Ask an Elder?

By Bill McKeever

One of our readers wrote to say that we at MRM are like the “Consumer Product Safety Commission for Christians.” This compliment says a lot since it is our goal to closely examine the teachings of the LDS Church so that Christians (and Mormons) can make an informed decision when it comes to the Mormon Church’s claim of being Christian.

However, many Mormons insist that only Mormons should be sought out for an “unbiased” explanation of the Mormon faith. This was clearly emphasized in a review of Mormonism 101 posted on Amazon.com. Here, a Mormon named “Gino” insisted, “Does it not make sense that if you want to find out about somebody’s beliefs, you should ask someone who is a part of their religion; who is a practicing member?” A similar criticism came from “Jone” who wrote, “Frankly, if you want to learn about Mormons, you’d be better served talking to an Elder or member of the LDS Church.”

It may surprise many people to know that, for the most part, I am not totally against such a proposition. I have no problem with individuals who are curious about the history and teachings of Mormonism asking Mormons for their side of the story. However, many Mormons who use the above statements also make it clear that they do not appreciate a viewpoint that is even remotely critical of their faith. If they had it their way, ministries such as MRM would be permanently silenced. This is where this type of one-sided examination falls apart. Please permit me to explain my point using the events that transpired during the 2003 war in Iraq.

Like many Americans, my eyes were glued to the television during March and April of 2003 as American forces made an unprecedented advance on the city of Baghdad to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein’s despotic regime. One of the major topics of conversation among the pundits had to do with how the war was being reported by various media outlets. Journalists embedded with coalition troops gave eyewitness accounts that clearly showed their overwhelming superiority of military might.

However, at the same time, much of the Arab world was getting its information from Al-Jazeera, a news agency that was clearly slanting the news to make the coalition forces look both inept and on the verge of defeat. A common figure before the microphones was Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf, the Iraqi information minister. How can we ever forget his doomsday reports? “They are trapped in Umm Qasr. They are trapped near Basra. They are trapped near Nasiriyah. They are trapped near Najaf. They are trapped everywhere.” And my favorite, “I triple guarantee you, there are no American soldiers in Baghdad.”

To most of us who were getting our information from eyewitnesses in the field, such comments were tragically laughable. But to the uninformed Iraqi soldiers, this one-sided reporting had deadly consequences. Since they were getting their information from one source, thousands of Hussein’s soldiers chose to continue what they were told was a winnable fight. There was never a chance of repelling such a formidable force; as a result, thousands of men died unnecessarily.

Using this illustration, my hope is that people will see the importance of carefully hearing both sides of any particular issue — especially when the topic has eternal consequences. Anyone who says that only a Mormon can give an unbiased explanation of the LDS religion is not being truthful. Everyone has biases, even Mormons. An excellent example of LDS bias was made evident in a statement by Mormon Apostle Boyd Packer who said, “The idea that we must be neutral and argue quite as much in favor of the adversary as we do in favor of righteousness is neither reasonable nor safe. In the Church we are not neutral. We are one-sided. There is a war going on, and we are engaged in it… We are therefore obliged to give preference to and protect all that is represented in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we have made covenants to do it. (“The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect,” BYU Studies, Summer 1981, p. 267).

This is why ministries like MRM play a vital role when it comes to worldviews. It demonstrates that opposing viewpoints are important and why listening to only one side of a story is about as foolish as placing your total trust in Al-Jazeera.


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