Mormonism vs. Other Christrian Faiths Aren't criticisms of Mormonism equally applicable to all religions? - P. Brannock responds
P. Brannock responds to this question as posed by his friend, Bill Sallberg. He discusses the profound diffences between Mormonism and other faiths, and calls out Mormonism as a fraud, as blasphemy, and as ineligible for religious tolerance.
Well, I suppose someone else’s criticism of Mormonism might be equally applicable to all religion, but that is absolutely not true of my particular criticism of Mormonism.
I am a former High Priest of the Mormon faith. I was a student of the Mormon scriptures for decades and served as a counselor in two consecutive Bishoprics. From that experience I came to my own realization about Mormonism and how it differs considerably from general Christianity, particularly from the Protestant faiths.
Any serious student of the history of Christianity comes to realize that considerable controversies raise considerable questions about the integrity of “The [Christian] Church” and of “The Bible”. Anyone who denies this, demonstrates their naivete’ and ignorance of the subject matter by such denial. However, the acknowledgement of these controversies does not conclusively dispel the legitimacy of anyone’s faith in the divinity of "Jesus Christ". The mere advent of transient priesthood corruption, does not, in and of itself, demonstrate that the original roots of Christian belief are false or unfounded. (Although, other things might very well.) Faith in Jesus is a personal matter that should be treated with courtesy and respect, even by non-believers.
I, for example, no longer consider myself to be a Christian, even though I do suspect that Jesus of Nazareth achieved a transcendental state of Self realization that might be said to qualify "Him" as “Divine”. I do not believe, literally, in the virgin birth; I think many of the miracles described in the New Testament are probably exaggerations or allegories; and I suspect that Jesus of Nazareth would probably be quite uncomfortable with much of the “Christian” practice and doctrine that is now attributed to him. Still, I have no basis for categorically ruling out the possibility that sincere reflection on the noble attributes attributed to Jesus and calling upon his "spiritual" force, in a meditative state, to aid in personal enlightenment and empowerment is not effective, on some level, for believers.
(To better understand my perspective here, it is useful to know that I think the same benefit can be achieved by those who focus and meditate on the "Divine" attributes of a rock or a tree. I, personally, like to focus and meditate on a small figure of Buddha or a small figure of the Hindu God, Ganesha. I enjoy the sentimentality that those particular representations of the "Divine" hold for me because of the circumstances in which I acquired them, and I enjoy the particular contextual paradox that they simultaneously represent for me. It is precisely that contextual paradox that I think is useful as a reminder that they are merely chosen objects of focused meditation and that the objective of such meditation is to liberate myself from the delusional attachment and dependency on such external props and the other false constructs of religion in the quest for the liberation from all ego attachments and ultimate Self realization. It is also useful to understand that "Divine", for me, is a universally shared attribute or "spiritual force" of the cosmos, and not the fabricated "power" of the conjured "God" of an exploitive priesthood.)
It is not reasonable for anyone to decry or criticize, in my point of view, the collective association of individuals who share such Christian faith and encourage (within reasonable limits) such faith in others. (I have no problem with fair criticism of the faith, itself, and its questionable roots.) Generally speaking, in my limited experience and awareness, Protestant ministries engage in exactly that effort and do not presume to usurp the name of God beyond such expression and encouragement of faith. Protestant ministers do not necessarily make claims of unique and exclusive authority from God to perform essential ordinances for exaltation in the Kingdom of God.
Typically a Protestant pastor or minister finds himself to be a part of the ministry as a result of a process that begins with a personal feeling of affinity or passion for both the faith in Jesus Christ and the prospect of being a part of the ministry of that faith. That feeling is generally deemed to be the substance of their “calling” to the ministry. On the basis of that feeling, they dedicate themselves, more fully, to studying the teachings of Jesus Christ as found in the Bible and, generally, enroll in colleges that prepare them for the avocation of Christian ministry. They are, ultimately, ordained into the ministry of their respective Protestant faiths and embark on making a career of the ministry.
The Protestant ministries consist largely of advocating the teachings and principles of the Bible, and their beneficial merits, to whomsoever may hear their message, and encouraging prospective disciples of Christ to follow His teachings as their hearts direct by the Spirit. Generally, the majority of the Protestant clergy does not represent their own unique agency of God to be the only agency through which members of the “body of Christ” may find exaltation in the “hereafter”. To the contrary, members are generally encouraged to follow their faith in the teachings of Jesus Christ and build their life around His teachings to the best of their ability, as moved upon by the Spirit of the Lord. There may be some relatively minor controversies between ministries, as to some doctrinal details and their consistency with the Bible, but, for the most part, Protestant religions do not make particular and specific claims as to their exclusive rights to administer the priesthood authority of God.
Contributions to Protestant ministries are accepted gratefully from members who are taught that such supportive giving is consistent with the teaching of the Bible. They do not, as a general rule, represent that they have unique authority from God to accept such gifts in partial, yet mandatory, satisfaction of the demands of God for the reward of exaltation in the next life. The Mormon religion is unique in this way. Very unique. The difference is profound.
The Protestant minister proclaims in effect, “I believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. I have devoted my life to learning of Him, and would like to share what I have learned with you, and encourage you to follow Him, and enter into a covenant with Him by your own faith.” The Mormon priesthood proclaims in effect, “We are the uniquely authorized agents of God on earth, to the exclusion of all others, and have been called to declare to the world that we, alone, have the sole rights and keys to interpret and communicate the word of God to all of humanity and administer the ordinances of God which are required for exaltation in the hereafter. To reject our unique authority and interpretations of God’s word is to reject God, Himself, and results in damnation.”
The Protestant claim is simply a statement of faith and the encouragement of faith. The Mormon claim is an absolute declaration of unique authority to require specific things, uniquely revealed to the Mormon priesthood, of candidates for exaltation. The Protestant claims cannot be challenged as deceptive because they are simply claims of faith. The Mormon claims require an entirely different threshold to be properly evaluated.
The Mormon prophets and apostles do not simply claim to believe in the teachings of Jesus and recommend them to others. They profess to know the mind of God by virtue of their unique relationship with Him to the exclusion of all others. The legal ramifications of this are, or should be, significant. If a true believer were to openly profess a belief in Jesus Christ, and encourage others to explore His teachings, and contribute financially to that cause, such a person would not be committing a fraud by doing so. If, on the other hand, I said I saw God, and God told me that all other churches are false, and that He endowed me with unique authority to represent Him on earth, and told me to tell you that He requires ten percent of your income be given to me, exclusively, as a condition of exaltation in the next life, I have now committed fraud, because I know that this is not true.
If I convince you to give me your money on that basis and it is later discovered that I knew that such claims were not true, you can recover those funds from me in a legal action because my specific representations of unique knowledge and authority were the basis of your contributions. Similarly, if I proclaimed that I “knew” that someone else saw God, when, in fact, I knew no such thing, that would be equally dishonest.
Generally, Protestant religions do not cross this line. They know it would be a fraud. They do not believe that they have such unique authority as the Mormons claim to have. The Mormons cavalierly cross this line and have been doing so since the inception of the religion.
In my missionary training a significant point was made of the relevance, to investigators of the church, of a particular scenario involving Martin Harris. Martin Harris was one of the three original witnesses who professed, in writing, to see the golden plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated. He left the church, but according to the Mormons, never withdrew his testimony as having seen the golden plates. This, we are supposed to believe, supports the truth of the existence of those golden plates, as testified by the three witnesses.
The naive are led to make the leap of logic that if he, Martin Harris, left the church and never actually saw the golden plates that he previously professed in writing that he had, he surely would have retracted that former testimony at the time he left the church. What naive investigators are not encouraged to consider, is that if he retracted his testimony as to the existence of the golden plates, he would have been immediately subjected to countless lawsuits for fraud brought by those who made significant contributions to the church on the basis of his previous testimony that he had.
I now understand these things. I came to understand them some years ago. For that reason, I ceased to officiate in the priesthood of the Mormon Church long before I actually asked to have my name removed from the records because I no longer believed it was true. Had I continued to profess it to be true while not actually believing it to be true, I would have been a party to a fraud.
I do not believe that the church is true, nor do I believe that it is reasonable to think that the level of sophistication in education and experience amongst the senior leadership of the church is too lacking for such men to be aware of the glaring inconsistencies between their own doctrines and the actual administration of their priesthood authority in defiance of those doctrines. Neither do I believe it to be reasonable for them to be unaware of the meaningful distinction between knowledge and belief and the significant ramifications involved in testifying that they know things to be true that they not only have no reasonable basis for believing to be true, but, to the contrary, are actually the custodians of a preponderance of credible evidence that contradicts or otherwise disproves those things.
Accordingly, while I can readily accept that Protestant ministries may well be sincere in their faith, I believe that the Mormon ministry is a fraud whose only plausible defense is self-delusion. I believe the evidence of that fraud can be conclusively demonstrated in a manner that should be sufficiently clear to reasonable people who have respect for the intellectual process of objective evaluation and a reasonable assessment of relevant information that is widely available.
For me, the obvious fraud of the Mormon Church is far beyond a reasonable doubt and an amazing commentary on an otherwise seemingly intelligent group of people and the sheer power of cultural and social pressure to warp an otherwise healthy perspective of reality. The fact that many decent, sincere, successful, and seemingly kindhearted people are Mormons does not make the claims of their church true. The claims of the Mormon Church cannot stand the test of reasonable scrutiny of all that is relevant to those claims, and so the doctrine and culture of the church has been constructed and managed to encourage the disparagement of objective and thorough scrutiny as an evil that should be avoided by the faithful and a basis of disqualification from temple worthiness and, in extreme cases, even membership.
It is my sincerest belief that Mormonism is an insidious evil, its claims patently false, and blasphemous, and it is to the discredit of the rest of the Christian community that religious tolerance is extended to agents of this heinous fraud. Mormon high priests do not deserve a seat at ecumenical councils and it is to the discredit of those councils that Mormon blasphemy should be embraced under the auspices of religious tolerance.
I am not suggesting that individual practicing Mormons should be mistreated on any level. Generally, the lay membership are sincere, hardworking folk, however naieve. They should be viewed as victims of Mormonism, not perpetrators. I am suggesting, however that the so called religion, Mormonism, is a blasphemous fraud that should never be acknowledged as a legitimate claim to faith by anyone who professes any kind of special knowledge or training in Christian ministry.
I find nothing particularly disconcerting about the Mormon theories on the identity of the Christ (I don't agree with them, but I don't have a problem with this particular belief of their's), and have advocated in another article that this particular notion does not deserve the disrespect that it seems to have been subjected to in the past. However, the claim of unique authority and agency of the Mormon leadership is a blasphemous fraud which is employed for the purpose of exploiting the faith of the membership. As such, I believe the Mormon leadership are criminals and co-conspiritors to fraud, and should be prosecuted as such.