Monday, September 24, 2018

Correcting a Critic’s Comments and Blog – Part II

Continuing with Jared Methrandir’s comments referring us to his website when commenting on one of our articles back in 2013.
    Blog Comment: “LDS Mormons debate back and forth, some saying the only things in The Bible Mormons should agree with are what the Book of Mormon or other Mormon Scriptures explicitly endorse.”
    Response: Having been a member of the Church for seventy years, and having been involved in discussions about most things connected with both the LDS religion and sectarian religions, spending two years in the Bible Belt teaching LDS doctrine from the New Testament, in all that time serving in numerous areas of responsibility, a debate about the Bible among LDS members as you describe, has never been witnessed or even heard about. Basically, LDS people accept the Bible as the Word of God. We also know and understand that scribes over the centuries made changes, eliminated some doctrine and emphasized others in their copying of the scriptures—which is an understanding among most Biblical scholars, LDS and otherwise, even Jewish rabbis.
    Blog Comment: “The point remains however, the seed for doubting God's word is planted, and from that all kinds of heretical madness has developed
The LDS Church’s 9th Article of Faith clearly states our belief in all that God has revealed, and all that He will reveal

Response: LDS people do not doubt God’s word. However, your idea of God’s word and and LDS understanding of God’s word might well be at odds from time to time, even if you want to strictly deal with the Old and New Testaments; however, that mostly comes from different interpretations of the plain and simple language of the scriptures, such as the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost not being one individual; or whether infant baptism is correct; or that Heavenly Father is a physical (though resurrected and perfect) being and made us in his own image, etc.
    Blog Comment: “The ancient Nephite Prophets of The Book of Mormon foretell The United States of America, referring to it as a Great Nation appointed to God to do his will.  In other words, American Exceptionalism, Divine Providence and Manifest Destiny, all those ideas Christians should condemn as Patriotic Idolatry but instead fully support, that is all Canonical Scripture for Mormons
    Response: Actually, the Nephite prophets and the LDS Church leaders, have spoken from the beginning about the Land of Promise being North and South America. It is true that some LDS people want to claim that means only the United States, but that is not the Church standing at all. LDS leaders have also spoken of Polynesia as pretty much the same standard. The fact that we are a world-wide Church—“after 166 years in existence as the restored Church of Christ, in 1996, the LDS Church’s membership outside the United States exceeded the membership within the U.S. by the end of February 1996, there were just over 9,438,000 members of the Church, with more than half living outside the U.S.” (Ensign Magazine, Nov 1995, p70).  It might also be understood that in 1850, there were about 30,747 members in the British Isles and only 26,911 in the U.S.
Painting showing the western movement and the concept of Manifest Destiny which permeated through the minds of the U.S. Congress, citizens, and newspaper writers and editors in the mid-1800s

It should also be noted that the concept of American Exceptionalism, Divine Providence and Manifest Destiny are not religious doctrines or beliefs, but was originated by John Louis O’Sullivan, an American columnist and editor who coined the term in an 1845 article in The United States Magazine and Democratic Review, to promote the annexation of Texas and Oregon Country to the U.S., and break for all time the hold that England, France and all of Europe felt they held on the Americas. It’s main theme from O’Sullivan was that “God had destined the U.S. to spread out across the continent of North America.” 
    In fact, the “black-letter international law,” and the “right of discovery, exploration, settlement and continuity” contained in the then current Doctrine of Discovery, seems the basis of O’Sullivan’s thinking, thus there seems little doubt that he used these points to form the Manifest Destiny them leading to the promotion of the Texas and Oregon movements.  It might also be of interest to know that O’Sullivan predicted that there would be two hundred and fifty to three hundred million Americans at the end of 100 years (in 1945 there were 139.9 million in the U.S., up from 17.1 million in 1845 when the theme was introduced).
    The concept of Manifest Destiny was widely held among the people in the U.S. that its settlers were destined to expand across North America, and held three themes:
• The special virtues of the American people and their institutions;
• The mission of the United States to redeem and remake the west in the image of agrarian America;
• An irresistible destiny to accomplish this essential duty.
    All of which “became very popular with many politicians, citizens, and newspapers and was widely used in the debate about expanding into Oregon” (Robert J. Miller, Native America, Discovered and Conquered, Greenwood, 2006,pp119-120)
American Exceptionalism, the belief that America is unique on the global stage because of its certain characteristics that are held to be unique to the United States

On the other hand, American Exceptionalism is a more recent concept and broadly based on a belief that historical facts make the U.S. exceptional in the history of civilization. Again, it is not a religious concept, but one first mentioned by Alexis de Tocqueville, describing America as exceptional in 1831, and the actual term “American Exceptionalism” was first oined by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, making it an “exception to certain elements of Marxist theory.” Seymour Martin Lipset, was a Hazel Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University and a fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, defined American Exceptionalism as “liberty, equality (of opportunity and respect), individualism, populism, and laissez-faire economics” (American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword, Norton & Co., New York 1996, p18).
    As for Divine Providence, it has been defined as “The history of the United States displays an uncanny pattern: At moments of crisis, when the odds against success seem overwhelming and disaster looks imminent, fate intervenes to provide deliverance and progress…the most notable leaders of the past four hundred years have identified this good fortune as something else—a reflection of divine providence” (Michael Medved, The American Miracle, Crown Forum, New York, 2016).
    As can be seen, none of these concepts originated with, or are unique to, or part of the LDS Church doctrine or beliefs. The LDS Church does believe that God set up this government through men he raised up to do this very thing, and as almost all of them have stated in their personal writings, Divine Providence was at the heart of this nation, and instrumental in its development. Divine Providence, and the special role in the development and especially in the defense of Christianity and all religions, could hardly be considered “those ideas Christians should condemn as Patriotic Idolatry.”
    Blog Comment: “And Lehi left by sea (as did the Jaredites) in Arabia, because Joseph Smith imagined all this before the bearing strait hypothesis became the standard.”
Response: First of all, it should be noted that as early as 1590, the Spanish missionary Fray José de Acosta produced the first written record to suggest a land bridge connecting Asia to North America. The question of how people migrated to the New World was a topic widely debated among the thinkers and theorists of his time. Acosta rejected many of the theories proposed by his contemporaries. Instead, he believed that hunters from Asia had crossed into North America via a land bridge or narrow strait located far to the north. He thought the land bridge was still in existence during his lifetime (“Bering Land Bridge,” National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Nome, Alaska).
    The problem is, as stated in Science: “While there is general agreement that the Americas were first settled from Asia, the pattern of migration, its timing, and the place(s) of origin in Eurasia of the peoples who migrated to the Americas remain unclear (Ted Goebel et al., The Late Pleistocene Dispersal of Modern Humans in the Americas,” Science, Vol.319, No.5869, 2008, pp1497-1502).
(See the next post, “Correcting a Critic’s Comments and Blog – Part III,” regarding erroneous comments made on a blogsite about the Book of Mormon)

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