What do you want from us?

On our other thread, Seth R. made this comment:

Mormonism generally does a pretty good job of highlighting the problems with classical Christian thought. You can’t just expect people to forget all that, and pretend they didn’t see it. Why aren’t there prophets anymore? Why aren’t there temples? Why did God stop talking around 100 AD? Why did his “plain word” in the Bible result in such a complete mess of denominations? And what on earth was John Calvin smoking when he came up with the TULIP? And what IS this three-gods-in-one stuff, and why can no one explain it to me?

Then later followed up with:

I think our very existence is an attack on traditional Christianity.

Assuming that you are LDS and you agree with Seth’s statements, my question is, what sort of reaction do you expect from traditional Christians as the ones your religion attacks?

Over the years, I have heard Mormons complain about all of the following things:

  1. That we refuse to accept Mormons as Christians
  2. That we publish books, tracts, Web sites, and pamphlets which aim to proselyte Mormons and dissuade others from joining Mormonism
  3. That said publications are often misleading, dishonest, not very accurate, or outright malicious
  4. That evangelicals distribute literature and proselyte at LDS events such as the Manti pageant and General Conference
  5. That evangelicals often behave very poorly at said events
  6. That we teach Sunday school classes and make films aimed at exposing the problems in Mormonism
  7. That said films and Sunday school classes are malicious, dishonest, misleading and inaccurate
  8. That we create entire parachurch ministries aimed at proselyting Mormons and educating people on the problems in Mormon theology and history
  9. That we proselyte Mormons at all.

I think most of us will agree that 3, 5, and 7 are bad. But what about the rest of them? If attacking traditional Christianity is an intrinsic part of what Mormonism is, and that can’t be changed, can you really expect traditional Christians to change the other things on that list?

People have asked me what exactly I was expecting. It’s difficult for me to answer that question because so many different Latter-day Saints over the years have given me different answers on their expectations for the future of evangelical-Mormon relations. I agree that I can’t expect Mormonism to change all of the distinctives that make it Mormonism. The question is, what’s essential to Mormonism? What could it theoretically change? Let’s take a poll:

Could Mormonism still retain its distinctive identity if . . .

Note that I’m not asking whether or not you want to see these changes. I only want to know, would the church still be the church if it made any of these changes? Which ones are going too far and why?

I should probably explain why this has been such a shock to my system. I began studying the church when I was 16. On Tuesday, September 21, 1999, when I was 17 and a senior in high school, I wrote this in my journal:

I know that God is calling me to Provo, that he’s going to provide a way. Even now He’s carving a path for me to take. I don’t know why He wants me there. He didn’t say why He wanted me there, He just said to “go.” I don’t know if asking questions will do any good.

There is such a tremendous work for me to do… to be part of the bridge that is being built to [the] LDS [church]. There’s so much to read and to write and to study.

Ever since I did my post on the 2009 Gospel Principles manual, I’ve been gradually realizing something.

There is no “divide.” There is nothing to bridge. There’s just a wall, and Mormons are the ones who built it.

I’m sorry if I sound cynical, but I don’t really know what Mormons expect from us anymore, nor do I know what I can hope for in terms of improvement on the LDS side. I’m open to suggestions.

UPDATE: As my thoughts on this issue have developed since posting this, and I know the discussion has grown too long for many people to read the entire thing, I would encourage newcomers to this post to at least read my remarks here before responding to the OP. Thank you.

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This entry was posted in Evangelical, inter-faith dialogue, Mormonism by Bridget Jack Jeffries. Bookmark the permalink.

About Bridget Jack Jeffries

Bridget Jack Jeffries is a graduate student and human resources assistant living in Chicago. She holds a BA in classics from Brigham Young University with a minor in Hebrew and is finishing an MA in American religious history at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. She is a member of the Evangelical Covenant Church and a single mother of two. Her interviews on religion have appeared in *The Washington Post* and *Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.*

272 thoughts on “What do you want from us?

  1. Yeah, I’m not LDS, but I don’t think many of the changes you suggested would fly… and yes, I do think most would change LDS identity. Let’s face it… the Virgin birth is as much of a blind faith item as having your own planet… why force that as a brick in the “bridge?”

    I’m not as thick in the middle of all this as you have been, but I didn’t take the “our existence is an attack” comment as offensive at all. Isn’t the existence of the Lutheran denomination an “attack” on Catholicism? Isn’t Christianity itself an “attack” against the rigid laws of Judaism? I grew up in a ridiculously heavily Catholic neighborhood, and I can tell you I was quite conscious of the word “protest” in “Protestant” from a very early age.

    Actually, that might be a workable analogy in this particular situation. Growing up, I didn’t personally have anything against Catholics, mostly since I didn’t know much about them. But I learned when meeting them that I automatically had several strikes against ME, since by my affiliation I was rejecting many of their most sacred rituals and beliefs, and couldn’t spiritually bond with them through their sacraments… automatically an “attack” on their beliefs. Could that be similar to what Mormons feel when they are complaining?

    And yes, over the years a bridge has been built between Cs and Ps… but not because one side convinced the other to change most of their core beliefs. Seems like they finally found one or two they could agree on, called them the “important” ones, and now celebrate diversity (for the most part) on the rest (for the most part; lots of exceptions here but my point is they have come a LONG way).

    For myself, I’m thrilled there are forums like this one where Mormons and Evangelicals (and others, lol) can talk and share and learn and hopefully grow. I am not LDS, but I really, truly, love and respect the LDS church, and many of its people, and some of the ways they put the love Jesus taught into practice in their daily lives… even if they call it something else. I think LDS members would benefit from exploring more traditional Christian teachings, like regarding Jesus, for example, that would expand their own faith, rather than destroy it.

    Years ago, before the internet, this kind of dialogue without evangelism was difficult to come by, in most cases, and now we have multiple venues for it, online and in life. Quite a gap bridged, imo.

  2. Clink, did you look at the poll results?

    Apparently at least a few Mormons here disagree with your view of what is or is not vital.

  3. “There’s just a wall, and Mormons are the ones who built it.”
    Excuse me, but I beg to differ.
    The traditional RLDS church taught and believed in the Trinity. We don’t believe in a Heavenly Mother. We don’t believe in “exaltation” as it is defined by the LDS. While we have temples in Kirtland and in Independence, Missouri, we don’t have temple ceremonies as the LDS do, and we what activities that do take place in the temple are not considered commandments on the road to exaltation. We don’t have temple worthiness interviews, and the formal institution of the church doesn’t count it against you if you don’t follow the Word of Wisdom. (Although there are individual members who may very well look down on you if they find out you don’t follow it.) We absolutely believe that 19th century polygamy was not of God. Apologize for our past mistreatment of Non-RLDS Christians? Not sure what we have to apologize for. The Community of Christ does have Open Communion. I’ve never heard that we believe anything else but that Jesus was born of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit. Finally, I can’t quote the official church position, but I am positive that most Community of Christ members would not have trouble with the idea that a non CoC person could have gifts of the spirit or the gift of the Holy Spirit

    Yet in spite of the fact that we differ from the LDS church in these aspects, why are some Evangelicals lining up outside World Conference in Independence and acting like jerks? I had to shoo away some Evangelicals from harassing my father when he was a World Conference delegate. It’s very annoying, especially when you try to be low key and calm and talk about salvation with your parent using bible verses in a relaxed atmosphere,—then you go out and your at-the-time co-religionists make nuisances of themselves. (and tear down the efforts you’ve been trying to make) Ev’s target CoC every bit as much as they do LDS. They are every bit as nasty to CoC as they are LDS. So I just don’t buy it that “the wall” was totally built by Mormons.
    PS. I agree that John Calvin and certain other Evangelical interpreters of scripture were definitely smoking something.

  4. Let’s face it… the Virgin birth is as much of a blind faith item as having your own planet… why force that as a brick in the “bridge?

    Is it as much of a blind faith item as thinking God the Father had sex with his spirit daughter to cause the incarnation? Because that’s why it’s an issue to traditional Christians. We can argue about whether or not it should be an issue all we want, but none of that is going to change the fact that it is. I don’t expect traditional Christians to ever roll over and say that they don’t mind that the LDS church used to teach this and that some Mormons still believe it.

    I hate to be a sore sport, but I’m not sure how the question of whether or not this situation is analogous to Catholicism v. Protestantism or Christianity v. Judaism or whether or not I’m personally offended by the LDS church’s treatment of my religion has anything to do with the practical question of what Mormons expect from Protestants and whether there’s room for the two systems to grow closer together.

    Lisa ~ Does the RLDS church have a First Vision statement? What does it say about other churches?

    Have RLDS church leaders historically referred to Protestants as “so-called Christians” on a regular basis? Has it taught that the Catholic church was the whore of Babylon? Did it create a ritual indicating that Protestant ministers were of the church of the devil and require all of its members to go through with it to obtain exaltation?

    Can you show me some official statements from Protestant denominations commentating on the RLDS church or demanding re-baptism of RLDS converts (not anecdotal evidence of Protestant behavior)? How about Protestant leaders?

    Yet in spite of the fact that we differ from the LDS church in these aspects, why are some Evangelicals lining up outside World Conference in Independence and acting like jerks?

    You mean out of 800 million evangelicals in the world, a handful showed up at an RLDS event and were jerks to you?

    Yeah, you got us. Picking on RLDS is totally what we do.

  5. Jack,

    I agree with you 100% there is a great big wall, and we did build it. Brick by brick we put it up, I think that some members did it unknowingly and some knew exactly what they were doing.
    The other questions are interesting as well, I have heard them all myself. What blows my mind, every time I hear them, is why do Mormons make such a big deal about the issues you enumerated. Sure no one likes to be picked on, hence why 3,5,and 7 are unkind. However I think the biggest problem with a lot of members of the LDS church is that, in reality, they really really want to fit in. That is why #1 bothers them.
    But the big question is, So What? Why do you need to fit in? Is your testimony weakened by the fact that your next door neighbor doesn’t accept you as a Christian? Guess what the Jews didn’t accept Christ as the Messiah, did that stop him or hinder how he lived, nope. So I would ask my fellow members, why does it bother you?
    I would ask what does it matter if there are are para-churches devoted to proselyting the Mormons, for crying out loud it is 1 of the 4 fold missions of our whole church, not just some para-division.
    This one that I don’t understand the most, that members are irked that they get proselyted to. Again I would ask, so what? Why does it bother you? Its has never bothered me. I have talked to proselytizers from J.W.’s, Evangelicals, and Catholics, and I gave them all my fullest attention and listened to their arguments. Now I did not agree with the arguments, but I was not offended to have them concerned with my eternal welfare. If anything, such concern restores a lot of my faith in humanity that there really are people out there who genuinely care about others.
    I think it is ironic that many of these members who profess a belief in Joseph’s prophetic calling forget that fact that even Joseph said that the church would always be small and unpopular. The Kingdom of God will roll forth to fill the whole Earth, but that kingdom will include far more than the LDS church. Whether the rest of Christendom accepts us or not, does that stop your from leading a Christlike life and following in his footsteps. Does it stop you from caring for the poor and weary. Nope it doesn’t.

    So Jack, in answer to your question, at least from this member of the LDS Church, I don’t expect anything from evangelicals. You’re right we do challenge many things about traditional Christianity. But that is OK, you shouldn’t be expected to embrace us, if you do great we can all be happy together, if you don’t thats OK too .
    I think many Evangelicals are doing a fantastic job of reaching out, the change needs to come from our side. It is not so much doctrinal change that needs to be made, as I don’t think we will ever agree on those terms, but that is OK. I think many LDS people need a huge attitude change, be open to truth from other places and be OK with being different.

  6. Here are my two cents. Despite the LDS leaders’ recent push for “correlation,” Mormonism is a collection of (sometimes contradictory) ideas that different people take up to different degrees and for different reasons. This means that the wall Jack finds is something of an illusion. While it exists institutionally (since many pieces of it are actively preached by the General Authorities du jour, men whom the rank and file of the church accept as inspired leaders), its subsistence among individual members is relatively nil. Some Mormons don’t know anything about Heavenly Mother and would be just as glad to get rid of her; for others (like my wife), she is a pillar of the faith. If the GAs get rid of her, then officially the church will be more (mainstream) Protestant, but my wife will persist believing in her and self-identifying as Mormon (perverse, I know). The same is true of the rest of Jack’s wall.

    Maybe the real problem here is the fact that institutionalized creeds do a poor job of expressing individual faith (no matter whose it is). The fact that other Christian sects have had a lot more time (and fought a lot more wars) to batter down their institutional walls than the LDS does not make them fundamentally different from us. In the end, my positive experience with faith is one of individual assimilation and adaptation: I have always looked for ideas that resonated well with me and tried to put them in practice in my life. As an orthodox Mormon, I was open to truth wherever I might find it (as we are taught to be: Seth is right about there being a lot of good stuff in the teachings of the prophet Joseph). As an ethical (but historically skeptical) Mormon, I retain that very Mormon practice (and cease to look to the prophet as an example of marital fidelity). I still see the world from a Mormon perspective, even though my understanding of many doctrinal points is way out of kilter when compared with that of the brethren in Salt Lake.

    So my answer to Jack is twofold. (1) If you want to judge the church solely by what comes from the brethren in Salt Lake, then my guess is that the wall ain’t coming down anytime soon. These guys have an image to maintain, and part of that image involves galvanizing their community by differentiating it from the outside world (including other Christians). (2) On the other hand, if you look at individual Mormons in your family and community, you will find the wall largely non-existent (or unproblematic: most Mormons are open to other points of view, from inside the church and outside).

  7. Jack, you sound very touchy not like your normal self. I thought Lisa gave a very valid response. If it was mormons acting that way I would certainly be apologetic after all some members can come over very self rightrous and pushy though I would hope they are a minority. I have certainly met Christians who have been happy to dismiss me as non-Christian without knowing anything about my faith. I actually don’t mind what other Christians do but I would like them to recognise that I do my best to worship Christ. After all we are not like Jehovah Witnesses who think of themselves as the only christians. We do recognise that members of other churches are followers of Christ and would like the same respect ourselves. Where I live society is increasingly secular – it seems to me that we have more in common than that which divides us and we should concentrate on that.

  8. Jack — My time is limited right now and I’m not sure when I can fully answer the question of what do I expect from evangelicals (it might be a few hours from now, it might be tomorrow). So what I’ll do now is give a brief answer to your question and then comment on your polls (which I hope doesn’t become a threadjack, because that’s not my intent).

    Regarding what I would like to see from evangelicals, basically all I ask is for them to be accurate, respectful and fair in their criticisms of LDS thought, and to not tell me/us what I/we believe. If you (evangelicals) want to point out (for example) that the archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon is basically nil or to point out Joseph Smith’s verifiable foibles, I don’t have any problem with that in context if done in a fair manner in an appropriate forum. But I think we’d both agree that there have been plenty of approaches used by many evangelicals that are, to use a kind description, intellectually dishonest at best. And, honestly, I don’t think those approaches are good for evangelicalism either.

    Of course, I’d be happy if more evangelicals actually listened to what we have to offer, but in a sense I’m not asking for that. To some extent, we have to earn the right to request that we be listened to, and we haven’t always done that. I suppose that, in a sense, the First Vision laid the foundation of the wall, but both sides have added bricks to it over the years.

    I have no objections whatsoever to proselytizing efforts by evangelicals, or to using various educational efforts (in and outside of your churches) in an attempt to show people what is wrong about Mormonism (provided the information is accurate, respectful and fair). How could I object? That goes along with both the 1st Amendment and the 11th Article of Faith.

    As to your polls: I hate yes-no polls (there’s too much nuance in me) and am not fond of unscientific polling, but that’s not my main point. I interpret the polls to mean that what’s listed isn’t LDS thought, but I think that in some cases it is (or at least it’s my thought as someone who is a faithful member of the church).

    For example, in your seventh question (if I’m counting right), we already believe that Jesus was born by the power of the Holy Spirit (although most members use the term “Holy Ghost”). It’s clearly taught in Alma 7:10 as well as the Bible, which also believe in as scripture. So how would we lose our distinctiveness if we teach what our scriptures already tell us? I guess I don’t understand the point of this question (and some of the others).

    And I could go down the list with other items as well that seem to state things that I and many others believe. How would we lose our distinctiveness if we claim that God, “who is infinite and eternal, [is] from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God”?

    And, as far as I know, it is current policy that nonmembers may receive the Sacrament (as long as they haven’t previously been excommunicated). That’s what I have always told my visiting nonmember friends!

    In other words, I don’t think that many of the “changes” you mention would be changes at all, so I’m slightly baffled by the questions.

    More later.

  9. I looked up the CoC website. They are getting away from Joseph Smith’s first vision. Their description of church history is somewhat fudged over, not at all what I remember learning in Sunday school. However, never in my RLDS life was I taught or did I ever believe that my non-RLDS friends would spend eternity suffering in Hell because of what they believed.
    I don’t know that any RLDS or CoC leader has ever referred to non RLDS as “so=called” Christians. It would seem very out of character for our leaders, but I could be wrong. Growing up, I never heard it taught from an RLDS pulpit that the Catholic church was “the whore of Babylon.” As I’ve said before, we have no temple ritual, no ceremony such as you’ve described. I know for a fact that the United Methodist church does require rebaptism of RLDS converts. As far as Protestant leaders, with the exception of one or two, I don’t listen to them, and don’t give a care about anything they say, so I couldn’t tell you there.
    I’m not about to detail every time in my life before I became born again that I was insulted or slighted by an Ev. It’s not important. You can get snarky about it all you want, maybe if it was your father you would feel differently. Finally, I said that the wall was not TOTALLY built by the Mormons, not that the Mormons don’t also bear some responsibility for it.

  10. I think most of those questions are rather flexible for the Church’s stand in the long run. However, for some issues, such as the First Vision and Book of Mormon, we have evidence of what happens if such events are diminished.

    BTW, there is no LDS doctrine that God had sex with Mary. In the past, some LDS have speculated on it. Many of us do not believe it today. So, Ms Meyers, before you slam ideas, make sure they are things LDS actually teach as doctrine. Okay? Otherwise you are not much better than Ed Decker and others who swallow camels and strain at gnats.

    A little more on the Community of Christ (formerly Reorganized LDS) have taken major steps away from several early Church issues, such as the Book of Mormon being historical and Joseph Smith as prophet. Using the BoM is now left to the individual’s choice, and JS is viewed by the head authorities more as an ecumenical/charismatic minister.

    They now accept other baptisms, etc.

    And while a very noble Christian church, in many ways it no longer resembles the Church set up by Joseph Smith. Nor does it look like the Church led by Joseph Smith III. It is, in fact, a Church that seeks to move forward, even if it means it has to abandon some of its history.

    The LDS also have historical events and issues to deal with, also. Priesthood ban, polygamy, MMM, etc. Thankfully, we are beginning to deal with many of these issues. Yet, a few core issues are not placed on the table for consideration.

    Still, we don’t question members whether they believe the Book of Mormon is historically correct. We do ask them if they believe it is doctrinally correct. The difference? The Church is in the business of salvation, not history.

    Then again, traditioinal Christian churches often ignore their own histories. The Southern Baptist Convention was formed over slavery. Guess what? They insisted that blacks were supposed to remain slaves, because of the curse of Cain. That Brigham Young followed the prevailing 19th century attitudes/racism does not make him any worse than the founders of the SBC.

    Today there are many traditional Christian churches that have huge fights within their own ranks. Look at the struggles in the American Anglican/Episcopalian movement. They are torn on the homosexual issue. Catholics worldwide are waiting for the Pope to finally take a stand against evil priests, and there is fighting between the Vatican and Catholic parishioners. There are many more examples, btw.

    Each of these has to eventually look hard at its history and decide whether to continue in the way it has, or chart a new course. Change is hard. After the Civil War, many Southern Baptists joined the KKK and were involved in cross burnings and lynchings well into the 20th century. Southern Baptist George Wallace ran a Confederate battle flag up the Alabama statehouse flagpole declaring “segregation forever!” Only in the last 50 years has the SBC changed its tune towards blacks and racism. So, LDS are not the only ones having to deal with racism, even in the 20th century. At least Mormons were not lynching blacks and burning crosses on their lawns.

    LDS historian Davis Bitton gave a great speech at the 2004 FAIR Conference, “I don’t have a testimony of the history of the Church.” http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2004_I_Dont_Have_a_Testimony_of_the_History_of_the_Church.html

    It well explains the difference between the Church’s true focus, and our focus on historical/science issues.

    As for me, I don’t mind people discussing the LDS Church, as long as the dialogue stays civil and that claims are backed up with reliable evidence. Otherwise is stated clearly as opinion.

    1. That we refuse to accept Mormons as Christians

    If you used solely a Biblical litmus test, then I wouldn’t have a problem. But when creeds are called into play that were determined centuries after Christ’s death, then we’re being asked to defend our Christianity against a standard that is not found in the Bible.

    2. That we publish books, tracts, Web sites, and pamphlets which aim to proselyte Mormons and dissuade others from joining Mormonism

    I have no problem with this. However, I would prefer you write books explaining why your beliefs are better than LDS beliefs. I find that many of the attacks in the books/websites/pamphlets I’ve read can equally be used against the Bible, leaving the average Mormon choosing between belief and atheism, rather than Mormon vs traditional Christian.

    3. That said publications are often misleading, dishonest, not very accurate, or outright malicious

    And this has been proven.

    4. That evangelicals distribute literature and proselyte at LDS events such as the Manti pageant and General Conference

    I don’t mind them distributing literature, as long as they are clear up front on who they are. I’ve attended temple open houses where they pretended to be Mormons. Their pamphlet would seem pro-Mormon for the first few pages, then turn to their real purpose. Very deceiving. LDS missionaries state clearly who they are when they knock on a door. They don’t pretend to be Baptists or Methodists when they enter the home.

    5. That evangelicals often behave very poorly at said events

    I’ve heard them screaming, cussing, and telling Mormons they will burn in hell. I’ve seen them use temple robes in tasteless manner. Not going to get many converts that way. And such actions do not help convert anyone, nor make any traditional church look Christian. At the Birmingham Al temple open house they acted this way. The big radio talk show Rick and Bubba commented on it many times, attacking the Christians for their poor form. Probably converted more to Mormonism than traditional Christianity.

    6. That we teach Sunday school classes and make films aimed at exposing the problems in Mormonism

    I’ve seen the Godmakers I and II. And I know of many churches that show them at least once a year. I would suggest an honest approach.

    7. That said films and Sunday school classes are malicious, dishonest, misleading and inaccurate

    They are made to sensationalize. Jesus/Joseph Smith DVD set up a false comparison, you could either follow Jesus OR Joseph Smith. Instead, compare actual doctrines, and explain why yours is preferable.

    8. That we create entire parachurch ministries aimed at proselyting Mormons and educating people on the problems in Mormon theology and history

    I have no problem with this. But they often are not based on truth, rather distortions. I’ve known people that when they found out that their traditional Christian church lied to them about the Mormons, they left that church. One of the Ten Commandments is: thou shalt not bear false witness.

    9. That we proselyte Mormons at all.

    I have no problem with this, as long as the proselyters are kind and respectful. I invite the JW missionaries into my home all the time, and show them respect, even though when they find out I’m Mormon and well read, they usually excuse themselves quickly.

  11. Rameumptom,

    If you think this:

    BTW, there is no LDS doctrine that God had sex with Mary. In the past, some LDS have speculated on it. Many of us do not believe it today. So, Ms Meyers, before you slam ideas, make sure they are things LDS actually teach as doctrine. Okay? Otherwise you are not much better than Ed Decker and others who swallow camels and strain at gnats.

    Applies in any way to Jack, you are sorely mistaken and I would advise you to figure out who you are talking to before you make wild and stupid accusations.

  12. Rameumpton ~ BTW, there is no LDS doctrine that God had sex with Mary. In the past, some LDS have speculated on it. Many of us do not believe it today. So, Ms Meyers, before you slam ideas, make sure they are things LDS actually teach as doctrine. Okay?

    I used the word “doctrine” nowhere in my post because I don’t believe in “Mormon doctrine.” There is only the history of LDS thought and the question of how prevalent different LDS ideas have been among Mormons.

