I have had many conversations over the years with faithful believing Mormons and read several books from Mormon historians about the considerable intellectual and historical issues within Mormonism. The one consistent argument defenders of the faith ultimately entrench themselves into is that “men are not perfect” and that critics are merely “straining at gnats” when they criticize Mormon issues. I have read many complaints about the church that I agree simply do not reach the high bar needed to invalidate the church’s truth claims. So the question then becomes, what do we consider as a gnat?
Let me illustrate a few examples of what I would consider “gnat straining” arguments. President Monson’s unfortunate statement during the ribbon cutting at the city creek mall, “One, two, three—let’s go shopping!” When some rouge local leader acts outside the bounds of reason, uses poor judgment and offends someone. Or when early church leaders would publicly debate some of the finer points of doctrine such as, whether God progresses externally of not. While unfortunate, I would agree with the apologists, these types of small issues do not nullify the church’s truth claims. I would contend that when we criticize, what are clearly gnat sized human foibles that all men are subject too, we run the risk of sounding much like the hypocrites Jesus was condemning in Matthew 23:23-24.
Where the apologists get it very wrong is when they use the “straining at gnats” argument on very important, critical issues that strike at the very core of Mormonism. These issues are regarding the very foundations of the church, which speak to its credibility and clearly go well beyond gnat sized problems.
Let me illustrate just a few examples of problems that go well beyond gnat sized issues:
• The “stone-in-hat” method of translation: This clearly connects Joseph to his glass looking occultic practices and questions his credibility, especially when his 1826 arrest and examination for glass looking is also considered.
• Sexual Impropriety: From the very beginning Joseph had issues around this subject. He eloped with Emma, then soon after his marriage rumors began about inappropriate advances to Emma’s friends, then Fanny Alger, the teenage marriages, and polyandry. Again, these are serious issues that help build the picture of his credibility.
• The temple ceremony: Many Mormon’s believe that Freemasonry was passed down by Stone Masons from Solomon’s temple, hence why so much of the Mormon ceremony contains Masonry. We now know that Masonry originated in Europe sometime in the 1400’s and that it developed over time to what is was in Josephs Smiths day. When Joseph’s original temple ceremony is compared to masonry it is strikingly similar in many ways suggesting plagiarism.
• The Book of Abraham, according to apologist, is no longer a translation of the papyri (as we would use the word translation) but rather the papyri were just tools to spur inspiration.
• All the anachronisms and problems with the Book of Mormon that are far too many to list in this post.
In comparison, these, along with several other items, are clearly much greater than gnats, these are the 800lb hippopotamus, or water horse in the room!
the lack of an argument in your post is impressive.
1. It is apparent, and you admit, that your post is speculation. ("I consider" does not validate your assertions, but it is a nice loophole)
2. Your "stone-in-hat problem" - how does that condemn or absolve the Doctrine of the Church? Has not the church taught and maintained that the validity of the Book of Mormon is confirmed by the actual text and not by the means of translation? That is to say, the truth of the Book of Mormon is what confirms the Prophet, and not to say that the truth of the Prophet confirms the Book of Mormon.
3. Again, the credibility of the Prophet, the fallacy of men, etc..is not the measure of the Book of Mormon. The assertion is simple, the Book of Mormon and its associated doctrine would exist as truth and of a divine nature if one had never known any of the stories or biographies about the early church.