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Several years ago I had the opportunity to engage in an exchange of correspondence with a young Mormon “elder” (and I use that term most accommodatingly!).  The young fellow even took the Bible correspondence course offered by the congregation I was working with at the time.  Afterward he sent me a letter encouraging me to be “honest” in my investigation of the Mormon Church.  In reply I sent him a number of articles I had written concerning Mormonism and Joseph Smith, its founder.  I promised him that if he could prove any statement I had made to be incorrect, I would publicly retract it.  Quite frankly, I thought that would be the end of our correspondence and did not expect a reply.  However, the young man did reply.  It was, and as I think about it continues to be, heartbreaking.  It is not my practice to make common knowledge private correspondence, but this letter so aptly illustrates one of the major problems, not only of Mormonism, but other religious bodies as well.  The letter read as follows:

Mr. Litmer,

Thanks for sending those articles, they were interesting.  I’d just like to tell you that I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the one true church on the earth today.  And that Jesus Christ restored it through the prophet Joseph Smith.  And the authority to perform the saving ordinances of the gospel was once again restored to the earth.  I know that there is a living prophet on the earth today.  His name is President Spencer W. Kimball.  He has said, ‘I am not the head of the church, the master Jesus Christ is the head of his church.’  I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God.  I know because I have read it and put to the test the promises in it.  No one can say that the Book of Mormon is not true until they have read it carefully and prayed about it.  Our heavenly Father is the source of all truth and if we want to know if something is true, we should go to Him and not rely on the ideas of men.  I challenge you to read the book of Mormon and put the promises to the test.

 

I was so disappointed in this response for several reasons.  First, he mentioned not one word about the documented, proven charges against Joseph Smith, Mormonism, and the book of Mormon.  All that was received were the statements of “I know.”  How does he know?  That is made clear in the letter.  The Mormon Church teaches its members that if they want to know something, just ask God or the Holy Spirit and He will tell you.  This works particularly well when you want to know whether or not charges against Mormonism are true.  All you have to do is convince yourself that God told you they weren’t true and all the documentation, all the evidence, and all the cold hard facts won’t make a bit of difference.   I don’t mean to be harsh, but in other words, don’t think for yourself, don’t examine, don’t investigate; just accept what your leaders tell you.

The Mormon leaders teach their people that what they say is true.  And they teach their people if anyone disagrees with them or says they are not speaking the truth, just ask God and God will tell you to believe your leaders and the Book of Mormon.  That makes just about a perfect circle of reasoning!

This whole episode was a shame.  Here was a young man, entering into the prime of his life, being taught not to think for himself, not to question, not to investigate – just believe what he is told and believe it blindly.  With all my heart I can honestly say that I don’t want anyone to believe what I say simply because I said it.  I don’t want anyone to believe what some “well-known” preacher might say just because he said it.  I don’t want anyone to believe what some elders say, just because they said it.  We all have the responsibility to think and reason according to the Scriptures.  If those who comprise the religious world in general would think for themselves, investigate the Scriptures for themselves, and not rely on others to do their thinking and reasoning for them, such sad events as this would not occur with nearly the frequency that they do.

Certainly there was never any animosity toward this young man.  There was, and continues to be, real concern and sadness.  How tragic not to be willing to use the reasoning powers God gave us.  “I know” is not good enough.  It is the old “better felt than told” philosophy.  That is not New Testament Christianity.

 

Greg Litmer