Latter-day Saint Melissa Inouye writes, “Mormonism isn’t like a string of Christmas lights.” She would rather liken Mormonism to a loaf of sourdough bread, and here’s why.
Each light in a string of Christmas lights is dependent on the other lights in order to function properly. If one light is broken (in her example), the entire string will not light. Ms. Inouye applies this analogy to Mormons who have their faith shaken, becoming disillusioned when they are first exposed to Mormon Church history that has not been “sanitized.” While she says she can empathize with those who are upset over these issues, she disagrees with Mormons who allow the historical facts to put out their whole string of lights. She writes,
“The logic behind this loss of faith — Joseph Smith was a fraud, therefore the religion that he founded is bogus, and one’s entire experience as a Mormon is bogus — is actually just the reverse of how many Mormons approach their faith. If the Book of Mormon is true, the thinking goes, then everything Joseph Smith did or said was divinely inspired. And if Joseph Smith was divinely inspired in everything, then everything about the church is just how God wants it.
“…Human flaws are painfully apparent throughout the history of every major religious tradition — including Mormonism — but that doesn’t negate the experience, motives, or morals of all Catholics, Anglicans, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims — or Mormons.”
Suggesting that the Christmas-lights view of religion is “too easily manufactured and too easily broken,” Ms. Inouye proposes something different:
“So if the Christmas lights approach to faith doesn’t work, we need something else. Something like sourdough bread.”
For this new analogy Ms. Inouye describes sourdough starter as “sour on the verge of stinky, fermented bordering on decayed.” It would seem that she is applying this description to the foundation or “starter” of Mormonism, though she does not say so outright. At any rate, Ms. Inouye writes that adding the proper balance of additional ingredients to this bacteria-laden stew “results in heavenly bread” or “goodness.”
Ms. Inouye appears to be saying that she likes the way Mormonism has turned out–and that’s good enough for her. She likely agrees with Mormonism’s 15th Prophet/President who advised, “don’t worry about those little flicks of history…Now, there will be a blip here, a blip there, a mistake here, a mistake there. But by and large the work is wonderful, and vast good is being accomplished…” (Gordon B. Hinckley, interview with Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes, April 1996)
You know, the same thing could be said, for example, about the Olympics or modern medicine. Both have had their fair share of failures and triumphs and both accomplish good in their respective spheres. But neither of them claims, as does Mormonism, to be the only authorized arbiter of eternal life.
Ms. Inouye likes the “experience, motives, [and] morals” Mormonism provides, but according to LDS leaders, the Mormon Church’s purpose involves much more than what happens in this life. Mormon apostle Dallin Oaks said, “The ultimate mission of our Savior’s Church is to help us achieve exaltation in the celestial kingdom…” (Ensign, 11/2005, 27). Mormon apostle Jeffrey Holland explained, “This Church is the Lord’s vehicle for crucial doctrines, ordinances, covenants, and keys that are essential to exaltation” (Ensign 5/2004, 32). Indeed, Mormon apostle Marion Romney taught, “This Church…is the way, the truth, and the life” (Book of Mormon Student Manual Religion 121 and 122, 26). So this is not just about experience and morals; it is about eternity. Mormonism must be what it claims to be; otherwise it cannot deliver on its eternal promises.
When speaking to his congregation and not on national television, Gordon B. Hinckley made a very definitive statement. He said, “Each of us has to face the matter—either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing” (Ensign, May 2003, 60). And determining whether the Mormon Church is true–or a fraud–rests first of all upon history. That is, did God actually speak to Joseph Smith in 1820 as recorded in Mormon scripture (the “sanitized” version of the Mormon history), or not (as suggested by other historical evidence)?
Again, Mr. Hinckley said,
“To you, this day, I affirm my witness of the calling of the Prophet Joseph, of his works, of the sealing of his testimony with his blood as a martyr to the eternal truth. Each of you can bear witness of the same thing. You and I are faced with the stark question of accepting the truth of the First Vision and that which followed it. On the question of its reality lies the very validity of this Church.” (Ensign, 11/2007, 86)
Almost 130 years before Mr. Hinckley’s challenge, Mormonism’s third Prophet/President said something similar. John Taylor reasoned,
“… if God has not spoken, if the angel of God has not appeared to Joseph Smith, and if these things are not true of which we speak, then the whole thing is an imposture from beginning to end. There is no halfway house, no middle path about the matter; it is either one thing or the other.” (Journal of Discourses, 21:165)
Therefore, though Ms. Inouye chooses to believe differently, Mormonism is like a string of Christmas lights, and each historical bulb on the string matters.
If God did not call Joseph Smith to restore the true church, the Mormon Church is a fraud.
If the Book of Mormon did not come forth in the way Joseph Smith said it did, “It is a ‘sudden death’ proposition. Either the Book of Mormon is what the Prophet Joseph said it is, or this Church and its founder are false, a deception from the first instance onward.” (Mormon apostle Jeffrey R. Holland, quoted in Ensign, 9/2002, 14)
If the priesthood was not restored “under the hands of John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John,” Mr. Hinckley said, “we have nothing” (Ensign, 8/1998, 72).
And on it goes, like dominoes, until you’re left eating your bread in the dark.