Saturday, 15 August 2015

Evaluating the Mormon Church 185 years on - a pretty straightforward business! But for many Christians it leads to a paradox...

When Mormonism came out, it would have been easy and natural to assume it was a fraud.

Because, if the facts of its origin are known and the implications understood - it seems like Mormonism either has to be true or a fraud - bearing in mind that 'true' does not mean, cannot mean, and never has in any circumstances meant something-like 'correct in every microscopic detail when each is detached and examined separately'. True-overall - or a fraud. 

But 185 years down the line Mormonism does not look anything like a fraud, quite the opposite.

Therefore to the unprejudiced eye it seems a pretty straightforward matter to believe Mormonism is true (given that the choice is between truth and fraud) - assuming that one has had a personal revelation to that effect, there seems no reason not to accept that personal revelation as valid.

(For any Christian to believe must be a choice, it is an opt-in situation - my point is merely the double-negative that 185 years down the line, there is no compelling reason not to believe - if one feels in one's heart, having prayed for guidance, that the LDS church is true.)  

At least, that is how is feels to me - to believe in the truth of the CJCLDS should not be psychologically or logistically a big deal - because after 185 years experience and knowledge, to believe that the Mormon church is valid is easy, not strange, nor a thing rationally difficult to justify! 

What is strange and difficult to justify; is to believe on the one hand that the CJCLDS is a fraud, and yet on the other hand that it is also what it clearly is: a good and beneficial organization. 

Although strange and difficult, this 'on the one hand and on the other' paradox is, of course, precisely what many people do believe: that is, many people do not believe the truth of the CJCLDS (implicitly they believe it was built upon a fraud - even if the fraud may have had noble intentions) but they do believe that the Mormon church is, nonetheless, a good thing

Logical or not; this paradox is simply a factual state of affairs, I know of several people in the above situation - indeed perhaps most people who are informed about the CJCLDS think that it is, paradoxically, both fraudulently-founded and also good.  

The paradox is quite real, and the paradox is also quite common. I am not sure whether it is a stable psychological state - or meta-stable and liable to flip into either faith on the one hand, or a more consistent (but less honest) view of pretending that Mormonism is fraudulently-founded and therefore evil (despite appearances). 

This particular 'and therefore' ignoble consistency is distressingly common among mainstream Christians. I mean, a willingness to believe that - because they regard it as fraudulently founded, therefore the obvious goodness of Mormonism 'must be' a fake. What follows is too-often a spiteful willingness and desire to believe all sorts of malicious lies and gossip and misrepresentations about Mormons; to infer all sorts of wicked and covert motivations - in sum to indulge in negative prejudice which already-assumes that which it ostensibly sets out to discover: i.e. the wickedness of the CJCLDS. 

Today's 2 X 2 Table is therefore:

Mormonism is:

True and Good
True and Evil
A Fraud and Good
A Fraud and Evil

To say the CJCLDS is True and Good is to be a believer; to say it is a Fraud and Evil is to be dishonest about 185 years of knowledge and experience. 

The two apparent paradoxes are True and Evil - which might theoretically be found in someone who  believed the CJCLDS had become corrupted - perhaps one of the other Mormon-descended groups such as the erstwhile Reformed Latter Day Saints. And the other paradox is Fraud and Good - which is the position being discussed here. 

So, this is a challenge for decent, honest, mainstream Christians (note: the challenge is not for Mormons!) -  I mean those many Christians who do not believe Mormonism is true, but who do believe it is good.

The challenge to make an explanation for your honest beliefs: an explanation for the reality of the Mormon church 185 years down the line - an explanation that describes how goodness can come from fraud, and what that explanation entails and implies. 

This is no easy matter, and I have never yet seen it convincingly done - and until it has been done we will not know whether it is possible to do. 

Note: By contrast with belief, which ought to be straightforward; becoming an active member of the CJCLDS is a further step, and very big step - for instance, I am a believer in the truth of the CJCLDS, and I did not find this a big or scary step to make once I had become a Christian - but I am not a church member.