I 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.