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A Test Of Orthodoxy

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Some will claim that there is no Mormon orthodoxy and in fact no such thing as true Mormon doctrine. The faith of Mormonism seems to be vastly more concerned with orthopraxy rather than orthodoxy.

A friend recently tried to become a baptized member of the LDS church and he related this story

I know from my experience the LDS church (in so far as they have doctrine) considers belief in the historicity of the Book of Mormon a hard requirement for membership. One can have different opinions to some extent but if you firmly deny that there ever were real historical Nephites, Lamanites, Jaredites and Mulekites even if you affirm Joseph Smith’s spiritual prophecies they are unwilling to baptize.

This isn't a matter of doubt for my friend. He is firmly and unshakeably convinced that the Book of Mormon does not reflect a history of any people.

What do you think, were the missionaries right to deny him membership? Should he have shopped for a different set of priesthood holders? Should he have have nuanced his beliefs so that the missionaries heard what they needed to hear?

If historicity is a requirement to obtain membership, should it be a requirement to maintian membership?

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Some will claim that there is no Mormon orthodoxy and in fact no such thing as true Mormon doctrine. The faith of Mormonism seems to be vastly more concerned with orthopraxy rather than orthodoxy.

A friend recently tried to become a baptized member of the LDS church and he related this story

This isn't a matter of doubt for my friend. He is firmly and unshakeably convinced that the Book of Mormon does not reflect a history of any people.

What do you think, were the missionaries right to deny him membership? Should he have shopped for a different set of priesthood holders? Should he have have nuanced his beliefs so that the missionaries heard what they needed to hear?

If historicity is a requirement to obtain membership, should it be a requirement to maintian membership?

My opinion:

I'm not sure why or how this subject even came up in a baptismal interview. Either the candidate believes the Book or Mormon is the word of God (regardless of what "historicity" means to anyone) or he doesn't. I think that is one of the questions.

Assuming he brought up his opinion of its historicity as a pet peeve, and his mode of expression and behavior made it impossible to get into the baptismal questions (or otherwise distracted / detracted from a proper interview), or kept him from answering the necessary confessions of faith in the affirmative, then I can see baptism being denied. I guess i'd have to know more about how the interview went down.

As far as retaining membership based on one's view of the historicity of the Book or Mormon, I would say it depends on how it crosses the line into apostasy, which would require a very extreme and antagonistic attitude toward the Church. I guess there would be more latitude for members than baptismal candidates, since such a position at the get-go doesn't bode well for an edifying membership experience.

Still, I don't know why he can't get a "second opinion" if he feels he was misunderstood in how his opinion plays out in keeping the covenants of membership and sustaining the Book of Mormon as the keystone of the religion.

Edited by CV75

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Some will claim that there is no Mormon orthodoxy and in fact no such thing as true Mormon doctrine. The faith of Mormonism seems to be vastly more concerned with orthopraxy rather than orthodoxy.

A friend recently tried to become a baptized member of the LDS church and he related this story

This isn't a matter of doubt for my friend. He is firmly and unshakeably convinced that the Book of Mormon does not reflect a history of any people.

What do you think, were the missionaries right to deny him membership? Should he have shopped for a different set of priesthood holders? Should he have have nuanced his beliefs so that the missionaries heard what they needed to hear?

If historicity is a requirement to obtain membership, should it be a requirement to maintian membership?

He probably should have asked to speak with the mission president.

As long as he could truthfully answer that he believed the book of mormon to be the word of God, that should have been enough (accepting his explanations of events, of course).

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What do you think, were the missionaries right to deny him membership?

Yes absolutely. One can't deny BoM historicity and also honestly accept JS's prophetic calling. However, it's not a specific question in the baptismal interview. But BoM historicity is taught in Preach My Gospel, where one can also find the baptismal questions, on page 38. Thus the contextual connection between BoM historicity and the Restoration is established:

Joseph Smith was directed by a heavenly

messenger named Moroni to a hill where gold

plates had lain hidden for centuries. These gold

plates contained the writings of prophets giving

an account of God’s dealings with some of the

ancient inhabitants of the Americas. Joseph Smith

translated the contents of these plates by the power of God. The prophets in the Book of

Mormon knew about the mission of the Savior and taught His gospel. After His

Resurrection, Christ appeared to these people. He taught them His gospel and established

His Church. The Book of Mormon proves that “God does inspire men and call them to

his holy work in this age and generation, as well as in generations of old” (D&C 20:11). In

order to know that the Book of Mormon is true, a person must read, ponder, and pray

about it. The honest seeker of truth will soon come to feel that the Book of Mormon is the

word of God.

Should he have shopped for a different set of priesthood holders?

Ostensibly, that shouldn't work.

Should he have have nuanced his beliefs so that the missionaries heard what they needed to hear?

No. It's possible to be nuanced and still accept the overall historicity of the BoM without reservation.

If historicity is a requirement to obtain membership, should it be a requirement to maintian membership?

Yes. But such is a requirement for a TR now as correctly answering those questions assumes it in the same way the baptismal questions assume it.

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Some will claim that there is no Mormon orthodoxy and in fact no such thing as true Mormon doctrine. The faith of Mormonism seems to be vastly more concerned with orthopraxy rather than orthodoxy.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Ensuring correct doctrine is taught in the Church is given highest priority.

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One does not have to believe in the historicity to be baptized. Your friend obviously is not being totally honest with you, or the missionaries are not following the official questions. There is no question regarding the Book of Mormon in the baptismal interview.

The questions asked are:

  • Do you believe that God is our Eternal Father? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer of the world?
  • Do you believe the Church and gospel of Jesus Christ have been restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith? Do you believe that [current Church President] is a prophet of God? What does this mean to you?
  • What does it mean to you to repent? Do you feel that you have repented of your past transgressions?
  • Have you ever committed a serious crime? If so, are you now on probation or parole? Have you ever participated in an abortion? a homosexual relationship?
  • You have been taught that membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints includes living gospel standards. What do you understand of the following standards? Are you willing to obey them?
    1. The law of chastity, which prohibits any sexual relationship outside the bonds of a legal marriage between a man and a woman?
    2. The law of tithing.
    3. The Word of Wisdom.
    4. The Sabbath day, including partaking of the sacrament weekly and rendering service to fellow members.

    [*]When you are baptized, you covenant with God that you are willing to take upon yourself the name of Christ and keep His commandments throughout your life. Are you ready to make this covenant and strive to be faithful to it?

(The above was quoted from the manual Preach My Gospel, page 206)

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