Criticism of Mormonism/Video/Search for the Truth DVD/Intro

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PERSPECTIVES MEDIA QUESTIONS RESOURCES 2014 CONFERENCE

    Jesus Christ/Joseph Smith or Search for the Truth DVD

Introduction

Do Mormons Equate Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ?

This video begins with an ambitious declaration put forth by Patrick Powell, "Today we're going to investigate two of the world's most prominent and influential men to determine once and for all which one holds the truth."

There are several problems involved in such a task. First, Mr. Powell sets up a false dichotomy—he proposes to compare Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ. But Mormons do not equate Joseph Smith with Jesus Christ. Mormons proclaim Jesus Christ to be the divine Son of God, the only perfect and sinless person ever to be born on earth. Mormons believe that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, subject to the same imperfections as other men; he did not live a sinless life. Indeed, in the LDS view it would be more accurate to compare Joseph Smith with Peter, Abraham, Moses, or any other biblical prophet. To state otherwise is a false comparison that serves no other purpose than to mislead the viewer.

Second, the statement attempts to set Jesus Christ in competition with Joseph Smith and presupposes that if one is right, the other is wrong. Joseph Smith, in acting as a prophet, was a witness for the divinity of Jesus Christ, bearing strong testimony for the efficacy of Christ's atoning sacrifice and the reality of Christ's resurrection.

Third, the video states that "men" are being compared. Yet according to commentator Dr. Phil Roberts, president of the Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, "[Jesus] was God in the flesh. He was eternal with God, co-equal, uncreated." This is obviously not "a man," as Mr. Powell asserts. It is deceptive to assert that Mormons would accept the idea that Jesus Christ was a man to be compared directly with other men.

Latter-day Saint Christians will agree with other Christians that the divine nature of Christ makes Him incomparable to any other mortal, including Joseph Smith. Is Mr. Powell unsure of what Christian theology is concerning Christ when he states that Jesus is merely one "of the world's most prominent and influential men," or is he purposefully misstating his beliefs to make an illusionary comparison between a prophet and the Son of God compelling? This is an inauspicious beginning for a video claiming to be searching for the truth.

Are "Christianity" and "Mormonism" compatible?

The video next begs a different question—it assumes the answer it wishes its viewers to draw. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints insist that they are devout Christians, who worship Jesus Christ as the Only Begotten Son of God and the only way to salvation. Asking if "Christianity" and "Mormonism" are compatible is like asking if one can be from Utah or Texas and also be an American.

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Are there "significant differences" between "Christianity" and "Mormonism"?

Once again, the video makes a false distinction. Are there differences between LDS Christians and some other Christian denominations? Of course! There are differences between every Christian denomination, otherwise, there would be only one church. The video's producers wish to force those who do not share their views on some issues completely out of the category of "Christian." This is self-serving, and does not help in a search for truth. (A letter to distributors of the DVD characterizes the LDS Church as a "powerful cult," which demonstrates their attitude toward The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)

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What about the Holy Bible?

The video contrasts "Joseph Smith's teachings" in the Book of Mormon, and then mentions "Jesus' teachings" in the Holy Bible. The producers of the video rely on time-honored rhetorical sleight of hand to mischaracterize the issue and to lead the viewer to a conclusion not supported by the facts.

There are at least three problems with the video's approach. First, it presupposes that the teachings in the Book of Mormon are those of Joseph Smith and not of Jesus—exactly the point the video is trying to prove. This is a textbook example of "begging the question."

Second, the approach inconsistently characterizes both the Book of Mormon and the Bible. Both books were translated from now-dead languages and were translated by mortal men. Both were originally written by mortal men. Both claim to have their ultimate source in God, including having literal statements of Jesus. One could discuss how the culture and education of Joseph Smith, the translator of the Book of Mormon, affected his translation of the Book of Mormon compared to how the culture and education of William Tyndale, a translator of the Bible, affected his translation of the Bible. Or one could compare Mormon, an original author in the Book of Mormon, with Isaiah or Matthew, original authors in the Bible. Or one could discuss how the (claimed) word of God in the Book of Mormon relates to the (claimed) word of God in the Bible. The very wording of the video is designed to prematurely dismiss the Book of Mormon. An honest comparison would demand that the video's producers compare the words of Jesus as recorded by Nephi with the words of Jesus as recorded by Matthew.

And third, this statement creates the false impression that Latter-day Saints do not believe the Bible. The LDS consider both the Holy Bible and the Book of Mormon to be holy scripture which contains the teachings of Christ and testify of His divinity. The producers wish to make the "Mormons" appear different from Christianity and to deny that Mormons can be called Christians.

Said Elder Neal A. Maxwell, a modern apostle of Jesus Christ:

So when we read and turn the pages of the precious New Testament, there is a barely audible rustling like the quiet stirrings of the Spirit, something to be "spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14.) The witnessing words came to us—not slowly, laboriously, or equivocally through the corridors of the centuries, but rather, swiftly, deftly, and clearly. Upon the wings of the Spirit these words proclaim, again and anew, "JESUS LIVED. JESUS LIVES!"
—Neal Maxwell, "The New Testament—A Matchless Portrait of the Savior," Ensign (December 1986), 20., italics in original. off-site

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