Is Mormonism any crazier than Christianity?

I’ve been learning a lot about Mormonism, which is coming in handy now, as for the first time in history a Mormon has received a presidential nomination from a major political party. I took a few swipes at Mitt Romney recently, calling his religion “crazy”.

But is Mormonism really any crazier than, say, Christianity? Well no, not in terms of its supernatural claims. Mormonism was built on the foundation of Christianity, much like Christianity was built on Judaism. It’s “Christianity+”. The Book of Mormon borrows heavily from Biblical language. And in terms of “events”, miracles, visions and divine revelations feature heavily in the church’s history. So yes, if you look at the mystical beliefs of Latter Day Saints versus those of Christians, they are both irrational, and both lacking in supporting evidence. It is no more crazy, per se, to believe that the creator of the universe lives on a planet orbiting the star “Kolob” than it is to believe that the first female human was created from the first male human’s rib. Both religions have crossed over into fantasy land. There are, however, two key differences between the religions: specificity, and the freshness and clarity of their origins.

In terms of specificity, Joseph Smith was incredibly ambitious in the claims he made in The Book of Mormon. He claims that native American tribes are descended from a lost Israelite tribe. No. They’re not. Conclusively. Smith claimed that one of these Israelites (Lehi) came across horses in America. No. He didn’t. There were no horses in America for 10,000 years before the Spaniards brought them over. I could go on, but there’s no point. Smith made far too many specific claims, especially about genealogy and American history that are outright false. Whereas the Bible speaks in poetry, metaphor, and euphemisms, Smith made many clear statements that we now know to be unequivocally false.

The origins of Christianity are mysterious. Paul of Tarsus just started writing about it, and Paul expressed zero interest in the life story of Jesus or in the origins of the religion. The gospel accounts came later, by unknown authors, and weren’t contemporary to the alleged events. Christianity benefits from that cloak of mystery. Myths without a clear origin story seem to have a better foundation, as that foundation can be imagined to stretch infinitely into the fog.

The origins of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are anything but mysterious. A mere 190 years old, it is by far the youngest of the four Abrahamic faiths. Good records exist about the story of Joseph Smith, an admitted liar and fraud, and the golden plates he claimed to have found and magically translated from a non-existent language he said they were written in. We know how the sausage was made. We know that when 116 pages of the translated manuscript were lost (or possibly stolen), he was not able to retranslate that portion of the plates, knowing that there was no way he could bullshit his way through those same 116 pages again and have it match up.

No thinking person can look at the history of the LDS church and conclude anything other than that it is all a giant hoax, perpetrated by a charismatic fraud. The same is not as clear with Christianity, shrouded as it is by blurry language, historical cobwebs, and an uncertain origin. In terms of claiming supernatural things for which there is no evidence, Christianity and Mormonism aren’t all that different. In terms of how crazy it is to believe either one, Mormonism is the uncontested all-American champion. And it is absolutely fair to question the judgement of a man who is so utterly convinced by this obvious fraud.

Comments

  1. Andy says

    And it is absolutely fair to question the judgment of a man who is so utterly convinced by this obvious fraud.

    Allegedly convinced. There’s only one thing more dubious than the faith of a politician.

  2. says

    I believe heartily that there is nothing wrong with doubt. It is too bad that Thomas of the bible get’s such a bad wrap for expressing it. It is something that I have found to give me strength. That being said, do I condemn my neighbor for having a belief that is different then mine? I can trust the judgement of the jew/muslim/athiest/christian/hindu as I would trust anyone else.

    Like I said, there is nothing wrong with doubt, but condemning based on religion not only seems petty, but seems intolerant.

    And for the record, the CURRENT LDS prophet is Thomas S. Monson.

    • says

      That being said, do I condemn my neighbor for having a belief that is different then mine?

      Well, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, which applies to anti inter-religious criticisms. Having no such beliefs of my own, I feel much better positioned to criticize them (whether specifically, or in general). Now, I didn’t say “condemn”. Criticize. Is it fair to question someone’s judgement because of their religious convictions? I guess it depends on how seriously they are expressing those convictions, and how implausible they are. We question the judgement of people who think we didn’t land on the moon, or that alien abductions happen. Why should nonsensical beliefs of a religious nature be exempted?

  3. says

    I’ll judge the man by his character and what he’s done. If he says he believes in our Lord Jesus Christ, I’ll take him at his word. I won’t disparage for what he believes as long as he doesn’t disparage me for what I believe.

    There’s only two ways to vote, either conservative with my money or liberal with my money. Don’t waste your vote, the more conservative our government is the more liberal my donations.

    Thanks for the subscribe plugin.

