Three Good Questions

In response to this testimony by a former BYU (Associate) Professor, “Mormonism’s Nicest Villian”, Jack, asked these three questions.  I thought they were excellently phrased and I’m really interested to hear answers to them. If you haven’t watched the video yet, please do so first.

Questions for my LDS friends:

(1) Do you believe it’s possible for an LDS person to err and submit her life to the Church instead of submitting to Jesus Christ?

(2) What do you think are the consequences of such an error?

(3) How would you go about correcting such a person and setting him on the correct path?

I’m sure a couple of Evangelicals will play ball and answer the question from the perspective of an Evangelical who errs and submits themselves to orthodox doctrine or their denomination rather than as opposed to the LDS Church.

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126 thoughts on “Three Good Questions

  1. I will always be impressed by Jack’s ability to ask poignant and meaningful questions.

    1.) Yes.
    2.) I think the consequences are something Jesus’ sees. While a commitment can begin with the “wrong” focus, LDS believe that whenever we please God by acting in accordance with his will, He immediately blesses us, and are therefore forever indebted to Him. As such, there’s a hope that when we do the right thing, even for the “wrong” reason, God is powerful enough to change US through that process into acting for the right reasons. That is, think more Calomorene (spelling) warrior. Just as Aslan helped change the heart of Calomorene with ever “good” action of the Calomorene, so the spirit can soften the heart of every person who is seeking to serve God. If at the beginning they choose to serve the High King Peter instead of Aslan, and then learn to serve Aslan, from C.S. Lewis’ perspective, the end was more important.

    3.) I wouldn’t unless the spirit urged me to correct them explictly (DC 121). Instead, I would view it as my Christian duty to first Love the Lord and life a life in accordance with His will. Then I would seek the love that person and show that my love to them was stronger than the bonds of death, and that I wasn’t merely trying to intellectually and spiritually abuse them, and show my own spiritual superiority in choosing the “correct” understanding.

  2. My first thought is to ask why you found these questions so compelling. Sure, they are interesting, but you seem much more excited by them than I. So, what are you hoping for in this discussion?

    My second thought is to question why Jack’s hypothetical person got a sex change between question 1 and 3. ;)

    1) Of course. This is really seems like it was meant as a rhetorical question to set up the next two anyway. That’s not a bad thing—using rhetorical devices—I just want to be clear.

    There is a fine line hiding behind that question though, and I’m not sure whether Jack (or Tim) meant to highlight it or not. Here it is, at any rate: Is it possible to submit oneself to Christ if one refuses to submit oneself to the Church? (Cf. John 14:15)

    2) I have no idea what psychochemiker is talking about, probably because I’ve only read or seen a portion of The Lion, Witch, Wardrobe. He seems to be saying that the eventual consequence of serving in the Church is to learn the ways of Christ and thus to come to know and serve Christ; i.e., the problem is self-correcting. I think that’s probably true in many cases (especially those raised in the Church).

    In some cases, however, the problem doesn’t self-correct. The consequence is that religion to them is a burden; some dutifully suffer their whole lives while others leave (e.g., Dr Wilder). Both are mistaken about why God set up his Church and what he wants us to get out of it—an accusation that should sound reminiscent of what Jesus said to the Pharisees about their skewed view of the Law. And the consequence of a burdensome religion today is that same as it was then: to varying degrees, people miss out on the joy, relief, love for others, hope, etc. that God intended.

    3) I’d start by reading to her—aloud, with deep, deliberate voice—the entire Polygamous Jesus thread.

    Then I’d ask her questions about what she believes, and ask her to expound certain points. I’d hope that she would recognize her disconnect as soon as she was “forced” to really think about and explain her beliefs (my experience tells me this happens most of the time). Depending on my relationship with the person, I might be more upfront with my concerns and perspective.

    I don’t “set people on the correct path,” though. Well, my kids, sure, but not other people.

  3. My second thought is to question why Jack’s hypothetical person got a sex change between question 1 and 3.

    Either I was trying to use gender-inclusive language, or I forgot what gender I’d assigned when I re-edited the questions before I hit post.

    It’s too damn late for me to tell which. Take your pick. But I don’t care if the hypothetical person is male or female.

    Here is some info on what the Calormene warrior means.

  4. 1. Yes

    2. They would miss out on a lot of the power of Christian spirituality, may get caught up in “legalism” and may possbly nbecome tediously boring.

    3. Tell them to read the Book of Mormon.

  5. “(1) Do you believe it’s possible for an LDS person to err and submit her life to the Church instead of submitting to Jesus Christ?”

    Yes

    “(2) What do you think are the consequences of such an error?”

    They miss out on the actual power of the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ. They may be active in the Church, but they’re not active in the Gospel.

    “(3) How would you go about correcting such a person and setting him on the correct path?”

    Proper teaching (whether in my Sunday school class or over dinner at my house), having them actually read the New Testament and certainly the Book of Mormon, and perhaps loaning them my copy of “Believing Christ”.

  6. Jack and Tim, you may be interested to know that almost 30 years ago Stephen R. Covey took up this question in a book aptly titled “The Divine Center” (Bookcraft, 1982).

    Here is a brief excerpt from the jacket:

    [T]he author examines twelve common centers or perspectives and their effect on the fundamental dimensions of life — our security, guidance, wisdom, and power. While these perspectives all offer values in varying degrees and emphases, all but one (including the Church and the family) is clearly seen to be ultimately deficient as a life center. Only the divine center meets all the tests.

    Covey certainly addresses in detail and with examples all three of your questions. For those who are on the look out for books to add to their list, I would definitely recommend this one.

  7. 1) Yes. I see this happen with both my LDS and Evangelical friends.

    2) I think there are several consequences: a lack of personal spiritual fulfillment, misunderstanding of other doctrines, excessive guilt for minor sins (I see this SO much among my fellow LDS) and inevitably, burn-out which sometimes results in complete apathy and inactivity in the church.

    3) I have never attempted to correct someone directly, but I agree with Clean Cut that proper teaching (and I would add leadership) is key. When the talks given on Sundays are all about the atonement, when Gospel Doctrine teachers understand and convey that all things point to Christ it makes a big difference. I do make a point to comment whenever I can in meetings and speak out about the importance of Jesus in my life, and the dangers of what I call the “checklist gospel.”

  8. (1) Yes.

    As with any organized religion, you have a number of phenomena going on at the same time in the LDS community. I’m going to try to answer what I feel are the implied questions here, as well: why would someone submit to the Church and its rules without submitting to Christ, and what does submission to Christ really mean?

    a. There are some who are traditionalists, who do things because they have “always” been done this way and they do things according to what is acceptable, either socially, ideologically, or doctrinally without looking for deeper meaning. Many of these people were born into the church, but there are those at all levels, many of them Gospel Doctrine Teachers, quorum presidents, and high priests, who are too concerned about the “proper” way of doing something that they carry around a general handbook of instructions with them wherever they go. Don’t get me wrong, there needs to be order, but especially in dealing with priesthood ordinances, if nobody says you can’t do something, then assume you can, not the other way around.

    b. There are those who do things for social reasons, coming to church for others, or serving in a calling because of their circle of friends and the social support structure. These people generally are the most likely to leave because they are offended or be baptized because of friends.

    c. There are those who come out of a sense of guilt or inadequacy, almost like part of a 12-step program. They believe they are fundamentally unworthy or inadequate and thus seek a panacaea in the Church for all wrongs, real or imagined. While Christ declares many times and in many different ways that he will give us rest and peace, there is a fundamental error in that these people cling to their imperfections and refuse to truly give them over to Christ. I hold this category responsible for many of the people who serve out of a feeling that they “need to” or who work themselves into the ground for the church, have a breakdown and then are stuck on antidepressants for the rest of their lives.

    Submission to Christ, for me, is easily discerned by a single litmus test: How close do you feel to the Lord emotionally?

    Those members who feel like they are far beneath the Lord and unworthy of his mercy, etc., are right. We all are. But why focus on the difference between divine and mortal? For me, I know I have a heavenly father and mother and an older brother Jesus that I know love me, and I love dearly, who are well acquainted with me, and we have history together, from long before I was born. My dad’s day job just happens to be as king and creator of the universe. But above all that, he is my father. And Jesus is my brother, who is the heir to the throne, and I serve him, not just because he has promised to share everything with me, but because he is important to me and I would back him up, even if it cost me everything. I would willingly sacrifice my immortal soul for him if he needed it, and spend the rest of eternity in hell, because he is my brother, I love him, and I have the undying conviction that HE MUST WIN, no matter what it costs me personally. This eternal family is much closer and more important to me than any family I have here on earth, and if I had to choose between them and the mother that bore and raised me, well, sorry mom.

    (2) The consequences, in my view, are that your growth stagnates, and you never truly become Christian. Jesus said as much in Matthew 7:21-23. As David Eddings says at one point in his series the Elenium (1st book, I think), it is harder to love an institution than it is to love a person. I also believe this will be something that you will have to progress beyond after death, but it will be harder there. The outward ordinances of baptism, confirmation, etc., give the Savior a way to show our faith in him enough that he can claim us legitimately, but these are never binding until they are sealed on you by the Holy Spirit, something that most members forget or never knew.

    (3) I have been trying to figure out the answer to this question for years, and the short answer is that I don’t know. The best I can come up with is to bear witness of my relationship with the Savior in the strongest terms I can, but this still seems hollow, since I am not addressing the question directly.

  9. BrianJ wrote:

    Is it possible to submit oneself to Christ if one refuses to submit oneself to the Church?

    A very interesting counter question. I would change slightly the wording to “…if one refuses to submit to Christ’s Church?” Obviously LDS believe that Christ has one true Church at any given time (other than during the apostasy of course). It is instructive to ponder on this question as it relates to the LDS Church doctrine.

    But the question is relevant even if you believe the LDS Church is false. Is it important to submit yourself to what you believe to be Christ’s Church? Or are you just as well off worshiping privately in your own home with no Church affiliation? Or is it required to be “2 or 3 gathered in Christ’s name,” implying that one must worship with other Christians to truly have Christ in the midst? I’d love to hear opinions from non-LDS on these questions.

  10. But why focus on the difference between divine and mortal?

    Frank, I appreciate the closeness you feel to God and I hope you understand I am not trying to disparage that, but I think there’s a very good reason to focus on the difference between divine and mortal.

    That is to remind us how desperately we need Christ.

    Your comment here confuses me: I would willingly sacrifice my immortal soul for him if he needed it, and spend the rest of eternity in hell…

    But Frank, God doesn’t need your eternal soul in hell. In fact, He doesn’t need you–or me, or any of us–at all. He is completely self-sufficient, self-sustaining. It is WE who need HIM. It is NOT a two-way street.

    Again, I find the strength of your conviction admirable. I hope you don’t think I’m picking on you. Those were just some thoughts I had as I read your comment…

  11. There have been so many good answers (we LDS folks here are sounding a lot like the “evangelical Mormons” Jack has written about), that for now I’ll just say ditto to most of what has been said. Instead, I’ll go off on a slight tangent:

    BJM said:

    I think the evangelical equivalent would be someone who submits to the Bible (or his/her understanding of the Bible) instead of to God.

