Many members of the LDS church believe Shem, the son of Noah and the father of all the Semitic races, and Melchizedek, the famous high priest to whom Abraham paid tithes, to be the same person. Indeed, a short essay on the LDS Church’s own website by Alma E. Gygi, a Salt Lake City businessman, entitled “Is it Possible that Shem and Melchizedek are the Same Person?” provides arguments in support of this conclusion, see here. This essay will attempt to demonstrate why Melchizedek was not Shem, but will also use this issue as a case study in how careless we can be in adopting religious beliefs. The Melchizedek-Shem issue is relatively trivial, but too often, the same failure to require solid foundations for our beliefs leads to other mistaken conclusions on far more consequential doctrinal matters.
The first major piece of evidence that Shem wasn’t Melchizedek is one that Mormons too often ignore–neither the biblical writers nor the more accurate Book of Mormon writers, though they were writing on the very subject of the greatness of Melchizedek, mentioned anything about him being Shem, or being the son of Noah. If a proponent of the Shem=Melchizedek theory is willing to ignore this point, she should first show that Bible and Book of Mormon writers commonly referred to one person using two different names without informing the reader that both names referred to the same person. But such a showing can’t be made; indeed, the opposite is true.
The LDS Church announced on May 8, 2018 that it is ending its long affiliation with the Boy Scouts. The announcement was a big story, and was carried by most major news outlets. The story can be read here. Many Mormons expressed dismay, reciting all the essential contributions to the lives of Mormon boys that Scouting had long provided. Another group lamented the situation because they approved of recent changes in the Boy Scouts’ stated mission and philosophy. So far, however, I haven’t read anyone else express the views I express in this essay. I write what I write, not out of a desire to be different or controversial, or to lose every last friend, but because I sincerely believe the views expressed below need to be expressed.
Since the time when I was a fifteen-year-old Senior Patrol Leader, I have felt that the LDS Church’s affiliation with the Boy Scouts of America (hereafter “BSA”) was significantly less beneficial than the Church thought it to be. Because the many scout troops I’ve been affiliated with have been LDS Church-sponsored troops, I am only intimately familiar with how the Boy Scout program has been run within Mormonism; I can’t speak of non-LDS Church sponsored troops with the same level of experience. Therefore, it’s hard to say whether the problems I’ll identify in this essay are more the fault of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the Boy Scouts of America. But what I can say with confidence is that, whether Mormons acknowledge it or not, the LDS Church’s adoption of the Boy Scouts as its “activity arm” for young men has made it more difficult to teach with integrity the tenets of Christianity to its young men.