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Friday, March 22, 2013

A Non-Member Has Questions About an Anti-Book of Mormon Post

[Dear Readers,

I decided to share this letter below with you (I get more of these than you might think) not because it's about relationships or dating, per se, and certainly not because I want to become the "answer all of my Doctrinal Questions" guy - you have great parents, teachers, leaders, and other resources for that - but because I felt this morning that someone out there among you needed it.

Not to be "weird" (ha! how often have we been called that???), but sometimes I've just got to go with a prompting.

Maybe you'll be able to tell me why you think I felt the need to post it today . . .

May the Lord bless you all,

- Bro Jo]

Dear Mr.Johnston,

My name is (withheld) and I am from Utah.

I will not share my religious views because I don't believe it is necessarily relevant. I am rather well versed in Mormonism as I was born and raised here.

I came across an article that I'm not asking you to refute or argue with me about but rather give an honest Mormon response to these kind of inquiries/rhetoric as I'm sure they're not uncommon questions.

A lot of the article, as wordy as it was, basically stated the reoccurring fallacies found in the Book of Mormon including the complete lack of knowledge regarding the natural world in the Americas.

Also, I am interested in the response regarding the Bible/Book of Mormon contradictions, I would give examples but it really only takes a Google search and a knowledge of both books. I am sincerely interested in your response and am in no way demeaning your religion; I really want true answers from someone who seems to know their stuff.

Thank you for your time and I hope to hear back.

Peace be with you,

(Name Withheld)

Dear NW,

It's not really my place to speak on behalf of the LDS Church, but I'm happy to correspond with you about what I know and believe.

First of all, scripture isn't perfect. Not only does it have to filter down through centuries and generations of translations, but we rely on imperfect people (aren't we all?) to do the best they can providing important but often difficult information.

In addition to my testimony of the Book of Mormon, I also have a testimony of the Bible. I've taught both for many years, and yet there are things I don't know, don't understand, or don't seem to fit perfectly from one to another.

For me, though, that really isn't important.  (I'll explain in a moment why.)

Secondly, without much effort one can find, especially in these days of the internet, articles claiming the truth or falsehood of just about everything. If one is going to question one source of information (in your case we could consider that the Book of Mormon), intellectual honesty requires them to question ALL sources of information.

See, these articles (and you're right, there are MANY) often proclaim truth, but usually are quite wrong.

But let's set that aside for now. Let's say that everything in the article you've read is correct, that the Book of Mormon is full of holes and anthropologically incorrect. (I don't believe that, by the way, but let's just say.) 

Then that brings two questions:

     1) Why does it matter? and

     2) Why does someone feel motivated to point it out?

See, NW, the Book of Mormon isn't a science book or a study of natural species; it's a testimony of Jesus Christ.

It's like in the Bible:  I believe there was a prophet named Noah who built an ark and there was a great flood. But even if there wasn't a "real" Noah and no flood, that's not the point.

The point is what the story teaches us about God, His Love for us, and the advice it gives us in helping us to be better people. 

No one, certainly no one in the know or of authority, has ever said "the Book of Mormon is perfect in every word and without flaw". In fact, Joseph Smith himself said more than once that he knew it wasn't perfect. What he hoped was that he had done a good enough job at what God wanted him to do. He admitted his failings and readily said that if there were errors they were his, not God's.

What we, as Latter-day Saints, do claim is that because the Book of Mormon testifies of Jesus Christ that (and you may have heard this before) a person can grow closer to God by reading it than any other book alone.

And I can tell you that for me that is true.

Some thoughts to leave you with:

  • There are NO contradictions between the Bible and the Book of Mormon when it comes to doctrine, and that's what's, to me anyway, really important. And actually, the Book of Mormon does a remarkable job supporting the teachings in the Bible. 

  • Science is ever evolving. Often the things we think of that can't possibly be true often turn out to be exactly so. I don't think science contradicts religion; for me it proves my faith. I don't know how God created the world and everything in it; perhaps it's what some people call "evolution", perhaps some other way; I find it interesting, and I think someday we'll all be told how it all works. What I do know is this: life as we know it is WAY MORE complex than anyone on this planet fully understands. 

God is constant. I think science is man's way of trying to understand God, which is fine, but I also think many people miss the point or get lost along the way. I care much less about HOW God does stuff, and find it much more valuable to me as a being to ponder WHY.

As for questions and concerns, if you want to talk about specifics, then you'll have to be specific.

I've long since outgrown the desire to seek out and read the words of those that try to attack my faith. I have time for you, but not time for them.

That's probably going to mean that you'll have to be quoting me verses out of the Book of Mormon that you have questions about. If you don't have one, it's online or I can get one to you. I don't care what the author you mentioned (or anyone else like him, really) has to say about the book; I know their type and their motivation and I find them disingenuous at best; often they're just blatantly dishonest and not very nice people who are trying to justify something in their own lives.

What I want to know about is the verses you've read and the questions you have about them. I WILL make tons of time for "Brother Johnston I read this in this place in the Book of Mormon and it seems to contradict this thing I read, heard, believe or know".

You are important to me; not the haters.

And as we travel down this journey together I promise to be honest with you; I won't be here to "convert" you; I'll just do my best to answer your questions to the best of my ability.

It might help to know you a little better. I'm a fairly public person already, so you probably know a ton about me . . . I'm curious: what lead you to write to me of all people?

 What are you hoping to get out of our correspondence?

Thank you for emailing me. I hope our conversation continues.

- Bro Jo


bananasplit said...

Did they ever email you back?
I'm not sure why you felt prompted either, but this is really interesting...

Dave Johnston said...

Thank you. And, no, it's been a long time and I haven't heard back yet.

- Bro Jo

Christina Leavitt said...

I don't know why either, but for me it was great to hear your perspective. I think I should start using that formula myself and always ask, "What's the purpose?"

Sorry he never responded.

Honestly, the lack of detail and personality in his letter made me doubtful that he would. People who actually want to know something usually don't write so vaguely or are so careful to keep emotion words from their letter. In fact the only things he shared about himself were things he probably thought would provide some connection to you and make you more open to discuss how you really felt, "Utah boy, born and raised. I get your religion." Even some of your vaguest letters had a "please help" or "I'm (insert feeling)." He was very careful to craft his letter so that you had no idea what he was really thinking himself.

In fact, he did that so well his letter would make a good first clue for a mystery novel.

Ali said...

This was a great description and helped me to understand The Book of Mormon better, even as a member of the Church. Thank you for this!

Anonymous said...

I've never been one to really care too much about proof that the Book of Mormon is true. I just believe it and know in my heart that no proof is really needed when I have the witness of the spirit for myself.

But if anyone is interested in proof about the Nephites and Lamanites, I've recently discovered this book that is fascinating and presents some great evidence that the Nephites and Lamanites were the Hopewell Mound Builders.

Exploring the Book of Mormon In America's Heartland, A Visual Journey of Discovery by Rod L. Meldrum

It may be true and it may not, but either way, proof does not a testimony make. It's something you have to figure out for yourself.