    I don’t think that’s a very good analogy.

    I would say that a better analogy might be the person on the praise team who is more concerned about getting the notes right than about what kind of life she is living. Or it might be youth leader who is more concerned about looking cool than about being cool with God. (How’s that for evangelical-speak?)

    I’m not even sure those are particularly great analogies. That is because is that the emphasis upon the church as an institution isn’t as big a part of evangelicalism as it is of Mormonism. It’s not that they don’t believe in a church, but their religion doesn’t place all that much importance about which church you belong to. Any emphasis on “I know this church is true” would be foreign to evangelicalism. While certainly a part of evangelical belief is involvement in the larger community of believers, it seems unlikely to me that many people outside of leadership would seriously mix up the idea of church status (whatever that might be) with following Christ.

    I’m not saying that evangelicals are immune to such a thing. But to the extent that a goal of the Christian life is follow the teachings of Christ and to live a life pleasing to God, evangelicals and Mormons likely face some different obstacles. There are some things the LDS church does very well to bring its members to an appreciation of the Atonement and how we should live as a result, and some things it does not so well. The same thing is true of evangelicals, but the issues we and they deal with aren’t always the same. And in this case, I think the temptation within the LDS church to confuse godly living with churchly living is much greater among us Mormons than it is among evangelicals.

  12. As for the OP,

    1. Certainly

    2. You miss out on at least a portion of a beautiful relationship with Christ. But I agree wholeheartedly with PC’s C.S. Lewis metaphor.

    3. Preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I ALWAY, ALWAYS, ALWAYS strive to incorporate my testimony of Jesus Christ in ANYTHING I teach. Joseph Smith taught that everything else was only an appendage to the testimony of Jesus. I envision it as spokes of a wheel – the spokes are important, but only insofar as they are connected to the center. So Christ is the center – everything else is an appendage, and if not taught in view of the connection to Jesus, then you’re really missing something beautiful.

  13. My answers:

    1) Yes I believe it’s possible for any one claiming to be a Christian to err and devote themselves to the wrong thing. The Bible, Old and New Testament, warns believers against that very thing.

    2) The consequences are the same as the consequences for idolatry. Ultimately, it’s misplaced faith and it bears bitter fruit. It replaces the King for a fraud.

    3) I think it’s important to recognize this in varying degrees in all Christians. We all do it. It’s easy to hear in some people as they fail to remain Christ-centered. What they are excited about or they praise is something other than Jesus. The only mention of His name is in rote passing, such as “in Jesus name”. The comparison to people who just desperately love Jesus is deafening.

    The “cure” is that they expose themselves to teaching that promotes Jesus over itself. If a pastor, worship leader, church or the Bible itself serve anything other than Jesus as the priority in a person’s life, it should be cursed and abandoned.

    Idolaters should be gently restored to their first love in any way we can find. The worst thing we can do is apathetically let them continue. This probably means that at some point we actually SAY something whether directly or indirectly. How scandalized would we be in our communities if we said “you know I love the church/the Bible but I would gladly give it up in service of Jesus”? Would more people agree with us or seek to show how impossible such a statement would be?

  14. No, Katie, I don’t feel picked on. I tend to phrase things a little in terms of extremes. On your first point, a response to my posting (in part) of: “why focus on the difference between divine and mortal?” you answered:

    “That is to remind us how desperately we need Christ.”

    The fact that Jesus was a perfect man is obvious in scripture. The need that mortals need for an atonement to bring us back to God from the inherently sinful state that we sink to in life is also likewise obvious. What I was trying to express here was that there are many ways in which it is counterproductive to harp on what I would call the “Jesus is perfect and I’m a worm” mentality. I believe that Jesus meant us to emulate him as far as possible, by how we treat our brothers and sisters here on the planet. I believe that we lived with both God and Jesus before we came to this world, and that we were present during the creation of the world and that we accepted Christ as our Savior in that premortal state. I believe we have the same potential (and yes, this is LDS doctrine here) to become like both Christ and our Father through grace and the atonement, not just angels to minister unto them, but gods able to create our own worlds, beget our own spirit children, etc. This does not mean that we will ever cease to worship God, but can continue on, immortal, with his characteristics and doing his works.

    In these senses, artificially creating more distance than is already obvious is counterproductive. Jesus would not ask us to come to him or become perfect like him if we did not have that capacity. If we see ourselves only in the context of our mortal existence, then we forget the relationship we had with him prior to our birth. If we ignore our potential through his atonement to repent of our sins, become sanctified like him, and be “saved” (in Mormon parlance receiving all that God has received and becoming like him), then we refuse the gift of his atonement to us.

    Instead, it behooves us to focus on our relationship with Christ, drawing near him, becoming like him, and emulating him. My point is that these things are very possible, and even natural after you understand the true nature of our relationship to deity.

    Second, I wrote in my last post: “Your comment here confuses me: I would willingly sacrifice my immortal soul for him if he needed it, and spend the rest of eternity in hell…” You answered: “But Frank, God doesn’t need your eternal soul in hell. In fact, He doesn’t need you–or me, or any of us–at all. He is completely self-sufficient, self-sustaining. It is WE who need HIM. It is NOT a two-way street.”

    Again, I was expressing things in extremes. I don’t expect the Lord to ask me to do anything that would damn my soul, nor do I expect he would ask the sacrifice I mention of me, but rather, I am expressing that whatever he wants me to do, I am willing to do, even if that is injurious to me in some fashion.

    Also, while it is ABSOLUTELY true that we need Christ and he doesn’t necessarily need us, there is a principle of economy in the way he interacts with man. He could ostensibly go around appearing to people individually, tell them what he wanted them to do, and ask us to do it. He could work great miracles to convince us that we needed him and to instruct us further. But he doesn’t. He often uses the actions of normal people to fulfill others’ needs, and we are often prompted by the Holy Spirit to perform acts of kindness, say something to someone, etc. This is just as much our Lord’s work as the parting of the Red Sea or the miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes. I could go on to clarify more (I’m currently getting an MA in history, so I am good at essays), but I think my responses are both startlingly long and clear enough for the moment.

  15. Gundek ~ How does one submit to God without submitting to the Bible?

    I can see quite a few scenarios where one could submit to God without submitting to the Bible. For example, I think it’s entirely possible to submit to God without ever having heard of the Bible, i.e. if one committed to Christ after hearing the Gospel preached verbally.

    Aquinas ~ Thanks for the recommendation. I will check it out sometime.

    Thoughts on the answers ~ Everyone who knows me knows that among evangelical Christians, it’s hard to find someone who’s more open to the notion that someone can be LDS and saved than I am. However, that doesn’t mean that I think all or most Mormons are saved, and lately the problem of Mormons who seem to have a relationship with the church instead of a relationship with God has really weighed on my heart.

    The practice of the church’s actions being equated with the will of God seems to come up regularly in my discussions with Latter-day Saints. For example, on my blog I recently did a post specifically pointing out some of the problems I have with LDS church policies on gender. I was very, very careful to make it clear that I was protesting LDS church policies and established church practices, not actual doctrine. One commentator came on and darkly hinted that to question these policies was to start down the road to apostasy (here), and while that type of response doesn’t surprise me, it does worry me. Why is questioning the church so quickly equated with questioning God?

    (Note that I don’t know the commentator in question and I’m not judging whether or not s/he has a relationship with God.)

    The other reason I brought this up was because, on the Lynn Wilder thread, trevor commented:

    at around 7:00, [Wilder] talks about surrendering herself to God, as if it weren’t possible as a Mormon. well… that seems a bit funny to me, seeing as that’s exactly what every endowed member of the church promises anyway.

    And that struck me as an odd thing to say. Is it really that hard to conceive of people practicing Mormonism and going through the endowment but never feeling as though they had truly surrendered their lives to God? I mean, I can definitely conceive of people being fully practicing evangelical Christians and even saying “the prayer” at some point in their lives but never really giving their hearts to God.

    On question #1, it wasn’t meant to be just rhetorical. While I figured nearly everyone who answered online would say “Yes,” some Mormons have essentially told me in the past that “It’s God’s church; submitting to the Church is submitting to God.” And I think that’s precisely the wrong answer.

    I’m curious on how almost everyone who answered #2 only referred to the consequences as they apply to this life. Do you think it’s possible for someone to miss exaltation or wind up in a lower kingdom due at least in part to such an error?

    I can explain why I think Bible-olatry is the equivalent problem for evangelical Christians if we want, but this comment has run on long enough.

  16. I think a good follow up question is: If someone has erred and submitted to the LDS Church rather than God, could you allow that it might be better for them to leave the church SO THAT they may be properly submitted to Christ?

    The consequence for apostasy is outer darkness. Particularly in the manner in which Shawn McCraney and Lynn Wilder have done so. They are speaking against God’s one true church. Can they rightly be called Christian under a Mormon understanding? Would you deny that Dr. Wilder has submitted her life to Christ given what she says in the video?

  17. Some random thoughts:

    Unfortunately, a lot of Mormons I’m related to seem to believe in some sort of salvation-by-ordinance-alone. And maybe the root cause does come from an emphasis on institutional loyalty. I’m afraid the temple recommend questions don’t help much. There’s not one question about our relationship with Jesus or if we have any genuine affection for God. Having a “testimony” isn’t the same as having a relationship.

    On the other hand, I think our leaders have been pretty clear that membership in the Church is about becoming changed creatures through the Atonement of Christ. Anything less than that it not coming from the top.

  18. I posted a comment on this thread earlier giving some personal details related to this topic. Tim has urged me that it really isn’t something I should discuss in public, and in hindsight I see that he’s right. It was a dumb thing for me to post. I can be really immature sometimes.

    The comment’s been moved to “pending” and I’ll edit it and re-post it soon. I apologize if you’ve already read it; let’s please not discuss it here. Christiantj, I edited your comment just slightly to remove the reference to what I discussed. I got what you said though; thank you for the advice.

  19. Tim said:

    The consequence for apostasy is outer darkness. Particularly in the manner in which Shawn McCraney and Lynn Wilder have done so.

    On what do you base that conclusion?

    In reference to those named above, Tim asked:

    Can they rightly be called Christian under a Mormon understanding? Would you deny that Dr. Wilder has submitted her life to Christ given what she says in the video?

    I’m not in a position to judge their hearts. As to the broader question, I believe there are people who are true followers of Christ who aren’t members of the LDS church.

  20. Eric:
    To the extent that I try to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and believe I’ve been born of the Spirit, I could be recognized as an Evangelical Mormon.

    But there’s just too much baggage (garbage) associated with Evangelicals (in my mind) that I don’t want put on my image.

    Tim:
    I’m not looking at this apathetically. I’m just trying to look at it from the viewpoint:

    That God, not Tim or PC is in control.

    That God, not Tim or PC decides when Tim or PC should correct someone else.

    That all of us are wrong in someway (remember that whole mote/beam thing Jesus taught about).

    That most people respond better to loving correction rather than “I’m smarter than you, or more spiritual, or whatever, so listen to my interpretation of the Bible”

    That no man, especially some authority-lacking-Evangelical has the right to judge how sincere others are in using “Jesus’ name”. Quite frankly Tim, I don’t trust your ability to judge someone else’s love of Jesus AT ALL.