  4. Kegan says

    If you are going to refer to the Apostle Paul or Christianity, please get your facts straight. Not only was Paul “interested” in Christ, he wrote 13 books about Him. Paul ultimately became a martyr for Christ. While Paul might not have talked about Jesus as a child. the lack of knowledge from His youth doesn’t change the fact of who He is and why He walked among us, which is what Paul focused on; the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    The Gospels were written by Mathew, Mark, Luke and John… I would refer you to the Bible, but I know you won’t believe it: http://www.facingthechallenge.org/gospels.php

    I can assure you that Christianity is no “myth”. I personally have seen, felt and continue to see the work and love of God and the Holy Spirit every day. It is up the to the individual to accept what God has written on every man’s heart. Of course God isn’t real to you, you have rejected Him, but please don’t lead others away from the truth of which you know very little about. I feel sorry that you can’t see all the evidence of creation all around you, not even see it in the eyes or your beautiful children He has given you. It takes FAR more faith to believe that we just exist by sheer coincidence, than it does to believe that we are created by a divine designer….

    • says

      The Gospels were written by Mathew, Mark, Luke and John

      Assigning names to them does not solidify their authorship or give us any information on who these authors are and how they sourced their material.

      which is what Paul focused on; the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

      Right. I could write essays on the heroics of Harry Potter — that does nothing to historicize him as a real person!

      I feel sorry that you can’t see all the evidence of creation all around you

      If this evidence so clearly points to evidence of divine authorship, why do the most evidence-driven thinkers (scientists) overwhelmingly reject that explanation?

      • Kegan says

        Assigning names to them does not solidify their authorship or give us any information on who these authors are and how they sourced their material.

        They sourced their material as eye witnesses or from 1st person eye witnesses. There were very strict standards set forth by the early church in order to be included into the canon.

        If this evidence so clearly points to evidence of divine authorship, why do the most evidence-driven thinkers (scientists) overwhelmingly reject that explanation?

        Great question. However, it depends on who you are listening to. I will give you, most college professors, which often are notoriously liberal, will deny the existence of God. There are many scientists that believe we were created by a divine designer. Ultimately, it involves the heart of man. We don’t like to be told what to do, especially how to live. It is up to the individual to decide for themselves. I will defend the word of God, I don’t like it when people post incorrect, misleading information. I love both science and God, when you dig deep they go hand in hand. It was God himself who taught us to think, be creative, work hard and study! For instance, I am a firm Christ believer, (obviously), and I believe the Earth is MUCH older than many Christians claim, around 6k years. Scientific evidence just shows that is wrong. There are passages in the Bible that refer to an old Earth as well.

        As far as being able to trust the validity of the Bible, it can be (more) trusted according to current historical document standards than pretty much any book ever written. Please read: http://carm.org/can-trust-new-testament-historical-document. My goal is not to “covert” you, as I know that would pretty much be a lost cause. My goal is to give your readers the other side of the coin.

        BTW, thank you for working on such an awesome product (WordPress)!

  5. Ethan says

    Mark, interesting post. I wanted to ask you about your source for your line, “Paul of Tarsus just started writing about [Christianity].” You sound really sure about that point and I’m curious what your source is. I’m very interested in these types of things, as it sounds like you are.

      • Ethan says

        What is your take then on the general historical value of the New Testament gospels themselves? You don’t seem too sure about them, but they would certainly pass the same muster. I guess that’s where I was confused.

      • says

        The historical value of the events they describe? Well, not much. They get basic facts about the history and geography of the region wrong. They have discrepancies between each other (even though they have the same primary source). And they are the sole source for information on the life of Jesus. No contemporary historians mention him. Seems odd, considering that he seemed like quite a regional phenomenon in the gospels. And they were written much after the events they claim to document, by non-eye-witnesses. It doesn’t add up. Modern historians don’t see the gospel accounts as reliable historical accounts of the period.

        • Ethan says

          “They get basic facts about the history and geography of the region wrong.”

          Hi Mark, I wondered if you could list some of the facts that the gospels get wrong. I’ve just been searching for some examples but am coming up empty.

          If you have the time.

  6. Jeffrey Baxter says

    I disagree that the writings of Joseph Smith are fabrications from his imagination. I have read the result of his work, The Book of Mormon, and found it to be a true testament of Jesus Christ, given through the prophets of God. Decades ago it transformed my life to one filled with peace and love for all men, and I continue today to enjoy the results of a righteous life. I wish to alert the people reading this blog of the powerful good that comes from obedience to the commandments of God, discovered by studying the writings of the prophets of the Bible and Book of Mormon. As this article suggests, please read these books for yourself and do your own thinking. You will be glad you did.

    • says

      Neither do many people believing in something nor some people experiencing positive life changes because they believe in something have anything to do with whether or not that thing is actually true. Indeed, everything you said has been in defense of Islam, and it certainly didn’t convince you.

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