Thus far I’m doing really good on avoiding the lent “thou shalt nots” (surfing the web) but I have yet to start the “thou shalts.” So, I just got a book on meditation, so hopefully I will begin this Saturdayish. Actually! Wait no, I will be skiing with Jared this weekend. Okay, so I will begin Sunday!
During lent season I have turned to both Catholic and Mormon sources to prepare my mind and spirit for Easter. One day, I hit the jack pot with this post from a Catholic theologian’s take on Christ in Mormonism. The whole article is well worth reading, but here are some interesting tid bits from the blog post:
After all, what gives Christianity its identity is its commitment to the divinity of Jesus Christ. And on that ground Mormons are more Christian than many mainstream Christians who do not take seriously the astounding claim that Jesus is the Son of God.
Mormonism is obsessed with Christ, and everything that it teaches is meant to awaken, encourage, and expand faith in him. It adds to the plural but coherent portrait of Jesus that emerges from the four gospels in a way, I am convinced, that does not significantly damage or deface that portrait.
I came to this conclusion when I read through the Book of Mormon for the first time…When I actually read this book, however, I was utterly surprised. I was not moved, mind you. The Book of Mormon has to be one of the most lackluster of all the great works of literature that have inspired enduring religious movements. Yet it is dull precisely because it is all about Jesus. There are many characters in this book, but they change as little as the plot. Nobody stands out but him. “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (2 Nephi 25:26). And not just Jesus: A whole gospel in all of its theological details—right down to debates about baptism, the relationship of law to grace, and the problem of divine foreknowledge—is taught to the people of the New World centuries before Jesus was even born.
Christians have long interpreted the Old Testament in terms of the New—reading Christ between the lines, so to speak—but Smith went one big step further. He replaced the figurative with the figure himself. The truth of Jesus is eternal, Smith thought, so it should not be surprising to learn that Christ was made known in times and places beyond our imagination.
Long before his birth in Bethlehem, Jesus was eager to reveal the most specific details of his future life and ministry.
He also uses this very helpful example to illustrate the relationship between Mormons and other Christians:
Every page of the book prepares the way for its stunning climax, which is a literal appearance of Jesus to the ancient peoples of America. For Joseph Smith, the ascension of Christ after the resurrection makes possible his descent into the Americas.Non-Mormons, of course, do not believe that Jesus visited the Americas, but why should they be troubled if Mormons tell stories about Jesus that seem far-fetched? Imagine the following scenario. Your family gathers at the funeral of your dearly beloved grandfather, a world traveler. Your relatives begin telling the familiar stories about his great adventures. Soon, however, you notice another group of mourners at the other end of the room. As you eavesdrop on them, you realize they are talking about your grandfather as if they knew him well, yet you have never heard some of the stories they are telling. These new stories are not insulting to his memory, though some ring more true than others. Indeed, this group seems to have as high an opinion of your grandfather as you do. What do you do?
Do you invite them over to meet your family? That is a tough call. Many of your relatives will dispute the credibility of these stories, and some might make a scene. Others who think the stories are true will feel left out—why didn’t Grandfather tell us? The funny thing is, though, that this other group knows all of the stories your family likes to tell about the deceased, and the stories they add to the mix sound more like mythic embellishments of his character than outright lies. Clearly, the two groups have a lot to talk about!
However you decide to handle the situation, there is no need for you to change your love for your grandfather. There is also no need for you to react to this other group’s love for your grandfather as if they are intentionally threatening or dishonest. Whether or not you decide to expand your family to include this group, you can still welcome them as promoters of your grandfather’s memory. And the more you love your grandfather, the more you will be drawn to discover for yourself whether these new stories make any sense.
UPDATE: Just to add a small clarification, I do not agree with Stephen Webb’s view of the Book of Mormon. As a member of the faith, my experience with the book is hardly lack luster. That said, Webb is hardly the only commentator who has observed that the Book of Mormon is boring or lackluster. This has been a common complaint from Mark Twain to modern readers.
Reasonable minds can differ on this point. The fact that Mr. Webb finds the book lackluster is totally fine to me, I see it different. People don’t always have to agree with me for me to find what they say interesting or important, and I think that overall Mr. Webb is very generous in his comments on Mormonism.