    The problem Tim, is that you THINK YOU have the cure. Your focus is on how smart YOU are in having determined the RIGHT way to FIX people. Or at least, that’s how it sounds. “I Tim, one of the “right” Evangelicals have determined how to save the poor wretched unsaved Mormons. O Holy God, I thank you, that you have chosen me to set all others straight in their false idolotry…”
    In reality, you’ve determined nothing. The answer is and always has been Christ, not “human correction”.

  21. “Would you deny that Dr. Wilder has submitted her life to Christ given what she says in the video?”

    I suppose my question for Dr. Wilder is why she didn’t feel she could submit her life to Christ in the LDS Church. For me, the Church is a vehicle which is meant to carry me into a covenant relationship with the Savior, Jesus Christ. If there is no relationship, and the focus is only on the Church rather than Him whose Church it is, than there is a disconnect. I feel it’s my personal responsibility to make sure that doesn’t happen to me, or in other words, that the Church not become an impediment or a distraction between me and God.

    Sometimes I’ve felt frustrated by a particular calling. Instead of seeing it as an occasion to grow, I saw it as blocking my personal desires for more spiritual nourishment. Depending on the amount of “stuff” you can get tangled up with in various callings, I can see how easy it would be for Dr. Wilder to feel “shackles” or burdens (depending on the responsibilities). Ultimately, though, that service is meant to help us loose ourselves in God’s service, and find Him through service to others.

    Because of the “lay” organization, this Church certainly has plenty of opportunities for us to stretch and grow. That’s the ideal. Since everyone and their needs are so different, the guidance of the Spirit is crucial for individual application. If one is unable to find and know Christ even in (or despite of) that process, then there is a disconnect and it was really all in vain.

  22. Would you deny that Dr. Wilder has submitted her life to Christ given what she says in the video?

    I have yet to come across a switched-over Evangelical who left Restored Christianity on its best terms. Its like saying,

    “I went to the river to take a drink but all the water near the shore was dirty. I conclude that it is a dirty river.”

    She then seems to have proceeded to the middle of another river, taken a drink and said:

    “I’ve finally found clean water! This is the river where you find clean water!”

    And don’t even get me started about the New Testament. Daily I read it, and daily I remain in Restored Christianity. If others feel differently, I respect that – but don’t tell me the Bible matches perfectly with Evangelicalism.

  23. 1.yes

    2. A life spent wasted I’m service of an organization instead of a life spent in service to deity.

    3. I think it is always worthwhile to prod people into living more spiritually authentic lives.

  24. 1) Yes.

    2) They will miss out on wonderful experiences with the Lord.

    3) Love is the only way to bring someone to Christ. The love that God gives us. The gratitude we feel towards God for His saving grace. For granting us power to continue in His path. People recognize when you really care about them. And many times respond positively.

    As other have said, evangelicals, muslim and anyone else can get themselves caught up in legalisms or other distractions from following the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Reading the Bible and the Book of Mormon with a searching heart would do wonders. I also recommend “Believing Christ”. Teachings like it has really served to turn my heart to God.

  25. “Can they rightly be called Christian under a Mormon understanding?”

    Sure, since Mormons don’t use the term Christian as a synonym for “saved person.”

  26. I see Wilder’s sentiment as an indication of failures of the Church to lead people to satisfying spirituality with Christ. This really says nothing about whether the theology is correct, or the restoration is real.

    Other churches may make it easier to focus on Christ, but the LDS church is on different mission. I think that focus on the mission of the church can lead to task oriented behavior rather than spirituality. This makes the church more like a business.

    I think Mormons should be less defense over the conversions/apostasies like Wilder but more instructed. As it has been said, there is nothing in the church that prevents you from giving your whole life over to Christ and God and feeling the same sorts of feelings Wilder describes, however there are cultural/procedural barriers in the church that prevent this from happening as much as it should.

  27. BJM asked:

    Is it really that hard to conceive of people practicing Mormonism and going through the endowment but never feeling as though they had truly surrendered their lives to God?

    Not at all. What’s more remarkable to me is how many times I’ve heard about people tell me they went on a mission and didn’t come to believe the gospel until long after the mission started. To me, that’s amazing. So if people can give up two years of life without truly believing, it’s not surprising they can go through a ceremony.

    BJM also asked:

    I’m curious on how almost everyone who answered #2 only referred to the consequences as they apply to this life. Do you think it’s possible for someone to miss exaltation or wind up in a lower kingdom due at least in part to such an error?

    That’s an interesting question.

    I didn’t answer #2 (except to say I liked others’ answers), but if I had I too would have focused on the here and now, because I think that’s where the consequences are the clearest and most predictable.

    I do think there’s a feeling in the Church that pretty much all those who do the program, so to speak, will ultimately be exalted. It’s just something we kind of assume. But that isn’t precisely what the church teaches, and anyone who pays attention knows that.

    Maybe our overemphasis on grace makes us too optimistic about how many people really will make it to the celestial kingdom. :)

    So, yes, it is possible to “miss exaltation or wind up in a lower kingdom” because of wrong priorities. It probably doesn’t surprise you that I might say that. But in terms of who all that includes or what percentage of people or whatever, I have no idea. I could ramble on quite a bit here, but for now I’ll resist the temptation. Ultimately, I expect that no one will be surprised about where he or she ends up, and I’ll just leave it at that.

  28. It’s my understanding that the “Church of the Firstborn” is a much smaller number than general Church membership.

  29. Brian said:
    My first thought is to ask why you found these questions so compelling. Sure, they are interesting, but you seem much more excited by them than I.

    As Jack expresses, she and I encounter a number of people who we would guess have a much greater relationship with the LDS church than with Jesus. It’s not a hypothetical to us, it’s our experience with Mormons.

    So the question ultimately is getting at “are you seeing within Mormonism what we see?”

    If not, this coming Sunday, listen during Fast & Testimony meeting; are people grateful for the Church or for Jesus? Has the church given them so much or was it Jesus? Has the church changed their life or was it Jesus?

    Perhaps even substitute the word “gospel” or “restoration” for “church”.

    I’m not at all suggesting that every testimony will be “Jesus light”. I’m just saying that I think the odds are good that you’ll hear what I’m describing.

    For my own church, when public testimonies are offered there are three criteria that people are encouraged to meet.
    A) appropriate
    B) brief
    C) Christ-centered

    That doesn’t mean that all personal testimonies meet that criteria, but from the leadership the expectation is set.

    My experience with the LDS church suggest that the leadership is content with church-centered, prophet-centered, restoration-centered, or priesthood-centered testimonies because the LDS culture has wrapped all of those things into synonyms for Jesus. That’s a mistake. Jesus is wholly different than all of those things (as glorious as they may be).

  30. BJM,

    If you are submitting to the bible preached then I would suggest that you are submitting to the bible. You may not have meant the statement “I think the evangelical equivalent would be someone who submits to the Bible (or his/her understanding of the Bible) instead of to God.” the way I took it, and I should have worded my question better, but my question remains as an evangelical how do one even know to submit to God much less how to submit without His divine revelation in the Bible?

  31. Tim and Jack;

    One clarification regarding “submitting to Jesus”:

    One thing that is different between Mormons and Evangelicals is that Mormons don’t use the name of Jesus nearly as much and seem to refer to “Heavenly Father” more. I grew up focused on our Father in Heaven and still consider that the Father is the focus of all religion, including Jesus’ religion. According to Mormon thought, Christ is the way to the Father, and even Jesus wants us to focus on the Father and not Him. We submit to the Father by following the example of Jesus and following his teachings, praying in his name. Since we don’t conflate the two persons nearly as much as Evangelicals, it may seem like we just don’t talk about Jesus enough. My impression is that Evangelicals,as a practical matter, don’t see any real distinction between the persons of the trinity, so it leads to possible over-emphasis on Jesus over the Father, but that is based on very limited experience.

    In addition, Mormons believe that it is even disrespectful to use the name of Jesus too often. Saying “Jesus” dozens of times during a prayer or a talk is off-putting for a Mormon raised in the church, because it is considered “vain repetition”. So the outward appearance may not reflect how much people think of Jesus or how devoted they are. Mormons often feel more comfortble saying “the Savior” over “Jesus” because of this.

    An almost funny example of this is how the words of the chorus of the hymn “How Firm a Foundation” were changed in the LDS hymnal from “you who unto Jesus” to “who unto the Savior” because the original words were seen as possibly disrespectful.

    Some of the most spiritual, sincere and devoted worshipers of God I have known give extreme reverence to the name Jesus and rarely invoke it except in prayer and blessings.

    So, I expect that Mormons do see the practice within the Mormon church a bit differently than you do with respect to the mention of Jesus.

    gundek:

    “but my question remains as an evangelical how do one even know to submit to God much less how to submit without His divine revelation in the Bible?”

    Do you think the only way to hear from God is through the Bible?

  32. I would like to take a stab at the three questions
    1. Yes of course it is possible to submit to the Church and I would add doctrine(s) of the Church without submitting to Christ. Sanctification is a lifelong process of living in union with Christ and dying to our sins. How easy it is to look to our outward signs and doctrinal purity as the means of our salvation. Frankly, we will not be perfected in this life. The problem is that “submission to the Church” is necessarily part of submission to Christ. The Church is the bride of Christ, we are brought into union with Christ in and through the means that Christ has established in His Church. Some of the Reformers called the Church the “mother of believers” it is difficult to see Christ without His Church.
    2. The consequences of a failure to submit to Christ can be grave, not just in a subjective experiential way but in an objective salvific way, and we should constantly examine ourselves with “fear and trembling” so to speak.
    3. Ironically the only cure is to submit to the bride of Christ, His Church, with prayer, the preaching of the word, the sacraments, Christian fellowship, family worship and catechism, reading and prayerfully meditating on the Bible. Turning our hearts away from man made things and to God is a miracle of God’s grace that happens day in and day out. Death to sin is a struggle that is not done alone.

  33. Jared, thanks for those further clarifications on the use of the word Jesus.

    My challenge this Sunday still remains to compare church/restoration/priesthood/prophet vs. Jesus/Savior/Christ/Heaven Father/Holy Ghost/Spirit

  34. Gundek ~ Regarding my statement:

    I think the evangelical equivalent would be someone who submits to the Bible (or his/her understanding of the Bible) instead of to God.

    Just because I think a distorted version of A is possible without B doesn’t logically follow that I think B is possible without A. What I had in mind was Christians who have fallen in love with their understanding of the Bible instead of falling in love with an interactive, living God where the study of the Bible is a means to that end. I’ve met Christians who have pushed and twisted the Bible into teaching the God that they want to believe in. They have the passages they like to cite, the translation(s) they favor, and the variant readings they prefer, and they’re not listening to anyone or anything else. Go ahead, point out other passages which contradict their view or try to explain how an understanding of ANE culture would inform their false perceptions. They don’t listen. We all do it to some small extent, but like most errors, there’s a line to be drawn somewhere.

