“For we did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ….” (2 Peter 1:16).
In the public library this week, it occurred to me that this vast collection of writings is divided into two primary sections: fiction and non-fiction. And that started me thinking. Wonder why the basic section is fiction and the “reality” section, if we want to call it that, is labeled “non-fiction”? Wonder why it’s not the other way around, that the primary part is “Real” or “True” and the secondary part is “fiction” or even “contrived?”
I’m not anti-fiction, incidentally.
I love novels, and read many each year.
My favorites are westerns. Before dismissing this as shallow and unworthy, the reader might be interested in knowing that a lot of important people have loved a good western (in addition to moi–lol). General Dwight Eisenhower, busily planning the invasion of Europe to drive the Nazis out of power, read western novels at night (and later in the White House) before retiring. I expect Ike did it for the same reason I do, as a little escape. Sort of a two hour vacation for the brain.
Westerns are fictions. People sat down and made up these stories. And even though Louis L’Amour boasted that his novels were all fact-based (“if I say there is a creek there and a cave next to it, you can find a creek there with a cave next to it”), it’s been proven that he was embellishing the truth. If anyone cares, I’ve not found them. Yet L’Amour sold over 200 million copies of his novels and they continue to fly off the bookstore shelves.
A German guy named Karl May wrote a ton of western novels without ever having visited the United States. All he knew was what he had read, yet he concocted characters and plots and scenes and convinced a lot of people. His books sold over 50 million copies, became the basis for a number of Hollywood movies, and are still available. May did visit the U.S. once in his life, toward the end. A reviewer said much of what Karl May wrote was interesting and believable, although in more than one story, he spoke of his characters coming up against an “impenetrable cactus forest,” something no one ever found.
Fictions. Novels. Stories. Creative writing. John Grisham. Lee Child. Jan Karon.
I’m not sure what it says about the human animal that we pay good money to read a story someone has dreamed up. (I find it amusing–and more than a little sad–that people who would be horrified at obscene stories from some old guy on the streets will reward the same pervert for sitting at his computer and typing those stories into books which they purchase and make into movies.)
The problem comes when fact and fiction begins to blur. It’s compounded when someone tries to palm off a fiction as the truth.
Joseph Smith did that.
The founder of the LDS church. Mormons. He’s been in the news this week, even though he died something over150 years ago.
People are discussing Smith’s 40 wives, a collection which included a teenager young enough to get him arrested for statutory rape and a woman married to someone else at the time.
That bothers some people more than it surprises me. Seems to me that when a person creates his own religion, he almost always shapes it according to his fleshly desires. Jim Jones told his people that God wanted the women to submit to him sexually.
Smith used to say God commanded polygamy and he pronounced curses upon anyone saying otherwise. However, when the federal government required the LDS church to renounce polygamy in order for Utah to be admitted to the union, suddenly the president gets this revelation that God is opposed to polygamy. How convenient.
Some of us can recall when a subsequent LDS president got another “convenient” revelation. In the 1960s, I think it was, the church was being sounded condemned for prohibiting blacks from the priesthood. As the furor built to a climax, the president suddenly learned that God had changed his mind and blacks were now accepted. Why the Lord can’t make up His mind about polygamy and race is anyone’s guess.
Why Mormons continue to believe such is the question.**
It has been shown that Joseph Smith took someone else’s attempt to write a novel based on the Old Testament and twisted it into what became one of the most boring books in the world, the Book of Mormon. He has conclusively been shown to have been a charlatan and a con-man who convinced friends to invest in gold mines that did not prove out. When he claimed to have seen an angel with golden plates, only the most gullible bought into that.
A Baptist Press article this week reveals that with the internet today and the ability to fact-check everything, members of the LDS church are dropping out in droves. Mass defections. The article says of the 15 million Mormons worldwide, only a third are active. In Europe, the retention rate of Mormons is said to be down to 25 percent.
That’s the best news I’ve heard in a long time.
They come down your street and want to come in and discuss religion with you. They are handsome and polite and gracious. But they bring lies and error and falsehood.
Fictions claiming to be truth.
Joseph Smith bought an Egyptian mummy off a fellow once and found that accompanying the corpse was some ancient scrolls. Or papyrus. And, at the time, no one could read the writing. So, being the conman he was, Smith proceeded to announce that he was supernaturally gifted to translate that writing. It was, he said, from Abraham himself, and he proceeded to give to the LDS world “The Book of Abraham,” one of their key scriptures.
The problem is that, thanks to the Rosetta Stone, eventually someone learned how to translate those ancient languages. And they read what Joseph Smith’s scrolls said. They were burial instructions for the dead, and not even remotely close to what he had claimed.
He was writing fiction and passing it off as the truth.
Joseph Smith will account to God for what he has done, and this is not going to be a pretty thing. You will not want to stand close to him at judgment.
Smith once prophesied that the moon was inhabited by a race of giants. They dressed like Quakers, he said, among other things.
When I asked a Mormon acquaintance about that, his answer was a wonderful example of evasion. “The question is whether he was speaking as a prophet when he said it. And clearly he wasn’t.”
I said, “So, let me get this straight. If what he said was true, he was speaking as a prophet. If it wasn’t, then he was just having a little idle chat. Is that right?”
He accused me of sacrilege.
I said to him once, “You have a Ph.D. degree. You are too smart to believe such. This man has done a number on you.”
It was the truth, but it did not help our relationship. He marked me off as anti-Mormon. I tried to say “No,” that I am “pro-Truth.”
**I actually know why Mormons continue to believe in their faith long after it has been exposed to be the fiction that it is.
In almost every religion in the world, a person’s religion is more than just how they worship. It becomes a social structure, a system for arranging all of life. A person’s entire range of friends often is found in his place of worship.
When Nancy converted to Christianity from the Jewish faith and was baptized in my church, she told me one day that she lost “132 friends today.” What had happened is that as the word spread their their synagogue community that she was now a Christian, people began dis-inviting her to social occasions.
It’s a real thing. That’s why people who teach witnessing to cultists say it’s not enough just to give someone answers and to refute their doctrine. We have to care for them, to let them know that leaving their false religion is the right thing to do, and that the Lord will replace those former friends with new ones. And this takes time, something not everyone is willing to give.
One more thing. When I posted a link on Facebook to the Baptist Press article, a “friend” suggested that Christians should tread lightly when speaking out against Mormonism because “what if someone reveals the same things about the Bible’s manuscripts?” I responded that they’ve tried that for thousands of years in hundreds of ways, and it has not worked. The Holy Bible has been shown again and again to have been based on truth and not fiction. It has nothing to fear from investigators. Bring ’em on.