The Necessity of Mormonism Is Based on Straw Men

So I decided to watch tonight’s CES (Church Educational System) Devotional for Young Adults, which was done by Elder Tad Callister, of the Presidency of the Seventy (if interested, you can watch it here: lds.org/broadcasts/watch/ces-devotionals/2014/01?lang=eng&cid=HPFR011014342&im=true. text isn’t out yet). Some may realize that Callister has discussed various issues related to doctrinal differences between traditional Christianity and Mormonism in various venues, such as in General Conference, as well as in the book The Inevitable Apostasy and Promised Restoration. So, when I heard that he was the speaker for the devotional tonight, my curiosity forced me to watch. I must say, it was very amusing.

I assume the title of this talk when it’s in print will be “The Blueprint of Christ’s Church”, since that’s what he talked about. Basically, he said that the blueprint of Christ’s Church is found in the New Testament, and to find the true Church today, one must look for the Church that matches that blueprint. Naturally, he believes that’s the LDS Church. He then went on to make various points. I found strawmen in all of them. Which led me to post this thread. When one gets down to it, the supposed necessity of Mormonism is based on straw man arguments, since those making these arguments seem to not be aware of the actual teachings of traditional Christianity, or Catholicism and Orthodoxy in particular (two of the most ancient Christian Churches). Once these straw men are pointed out, we see that there never was a need to restore something, since either it was never there in the first place, or it wasn’t lost.

For example, Callister talked about the nature of the Godhead. This is an argument that he’s made before, and one that is a clear example of his misunderstanding of the Trinity doctrine, which sadly is quite common, yet doesn’t excuse his argument. No, Christ didn’t pray to Himself. No, they aren’t the same Person. I’ve been through this before, so I don’t think it necessary to point out the obvious straw man of this common LDS argument against the Trinity, which really argues against Modalism.

He also talked about miracles, angelic visitations, and visions. He said that Christ’s Church had those anciently, so they must be present today. He referenced someone (I forgot who) that claimed that such miraculous events diminished after the first 2-3 centuries after the New Testament. As Catholics, we know this isn’t true. First and foremost, Catholicism is well-known for the various visitations and visions of Mary throughout history. Catholics talk about various miracles surrounding the Eucharist. Catholics talk about various canonized saints that had visitations and/or visions of other Heavenly entities, including Jesus Christ Himself. Catholics talk about miraculous events surrounding holy objects, such as healing through Lourdes water. I could go on and on. The point is that this is yet another straw man argument, and miracles, visions, angelic ministrations, etc were never lost from the Catholic Church.

He talked about baptism and how it was done by immersion in the New Testament Church. He stated that there is absolutely no evidence for the performance of infant baptism, nor baptism by sprinkling or pouring. The original form of baptism was by immersion, so Christ’s Church today must do it that way as well. He claimed that symbolism is lost when it is no longer done by immersion. This is ironic in light of the changes in the form of the LDS Initiatory Washing and Anointing ordinance. This ordinance has gone through various evolutions in how it is performed. Today, it is a “symbolic” washing and anointing, while in the past, the body was actually washed and anointed on various parts. If symbolism is lost in allowing for pouring baptism, clearly it is lost in this LDS ordinance as well. Further, where was such a thing practiced in the New Testament Church? Thus we see another instance where the typical LDS argument can be used against itself.

Perhaps I’ll expand on the CES devotional talk in a blog post when the text comes out (haven’t post in my blog in awhile, school/work duties :frowning: ). However the point is that the necessity of the LDS Church is based on straw men arguments, as well as obfuscation (for example, believing in the necessity of the “same offices” of the Church, prophets, apostles, deacons, etc, yet “pastor” is not an office, and “evangelist” is said to really mean “patriarch”. Also “seventy” was not an office, as Callister said in his talk. It was merely seventy men called by Christ!). Once we see the reality of the teachings of the most ancient Christian Churches (Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox), we see that Mormonism isn’t a restoration of doctrines that were lost from the New Testament Church.

“Philosophies of men, mingled with scripture.” Ironic that this is a key theme of the temple ceremony, as I believe this best describes Mormon doctrine.

And, I agree with everything you said.

Having befriended, worked with and read much around Mormons, I have found the Mormon people, for the most part, generous, kind, and God-loving people
However, I have found the design of the Mormon religion to be a strange manifestation of the warning: "Something can be 75% true, or 85%, or 95% true; but it is that very small 25%, 15%, or 5% that is untrue that can do GREAT harm over time to a great many people. The Mormon story on Jesus being, literally, God’ and Mary’s son in a very earthly husband-and-wife fashion with an “inheritance” of an actual heavenly kingdom like a land grab…and being sealed to your spouse and family for time and all eternity by participating in a temple rite that is very Masonic (I believe Joseph Smith and gang did a direct “borrow” from the Masons-not a new idea)…and the serious shades of meaning /difference in their vocabulary can be very mocking and crazymaking towards traditional Christianity. To explain Catholic Christianity in a Mormon environment, when the meanings have been rearranged, can be very devaluing to the original meanings (if people are uneducated). I do best when I acknowledge the Mormon people for their survival as an American cult but also do best to avoid discussion where meanings are erroneously assumed. I vote Yes, on the straw men theory…

While you’re right to use “straw man” from your perspective, this isn’t “objectively” true. From the outside, you’re faith could just as much be built on a straw man or various straw men if the assumptions you hold are false. (Not that I’m claiming your beliefs are false; I’m merely stating that the logic you use against the Mormons could just as easily apply to yourself)

Mormons most definitely interpret the Bible differently than historical Christianity. But to assume historical Christianity is valid is just as much a possible straw man. Why should we assume God was always on the side of the majority when the Church declared minority groups heresy? How can we authenticate the claims of God’s protection to the Church outside of our own experience to validate that interpretation? Don’t Mormons have the same experience to validate their own Church system?

To claim a “straw man” just seems like more patting ourselves on the back rather than sitting down and talking through alternative ideologies systematically without judgement.

But I’m biased. I study religion academically, so I suppose what I’m saying is something I’m too used to doing on a daily basis.

I have often said this.

One can look at the organization of the lds church and it looks nothing like the original church. It is not restored, it is invented. It looks more like a corporation than church. And of anyone has attended a Sac Meeting, it looks more like a board meeting than a church service with announcements, then people selected to present little talks on assigned topics.

The LDS Church is like Harold Hill in “The Music Man”. Harold Hill invents a problem (billiards) then presents a solution to the problem he invented. This is the same with the LDS Church. They invent a problem (apostasy) then present the solution (js).

The LDS denies evidence of things they need to be absent, then invents proof of things that do not exist. It is the formula of all great cons.

And I fell for it…to my eternal shame. Thankfully, God led me out of it.

Callister’s argument for Mormonism is the straw man, he creates a false view of non-LDS beliefs and practices and uses that false view to say Mormons have it right.

[quote=Wiki]A straw man, also known in the UK as an Aunt Sally,[1][2] is a common type of argument and is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position.[3] To “attack a straw man” is to create the illusion of having denied a proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet inequivalent proposition (the “straw man”), and to deny it, without ever having actually denied the original position.[3][4] This technique has been used throughout history in polemical debate, particularly in arguments about highly charged, emotional issues. In those cases the false victory is often loudly or conspicuously celebrated.
[/quote]

Oh, my apologies then, I did not get that in the OP.

Yes, this would be a straw man.

Sadly, more often than not, I see most people involved in evangelical work – Christian, Muslim, or other – often straw man other people’s beliefs to support their own. Many times I’ve been told as a Bahá’í that I believe things I most definitely don’t, or had others inform me about my own belief in Christ, etc.

Whether its for interfaith, ecumenical work or evangelization, I fail to understand why anyone would want to straw man when it produces a more effect, rational, and critical faith to accept what others say of their own faith. (Not claiming this of you! Just personal experiences)

Thank you, yes, that is the point I was making. Callister (and others) base many of their arguments for Mormonism’s supposed restoration on false premises and false views of the non-LDS “traditional” beliefs that they are critiquing. As I mentioned in the OP, his criticism of the belief that “most Christians” have on God, i.e. the Trinity, really critiqued modalism, not the orthodox Trinity doctrine. This is a frequent mistake. He claims that traditional Christianity declined in the occurrence of miracles, angelic visitations, visions, etc, while they are present in the LDS Church. Catholics of course would strongly disagree, and believe that all of those are present, and have always been present in Catholicism. He critiques the Catholic practice of allowing baptism by pouring in addition to immersion, claiming that the original practice was by immersion, and there was therefore a change, and causes a lack of appreciation for the symbolism of burial and rising. Unfortunately for him, the LDS washing and anointing has clearly gone through changes in the form it is done, to the point where it also loses the symbolism of it, if we follow that argument.

So, my point has nothing to do with whether orthodox Christianity is valid or not (I don’t believe I said anything about that at all in the OP). The claim is that many of the issues that LDS leaders, apologists, and scholars claim are issues in orthodox Christianity that are “fixed” or “restored” in Mormonism are actually based on straw man arguments and not the actual position of orthodox Christianity (or Catholicism specifically), such as the Trinity, or whether the form of ordinances can change, or whether miracles are present, or whether the “Heavens are open”.

I guess I am just confused. If the COJCLDS is the only really true church then why are there so few of them?

Less than 2% of the world population. Many figures are bandied about. 13 million members but only about 5 million active.

And who knows how many actual since it is so difficult to find the facts.

Well now I think the claim is “over 15 million”.

While I understand your point, I think we have to be careful with such arguments. Remember, the Catholic Church was true 2000 years ago, and it definitely didn’t have 1 Billion [claimed] members! :smiley:

Yes, I get that. But where was the Catholic Church after 150 years?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.