    It’s especially a problem with the KJ-only crowd, but I’ve seen it in NIV/ESV-touting evangelicals as well.

    I definitely think that a person who properly understands and embraces the Bible will be in submission to God. The reverse statement is trickier to me though; are we saying inerrancy is necessary for salvation? And which versions of the Bible is a person to be in submission to? What about textual variants? What about competing translations of controversial passages? The list goes on and on.

    If a person is aware of and has access to the Bible, then I think some kind of affirmation of it is to be expected, but that’s as much as I can firmly say. I think God grants some amount of grace in our failings as we try to understand His Word.

    You said to Jared C.:

    the bible is the sole source of God’s revelation today.

    I don’t think I can agree with this statement. I believe the Bible is the only infallible source of God’s revelation today, though human understanding, translation and transmission of it can be fallible.

    But I also believe God reveals things to Christians today through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and that He has revealed things to Christians past through the Holy Spirit. So tradition and the Holy Spirit are both sources of God’s revelation to me, though both of these methods are fallible thanks to human failure.

  35. As Jack expresses, she and I encounter a number of people who we would guess have a much greater relationship with the LDS church than with Jesus.

    # of points.
    1) Sampling Bias. Could it possibly be, Tim and Jack, that the social interactions you host (intelligent conversations about Mormonism from an Evangelical perspective on Jack’s part, more attacking on Tim’s part) bias what type of person will particpate on your blog.
    2) Limited sampling. I firmly believe that until you immerse yourself in Mormonism you cannot know the hearts of the members. Even then, you won’t know their hearts, but you can feel them.
    3) Even if the relationship with the Church is larger than the individual relationship with Jesus, while the wrong emphasis, I don’t think this is the end of the world, Or that someone can’t be saved in that condition. In other words, My Jesus is strong enough to save someone who may have the emphasis incorrect AS LONG as there is some committment to Him. I want to emphasize though, that the Church or its ordinances aren’t what save them, but the Church is the only authoritative channel for those relationship building ordinances. There are some that build relationships without the ordinances, and quite frankly, that’ll be an easy failing to change.

    So the question ultimately is getting at “are you seeing within Mormonism what we see?”

    Not to the same percentage and frequency that you see it. I suggest you have a bias that requires you to view Mormonism through a veil of insincerity because it challenges your view of faithfulness. I think, to some extent, many Evangelicals are challenged by the fact that the Church demands faithfulness, and gets so much more than ANY other church I’ve seen. I’d be jealous too.

    Perhaps even substitute the word “gospel” or “restoration” for “church”.

    I think this is a red herring. The gospel is Christ’s good news, and it’s no worse to say “I’m thanking for the gospel” than “I’m thankful for the cross.”

  36. In the same May 2002 letter, the First Presidency — suggested that we “learn to express a brief, heartfelt testimony of the Savior, His teachings, and the Restoration, so that more members may have the opportunity to participate.”

    http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/49465/Prepare-a-testimony.html

    I feel no need to separate what Jesus has said from Him. I take seriously the command to “Live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” and not cut certain words out that non-covenantal gellies don’t like.

  37. BJM,

    That is why I ask for clarification your explanation of your intent is entirely reasonable. While I do hold to inerrancy, in the originals, as it is defined historically I don’t think that this belief is necessary for salvation.

    I certainly affirm that our interpretations of the Bible are fallible, another reason why we should be careful of the temptation to interpret the Bible apart from the Church and should be ready to bring our questions of interpretation to the Church and its councils. All men and women are fallen and the visible Church is able to err, as it has proven many times, but to divorce ourselves from 2000 years of Church history and tradition would be an act of hubris, of course history and tradition are always answerable to the word of God as understood by the Church. Transmission and translation issues are all valid concerns when interpreting the Bible, but it is remarkable the accuracy that is being achieved as honest and humble textual critics work to the originals. Isn’t it funny how many of the “new” variations in the Bible have been known for 500+ years? I mean John Calvin commented on 1 John 5:7-8 its not been a secret. All of this is why the Church needs good quality, well schooled, and trained ministers of the Word and Sacrament, illumined by the Holy Spirit, to preach the Word of God to the Church.

    When I use the word revelation I use it with a very specific meaning as the canonical and binding word of God, revelation is not only binding for the person who received it but also for the entire Church. This does not preclude personal inspiration, illumination, or divine guidance by the Holy Spirit but to claim a “revelation” from God is to claim that that revelation is canonical and is binding on all believers. For instance to say, “God told me…” is the same as “Thus says the Lord…”. I understand that this may appear to be semantics but a clear doctrine of Revelation is critical to the rest of religion.

    I say this because I think we may agree more on the works of the Holy Spirit than appears because of the language we use. Where you use the word “revelation” I am more comfortable with inspiration and much more comfortable with “illumination”. Illumination implying that error is caused by the fallen creature and not the revealed word of God. Looking at my previous comment I should also have said that the “Bible is the sole source of SPECIAL revelation today as an objective rule of faith.”

  38. Sampling Bias

    PC, I didn’t say ALL or even MOST. I’ve just encountered Mormons who fit the bill. It doesn’t matter what their percentage is.

    I don’t think this is the end of the world, Or that someone can’t be saved in that condition. In other words, My Jesus is strong enough to save someone who may have the emphasis incorrect AS LONG as there is some committment to Him.

    I don’t get this general trend to figure out what the absolute minimum requirements are and then makes sure we can squeeze everybody into them. Jesus invites us into “the kingdom of heaven” where we not only get saved but we become entirely new creations. I have no interest in making sure people have their fire insurance. What Jesus offers us is so much more and exciting than that.

    Leaving people to offer themselves up to the wrong thing just because they might be okay with God is to leave them content playing in mud puddles while a vacation at the beach awaits them.

  39. Tim, I don’t think there is any question Mormons testify to the truth of the church nearly as much as they testify that Jesus is their savior.

    I remember my dad telling me that when he was younger you did not hear nearly as much about Jesus as you do now in church or in conference. I think the Church has moved toward a significantly greater focus on Jesus in the last 50 years.

    However, there is a difference between Mormon worship and conception of religion vs. Evangelical that is underscored in the differences in behavior on this point. Many Mormons see life and religion as a process to learn and grow, our experience of mortality is a deliberate learning opportunity. So life, church, and discussion often centers around things other than Jesus since the underlying focus is not our being saved from a fallen state, but what we should be learning our experiences in that state. I don’t believe that “praising the Lord” is what Jesus wants as a focus of his church.

    to borrow the analogy, you might learn more and grow more working in the mud than basking in the sun at the beach.

    Of course I understand that Evangelicals are going to see this as very wrong headed and this may be a practical consequence in the different understandings of God and life.

  40. Tim said:

    … listen during Fast & Testimony meeting; are people grateful for the Church or for Jesus? Has the church given them so much or was it Jesus? Has the church changed their life or was it Jesus?

    Perhaps even substitute the word “gospel” or “restoration” for “church”.

    I realize this isn’t a major point of yours, but I would firmly reject any suggestion that mention of the “gospel” is a focus on something other than Jesus Christ. The semi-official church definition of “gospel” has as its central doctrine the atonement that Jesus provided us, and thus to say (for example) that one is grateful for the gospel is another way of saying that one is grateful for Jesus’ suffering and death.

    Tim said:

    For my own church, when public testimonies are offered there are three criteria that people are encouraged to meet.
    A) appropriate
    B) brief
    C) Christ-centered

    I’ve heard the same request in the LDS church.

    Also:

    That doesn’t mean that all personal testimonies meet that criteria

    Ditto.

    To get back to the major point:

    My challenge this Sunday still remains to compare church/restoration/priesthood/prophet vs. Jesus/Savior/Christ/Heaven Father/Holy Ghost/Spirit

    I am happy to do that; if I don’t forget, I’ll take notes this Sunday and see what I come up with.

    But along with what Jared C eloquently posted at some ghastly hour this morning, I would reject the premise that a focus on church/restoration/priesthood/prophet necessarily represents an undue focus on something other than the central figure of our religion. It some cases it may, in some cases likely not. If the Church is indeed the body of Christ, which is sound biblical teaching, and if our Heavenly Father does much of his work on Earth through the priesthood, mention of those things doesn’t necessarily represent a misfocus of priorities. It might, but it might not.

    To use a less than perfect analogy: Tim has posted in this forum at least one sermon, and I think two, on sexual issues. If I were to come in from the outside and listen to that sermon, my reaction might be — all they talk about in that church is sex! Why are they doing that instead of praising Jesus? But the answer is obvious. Living as God would have us live is part of being a follower of Christ.

    And another less-than-perfect analogy: Look at the letters of Paul and see how much time he spends dealing with administrative matters, with behavioral issues, with issues of “getting along” and so on. It would be easy to isolate various passages and say he isn’t focusing on Christ. But in fact, he is. It’s the context of what he says that matters, and the work of Christ permeates Paul’s letters.

    And the same can be true when people express a testimony of the priesthood or of the church or of the Book of Mormon or whatever. That might mean a focus on the wrong thing. But it might also mean a profound respect and gratitude for the work of Jesus Christ, because those are some of the ways in which he has made himself known.

  41. Tim, I really wonder what you are trying to accomplish here?

    As Jack expresses, she and I encounter a number of people who we would guess have a much greater relationship with the LDS church than with Jesus.

    Does anyone else think this sounds incredibly judgemental? Why is it your place to “guess” what’s in their hearts?

    Perhaps even substitute the word “gospel” or “restoration” for “church”.

    Ask any member of the LDS what gospel means. I can almost guarantee they will say “good news.” Then ask them what the good news is. I can almost guarantee they will say “that Jesus died and was resurrected to overcome sin and death” (or some variation thereof). I have asked these questions several times in Sunday School, and seen them asked by others in Sunday School. The answers are always the same.

    You are completely unfair to imply that when we say “gospel” we’re not talking about Jesus.

  42. AMEN to this quotation:

    In the same May 2002 letter, the First Presidency — suggested that we “learn to express a brief, heartfelt testimony of the Savior, His teachings, and the Restoration, so that more members may have the opportunity to participate.”

    I feel no need to separate what Jesus has said from Him.

    I don’t think it’s ever appropriate to put someone down for expressing what they are grateful for and what God has put in their heart that day. Some days I feel especially grateful for the Restoration and am moved by the Spirit to testify of the truth that Christ restored His Church through Joseph Smith. And like PC, I feel no need to slip in a testimony of Jesus just so visitors in the congregation won’t accuse me of being non-Christ-centered.

    If I feel inspired to add a direct testimony of Jesus, then I do (and I usually do).

  43. Also, Tim –

    I encounter a number of people who we would guess have a much greater relationship with the LDS church than with Jesus. It’s not a hypothetical to us, it’s our experience with Mormons.

    Are EV’s immune to this problem? Catholics? Orthodox? How do you address it within your own community? Believe me, we ask ourselves the same question regarding members of our Church. We want people committed to Christ! Elder Jeffrey Holland taught that the 2 things we want people to do before baptism are to have faith in Jesus Christ and repent of their sins. Joseph Smith taught that all other things in the Church are an appendage to the testimony of Jesus. My mission president told us so many times – focus on your faith in Jesus Christ and everything else in your life will work out.

