Sunday, March 23, 2008

Apostle-Apologists?

As I've noted before, I've been reading the Journal of Discourses lately. It's occurred to me that the leaders of the church were more apologist oriented in those
days. With the exception of Elder Holland's recent General Conference talk, modern day LDS seldom here talks that have an apologetic flavor to them.

One interesting sermon was delivered by Elder Orson Pratt entitled "Distinguishing Characteristics Between the Latter-Day Saints and the Various Religious Denominations of Christendom."

I include here an interesting part of his sermon about the need for divine authority to administer baptism.


But suppose we speak still further on one principle, and that is the authority to baptize. I might be baptized by a person whom the Lord had neither called nor sent, and that baptism would never be acknowledged in the eternal worlds. I might be ever so sincere, and I might receive the ordinance from the hands of a man who, I really supposed, had the authority and who was a good, moral, upright man, and yet that baptism would not be acceptable in the sight of God, unless he did truly have divine authority.

How am I to know whether a man has divine authority or not? It is one of the easiest things in the world to know. I will tell you how you may know a man who has divine authority from one who has not. If you find a man who, though he may profess to be a Christian minister, says he does not believe in any later revelations than those given to St. John the Divine, and that he was the last to whom the Lord revealed himself, you may know that that man has no authority from God. Why not? Because the Bible says—"No man taketh this honor unto himself"—speaking of the Priesthood—"Save he be called of God as was Aaron." Now, turn to the Bible and see how Aaron was called, see if he was not called by name, by new revelation: that is, it was a new revelation to him. See if he was not called through Moses, the servant of God, who received a revelation commanding him to set apart his brother Aaron to the Priest's office, directing him what ordinance to use, how to set him apart, and giving all the particulars of his calling and ordination to the ministry, and what his duties were to be after ordination. All this was given by new revelation. No man can receive the Priesthood, neither officiate in its ordinances acceptably, unless he is called of God as was Aaron. If Aaron was called by new revelation, then all others who have this authority must be called in the same way, or their authority is not valid, and all ordinances under it are good for nothing.

This is the reason why the Lord commanded this people—the Latter-day Saints—to re-baptize all persons who come to them professing to have been baptized before (Journal of Discourses, 16:293).



So, a couple of questions for my readers.

1. What do you think of Orson Pratt's argument?
2. Do you wish the brethren were more apologetics-oriented today?

11 comments:

JayFlow22 said...

I like Elder Pratt's argument. I've actually used it myself when discussing Priesthood authority with another person.
I feel like the General Authorities speak whatever God feels we need to hear. Perhaps they don't talk much apologetics b/c the members are doing a good enough job of it here online.

Andrew Miller said...

jayflow22,

Thanks for stopping by and for your comment. I agree, I think generally speaking apostles and other leaders tend to focus on preaching principles of the gospel instead of apologetics. Every once in a while there will be a talk with an apologetic flare, but we need all the help we can get to understand and live the basic principles of the gospel.

JayFlow22 said...

Members will often make light of the fact that all General Conference talks are about the same 4 topics...like it's their fault. If we keep hearing the same talks over and over again, then the problem is with the members for not doing what we've been counseled to do.

NM said...

The need for apologetics in any *religion* is important. Apologetics itself, within Christianity, is useless, but can prove useful, especially when engaging with others of differing faiths, be it atheistic, agnostic, or whatever.

Personally, I'd like to see more LDS Apologists. I think Jeff Lindsay does a good job of it, but I'd like to see more who can offer a defence in terms of showing how mainstream LDS (as opposed to FLDS) interacts with other faiths, evolutionary sciences, philosophy, etc. =)

Andrew Miller said...

nm,

Thanks for stopping by. I think it would be interesting if they offered a degree of some sort in LDS theology. That would be the basis for an apologetics movement. The problem is, of course, that such a movement might start dictating what LDS doctrine and teaching is when that is the prerogative of the general authorities.

NM said...

Ah, yes. A degree in LDS theology would not be static as it would have to move with ongoing revelation from the church? I can see that such a thing would prove quite difficult...right?

JayFlow22 said...

I wouldn't want there to be an LDS degree.
A man or woman's credentials as a convincing preacher come from the Spirit of God and not from a degree.
BYU offers religion classes, but the Priesthood and the Spirit should be what converts others, not our degrees.

NM said...

Jayflow,

I agree with you. Someone with a theology degree should not be automatically qualify anyone to hold some sort of church 'office'. I know of a few church leaders who have PhD galore in Theology, but display no fruit of transformation in their lives; it seems that such God-Knowers have only a head-knowledge of Biblical truth.

On the other hand, I know of many other church elders who do not have any formal qualifications in theology, but their lives reflect the transformation of the gospel in their lives =) One of my church elders, for example, although has a degree in French(!?) from Cambridge University, has not one iota of formal theological training...

I wasn't necessarily correlating degrees with church office...I was thinking more along the apologetics issue; that it might be beneficial for the LDS church to have something substantial like the offer of a degree in LDS theology, so it has a basis for apologetic engagement with other faith systems, be they spiritual or secular.

NM said...

*after-thought*

...what I mean to say by 'spiritual or secular', is how then does the LDS church interact with Buddhists, Muslims etc. or socialism, capitalism, communism, or even how LDS theology responds to current social-trends like postmodernism...

...you get what I mean, right?

NM said...

*one more after-thought*

Please know that I am not implying that the LDS church has nothing substantial...my experience shows that FAIR do a very good job of defending the church.

Andrew Miller said...

nm,

Great comments. I understand where you're coming from completely.

jayflow22,

Your comments are great, too! Thanks.