As Elders M and J and I wandered through various topics, they told me (again) about the uniqueness of Joseph Smith's angelic visitations and the receiving of the Book of Mormon. We talked a little bit about the faith necessary to believe this, since there's really no physical evidence for any of this having happened.
Me: So, how do you deal with this with other people who claim to have seen similar things. For instance, I find the enormous similarities between the birth of Islam and the birth of Mormonism somewhat troubling.
Elder J: I'm not really familiar with Islam.
Me: Well, you have Mohammed, a pretty religious guy off in a cave, whereas Joseph Smith was in, what, the wilderness or something?
Elder J: A grove of trees.
Me: Right. And an angel appears with a vision of a purified religion, just like Joseph Smith. Then Mohammed dictates the new scripture, he was actually illiterate I think, and Joseph Smith -- okay, I know he's meant to be translating but he dictates the translation of the new scripture. And then both the Koran and the Book of Mormon are taken up to heaven.
Elder J: I see what you're saying. And we would say, yes, Mohammed is a prophet, too.
Elder J: We see this pattern that after Christ, about every 600 years God sends a prophet. Mohammed was one of those. Joseph Smith also came at the end of one of those 600 years.
Me: I am amazed that you would say this. What do you mean when you say he was a prophet?
Elder J: The he was a sort of spiritual genius, given insight by the Holy Ghost about spiritual things.
Me: I... uh. Hmmm. I have a real problem with this. I think this makes God seem a bit schizophrenic. I mean every six hundred years he's giving humanity an entirely different system for interacting with him? The theology of Mormonism and Islam are vastly different, and I don't see how you can claim they are both prophets.
Elder M: In the end we are all backed up against the wall of faith. What you need to do is pray and ask the Holy Ghost whether the Book of Mormon is true.