Friday, 5 September 2008

Mormons Who Have "Heard it all Before?"

Among other things, I am a moderator on the Mormon thread of the Reachout Trust forum. As we have attempted to discuss issues concerning Mormonism on the forum one of the things we frequently hear said by Mormons is, “I have heard it all before”, implying that we come up with the same tired old arguments. Mormons often insist that the issues we raise are not only wearyingly familiar but they have been more than adequately answered and roundly dismissed in other discussions, on other sites and/or in Mormon literature. You could almost feel sympathy for them as they play the part of the put upon Mormon, the victim of cynical repetition of the same tired old arguments. Indeed, some have expressed “understanding” of the Mormon position and tried, by their expression of empathy, to win the Mormon by showing that “I am on your side”. Allow me to point out a few things.

A Mormon may well have “heard it all before” but we are not in ministry to provide novelty for the otherwise jaded Mormon aficionado looking for a place to rest their weary derriere and yawn affectedly at the rest of us. Mormons have a tendency to speak and act as though the world revolves around Mormonism but it doesn’t.

A Mormon may well have “heard it all before” but that does not mean they were listening properly or appreciated fully what they have heard. When someone is in defence mode they tend to hear only offence and threats and offer only opposing and self-justifying answers. When, on the other hand, someone reaches a place of genuine inquiry they can hear again all those thing they have heard before as though hearing them for the first time.

A Mormon may well have “heard it all before” but they are not the only visitors to our forum and others, either participating in the discussions or just silently watching them develop, may not have heard it all before. There may be those who have never heard that Joseph Smith had many wives; that there are eight different versions of the first vision; that Joseph Smith died in a gun fight in which he shot two people; that Joseph Smith issued a “revelation” denying that Mormons practiced polygamy even when he already had more than one wife; that, contrary to popular Mormon myth, polygamy was illegal in the state where Mormons first practiced it; that, contrary to official statements, the Adam/God doctrine was officially taught for years and that denying Negroes the priesthood was an official doctrine of the church and not a social convention, the product of the times, as many are now being told. Perhaps these other people would like to hear these things and even if they have heard it all before themselves perhaps they are not yet satisfied with the answers they have heard and wish to hear more.

A Mormon may well have “heard it all before” but there will be those, Christians, Mormons, former Mormons, other interested parties, who wish to get a clearer picture, test their knowledge, try out their arguments and otherwise get involved in discussion that offers the opportunity to grow in all those things that help them make sense of the world, having met with, been involved with, or had relations who are Mormons.

A Mormon may well have “heard it all before” but that is no excuse for refusing to get involved in honest discussion, for feigning an urbanity that ill-befits someone who is meant to be eager to discuss their faith, and for an ill-mannered and cynical humour that betrays an attitude that could not be less than the Christian Mormons claim to be.

For all these reasons, and more, any Mormon visiting our forum is welcome to join in our discussions, start discussions, participate in vigorous debate and be part of the process of helping our visitors to understand and work things out for themselves. But if they have “heard it all before” they should just remember that this forum, much less this world, does not revolve around them and keep quiet about it.

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