    The idea that God had sex with Mary was taught by Brigham Young, James Talmage, and Bruce R. McConkie, among others, and it is still believed by some Mormons today (though it is a dying idea). It has never been renounced by the church. See the following posts in the Bloggernacle by Mormons:

    The Sexual Generation of Jesus by Kevin Barney
    The Father of Jesus by TT
    Like a Virgin by Bored In Vernal

    While I am personally content to let Mormons slowly move away from this idea, I put the question on there because I know it is a lingering concern that some evangelical Christians have with Mormons.

    I will get back to other replies later.

  13. And while a very noble Christian church, in many ways it no longer resembles the Church set up by Joseph Smith.

    PS, the modern LDS church also no longer resembles the Church set up by Joseph Smith.

  14. To answer the original post. I think what a lot of Mormons want from Evangelicals is a fair fight, and little else.

    Others probably just want to be left alone, and do a good job themselves of leaving others alone.

    Yet still others would say in response to your question “resistance is futile.”

    Takes all kinds.

  15. To answer the original post. I think what a lot of Mormons want from Evangelicals is a fair fight, and little else.

    Unfortunately I think a lot of people only think a fight is fair when it is on their own terms, and I don’t think Mormons necessarily always realize what’s at stake for Evangelicals or why what seems like “only fair” for Mormons is not fair at all form the Evangelical point of view.

  16. Kullervo~ this is interesting,”I don’t think Mormons necessarily always realize what’s at stake for Evangelicals or why what seems like “only fair” for Mormons is not fair at all form the Evangelical point of view.”
    Could you expound on that?

  17. I will leave that to an actual Evangelical. I did not necessarily have anything in mind; I was just extrapolating from human nature re: viewpoint bias.

  18. “this situation is analogous to Catholicism v. Protestantism or Christianity v. Judaism or whether or not I’m personally offended by the LDS church’s treatment of my religion has anything to do with the practical question of what Mormons expect from Protestants and whether there’s room for the two systems to grow closer together. ”

    I guess to me, it didn’t sound like a practical question, it sounded like an emotional one, asked as a result of some pretty hurt feelings. My mistake if that was not the case.

    I supposed I’m still not understanding your positon. What would a perfect LDS-Evangelical relationship look like to you?

  19. re: What’s at stake for Evangelicals.

    When I was a practicing Ev, I was very concerned about the eternal destiny of my “unsaved” friends and family. There was a time when I believed exactly as the Ev’s do. It’s not a question of just going to the telestial or terrestrial kingdoms, it’s that the unsaved are going to hell. Forever. When I was RLDS, there was not that pressure, because there was a place in God’s kingdom for nonRLDS. I remember being miserable because my loved ones weren’t the least bit interested in converting, and questioning, “Was I doing enough?” “Was it my fault that they didn’t want to convert?” Would God also hold me responsible if they went to Hell? How was I ever going to be happy in Heaven without my loved ones? It’s my opinion that there is alot more at stake on the Ev side of the issue than on the LDS/RLDS. About the fairness question, my take on Ev’s is that they believe the most important thing is getting people saved from Hell, so what is “fair” is a secondary issue.

  20. Jack ~ This is one of your best writing pieces I have ever read of yours. It was so well written, and really very sincere. You are right – there is a wall — and only God can take that wall down.

    ((( hugs))

  21. Clink ~ I’m not denying that there are emotions in my OP, but it isn’t because of hurt feelings.

    What would a perfect LDS-Evangelical relationship look like to you?

    * Both sides would acknowledge that their side has treated the other poorly in the past and apologize for it. Mormons need to know that it has not just been poorly-behaved Mormons acting on their own whims; it has been the leadership and it has been institutionalized teachings that have targeted the non-LDS Christian world.

    * Both sides would try very hard to always represent the other side accurately.

    * Mormons would be completely up front and frank about their distinctive doctrines. No minimizing, none of this “I don’t know that we teach that, I don’t know that we emphasize it” stuff or the “not-doctrine” band-aid.

    * Evangelicals would not swing the pendulum hard in the other direction on issues like grace and the weight of evidence in epistemology just because we want to be different from the Mormons. We wouldn’t be afraid to say, “actually, our beliefs are similar here.”

    Assuming that the LDS church does not change its position on any of the teachings I listed in my post, I would also hope:

    * That Mormons understand that evangelicals are going to proselyte them and not complain about this. This may mean writing books, tracts, pamphlets, and creating Web sites to that end. It may mean making films—hopefully of better quality and more accurate than The Godmakers. It may mean showing up at LDS events and functions to tract.

    * That evangelical efforts to proselyte Mormons would be just as focused on showing the appealing side of evangelicalism as they are on showing the problems with LDS history and thought, and that these efforts would always be loving and gentle.

    * That both sides would make honest efforts to consider “the best” that the other religion has to offer.

    I’m sure there are other things that I could add, but that is all I can think of for now.

  22. As to whether Mormons built “the wall”, I contend that they did not, but that there is significant interest in maintaining it among many Mormons.

    Some of it is poisonous, and Church leaders have decried a part of that: One person is not better than another by virtue of his Mormonism. Many non-Mormons are, frankly, better people than some Mormons. And so forth. And vice-versa. The Book of Mormon has some marvelously strong language against segregationist and elitist attitudes like that.

    Some of it is out of a kind of weariness. I still hear jokes about how many wives I have. Notions about where my horns might be. Questions about whether God had sex with humans. Fallacy, that because the Church has a lot of dollars, it must be corrupt and therefore has to be stopped at all costs.

    The reasons those memes persist are provably and directly to Evangelical proselyting efforts. Sincere as the propagator might be, the effort propagates lies, some few of them pernicious. All of them getting on 150-200 years old.

    To the specific list, I have no stake in 2,4,8, and 9. An organization which proselytes can logically have no objection to other organizations which proselyte.

    But I find from my own readings of Evangelical material regarding Mormonism that items 2&3 and 6&7 are almost always interlinked in significant ways. (If you can showcase ways in which they’re not, I’ll certainly acknowledge and incorporate that). Care should be taken to excise what is not true about Mormonism.

    Item 1 is, however, just plain absurd to me, and if taken in the wrong spirit, simply offensive. The lay definition of a “Christian” is a person who tries to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, as found in the Bible. The soteriological teachings in the Book of Mormon do not deviate from those found in the Bible. In fact, the student of the Book of Mormon will find shadows of Trinitarianism there, even though the Church has chosen to present those ideas in a different manner.

    If you were to freely acknowledge that Mormons are Christians who claim exclusive right to Priesthood, rejecting all other claims, that would be accurate on its face and fine to report. But to claim that we’re not Christians, full stop, implies an otherness to the laity which is not true, and which certainly adds bricks to the wall, just as certainly as if Mormons were to claim that Jesus won’t save a non-Mormon.

  23. Thanks, Jack, I think I understand better now.

    I don’t believe that’s too much to expect, and I do think we are all moving in that direction, much more quickly now than before thanks to the internet. But I don’t see the glorious endpoint happening any time soon; hard for people to let go of their sacred cows.

    On a related note; do you see it essential that LDS and Evangelical leadership lead these changes, or should it come from the people, to be most effective and / or speedy?

  24. On a related note; do you see it essential that LDS and Evangelical leadership lead these changes, or should it come from the people, to be most effective and / or speedy?

    I think the distinction is artificial.

  25. Jack,

    Good post. I can’t answer all your questions right now, but I’ll acknowledge your point there is much bad will with many rank-and-file LDS. It’s something that has always perplexed me because w/o the preservation of Christianity and the later Protestant reformation, there would be no Mormons of any kind. I’ll add the LDS church missionary effort struggles where Christianity doesn’t dominate. In short, Mormons greatly depend on Christendom, but most LDS are loath to admit it.

    That said, the charge by other Christians that LDS are not Christian is ludicrous and only serves to shut down any meaningful conversation with LDS of good will. There are wall builders on both sides.

  26. Chase O. ~ I appreciate your comments. Thank you.

    Regarding Kullervo’s later statement, I agree that many Mormons do not understand what’s at stake when evangelicals say Mormons aren’t Christians. It’s boundary maintenance. It’s brand name protection. It’s no different than what the LDS church does when it tries to stop the FLDS from identifying as fundamentalist “Mormons.” Mormons don’t really care about being a part of the greater Christian tradition, they only care about the insinuation that they are not followers of Jesus Christ if they aren’t allowed to identify as Christians. They’re willing to allow for a diluted definition of the term because it means less to them, and we’re not.

    I am not arguing that Mormons are not Christians, but I do understand why other Christians are concerned about this.

    Joseph ~ One of the reasons that I talk about what the leaders are saying and have historically said is because it gives us something tangible to talk about. Anecdotal evidence of personal interactions can be used to support anything and make any point (see below). I also think that the leaders are . . . well . . . the leaders. There may be a certain degree of disconnect between them and the membership, but what they say does trickle down on at least some level.

    I agree that I’m likely to get fewer walls among the general membership, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say that these walls are “non-existent.” Fact is, I don’t take the Sacrament at my husband’s church and he doesn’t take the Eucharist at mine. However we slice it, that is a wall.

    Lisa & Martin ~ I’m sorry if my reply was overly snarky, but I guess I’ve pretty much had it with people making sweeping assertions about evangelical Christian behavior at large with only personal anecdotes to back them up. I lived in Provo for six years and I’ve studied Mormonism for twelve. I have plenty of anecdotal evidence of poor treatment by Latter-day Saints, but I honestly try to resist using my anecdotes to make negative generalizations about Mormon behavior. The thought has never even crossed my mind to say that most Mormons disdain evangelicals just because some of them have.

    I guess the bottom line is, if a person can’t give me names, dates, references, or a link so that I can examine who said what and when, it goes to the bottom of my care-o-meter. It’s not that I think that you’re lying; it’s just that I’ve stopped caring.

    I’m also pretty tired of people citing things like Conference protesters as proof of bad evangelical treatment of Mormons. If members of Mormon traditions are going to keep holding me responsible for that, I’m going to start holding them responsible for the polygamist perverts who marry underage girls in secret compounds. As I see it, if I’m responsible for the worst of my tradition no matter how much I’ve disowned them, seems only fair that you’re responsible for the worst of yours.

    Lisa, I never even considered the RLDS when writing this post. To my knowledge they haven’t had the polemical history with the rest of the Christian world that the LDS church has.

    Eric ~ basically all I ask is for them to be accurate, respectful and fair in their criticisms of LDS thought, and to not tell me/us what I/we believe.

    I don’t have any problem with this myself, but where I get hung up is when Latter-day Saints insist that their personal beliefs and what the church teaches are one and the same. You are the world’s leading authority on what you believe, but we can all look up what the church teaches and decide that for ourselves.

    The one about the Holy Spirit was meant to get at the (dying) LDS teaching that God the Father had literal sex with Mary to conceive Jesus, which I did more for the benefit of other evangelical readers than for myself. I know that non-members can technically take the Sacrament, but they aren’t supposed to. My question was meant to indicate, would non-LDS Christians ever be welcome to take it.

    Rameumpton ~ Today there are many traditional Christian churches that have huge fights within their own ranks.

    Yup. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    At least Mormons were not lynching blacks and burning crosses on their lawns.

    I deliberately avoided putting in a question about blacks and the priesthood, but since you brought it up, let me ask: does the fact that other people treated blacks worse than you guys did honestly make you feel better about the church’s racial history?

    You may be interested to know that Bob Jones University (largely populated by Southern Baptists) has apologized for its racism against African Americans. The LDS church never has.

    LDS historian Davis Bitton gave a great speech at the 2004 FAIR Conference, “I don’t have a testimony of the history of the Church.”

    Yes, I was there when he gave that talk. It was a good talk. (I introduced another speaker that year, Roger Keller; see the first line of this talk here).

    If you used solely a Biblical litmus test, then I wouldn’t have a problem. But when creeds are called into play that were determined centuries after Christ’s death, then we’re being asked to defend our Christianity against a standard that is not found in the Bible.

    Okay, but the Bible was probably canonized (at least functionally) after the foundational creeds were in place. Why should the Bible be relevant to defining Christianity if the creeds aren’t?

    For the record, I am not arguing that Mormons are not Christians.

    Seth ~ I think what a lot of Mormons want from Evangelicals is a fair fight, and little else.

    I think they already have this.

    Rob ~ The reasons those memes persist are provably and directly to Evangelical proselyting efforts.

    Prove it.

    The lay definition of a “Christian” is a person who tries to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, as found in the Bible.

    I don’t agree with this definition of Christian. A Muslim who thinks Jesus was a prophet and a good teacher and tries to follow his teachings in the Gospels would be a “Christian” by this definition. I am not arguing that Mormons are not Christians, but I think this definition is too vague to be useful.

    gloria ~ I’m glad you liked it.

  27. Clink said:
    On a related note; do you see it essential that LDS and Evangelical leadership lead these changes, or should it come from the people, to be most effective and / or speedy?

    A populist movement in the LDS church no matter how positive its’ intention would ultimately serve to weaken LDS distinctiveness. The LDS church is led by a prophet. It is directed by General Authorities. A movement led by the members (on any topic) would radically change a fundamental core of Mormon theology on authority.

    For these changes to happen AND for LDS distinctiveness to survive they MUST come from LDS leadership.

  28. Okay, but the Bible was probably canonized (at least functionally) after the foundational creeds were in place. Why should the Bible be relevant to defining Christianity if the creeds aren’t?

    You are correct on all counts Jack.

    325 CE: Date of Council of Nicaea, Nicene Creed was ratified

    367 CE: Date of Athanasius’ 27th Festal Letter. This is the first record we have of anyone producing a canonical list which listed the current 27 books of the New Testament, and only those 27 books.

    381 CE: 1st Council of Constantinople. The Nicene Creed was reaffirmed and slightly changed. When people recite the creed, it’s in the form as was codified at this council.

    397 CE: 3rd Council of Carthage. It was at this council that the 27 books of the New Testament officially reached their current canonical status.

    So the Bible took its official canonical form after the Trinitarian creed was firmly established. Also of note, by far the biggest defender of Nicene orthodoxy in the 4th century was Athanasius. He was persecuted by the Arians and went into hiding several times. So the biggest defender of the creeds was also the guy who first invented the concept of the “New Testament” in its current form.

  29. Tim, I agree, and that’s why I asked… part of the reason change will occur gradually is the leadership issue. There’s probably a tipping point at which the amount of dissenting public opinion plus the length of time of that dissent will affect the leadership’s stance (their livelihood depends on not alienating a significant portion of the membership, after all), but I don’t know what it is.

    Makes me wonder where exactly to spend our time, if we want to effect change.

  30. Thanks for laying that out, David.

    Some would argue for an earlier dating of the functional canon based on the Muratorian fragment, but I believe the Muratorian fragment originates in the fourth century myself. Hence the “probably.”

  31. Jack, I offer proof by example. Saints Alive and UTLM are countercult ministries with confessions not dissimilar to the nominal Baptist or Evangelical confessions. They steward older ideas which stretch back to the 19th century, including tying freemasonry to Mormonism.

    And, of course, in the last election season, Huckabee uttered a sufficient number of the ideas specifically cared for by those two ministries to tank Romney’s candidacy. (Whether he was a primary cause of Romney’s declining chances then, I dunno. But it was a factor.)

    Every idea I’ve seen spread today by atheists, Baptist ministers, “intrepid” reporters, etc, are found in documents published by those two organizations which are older than you are and only slightly younger than me.

    Self-described Evangelical ministries, both of them.

    Let’s suppose that Evangelical ministries are not responsible for historically maintaining falsehoods about Mormonism. Who, then? You’re a historian; it ought to be easy to trace the ideas and refute the assertion. You can convince me I’m wrong by offering counter examples.

    @David, you are correct and incorrect. According to Shelley, the four Gospels, Acts, and the bulk of the Pauline Epistles were canonical by 200 A.D., predating the councils. I am unwilling to call those ancient people “not Christian”.

  32. That doesn’t prove anything, Rob. I hear late night comedians and other folks who have no connection to evangelical Christianity bag on Mormons as often as I hear anything from UTLM. And the gays who are pissed off at the church for its role in Prop. 8 sure as heck aren’t evangelical Christians.

    Besides, the first ever anti-Mormon book was written by E. D. Howe, who was not a Christian of any sort.

    Shelley relies on the Muratorian fragment for his dating of the NT canon to 200 AD, and the dating of the Muratorian fragment is highly uncertain.

  33. wait, sorry for the threadjack, but are you saying Mormonism has no ties to freemasonry? I see Mormons agreeing with that all the time.

  34. Jack, you haven’t refuted me by merely saying that something doesn’t prove anything, and one counter-example is anecdotal. Refute it; I’m willing to listen to any demonstration that the worst of anti-Mormonism doesn’t come from self-professed Evangelicals.

    (Though, it’s worth acknowledging that such a generalization is completely unfair to the millions of lay Evangelicals who recognize the falsehoods for what they are and discard them, or who have never encountered them. I know that’s a part of it.)

    E.D. Howe’s material was used by preachers all over the United States, when they were met by Mormonism’s missionaries. You know that’s historical fact. The Christians of the American Protestant movements were the stewards of falsehoods about Mormonism.

    Huckabee, an Evangelical, got his disingenuous “Don’t they believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers?” from someplace. Where did he get it?

  35. @David, you are correct and incorrect. According to Shelley, the four Gospels, Acts, and the bulk of the Pauline Epistles were canonical by 200 A.D., predating the councils. I am unwilling to call those ancient people “not Christian”.

    Yes, and at that time, depending on where you were, the following books were also considered canonical: The Shepherd of Hermas, 1 Clement, The Epistle of Barnabas, the Apocalypse of Peter, The epistles of Ignatius, the Diatessaron, etc. So, if you are going to argue for early canonicity, then to be consistent you better start citing those books as scripture and binding doctrine in your sacrament meetings. Because they were just as canonical to certain groups of people as were the other books you cite.

    If not, then you accept the judgment of Athanasius and the Council of Carthage and Jack’s argument that the creed either precedes or is concurrent with the canon is correct.

  36. Tim, I think of the ties to Freemasonry as situational and pattern-based. Freemasonry was arguably the only society with a holy ritual in existence on the American Frontier. Joseph Smith made the (documented) claim that it was a degenerate form of Temple worship.

    It’s therefore not surprising that he would adopt parts of their pattern in formulating his ideas (or, if you’re Mormon and a believer, what the Spirit moved him to formulate) for a modern Temple ritual.

    I’ve read the Scottish Rite for myself, and participated in the LDS Temple rituals. They are not sufficiently similar to draw any kind of connection. It’s kind of like claiming that Star Wars and Star Trek happen in the same fictional universe, really.

    The difficulty comes when it’s coupled with the unfair treatment anticult ministries also give to Freemasonry. I know a few Freemasons; they’re not the devils-in-disguise those groups claim for them; I’ve found them to be precisely as open about their organization as the most liberal Mormons. Like Mormons, they wish EV’s wouldn’t get their info from the likes of Decker. They’re happy to tell you what’s what.

  37. Huckabee, an Evangelical, got his disingenuous “Don’t they believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers?” from someplace. Where did he get it?

    Probably from the Pearl of Great Price, they same place Mormons get it.

  38. I haven’t refuted you because you haven’t provided any substance to refute. All you’ve done is given some examples of evangelical counter-cult ministries plus one evangelical politician who was a jerk about Mormons, then pounded the table.

    E.D. Howe’s material was used by preachers all over the United States, when they were met by Mormonism’s missionaries. You know that’s historical fact.

    So when anti-Mormon material is originated by non-evangelicals, and evangelicals use it, the evangelicals are at fault.

    When anti-Mormon material is originated by evangelical counter-cult ministries, and non-evangelicals perpetuate it, evangelicals are still at fault.

    Makes perfect sense — to someone who is looking to blame evangelicals in whatever way he can.

    But do you want to know what I really think? Which demographic is responsible for the largest bulk of material critical of the LDS church? What the most common denominator is?

    Former members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This was true in the 19th century and it’s true today. It’s true of the two big examples you gave as well (Ed Decker and the Tanners).

    And as far as I’m concerned, ex-Mormon anti-Mormons are every bit as much your fault as they are ours. So if you want someone to blame, Rob, you can start with 50 East North Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah.

  39. Shelley relies on the Muratorian fragment for his dating of the NT canon to 200 AD, and the dating of the Muratorian fragment is highly uncertain.

    And the Muratorian fragment leaves out James, Hebrews, 1 & 2 Peter, and 3 John. It also never actually mentions Mark and Matthew (though it’s a safe assumption that they were in the complete document). It also says the Apocalypse of Peter is canonical as is the Wisdom of Solomon.

    So, if you we are going to go with the Muratorian fragment it’s time to stop citing James 1:5, stop making priesthood arguments from Hebrews 5:4, stop talking about calling and election from 2 Peter 1:10, and Mormons no longer get to be a peculiar people nor a royal priesthood because that’s 1 Peter 2:9.

    Of course we can always go with Athanasius and the Council of Carthage (and keep those goodies), but then Jack’s argument stands unscathed.

  40. @David, well, no, my analysis ends with the question, “Will I call those people “Christian” or not?”

    Certainly the creeds were not formulated when Paul preached in Rome. Were his proselytes Christian, or not? They certainly didn’t have all the later-canonized epistles.

    And frankly, I don’t accept the judgement of Athanasius at all; I’m Mormon in good standing with the LDS Church. Scripture (contrast this a bit with “doctrine”; there’s a difference to us) is whatever is spoken when moved upon by the Holy Spirit.

    For what it’s worth I have always thought that there is a very high congruency between what I believe as a Mormon, and what the Nicene creed says. What is true in the Bible is confirmed by the Spirit of God.

    And, for what it’s worth, the conclusion that “Jesus and Satan are brothers” betrays a bitter and adversarial opinion about us. Mormons don’t believe that this is at all true in the way that that statement percolates in the mind of a creed-based Protestant. The statement is inflammatory and meant to shock. It’s hate speech. Huckabee said it with a congenial smile to an audience of millions.

  41. Jack, I thought this was a blog, not a research project. I gave two quick examples because *they* got their ideas from *someone*, and I’ve acknowledged the unfairness of laying this at the feet of every Evangelical. I have no intention of blaming all Evangelicals.

    Ex-Mormons, though, have tended to two directions: out of religion altogether, or out of religion into mainstream Christianity, whether EV, or Catholic, or whatever. My notion is that they have supplied many EV congregations with the kind of information that lets them continue to not come to Mormons for direct answers or examples.

    Which presses continue to publish anti-Mormon stuff? UTLM and SA are among them. Which bookstores still stock the stuff? Are there any Muslim countercult ministries? Any Catholic or Orthodox ministries that don’t also paint Protestants as lost sheep? Do the Buddhists, Shinto, or Hindu publish books about Mormons? Are ex-Mormons present in any of those power structures in any measure?

    (Well, in point of fact, there are stories in my ward about Shinto intervention in LDS conversions in Japan, but I don’t know if that extends to the level of published countercult ministry.)

    Where did Ed Decker get his ideas? No doubt many of them were whole cloth, but his conversion out of Mormonism was into the Evangelical Christian movement, then called the “Free Christian” movement, and I know his stuff was distributed through those channels (the Four-Squares and Pentecostals come to my memory in particular) *because I lived through the picketing and the media-baiting that went on in the Pacific Northwest* during the time you were still learning to read. By the time you finished high school, the anti-Mormon fervor in the Northwest was largely gone.

    GLBT’s hardly care about the Evangelical movement; you and we have found common cause against one of their causes. Their ire is directed in common towards us both. But Mormons have always been stranger than EV’s, therefore they get the jokes on late night.

    Howe was dead before 1900. Do you wish to claim that the Spaulding theory continued to be propagated by non-Christians? That the idea that Joseph Smith was a cad was propogated by non-Christians? Or that the Republican Party had a non-Christian basis for getting the Edmunds acts passed?

    Is there enough there for you to see my point and refute it? I have to be done for the night; tomorrow is Pinewood Derby and I’m the Cubmaster…

  42. Certainly the creeds were not formulated when Paul preached in Rome. Were his proselytes Christian, or not? They certainly didn’t have all the later-canonized epistles.

    Actually scholars do think that creeds were formulated at that time. 1 Rom 1:3-4, 1 Cor 15:3-5, and Phillippians 2:5-11 are among the likeliest examples of early Christian creeds. And all of these epistles pre-date Paul’s preaching in Rome.

  43. @David, that’s interesting. Do we call those people Christians or not?

    No Mormon would be unwilling to accept any of those passages as binding on him.

    @Jack, thinking things over, I realize you have a significant point. Evangelicals did not turn ex-Mormons into enemies of the Church. Other Church members did that, or the ex-Mormons themselves did that.

    If there’s any part of this exchange which you’ve taken as meaning that I blame EV Christianity for driving Mormons out of their Church, I apologize for contributing to that impression. You know from some of our past conversations how much enmity I feel about the way many Mormons treat dissident elements.

  44. Rob, the main thing you’ve said that I take exception to is that evangelicals are still responsible even when non-evangelicals spread crap about Mormons. I also don’t like the idea that evangelicals are the key party in perpetuating an abusive attitude towards Mormons. Ex-Mormons of all flavors are just as much a part of that, and since being on the losing side of almost every social issue for the past 90 years tends to add up, the church itself bears some of the blame for the ire it has drawn.

    Do we call those people Christians or not

    It was Rameumpton who talked about using only a biblical litmus test. David and I never said anything about needing the Bible to be Christian. I believe our point has been that the creeds are every bit as much of the evolving Christian tradition as the Bible is, so the Bible shouldn’t be the sole litmus test.

    Obviously the believers who came before the creeds and the canon should be judged by another standard, and they did have such standards. Proto-creeds known as “Rules of Faith.”

    Anyways, you don’t have to stay here hitting refresh or waiting for your Google Reader alerts or whatever. Water under the bridge. You have fun at the Pinewood Derby tomorrow.

  45. Jack, it’s fair to acknowledge your protest as a fair one, and it’s not a point I cared to belabor, because it would certainly put me on the wrong side of reason and logic to blame evangelicals for non-evangelical attitudes. Or that (especially here) there aren’t evangelicals looking to bury the hatched and proclaim the hope they have in Jesus Christ.

    That is a welcome change from the interface we Mormons had with EV-Christianity in my youth.

    We LDS haven’t been on the wrong side of every social issue for the last 90 years. Mormons were on board for the nationalist movements which defeated fascism. We were staunch supporters of national and State-level women’s suffrage. I doubt you’ll find a people more dedicated to orderly democratic government, especially in the American polyglot.

    Arguably, by all these definitions of “creed”, the Articles of Faith constitute a creed just as practical for Church member use as, say, the Wesleyan creed among Methodists.

    I’m not waiting on this thread; I’m posting between authoring some racing sound effects for tomorrow’s fun. I’ll spend all day tomorrow assembling that track, I’m sure. :-) The updates are appearing by virtue of the “Notify my by email” feature of this blog. Hurray for technology!

  46. “…the thought has never crossed my mind to say that most Mormons disdain Evangelicals just because some of them have…”

    I never said that. In fact, I specifically said “some” in my example. The idea I was calling out is this idea I’ve heard from so many Evangelicals, to paraphrase, “Oh, you big, bad LDS!! If only you didn’t believe and teach X, Y, and Z, we would all get along and everything would be hunky dory.” This argument from Ev’s is bogus–that’s all I was trying to say. Go ahead and equate me with the FLDS if you want, you would be no different from the rest of the countercult world. By the way, after a very brief search, here are four websites I found that refer to the CoC as a cult. http://www.apologeticsindex.org, http://www.allaboutcults.org, http://www.rapidnet.com, and http://www.watchman.org. These are not the really nasty ones I’ve seen. There are at least a couple I saw a few years ago that really upset me. I didn’t write them down at the time: I probably should have. Try to look at it from my point of view. There are what? 11 million LDS? There are 250 thousand CoC in the entire world. Two hundred and fifty thousand. The LDS have a missionary corps of what, twenty thousand or so? The CoC has NOTHING like that. Traditionally, RLDS did not proselytize a great deal. To the best of my knowledge, the RLDS grows most in membership when its members marry outside of the church and the spouses then convert. The CoC is not building temples at the rate the LDS are. They are just not as visible as the LDS in any way. We have one World Conference every two years, that’s about all we do. So for me, the fact that those particular Ev’s were there and doing what they were doing is very telling.
    So, you don’t think the CoC has a polemical history with the Ev world. Well, then why did the entire denomination change their name in 2001? (Not a smart move, in my opinion.) Maybe you don’t think my personal history is relevant, but I do. My very life experience is testimony to the fact that if the LDS were to stop believing and teaching X, Y, and Z…..things would still not be ok.

  47. Mormons were on board for the nationalist movements which defeated fascism.

    Helmuth Hubener. Good Night.

  48. Is my comment going to get out of moderation? You asked for a link, or some other reference besides a personal anecdote, and I provided them.

  49. “Oh, you big, bad LDS!! If only you didn’t believe and teach X, Y, and Z, we would all get along and everything would be hunky dory.”

    I’m sure that even if the LDS church made every change on my list, we’d still be able to dig up at least 4 Web sites calling them a cult and a handful of Conference protesters to heckle them.

    In fact, just to prove my point, here are four Web sites by Calvinists calling Arminianism a heretical false Gospel: 1, 2, 3, 4.

    So this proves that things are not really hunky dory between Calvinists and Arminians within the evangelical movement, right?

    Go ahead and equate me with the FLDS if you want, you would be no different from the rest of the countercult world.

    Well, I’ve already been compared to Ed Decker on this thread, so why not.

    By the way, after a very brief search, here are four websites I found that refer to the CoC as a cult.

    Which is unfortunate, but any idiot can register a Web site for $10 a year and hang out a shingle with his or her stupid opinions on it. I’ve been doing it for almost two years now.

    So I’m sorry that these people have Web sites calling the RLDS church a “cult,” but that does not prove that evangelicals are systematically targeting the CoC. I personally think that 99.9% of the evangelical world isn’t even aware of the existence of the RLDS church and doesn’t care.

  50. I can’t speak for all of Mormondom. I probably can’t even speak for just my household, since my wife is still asleep, but she would probably agree with me on what it is we want from those of other faiths. But I can definitely speak for myself.

    I speak from the personal experience of growing up with a group of extremely religiously diverse friends. Catholic, Jew, Muslim, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Mennonite, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic, Jehovah’s Witness, non-denominational Evangelical, First Assembly of God, and Mormon. We all hung out together. We talked about life. We talked about philosophy. We talked about the world’s problems. We talked about the environment. We talked about how to fix the world. Imagine Marius Pontmercy and his friends discussing things around a table in the corner of a small cafe, and that was pretty much us, except our table was in the high school cafeteria or at places like Hardee’s and Subway.

    And, of course, we talked about religion. A lot. Probably far more than most young people did and do.

    What I want is what we had. Love. Respect. Patience. A desire to understand one another. Taking the best of what we each had to offer and sharing willingly. Recognising that we are all individuals, and none of us deserve to be painted with the broad brush-strokes of stereotypes. The acknowledgement that, while our various faith traditions may ultimately be at odds with one another, there is no reason for us to be at odds with with one another. And, perhaps at the very end of the day, I want everyone to realise that we don’t need to be fighting. Dare I quote Paul? I do. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

    That’s what I want. Let’s stop accusing each other of being the evil rulers of darkness. Let’s work together. Yes, we have differences. I proselytize Jack when I tell her about my Mormon beliefs, Jack proselytize’s me when she tells me about her Evangelical beliefs. If we choose not to accept each other’s beliefs, so be it. It really isn’t the end of the world. My life is not solely focused on convincing everyone that I am right and they are wrong. I am pretty certain that this isn’t Jack’s purpose in life, either.

  51. Alex, I really like your post.
    I’m going to sign off now. I really don’t post on this blog much anymore. I have a busy life, my daughter has a very busy social calendar. It’s only when I see something that I think is really egregious or unfair that I say anything. Saying that, “the wall” was completely and totally built by Mormons was, in my opinion, such a statement. I still stand by what I said originally.

  52. @David, your retorts are frustrating. The statement “Mormons were on board for the nationalist movements which defeated fascism” is not false, whether or not Helmuth’s Branch President was carried along during the Nazis’ tyranny.

    Well, I’ve already been compared to Ed Decker on this thread, so why not.

    No, you haven’t, Jack. The mention of problems in a religious movement doesn’t directly impugn those of its members who don’t have the problems, especially a movement as self-organized as Evangelical Christianity.

    In the vein of Lisa and Alex, what I want from the movement is a cessation of use of false and specious material, when they handle the subject of Mormonism internally. What I want from Mormonism is a similar cessation; we do ourselves no good by continuing to hold EV’s apart as “wholly other”, and LDS leaders have said as much within my lifetime.

    There is no need to openly apologize or even acknowledge the change. Just… make what it is *you* do, Jack, or what it appears Tim does, the nominal EV approach for interfacing with Mormons, and no one among the Mormons will have a right to ask for more.

  53. I’ve learned to be suspicious of Wikipedia entries on Mormonism – due to the Bob Jones faculty member who controls the Mormon pages and enforces a slightly (just slightly) negative slant against the LDS Church. But for whatever it’s worth, here’s the entry on Helmuth Hubener:

    “Hübener was arrested by German authorities and two days later was excommunicated by local authorities of the LDS Church. When the Church leadership in the U.S. were informed of the excommunication, they revoked it. Hübener was posthumously reinstated in the LDS Church in 1946, with the note “excommunicated by mistake”,[2] because the specific process required for excommunication from the LDS Church was not followed by Hübener’s local church leader at the time.”

    The article also notes that his own branch appeared to be an anomaly:

    “His friend and fellow resistance fighter Rudi Wobbe would later report that of the two thousand Latter-day Saints in the Hamburg area, seven were pro-Nazi, but five of them happened to be in his and Helmuth’s St. Georg Branch (congregation); thus stirring controversy with the majority who were non- or anti-Nazis.”

    David, I would hardly say that looks like a rash of pro-facist sentiment in the LDS Church, or even a trend of Nazi collaboration. Did you have any additional sources to add?

  54. @David, your retorts are frustrating. The statement “Mormons were on board for the nationalist movements which defeated fascism” is not false, whether or not Helmuth’s Branch President was carried along during the Nazis’ tyranny.

    Hey Rob,

    I put a two word response to see what you would make of it. The Helmuth Hubener story can be spun either way. You can tell it as a story of a brave young MORMON boy who dared to resist the Nazis. That puts him on a very short and select list of people who did resist the Nazis. One of my heroes, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, is on that list. So, I have nothing but admiration for Helmuth and I think he is a shining example of MORMON courage to stand up for truth.

    Or you can tell the story of a Nazi Mormon branch president who excommunicated Helmuth. He did not follow proper procedures to do this and it may have been partially politically motivated.

    My point is this: on a purely objective analysis Hubener’s story is a net neutral for the church when seen in its totality. And Mormons can very legitimately emphasize the positive points and spin it as a story of Mormon bravery.

    But, I think your response is most instructive and is a perfect example of what I would like from Mormons, having been one myself (and still officially am one): Stop being so defensive of Mormon history and doctrine and stop assuming that everyone and everything is out to get you. You could have interpreted the words “Helmuth Hubener” any way you wanted and yet you interpreted it as an attack. Please Mormons, stop doing this!

    I ask this for a very personal reason. At some point I will tell my children why I no longer believe, and it’s purely a case of disaffection because of Mormon history and doctrine. I don’t want this innate Mormon defensiveness to be instilled into them so that when I tell them my reasons they go into defensive attack mode, which might damage my relationship with them. So please, stop inculcating the persecution complex at church meetings, stop being defensive of purely factual information (if you want to go berserk over opinion, be my guest), and for goodness sake have enough confidence in your own faith to not be threatened by any atheist or EV who happens to sneeze in your general direction.

  55. David, I would hardly say that looks like a rash of pro-facist sentiment in the LDS Church, or even a trend of Nazi collaboration. Did you have any additional sources to add?

    Seth,

    See my response to Rob. You fell into the same trap.

  56. @David, let me summarize what I saw as your attitude here:

    1 — Rob, you’re wrong
    2 — Rob, you’re wrong
    3 — Helmuth Huebener

    Theoretically, I could have responded either way. Contextually, what I thought you were getting at was the misbehavior of Huebener’s branch president.

    That’s a human reaction, not a Mormon one.

  57. @Jack, oh, too right, I wasn’t! Sorry.

    Perhaps what we want from one another is not to be so dang prickly about everything.

  58. And don’t BS me David. You stated his name directly in response to an assertion from Rob that implied you were holding him up as a refutation of his assertion that Mormons supportive of the anit-Nazi campaign (which generally they were).

    Not only that, but I have never, not once, heard Helmuth brought up on the DAMU in a way that wasn’t negative on the LDS Church.

    If we get defensive, it’s often for a reason.

  59. Um, David let me get this straight.

    David essentially says, “I often put down your religion because I don’t believe it, I often refute what you say, and I try entrap you to show that you always assume I’m trying to slam your religion when I often am”

    Anyone else see a problem with David’s methodology here. Sounds like the playground bully who goes around hitting people and then laughs at them when he raises his hand up and they flinch. “Silly kid, I’m just raising my hand up.” (Make sure you read that with a Nelson from the simpson voice. I said haha.)

  60. David, if it was a trap, it was one you set up by being vague.

    Thanks for stating the obvious.

  61. Theoretically, I could have responded either way.

    I give you an A+ for grasping the point of the exercise.

    Contextually, what I thought you were getting at was the misbehavior of Huebener’s branch president.

    Yeah, I can see why, since I never mentioned him at all. You supplied the context that you were predisposed to see, which is my point and the reason for my plea.

    That’s a human reaction, not a Mormon one.

    OK, to any EV Christian I say, “The Confessing Church.” Is that an attack on EV Christianity, a defense of EV Christianity, or a neutral statement on EV Christianity? I can make a case for all three, but I am curious what reactions are.

    Or, for any Catholics here, I say “Pius XII.” Is that an attack on Catholics, a defense of Catholics, or a neutral statement on Catholics? Again, I can make a case for all three, but I am curious what reactions are.

  62. Not only that, but I have never, not once, heard Helmuth brought up on the DAMU in a way that wasn’t negative on the LDS Church.

    Well, since I don’t hang out in the DAMU, I’ll take your word for it. I sometimes read NOM. I also participate in mormondiscussions.com from time to time, mostly to defend belief against atheism/agnoticism. But I don’t think that’s DAMU because people of all stripes participate there. In any case I’ve never seen Hubener’s name mentioned in those two places.

    But, that you immediately thought I was part of the DAMU pretty much makes my case for me, that Mormons are immediately defensive and feel persecuted even when things are purely factual. In fact, even just the name of a very brave kid, who was a Mormon, can set people off.

    As to your thinking you have a reason to be so defensive, well I disagree and wish all Mormons would reconsider. The only way the church corporate is ever going to be able to process its own history in a non whitewashed form is for people to stop being so defensive about everything.

  63. Jack, I love your post. (and comments) I am tired of the complaining from Mormons about EVs, and I hear it very very frequently.
    (even on Facebook status updates & Relief Society/Sunday School anecdotes)

    Kullervo said what I was thinking:

    “PS, Mormons teach all kinds of false and misleading stuff about other churches, too. Pot, kettle.”

    I have heard Mormons distort/misrepresent EV beliefs on grace and the Trinity my whole life, but I don’t see EVs complaining and whining about it. I’ve seen many Mormons express criticism of the relationship EVs have with Christ, some even mocking it.

    I also think it’s fair to compare the nutty temple protesters with the fundamentalist child bride Mormons.

    Raempton said:
    “BTW, there is no LDS doctrine that God had sex with Mary. In the past, some LDS have speculated on it. Many of us do not believe it today. So, Ms Meyers, before you slam ideas, make sure they are things LDS actually teach as doctrine. Okay?”

    Jack already gave a great response I completely agree with, and I don’t have much to add except my own experience as a Mormon. I was taught God had sex with Mary by fellow Mormons and I’m in my thirties. They didn’t explicitly say those exact words because it was a “sacred” topic, but it was clearly implied when I asked questions about why we focus so heavily on the “begotten” Son. After reading the sermons/writings of Bruce R. Mconkie and other LDS Prophets who taught God had sex with Mary, I would say that’s a little more than “some LDS have speculated on it.” If there was such a thing as “Mormon Doctrine”, I would consider it doctrinal coming from the ordained mouthpieces of God who did not say they were speculating or merely giving opinion. But since there is no such thing as Mormon Doctrine, then I agree with you that it’s not.

  64. The only way the church corporate is ever going to be able to process its own history in a non whitewashed form is for people to stop being so defensive about everything.

    Amen.

  65. I’m in my 40′s, and was never taught that God had sex with Mary. I’m very weary of referencing or providing apologetic for this sort of thing.

  66. @David, I am not your student. It’s all I have left to say on the matter that isn’t very, very unkind.

  67. You can provide all of the apologetics you want, Rob. I’ve seen them all (here’s one here). It is a fact that past leaders have taught it, the church has never formally repudiated it, and some Mormons believe it today—the latter of which has been documented on this thread.

  68. Jack, I didn’t want to claim that I couldn’t provide an apologetic, just that this, along with a pile of other topics, have never been taught to me by the Church I’ve attended in four countries, in eighteen different congregations, for fully 20% of the Church’s organized existence on Earth.

    Never. That is to say, not. even. once.

    Not in Seminary, not Sunday School, not BYU, not Priesthood meetings. Never a peep in Sacrament Meeting, or a hint of it in any personal interview by a Church leader. Never.

    Beyond the claim that the Sonship is literal (that is to say, “there it is in the text; what else could it mean?”) there has never been anything further offered. Not even in code.

    So, another Mormon comes along and says, “I was taught that” and my only response has to be, “Cite.” I don’t doubt that there are Catholics who believe in the geocentric Universe of Aether-spheres. Or Evangelicals who insist that I’m on a planet that cannot be more than seven millenia old.

    I’m bone-weary of being called upon, explicitly or not, to be responsible for this particular idea.

    And frankly, the fact that the Church has “never formally repudiated it” carries no weight with me. With no hint of this doctrine found anywhere but non-canonical publications by this or that Seventy, and anecdotal claims that some Mormon has heard the idea, and the meme propagated actively only by outsiders, there is nothing to formally repudiate.

    So, we’ll let the FAIR construction stand as sufficient apologetic. But I have no stake in this. None.

    Except, perhaps, to point out that what I want from you EV’s is to stop spreading this idea around as though a Mormon did.

  69. For the record, the first time I ever heard the claim that God might have had sex with Mary was on the Internet after I discovered online Mormonism at around 2004.

    So yeah, it is kind of hard to take anyone seriously who acts like this is some sort of feature-event of Mormonism.

  70. Yipe, I had an incomplete sentence. “Never a peep in Sacrament Meeting, or a hint of it in any personal interview by a Church leader. Never.”

  71. Rob ~ So, another Mormon comes along and says, “I was taught that” and my only response has to be, “Cite.”

    You’re asking Seven to “cite” her personal anecdotal experience from her childhood? Because she carries a video camera around with her at all times or something?

    I’m bone-weary of being called upon, explicitly or not, to be responsible for this particular idea.

    Rob, the only thing I’m calling on you to be responsible for is to acknowledge that it was taught by top church leaders and is still believed by a minority of Mormons today. That is all.

    With no hint of this doctrine found anywhere but non-canonical publications by this or that Seventy

    It was taught by Brigham Young, James Talmage, and Bruce R. McConkie. Apostles and a prophet, not Seventies. You really need me to get the quotes?

    I’m pretty sure there were others, but those are the definite examples that I know off the top of my head.

    Seth ~ So yeah, it is kind of hard to take anyone seriously who acts like this is some sort of feature-event of Mormonism.

    Who on this thread has done that?

    I can completely believe that you and Rob were never taught it while Seven was; apparently I’m not as stunned by different people having different experiences in the church as Rob is.

    But I’m not going to deny that it’s an existing (if dwindling) strain of Mormon thought that has been around since the time of Brigham Young, either. I think both sides of this argument (counter-cultists who sensationalize it and Mormon apologists who virtually deny its entire existence) suck and I’m not joining either of them.

  72. My first experience inside a Mormon ward meeting was in 2005. In that very first experience in the Gospel Principles class I was taught that Jesus was God’s literal son. (this was in Southern California not Southern Utah).

    Anecdotal evidence to be sure. But it should serve to pull the median down from Rob’s 36 years.

  73. Tim, You could have quoted what Rob said. Jesus is God’s literal son.

    I also don’t have much respect for the, “They haven’t repudiated it yet, they MUST believe it” argument. The church also hasn’t formally repudiated statements by JS that the moon was inhabitated by quaker-dressing like individuals. Doesn’t mean we believe it. Right now I’d rather be talking online to some quaker-dressed-up-moon people, they’d probably be more coherent than some of the arguments I read from David.

  74. Tim said:

    In that very first experience in the Gospel Principles class I was taught that Jesus was God’s literal son.

    I’d be surprised if you weren’t. That is LDS doctrine, no doubt about it.

    But so is Mary’s virginity.

    Both of those doctrines were clearly taught by Elder Holland in this General Conference talk, so if you need a “repudiation,” here it is: The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent.

    The only place I have heard that Mormons don’t believe in Mary’s virginity is from non-Mormons.

    And don’t evangelicals believe that God the Father is in some sense the earthly father of Jesus? That’s what I was always told. Biologically, if he indeed was fully human, he had to have someone’s DNA other than Mary’s, or he would have been born female.

  75. I also don’t have much respect for the, “They haven’t repudiated it yet, they MUST believe it” argument. The church also hasn’t formally repudiated statements by JS that the moon was inhabitated by quaker-dressing like individuals. Doesn’t mean we believe it.

    The point of pointing out that the church hasn’t repudiated it isn’t to say that Mormons believe it. The point is that Mormons are still free to believe it. It is a valid strain of Mormon thought that does not contradict anything that is officially taught by the church.

    Personally, other than the Mormons who have talked about it in blog posts and comments, I’ve only known two Mormons who believed it. I had a religion teacher at BYU who confirmed to our class that a few members of the religion faculty believe it. This comment at T&S says that Joseph Fielding McConkie is one of them, which makes sense given who his father was.

  76. You’re asking Seven to “cite” her personal anecdotal experience from her childhood? Because she carries a video camera around with her at all times or something?

    Yep. If you can’t provide hard data, it didn’t happen!

  77. Biologically, if he indeed was fully human, he had to have someone’s DNA other than Mary’s, or he would have been born female.

    DNA ex nihilo.

  78. @Tim- Was it the Tustin 3rd ward? I wish it would have been when I was there. It would’ve bumped up my stats! : ) JK.

    (I was an LDS missionary that visited with Tim at his home in Tustin, CA. Great guy! Nothing but nice. He even gave me a concordance. One of the most respectful people I have met, LDS or otherwise.)

  79. It was indeed. But it was with Adams and Purdy.

    Thanks for your kind words. It was great getting to know you guys.

  80. Honestly, when it comes to all the kooky things that early leaders in the Church taught, I just ask myself this: Have I, in my lifetime, heard it taught in General Conference? Have I, in my lifetime, heard a Seventy say it in Stake Conference? Have I, in my lifetime, heard it from a Stake President, Bishop, Relief Society President, or Elders Quorum President?

    To all of these questions, my answer is: No. No I have not.

    Have I heard it suggested by missionaries who were bored? Yes. Have I heard it suggested by Jim [last name removed], the 60-year-old High Priest on my mission who believed just about every speculative concept presented in Mormonism? Yeah, I heard it from him, too.

    Does this mean I believe it? No, it does not, and no, I do not. Does it mean that the Church teaches (note: present, not past, tense)? No, it does not. What it means is that someone sometime long ago believed it. But I don’t. And the Mormonism that I embrace does not. If it did, well, then there would be some soul-searching, for sure. But, at present, I see it as a total red herring. It is neither here nor there. It is just something that exists as part of the grand tapestry of human thought.

    Reading through Elder Holland’s talk, it looks like the only thing missing is this: ” I testify that Jesus Christ is the literal, living Son of our literal, living God. This Jesus is our Savior and Redeemer who, under the guidance of the Father, was the Creator of heaven and earth and all things that in them are. I bear witness that He was born of a virgin mother in a way that we do not and cannot understand” (italicised text added). But Elder Holland, an Apostle, certainly taught that Mary was a virgin. Can’t get much clearer than that.

  81. 1. Nobody here has made this out to be a major, central LDS teaching.
    2. Nobody here has claimed that the church currently teaches it.
    3. It is not a “red herring,” it is part of the history of LDS thought and an idea that still occasionally surfaces among Mormons today. Just a few weeks ago, muckraker Helen Radkey turned up an ordinance record showing that someone had done temple work for Mary the mother of Jesus with God the Father listed as the first husband. It may be on its way out, but it is still around. On top of that, it is a teaching that concerns other Christians and contributes to the rift between our camps, which is why it was brought up on this thread in the first place.

    I’m pretty disappointed with some of the reactions I’ve gotten on this subject. This is exactly the kind of evasion and minimizing that I said I would not want to see in my ideal Mormon-evangelical dialogue. I should be able to bring up stuff like this in a neutral, dispassionate, non-polemical fashion without being compared to Ed Decker or having people wildly insist that top leaders never said it or being told that I’m bringing up red herrings that don’t really matter. Why so many of you are so phobic of your own history of ideas is a complete mystery to me, and it’s very frustrating to me as a historian-in-training. Why not just acknowledge it for what it is and let it be? If someone who is new to LDS teaching sincerely asks you, “Did Mormon prophets and apostles ever teach that God the Father had sex with Mary?”, do you honestly give them this “just speculation, not doctrine” run-around? I feel deeply sorry for any newcomers to the study of the church who have to put up with that.

    Unless anyone wants references on which leaders taught it, that is the last thing I have to say on this subject. Thanks again everyone for their thoughtful reactions to my OP.

  82. Rob, I can only share my Mormon experience and don’t have transcripts of the conversations that took place over the years. But it really doesn’t matter since we do have teachings by LDS Prophets/apostles to back up what other Mormons shared with me.

    The way it was presented was obviously not “Heavenly Father created Jesus by having sex with Mary.” You will never hear that from a believing Mormon. What happened was I asked probing questions about what it means to be the only literal begotten Son in the flesh and why that had so much significance in Mormonism. (the focus on it in the church really bothered me because Jesus was our spirit brother in the pre existence. Why did God sacrificing His only begotten Son mean more than any of His other spirit children who suffer and die?) If I had been taught that the Father and Jesus were one God and that Christ wasn’t a pre existent spirit like me, I wouldn’t have thought much about it.
    But I digress….

    I’ve heard the God having sex with Mary belief from normal TBMs, the Institute Director, Bishop, etc. They treated the subject very delicately but left no doubt that God had to create Jesus the way we create babies. This was not in Sunday School that I recall (although it was probably implied there sometimes) , but in non Chapel settings like a church study group in college, and in doctrinal conversations with leaders and church educators. (which may have occurred in the Chapel, but I can’t recall for sure) I recall some of them pulled out a few quotes by Prophets, Bruce R. McConkie being one of them. There is no doubt that there are Mormons who still believe it. Having participated on Mormon discussion boards, I’ve found many former LDS or New Order Mormons who were also taught it and or believed it.

    Although learning this Mormon belief really troubled and shocked me at the time, it also made a lot of sense as a TBM given other Mormon doctrines I was taught like having a Heavenly Mother, that Jesus was my brother in the pre existence, eternal procreation/exaltation, and the doctrine that God has a body of flesh and bone. Although I don’t think most LDS believe God had sex with Mary, I wouldn’t be surprised if a significant amount of Mormons actually discover they believe it when they get into a deep doctrinal discussion (among trusted members) about Christ being a literal Son of God and what that means in Mormon theology. But they will still claim it isn’t a Mormon doctrine when EVs or exMormons expose it because it isn’t being presented the way they want it to be (milk before meat) , and it makes them very uncomfortable to hear it, especially as an attack on the religion.

  83. BJM said:

    Unless anyone wants references on which leaders taught it …

    If you can find out without spending much time on it, I would like to know if such was ever taught in General Conference.

  84. Jack: “I’m pretty disappointed with some of the reactions I’ve gotten on this subject. ”

    Jack — what did you expect? You begin by blaming, judging and creating division as a theme: “There is no “divide.” There is nothing to bridge. There’s just a wall, and Mormons are the ones who built it.”

    This is the most disappointing thing I have seen from you. Why would I dialog with someone who begins with this conclusion? Of all people, I thought that you would be a bridge builder rather than on the demolition team that we get constantly from EVs who frequently hold classes to oversimplify Mormonism as a means of disembowling their strawmen like you do here. I have grown to have a great respect and affection for you — so this kind of post just hurts. Now I am going back into my self-imposed absence from blogging. It is posts like this that convinced me blogging was a waste of time.

  85. Blake — I meant that I was disappointed by the reactions I got on the virgin Mary thing. I’m not at all disappointed with the general response to this post. Some of the responses I’ve received have been very sincere and heartfelt and it was encouraging to read them. After having the conversations I’ve had in this thread, I actually feel much better about the situation, and I probably have more realistic, practical expectations for the future of Mormon-Evangelical discourse.

    I’ve also received some much-needed encouragement in private from some friends who have assured me that my bridge-building efforts have not been for naught. I’m very grateful to them.

    Now I am going back into my self-imposed absence from blogging. It is posts like this that convinced me blogging was a waste of time.

    Really? I sort of thought it was because of your “bad day” over at MM a few months ago.

    I had a “bad day,” too, after I read Seth’s comments on the other thread which I referenced in the OP. Seth didn’t do anything wrong; he simply chose not to sugarcoat something that a lot of the other Mormons in my life have been sugarcoating for years. His comments sort of became a catalyst for a feeling that’s been building up inside of me for months, the feeling that I’ve been working for changes that Mormons aren’t really interested in seeing. I literally spent most of the rest of the day feeling down about it all. Okay, so maybe I bawled like a five year-old child.

    [Note to Seth: Seriously, not your fault. Don’t feel bad.]

    This was a heart-wrenching post for me to write, and my feelings were sincere. I’m sorry that was disappointing to you. I hope you’re not done with Mormon-Evangelical dialogue forever, because I’m certainly not.

  86. BJM said:

    Why so many of you are so phobic of your own history of ideas is a complete mystery to me, and it’s very frustrating to me as a historian-in-training. Why not just acknowledge it for what it is and let it be?

    I think that primary reason is that whatever the troubling aspects of history are, they are asked about almost exclusively for polemical reasons. They are seldom asked out of mere curiosity, or out of historical interest. So, thanks to human nature, it’s difficult to simply “let it be.”

    I’m not saying that getting defensive is a good way to approach things, but I find it very understandable.

    If someone who is new to LDS teaching sincerely asks you, “Did Mormon prophets and apostles ever teach that God the Father had sex with Mary?”, do you honestly give them this “just speculation, not doctrine” run-around?

    Perhaps, by your definition, I would give the runaround. But I don’t think of it that way.

    I haven’t studied this particular issue in any depth, but if I did I would acknowledge whatever it is that I know. (I would, for example, acknowledge that it appears to me, based on not a whole lot of research, that Brigham Young at some point taught an Adam-God doctrine that directly contradicts what the church teaches today.) But I don’t think it would be giving a runaround to say that just because a church leader says something doesn’t mean that it’s true, or that church leaders have often been speculative, or that I don’t feel obligated to accept (with a few exceptions) that which hasn’t been canonized, and so on. To give the kind of answer that you seem to want us to give (and correct me if I’m wrong) would be to buy into the common evangelical mindset that prophets (such as those who wrote the Bible) are infallible or that the word of God, to be the word of God, has to be devoid of a human element (I’m not saying that’s your position). But that’s not my view, nor do I think it’s the view of many Mormons who are familiar with the history of the Restoration and have grappled at all with the historical issues.

    Finally, on a personal note, I’m a bit saddened that some of these recent discussions have been hard on you. I do think there was a lot of good in your original post, and (except that I disagree with the implication that President Hinckley was being less than forthright in his Time magazine interview) I thought that the points you listed as to what a good evangelical-LDS relationship would look like were points I could endorse as well. Most of the time, I do appreciate what you’re doing.

  87. Looking for the source of our fear of “history” (something that is by no means unique to Mormons of any type), I am tempted to speculate that it originates from the fact that we tend to ground ethical ideals in narratives constructed before we have learned to differentiate “history” (storytelling subject to critical scrutiny) from “mythology” (simple storytelling). Constructing narrative sequences to make sense of life’s imponderables (mythology) is something that happens relatively early in human development (starting with the baby’s learning to differentiate itself from its mother). Subjecting those narratives to outside judgment–and running the risk of losing or at the very least altering them–is not a step that all people are equally comfortable with (or even capable of). There is an instinctual fear that “ungrounding” the narrative may somehow destroy the self (whose development only makes sense because we have the narrative to explain it). Some religious traditions solve this problem by creating a master narrative (the gospel) that controls all other narratives “by the will of God” to guarantee the eternal integrity of the self (Christianity, Islam). Others solve it by creating a master anti-narrative which asserts the relativity of all narratives and selves (Buddhism, post-Enlightenment science). Others just create new narratives on demand, with no across-the-board attempt to control or “fix” narrative hierarchy (ancient paganism, modern animist and folk traditions). This description is necessarily an oversimplification, since the fundamental truth is that every person has a unique stance to the evolving narrative(s) that define his or her existence: we make stories now with one thing, now with another, and who really knows why we fear x today and embrace it tomorrow? It is a fascinating question, to which I expect there may be infinite answers (with the number being limited only by our ability to come up with another narrative framework).

  88. Does it mean that the Church teaches (note: present, not past, tense)? No, it does not.

    “The Church” is not a person. It can’t teach anything. Only individual members of the Church can teach things.

  89. That is a very good point, Kullervo. I think if more of us acknowledged this openly, religious dialogue would be a lot easier.

  90. I don’t know if you are being sarcastic or not, but I think i is an important point: both Mormons and Evs buy too much into the Church-as-entity fiction, and so then they try to talk abotu what the Church does or does not do. But its entityship is a legal fiction only: an organization or corporation can not ever do or think or say anything. Only people can.

  91. I’ve felt this way for some time.

    If you want to claim you’ve successfully refuted all Mormonism, you have to refute MY brand of it too – not just whatever you think is most popular in the rest of the “church.”

  92. In the case of Mormonism, “the Church teaches” is useful shorthand for “the First Presidency and Twelve Apostles teach,” which permits me to disagree with Kullervo about Church-as-entity, since we can point to 15 people who make an effort to correlate and publish what they teach. They explicitly represent the entity.

    “The Church doesn’t teach that God had sex with Mary” is an accurate statement in that context.

    That body of information is far smaller than the full spectrum of thought considered by Mormonism and all Mormons.

    In the case of the Evangelical Christian movement, “the Church teaches” is, I agree, over-broad, as would be the case in the full Mormon movement. But it would not be inaccurate to say, “The Methodist Church teaches,” because there is a Wesleyan creed to point to. Or, “Jack’s Evangelical Covenant Church teaches,” because there is a staff of pastors doing the teaching.

  93. But its entityship is a legal fiction only: an organization or corporation can not ever do or think or say anything. Only people can.

    In a sense, of course, that’s true. But when the resources of an organization — talks by its leaders, dissemination of printed materials, formal directions given to its teachers, and so on — are used to propagate a point of view, I don’t think it’s far-fetched to say that the organization is speaking.

    You’d have a hard time convincing me, for example, that the church doesn’t teach the existence of a corporeal Heavenly Father, that it’s only people saying that. On some unsettled or unclear doctrines (say, for example, the nature of our Heavenly Mother), though, the situation is different.

  94. In the case of Mormonism, “the Church teaches” is useful shorthand for “the First Presidency and Twelve Apostles teach,” which permits me to disagree with Kullervo about Church-as-entity, since we can point to 15 people who make an effort to correlate and publish what they teach. They explicitly represent the entity.

    Fine, to the extent that all 15 of them teach the same thing, then sure. But the problem is that “useful shorthand” though it may be, it winds up being misleading.

  95. In a sense, of course, that’s true. But when the resources of an organization — talks by its leaders, dissemination of printed materials, formal directions given to its teachers, and so on — are used to propagate a point of view, I don’t think it’s far-fetched to say that the organization is speaking.

    You’d have a hard time convincing me, for example, that the church doesn’t teach the existence of a corporeal Heavenly Father, that it’s only people saying that. On some unsettled or unclear doctrines (say, for example, the nature of our Heavenly Mother), though, the situation is different.

    Not “in a sense.” Factually. Literally. “The Church” has no mouth. It has no fingers. It can’t speak or type. It has no brain, so it can’t think.

    Everything done by “the church” is actually done by an actual person, possibly directed by another person or people. Even if every single person in the Church says x, “the Church” stioll literally is not saying x because it has no mouth. Only people do. Only people can say x.

    The problem is that we get caught up in legal fictions and useful shorthands and then we forget that’s what they are in the first place, so we start thinking about them as literal truths, and imagining that “the Church” can have a position on something. “The Church” has no brain. It can’t have a position on anything. The apostles can think things. And they can get together and agree on what their agents should tell people. But “the Church” doing it is a fiction. It is a useful fiction, but it is absolutely critical that we remember it is a fiction, because when we get mentally lazy we start attriobuting personhood to a fictitious entity with ludicrous and impossible results, and it ends up in stupid arguments about what The Church teaches and whether or not corporations should have free speech.

  96. Rob’s point is also valid (from my point of view). Some people (in the Brighamite version of Mormonism, 15 men) try to use their social clout to co-opt, coerce, or at least strongly influence others’ ability to construct personal narratives that integrate the self. This is what makes me most uncomfortable at church right now: instead of bearing my testimony from the pulpit (or even at home to my hometeachers), I am relegated to posting on the Internet. My effort to build my own faith and moral integrity has no acceptable outlet at church, where what 15 men say goes (officially–but as Kullervo and Seth point out, not really: everyone is his or her own storyteller at the end of the day). While I understand the reason for this (I might cause some serious waves in fast and testimony meeting, if anyone were bored enough to listen too closely), I do not think I have to be as “poisonous” to the faith of others as the brethren would doubtless find me. Some people would find me faith-enabling (in a positive or negative way, depending on whether you are more like Sterling McMurrin or Hugh Nibley). So maybe Jack’s problem is that there are too many Mormonisms out there to talk with. She can only relate meaningfully to a handful of us, and we are all different (with much less social power than the aforesaid 15 men)!

  97. Updating in light of how the argument is developing, I should say that the way the LDS church works at present, only 15 men are recognized as retaining an ability that all 13 million (?) of us members (active, inactive, whatever) actually possess and use on a daily basis. This is ridiculous (from my admittedly biased point of view), and we (as a church) should take steps to change it.

  98. When I said “as a church” I meant “as individuals agreeing to come together.” I still agree with Kullervo and Seth that no church thinks or speaks or acts apart from the individuals who make it up.

  99. Jack, I apologise, because I realise I did not express myself as well as I had meant.

    I do not mean to say that this God-Mary relations things has never been taught. And I don’t ever intend to give a run-around. What I mean to say is that it is simply not a part of my faith. An important part of Latter-day Saint theology is that it is living. It changes. Not every part of it, but some parts.

    If someone were to ask me about this concept and ask if it were true that it has been taught in the past, I would answer affirmatively. Yes, it has been taught in the past. But I have no heard it taught in the present. It is not a key element of Mormonism. It will not affect your salvation one bit if you believe it or not. To me, it is something to simply shrug my shoulders at and say, “You know, honestly, it just isn’t that important to me.” Maybe it should be. But, for me, there are more important things to worry about than how Jesus was conceived, and how leaders of the Church felt the need to publicly state their thoughts on the subject.

    I guess that, to me, it is akin to a non-Christian asking me if it is true that some Christians believe that they can pay money to the clergy and be forgiven for sins. Well, yes, there are those who have believed it, and probably those who still do. But it isn’t a part of my faith.

    I belong to a church that, through it’s leadership, can be said to teach certain things. As Rob said, saying that “the church” teaches something is shorthand for saying that an officially sanctioned body that has been accepted by the general membership as the leaders of the church teaches it. But at the end of the day, what I believe is what I believe. My faith is mine. I believe it is shared with millions of others, but I am willing to acknowledge that there are probably things I believe that other members of my church do not believe, just as there are things that they believe that I don’t.

    When it comes to dialogue, I want to bring my best to the table. And I’ll admit it: by saying that I have a “best” to bring, I am also saying that there are things that are not so great. Hopefully not much, but there are things, even right here and now, that I think are far from the ideal.

  100. I belong to a church that, through it’s leadership, can be said to teach certain things. As Rob said, saying that “the church” teaches something is shorthand for saying that an officially sanctioned body that has been accepted by the general membership as the leaders of the church teaches it.

    That still completely obscures what actually happens. An “officially sanctioned body” with no mouth still san’t say anything; only a human body can. And “acceptance by the general membership” is only relevant or meaningful from an internal organizational perspective. Everything taught by “the Church” is taught by an actual person, in that actual person’s words. Maybe they are repeating words written by some other person, but then that other person still wrote them.

  101. I have to apologize. On further reflection, i was not taught that Jesus is God’s literal son while I attended an LDS ward for the first time. I was thinking of another obscure Mormon teaching (the atonement didn’t happen on the cross).

  102. Tim, that other obscure teaching stems from our notion that the suffering atonement began in the Garden and finished when Jesus said it was finished.

    Further personal reflection has led me to suppose that the atonement was timeless, and didn’t “begin”, “end”, or “happen” at any point. He was saving us when he spoke on the Mount, when healed the sick, when He was born, when he lamented about Jerusalem, etc.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if that particular teaching changed shape as time goes on, among Mormons.

  103. Tim, that other obscure teaching stems from our notion that the suffering atonement began in the Garden and finished when Jesus said it was finished.

    I was taught that the cross didn’t have anything to do with it.

  104. Tim, I don’t see how the record shows there was any other way He died, and I’m pretty sure He had to die as part of the Atonement.

    It makes me think that what you heard was a knee-jerk reaction , in the vein of Mormonism’s slowly-waning persecution complex. Do you have the impression today that Mormons believe the cross has nothing to do with the atonement?

  105. Do you have the impression today that Mormons believe the cross has nothing to do with the atonement?

    Based on what I was taught in a Mormon ward, I don’t know what other impression I’m to be left with. The atonement required the shedding of blood and Jesus shed the blood necessary in the garden. That’s what I was taught. The words ‘the atonement didn’t take place on the cross’ were clearly stated.

    I do not think this represents current Mormon thought. But it clearly and certainly represented the thought of the Mormon expressing that viewpoint. I sat quietly listening so I don’t know how I was persecuting anyone sufficiently enough to cause anyone to give a knee-jerk reaction.

    Sorry this wasn’t meant to be a thread-jack. Just a clarification.

  106. I had a Mormon tell me once (yes, I could give you a name, but I won’t) that the cross had nothing to do with the atonement. All it did was kill Jesus, and the entire atonement happened in Gethsemane. I’m pretty sure I wrote about it in my journal when it happened and will try to look up the entry later.

    This Mormon is no longer a believing member of the church.

    Been in doctor’s appointments with my daughter all day. I’ll try to catch up on this thread and respond to some of the replies later.

    Also, please note that I never said anything to the effect of “the church teaches” the Mary thing. I’m already aware of the semantic loopholes that are opened up by that phrase. What I said was that LDS leaders taught it.

  107. I have to apologize. On further reflection, i was not taught that Jesus is God’s literal son while I attended an LDS ward for the first time. I was thinking of another obscure Mormon teaching (the atonement didn’t happen on the cross).

    Wait.

    wait
    waitwaitwait
    wait

    WaIt.

    Are you suggesting that non-LDS Christians believe the atonement *did* occur on the cross? What was the Garden of Gethsemane for then?

    this is so exciting. I have “obscure Mormon beliefs” of my own. :3

  108. Are you suggesting that non-LDS Christians believe the atonement *did* occur on the cross?

    Yes, that’s why Paul constantly refers to the cross of Christ, and never once mentions the Garden of Gethsemane.

    Also, the proof text for the garden based atonement (the bloody sweat), Luke 22:43-44, was most likely not in the original version of the gospel of Luke. It was most likely a later addition to avoid the accusation that Luke held a docetic Christology.

    Other Christians don’t believe that the atonement happened in the garden because there’s no reason to think that based on the NT text.

    this is so exciting. I have “obscure Mormon beliefs” of my own. :3

    Sorry to burst your bubble. My inactive sister-in-law also learned in church that it took place in the garden. She was having a fight with her Catholic friends over Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. Her basic point was the the entire premise of the movie was flawed because the atonement happened in the garden and not on the cross. Hence, there was no need to focus on the gruesome aspects of the crucifixion.

    I was also taught in no uncertain terms that the atonement happened in the garden.

    To save all the naysayers typing time, “This is all opinion, there is no official doctrine, he was speaking as a man not as a prophet, and my favorite: your sister-in-law and you are both idiots who didn’t pay attention properly in Sunday School nor did you do the proper independent research.” Did I cover everything?

  109. This is what Jesus said:

    “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up”

  110. To continue the threadjack …

    Many, many LDS associate the Atonement with the Garden of Gethsemane, so I’m not surprised that Tim and Jack heard what they said the heard. I haven’t heard statements quite that extreme, but I certainly have heard the importance of Gethsemane elevated and the importance of the cross diminished.

    I find that unfortunate.

    My understanding coincides with that of the Church’s Gospel Topics (mostly reliable as a doctrinal source), and it basically states what I have been taught (emphasis added):

    Jesus’s atoning sacrifice took place in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross at Calvary. In Gethsemane He submitted to the will of the Father and began to take upon Himself the sins of all people.

    I like the way that Elder Holland (again!) referred to the events on Calvary in this talk: None Were with Him. According to Holland, the Atonement wouldn’t have been complete without Jesus’ physical and spiritual suffering and death on the cross.

    In other words, what Tim and Jack were told was wrong.

  111. Jack: “I hope you’re not done with Mormon-Evangelical dialogue forever, because I’m certainly not.”

    I guess I’m wondering why you would continue with the discussion if you believe that you are just beating your head against “the wall” that you assert exists between us and there are no bridges to be built?

    I am interested in bridge-building. I read numerous Ev and Roman Catholic and Orthodox thinkers that I find to be both insightful and inspiring. We have a lot to learn from each other. We can enrich each other. We have a shared faith in Jesus Christ as savior and to whom we all commit allegiance. That is a great deal on which to build. But if there is nothing but the wall that you describe, then I don’t see any mutuality or reciprocation. You wrote the post on not fearing deification and numerous others that were bridge-building and important for our on-going dialog. Don’t underestimate the value of your efforts.

    Any time that someone learns, listens, is enriched by, edified or up-lifted by another regardless of religious tradition, it is valuable. I believe that your efforts have achieved all of these. However, if your expectation was that Mormons would abandon their faith or acknowledge the whole-sale superiority of the Evangelical faith, I’m afraid that such expectations are not realistic or — from my point of view — even desirable.

  112. Tim: If you believe that Mormons don’t teach that the cross and what happened there are essential to atonement, then you had bad teachers. You can read what I believe is a more complete expression on my website.

  113. Blake, that reminds me, I need to pick up Vol. 3 once again and keep reading.

    But it’s a tough go because of how you are seeking to dismantle my faith . . . the Faith . . . the Tradition.

  114. David Clark: How many counterexamples do people have to come up with to show you that anyone who teaches that Mormons don’t believe that the atonement included the cross just weren’t paying attention? I can give you literally dozens of GA talks, both recent and earlier, referring to atonement including the cross.

    Further, I believe that you vastly oversimplify the notion that Luke’s gospel didn’t include the pericope about sweating blood. The Codex Beezae ms. is from the fifth century and omits it. However, the earlier mss. including the Codex Sinaitcus include verse 22:44. It sounds to me like you got your mss. history from Bart Ehrman who I believe doesn’t treat the various texts as carefully as he could have. The most careful treatment is found here: http://www-user.uni-bremen.de/~wie/TCG/TC-Luke.pdf Willker’s treatment is to be commended. He notes that the notion is older than the Lucean ms. and that it is probably original. He also notes that it is just as likely that the notion of Christ suffering by sweating blood is just as likely a Docetic omission that was intentionally removed in later mss. as am addition to the earlier mss.

  115. Blake, are they ever going to re-issue your books?

    Because they seem to have run out of stock on Volume 1 and the prices on Amazon and eBay are really, really high. I’d like to buy one of these books in the future, but at the rate they’re going, they’ll be collectors items before I’m in a position to do so.