    I hope you see my point. Every religion has the casual churchgoer who is focused on outward performances rather than a deep, life-changing commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.

  44. Jack,

    lately the problem of Mormons who seem to have a relationship with the church instead of a relationship with God has really weighed on my heart.

    See my last few comments for more detail on my thoughts. I ask you the same question – is EV Christianity immune to this? Or are you equally concerned about this within your own ranks?

  45. I’m curious on how almost everyone who answered #2 only referred to the consequences as they apply to this life. Do you think it’s possible for someone to miss exaltation or wind up in a lower kingdom due at least in part to such an error?

    We address the problem as it applies to this life because it’s not our place to judge where people will end up. That’s Christ’s job. We tend not to freak out about people’s future state when they are sincerely trying to do right (which is almost always the case when they are committed to the Church).

  46. In response to my use of the word “gospel”. I am well aware that one use of the word gospel refers to Christ’s work on the cross. Another way LDS use the word gospel is to refer to all of the teachings of Mormonism. It was this second use that I was referring to. Of course savvy Mormons will object that it’s all the work of Christ so why shouldn’t be so wrapped up in what century it was done in.

    Jared thanks for confirming that of which I speak. Hopefully PC and Tomchik will get after you with the same veracity they are chewing on my @$$ for saying the same thing.

    I don’t believe that “praising the Lord” is what Jesus wants as a focus of his church. . . . .

    Of course I understand that Evangelicals are going to see this as very wrong headed and this may be a practical consequence in the different understandings of God and life.

    Aaron Shaf lives for quotes like this. I’m a bit taken a back by it myself. I frankly don’t know how to respond. I’m confident that if I said “Mormons don’t believe in ‘praising the Lord’ is the focus of church” I would be tried under hate crimes legislation by Bill Hamblin.

  47. OK, I am sorry for so many comments, but I didn’t want to make on big long one.

    I finally figured out what is bugging me on this thread. The implication I’m feeling from Jack and Tim is that the “cure” for LDS people who are more committed to the Church than to Christ is to leave Mormonism.

    Is the cure for someone who is more committed to his Evangelical Church than to Christ to leave Evangelical Christianity?

  48. Tom ~ The implication I’m feeling from Jack and Tim is that the “cure” for LDS people who are more committed to the Church than to Christ is to leave Mormonism.

    Whoa there. I don’t have a lot of time to comment right now, but that is not at all the intention behind my questions. I was honestly asking Mormons how they would seek to treat the problem, within their own system.

    From my perspective, leaving the LDS church would of course be helpful to correcting the problem. But it isn’t the only solution, and in some cases it might be harmful. I’m not one of those evangelicals who thinks a person is better off as an ex-Mormon agnostic or atheist than as a Mormon.

    Is the cure for someone who is more committed to his Evangelical Church than to Christ to leave Evangelical Christianity?

    I’ve known evangelicals who experienced revival and revitalization by converting to some other form of Christianity—Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglicanism (which may or may not be evangelical) or less-evangelical branches of Protestant Christianity, so such a shift could in fact be helpful. It depends on the person.

  49. Time, I can’t see how my quote is too controversial or shocking, the stated Mission of the church is “proclaim the Gospel, perfect the Saints, and redeem the dead” Jesus didn’t ask for praise, he asked for belief, baptism and repentance a broken heard and contrite spirit. He spoke only of his Father.

    Also, I think its shows a lack of understanding of how most Mormons worship when you equate the Gospel with “all the teachings of Mormonism”. Sure Mormons include a lot of areas of life within their religion, maybe more regularly than evangelicals, but very few miss the central focus of the teachings, and I have met almost no-one that would not prioritize them to focus on the atonement, especially within the leadership.

    The irony is that I have always seen the single-minded, simplistic devotion to “praising Jesus” as extremely un-biblical. Jesus didn’t found the Cult of Jesus when he built his church “upon the rock” of Peter and the Apostles.

  50. Jared C said:

    I don’t believe that “praising the Lord” is what Jesus wants as a focus of his church. . . . .

    Of course I understand that Evangelicals are going to see this as very wrong headed and this may be a practical consequence in the different understandings of God and life.

    To which Tim responded:

    Aaron Shaf lives for quotes like this. I’m a bit taken a back by it myself. I frankly don’t know how to respond. I’m confident that if I said “Mormons don’t believe in ‘praising the Lord’ is the focus of church” I would be tried under hate crimes legislation by Bill Hamblin.

    As much as Tim may be stunned and Aaron S. may jump with glee seeing Mormons say such things, I agree with Jared C.

    I think the perception that many Mormons (especially those who have seen certain evangelical leaders such as Joel Osteen) have of evangelicals is that they practice a sort of “Jesus lite.” (In fact, I believe that there are some evangelical churches that do, but certainly not all.) The idea is that Christianity means going to church, having fun “praising Jesus” to a rock band, listening to a fluffy feel-good sermon, and then going home without a change in life.

    I’m not saying that’s evangelical reality (although it can be). But it is a common LDS perception of evangelicalism. And practically every missionary I have talked to has had that sort of impression confirmed by evangelicals they have talked to. They (some of the evangelicals the missionaries talk to) may may not even be attempting to live some sort of a Christian lifestyle, but they say that that isn’t important because they gave their lives to Jesus when they were a kid and therefore can look forward to going to heaven regardless of what they do now. To allude to something Tim said earlier, they have their fire insurance and that’s what’s important.

    And if that’s what “praising the Lord” is, then that definitely isn’t what Mormonism is about. In evangelical-speak, Mormonism is about sanctification, becoming holy, becoming like Christ. It isn’t about having some sort of an emotional experience and getting high on Jesus and waving our arms in the air and singing “Hallelujah!” It’s about something more exciting, longer lasting and less superficial than that.

  51. that is not at all the intention behind my questions. I was honestly asking Mormons how they would seek to treat the problem, within their own system.

    It’s not the motive in your questions that I question. It’s your answer to #3.

    leaving the LDS church would of course be helpful to correcting the problem

    This is what I have a problem with. I see that you give a few caveats. However, it seems that as a general rule your first reaction is that they should leave the Church, whereas it would not be your first reaction for an EV who was having the same problem with devotion to his/her Church. It appears as a double standard.

    To me, the solution is to turn people to Jesus. Whether they stay in the respective Church or not is a secondary consideration.

    I wonder if the EV’s here would think my devotion is to Jesus or the Church. For me it is both. When I serve in the Church, I feel reassurance from the Spirit that I am serving the Master. So maybe it is loyalty to the Church, but how do I separate the two? Honestly, I don’t really try.

    For me, if I left the LDS Church, I wouldn’t be any other religion of which I’m currently aware. Not that that should change anyone’s approach, but realize that A LOT of Mormons are not going to go to a Church that you deem better than the Mormon Church just because you managed to “break” their allegiance to the LDS Church.

  52. ditto Jack.

    and if Evangelicalism and “praising the Lord” is merely what Eric describes then I’m against that too. My faith is not at all like that.

  53. For me, this discussion is a little disappointing, because I think we Mormons are engaging so heavily in apologetics that we’re not considering the seriousness of Jack’s questions–and the reality that, in many cases, many members of our church do NOT really appreciate or understand what the Savior has done.

    They may say they’re committed to Christ–and really, honestly think they are–but until they STOP trying to earn His favor and rewards (or avoid punishment) through their works, they have not grasped what it means to be born again in Christ. Until they come to see their good works and obedience as a FRUIT of salvation, NOT a cause, they are living under a terrible burden of pressure, guilt, and fear.

    The idea that obedience and a more worthy life are FRUITS of salvation and not CAUSES (and by “salvation” I mean “exaltation” for those who like to parse the meaning of the two) is almost a completely foreign concept in my LDS experience. I have never, ever heard that idea expressed in church–unless I’m the one doing the expressing. :) People tend to look at me funny when I say it, though I have had a few thank me for the distinction.

    I think we should keep in mind that the majority of us who are drawn to Ev-Mo dialogue have either been influenced by our discussions or have a predisposed tendency to see the world through a more Christ-centric lens. I’m thrilled to see that people like Tom, PC, and Eric are out there. But if your experience is anything like mine, we all know we’re somewhat of anomalies in our wards. I would hope we’d take this conversation as an important thought exercise to see how we can more fully help our fellow LDS come to know Christ better.

  54. The visual of me chewing anyone’s @$$ was certainly not an appealing one.

    I think Jared and Tim are talking past one-another.

    I think when I read Jared’s quote from “Evangelical eyes” (how they might read something) I thought I don’t believe that at all. But when Jared explained what he meant by that, I thought, I agree with that completey.

    Can I say, I’ve felt holy envy about how much of a spirit of love, adoration, and devotion I’ve felt from my friends who are Evangelical.

    I just tend to think, that the amount of “work” the church requires tends to force people to seek out the Lord in prayer and build a relationship. They may manage to build a relationship with the church without building a relationship with Jesus, but it’ll be much harder because our church requires discipleship. Therefore, I view this as a problem leaders have addressed, and one that is self-correcting. In order to be truly a saint, one must have a relationship with all three members of the Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

  55. Katie,

    It really seems as though the way the argument was phrased was from someone learning about Mormonism just trying to find the best place to land a blow rather than trying to help or understand.

    That doesn’t fit in with the model Robinson and Blomberg gave.

  56. Katie,
    Your comments were encouraging.. a breathe of fresh air… I agree with you… I think your views and beliefs are somewhat unusual in the LDS church. I was just like you, and man I felt SO alone in my wards…. I knew I was in “trouble” sort of speak, when I became outspoken about things like what you shared in your post and shot down by other LDS in gospel doctrine and R.S. My choice was to leave the LDS, but I know many for whatever reasons choose to stay.
    May God bless you as you seek the Lord jesus!
    Kind regards,
    Gloria

  57. In response to the questions Jack asked here, I would like to take a stab at answering them from a Christian perspective…

    ’1. I believe Christians can submit their lives to their denominations, and creeds, traditions, culture, etc. without submitting themselves to the headship of Christ Jesus. I have personally met Christians like this, who openly admitted that they had been “church goers” for years, taught Sunday school, yes even some had been pastors and had not been born again. It is possible for a person to believe in Christ, to know facts about him, have read their bibles, quote scripture, etc. but not be born again. Absolutely possible. My pastor says there are many spiritually “dead” in churches all over the world. I agree.

    2. The consequences of being a Christian but not born again = eternal separation from God. A person who is not born again will not see the Kingdom of God, John 3:3
    The consequences are eternal and huge.

    3. How would I go about correcting that person or helping them? A few things:
    a. pray for them! Ask God to reveal to them their need for surrendering to Jesus.
    b. love on them like crazy! Jesus told us they shall know we are his by our love. :)
    c. share God’s word with them … set time aside to share the good news.

    The church I attend is a small country church. When my pastor arrived to pastor this church it was “dead” as he said…. the people had been going there all their lives because of “tradition”…. but they had not been born again.. not surrendered all to Jesus. Pastor came and it was tough. He was dealing with the religionists … and thru love, lots of love, patience and prayer and preaching of the word of God many gave their lives to Christ! Amazing!
    Where I live here in the Midwest, there are many “religionists”.. many religious folks, who claim their church membership and going to church all their lives secures them eternal life……..so it happens in the christian church. Lots of spiritually dead thinking their lives of church attendance and Sunday school will get them to heaven.

