Mormonism Obsessed With Christ, an article written by a professor of religion and philosophy at Wabash College in First Things magazine, interesting enough to solicit responses from our contributors. Add your own reactions in the comments.
Bradly Baird (bio)
It is clear by reading this interesting article that - while the author seems to have some admiration for our doctrine and our "obsession" with Christ - he also finds us somewhat "peculiar," but in the best sense. He is unmoved by the Book of Mormon and speaks of it as a work of literature rather than what it actually is, a record of God's dealings with a chosen people. And he marks our interest in the Savior by declaring that we - the collective MormonISM - do "not significantly damage or deface that portrait" of Christ.
These declarations and opinions do not awaken any sort of ire on my part; instead, they reinforce a remarkable sense of gratitude at having acquired a personal testimony and a sincere feeling of humility in the knowledge that I acquired a singular knowledge of Truth through intimate and personal contact with Divinity (something only a small percentage of humans may declare). What is even more remarkable is the fact that I receive a similar blessing every single day of my life, the guiding light of conversation with my Father in Heaven.
And when all is said and done, I can't help but feel that the author has his nose pressed up against the metaphorical glass of the true gospel. He is an outsider looking in - as with all of our critics - and will simply not fully comprehend our obsessions until he too acquires that same enriching knowledge and faith.
Saint Mark (bio)
Stephen H. Webb is now one of my heroes. Mormonism Obsessed with Christ voices the inner angst Mormons feel towards the erroneous idea that "Mormons are not Christians." We are Christians and Webb gets it. In fact, I dare say, we are more Christian than Christians. You believe that Noah built the ark? We believe he used a stone like the Brother of Jared for light in the ark. (see footnotes). You believe that Enoch was a prophet? We believe that he and the inhabitants of the city of Enoch are missionaries to other planets. You believe in the Book of Revelation? We believe we have the interpretation of the Book of Revelation and know how it all is going to play out. You believe God wants to save His children before they die and confess Christ before they are sent to hell? We believe He wants to save His dead and living children and will send missionaries in the hereafter to teach the "good news" of Christ. You believe a prophet went up on a mountain and spoke to a burning bush and received stone tablets with the word of God written on it. We believe in Moses and in another prophet who went to the top of a hill and received an additional word of Christ that was etched into a gold record. You've got a miraculous tale. Well come on over and we'll one-up yah. At least, this is how Webb puts it in his Christ as Grandpa analogy:
"Non-Mormons, of course, do not believe that Jesus visited the Americas, but why should they be troubled if Mormons tell stories about Jesus that seem far-fetched? Imagine the following scenario. Your family gathers at the funeral of your dearly beloved grandfather, a world traveler. Your relatives begin telling the familiar stories about his great adventures. Soon, however, you notice another group of mourners at the other end of the room. As you eavesdrop on them, you realize they are talking about your grandfather as if they knew him well, yet you have never heard some of the stories they are telling. These new stories are not insulting to his memory, though some ring more true than others. Indeed, this group seems to have as high an opinion of your grandfather as you do. What do you do?
Do you invite them over to meet your family? That is a tough call. Many of your relatives will dispute the credibility of these stories, and some might make a scene. Others who think the stories are true will feel left out—why didn’t Grandfather tell us? The funny thing is, though, that this other group knows all of the stories your family likes to tell about the deceased, and the stories they add to the mix sound more like mythic embellishments of his character than outright lies. Clearly, the two groups have a lot to talk about!
However you decide to handle the situation, there is no need for you to change your love for your grandfather. There is also no need for you to react to this other group’s love for your grandfather as if they are intentionally threatening or dishonest. Whether or not you decide to expand your family to include this group, you can still welcome them as promoters of your grandfather’s memory. And the more you love your grandfather, the more you will be drawn to discover for yourself whether these new stories make any sense."
I never thought I'd say it but Jesus is my Grandpa and your Grandpa. You love Him and we love Him, too. Why don't we get together and swap stories? You and I both know that is how he'd want us to act.
Apparent Parent (bio)
Just a note on the potshot the professor took on the Book of Mormon mentioning Jesus was born at Jerusalem instead of Bethlehem. Jerusalem being as big as it is earned itself a little bit of status as a land. More than just a city. When you remove a people across an ocean, and their forefathers came from Jerusalem proper, sure there's going to be some generalizing in thought about that land. So when Alma refers to the Jesus being born at Jerusalem, he has drawn in Bethlehem, 7.4 km away on modern highways as part of Jerusalem. At roughly 6,000 miles away, 7 km doesn't seem significant. It's like someone from Murray, Utah saying they are from Salt Lake. Though actually born in Murray, perhaps, more people will identify with a person from Salt Lake, especially if they live 6,000 miles away. Heck, I know of a lot of people in Wyoming that use the terms Salt Lake City and Utah synonymously.
There is no discrepancy there, especially seeing that it was prophets who wrote the Book of Mormon for their people and their understanding. No one across the ocean would have even identified with Bethlehem even if the attribution had been there. They had never seen Jerusalem or Bethlehem, but Jerusalem was their ancestral home. It's what they identified with. It was the land of their forefathers. Not just a city 7 km away from the birthplace of Christ.