  116. How many counterexamples do people have to come up with to show you that anyone who teaches that Mormons don’t believe that the atonement included the cross just weren’t paying attention?

    6.022 x 10^23 or more. But in reality, why bother playing that game, there is no official Mormon doctrine. As for GA talks, I will accept them as proof provided you give an airtight explanation of exactly when I am supposed to know they are speaking as prophet/apostles and not as men.

    The Codex Beezae ms. is from the fifth century and omits it. However, the earlier mss. including the Codex Sinaitcus include verse 22:44.

    According to Bruce Throckmorton (and your provided link), Codex Bezae includes those verses. But, it is not included in P75 (Bodmer Papyrus), Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Vaticanus, Washington Codex, the Syriac Peshitta, the Sahidic Coptic, or the Boheric Coptic. Also, Marcion, Clement, and Origen do not quote those verses. Also, in the opinion of the NRSV committee, it was most likely not in the original. And yes, Bart Ehrman also thinks it was not in there. This is admittedly a judgment call that one has to make textually. Ultimately I think it is more likely a spurious tradition because it is only singly attested and textually it is absent in a wide variety of manuscripts.

    But if this isn’t important to Mormon theology (i.e. establishing the garden as integral to the atonement) then why are we even having this argument? My guess is that this doesn’t really affect the theology of most orthodox Christians if this slimly attested pericope goes by the wayside.

    I read the Wilker analysis and this is his conclusion: “Very difficult! Overall, I think there is a slight edge in favor of the words.” So there is room for debate, even according to Wilker, but like I explained earlier, I think it was a later addition.

    It sounds to me like you got your mss. history from Bart Ehrman who I believe doesn’t treat the various texts as carefully as he could have.

    It sounds to me like your crystal ball is broken. Yes, Ehrman’s analysis was part of why I think this is not original, but it was not conclusive. In any case, he is one of the world’s foremost authorities on NT textual criticism. So even if I were to rely solely on his analysis, it’s not like it would be a completely idiotic thing to do.

  117. David Clark: Well, as long as you agree that Wellker’s conclusion that the edge is in favor of authenticity, we can debate it. I think the evidence is best explained in terms of a Docetic impulse to remove from Luke the clear attestations of bodily suffering. In any event, your response to Andrew implying he is an idiot of sorts for not knowing that Jesus didn’t sweat drops of blood in Gethsemane is vastly unfair. He deserves an apology from you.

    I think that atonement in Gethsemane (as well as one the cross) is essential to Mormon theology. Mosiah 3:7 and D&C 19:15-20 make this pericope an essential part of our atonement theology. That’s why we’re discussing it.

  118. Seth: You can get all 3 vols. from Greg Kofford for the base price of $34. I believe that you can get them from Amazon as well. Yeah, I was surprised when vols. 1 and 2 started selling for $1,000 each as well. Crazy!

  119. What do you want from us?

    As a Mormon, I don’t think I would want anything from the Evangelicals except the basic fairness and respect that you generally expect from anyone. i.e. not to ridicule what you find to be sacred, no to be portrayed unfairly, or prejudiced in other areas simply because of my religion.

    As far as religious acceptance, I don’t think the LDS church should expect much or even care. Many Mormons do, but that is part of the non-separatist tendency among Mormons, they want to be different but they don’t want to be excluded or prejudiced because of their beliefs. They aren’t like the Amish anymore.

    There is such a tremendous work for me to do… to be part of the bridge that is being built to [the] LDS [church]. There’s so much to read and to write and to study.

    . . .

    I’m sorry if I sound cynical, but I don’t really know what Mormons expect from us anymore, nor do I know what I can hope for in terms of improvement on the LDS side. I’m open to suggestions..

    I think its good to re-think your calling and vision with regard to your work among the Mormons, as an open-minded, unorthodox Mormon, I can tell you that you cannot expect change unless you can show Mormons a way to change that resonates with them at least as much as Mormonism resonates.

    I mean I try to be honestly open-minded and try to critically understand and even accept any religious tradition or experience, but those presenting Evangelical religion to Mormons simply don’t have the game to make a difference at least from my perspective.

    They always get lost in the trap of either dismissing the deep Mormon experiences as meaningless, pure emotion, or insignificant, or get caught up in criticizing the history while ignoring the reality of the Mormon experience with God and Christ.

    Mormons generally don’t believe or disbelieve because of the history, and they are generally as good or better at apologetics than Evangelicals, at least enough to make them comfortable in trusting in the life-changing experiences that bring them to Mormonism.

    I recognize that Evangelicals have similar life-changing, life-guiding experiences and I am really interested in understanding them as part of my effort to understand God. I can’t imagine that there is any other way to understand or influence Evangelicals.

    In order to do that, really understand any sincere believer of another religious tradition I basically have to ignore all of the things that I see as silly, incorrect, or unbelievable, to reach down to understand what God is really doing with them despite the things that seem dumb or wrong to me.

    Getting to that core without judgment both fascinating and challenging to me and its an important part of understanding people that goes beyond understanding their theology.

    So, my suggestion would be to push back from the some of the struggle against Mormon knuckleheadedness or pride and try to absorb more of the subtle and deep things that you may be missing. I know that if I was you, or Tim, that I would probably do things quite a bit differently in an attempt to influence Mormons.

    I don’t think you should abandon your original vision of yourself as a bridge builder. But I think it may be good to really critically focus on your process of bridge building, even to the point as seeing see the process as an end in itself.
    I think that this sort of search for real understanding is an important human endeavor, and even an important Christian endeavor, even if it doesn’t yield any of the expected results.

  120. In any event, your response to Andrew implying he is an idiot of sorts for not knowing that Jesus didn’t sweat drops of blood in Gethsemane is vastly unfair. He deserves an apology from you.

    I don’t see how I implied Andrew was an idiot by explaining that yes, orthodox Christians believe the atonement happened on the cross. The Paul part was intended to explain why orthodox Christians don’t think the garden has anything to do with atonement/salvation. The bloody sweat part was simply trying to explain that the Mormon position is on shaky ground, textually speaking.

    But, I’ve certainly been wrong before. So, Andrew, if you took my explanation as offensive, I sincerely apologize. I meant no disrespect.

  121. David Clark: It takes an individual of largesse to apologize — and my respect for you has increased as a result.

    I think that it isn’t quite accurate the orthodox Christians don’t see Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane as removed from atonement. For example, see here: http://grovergunn.net/andrew/luk2239.pdf

    or here: http://www.kjv1611.org.uk/Crucifixion.htm

    Now it is correct that Evangelicals often attack Mormons for asserting that the atonement occurred only in Gethsemane — but as we have noted, that isn’t quite accurate. In fact, my view is that Christ’s entire mortal life was lived in atoning reconciliation of humans to God.

  122. I should have stated that more clearly: There are many traditional Christians who see the atonement as also involving Gethsemane.

  123. The first dude, the one referenced here: http://grovergunn.net/andrew/luk2239.pdf, seems like a pretty reasonable guy. He does seem to draw some atoning significance from the garden. But then on page 5 he says this:

    The cross and the blood save us not through literal physical contact with them but through the Holy Spirit’s enabling us to trust in Jesus’ shedding His blood upon that cross as the basis for our forgiveness and deliverance.

    which sounds more like something an orthodox Christian would say. So I have to wonder if he is using the story as a homiletical device or if he is propounding a doctrine of atonement beginning at the garden.

    However, I can’t take the second dude, the one referenced here: http://www.kjv1611.org.uk/Crucifixion.htm at all seriously. He’s a KJV onlyist who has animated gifs of dripping blood. Furthermore I had to stop reading at this part:

    He knew before time that Judas Iscariot was to betray him.

    He gave Judas a piece of dipped bread (sop) to signify to others that it was he. Take a closer look at the word sop s- son o- of p- perdition.

    KJV onlyism at its finest. Somehow god inspired the English word “sop” because that’s an anagram for son of perdition. This is not a promising example of an informed orthodox Christian propounding this doctrine. If you are going to make this kind of reference, then you don’t have much of a defense when fire breathing critics cite all kinds of crap as examples of what Mormons believe. And isn’t that the point of this thread, to get away from this kind of stuff?

  124. David Clark: Don’t be silly. I cited this second guy just to show that some non-Mormon Christians link atonement and Gethsemane — not for the proposition that they were convincing or even sane. I could cite many others.

    If you cite some Mormons who claim that some Mormons believe that a Heavenly Mother was literally pregnant, then you have proven your point that some Mormons believe that. If you cite these same Mormons for the proposition that it is a main-line Mormon belief, you’d be mistaken. I of course made no such claim. We can agree that the second dude is a bit off of his nut. That doesn’t detract at all from my general point.

  125. Well then we’re going to spiral into all kinds of silliness. Finding a Christian on the internet saying something out of the mainstream isn’t exactly a snipe hunt. We can all do better.

    And the garden was not the point. Get off the thread Jack.

  126. I hope its not silly, the Reformed Theology looks at the entire life of Christ and Garden of Gethsemane as a culmination of the active obedience Christ essential in the atonement.

  127. With the exception of the never-dying polygamy thread, I kind of wish that there was a rule against spiraling into all kinds of silliness by quoting crazies found on teh Intrawebz. It happens so much and, as you say Tim, we can all do better.

  128. So maybe to try getting this conversation back on track, how does this apply to the average person in the pew on Sunday mornings?

    Those of this in the conversation are obviously a self-selected bunch. Nearly all of us are familiar with the apologetic arguments and debates and what has been done on various levels, both for better and for worse. But I think it’s safe to say that the average Mormon knows very little about evangelical belief, and the average evangelical probably knows even less about Mormon belief (or, outside of the Mormon Corridor, even cares). That’s in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing — actually, in general, I think Mormons would be better off knowing more about their own history (warts and all) and beliefs than to worry about what evangelicals are up to, and evangelicals would be better off learning about their own faith (how many “average” evangelicals can accurately describe the nature of the Trinity, for example?) than in trying to figure Mormonism out.

    Two things come immediately to mind about what I or my LDS friends can do on a personal level that pertain to this issue of interfaith relations:

    1. The first I already do, and that is to correct erroneous characterizations of other faiths when I come across them — not to argue, but just to encourage people to see the best in what others believe. For example, in Sunday school and elsewhere, the most common criticism I hear about evangelicals goes along the line that “they believe that once you become a Christian it’s OK to sin all you want.” Many say they have been told this while on their missions, especially those who went to the Bible Belt. So when this thing comes up, I point out that this is a distortion of what other Christian churches actually teach, that works are important to them, and that sometimes they put us to shame with the good works that they do.

    2. Second, and this is directed primarily at Mormons, we’re are often so busy with our church callings and families and such that we forget about other opportunities that are out there to serve, and we often find ourselves having very few if any non-LDS friends. A few months ago, one woman in my Sunday school class who is a regular volunteer at a local soup kitchen told us how one of the kitchen’s board members was shocked to find out she was Mormon — not because this woman didn’t fit the LDS stereotype, but because this board member sees people from almost every church in town other than the Mormons volunteering and thought that Mormons didn’t believe in cooperating with other Christians. Perhaps, if we want people to quit labeling us a non-Christians, the best thing we can is to be Christians in word and deed in places outside of church and family.

    Any other thoughts on this issue outside of Internet conversations?

  129. Those are some very good thoughts, Eric. Personally, I find that open-ended service is the best place for me to express the positive aspects of my faith with those who are not interested in tale-swapping. This morning I went out with the ward and members of the local community to clean up a historical monument: the atmosphere was great (nothing beats springtime in the great outdoors); we got a lot of good work done; and we became better friends in the process. Did it matter that all of us were not on the same page from a doctrinal/creedal standpoint? Not at all. Looking back on my experience in the LDS church, I wish I remembered more activities like today’s and less like my mission (which was mostly spent wandering the streets in search of someone willing to listen to me for more than a minute; I “served” in northern Spain, where Mormonism is a really, really hard sell). I think the church experience would resonate better with members (including the doctrinally disaffected, like me) and outsiders if we de-emphasized aspects of it that are ethically irrelevant (like believing in the historicity of Christ or the moral perfection of Joseph Smith) and focused on cultivating the attitudes of humility and charity that are best expressed through providing service that other people want and need. Why make people angry trying to ram doctrine down their throats when you can bring them the peace of God through simple acts of kindness? If I were prophet (of the LDS), all missions would be service missions (though missionaries would be free to discuss whatever doctrinal points they wanted with anyone interested).

  130. First Protestants need to let Mormon theology change as Mormons please. Let them parse and explain their theology as they understand it. Mormon views on authority and continual revelation may be confusing to the Protestant but it isn’t that much more confusing than the many theological traditions in Protestant churches.

    Second we need to acknowledge that there is a diversity of thought in the LDS Church. If a Mormon holds a divergent view from the “commonly” held beliefs it does not mean that they are being dishonest about their beliefs. There is a grunch of diversity in broader evangelicalism.

    Protestants need to ensure that their apologetic is consistent internally and externally. Making arguments that dismiss the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of faith is counterproductive.

    Protestants need to understand that apologetics are a defense of the faith and not the only method of evangelism.

    Theological debates have their place but we need to listen. Sometimes it is nice to let a Mormon explain their beliefs, ask some clarifying questions and let it drop without creating a theological debate. I am also not sure that theological debates are at all affective for evangelism. Not that I don’t enjoy a good discussion.

    Protestants need to stop relying on counter-cult ministries to evangelize the LDS. If people are interested in evangelizing Mormons, plant a church or support a church plant. There is a role for para-church groups but the Church is called to evangelize not to contract it out. I think if local congregations had to take responsibility for the methods used to spread the gospel the tone would improve (there will be exceptions of course).

    I could go on but basically if the message is the gospel the method should be consistent. We can listen without compromising our beliefs, we can we can disagree without calling names, and the importance of the local church cannot be overemphasized.

  131. @Tim — I sat quietly listening so I don’t know how I was persecuting anyone sufficiently enough to cause anyone to give a knee-jerk reaction.

    What with the number of Mormons going out on missions in their youth, and the experiences they have encountering both the best and the worst of civilized humanity, and coupled with the early history of Mormonism, you need not be the one persecuting for them to have a persecution complex.

    The thread-jack was fun.

  132. I agree, Rob. I still sometimes flinch for no apparent reason when I see large groups of youngish people: we had some pretty nasty altercations with roaming youth in Spain. Also, I have a hard time relating well to authority (e.g. letting my superiors at work know when they ask too much of me): in the mission, otherwise loving leadership continually reminded us that “success” (in the form of thousands of baptisms) was right around the corner if we could just get our act together. I learned that impossible goals were normal, and that my failure to measure up to them was a personal weakness. I read stories now about guys coming home from Vietnam or Iraq and recognize the symptoms of PTSD that some of them describe. Like them, I get bad feelings in crowds (where we fielded insults regularly) and have nightmares reliving bad experiences from the mission. It is not like all my experiences were bad, either; they certainly compare favorably to a stint in Vietnam or Iraq. But the hard times I went through (however easy for others) did a real number on my psyche.

  133. Gundeck, I agree that Protestants need to take charge of their own outreach and not farm the whole operation out to the marginal counter-cult faction within Protestantism.

    I read one Evangelical minister in Utah complaining about these counter-cult ministries that come storming into town with grand ambitions. Usually they come stomping in yelling about Mormonism, wind up alienating a lot of Mormons, and then wind up bankrupt, or stomping back out of the state in a huff leaving the actual ministers with a historic presence in Utah to pick up the pieces.

    He called it “kicking over the beehive.” And he wishes that these out-of-state ministries would take their good intentions and get lost. Because they keep undoing all the good he is trying to do within the community.

  134. On the other hand, the LDS Church is also learning that some of their historical approaches are counter-productive.

    Door-to-door sales, cornering people on the street… these methods will net you the occasional convert – but these guys are a rarity. Mostly the methods simply don’t work.

    We had much greater success in Japan by simply integrating into the community. Community service, participation in local festivals, being generally visible as nice guys, free English lessons for the community… these things had a much greater effect in the small Japanese towns we lived in.

    My first area, I served as junior companion to one of the true veterans of this approach. Farm boy from Arizona and one of the nicest guys I’ve ever known. Tons of patience and charity (which he needed to have me as a junior). He was a die-hard believer in the community service approach. He relentlessly had us out in the community. I don’t think we ever – not once – did door-to-door while I was with him. Instead we were constantly out in the well-used public areas of the town.

    We went every Tuesday to help out a single woman who ran a fresh produce shop downtown (and was one of our “eternal investigators”) purchase her vegetables and stuff. All the farmers and auctioneers down there recognized us and we usually got friendly waves or smiles from most.

    We also helped the local high school basketball team across the street from our apartment with their game (not that I contributed a ton – but the other missionaries in my apartment were quite good). We showed up to all their games and cheered them on rather loudly and obnoxiously – quite a bit of publicity for the team, and made us kind of notorious on the high school circuit.

    We helped out with a family run shop in the open-air mall downtown that sold Buddhist religious icons and stuff for seasonal festivals – one of the prominent families in that close knit community (and another of our eternal investigators). We were down at their shop chatting, moving boxes, socializing with the mom or dad almost every day. They got us involved in a lot of local events – they actually had me act as one of two escorts for the princess who was the main event of the biggest parade of the year.

    We showed up for the festivals, the fireworks displays in the summer, went to club days at both local colleges and featured in some clubs up there occasionally. Community service, riding our bikes around and being visible…

    Not to mention community service almost all the time, and turning the local church building into a place for well-advertised free English classes (we’d put up posters and hand out pamphlets occasionally). Very popular classes. My intermediate class was jam-packed in mid-summer – in a non-air conditioned room. We kept religion out of the classes – but had activities afterwards that we were quite clear were free-game (some left, some stayed).

    We also had a heavy emphasis on helping out the overburdened active members and visiting key inactive members.

    It was great – we basically became almost fixtures in the community – something that people acknowledged was a part of living in that town. I think the LDS Church could really benefit by capitalizing on this approach – especially among people like the Japanese – who are generally theologically indifferent.

  135. I apologize for falling behind on responses. I’ve had a lot of real-life things going on these past few days and these replies are happening faster than I can keep up with them.

    Blake ~ I’m going to reply to your comments a bit out of order because it will make my response flow better, so bear with me.

    What kind of changes were you hoping to see? [SNIP] if your expectation was that Mormons would abandon their faith or acknowledge the whole-sale superiority of the Evangelical faith, I’m afraid that such expectations are not realistic or — from my point of view — even desirable.

    The journal excerpt I included in the OP is the first one where I mention any desire to go to BYU. I can’t be sure what all of my thoughts were at the time — I didn’t write everything down and I don’t trust my own memory to reconstruct everything accurately now — but I think I can safely say that I had three hopes:

    (1) That the LDS church would see the good things in evangelical Christianity and move closer to us on those points. I was particularly hoping that the church would come to have a higher view of the spirituality and devotion of traditional Christians.
    (2) That evangelical Christians would see the good things in Mormonism and move closer to Mormons on those points.
    (3) I was also deeply convicted of the poor behavior evangelical Christians had so often expressed towards Mormons, something I had (briefly) been a part of in my teens. I felt deep sorrow on this point, and I wanted to do my part to make up for it and show that evangelical Christians are not all like that.

    I don’t think it was ever my expectation that Mormons would abandon their faith wholesale. Not that I wouldn’t be pleased if the LDS-church went through a massive reformation of its theology on the scale of what happened with the Worldwide Church of God / Grace Community International, but I can’t say that was ever one of my goals for interfaith dialogue.

    I guess I’m wondering why you would continue with the discussion if you believe that you are just beating your head against “the wall” that you assert exists between us and there are no bridges to be built?

    I still think that a wall exists, Blake, and I still think it’s a wall of the church’s own making. The wall’s existence isn’t dependent on how nice evangelicals are to Mormons, how fair we are to their beliefs when we write about them, or if we decide to freely acknowledge them as fellow Christians. It doesn’t matter if evangelical protesters are never again seen on the sidewalks of General Conference. We could change all of that and the LDS church would still teach that we’re adherents of an apostate Christianity with abominable creeds who haven’t really been baptized by water or by fire and don’t have real spiritual gifts. We could do all of that and the church would never move an inch closer to us, even where it can on issues that are non-essential and non-distinctive.

    What I’ve come to see though is that I was wrong for believing that I needed to build bridges between Mormonism and evangelical Christianity. It isn’t in my power nor my right to change the church’s mind about anything; if the church is ever going to reconsider its official positions on the issues that divide us, it will have to do that on its own time. If there are bridges to be built, it’s between Mormons and evangelical Christians, as individuals. That’s where I need to be.

    I also think I was in error for ever wanting evangelicals and Mormons to move closer on issues for the sake of just being closer. If anyone from either camp is going to change their minds for any reason, it should be because our ideas are beautiful, powerful, persuasive, and compelling, because they expand our minds and draw us closer to God—not because I live uncomfortably in both worlds and would have a much easier life if things changed.

    So, I guess I’m done looking to Salt Lake and hoping that the next Gospel Principles manual will say nicer things about non-LDS Christians and the apostasy. I’m just going to focus on the evangelical Christians and Mormons who find their way into my life and hope to see change and understanding there, and let that be enough.

  136. Jack, I totally understand and agree with your point about building bridges between Mormons and evangelicals Christians, rather than between Mormonism and Evangelicalism. I’ll admit that I didn’t even think about this distinction as I read the OP. I suppose that, for me, religion is ultimately all about the individuals, not the -isms, and so when you ask, “What is the point? What do you want from us?” I focus entirely on the responsibilities of the individuals, rather than the organisation.

    And yes, I realise that kullervo is going to doggedly insist that there is no such thing as an organisation having a belief system. I suppose I could go into the nitty gritty of social psychology and group-think, but he’s going to insist on it anyway. Whatever. I am I still going to insist that there is such a thing as the teachings of a church as opposed to the beliefs of the individuals.

    I really appreciate Eric’s suggestion that Mormons get more involved in their communities. I keep forgetting that this is (sadly) not the norm. Here is Champaign, it is. Several members of the three wards in our community joined with thousands of others to help package meals for the people in Haiti as part of the Salvation Army’s Million Meals for Haiti project. We regularly participate in the Interfaith Day of Service, and our stake and ward leaders are members of the Religious Workers’ Association, which I believe I have spoken about before around here. So for us, interfaith dialogue and community participation is just par for the course. It would be nice if this were true everyone.

  137. Bridgette: Agreed. The kingdom has always resided in the heart of the individuals who choose to love one another rather than some official organization.

  138. Of course the LDS Church has an interest in actively maintaining a bright line doctrine distinction between Mormonism and Protestantism / traditional Christianity. That is not the same thing as promoting the distortion of what other Christians actually believe.

    The _boundary_ is of LDS construction. The “wall” of distortion has been contributed to by both. Historically, Protestants have been at least as hostile to Catholicism as Mormons have been to Protestantism. And mid-twentieth century Mormons seem to have been remarkably ignorant about elementary aspects of the traditional Christian faith, notably the Trinity and the doctrine of grace.

    Most of the criticism I heard of Protestant views of grace as a child only apply to those who promoted the doctrine of Eternal Security. The characterization of the Trinity was modalistic not trinitarian at all.

    On the Mormon side of things, one thing that would help would be teaching (in the appropriate forums – Institute, BYU classes, etc) comparative Christian theology so that a non-trivial number of members actually understand the main points of what those in other denominations actually believe and the theological history behind those conclusions.

    The history of Christian theology after the Nicene creed is a blank spot in the knowledge and education of nearly all LDS. Most of the stuff mentioned (in passing, there is no system about it) about the beliefs of other denominations in my experience is based on simple ignorance. There is no Mormon constituency for mis-representing what other denominations believe.

  139. Very good point, Mark D. In my experience, most LDS engagement with Christian theology still comes from the crude kind of polemics that served nineteenth-century street preachers OK (in terms of winning debates and getting converts) but lacks any kind of intellectual and moral depth. The same can be said for a lot of the anti-Mormon apologetics out there. Both sides need to move away from the “see it my way or go to hell” mentality. Personally, I think we have nothing useful to say on either side of the matter until we can relax and trust God to defend himself against “heretics” (remember what Gideon’s father told the townsfolk who wanted to kill his son for destroying the altar to Baal, and what Gamaliel told the Sanhedrin who wanted to crack down on the early Christians).