    The Work of salvation is the work of God. He is the one that saves soul, we get to help him, plant seeds, but ultimately it is the Holy Spirit that convicts men of their sin and need for the redeeming blood of Christ.

    Gloria

  58. Katie, it seems there are apologetics running both ways.

    “The idea that obedience and a more worthy life are FRUITS of salvation and not CAUSES (and by “salvation” I mean “exaltation” for those who like to parse the meaning of the two) is almost a completely foreign concept in my LDS experience. I have never, ever heard that idea expressed in church–unless I’m the one doing the expressing. :) People tend to look at me funny when I say it, though I have had a few thank me for the distinction.”

    Things like this are said in other ways. I don’t know that it is critical that the Gospel is put this way in order to understand the concept, although it is a helpful way of putting it for some.

    In my view question you raise is not really any more of a problem with LDS than with Evangelicals. Ultimately it comes down to how the process of living a Christian life works. How much is our part and how much is God’s. Some Mormons miss the point, sure but I can’t imagine that they do any more than Evangelicals.

    Because of the context of this discussion it seems that the questions were poised in this post to challenge the LDS side without really seeking understanding. They invoke a caricature of LDS belief held by many Evangelicals. Until Evangelicals understand how LDS DO accept and understand and live with the power of Christ in their lives its almost pointless to explain how we are going to bring people closer to Christ.

  59. Gloria said:

    “I was just like you, and man I felt SO alone in my wards…. I knew I was in “trouble” sort of speak, when I became outspoken about things like what you shared in your post and shot down by other LDS in gospel doctrine and R.S. My choice was to leave the LDS, but I know many for whatever reasons choose to stay.”

    I can’t see how anybody would look down on you for saying the things that Katie said.

    This sort of understanding of Christ and the Gospel is throughout the Book of Mormon.

  60. Jared,

    ” I can’t see how anybody would look down on you for saying the things katie said.”

    Hi, Jared –

    Have you ever heard the things katie said in her post taught from the pulpit in an LDS ward? Have you ever read an LDS general conference address even talk about about how the fruits of living in Christ are a direct result of the Holy Spirit living within us?

    I recall well the time in Gospel Doctrine when the teacher was discussing grace. It was in the study of the NT, Galatians …… the teacher asked “why we ( LDS) don’t believe the same way about grace like the rest of the Christians do”…. I rose my hand and share my testimony that I believed I was saved by grace, and that there was nothing I could do to earn any thing from God. I was immediately shot down. Hands went up, and other members saying that was false, that God requires us to be obedient, ordinances, etc. to receive eternal life, etc.
    Basically no grace without my efforts first.
    I knew I was in trouble. I just didn’t believe like these people about something I felt was huge and core to Christ’s teachings. I felt completely like a foreigner in a room of strangers.

    That same year, I chose to surrender all to the King .. and left the LDS.

    Kind regards,
    gloria

  61. Jared,

    I agree with you. I believe many Christians “miss the point” and get caught in works based legalism…… Christianity is not void of this problem either… I can think of a couple denominations right off hand that are extremely legalistic and works based and yet are considered “christian”… so yeah it happens.

    We all need Jesus bad. Really bad.

    Gloria

  62. “Have you ever heard the things katie said in her post taught from the pulpit in an LDS ward?

    All the time. People may not use the “fruits” analogy but the idea that God is the one who makes us good is a critical piece in the Gospel, as I said, there are numerous places in the book of Mormon where it is clear.

    Have you ever read an LDS general conference address even talk about about how the fruits of living in Christ are a direct result of the Holy Spirit living within us?”

    Well I don’t hear it put using that precise terminology, but in other words, in other rhetoric, absolutely, every conference.

  63. Jared,

    I would be interested in reading any talks you may find from general conference that speaks about the process of sanctification as a result of the Holy Spirit living within a believer. I thought or was under the impression, that the LDS call this the process of becoming “perfected” ( Christians call it “sanctification” ) and while I was an LDS there was much emphasis placed on “our part or efforts” vs. the work of the Holy Spirit dwelling and conforming us to the image of Christ. Maybe I didn’t hear well, but I don’t recall being told that the process of perfection or “sanctification” came as a direct result of the holy ghosts efforts upon us?

    Kind regards,
    Gloria

  64. Basically no grace without my efforts first.

    Mormons don’t talk about hell enough so I can see where you misunderstood the context of the discussion.

    This view is a TOTAL distortion of LDS thought on salvation.

    Mormons believe Jesus grace has saved EVERYONE from eternal hell, or at least everyone that wants it.

    Evangelicals believe that Jesus grace only saves those who make the effort to believe in Jesus IN THIS LIFE.

    From this view the Evangelicals are far more “works” based in their view of salvation than Mormons.

  65. ” this view is a total distortio of LDS thought on salvation”

    Jared,
    Do you think then some LDS have a distorted view on grace?

    “mormons believe jesus’ grace has saved everyone from eternal hell, or at least everyone who wants it”

    Yes, I agree with you. Mormons view of salvation is much more liberal than the biblical or christian view.

    As you know Christians do not believe in a “general salvation” because we agree with the Bible and that everyone must confess Christ and be born again to see the kingdom of God. Obviously some will not confess christ and not be born again, and thus not receive the free gift of life eternal.

    I think though you are talking about “salvation” and not exaltation which requires a lot more than the grace , correct?

    Kind regards,
    Gloria

  66. Mormon theology insists that God has made the first move, and it is a false, cheap Evangelical caricature to say otherwise.

    Mosiah 2:23

    23 And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him. 24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast? 25 And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you.

    I’m sure the first time I read this I was 8, I’m sure it was read to me before then, and I’m sure it means more to me as I read it now than when I read it then, but Mormons certainly believe God has made the first move towards them. We aren’t doing God any favors by being obedient.

  67. I think though you are talking about “salvation” and not exaltation which requires a lot more than the grace , correct?

    God gives us whatever we want, when we desire to be like Him, to love like him, etc. when we exercise faith He will give us the strength to be like him. Is there any other way taught in the Church? This is true when it comes to salvation or exaltation. Who doesn’t want to be saved from eternal hell? God gives that to all who want it. The question is, Who wants to be like God? Mormons believe that God will make this happen if we want it. If you want the Spirit, you get it. If you don’t, you won’t. You show what you want by how you behave. This is almost the same as what Evangelicals believe, isn’t it?

    Ether 12:27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their aweakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

    Isn’t this precisely what you are talking about? First Faith and humility then Strength? not the other way around?

    Gloria, I can understand why you might disagree with LDS theology on some points but to leave the LDS church because you though that the “Mormon Jesus” isn’t about grace it seems bizarre to me and it seems you were laboring under a misunderstanding of the restored Gospel. I can understand how the Evangelical terminology may be clearer on this point, but the actual meaning of the Evangelical view of God doesn’t seem to me to really explain and understand the true grace of God as described in the Bible. Not that you are going to go too far off course by following Jesus, but I couldn’t live with that understanding.

    However, I can relate to the social isolation you may have felt as well. I have been in wards where I just didn’t fit in, people didn’t “get” me, where I disagreed with some people’s attitudes, and I can see where Evangelical churches may be more fostering in some ways to some people. But the theological reasoning for leaving the Church doesn’t really make sense to me.

  68. Jared, I’d be interested in seeing the talks and sources you’re referring to. I’m sure you’re busy and don’t have a ton of time to look them up, but if you could find one or two of them, I would genuinely appreciate it. As Tom and others who have talked with me about this topic know, whether or not good works are taught as a fruit and not a cause of salvation is the absolute core of my concern with the church.

    Admittedly, the Bible and Book of Mormon are full of this teaching. So one thing I’m REALLY struggling with is this question: if it’s in the scriptures, but isn’t taught or emphasized in manuals, talks, lessons, conference reports, Ensign articles, etc., can it legitimately be called a doctrine of the church?

    I’m sorry if this is a threadjack question, Tim. Let me know if it’s not appropriate to the topic.

  69. Hi, jared. Thanks for sharing the link. I will print it off and read when I get some down time.
    Kind regards,
    gloria

  70. Jared,

    If you wish to read more about my exit from the LDS faith, you can read up on that on my blog. I mentioned on my comment here that it was later that year that I chose to leave the LDS. The core reason though was God drew me to Him… absolutely He wrecked my life! :) That is why I can relate to swell to Lynn Wilder’s testimony. Her words echo my experience as well. I was not seeking to leave…. Jesus chose me and basically did nothing short of pulling me out. I came home from church one Sunday after teaching RS and said ” I am done”. That was nothing short of a miracle. I had not been inactive or going back and forth, etc. God did that. I have not looked back or regretted for one moment what God has done.

    Yeah there were many doctrines that were conflicting with what I was studying in the bible at that time. The grace issue being one of them. As I was reading the bible and then going to church I could see the stark differences between teachings/doctrines in many areas. God was really opening my eyes.

    Again feel free to read my blog , I share it all there.

    Kind regards,
    gloria

  71. Katie,

    I think the problem is, in part, that LDS talk a lot about “blessings” but not a lot about salvation.

    But LDS do talk an awful lot about seeking the Spirit, following the guidance of the Spirit, having the spirit with us, being comforted by the Spirit, listening to the Spirit, etc. etc. etc.

    LDS doctrine, manuals etc always mentions that the Spirit is the key.

    Now I think there is a confusion or lack of clarity on this area in the way Evangelicals speak about it when it relates to the way LDS speak about it, but its not much different as far as I can tell.

    The idea is that God ultimately helps us live Godly lives, and when we think we can do it on our own, we are destined to fail.

    Both believe that the Spirit is the key to this. In practice it amounts to making good choices. I think Evangelicals have a less realistic picture of the realities of how this works than Mormons do, and I can’t see that they are living more Godly lives than Mormons because of their faith in Jesus. I think the key difference may be that some Mormons feel more guilty, less forgiven and less joyful than some Evangelicals due to the way this is talked about.

    Maybe I am missing your concern.

    Do you believe that people don’t choose good works once they accept Christ, but that the Spirit chooses for them?

    What does it mean to you that good works are “fruits of salvation”?

  72. Gloria,

    I think your explanation of why you left the church makes more sense than simple theological disagreement. And I respect where you are coming from. Your experience mirrors many that come to the LDS church as well, and I don’t really second guess what God was telling them. Who am I to say what God leads you to do?

    However, I think leaving the LDS Church for those doctrinal reasons you mention doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

  73. ” If we keep the commandments of God and walk hand in hand with Him in His paths, we will go forward in faith and never feel alone.” — W. Craig Zwick

    Jared,

    I read thru the talk you shared with me. Thank you. I appreciate you taking time to do so.

    There was some touching experiences shared by Mr. Zwick about the loss of his son. Tender moments there as he shared about his daughter’s marathon.

