Atheists have been the subject of a couple of high profile articles in the Deseret News Mormon Times Section. The most recent article was by Daniel Peterson.
Trying to make their view seem merely a minor logical extension of my own, several atheistic acquaintances have assured me that there is little difference between us: They just happen to disbelieve in one more god than I do.Mr. Peterson, We are not trying to make our beliefs a logical extension to yours we are just pointing out that you do not believe the other religions manifestation of god is equal to yours and in fact you have been taught they are false.
They seem to imagine that being a Latter-day Saint entails rejecting all non-Mormon religious experiences and disbelieving every doctrine of every other faith. This, however, is not true.You are guilty of revisionist history. The official record shows:
Joseph Smith said, "My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right — and which I should join. I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong, and the personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in His sight: that those professors were all corrupt . . ." (Joseph Smith, "History of the Church, Vol. 1, page 5-6.)And scripture says this:
The Book of Mormon says, "And he said unto me: Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth" (1 Nephi 14:10).Given that. How can you justify saying this:
When Joseph Smith learned that the then-existing Christian churches were corrupt, that didn't mean that they were totally wrong. To say that something is "corrupt" means that it has been damaged. We speak of "corrupted texts" or "corrupted files," intending to say that they have been infected or tainted — not that their original content has been replaced by something completely different.
In fact, many mainstream Christian doctrines were and are substantially correct. There is indeed a God. He has a divine Son who came to earth, atoned for our sins, rose again on the third day and now sits at the right hand of his Father. Those who taught prayer, preached of the Savior and translated the New Testament during the centuries between the early apostles and the Restoration preserved and transmitted many central gospel truths.
But what about non-Christians? Do they worship false gods?
Jews certainly don't. Believing Jews accept the Old Testament, venerating the God who brought Israel out of Egypt, spoke through the prophet Isaiah and was proclaimed by Jesus (a Palestinian Jew).According to Brigham Young they do:
"I would rather undertake to convert five thousand Lamanites , than to convert one of those poor miserable creatures whose fathers killed the savior... Yes, I would rather undertake to convert the devil himself, if it were possible... I would say, leave them, and come home, the Lord does not require you to stay there, for they must suffer and be damned... [L]eave them to live and die in their sins and ignorance... [T]hey take pleasure in their wickedness..." (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 2, p. 143, 1854)
But what of Islam? Isn't "Allah" a false god? No. According to the Qur'an, Allah created the earth in six days, placed Adam and Eve in Eden, and then inspired prophets like Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Sound familiar?
"Allah" is simply the Arabic equivalent of English "God," related to the Hebrew "Elohim." Moreover, Allah is the God not only of Muslims but of all Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews. "In the beginning, (Allah) created the heavens and the earth," reads Arabic Genesis. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with (Allah), and the Word was (Allah)," says the Arabic version of John 1:1. "We believe in (Allah), the Eternal Father," says the first Article of Faith in Arabic, "and in his Son, Jesus Christ."
Muslims, Christians and Jews disagree about God, but that doesn't create numerically different gods. My neighbor regards Senator Foghorn as the greatest orator since Daniel Webster; I think he's a noxious windbag. But there is, mercifully, only one Senator Foghorn. Our different opinions don't spawn multiple senators.There has been less said about Muslims. But much has been said about dark skinned people and people of other races. In fact while not officially supported by the official doctrine since the late 70's it is still supported in attitude among a significant number of members.
But what of the non-Abrahamic religions? Are they too far wrong? It seems presumptuous to declare that mistaken but sincere devotion means nothing to our loving Father in Heaven.
In fact, Christians have been quite willing over the centuries to equate Zeus, the supreme ruler and father of the Greek Gods (the Romans' Jupiter or Jove), with the God of Christian belief. Shakespeare's Juliet chides Romeo from her balcony with a close paraphrase of the pagan Roman poet Ovid: "At lovers' perjuries, they say, Jove laughs." The great medieval Christian poet Dante says that it was Jove who died on the cross ("Purgatorio" 6:118-119).
When the apostle Paul, preaching on Mars Hill, sought to connect with the pagan Athenians (Acts 17:24-28), he identified Zeus with Israel's God: "For in him we live and move and have our being," he taught, quoting the words about Zeus of a sixth-century B.C. Cretan philosopher. "As some of your own poets have said," he continued, citing a third-century B.C. philosopher's verse about Zeus, "'we are his offspring.'"
In the final volume of C.S. Lewis' "Chronicles of Narnia," a Calormene soldier named Emeth (= Hebrew "truth") has been a sincere worshiper of the false god Tash all of his life. When, at the end, he meets Aslan and recognizes the true God, he expects severe punishment. But Aslan graciously reassures him that "all the service thou hast done to Tash, I accept as service done to me," explaining that, although Emeth had been unaware of it, his honest devotion was actually to Aslan, rather than to Tash. "No service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him."The last three quotes paragraphs are comical at best. Mr. Peterson you are quoting works of fiction as a support for your argument. The worlds of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and the works of Dante were fantasies. The world of C.S Lewis' Narnia did not exist and Zeus according to common theological thought was nothing more than an invention of the men who worshiped him.
God's sheep recognize his voice, even when it's in a different language or imperfectly heard. They follow him as best they can and will not lose their reward.If this last paragraph is true then the plan a salvation is a hoax. The time and service you demand from followers is a hoax. Baptism for the dead is a hoax. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot claim the as atheists we are wrong and rally the other folks of faith together telling them that you were just kidding about the whole abomination thing.
Here is the reality Mr. Peterson; as we look at the history of the LDS Church with a critical eye the claims made and promises offered appear to be absurdities. The men who made those claims were even more suspect in character. We spent years searching for comfort in the plan of salvation and when we discovered the church was not what it purports to be we left. Not only was our faith no longer in tact but neither was our ability to believe in any god. Through further investigation we discovered the claims of Islam, Christianity, and Jewish faiths were equally suspect. We believe in one less god than you do. You do not hold the gods of other faiths in the same regard as you do your own. They are not minor doctrinal issues but major chasms in which your members have been taught they are better than the others and they have the only plan of salvation. The rest are "Whores of the Earth."