  140. I am about forty, by the way, and grew up in Utah, and I have never heard the idea that God had sex with Mary even suggested in church, in seminary, in Institute, etc. The general idea was always that the virgin birth was always due to some spiritual intervention or divine miracle.

    This while generally acknowledging that Jesus carried the genetic inheritance of his Heavenly Father. Actual, physical sexual intercourse, though – virtually unheard of for someone in my generation. The first I heard of it was in an anti-Mormon Youtube video.

    I was aware of most of the statements of Brigham Young et al, and most of them can fairly be interpreted to acknowledge that Heavenly Father is the genetic or biological father of Jesus Christ as he lived here in mortality.

    There is a big difference between genetic inheritance and physical sexual intercourse. Does a mother “have sex” with an anonymous sperm donor? Is in vitro fertilization sexual intercourse? Is miraculous divine intervention? The CARM web page on the subject fails because it does not make this distinction.

    As much as some would prefer otherwise, while individuals may believe in all sorts of strange and esoteric propositions, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has an actual doctrine, and it is what it endorses to be taught in contemporary, formal publications and conferences of the Church. The theological idiosyncrasies of half a percent of the living members do not a church doctrine make.

    Of course it is fair to criticize the beliefs of historical figures. It is not fair to imply that either the LDS Church endorses those propositions today (if it ever did), or that the vast preponderance of LDS members have ever heard of them. It would be far more informative to discuss living doctrinal and theological differences rather than dead ones, especially dead ones that few if any ever actually believed.

    And in particular, how can one build _any_ kind of bridge if he or she won’t let a denomination repent of past mistakes? No sir, you can’t be forgiven of your sins.

  141. Mark D. ~ I was aware of most of the statements of Brigham Young et al, and most of them can fairly be interpreted to acknowledge that Heavenly Father is the genetic or biological father of Jesus Christ as he lived here in mortality.

    There is a big difference between genetic inheritance and physical sexual intercourse. Does a mother “have sex” with an anonymous sperm donor? Is in vitro fertilization sexual intercourse? Is miraculous divine intervention?

    There is no chance that all of the statements made by Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Pratt, Joseph F. Smith, James Talmage, Joseph Fielding Smith, and Bruce R. McConkie on this subject can be re-interpreted to mean “divine artificial insemination.” They taught that Mary became the wife of God the Father prior to the conception of Jesus. They taught that the Holy Spirit had to purify Mary in order to withstand the presence of God the Father for the conception of Jesus. They taught that it was a natural event, the result of natural action, and there was no “mysticism” about it. It takes a very strained eisegesis of those statements to add up to a “no sex” interpretation.

    In addition to that, there’s the problem that human artificial insemination wasn’t a reality until 1953. It was first discussed in medical literature in 1790, but scientists didn’t begin seriously trying to develop it until 1899—and those were Russian scientists. I would have to see some evidence that Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Pratt, and Joseph F. Smith were aware of the concept before that could even be in the ballpark as a possible interpretation of their words. Otherwise I’m just going to keep dismissing this attempt to redeem their words as an act of presentist eisegesis.

    It would be far more informative to discuss living doctrinal and theological differences rather than dead ones, especially dead ones that few if any ever actually believed.

    “Few if any ever actually believed”? How can you even imply that no one has ever believed in this teaching when I already provided three links on this thread to living Mormons today discussing their belief in this teaching plus a link showing that someone believed in it enough to do Mary’s temple work with God the Father listed as her first husband?

    If Mormons want to say that very few people have historically believed this, fine by me; I don’t think either side has applied any scientific methods towards quantifying the number of Mormons who believe[d] it.

    But let’s not kid ourselves that no one ever did or does.

    And in particular, how can one build _any_ kind of bridge if he or she won’t let a denomination repent of past mistakes? No sir, you can’t be forgiven of your sins.

    I have no idea what you mean by this.

  142. Sorry Mark… I didn’t want to get involved in the “sex with Mary” discussion, but… I am older than you, and for a long time growing up, we had only one LDS family in the neighborhood, so I remember fairly well the first things I learned about Mormonism:

    1. Mormons believe they are going to be gods of their own planet when they die, that’s why they have lots of children;

    2. Mormons believe God is just another guy with a planet, and that He and Mary, you know… did it;

    3. Mormons store a year’s worth of food in their basement;

    4. Mormons don’t pay taxes.

    Okay, granted, I’m still a little fuzzy on what that poor family said that made me believe #4… but we were not in Utah, this was before the anti-Mormon propaganda, and the kids in that family all went to Christian school, so there wasn’t a lot of time or desire for rumor-mongering.

    Despite the “weird” things we knew about their church, all us kids played together just fine. It’s adults who make a mess of these things, isn’t it?

  143. Blake said:

    The kingdom has always resided in the heart of the individuals who choose to love one another rather than some official organization.

    I find that to be a very refreshing thing to hear from a Mormon.

  144. I agree with Chase O and laughingly agree with Seth R’s “resistance is futile” comment.

    What do I want from evangelicals?

    - Civility. Particularly when I talk with them about things we disagree on. We can keep our convictions without resorting to venom.

    - Engagement. I have loved following you and other evangelicals online. I think it is healthy to invite others into our lives who are good but challenge our preconceptions.

    I am more and more convinced that the Lord is more concerned that we live the truths we know to be true. The rest sifts out like chaff. As we invite the Spirit more and more into our heart and our habits, clarification on our disagreements will work themselves out.

  145. I find that to be a very refreshing thing to hear from a Mormon.

    I think a lot more people say that than actually mean it though.

  146. I think a lot more people say that than actually mean it though.

    Exactly. Many say things like that, but when the rubber hits the road they don’t act like.

  147. I’m not going to question Blake’s sincerity. Though I like and respect Blake, there isn’t much that he says that I feel I can agree with and affirm.

    Don’t burst my bubble.

  148. If it’s any consolation, I tried to keep it very generic, as I can’t judge Blake’s sincerity either.

  149. @Jack — None of those leaders taught that without also simultaneously or nearly-simultaneously affirming or implying their belief in the reality of the Virgin Birth.

    That means that if the definition of “virgin” in the minds of those men is the same as my definition, then Mary had not had sex before the Virgin Birth.

    And if the definition of “literal father” in the minds of those men is the same as mine, then it amounts to “father, or genitor, not figurative”.

    A quick check of my 1828 and 1912 Webster’s dictionaries bears that definition out.

    A combination of those two ideas produces something that no ancient mortal humans could do: generate a child without the mother undergoing sexual intercourse with the child’s father.

    Thus, the genetic claim, “literal father,” coupled with the miraculous claim, “virgin birth”, coupled with the assertion that a virgin birth is virginal even though there was sex, must be nonsense; it discards the plain meanings of the words themselves. “God had sex with Mary” *requires* eisegesis, and violence upon the plain meaning of the words.

    “God did it without sex” maintains the sensibility of all the words in both the claims, supports the claims in the scriptures, and requires only exegesis.

    Therefore, “some other mechanism” is more true, whether or not anyone else, including people respected as prophets by Mormons, were unimaginative enough or arrogant enough to suppose that the way mortals generate children is the only way possible for a God of whom it’s said that nothing is impossible.

    The Book of Mormon would have that Mary “was carried away in the Spirit, and after that she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time,” there she was, “the virgin… bearing a child in her arms.” The New Testament says nothing more or less than that.

    Note here that there is no appeal to knowledge of technologies invented later than the statements offered by Mormon leaders on the subject.

    But from that we can logically conclude that the teaching is, if not false, then merely unsupportable both by the Book of Mormon and by New Testament scripture. That poses a serious problem with any person who would require a Mormon to believe that God had sex with Mary.

    Thus, while true that they appeared to imply it and appeared to believe it themselves, there is nothing about it that binds any member of Mormonism to confess it.

    And thus, it’s disingenuous for any non-Mormon to say, “Mormons [must] believe that God had sex with Mary,” even if some Mormons actually believe that. Logically, those Mormons are wrong. Logically, and reasonably, those Mormons can’t support what they claim from their own scriptures.

    Why this doesn’t discredit those Mormon leaders who apparently taught all that is probably a whole different thread-jack. :-)

  150. Rob ~ That means that if the definition of “virgin” in the minds of those men is the same as my definition, then Mary had not had sex before the Virgin Birth.

    Their definition of “virgin” probably wasn’t the same as yours and mine. Bruce McConkie taught that Mary was still a virgin because God is an immortal man. You have to have sex with a mortal man before you lose your virginity, you see.

    There’s also the explanation that “virgin” just means “young woman.” See the post “Like a Virgin” by Bored in Vernal that I linked to. Even our modern English dictionary lists “an unmarried girl or woman” as a possible definition of “virgin.”

    This whole thing is starting to remind me of Adam Sandler’s “Weight Lifting or Having Sex” routine. God and Mary were just doing the military press . . .

  151. Jack, there’s no miracle in supposing that a “young woman” had a child. By that reasoning, you’re a virgin and so was my wife before she turned 29. That does violence to the plain meaning of the word.

    There is miracle only in discussing the “virgin birth” in the context of a women who has “no carnal knowledge of a man”, mortal or not, which McConkie always confessed concomitant with claiming literal Sonship for Jesus.

    I can’t deny for you that McConkie made those arguments; he did. But, it’s just as reasonable from his contextual framework to conjecture that an Immortal Man has methods available to him that a mortal man does not.

    Even within those usages there is room to reserve judgement. And room to suppose that their arguments were hooey.

    This is distasteful, because I hadn’t wanted to attempt apologetic. I’d wanted to show that there was more congruency between Mormons and Evangelicals on a central facet of Jesus Christ’s life, and I’d wanted to show that a Mormon can avoid eisegesis and still be in good standing with his church. (To my knowledge, no one has flagged my Temple recommend.)

    What we’re really getting at with such a claim, and Mormon exception to such a claim, is the accusation that Mormons are prurient and irreverent, and therefore, Not Christian, which is a line of reasoning that too-often triggers the persecution complex so many Mormons nurse.

    And this gets at your “OP” question: What we want from Evangelicals is, if they’re to be critical of us, be critical of those things which a Mormon is *required to believe* in order to maintain his fellowship in the Church.

    With this exception: It’s entirely appropriate for a historian such as yourself to examine the ramifications and consequences of the contents of the Journal of Discourses or Mormon Doctrine in any of its editions. It’s in the meme-space and deserves academic discussion. In fact it’s a really good idea for a scholar such as yourself, outside full fellowship in Mormonism, to really dig at those ideas.

    Just don’t expect a non-scholary, lay Mormon to appreciate what you’re doing, if you do it.

  152. What we want from Evangelicals is, if they’re to be critical of us, be critical of those things which a Mormon is *required to believe* in order to maintain his fellowship in the Church.

    In other words don’t be critical, ever.

    There is NOTHING a Mormon is required to believe to maintain fellowship. Please Rob, tell me what exactly outsiders can engage Mormons as an essential of faith. I dare you.

    There is a reason Mormon doctrine get’s compared to nailing jello to a wall.

  153. The one thing I’ve learned is that Mormons and the LDS church don’t want to be held accountable for anything that they may have to defend at a later time.

  154. Really Tim, that’s only because the LDS Church presents a convenient target in the form of the Church Office Building.

    Evangelicals, on the other hand, present thousands of small moving, changing, vanishing and reappearing targets.

  155. Yeah, you are not actually required to believe anything to maintain fellowship. You have to assent to a few points of belief in order to get a temple recommend, but that’s not the same thing as maintaining fellowship, and they are broad and never given a specific deifnition anyway.

  156. Rob, if Bored in Vernal can find new ways of understanding the term “virgin” to jive with her beliefs on the conception of Christ, so can Brigham Young et al. The presence of the word “virgin” all by its lonesome does not redeem everything else they have said to imply sex.

    I have never at any point on this thread implied that all or most Mormons believe the Mary-God thing. I have never implied that someone would lose a temple recommend for not believing it. And I’m officially done pointing out that these are all straw-men of my position.

    What we want from Evangelicals is, if they’re to be critical of us, be critical of those things which a Mormon is *required to believe* in order to maintain his fellowship in the Church.

    Then we have nothing to talk about. A Mormon can believe almost anything he or she wants and still maintain fellowship in the Church.

    Point in fact, right now, according to my beliefs and practices as a Protestant who keeps the WoW due to my interfaith marriage to a Mormon, the only baptismal interview question I wouldn’t be able to pass is #2 (interview text here). The only temple recommend interview questions I would fail are #3 & #4, assuming we interpret “sacrament” in #8 as being interchangeable with “Eucharist,” which seems reasonable (interview text here). Maintaining fellowship in the LDS church has more to do with function than theology, and there is very little functional difference between evangelicals and Mormons.

    Just don’t expect a non-scholary, lay Mormon to appreciate what you’re doing, if you do it.

    If Mormons are phobic of their own history of ideas, and they decide to direct any degree of ire at me simply for discussing their history in the most neutral way possible, that’s their problem, not mine. It probably just means that their faith is too brittle and inflexible to withstand any data that doesn’t fit their preconceived notions of what church history should look like. They would rather keep taking the blue pill.

    I think faith like that is garbage and deserves to disappear. Good historians offer people red pills.

    EDITED: Because I mixed up the pill colors. Doh.

  157. Tim, if it’s scholarship you’re doing, then have at the lot. Be as critical as you want.

    If it’s ministry, then there are a number of things Mormons are required to believe to maintain fellowship.

    Frankly, it’s not my job to help you challenge my faith, any more than it would be in your interest to help me tear down yours.

    I have no interest in challenging your faith anyway, since I consider it a subset of everything I think is holy. I’m not just talking about the old, “take everything you have and add Mormonism to it” canard. I’m seriously ambivalent about proselyting to you. What would I say at this point about Jesus or repentance that’s not already in your heart, that you’d actually be willing to accept?

    So here’s a counter-dare: if you find people in Mormonism who labor under the false assumption that what they do will save them, and they appear to be genuinely unhappy about what they think they have to do, then show them the more excellent way. Take them into your fellowship and explain the hope that’s in you.

    If you find them, and they’re not obedient to Mormonism, but they will confess Christ and fellowship with *you*, take them in.

    A lapsed Mormon who believes in Jesus is better off than a lapsed Mormon who doesn’t.

  158. If Mormons are phobic of their own history of ideas, and they decide to direct any degree of ire at me simply for discussing their history in the most neutral way possible, that’s their problem, not mine. It probably just means that their faith is too brittle and inflexible to withstand any data that doesn’t fit their preconceived notions of what church history should look like. They would rather keep taking the red pill.

    I think faith like that is garbage and deserves to disappear. Good historians offer people blue pills.

    Then, you place yourself in judgement over the faith of more people than are on the LDS Church rolls. Are you positive that irrational faith is useless?

    Keep offering that blue pill, Jack. Just make sure it’s not purple. What more could anyone ask of any scholar?

  159. Oh, well, then, offer red pills and watch out for purple.

    Jack, from the perspective of ministry, those are significant points of difference that you or Tim could undertake to discuss. The life and mission of Joseph Smith Jr. is a shibboleth among Mormons. You can’t deny that he had his visions and get into the Temple.

    Question #2 is a deal-breaker. No joining the Church without confessing the prophetic role of Joseph Smith.

    As to the Temple Recommend interviews, you also fail #8, on the basis of a claim to Priesthood authority; it doesn’t matter what you eat or drink when you remember Him, but it does matter that a person with authority conducts the ordinance.

    Those are fine points of discussion. Real differences of belief that are fair game in a ministry effort.

  160. Are you positive that irrational faith is useless?

    Of course not. Even idiots are useful in ways.

    Doesn’t mean they deserve special consideration that will help them stay idiots.

  161. As to the Temple Recommend interviews, you also fail #8, on the basis of a claim to Priesthood authority; it doesn’t matter what you eat or drink when you remember Him, but it does matter that a person with authority conducts the ordinance.

    The text of question 8 doesn’t say that though. It says:

    Do you strive to keep the covenants you have made, to attend your sacrament and other meetings, and to keep your life in harmony with the laws and commandments of the gospel?

    Besides, I do believe in a type of authority. In the Evangelical Covenant Church, only ordained ministers can bless the Eucharist. I keep the evangelical equivalent of this rule perfectly.

    I agree that the issues listed in the questions that I would fail are significant. But sticking to only those points would still narrow the discussion to a ridiculously small field.

  162. I think Matrix analogies are a bit overused.

    I hear them all the time from ex-Mormons hostile to the LDS Church. Now I’ve gotten to the point where they are just annoying, no matter who is using them.

  163. Sorry Seth. It’s my first time ever using one in a comment (I think).

    I just didn’t like being warned that I should watch what type of history I do because Mormons might not appreciate it. I’m sure you wouldn’t like being warned to watch what sort of clients you take on because Bank of America might not appreciate it. :P

  164. Temple attendance and fellowship in the Church are not the same thing.

    And almost all of the questions, especially the one “about Joseph Smith” are vague enough that you could believe almost anything and still honestly answer in the affirmative.

  165. No, Jack, read it more carefully.

    When you’re doing history, which I’ve taken to mean scholarship, everything is fair game and all I would ever ask of your is fairness. Didn’t that come through clearly?

    When you’re doing ministry, which I think means fellowship, then not every true point of history is useful. See Galatians 3, etc. Shock rhetoric (God/sex/Mary/Mormons and its ilk) in that context will not convert to Jesus, it will only convert away from Mormons.

  166. When you’re doing ministry, which I think means fellowship, then not every true point of history is useful.

    You think I bring up stuff like that in Relief Society or something?

    The last thing I said at church that made people uncomfortable was when the RS teacher was asking for things members might struggle with in life and I made the shocking and controversial suggestion that it could be difficult to see loved ones leave the church. The teacher blinked at me for a second, then decisively turned and wrote “INACTIVE CHILDREN” on the list on the board (which wasn’t what I said).

    If they can’t handle what’s basically the modern equivalent of a story found in Second Nephi, there’s no way Brigham Young’s crazy, mostly-forgotten ideas will go over well.

  167. Practically speaking, the Church will “fellowship” non-members who don’t antagonize, in the same way that Jack’s ECC has fellowshipped her before formal membership.

    But I disagree with Kullervo. The questions mean specific things. Dodging their meaning is not appropriate.

    But in particular, any non-Member would fail admission requirements to the Temple on the basis of not having accepted a Mormon baptism. You can’t even get the questions asked of you without that.

  168. Jack, it would do us all well to stop reacting to what I have to say with the assumption that I think you’re a full-time gadfly.

    I don’t think you bring these things up in any LDS Church meeting, where, frankly, I think you’re not doing active ministry, you’re doing family unity.

  169. Then I don’t know why you offered the advice at all, Rob.

    The only place I’ve brought up the God-Mary sex thing in the past year have been in private conversations with Internet friends and on discussion blogs, which I don’t think of as ministries or fellowships or whatever.

  170. Seth if it’s a problem for you that the LDS church/Mormonism is monolithically defined by the Brethren you’re complaining to the wrong guy. That IS a fundamental of Mormonism.

    It’s also not an honest charge. I’m more than willing to apologize for and share the blame with past Christian behavior.

    Rob said:
    The life and mission of Joseph Smith Jr. is a shibboleth among Mormons.

    So the life of Joseph Smith is on the table then? His authoritative claims to the status of Prophet of the One True Church are open for debate?

    That’s typically the one discussion Mormons most seriously avoid.

  171. You’re not talking to everyone, you’re talking to me. I’m the one who stated that Mormonism wishes to remain unaccountable.

    And so what if other Christians aren’t accountable for their truth claims and past behaviors. Isn’t that the kind of good fruit we can expect from God’s One True Church. From God’s 100 Watt Light Bulbs? From the only Living Oracles of God’s Word?

    Who is supposed to be setting the standards for everyone else?

  172. @Jack, I offered it because you asked, “What do you want from us?” Well, there’s an answer. If it leaves you helpless to minister to Mormons, there isn’t much I can do about that.

    I never had any impression that you behave the same IRL as you do on the blogs. In fact, I imagine that you’re filled with Godly charity, and I mean that with all the sincerity I can muster.

    As to the idea that God had sex with Mary, scroll up; your use as counterpoint was first, here.

    @Tim, it seems to me that if Robinson and Blomberg can respectfully fill at least two books with points of difference, then you could take their lead and leave the prurience and shock-value rhetoric behind.

    The life of Joseph Smith Jr. is hard history to pin down. He made some really huge claims and was a marvelous opponent to the cultural norms of his day. Today, half of all Americans celebrate such people as forward-looking and liberal.

    But, I disagree that Mormons most seriously avoid discussing Joseph Smith. I think it’s most true that Mormons most seriously avoid interfaith discussion of any kind. Only we internet wackos will engage you, so you have a problem with sample size and with the actual sample.

    My own interest in debating Joseph Smith is very small, though. Having been through that before in spades, the debate is tiresome, and kind of boring. Perhaps that’s part of the problem?

    LDS Church doctrine is defined by the leadership oligarchy, in the simplest language possible. Mormonism is a cultural amalgam of what all Mormons say and do, as hard to pin down as nailing Jello to a wall.

    McConkie’s and other leaders’ statements are part of Mormonism, but not part of LDS Church doctrine.

    As a Mormon I nurse serious points of dissent with Mormonism, but no dissent from LDS Church doctrine, which doesn’t require me to believe very many things that would shock an EV-Christian.

  173. Besides, I do believe in a type of authority. In the Evangelical Covenant Church, only ordained ministers can bless the Eucharist. I keep the evangelical equivalent of this rule perfectly.

    Now, that would be a really interesting discussion. I don’t think Mormons really understand Evangelical approaches to ordinations and to authority. A nice, dispassionate discussion of similarities and differences would be very, very enlightening, and not at all out of bounds.

    The more we Mormons learn to appreciate what non-Mormons hold sacred and why, the better off we’d all be. Maybe that’s another thing we could want from you, and from ourselves, namely, greater understanding of you.

    (BTW, my wife, aged 37, raised smack in the middle of southern Utah, has also never heard the God/Mary thing ever taught to her, even outside formal church settings. She does suppose it could be possible that Jesus got married, though, but doesn’t think it all that critical whether or not it’s true.)

  174. My own interest in debating Joseph Smith is very small, though. Having been through that before in spades, the debate is tiresome, and kind of boring. Perhaps that’s part of the problem?

    It’s quite the problem that Mormons find their own history so boring. Don’t bother saying it’s the debate itself you find boring. Given the amount of space you have filled in this single entry alone, it’s obvious you don’t find debate itself boring. Therefore, it must be the subject you find boring.

    And really, that’s pretty pathetic, but it’s par for the course. One of the most shocking things to me is to discover that most Mormons just don’t give a crap about what they believe, it’s all just “kind of boring” to them. So why bother claiming exclusive authority on earth through Joseph Smith if you find the whole subject of him “kind of boring?”

  175. It’s quite the problem that Mormons find their own history so boring.

    A straw man.

    And really, that’s pretty pathetic, but it’s par for the course.

    Ad hominem with emotional rhetoric.

    One of the most shocking things to me is to discover that most Mormons just don’t give a crap about what they believe, it’s all just “kind of boring” to them.

    A sweeping generalization, and a straw man.

    What is “boring”? The tedium of refuting patronizing fallacy.

  176. It’s quite the problem that Mormons find their own history so boring.

    A straw man.

    No it’s not. A straw man is when you misrepresent your opponent’s argument.

    And really, that’s pretty pathetic, but it’s par for the course.

    Ad hominem with emotional rhetoric.

    No it’s not. Ad hominem is attacking the person instead of the idea. It’s not ad hominem to think it’s pathetic for Mormons to be disinterested in their own history. It’s just a really strong opinion.

    One of the most shocking things to me is to discover that most Mormons just don’t give a crap about what they believe, it’s all just “kind of boring” to them.

    A sweeping generalization, and a straw man.

    Again, this cannot possibly be a straw man. David is not mischaracterizing your argument to make you easier to defeat. He is making a generalization about Mormons. If you think his generalization is false, misleading, or overbroad, that’s fine. But the mere fact that it’s a generalization isn’t actually that much of a criticism. And a generalization is not a logical fallacy.

    What is “boring”? The tedium of refuting patronizing fallacy.