    With that said, with all due respect I don’t see where Mr. Zwick taught or testified that it is the Holy Spirit that brings forth good fruit in our lives and conforms us to the image of Jesus.

    I share a quote that he shared at the end of his talk above. This quote is precisely the kinds of things I heard when I was LDS “If” you keep the commandments….then xyz…..

    This is what I was sharing about above in an earlier comment left here about my exp. in the Gospel Doctrine class. I always heard the “ifs”… but Jesus said these words: I will never forsake you nor leave you. His peace that surpasses all understanding is not based on “if” we keep his commandments. Believe me there are many times I don’t keep what He wants me to do… I screw up and fall short and mess up badly… and yet, he doesn’t forsake me or leave me and the peace He sends is beyond anyone’s understanding.

    Thanks again for taking time to share,
    gloria

  74. “With that said, with all due respect I don’t see where Mr. Zwick taught or testified that it is the Holy Spirit that brings forth good fruit in our lives and conforms us to the image of Jesus.”

    I don’t know precisely what you mean by this. This is metaphorical language and I would like to know what you think this metaphor means in practice.

    Do you think LDS believe that you won’t have help from God to do good if we screw up and continue to sin?

  75. Gloria, would you have had a problem if he had just said “If we walk hand in hand with Him in His paths….”?

  76. I hate to cite these guys, but here’s a quote from the CARM website about sanctification:

    Sanctification…involves the work of the person. But it is still God working in the believer to produce more of a godly character and life in the person who has already been justified. Sanctification is not instantaneous because it is not the work of God alone. The justified person is actively involved in submitting to God’s will, resisting sin, seeking holiness, and working to be more godly.

    Does ANYONE on this board disagree with these sentences?

    Maybe we sometimes forget that good works are a result of our faith, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. “Faith without works is dead.” We could just as well say “Works without faith are dead.” And I’m talking about true saving faith in Jesus Christ (as I think James was).

  77. Tom,
    Since you asked, Yes I disagree with the statement from CARM about sanctification. I believe the sanctification process is solely the work of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:16
    It is the work of the Holy Spirit to convict of sin, to conform the believer to the image of Christ. I of myself can not do that. ( I screw up way too often!) The good fruit that comes is as a result of the Holy Spirit living in me, it is fruit for God’s glory as Jesus said so beautifully: ” herein is my father glorified, that you bear much fruit.” John 15:8

    Good works are important as some have mentioned here. I believe a Christians life should be full of good fruit, and most definitely the fruits of the Spirit. Just because I am justified by faith does not mean I should be free to go and do whatever sinful thing I want! God forbid! But at the same time, the dying to self, to sin and to my selfish ways is truly the work of the Holy Spirit living within me. It’s a process that usually doesn’t happen overnight. In fact I have yet to meat a perfect person yet. :)

    Kind regards,
    Gloria


    Kind regards,
    gloria

  78. Gloria, I still don’t think I understand if ” the sanctification process is solely the work of the Holy Spirit.” why aren’t Christians perfect yet, or at least a whole lot better than other people. Isn’t the Spirit of God strong enough to do that?

    If it only up to Him, why doesn’t the Spirit just sanctify people immediately, and make us suffer in our fallen state?

  79. jared,

    The sanctification process is just that a “process”. You may to re-read my comment that I shared. I said that the process of sanctification does not happen overnight…. and thus the reason no one is perfect! :) The Holy Spirit conforms us to the image of Christ.. the conforming process called “sanctification” is not instantaneous.. .. the shedding of that old sinful man usually takes time.

    I love the words of Paul to the Galatians:

    “For I am crucified in Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal. 3:20

    Christians are not perfect… no way… but we are forgiven.

    Kind regards,
    Gloria

  80. P.S. I also want to say some of the finest people I have met are Christians. I am overwhelmed by the goodness of their lives in Christ and the fruits of the Spirit that are so evident. That doesn’t mean they are perfect, but so many are truly sold out for Christ and completely willing to lay it all down for Him. Amazing. They are also so transparent, they share their weaknesses, their sins, openly… I love that about christians! Truly blessed and priveleged to hang out with them and call them friends. :)

    Kind regards,
    Gloria

  81. Gloria – Romans 15:16 doesn’t say our works aren’t important to sanctification. It just says it is the Spirit that actually sanctifies us.

  82. Hi, Tom. No, I am not a Calvinist. :) I most definitely believe in free will. I fall somewhere between Calvinism and Arminianism. Is that what you were wondering? I believe God draws men, but men can reject too. Make sense?

    Kind regards,
    Gloria

  83. somewhat. How does the exercise of our free will affect the sanctification process?

  84. Hi, tom.
    Yes, I know what Romans 15:16 says. I used that passage to support my belief that it is the Holy Spirit that sanctifies, in response to the quote shared from the CARM site.

    Kind regards,
    Gloria

    PS. to go on record, I believe God wants us to have lots of good fruit! LOTS of it, good work galore, I just view that solely as the efforts of the Holy Spirit working on this ole gal and not my own self doing it. Make sense? This is what katie was commenting on …. good fruit/works as a result of the Lord working in our life, His holy Spirit conforming us and changing us. We can’t take credit for it. It’s all Him!

  85. LDS teaching tells us that we are saved from death and hell through the atonement of Jesus in order to give us this time in mortality to learn an grow, as Jesus did. Hence we should try as hard as we can to be good because:

    1) It makes you happier
    2) It makes others happier
    3) It is what God wants
    4) We learn more about what life is about
    5) It is what Jesus commanded

    LDS teachings says we will have the Spirit to guide us and the power of God to make our weakness strong if we are humble.

    Trying hard doesn’t save us, or earn our salvation. It just makes us better servants, more able to be a part of God’s work on earth, happier, etc. i.e. blessed. Those who are called to the feast in the final hour will have the same reward, except they will have missed out on the blessings of the trying.

    Its just as wrong to say that Evangelicals don’t believe in trying to do the right thing as it is to say that Mormons are trying to earn their salvation. Both are distortions of their beliefs.

  86. Tom you asked:

    ” How does the exercise of our free will affect the sanctification process”?

    Golly, when I use my free will and submit to the will of the Lord… then hey the Holy Spirit can really mold me big time. When I am stubborn, want my own way and throw a fit, then heck the Spirit just convicts me shows me my wrong and then I go and confess my sin and God is just and quick to forgive me. 1 John 1:9 Submission of my will to the headship of Christ….. completely abandoning my will and have it swallowed up in Christ……. great things happen…. G R E A T !

    hope that makes sense,
    Gloria

  87. Hence we should try as hard as we can to be good because:

    1) It makes you happier
    2) It makes others happier
    3) It is what God wants
    4) We learn more about what life is about
    5) It is what Jesus commanded

    Jared,

    If that’s where LDS teaching stopped, I’d be totally down. However, I think you need to add to the list…

    6)–If you don’t, you won’t be worthy to enter the temple, have communion with the Spirit, or make it to the CK

    And that’s where I start getting fidgety.

    Oh, and thank you for that link. What a beautiful talk. :)

  88. “PS. to go on record, I believe God wants us to have lots of good fruit! LOTS of it, good work galore, I just view that solely as the efforts of the Holy Spirit working on this ole gal and not my own self doing it. Make sense? This is what katie was commenting on …. good fruit/works as a result of the Lord working in our life, His holy Spirit conforming us and changing us. We can’t take credit for it. It’s all Him!”

    Is the problem you have in the description of the process? who gets the “credit”? or how we describe what is happening in us?

    What ultimate difference does it make to God how we describe the process in your view?

    I mean do you think it makes a difference whether or not you say that you are doing the trying rather than simply say that the Holy Spirit inside you is doing the trying?

  89. gundek ~ It doesn’t sound like there’s very much (if any) disagreement between us on this. Jared’s original question was on how we hear from God, and that’s why I brought up church tradition and inspiration in addition to the Bible. I’m glad we agree.

    psychochemiker ~ intelligent conversations about Mormonism from an Evangelical perspective on Jack’s part, more attacking on Tim’s part

    I would be careful about using me as the standard in judging how other evangelicals approach Mormonism. I am very much on the “liberal” end of the spectrum, and if you judge everyone according to my approach, you’re going to be disappointed most of the time.

    Tim’s the closest thing I’ve found to a kindred spirit on Mormonism since I left Provo and Rock Canyon Assembly of God three years ago. I don’t always agree with him, but I have a lot of respect for his approach, even when he’s harsher and more critical than I am.

    Tom ~ I’m honestly at a loss as to what it was I said which gave you the impression that my first reaction to such a scenario would be to encourage the Mormon to leave the church. And I haven’t said anything about how I would correct a similar problem among evangelical Christians.

    I thought you (and most of the people who comment here) were aware of how I feel about the LDS church. Yes, I think it’s a heretical, corrupt form of Christianity. Yes, if I saw a chance to convert a Mormon, I’d take it. I expect nothing less from Mormons towards me and other evangelicals. I don’t doubt that there are Mormons here who think God can use me in great ways outside the church, but are there actually any Mormons here who think my life wouldn’t be better if I joined the church? What about all these blessings of being sealed to my husband and daughter and the gift of the Holy Ghost and endowment that I’m apparently missing out on?

    However, the purpose of these questions wasn’t to look for a round-about way to say, “These Mormons need to leave the church.” Often conversion out of the church isn’t a viable option, so should I give up there? I don’t think I should; I think I should look for ways to encourage my LDS friends to draw closer to God within the LDS system. That’s why I asked.

    @ the topic ~ I’m also confused by comments which have essentially said, “You evangelicals ought to worry about similar problems in your own system.” Why is it always looked on as a hostile thing to express concerns for flaws in the other person’s group? Why do we always have to look for a beam in the other person’s eye to feel better? I’ve had Mormons tell me that they are concerned about the presence of health-and-wealth preachers in the evangelical system: Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, etc. If I replied, “Well, Thomas Monson gets paid a six-digit annual ‘stipend’ and the apostles get paid high five-digit ‘stipends,’* so maybe you should worry about your own health-and-wealth crowd,” what kind of message would I be sending?

    Bottom line, my questions were asked out of genuine concern, and I really was looking for methods of improvement which didn’t involve “leave Mormonism.” I already know that leaving Mormonism could fix the problem; I need a Plan B. Thank you to everyone who tried to answer them.

    *This was a figure cited to me by a guy on a discussion board who claimed he used to work as a church auditor. I’m not saying it’s a highly credible source.

  90. Jared you said:

    ” Is the problem you have in the description of the process? Who gets the “credit”? Or how we describe what is happening in us?”

    Yep, I have a problem with “who” gets the credit. The credit is all for God and His glory. I have a big problem when Christians or anyone else for that matter start attributing things to themselves instead of giving the glory back to God. Ultimately in the Christian world view, all that we do is for God’s glory. It’s all for Him.

    Can I share an example?

    My husband and I recently viewed a christian film….. at the end of the film, the credits were shown… and on the screen displayed in huge letters was: TO GOD THE GLORY! Wow, now that is what I am talking about. The makers of this film knew they could not produce what they did. God did it thru them. But not them in themselves. Does that make sense?

