(From an e-mail I sent in December)
An honest question for you: Are you of the mindset that even if the LDS Church isn’t true, it still might be worth believing in?
Have you ever seen the Southpark Episode on Mormonism? I don’t watch Southpark (it’s a crass, raunchy show), but I have seen that episode (it’s popular with the Mormons and non-Mormons I hang out with). At the end of the episode the Mormon boy says (at 20m44s),
“Look, maybe us Mormons do believe in crazy stories that make absolutely no sense, and maybe Joseph Smith did make it all up. But I have a great life and a great family, and I have the Book of Mormon to thank for that. The truth is, I don’t care if Joseph Smith made it all up, because what the Church teaches now is loving your family, being nice, and helping people. And even though people in this town think that’s stupid, I still choose to believe in it.”
I bring the quote up because I think it really well encapsulates a common attitude, that a religion’s ultimate truth doesn’t matter so much as its usefulness in making us better people. Two questions my friends and I like to ask are:
1. If the Church wasn’t true, would you want to know? Another way of asking this is, “Do you want to know the truth more than you want Mormonism to be true?”
2. If the Church wasn’t true, how would you know?
To be honest, some people don’t want to know. They’re happy where they are at.
Jesus said to Pilate, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37) He also said, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
C.S. Lewis once famously wrote,
“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
The same kind of high-stakes attitude can be had about Mormonism too, and has been expressed by Mormon leaders. Mormon apostle Orson Pratt wrote,
“If, after a rigid examination, it be found an imposition, it should be extensively published to the world as such; the evidences and arguments on which the imposture was detected, should be clearly and logically stated, that those who have been sincerely yet unfortunately deceived, may perceive the nature of the deception, and be reclaimed, and that those who continue to publish the delusion, may be exposed and silenced, not by physical force, neither by persecutions, bare assertions, nor ridicule, but by strong and powerful arguments—by evidences adduced from scripture and reason.” (Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon, p. 1)
Or as Joseph Fielding Smith wrote,
“Mormonism must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a Prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground. If Joseph was a deceiver, who willfully attempted to mislead people, then he should be exposed, his claims should be refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false…” (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1 pp 188-189)
Jesus calls us to be radical disciples of the truth, to follow him at any cost, and he encourages us that it is worth it! He warns and promises:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. d a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:24-29)
I agree that Mormonism has a lot of truth in it, and it has some beautiful and moral things about it that reflect many attributes of Jesus. It provides a lot of meaning and structure, hope and direction. But couldn’t the same be said about other groups too, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Fundamentalist Mormons? The big question — which I know has a lot of painful implications — is whether any given religion’s fundamental claims are true or false.
Grace and peace in Jesus,