Joseph Smith, Paul, and Revelation
My current reading list includes “No Man Knows My History–the Life of Joseph Smith” by Fawn Brodie. If you enjoy reading a good biography I highly recommend this one to you. First published in 1945 and revised in 1971, the book is considered a modern classic of the biographer’s art. The story of how Smith convinced so many people that he had received another “testament” engraved on golden plates is absolutely fascinating. Whatever else you might say about Smith, the guy definitely had charisma.
Reading the story of early Mormonism, one quickly sees parallels to the beginnings of Christianity (and probably any other religion for that matter.) Like Joseph Smith, the apostle Paul’s ultimate claim to authority came from revelation–“because God told me so!” Throughout his epistles Paul reminds his readers that he has some kind of special conduit to divine wisdom and that he speaks for God. These passages are numerous, but one example should suffice to make the point: “…what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord. Anyone who does not recognize this is not to be recognized.” (1 Corinthians 14: 37-38) Sounds just like something any cult leader might say to intimidate the flock.
And that is religion in a nutshell. Anybody who can convince enough people that he/she converses with undetectable beings can start one. The metaphysical claims of Mormonism are no crazier than the metaphysical claims of Christianity. They just might seem a little crazier because we’re not as familiar with them as the world-view of orthodox Christianity which permeates our culture.
For atheists, agnostics, and other skeptics who might be reading this, I’m sure this comes as no “revelation” to you. I just wonder why it took me so long to see it, and being able to write about it is therapeutic for me. Thanks in advance for being patient with a slow learner!