    As Mormon I never went to any meeting where the the speaker said ” To God be the glory” , or let’s just glorify God and lift up His name, etc. Yet I hear and see this all the time in the Christian church. ( at least the various churches I have visited.) Above the door of the entrance to the church I attend is a big banner that says: ” Lets lift up the name of the Lord”. See what I am saying?

    All the focus as Christians is on magnifying the Lord, lifting up His name and giving him the honor and praise.

    So different than my experience in the LDS.

    ” I mean do you think it makes a difference whether or not you say that you are doing the trying rather than simply that the Holy Spirit inside you is doing the trying”.>>>>>>

    Yes! I do think it makes a difference, because at the heart of the matter is “who” is doing the work.. us or the Holy Spirit living in us? This is crucial to me .

    I can not ascribe the changes I have witnessed in my life to my own efforts. I can’t. I know myself too well. I am too selfish and self centered to take credit for the changes that God has wrought within me. For example, I have always struggled with forgiving others. Always. It was so hard for me. When I was born again and surrendered to Christ’s headship, that changed. The holy spirit started conviting me 1. that I was wrong to not forgive. Ouch. Conviction is not comfortable! 2. The holy spirit helped me, gave me the grace necessary to forgive. Something that I had never been able to do, no matter how many talks I had read on forgiveness or how much I had prayed before to forgive worked. It took the HOLY SPIRIT working in me, to be able to shed off that sin and becoming a forgiving person! It was nothing short of a miracle! Baggage I had been holding on to for years, gone! Hallelujah! I was able to not only forgive but FORGET. I can’t even recall some of the things that I had held onto for so long. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. I can not do that on my own. Impossible. My LDS husband shakes his head and all he can say is “wow”. I share this not to brag about “me”.. because it isn’t me! It’s God. I want to brag on the Holy Spirit and what He is doing in my life. Because believe me, I can’t do this stuff on my own efforts. Nope.

    I use this example to share with you “how” the indwelling of the Holy Spirit works.

    So yeah, I have a problem with the way the process is described and who gets the credit ultimately.

    This is not something I am doing, but Christ who lives within me.

    Kind regards,
    Gloria

  91. Hey, Jack, sorry I misunderstood you. I definitely appreciate your perspective on Mormonism. I was probably overreacting to your long post (the one you edited).

    Also –

    I don’t doubt that there are Mormons here who think God can use me in great ways outside the church, but are there actually any Mormons here who think my life wouldn’t be better if I joined the church? What about all these blessings of being sealed to my husband and daughter and the gift of the Holy Ghost and endowment that I’m apparently missing out on?

    I would be delighted if you joined Mormonism, but the only way it will make your life better is if God tells you to do it (I’m guessing from your post about Huntsman and everything I know about you that God has not told you to join the LDS Church, and that you have asked Him if you should).

    I’m pretty convinced that you are and will be an instrument in building positive bridges between Evangelical Christianity and Mormonism (you have greatly influenced my view of E.C. for the better). I don’t think you could build these bridges if you were a member of the LDS Church, because EV’s would ignore your viewpoints (even moreso than they already do since you are “tainted” by BYU :) )

    As for blessings you may be missing out on, I don’t believe in a God who would tell you to remain outside Mormonism and then deny you blessings. So I guess He’ll either tell you to join Mormonism (in this life or the next) or there will be some sort of “Jack clause” that we don’t know about yet that will get you into the CK. After all, what more can one do than the will of God in his/her own life?

  92. Gloria,

    I think I see where you are coming from. I agree that there is definate value in allowing God to heal us, give us strength to overcome, allow us to love and forgive. I absolutely believe in all of that and I absolutely believe that LDS people have access to that power and do experience it in their lives. To me its the core of the Gospel.

    I know that sometimes LDS often speak of it in different ways, and the way Evangelicals talk about it may make it easier for some to access and “give in” to, but what you describe fits what I have experienced.

    I am glad you are feeling this power now.

  93. Hi, jared. Thanks for taking time to respond and for giving me the chance to exchange with you in a courteous manner. I wish all my exchanges with LDS are as pleasant as this one has been. :)
    Kind regards,
    glori a

  94. Gloria: Revelation 3:20 is an “if”/”then” scripture:
    “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”

    I believe that he extends peace to those who He has “encircled in the arms of safety” (Alma 34:16)–those who are “in Christ” and have “faith unto repentance” from WITHIN their covenant with Christ. Those who are in the covenant relationship with Christ still mess up and make mistakes, but he doesn’t leave us alone or abandon us. That’s good news about the covenant of faith in Him and repentance. I entered into that covenant relationship with Christ officially at my baptism. I constantly renew it by partaking of the sacrament weekly.

    However, those who openly reject this knowledge know no peace. Those who stand outside the door and choose not to let Christ into their lives know no true peace.

    As for sanctification and the work of the Spirit, one of my favorite scriptures is Mosiah 3:19: “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”

    If I tried to do any of that on my own, I’d fail miserably. However, by yielding to the “enticing of the Holy Spirit”, the enabling power of the atonement of Jesus Christ (another aspect of His grace) works within me, through the Spirit, and allows me to do things that I could not do if let on my own power.

    All Latter-day Saints believe this (at least those who read the Book of Mormon and the part of our Bible Dictionary entry on grace that I just paraphrased). To me, this sounds almost EXACTLY like what you shared about your experience in forgiving, etc.

  95. Tim ~ Jack actually gets cred from EVs for attending BYU as an outspoken Evangelical.

    I do?

    Who? Where?

    psychochemiker ~ Warms my heart to hear speculation that there’s a “Jack clause.”

    Warms mine as well…

  96. Hi, clean cut –

    It’s always nice to hear from you. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us all.
    Hope you & yours are enjoying a wonderful summer,
    gloria

  97. “(1) Do you believe it’s possible for an LDS person to err and submit her life to the Church instead of submitting to Jesus Christ?”

    Definitely yes. Evidence is found in the people who “find” Christ in evangelical Christianity and leave the LDS faith. This has been happening for a long time, and is nothing new. Usually, they are born-in-the-church folks, not converts, and they never obtained or worked out or brought about their own conversion to Christ in their family/church framework.

    Possible reasons could include that their parents focused too much on “check-list Mormonism” and didn’t provide actual spiritual experiences for their children growing up. I saw evidence of this while serving an LDS mission, and meeting missionaries who didn’t believe the church was what it said it was, and had no real testimony of Christ.

    However, the LDS church is not alone in this. It was evangelicals (I spent about a year as an evangelical/pentecostal in my teens) who taught me the phrase “churchianity“, and used it in a deprecating fashion towards “mainstream” and “vanilla” churches, and towards the Catholic church with all its ritual.

    “Churchianity” is emphasizing the programs, the structural organizations, and the checklists over the atonement of Christ, “accepting Christ” (however you want to define it) and the process of getting one’s life in accord with God’s will. LDS aren’t the only ones who can fall into that trap.

    My memory seems to indicate that the “churchianity” perjorative was directed at any church that didn’t preach the “accepting Christ/getting saved” scenario, or didn’t make it the center of their teachings.

  98. …but are there actually any Mormons here who think my life wouldn’t be better if I joined the church? What about all these blessings of being sealed to my husband and daughter and the gift of the Holy Ghost and endowment that I’m apparently missing out on?

    If it’s not already done by you in person, we/they will take care of the sealing thing 365 days after you kick the bucket.

    As for the gift of the Holy Ghost, you, like many evangelicals and pentecostals, are sort of like Cornelius, getting some bennies of the Holy Ghost “on credit” before the actual official ordinance. Lucky you! Well, it’s not luck. You deserve it. There must be some laws (the ones that are irrevocably decreed in Heaven) that you’re obeying, and God is obligated to give you the blessings for that obedience. Apparently, not every law/blessing combination requires an official baptism as a pre-req.

    IOW, if you’ll pardon the tease, you (and many other evangelicals/pentecostals) are SPAY-shul, and God has poured out as many blessings as you can handle, to overflowing even. When one’s cup runneth over, it can be hard to imagine that there are even more blessings in store. And it doesn’t seem to occur to many people “Hey, I need a bigger cup. Where’s mah bucket?”

  99. Pingback: The Jack Clause « I Love Gellies

  100. Tim said:

    My challenge this Sunday still remains to compare church/restoration/priesthood/prophet vs. Jesus/Savior/Christ/Heaven Father/Holy Ghost/Spirit/

    As promised, I paid attention in sacrament meeting this morning and even took notes.

    Of the 11 testimonies given, seven focused on Jesus Christ and/or our Heavenly Father.

    One focused on the importance of magnifying our callings.

    One focused on the importance of obedience.

    One focused on the joy of eternal families.

    One focused on how the Holy Spirit speaks to us through scripture.

  101. Nice, Eric. I forgot about the challenge but I can tell you this: Practically our entire fast and testimony meeting was full of testimony of Jesus Christ, and especially the power, strength, and comfort that comes from turning to him in our times of adversity and pain. (The children of one of our ward families were recently in a very serious accident, so this was especially poignant.)

  102. I should add, if you include Heavenly Father in with Christ, then it’s about even. Several testimonies talked about HF but not Jesus.

    The way I did it was tally how many times church/restoration/prophets were specifically mentioned, how many times HF was specifically mentioned, and how many times Jesus was specifically mentioned.

    I must say, I’ve rarely listened so well in sacrament meeting. So not a bad exercise overall. ;)

  103. Pingback: Disappointed Mormon Parents « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

  104. Thanks for the compelling post.

    1.) Absolutely
    2.) Consequences…hmmmm. I wonder if it can depend on degrees. But essentially if you truly submit your life (meaning birth to death) to the church as opposed to Jesus the result is complete separation from Him. But I guess I don’t see this as a likely outcome.

    Faith is not so different than other subjective measures such as love. Some of us might find we are not always as committed to our spouse (or in love) as we are to our marriage but we continue the marriage nonetheless. Most likely we do this because we know subjective measures like love can be fleeting. They probably don’t have to be but they tend to be. And as a result we assume the love will return.

    In much the same way I think some of us might at times be more in the church than in Jesus. We show up on Sunday because we have a lesson to teach rather than to become closer to Christ.

    But I don’t really think this is what was intended by the post. I won’t assume though.

    Regarding point #3, I think this is impossible to say. To know if someone has committed to the church but not to Christ one would have to know them intimately. I know few people so well. But when I have come across youth (in a teaching role or family) who seem misguided about similar things I certainly do my best to correct them kindly. When I was converting to the LDS faith I remember an LDS friend making a comment that revealed a self-righteous attitude. I was comfortable with them enough to point out their un-Christlike attitude which was more a result of youth than faith.

  105. 1) It is not only possible it is a reality for man or woman. You can get lost through trying to serve God.

    2) Spiritual burnout, loss of self worth or spiritual fulfillment. I have seen families suffer because of this situation. That is a very sad situation.

    3) I would simply bring it up in the Ward Correlation meetings, those meetings are for the care and well being of the members. It is the duty and responsibility of the Bishops and Stake Presidents to look out for the well being of the member’s spiritual growth.

    My wife is the Relief Society President and I am always reminding her that she has a responsibility to take care of her first and foremost, family, and then church obligations.

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