the theology of the time, and the questions and speculations found in the area at that time (e.g. the origin of Native Americans, the book Views of the Hebrews).)

And as for the "craziness" of the Mormon origin story, is it no worse than any biblical story? Christians believe that God carved and wrote the ten commandments on stone tablets. But gold plates are somehow impossible? (Gold plates are completely unhistorical and can't be proven. It's not a question of a miracle of God, it's a question of whether people really recorded things that way, and if they kept records in the amount that the Book of Mormon claimed, why don't we have examples of it?) Christians believe that God sent Daniel and St. John visions. But Nephi's father can't have visions? (Funny thing is, those visions were had by Joseph Smith Sr. before the Book of Mormon was written. What's more likely? That God happened to send J.S. Sr. those same visions for some unknown reason and then the Smith family for some reason didn't use that to proclaim God's provision and foresight, or that Joseph Smith borrowed those so-called visions and wrote them into the Book of Mormon, just like many other things he borrowed from the people and culture around him?) Saul a persecutor of Christians can play a surprise role in God's message, but Joseph Smith can't? (The question isn't whether he can, it's whether he did. And he didn't. All evidence is that he was a womanizing charlatan who wanted money, even after becoming a so-called prophet.) Christians see Christ as an all powerful Savior of the whole human race. But Jesus isn't allowed to VISIT the whole human race? (He's certainly allowed to, but he didn't. There's no reason to think he did, and no reason to need to believe that he did, especially if the record of it is so tangibly false.) I just don't see and of these "Mormon" things as being anymore preposterous than anything else that is already accepted by all Christians.
(This paragraph kind of feels like the token "skepticism" of an atheist, but really sounds like a Mormon argument.)

Finally, it is massively ironic that, Christians reject Mormons in the same way Jews rejected Christians. Christians see Christianity as strengthening and clarifying the Jewish faith, but fail to even consider the strengthening and clarifying that Mormonism could do to their christian faith. (I do not see Christianity as strengthening and clarifying the Jewish faith. I see it as fulfilling their scriptures. I see it as an Old Covenant and a New Covenant. There is nothing in the New Testament that contradicts the Old. There is nothing in the New Covenant that is not in harmony with the Old. Jesus fulfilled Jewish prophecies, he became everything that their rituals symbolized. The same cannot be said of Mormonism in comparison to Christianity. There are blatant contradictions, as opposed to fulfillment or clarification. Mormonism even contradicts and perverts the Jewish traditions that pointed to Jesus, like the temple or the priesthood. There is a profound difference there.)


When I see things like this, I want to go a little Jesus-in-the-temple-with-a-whip, to be perfectly honest. Assuming that this letter is even authentic, it's ignorant and misrepresents the problems that Christians actually have with the Book of Mormon and the Mormon religion.

1 comment:

  1. the Atheist has no respect for the Holy Bible, he would make a Good Mormon, completely decieved