The Most Consequential Reason behind Doctrinal Errors Gaining Acceptance in the LDS Church

A careful student of Mormonism’s scriptures will, at some point, inevitably notice a puzzling fact.  The most high-profile teachings of Mormonism, those that most distinguish the LDS Church from other Christian religions, are at odds with the teachings of the Book of Mormon and Bible.  Counterintuitively, the student finds that the  book for which The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is most famous–the Book of Mormon, Mormonism’s namesake–has been repeatedly contradicted, upstaged and supplanted by the teachings in two books the Church has canonized–the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price— and by the ideas that resulted from Joseph Smith’s many claimed revelations and heavenly visitations.  Biblical teachings have suffered the same fate.  This observation is the subject of a book currently being written by M.S. Brothers entitled Restoration II:  Defending the Bible and Book of Mormon against LDS Theology.  Orthodox Mormons accept the doctrines and practices promulgated by Joseph Smith, even if the conflict between those teachings on the one hand and the faith’s first two canonical books on the other hand, is obvious upon a comparative reading.

For example, the doctrine and gospel taught by Christ in the Bible and Book of Mormon is dramatically different than the LDS theology of exaltation and godhood through rituals performed in Mormon temples.  This discrepancy is the subject of an essay on his website entitled “Jesus’s Doctrine and Gospel versus Mormonism’s Teachings of Temple Priesthood Ordinances and Exaltation.”

Another clear example is the unequivocal condemnation of baptizing little children found in Moroni Chapter 8 in the Book of Mormon.  But such straightforward message  from the prophet Mormon did not stop Joseph Smith from claiming a revelation from the Lord in which church members were commanded to baptize their children at the age of eight.  As a result, the Mormon Church now practices the baptism of eight-year-olds.  This  discrepancy between straightforward Book of Mormon teachings (which are also strongly implied in the Bible) and current LDS philosophy and practice is addressed in this website’s essay “The Baptism of Eight-year-old Children.”

A third example, though not as important as the ones outlined above or discussed elsewhere on this website, is one that is immediately noticed by non-Mormons who visit LDS sacrament meetings for the first time.  They are invariably surprised to observe the use of water in place of wine in the sacrament of the Lord’s supper.  The Bible suggests “the fruit of the vine” should be used; the Book of Mormon unequivocally requires the use of wine.  But Joseph Smith, after initially accepting the Book of Mormon’s requirement of wine, later claimed the Lord had revealed to him that it didn’t matter which drink was used in the sacrament.  Accordingly, Mormons some 70 years later adopted the use of water in place of wine.   This subject is addressed in this website’s essay “The Use of Wine in the Sacrament.”

Many, many other examples could be cited, and most of them will soon become the subject of essays here if they have not been written about already.  But the question of why Mormons are so willing to accept and adopt Joseph Smith’s revisions and replacements of doctrines taught in the Book of Mormon, even if those doctrines are taught by Jesus himself to be immutable, remains.  In this writer’s opinion, it boils down to this:  Though Mormons purport to accept that Joseph Smith was human and fallible, they absolutely cannot accept that he could be fallible enough to declare his ideas to be revelations from the Lord when they really weren’t.  Other men and women in the church might be guilty of this, and Joseph might have comparatively minor flaws, but, the reasoning goes, Joseph simply couldn’t have THAT flaw.  Mormons are sure that if Joseph Smith were capable of having an idea that originated with him, but which he claimed had been revealed to him as the word of God, spoken in the first person,he wouldn’t be a good enough man for the Lord to have chosen to bring forth the Book of Mormon as a choice seer.

Similarly, and even more steadfastly, Mormons cannot accept the suggestion that Joseph Smith, as opposed to other church leaders and upstanding members, and religious leaders from all other churches, could ever have been capable of claiming a heavenly manifestation or visitation he didn’t actually have.  This would disqualify him as being too sinful for the Lord to use him for the purposes Mormons believe he was used for.

As a result, when a conflict occurs between the teachings contained in Joseph Smith’s claimed revelations and visitations and the clear theology of the Bible or Book of Mormon, the overwhelming majority of active LDS church members adhere to what Joseph taught, and try to ignore Book of Mormon and Bible theology to the contrary.

 

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