There is no perfect church. While I believe in the Christianity Jesus started, even a religion that has hewed as closely as possible to Christ’s teachings will be populated by imperfect people.Every religion has embarrassmentsboth in their past and their present. How can a reasonable person decide which of these embarrassments is forgivable, and which is a deal breaker?
If we set up 99 strict moral rules – or even 10 commandments – and condemn everyone who breaks one of them, that is setting the bar too high for imperfect people. On the other hand, if we simply say, ‘God loves everyone no matter what,’ that is setting the bar really low… too low.
Take the pedophile priest problem in the Catholic Church, for example. Catholics who try to defend their decision to continue to support the church will say something like, ‘This is just a test from Satan to try to drive us away from The True Church.’ That argument assumes, based on no foundation whatsoever, that Catholicism is The True Church.
History tells us very clearly that The Catholic Church fomented war, engaged in murder, bribery and all sorts of disgusting practices while hiding their actions behind holy-sounding titles. Protestantism too fomented wars, engaged in unscriptural practices and, more recently, has been led by money-hungry and fame-hungry perverts hiding their misconduct behind a cloak of sanctimoniousness.
That cannot simply be glossed over with a trite,
‘Christ is all-forgiving, nobody’s perfect.’
It was not that individuals members of the flock ignored The Church’s clear, scriptural direction... There was no clear, scriptural direction from The Church! The Church itself, while claiming to represent God, was blaspheming God by pretending that God condoned the practices of the leaders.
From that perspective, let’s look at Mormon history. A reasonable person cannot simply say, ‘Joseph Smith and Brigham Young may have had their faults, but that doesn’t mean The Mormon Church is wrong.’ Actually, it does. Because they were the founders, the leaders of what they claimed was - what they taught others was the way to be acceptable to God.That is an enormous responsibility! That is why James wrote,
“We who teach shall be judged by a more severe standard than others.” (James 3:1)
Joseph Smith was either a con man or the greatest prophet since Jesus, depending on who you ask. A story from his youth claims that he ran a con called “gold-seeing”. A stone he possessed supposedly glowed in the presence of gold. Since the glow was faint, he would place the stone in his hat and hold the hat over his face to block out the sun, then tell whoever had hired him where to dig for gold. This particular con is thought to have been the origin of the phrase “talking out of your hat.”
When this story came to light in 1946, in a book by Mormon writer Fawn Brodie, her evidence was attacked by the Church and she was excommunicated. Several years later, while defending the Church’s honor, the noted Mormon apologist Hugh Nibley wrote:
"...if this court record is authentic it is the most damning evidence in existence against Joseph Smith." (The Myth Makers, 1961)
Another Mormon writer, Francis W. Kirkham likewise was convinced that Brodie’s book was simply the mudslinging of an apostate. He stated quite emphatically:
"If such a court record confession could be identified and proved, then it follows that his believers must deny his claimed divine guidance which led them to follow him.... How could he be a prophet of God, the leader of the Restored Church to these tens of thousands, if he had been the superstitious fraud which 'the pages from a book' declared he confessed to be?" (A New Witness For Christ In America, vol. 1)
“Prisoner pretended to him that he could discover objects at a distance by holding this white stone to the sun or candle; that prisoner rather declined looking into a hat at his dark coloured stone, as he said that it hurt his eyes… Jonathan Thompson says that prisoner was requested to look for chest of money; did look, and pretended to know there it was; and that prisoner, Thompson, and Yeomans went in search of it; that Smith arrived at spot first; was at night; that Smith looked in hat while there, and when very dark, told how the chest was situated. After digging several feet, struck upon something sounding like a board or plank. Prisoner would not look again, pretending that he was alarmed on account of the circumstances relating to the trunk being buried, [which] came all fresh to his mind… And therefore the Court find the Defendant guilty…”
It is especially telling that the charge brought against him was related to finding buried gold, in light of his later tale of being directed by an angel to some buried gold tablets. Why not clay tablets? Or stone – stone tablets were good enough for Moses, weren’t they?
Like L. Ron Hubbard a century later, Smith soon figured out that starting a religion was where the real gold was.
The scam continued. More on Mormonism in the next article.