June 18th, 2006

Anti-Mormon Literature, Infallibility, and High Standards

“Anti” literature seems to be ever more abundant these days, by dissenters and self-proclaimed intellectuals, supposedly “shedding some light” on the Church, its doctrine, and history.

As I entered the plane for my flight to San Francisco, I sat down in my assigned seat next to a middle-aged woman who didn’t seem too pleased to get out of her seat to let me pass by and sit next to her. As I got settled, I opened the book I have been reading, American Gospel. A few minutes of reading went by, when I curiously glanced over at the woman’s book to see what she was reading. The book: Under the Banner of Heaven..

My first feeling was one of disappointment. “Anti” literature seems to be ever more abundant these days, by dissenters and self-proclaimed intellectuals, supposedly “shedding some light” on the Church, its doctrine, and history.

I have only a few comments to make on this matter. First, I find it intriguing that people are interested in and supportive of those who would destroy the faith of another. Conversely, I find quite inspiring the words of President Hinckley, when he said “you bring all the good that you have, and let us see if we can add to it”. Some might argue that in their zeal, LDS missionaries inadvertantly do the same thing, pointing out the fallacies and shortcomings of somebody’s faith in order to better drive home their own doctrinal point. In actuality, missionaries and members alike (in most all circumstances) seek only to share their faith with those they love and care about, rather than ridicule, demean, and scorn their precious faith and belief.

Second, it is sad to me that so many people are gullible. They take what they read (both in print and on the internet, or even worse, hearsay from a friend) to be the factual truth, not questioning it, asking for a documented reference, or, heaven forbid, finding out from the actual source. That is why I applaud the More Good Foundation, a group seeking to counter the abundance of anti-mormon literature and internet sites and provide factual, uplifting information for those who who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it. As a missionary in Honduras, I heard some pretty crazy things that people “heard from a friend”, “read in a pamphlet”, or worse, “heard from their pastor” about the Mormons. And once somebody gets a certain perception in their head about somebody, it’s easier to poop golden eggs than it is to correct them of their errant notion.

In a society of inherently curious people seeking for information, why do some lounge in laziness and not investigate the matter at the source? (On a side note, this most recently happened with the release of Ann Coulter‘s new book. She debated many angry people who attacked statements she made in the book, when none of these people had read it, but instead had read the taken-out-of-context excerpts the media had pounced on.)

Finally, I sometimes wonder about people’s high expectations. I would always tell my investigators that “the Church is perfect, but its members are not”. Just as Alma rebuked his son for negatively influencing would-be investigators, so today we have members of our faith that don’t live the gospel fully, and hence have a negative impact upon it.

Granted, there is a marked distinction between a “normal” member of the Church and a leader of the Church, be he the Prophet, an Apostle, or another General Authority. But just because God has chosen and called somebody to a high calling, that does not invest the person with infallibility and instantaneous perfection. Men of God can, and do, make mistakes. While others seemingly cannot, I can live with the knowledge and understanding that these men, while closer to perfection than the rest of us, are not quite there themselves. In the history of the Church, I’m sure there have been errors, mistakes, and slip-ups. Good heavens, look at how many of the original 12 apostles in the restored Church disaffected and aspostatized. I think our leaders today, in a much more established Church, are of a higher caliber than some previous leaders. But they are not perfect, and to ascribe them as such is mistaken.

In conclusion, let us all humbly heed the words of Christ, when he said:

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

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