    No, what is boring is the tedium of internet debators constantly invoking logical fallacies either wrongly or when they are not applicable.

  177. Rob,

    OK, you don’t like my conclusion, that’s fine. Perhaps you can clarify something for me. If you find Joseph Smith fascinating and you enjoy debate, why is debating Joseph Smith “tiresome” and “kind of boring?”

  178. He has misrepresented my argument. In the first statement, “Mormons find their own history… boring.” That’s not true, and it’s the first assertion of the straw man argument. The end of the first strawman is “Therefore it must the the subject you find boring.”

    “That’s pretty pathetic”. What’s pathetic? If it’s “Mormons”, then it’s ad hominem. If not, then point taken, and it would have to be a conclusion offered as another point in his argument.

    Or, he’s begging the question; possibly both. “It’s pathetic, and you’re an example of why. But we knew that going in.” To conclude that I’d have to have evidence elsewhere that he thinks Mormons don’t think clearly. I will concede that this is a point of opinion and not a flaw in reasoning. But its basis is still a straw man.

    The generalization is overbroad, and hasty; it is not supportable that he knows that “most Mormons don’t give a crap about what they believe.” The fact is that this is likely true in one context for about half of all the people within “Mormonism”, but certainly false if the set is constrained to the set of Mormons who would bother to have a discussion. He should clarify what he means and offer a basis for it.

    In any case, he can’t possibly know “most Mormons”; there are 13 million to survey. No one Mormon knows most Mormons; his upper bound on Mormon acquaintances is likely less than one thousand.

    The reasoning is generalized from one Mormon’s statements, namely, mine, and imposed upon the set of all Mormons.

    Is that kind of generalization a logical fallacy? Quite so; it’s faulty induction. But this is fallacy alone on the basis that that is springs from the first straw man, and actually didn’t need an analysis. It might be the second point in a slippery slope.

    Thank you for pointing out the errors in reasoning, Kullervo; I appreciate it when I can refine my arguments with good criticism.

  179. Now, that would be a really interesting discussion. I don’t think Mormons really understand Evangelical approaches to ordinations and to authority. A nice, dispassionate discussion of similarities and differences would be very, very enlightening, and not at all out of bounds.

    The more we Mormons learn to appreciate what non-Mormons hold sacred and why, the better off we’d all be. Maybe that’s another thing we could want from you, and from ourselves, namely, greater understanding of you.

    I could do that. I would have to run the draft of my post by my pastor or someone from the ECC to make sure I’m explaining it right.

    I’ll think about doing it this week. Finals are coming up and I’m getting busy.

  180. David, having personally covered all the bases I can find about J.S. Jr, pro and con, over the last 25 years or so, I feel like there’s not been anything I can learn about him from arguing with others.

    In my experience, it’s simply too polarizing to be fruitful. I have tried, but the debate usually stops with something like, “He did not see God in that grove.”

    So… no point.

  181. In my experience, it’s simply too polarizing to be fruitful. I have tried, but the debate usually stops with something like, “He did not see God in that grove.”

    OK, so why does the church cover his story in the first discussion? Is it that he can be taught about but not debated?

  182. The LDS Missionary materials are not for debate; they’re for teaching proselytes. The answer to your question is, quite simply, “because that’s what the Church does.”

    The answer to your second question is, “Mu.”

  183. I’ve never found Joseph Smith or debates about him to be boring. “Tiresome” on the other hand. . .

    If you were familiar with my history with Seth you’d know I was being neither prurient nor over-the-top. Seth might agree.

  184. I’ve just read through this thread and I’m not sure what to say. Let me just try this…

    I agree, Jack, the church has built a wall and you’re not going to penetrate it. Not fully. But it’s not just a wall against evangelical Christianity. It’s a wall that surrounds the entire organization. And I think it’s there because the leadership genuinely believes it’s the most effective way to keep people in.

    As I’m sure you can imagine, the wall doesn’t harm just concerned outsiders. As an insider, I run up against the wall all the time. It’s painful. And from this side, I see it happen to others as well — people who don’t fit the mold, who struggle, who doubt, who sin. Mormonism can be an unfriendly place for lots of folks who find themselves in this position.

    And yet — maybe there’s room for compassion. Not to condone it, not to support it, but to understand it and accept that this is just the way it is right now. And if we’re going to love Mormons, today, in April 2010, we’re going to have to work within the wall. So what can we do? We can speak their language and share freeing insights within a construct they recognize. We can be fluent in the forms of worship and participate to the extent we feel we can. We can laugh with them, cry with them, and love them within their worldview. We can affirm the positive and forgive the negative.

    And maybe in the process, we’ll begin to see bits and pieces of the wall come slowly down. I hope so, anyway.

    In any case, thanks for your efforts. I know that for me personally, they haven’t been in vain. :)

  185. Katie, and Jack,

    I think the whole wall analogy is a false comparison, and hypocritical based on the fact that Christianity described in the Bible also sets up walls.

    There’s nothing wrong with one group believing that they are right. If they didn’t believe they were right they wouldn’t be in that group. Just that simple.

    If you put down Mormons for believing that they are right, and others are not, and you don’t put down any other Christian who believes that they are right, and others are wrong, there is a severe logical disconnect. I’ve never heard Evangelicals talk about how there’s no wall between Christians and Jews, but as Jews came first, certainly the wall came from the Christians who “invented them whole cloth” just as much as Joseph Smith appears to by the Evangelical standard. There’s also a wall formed by Christianity against Hindu’s, Muslims, Buddhists, Zorastrians, etc… Being able to compare Evangelicals in general to the pharisees in Jesus’ day is actually quite fulfilling for me, better not stay there too long. One could easily go through the New Testament and find sayings of Jesus where He told His followers to be separate, to require conversion, to spread war instead of love. But I guess we can always just say “Wall building is distinctive to Mormonism” even though having requirements for membership and covenantal relationship has been part of God’s law. If you need to review Suzerraign (sp?) treaties and the covenant nature of Israel’s relationship with Yahweh, now may the time to do so.

  186. PC, you’ll never hear me arguing that Christianity didn’t erect a wall against Judaism. In the process of growing out of Judaism, it specifically targeted and eliminated teachings that Jews considered to be essential. The Gospels can be read with touches of antisemitic tones with the regular references to the nefarious actions of “οἱ Ἰουδαίοι” and emphasis put on the fact that the Jews who were present at the crucifixion accepted the blame for killing Jesus. I’ve never denied this, so I don’t see where you’re getting that I’m a hypocrite.

    I have a harder time saying that Christianity erected a wall against Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, etc. because its internal doctrine does not specifically target or mention those religions. Any walls with them only exist indirectly as a result of our truth claims. We don’t teach Christians to question and challenge the problems with Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim thought. That Mormons teach their own to specifically challenge and question traditional Christian thought is precisely what started this thread; this thread isn’t about generalized exclusive claims to truth, it’s about systematically targeting another religion as part of your claims to truth.

    It’s also not the same thing with Catholicism because the original intention of Martin Luther and other early Protestants was to reform Catholicism, not erect an entirely new branch of Christianity. The RCC initially rejected Luther’s demands for reform, only to gradually implement most of them over the next several hundred years. So while there may be a wall between Catholics and Protestants, Roman Catholics did their part in building it. Joseph Smith never intended to nor attempted to reform traditional Christianity; building his own religion was always Plan A.

    You want to compare us to the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, go for it. Maybe next we can play “whose turn is it to be the devil” for good measure.

  187. My understanding David is that there has been a lot of backing away from that Catholic-Protestant reconciliation in the last ten years.

  188. Strictly speaking it was a Catholic Lutheran reconciliation. In 2006 a Methodist group also signed on. So I guess it is now a Protestant agreement, since more than just Lutherans signed on. That the document was ever written and agreed to is a miracle of epic proportions.

    Catholic/Anglican reconciliation has gone south, this is mainly over women’s ordination.

    Catholic/Orthodox reconciliation continues, albeit at a snails pace. However, the Catholic/Orthodox differences have never been as pronounced as Catholic/Protestant differences. And since the Orthodox are just as opposed to women’s ordination as are Catholics, they don’t have that dividing them.

    Protestant/Protestant reconciliation is going at a fast clip among the mainlines, though admittedly the differences were not very big to begin with.

  189. PC, but we weren’t talking about a wall set up by non-LDS Christians. We were talking about a wall set up by Mormons. Sure, evangelicals build walls, I never disputed that — but that’s not the issue Jack was addressing. Jack noticed that even if the evangelical camp were to get rid of all its wall-builders (and of course they exist), there would *still* be a wall — because the church itself has built one.

    And she’s right.

    It’s okay for us to own our crap. We don’t have to immediately say, “But YOU do it too!” when people point out things we do that are unhealthy. That’s part of breaking walls down.

    Finally, for the record, I wouldn’t say that believing you’re right is a wall. A wall is what happens when you set yourself up against the outside world and construct rigid rules, regulations, and teachings to protect insiders from contamination.

    I understand you can make an argument from scripture that this is an okay, even desirable, thing to do. I disagree with that interpretation, because I think it causes more harm than good in people’s lives, but I understand and have empathy for the impetus and believe it comes from pure motives, if that makes you feel any better.

  190. He has misrepresented my argument. In the first statement, “Mormons find their own history… boring.” That’s not true, and it’s the first assertion of the straw man argument. The end of the first strawman is “Therefore it must the the subject you find boring.”

    How is that misrepresenting your argument? He is making assertions about Mormons or Mormonism that may or may not be true, but it has nothing to doo with misrepresenting your argument in order to argue against something other than what you are actually saying.

    “That’s pretty pathetic”. What’s pathetic? If it’s “Mormons”, then it’s ad hominem. If not, then point taken, and it would have to be a conclusion offered as another point in his argument.

    No. Saying mean things about people is not necessarily ad hominem. It’s just being mean. Its an ad hominem fallacy if he tries to undermine a person’s argument by making attacks on the person. Not the same thing.

    Or, he’s begging the question; possibly both. “It’s pathetic, and you’re an example of why. But we knew that going in.” To conclude that I’d have to have evidence elsewhere that he thinks Mormons don’t think clearly. I will concede that this is a point of opinion and not a flaw in reasoning. But its basis is still a straw man.

    No. I don’t think you understand what a straw man is, Rob.

    The generalization is overbroad, and hasty; it is not supportable that he knows that “most Mormons don’t give a crap about what they believe.” The fact is that this is likely true in one context for about half of all the people within “Mormonism”, but certainly false if the set is constrained to the set of Mormons who would bother to have a discussion. He should clarify what he means and offer a basis for it.

    In any case, he can’t possibly know “most Mormons”; there are 13 million to survey. No one Mormon knows most Mormons; his upper bound on Mormon acquaintances is likely less than one thousand.

    The reasoning is generalized from one Mormon’s statements, namely, mine, and imposed upon the set of all Mormons.

    Is that kind of generalization a logical fallacy? Quite so; it’s faulty induction. But this is fallacy alone on the basis that that is springs from the first straw man, and actually didn’t need an analysis. It might be the second point in a slippery slope.

    You still don’t know what straw man means. And now you are the one making a straw man argument. He never said he was generalizing to all Mormons from you. You made that part up.

    Thank you for pointing out the errors in reasoning, Kullervo; I appreciate it when I can refine my arguments with good criticism.

    You are a moron.

  191. When I asked Rob if Joseph Smith can be taught but not debated, he replied that the answer was “Mu.” I thought that this was some cultural reference that I was simply too lame to get, and that someone would clarify what it meant. This has not happened.

    So I’ll ask the question again. Can Joseph Smith only be taught and not debated/discussed? I’m pretty sure the answer has nothing to do with Greek letters or imaginary continents.

  192. Maybe Wikipedia has the answer: “In his 1974 novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig translated mu as “no thing”, saying that it meant “unask the question”. He offered the example of a computer circuit using the binary numeral system, in effect using mu to represent high impedance”

    Not that I agree with Rob…. If we can’t debate Joseph Smith, can we still debate whether or not we can debate Joseph Smith?

  193. @David,

    The question “Can Joseph Smith be taught but not debated?”, in the context of “Why does the Church put his story in the first missionary discussion?” is, “Yes.” LDS Missionaries are to teach, but not debate what is taught.

    In wider contexts, it’s “No”. JS Jr is not off limits in discussions.

    “No” -and- “Yes”, in binary logic, is “Yes”, which is the wrong answer to your two questions, which answer is also not “No.”

    Hence, “Mu”, to convey a lack of confidence in what the context is.

    Of course debate is possible, and academic debate is even very desirable, but I have done it so much that I don’t value doing it again. I’m under the impression there is nothing new to gain from another go-around.

    Tim, I’ve no doubt that, based on all I’ve seen here from you, that you are neither prurient nor antagonistic towards us Mormons.

    Katie, I really appreciated reading your comments.

  194. MSJ: They taught that Mary became the wife of God the Father prior to the conception of Jesus. They taught that the Holy Spirit had to purify Mary in order to withstand the presence of God the Father for the conception of Jesus. They taught that it was a natural event, the result of natural action, and there was no “mysticism” about it.

    Here you are running the positions of a number of different people together. Different individuals said different things, and certainly some of them suggest what you conclude.

    “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)

    Based on this scripture can we conclude that the Holy Ghost had sexual relations with Mary? What about with the rest of us? Does he not dwell in the hearts of the righteous?

    In any case it doesn’t matter. “Mormonism” does not teach anything. Individuals teach things, organizations teach things. “Mormonism” is neither. These points are so old and so obscure that a minority of a minority is even aware that they exist. CARM’s implication to the contrary is dishonest, uncharitable, and un-Christian. Do the folks over there think they are doing God a favor with such prevarication?

  195. Hi Mark,

    Based on this scripture can we conclude that the Holy Ghost had sexual relations with Mary?

    Not really. ἐπέρχομαι (come upon) and ἐπισκιάζω (overshadow) have no sexual connotations whatsoever in Greek.

    I’m not a fan of CARM at all and you’ll never catch me disagreeing that they can be a dishonest and uncharitable lot (see my blog post here), but you’re the only one who has mentioned them. I haven’t said anything about Mormonism teaching the God-Mary thing. All I said was that certain LDS leaders have taught it. I agree that numerous counter-cult ministries have sensationalized and exaggerated the prevalence of this teaching, but all I’m trying to do is acknowledge its existence in its proper context.

    BTW, I should have said this earlier, but I really appreciated the rest of your thoughts on this topic. Thank you much for paying us a visit.

  196. Thanks MSJ. Miracle, spiritual overshadowing, whatever I think the case is too mysterious to judge short of the proposition that there was some sort of physical, external sexual intercourse going on. The latter is a suggestion so far beyond the pale that half the LDS Church would revolt if it were unambiguously conveyed over the pulpit. Then, now, whenever.

    So I think it is a historical curiosity that some handful of Mormon commentators suggested such a thing, but by this point at least it is hardly a bridge that needs to be crossed. The LDS Church has been scrubbing its publications of much milder non-doctrinal speculations for decades now, even to an extreme.

  197. Unfortunately, items 3 & 5 is at the heart of your ‘Mormon built wall’. You admit yourself that its bad but you brush it off as if it has had no affect. My Stepdad just passed away..for an unexpected death, the Lord was quite merciful…all the love, support, and clearly Divine assistance we received was too much to ignore as being anything but the Hand of God. I was not bashful in sharing the beauty of the experience, and told many..of different faiths..but my evangelical aunt interrupted and changed the subject…and while telling my evangelical sister, she changed into a hardened data base of evangelical Mormon propaganda. Instead of sharing an intimate spiritual experience I was forced to try to reconcile her misconceptions about my faith.
    Who lies? Who divides? It is not God…and to say that points 3 & 5 are merely unfortunate is a gross understatement. Though you and others realize those tactics are used, do you dismiss them, their sources, and whatever else that source says? No..the lies and deceptions still spread…and how do you reason it? Why do not lies bother you? because it supports your view and therefore justified? Again..God doesn’t use lies and deception to maintain his Kingdom. Satan does. Weed out the anti-Mormon (lies and deception about classify material as such for there sole existance is to ruin, not for truth’s sake) and we’ll all get closer to the truth. Your little Vote thing has the flavor of such, so you cannot say you’re still unaffected.

  198. As far as the sacred Mary conception thing..she was called a virgin for a reason…i’m sure she was checked out and found to be just that.
    But I think the line of reasoning is; is not sex the means by which we bring about life? Is it not thee most sacred power given to us mortals? Is there anything unpure, or unholy about a husband and wife having sexual relations? Sex OUTSIDE of marriage is one of the worst sins we can commit..would that not be because the power to create is one of the biggest gifts? I know of no greater joy than being one with my wife..I need not have lust, but am filled with love, for she gives herself to me, and I to her. To imagine Diety in such a state is not comprehensible to him who views on sex differ. We have seen the world objectify sex, the man, the woman…its difficult imagining our parents having sex without a sense of revulsion..yet there’s nothing wrong with it. Let not Satan’s display of what sex is (pleasure, lust, selfishness) corrupt our thoughts…and if we cannot see sex as a Sacred and Holy act, then we should not engage in such a conversation.

  199. Isaac ~ I didn’t dwell on the problems touched on in points 3 & 5 because that wasn’t the point of this post, and people who are familiar with me (which you obviously aren’t) know that I have denounced popular anti-LDS speakers and authors elsewhere (see below). The point of this post was to explore Mormonism’s contribution to the divide between our faiths.

    Out of curiosity, what do you propose evangelicals like me ought to do about points 3 & 5? What’s your practical solution to the problem? Because merely barking at us to “weed out the lies” isn’t very helpful.

    Who lies? Who divides?

    On Monday of this week, I entertained my visiting teachers from my husband’s LDS ward. Somehow our conversation got off on baptism, and I tried to talk to them about how my deceased grandfather had baptized me as an infant and how I was touched by his gesture even though I’m not an advocate of infant baptism. I mentioned that it was the Nazarene church that I had been baptized at.

    One of them said, “Your grandfather was probably afraid you would go to hell if he didn’t baptize you.”

    The Church of the Nazarene has never taught that unbaptized infants are going to hell. To borrow your own words, instead of sharing an intimate spiritual experience, I was forced to try to reconcile their misconceptions about the Nazarene faith.

    Now you tell me: who lied to my visiting teachers about the Nazarene doctrine of infant baptism?

    Though you and others realize those tactics are used, do you dismiss them, their sources, and whatever else that source says? No..the lies and deceptions still spread…and how do you reason it? Why do not lies bother you? because it supports your view and therefore justified?

    You sure about that?

    Your little Vote thing has the flavor of such, so you cannot say you’re still unaffected.

    Sure I can. There was nothing “anti-Mormon” about the poll in this post and I think your accusation here reflects an uncharitable spirit on your part.

    Is there anything unpure, or unholy about a husband and wife having sexual relations?

    Not in the least.

    But a father having sex with his daughter is kind of gross.

    P. S. ~ I am sorry to hear about your step-dad, and I’m sorry that your evangelical relatives were rude about your faith in the wake of his passing. I hope your family is able to navigate this loss with hope and that you’re able to find comfort.

  200. Greg Johnson tells a story about performing an Evangelical funeral for a family member. After the funeral one of his Mormon relatives could be heard saying on her way out “That was lame.”

    So now that we’ve both been poked in the nose by rude and insensitive people, can we move forward?

  201. I am truly disappointed at the circumstances of our meeting. I apologize for my unjustified gouging of someone I knew nothing about. I recognize that LDS-ians would benefit by taking on attributes of Evangelicals…There are Evangelicalisms that are perfectly sound that LDS-ians just don’t do because its too Evangelical..and vise versa. I admire your purpose and feel hopeful that I might have the chance of further correspondence with you in furthering your goal.

    “Now you tell me: who lied to my visiting teachers about the Nazarene doctrine of infant baptism?”

    It is implied…why would anyone baptize an infant unless they feared they’d be ‘unprepared’ to meet God? For him to bring it up was insensitive but not entirely unjustified considering the implications of the act. Mere tradition or not, for the act to take hold, belief in its importance must have existed. No one lied..he was just tactless.
    Though that gentleman also assumed incorrectly, I think my experience with the Evangelists of my family differ. Its as though anything I say, on a religious or spiritual level, is automatically judged wrong then carefully considered as to why its wrong. Even when its a point that I know we have in common (because i believe it just as they say it..) its as if they choose to hear what they were taught by anti’s rather than listen to the words coming out of my mouth. Faith in what I have to say has been replaced with doubt in the form of erroneous and false doctrines. Is it possible to twist a true doctrine? Very easily. So when I mention a topic, they filter back to the falsehood and replace a true word with it…I have my Mormon Glasses but I can share in another’s experience without being impeded by false facts about their faith (because we don’t teach such things).
    Misunderstandings will occur..but when a faith institutes a regimen of anti-ism, the misunderstandings turn into negative propaganda.

    “Sure I can. There was nothing “anti-Mormon” about the poll in this post and I think your accusation here reflects an uncharitable spirit on your part.”
    Your poll questions make incorrect assertions

    “. . . Jesus was truly born of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit?”
    We don’t teach that??? That she was a virgin is a fact and we testify of such.

    “. . . temple ordinances were primarily for furthering spiritual growth and not necessary commandments on the road to exaltation?”
    All of that is true..all ordinances (ie the sacrament) are primarily for the facilitation of spiritual growth which is keeping the commandments which is bringing us closer to God (being Christ centered) which is on the road to exaltation. How could one be without the other?

    To such, and others, I could not feel right in saying yes or no..for the questions assume fallacy…anti literature takes truth and splits it against itself, like that last example, stating a truth as if it was not.
    A Jewish tradition of scholarship is not to find an answer, but to find the multiple facets of the same truth. For is not Gods’ truth multifaceted?? The Jewish if-and (there is no if-then form in the ancient Hebrew) reflects that all encompassing perspective..heavenly even. Instead of saying…”this scripture says ‘this’ so then ‘thats’ false” would it not be more constructive to say “how can ‘this’ AND ‘that’ be true?”
    In the example of the temple..why pit one truth against another when they were designed to be harmonious?

    “Not in the least.

    But a father having sex with his daughter is kind of gross.”

    Why would you even want that image to be had?? In order to establish the depravity of mankind?? Why would you ascribe incest and porn to Deity in ANY form?? There’s a distinction for you..if the topic is mentioned among LDSians, its ever so carefully, ever so quietly, with reverence… and yet here you are bringing up the Conception of the Son of God as a scene in a rated R movie. Your attitude is inharmonious with the Spirit of God and propagates sacrilege. How? This topic has been pushed away from the initial point of establishing Christ as the Only Begotten to comparing his conception with incest and porn. Such an attitude could not avail itself to anything proper.
    Since you took it there..
    The laws against incest in mortality are understandable but how does it apply in the eternities? Adam and Eve’s children committed ‘incest’..so perhaps the family of Noah…and a prophet was drugged by his daughters so that the line would continue. We, as spiritual Brother’s and Sister’s commit spiritual incest, huh?? I’d be careful applying the laws given to us, to God…Surely, the advent of the only Begotten Son of God would receive precedence. All law, all creation pretty much bend around Jesus Christ and his mission.
    The fact is that Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son..only way for that to be true is for the cell that is usually given of the male was given of God the Father. Back in the day, there was only one way that was known to occur. In establishing the FACT that Christ IS the ONLY BEGOTTEN they reasoned how that would work within the bounds of God’s commandments and the principals then revealed. Denying Christ is literally the Only Begotten is a approach some of your faith have taken…which point testify’s of Christ’s divinity? I’ll take God the Father being the literal Father…and I’ll consider the means too sacred for our worldly mentality to consider.
    .

  202. “Out of curiosity, what do you propose evangelicals like me ought to do about points 3 & 5? What’s your practical solution to the problem? Because merely barking at us to “weed out the lies” isn’t very helpful”

    I wanted this in a separate post..but now i have little time to respond …but I will. Give me a few :)

  203. .

    Why would you even want that image to be had?? In order to establish the depravity of mankind?? Why would you ascribe incest and porn to Deity in ANY form?? There’s a distinction for you..if the topic is mentioned among LDSians, its ever so carefully, ever so quietly, with reverence… and yet here you are bringing up the Conception of the Son of God as a scene in a rated R movie. Your attitude is inharmonious with the Spirit of God and propagates sacrilege.

