Home » Eastern Orthodoxy » “And the tie goes to…”

“And the tie goes to…”

tie-goes-to-the-runnerI have, for years now, spent quite a bit of time comparing and contrasting Mormonism and Eastern Orthodoxy.  This should come as no surprise to readers of this blog.  I have been trying to decide whether my faith journey should continue in Mormonism, shift to Orthodoxy, or stay in some kind of stasis in between.

One way to do this is to compare the teachings and characteristics in each faith in a sort of mental spreadsheet, and then compare each faith point-by-point.  For instance, priesthood.  Both faiths claim to have priesthood in a direct line through apostles and back to Jesus Christ.  The difference is that Mormons believe this priesthood was taken from the Earth, and had to be restored through Joseph Smith (by the same Peter, James, and John who passed it along in the first place).  Orthodox, on the other hand, believe that authority has remained on the Earth for the last two thousand years.

Now, let us say for the purposes of argument that I believe that the Mormons and the Orthodox both have an equally strong claim to the priesthood.  While Mormonism does have an eccentric-sounding story regarding the restoration of that priesthood, there is nothing per se that is so absurd that it is disqualifying.  In fact, the idea that the Apostolic priesthood (the authority to receive revelation and write scripture, etc.) was lost, as evidenced by a closed Biblical canon and an age of revelation that seemed long gone by the 2nd Century, and that it was restored again is quite attractive.  On the other hand, if this priesthood was so important and crucial for every person on the Earth, why restrict it from certain people based on their skin color for over a century?  Getting the priesthood for the first time in 1800 years and then goofing it up with racism so quickly seems like a regression, not a progression (by contrast, there were Orthodox missionaries in Black Ethiopia very early on).

However, the Mormon claim that the priesthood line was broken might have some purchase if we buy into the narrative that revelation ceased, therefore there was something that was lost with the Apostles that was not passed on.  Also, the fact that the Christian church has had many schisms and fragmentation over the years, many with mutually exclusive claims to priesthood authority, seems to be evidence in favor of the Mormon narrative.

So let us say that after examining both sets of claims, I am still at 50/50.  It’s a tie.  Who gets the point?

I believe the point should go to Orthodoxy.  This is because I think that Mormonism only makes sense if it is a restoration of something that was lost – implicit in this claim is that the thing that was lost is better.  So if Mormonism comes in and shakes things up, claiming to be an improvement on Christianity, yet that improvement ends up being a stalemate, then Mormonism is not justified in shaking things up on that particular point.  The less verbose way of saying that is, if Mormonism isn’t making Christianity better, than what’s the point?

So when I compare most issues between Mormonism and Orthodoxy, the point either goes to Mormonism, or it goes to Orthodoxy.  There are no ties – because ties automatically go to Orthodoxy.  Of course that stacks the deck against Mormonism, but I think that’s only fair.  Mormonism claims that hundreds of millions – if not billions – of Christians have been in darkness and apostasy for almost two thousand years, and Mormonism’s purpose is to come in and course-correct.  If it’s not that great of a course correction, then what’s the point?  Mormonism bears the burden of proof to defend their claim.


6 thoughts on ““And the tie goes to…”

  1. I don’t know yet. There are a lot more variables involved for me than just academic commitments – family, peers, culture, etc. Mormonism is like a small family and an extremely strong culture, and leaving it is basically Hell for a lot of people. That’s why I am anonymous on this blog: there are key members of my family who are unaware of my interests in Orthodoxy and my struggles with Mormonism.

  2. Syphax,

    I understand what you mean. Speaking personally, following Jesus has (sadly) resulted in my being alienated from half of my family (e.g., mother, brother, etc.). Nevertheless, I can assure that Jesus is worth whatever sacrifice we have to make in this life.

  3. I spoke with an Episcopalian minister about that very subject. While incredibly sympathetic to me, she did say, “Now you understand the scripture in which Jesus says He would turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, etc.” I am hoping, if I make any transition, hearts will eventually be softened either way.

  4. Syphax,

    Yes, the Bible indicates that sometimes it’s in God’s will for us to suffer for his name. That can be very difficult to go through, but according to Jesus there’s a great blessing to be found even in that:

    “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (Matt 5:11-12a)

    In my own case, Jesus was pleased to give me all the family I could possibly want in addition to what remained of my old one almost ten years after half my family let me go. I don’t have enough space in this comment to go into details, but it was a miracle how he did it.

    Anyway, I just want to encourage you in this direction.

  5. I completely agree with you that the belief in a restoration of the apostolic priesthood, with the authority to receive revelation and write scriptures, is definitely very attractive. Indeed, that’s probably the major reason why I converted to the LDS Church in the first place. However what I’ve found recently (and will be the subject of a blog post on my blog later on!) is that LDS many times misunderstand how Catholics understand their priesthood, revelation, etc (and I’m assuming that the Orthodox would view it similarly). LDS many times refer to the “Heavens being closed” after the death of the NT apostles. They then say that the “Heavens are open, God speaks”, etc. I’m sure you’ve heard that. But really, Catholics never said that the Heavens are closed. Indeed, the belief that revelation has ended is misunderstood by the LDS attempting to provide a contrast between the orthodox (small “o”) and the LDS view. When Catholics say that revelation has ended, they mean “public” revelation, i.e. that revelation needed for salvation. All that is needed to be known to receive eternal life has been revealed, reaching its high point in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, His ministry, His atoning sacrifice, His resurrection, and His ascension. So, that certainly doesn’t mean that there was an end of revelation, and end of prophecy. Catholics believe that God still speaks, there have been prophets, and prophetesses, throughout Catholic history (the various Marian apparitions and visions being one subset), that people have “private revelations”, that the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit, Papal Infallibility is a type of Divinely inspired protection against speaking error when expounding doctrine, etc.

    That’s one reason why I find the LDS position on a restoration untenable, because it was never claimed that such things ceased and needed a restoration; they’ve always been here, and I’m sure the Orthodox would agree.

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