“Are Mormons Closer to Muslims or Christians?” (Part 3)

“Are Mormons Closer to Muslims or Christians?” (Part 3) May 10, 2018


The gray-black dome of the early-eighth-century al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Behind it is the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, with the Seven Arches Hotel atop the Mount on the right and the spire of the Church of the Ascension on the left.
(Wikimedia Commons public domain)


Continuing with my hasty response to a lamentable 2012 article in the often-lamentable Huffington Post:


“In order to lead,” claims Ms. Wood, “both Islam and Mormonism do not require formal seminary training, but take regular members and move them up into leadership roles.”


Ms. Wood seems to presume that the Apostle Peter and his colleagues were professional clergy with seminary degrees.


In any event, she’s wrong about Islam.  To the extent possible, Islamic clergymen are formally trained at such places as (for Sunnis) Al-Azhar University in Cairo and (for Shi‘is) the theological seminaries in Qum, Iran.


“Oddly enough,” marvels Ms. Wood, “both religions had a split after their prophet’s death with one side believing that the faith should continue though the prophet’s descendents and the other side rejecting that. For Muslims, this caused the bloody divide between Shiites and Sunnis that we hear so much about in the press. For Mormons, this caused the divide between the Later Day Saints, which make up about 99 percent of Mormons, and others.”


That’s Latter-day Saints, actually.  With two t’s.  And, yes, there is a curious similarity in the two schisms.  But it’s unclear that there is any real significance to it.  It’s almost certainly mere coincidence.


“Both Muhammad and Joseph Smith were taunted for their work and driven out by locals,” reports Ms. Wood.  “Muhammad moved from Mecca to Medina, and Joseph Smith had to move from Illinois to Missouri.”


Actually, Joseph Smith was obliged to move from New York to Ohio to Missouri to Illinois, where he was murdered by an anti-Mormon mob.  Not from Illinois to Missouri.


“Both Muhammad and Joseph Smith established their own city-states,” says Ms. Wood, “with Muhammad ruling Medina and Joseph Smith ruling Nauvoo, Ill.”


Medina already existed long before Muhammad arrived.  Joseph Smith essentially created Nauvoo.  And it wasn’t a city-state.  It wasn’t independent.  It had a charter that was granted to it by the legislature of the State of Illinois.  For part of his time in Illinois, Joseph Smith served as the elected mayor of the city.


“Both Islam and Mormonism have Scripture that can justify violence and murder,” asserts Ms. Wood, “as does the Bible.”


The Aurora, Colorado, gunman evidently thought that Batman movies justify violence and murder.


“While Mormons have not acted violently in the U.S. for quite some time, there was an incident back in 1857 called the Mountain Meadows Massacre, which happened on Sept. 11. The massacre was led by prominent Mormon leader John D. Lee, who was trying to exact revenge on some emigrants but when the emigrants surrendered, the militia killed men, women and children in cold blood, and then tried to cover it up.”


Not quite.  The best treatment of this topic is Ronald W. Walker, Richard E. Turley, and Glen M. Leonard, Massacre at Mountain Meadows (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).  It lays out what really happened, and shows that neither Mormonism nor the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (in which John D. Lee wasn’t all that prominent a leader) had anything at all directly to do with the tragedy.


“We don’t need to be experts on either religion,” Ms. Wood announces, “to see these similarities.”


Truth be told, Ms. Wood’s case would be best served if no expert on either religion were within several leagues of her article, because no real expert could possibly take her superficial and cherry-picked similarities at all seriously.


“They both have common ground with Christianity,” Ms. Wood generously allows, “and much of it.”


Just as the bullfinch and the American border collie both have common ground with the class of mammals, and much of it.  But, in the latter case, it shouldn’t be missed that collies are mammal-like for the simple reason that they are mammals.


Posted from Jerusalem, Israel



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