Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Critics

We Latter-day Saints are used to criticism. It's part of our Mormon heritage. The most vociferous challenges do not usually come from Jews or Muslims or Buddhist, but from other Christians. This should probably not come as any surprise.

Modern technology provides a new forum for the critics. Most newspapers have an on-line counterpart allowing people to read articles via computer. Many of these also include the opportunity to respond to the article by posting comments. Articles dealing with the LDS Church or its members usually generate a lively series of posts by both antagonists and protagonists. Often the responses degenerate into an exchange of personal attacks against other commenters. The actual reasons why people are drawn into these debates is an interesting subject. If asked, I suspect many of them would claim some hope of noble service rendered in saving their opponents from future grief. I am skeptical of that being the primary motivation.

The missing ingredient from all these debates is the LDS admonition to seek our ultimate answers from God. While there are many members of the LDS Church who have not done so, we are under obligation to pray for divine confirmation of our faith until we receive a spiritual witness from Heaven. Once received, logical argument and worldly evidences recede into the background.

We may study the evidence as means of understanding events and culture pertinent to our belief, but it should never be confused as being proof. We may offer evidence to others as a way of piquing their curiosity and motivating them to further investigation but our missionaries always instruct individuals to pray for their own answer. While divine confirmation does not come all at once, the recipient of knowledge borne by the Holy Ghost should recognize the superiority of God's intelligence over any logical argument devised by mortal man. The critic is arguing from a position of inferior experience, for which there is no logical compensation. The believer can say: "I have had a personal experience," to which the only valid rebuttal is: "No, you haven't."

One other bit of understanding should be obvious to non-LDS Christians but seldom is. If you believe in the God of the Bible - a mighty and all-powerful God - you must also believe that He could easily reveal himself and convince all people of the truth of His existence, but He chooses not to. Why? We are left with the inescapable conclusion (one confirmed by the Bible) that we are being tested here in mortality as to the strength of our character and our ability to walk by faith. God asks us to proceed through life, sometimes stepping into unknown territory, while being guided only by the whisperings of the unseen Spirit. If God were here amongst us it would spoil the test.

This we accept as one of the great challenges and purposes for our current separation from God. He could make belief easy but instead He makes it easy to argue Him out of existence, providing all the circumstantial counter-evidence the atheist needs. We might find worldly evidence that a man named Jesus once lived, but there is no physical or scientific evidence that He ever performed any miracles or ascended into Heaven. The miraculous accounts of the Bible are not logical or reasonable and yet they are accepted by millions without physical evidence. They can be easily argued against by anyone with a disposition to do so.

Now, to come to my point. If we accept this situation as being consistent with God's designs for our mortal probation, should we not expect the same God to present us with the same scenario should He perform a miraculous work in our own time? If He came to the Earth and spoke to Joseph Smith and others, He surely would not spoil the test by making belief in this easy. Those who rely on worldly evidence will naturally come up short. If you go looking for ammunition against LDS claims, you should expect to find it. If the claims are false, any supporting evidence will be purely coincidental. If the claims are true, we should expect God to carefully arrange for the scoffers to find what they are looking for.

The critics, who's acceptance of the Bible should be based on spiritual experience, usually rely on human logic and circumstantial evidence as "proof" of an LDS hoax. Would it not be consistent for God to require a spiritual investigation to discover the real truth of His work? The fact that the LDS message can easily be construed as bogus proves nothing other than the predisposition of the critics. The same is true for critics of the Bible. It is not the work of God that is being tested. It is us. Those who are exposed to what the LDS Church actually teaches will either recognize something good and valuable, or they will not. Either they will be willing to push aside all their worldly concerns to have it, or they will not.

No comments: