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 ). 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.