    I think Jack’s point is that the LDS commentators are the ones who brought up ‘literal’ procreation, not her. If some LDS consider the procreation literal and biological, I think R-rated scenes necessarily follow.

    To many, the distastefulness of the doctrine remains regardless of whether it’s spoken of in hushed tones.

    “if the topic is mentioned among LDSians, its ever so carefully, ever so quietly, with reverence”

    I guess you haven’t visited the ever popular discussion of Jesus’ polygamy.

    http://ldstalk.wordpress.com/2007/07/29/jesus-was-a-polygamist/

  204. P.S. I don’t have a problem with the biological reference as long as the resulting artwork is “English Patient” R-rated and not “American Pie” R-rated. ;)

  205. You stand correct in pointing out the in-effect of Mormons being defensive about their beliefs. Not owning up to doctrines taught puts into question the doctrines that ARE taught. Not being educated in our own history adds to the rift.

    What I have found doesn’t help is a negative connotation being attached to whatever is ‘explored’. The conception of Christ for instance..when it is spoken of amongst LDS, the spirit is to tread vERY lightly, for with an idle thought we might think evil…hence, it is not shared lightly..yet there are those who proclaim
    “Lo, here is the evil that can be thought of this, if one so inclines their mind to it..Lo, see how easy it is to see revulsion in the conception of the Son of God..Lo, how disgusting and depraved are the Mormons for inclining their minds to such wickedness..Lo, Mormons, see here what you believe..”
    ..and are you surprised that Mormons, of one accord, denounce that teaching?? THAT is not what we bend our minds to. Worse..without shame, the very thought that we want to be furthest from ANY mind is proclaimed upon the rooftops and often, with a foul mouth.
    Thus we see that a doctrine changes with the spirit with which its taught. Evangelists assume that Christ is not the center of our lives…any doctrine that we hold dear is painted in the worst possible light..and in such light, it IS NOT true. One must apply Christ in all things for all things to be One…if taught by any other means would be skewing the principle of truth.

    The sacrament one..you were just trying to make a point I guess but its the spirit by which you assumed that’s offensive. Technically speaking, those who have not been baptized have no claim on renewing a covenant they never made (in LDS context)…but the spirit is never one where a person pews away clammers over people to stop a known nonmember from taking the sacrament…or as if its strictly enforced. I tell those I’m with who ask that the sacrament is a renewing of our covenant to follow Christ and free them to partake.
    Yet, I would not go out onto the street with sacrament in hand, passing it out to all i meet in a hope of their salvation..to withhold partaking of it until the commitment has been made is holding the Sacrament Sacred and is not evil. Nor would allowing the sincere in heart TO partake..for if Christ were present, surely He would exclude no-one from partaking in such a momentous occasion. Who am I to judge if that person has a sincere desire or not? I would not propose to ruin an uplifting experience. Notwithstanding, if they are sincere, then surely they will come to make that commitment in baptism..then the earlier partaking would not have been in vain.

    The focus on how denying the sacrament is JUST bad comes from a very one angled understanding.

    A broadening of the mind could help out. Check out Margaret Barker.

  206. Jesus and polygamy..same principle, would Christ’s perfection be compromised if he had a wife? Would perfectly existing in such a relationship lessen or deepen God’s Condescension? I choose not to think of the details, thank you but the proposition gives hope to the human condition…if Jesus Christ couldn’t participate in such relations without perfect love then He would not be the Son of God, sex is not sacred, and our love is doomed to lust only.

  207. Isaac ~ Welcome back. I’m glad you weren’t a drive-by one-hit commentator.

    why would anyone baptize an infant unless they feared they’d be ‘unprepared’ to meet God?

    (1) Because they believe baptism has replaced circumcision as the outward symbol of God’s covenant people, and circumcisions were usually performed at 8 days of age. This is probably the most common reason Protestants will give for infant baptism.

    (2) Because they believe God is already working in the child’s life and they want an outward symbol of this spiritual reality (this is why my pastor’s parents had her baptized as an infant).

    (3) Because the book of Acts records entire “households” being baptized (16:15) and some people think this included infants, thus setting the pattern for other believers.

    Besides, the idea that a child could go from damned to saved via the physical act of baptism would represent a form of works-salvation that is horribly incongruous with the Protestant emphasis on sola gratia. Protestants have certainly debated the fate of infants and young children who die before they’re old enough to confess Christ, but few have ever preached that infant baptism was the magic bullet that would save children from hell.

    For the record, I don’t necessarily think anyone lied to my visiting teachers (who are women) directly. I do think Mormons misrepresent the theology behind Protestant infant baptism on a regular basis due to sloppy misapplications of Moroni 8. That’s probably where they got it from.

    My point in bringing up the story of my VTs was that we’ve all got war stories of cringe-worthy things that the other side has said and done to us. Sometimes it’s innocent misunderstanding, sometimes it’s willful misrepresentation, sometimes people are just plain mean. I don’t think licking these wounds and showing off our scars helps either side very much.

    We don’t teach that??? That she was a virgin is a fact and we testify of such.

    This has been covered in the comments on this thread (here, here and here, for example).

    Jared said:

    I think Jack’s point is that the LDS commentators are the ones who brought up ‘literal’ procreation, not her. If some LDS consider the procreation literal and biological, I think R-rated scenes necessarily follow.

    That’s about the size of it. I would rather people not talk about God having a conjugal relationship with Mary in the first place, but Brigham Young et al. started it.

    Technically speaking, those who have not been baptized have no claim on renewing a covenant they never made

    Which was my point exactly. Protestants make their own covenants to follow Christ at their baptisms, yet Mormons will not share a table with us. They don’t recognize the covenants that we make as binding and valid.

    I’m really not understanding why pointing that out is offensive to you.

    Check out Margaret Barker.

    I have had a brief correspondence with Ms. Barker and will be discussing her in my upcoming MA thesis on the Book of Mormon.

  208. Isaac,

    Just a few points of clarification

    1) an Evangelist is a person who proclaims the Gospel.

    2) an Evangelical is one who holds to the tenets of Evangelicalism.

    3) Margaret Barker can do far more to undermine the LDS church than to convert Evangelicals to Mormonism. Jack and I are aware of how her selected readings encourage Mormons.

  209. Ms. Jack, in listing three reasons why some people would have infants baptized, said, among other reasons:

    (2) Because they believe God is already working in the child’s life and they want an outward symbol of this spiritual reality (this is why my pastor’s parents had her baptized as an infant).

    When our young children were baptized as infants (back in my pre-LDS days), that is very close to the reason. In the churches we were attending at the time, infant baptism was not seen as a way of keeping children out of hell or anything of the sort. In some ways, it was kind of like a proxy LDS baptism: It represented an act of grace and was symbolic of providing the opportunity whereby the child could, at a later time when having the capability of doing do, accept the gospel and not have to be baptized afterward. As part of the baptism, the parents and the congregation would promise (covenant, if you will) to support the child in his/her Christian faith, so in some ways it was also welcoming the child as a member of the universal church.

    Ms. Jack also hypothesized:

    I do think Mormons misrepresent the theology behind Protestant infant baptism on a regular basis due to sloppy misapplications of Moroni 8. That’s probably where they got it from.

    In my opinion, where they get it from is ignorance.

    Probably most of us have heard stories of Catholics who believe that their babies would suffer eternal consequences unless baptized, to the point where they would have children born seriously ill baptized by a doctor or nurse in the hospital if a priest were not available. (I have personally known people nurses who have seen this happen.) I don’t know precisely what the Catholic belief is on this matter, but I’d venture to say that Catholic belief is often characterized this way. And, frankly, many if not most Mormons, especially those who grew up in the Church, don’t know enough about the theological differences between Catholics and Protestants to know that Protestants may have an entirely different view.

    Moroni 8, in my opinion, is more about the doctrine of original sin (which itself is understood in different ways by different Christians) than it is about infant baptism per se (despite what the chapter heading may say). But that’s a whole other issue.

  210. I know of two sets of parents who suffered that belief recently. The doctrine is in modern practice so please don’t fault me for an assumption ;).
    Awesome info on the infant baptism..I had no idea. I didn’t know anyone practiced it outside Catholicism..and the only reference we have on it IS Moroni 8. Upon reading the scripture in class, one would expect a brief review and if someone feels generous they may attest to having witnessed the practice, while abroad. If someone doesn’t know, they may ask about the religion of the area which always strikes me as being Catholic.

    “(2) Because they believe God is already working in the child’s life and they want an outward symbol of this spiritual reality (this is why my pastor’s parents had her baptized as an infant).”
    Thats beautiful..we too want an outward recognition of the spiritual life of the newborn. In our Sacrament meeting we name the child as a part of a blessing. Sweet

    Yeah, loved your “on April 22, 2010 at 7:05 pm” post..that was what got me going.

    ~Sigh~ I am pained by the wall which divides..and in my sour state I snap at the innocent..for there is much to be sour about. Being so close to someone but not being able to share your spirituality with them…its ugly.

    Psssh..given the depth, I am compelled to peruse what has already been said, meanwhile, I know I can trust in a correction if I were to err.

    “I have had a brief correspondence with Ms. Barker and will be discussing her in my upcoming MA thesis on the Book of Mormon.”
    How cool is that!

  211. Tim…hmmm…then most of my references should have stated Evangelicalist? I do complicate things sometimes
    And I wouldn’t rely on M. B. for a conversion..hahaa..but she’s throwing down some heavy info…dang yo

    Lo! That represents the outcry, the spreading of, the bringing attention to, gathering listeners for.

    Ignorant indeed! Yup..didn’t know anything about Protestant Infant Baptism…pretty much

  212. The sacrament one..you were just trying to make a point I guess but its the spirit by which you assumed that’s offensive. Technically speaking, those who have not been baptized have no claim on renewing a covenant they never made (in LDS context)…but the spirit is never one where a person pews away clammers over people to stop a known nonmember from taking the sacrament…or as if its strictly enforced. I tell those I’m with who ask that the sacrament is a renewing of our covenant to follow Christ and free them to partake.
    Yet, I would not go out onto the street with sacrament in hand, passing it out to all i meet in a hope of their salvation..to withhold partaking of it until the commitment has been made is holding the Sacrament Sacred and is not evil. Nor would allowing the sincere in heart TO partake..for if Christ were present, surely He would exclude no-one from partaking in such a momentous occasion. Who am I to judge if that person has a sincere desire or not? I would not propose to ruin an uplifting experience. Notwithstanding, if they are sincere, then surely they will come to make that commitment in baptism..then the earlier partaking would not have been in vain.

    In 3 Nephi 18:29, Jesus says “For whoso eateth and drinketh my flesh and blood unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to his soul; therefore if ye know that a man is unworthy to eat and drink of my flesh and blood ye shall forbid him.”

  213. I will tell you some of my favorites:

    Tim…hmmm…then most of my references should have stated Evangelicalist?

    No, that is not a word.

    Upon reading the scripture in class, one would expect a brief review and if someone feels generous they may attest to having witnessed the practice, while abroad. If someone doesn’t know, they may ask about the religion of the area which always strikes me as being Catholic.

    What? What are you even talking about? It’s not an exotic practice from foreign lands. What does it mean the region strikes you as being Catholic?

    Psssh..given the depth, I am compelled to peruse what has already been said, meanwhile, I know I can trust in a correction if I were to err.

    Are you just compulsively using the thesaurus? Words have tone, connotation, style and shades of meaning. You can’t just switch out synonyms with reckless abandon without losing coherence. Which is what you have done here.

  214. Kullervo,
    “In 3 Nephi 18:29, Jesus says “For whoso eateth and drinketh my flesh and blood unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to his soul; therefore if ye know that a man is unworthy to eat and drink of my flesh and blood ye shall forbid him.”

    Yes..that is why the rule exists and I’m glad you mentioned that scripture.
    In 3 Nephi 11:21 “And the Lord said unto him: I give unto you power that ye shall baptize this people when I am again ascended into heaven”
    The Lord broke bread and drank wine with them, as the sacrament, before he ascended and before any were baptized which confirms the point that you missed.

    I understand the reason why the rule is in place..but the Law does not rule the Spirit, the Law is ruled by the Spirit. If there was someone who was counseled not to partake of the sacrament, they can still lift their hand and take bread and water when it’s passed. They would be damned..and when does that occur? When they make (remake, renew) covenants they have no intention of keeping they are not progressing toward God, they repent not, have not the Spirit with them, they tether themselves with the chains of hell. When is the Sacrament non-damning? When the individual makes a covenant to always remember Christ and to keep the commandments which he has given..and does so in sincerity and earnest. Then he is lifted, closer to God, repentant, and full of the Spirit. That applies for baptized and non-baptized.

    My grief is that you would take a point and use it as a dagger…or to only depict it as un-Christian when the actual practice of that point encompasses the Spirit of Christ. For is it not the accusation that Mormons won’t allow a fellow Christian, of firm devotion, partake of the Sacrament? And I say that’s false. If you have it in your heart to provoke, or to make a statement thereby then be prepared for denial..for that is an unworthy cause.

  215. In my experience, Mormons do absolutely nothing about who does and does not take the sacrament. And this is contrary to Jesus’s explicit instructions. Jesus doesn;t say to decide in your own heart whether you are worthy to take the sacrament or not, but do not judge what other people decide. He says to keep a keen eye on who’s hand goes for the tray and don;t let the unworthy get their sinful hands on it. To protect them from eating and drinking damnation.

  216. An ‘Evangelicalist’ would be a person who believes, participates in Evangelical practices. Not a typical word..but words are created to express new concepts. Besides, it was a jest.

    If someone feels bold enough to mention the practice on their mission means that it was a prevalent practice and the doctrine had to be dealt with (the parents really believed their baby would go to hell). Those mission fields were all in areas where Catholicism dominated. Or thats what my impressions have been, which is consistent if Protestants who practice it do not believe in the culpability of children. We couldn’t be teaching that Protestants are guilty of a doctrine behind a practice if we don’t even know they practiced it.

    I choose my words carefully..I was saying that there is depth to the Ms Jack and the other posters, and that I am compelled to read a bit more carefully before I spout off any more assumptions…and that I welcome course correction if I say something uncouth. I’m wordy, but I really do try to trim it down.
    This is my style of writing..my thoughts are more than what I can write. I apologize if my nonconformity to the standard rule bothers you

  217. An ‘Evangelicalist’ would be a person who believes, participates in Evangelical practices. Not a typical word..but words are created to express new concepts. Besides, it was a jest.

    There’s already a word for that. “Evangelical.” An evangelical. Tim is an evangelical.

    So that’s not a new word for a new concept. It’s a completely redundant word.

    If someone feels bold enough to mention the practice on their mission means that it was a prevalent practice and the doctrine had to be dealt with (the parents really believed their baby would go to hell). Those mission fields were all in areas where Catholicism dominated. Or thats what my impressions have been, which is consistent if Protestants who practice it do not believe in the culpability of children. We couldn’t be teaching that Protestants are guilty of a doctrine behind a practice if we don’t even know they practiced it.

    You know that there are 68 million Roman Catholics in the United States, right? That’s more than six times as many Mormons as the LDS church claims in the entire world. Catholicism is not an exotic religion practiced in foreign lands. 22% of people in the United States are Catholic.

    This is my style of writing..my thoughts are more than what I can write. I apologize if my nonconformity to the standard rule bothers you

    The problem is not your “nonconformity to the standard rule” so much as your nonconformity to coherence and readibility.

  218. So one says Mormons are bad because they have the rule, and another says we’re bad because we don’t enforce it as they would?
    How would you know someone is unworthy? If you had first hand knowledge then you might have cause to deny someone the sacrament..but how do you do it? Do you pull the tray away? Slap their hand? Pull down on their ear? Hardly Christ like. One goes about it with Charity..for love of the person and for their welfare..and within that infinite love is room to hope in the sincerity of the sinner, to turn their life around. If they do not..and continue..then hopefully a friend or a leader can compel the person to repentance.
    The Bishop is the authority we count on for determining the worthiness of a person and he will ask them not to…and its usually just that…asking them if they will withhold from partaking to assist themselves in the process of repentance. This would be after an explanation has been given of the gravity of the situation. This would not apply to those outside our faith.
    I give your approach validity..but its not so cut and dry. Christ does not want us policing each other during the Sacrament…looking for faults and motives to accuse. Can you imagine?? How contrary to the Spirit of God! The person who fixates on who should and shouldn’t partake is the one who needs to focus on the Sacrament and its meaning the most.
    If we do nothing, then we will be held accountable. I will admit that giving offense is a fear that stops most of us from doing so..it should not be.

  219. So one says Mormons are bad because they have the rule, and another says we’re bad because we don’t enforce it as they would?

    You’re right! That’s just completely insane that two people with radically different backgrounds and worldviews could come to different conclusions about the same thing! What a terrible injustice!

    For the record, I said nothing of the sort. I didn;t say “you’re bad because you don’t enforce it as I would.” I just said your scriptures teaches something really clearly, you practice it in a way that is obviously totally contrary to the scriptures, and you swear up and down that it’s consistent. As usual.

    I don’t really care what you do or how you do it. I’m just pointing out that in the Book of Mormon, Jesus supposedly said “therefore if ye know that a man is unworthy to eat and drink of my flesh and blood ye shall forbid him.” But I have never seen any forbidding going on.

  220. What are you going on about?
    To Ms Jacks reproof on how I shouldn’t make assumptions about what her parent church believed on infant baptism, I said,
    “I know of two sets of parents who suffered that belief recently. The doctrine is in modern practice so please don’t fault me for an assumption”
    I know its not an exotic practice. Running into the problem of consoling someone can be proportional to the extent to which its practiced. Catholicism is big in the States but its nothing like parts of Europe or South and Central America. Have you ever seen a shrine made of bones in the States? The mentality and culture are VERY different, thank you, and so are their beliefs and practices. The differences are subjective, but they exist all the same.

    Redundant. Yes. It was supposed to be that, thank you. Thought you missed it at first.

  221. And I pointed out that Christ administered the sacrament to those who were not baptized. So that concludes that there is an underlining Spirit that can overrule the Law. What is that Spirit? The Spirit of Jesus Christ..of charity, of faith, of hope, of forgiveness. You’ll not see a big scene if someone is ever ‘denied’…its done quietly and one-on-one…for the benefit of the individual, not for the glory of the Law.
    Just as it’s important for someone to understand the purpose of taking the sacrament, it is important for someone to understand why they shouldn’t partake of it. If I were to slap you down and humiliate you, surely you wouldn’t try to take it again..but if there is no instruction, no love, no compassion then the act of denial would actually do no good.
    Upon understanding the why, a person can willingly choose to withhold partaking and in doing so, begins his journey back to Christ…focusing on the sins for which he needs to repent of and changing, rather than allowing those sins a free pass each week.

  222. Saint Anthony’s Chapel in Pittsburgh, PA is the largest shrine in the US with over 4,000 relics (some are the bones of saints) and the Shrine of the Holy Relics in Maria Stein, Ohio has over 1,100 relics.

  223. I think Isaac would understand better if you said:

    To which, if you inquire within, St. Anthony’s in the state of Pennsylvania’s city Pittsburgh will be found a shrine; made of bones it is; to be found there. Bones of saints even.

  224. I saw the bones of St Nicolas in Antalya Turkey years ago. I found an appreciation for eastern iconography while I was there. Imagine my disappointment when I found out he was in Italy.

  225. No Jared.

    I have personally witnessed a “zoinks” from the lips of the immortal Snagglepuss.

    The fact that I still remember it to this day means it must have been a key childhood moment for me.

  226. I’m afraid I haven’t spent much time on the East Coast.
    No Kullervo, bones have very little to do with it. What is your point, anyways? Perhaps I didn’t address your question properly.
    You said,
    “What? What are you even talking about? It’s not an exotic practice from foreign lands. What does it mean the region strikes you as being Catholic?”

    My point was to give a typical scenario of how infant baptism was taught, or talked about in the LDS classroom. To my recollection, anytime anyone had a personal knowledge of the practice, they were associating with Catholics..so I’m describing how I (and most LDS) didn’t realize that there are non-Catholics who practice infant baptism. Region, area…I wanted to include stateside AND foreign..don’t know why it felt so exotic to you.
    Ms. Jack would like to neutralize my gripe about the affect of anti-mormon literature on my family relationships by giving an example of how a LDS woman applied the wrong doctrine to her family’s faith. The example shows just how ignorant most LDS are on who practices infant baptism, how, and why.
    I see your point Ms. Jack about not licking wounds and showing off scars. When there’s a balanced counter argument, I will concede a draw, but your example lacks one crucial element. You’re not dealing with a faith that makes spreading misinformation on your beliefs apart of their monthly agenda.

  227. You’re not dealing with a faith that makes spreading misinformation on your beliefs apart of their monthly agenda.

    Sure she is. Every single Mormon missionary who mentions the great apostasy is spreading misinformation about traditional Christianity. Every single missionary who compares a Protestant minister’s salary to ‘priestcraft’ is spreading misinformation. Every time a LDS missionary mentions the “restoration” of the priesthood they are spreading misinformation about the true priesthood. The core of the LDS faith is that traditional Christianity failed.

    At least ‘anti-mormonism’ isn’t the core of anyone’s belief in traditional Christianity. It’s an add on. Mormons want to say they never attack anyone else’s faith, but their very existence is an attack on traditional Christianity.

  228. There is a mountain of misinformation about other Christian denominations being taught all the time in Mormon meetings. Setting aside the core/foundational stuff that Tim finds offensive, Mormons often just plain and simple do not have enough exposure to other denominations on their own terms to have any real idea what they are about. There’s nothing malign about it; it’s simple ignorance. But because of Mormonism’s foundational claims, Mormons do often discuss their beliefs, practices, and church structures as compared to what they think the beliefs, practices, and church structures of other denominations are. And they’re usually laughably wrong. Half the time, Mormons are still quoting Joseph Smith History (which was probably not an accurate portrayal of other denominations in the 1820′s) to explain what other denominations believe now.

    Eva ngelicals are just as guilty of this when discussing Christianity vis-a-vis other religions. I have heard the claim that other religions offer “works-based salvation” so many times that it makes me puke. It comes from trying to interpret other religions through Christianity as opposed to trying to understand them on their own terms, and the result is massively distorted.

  229. I’m sorry to have lost track of this thread. Been busy lately.

    Isaac ~ Please understand that “What do you want from us?” was not intended as an exhaustive introduction to the tenants of Mormonism that it discusses. It was spurred by a conversation that we were having in another thread (which I tried to make clear in the very first line of the post) and it was intended as an in-depth discussion among people who were familiar with each other and already had a working knowledge of the principles being discussed.

    Most of the regulars on this blog (Tim, Seth R., Jared, Kullervo, Katyjane) have been here for years. I’ve now been commenting here over two years myself. My intention in discussing very specific aspects of these teachings was not to deceive hapless newcomers to Mormon studies, or to portray Mormon beliefs in a bad light, but to push the regulars here at this blog past “Gospel Essentials” type fluff into thoughtful reflection and exploration of these issues.

    That is why my poll question on the Sacrament (for example) only asked about allowing non-Mormon to take the Sacrament. If I were simply trying to explain Mormonism to someone who is completely new to it, of course I wouldn’t exclusively focus in on the fact that non-Mormons aren’t supposed to take it.

    You may very well know a few Protestants who believed their infants would go to hell if they didn’t get baptized. I’ll never deny that teachings like that are found in the historical theology surrounding infant baptism and they do (on rare occasions) find their way into people’s beliefs today. It’s not unlike how some Mormons today still believe that God had a connubial relationship with Mary even though LDS leaders haven’t taught that for some time.

    But, if people believe that, it’s probably not because they’re being taught it in church. Most Protestant churches have an official teaching on infant baptism that doesn’t include “do this or your children are going to hell.” It was probably either handed down to them from an older generation that still believes in it or they derived it from teachings on original sin.

    My point in bringing up what my VTs said wasn’t to “neutralize” your experience with your relatives. I only wanted to show that Mormons do, in fact, spread misinformation about what other Christians believe.

    If you haven’t already done so, I really recommend that you read the blog post that I did of my own experience with counter-cult evangelicals when I was a teenager: “Memoirs of a Former Evangelical Anti-Mormon.” I was crushed when I first realized all of the awful things evangelical Christians had said and done to misrepresent LDS beliefs. I reached a point where I was very close to joining the church simply because I couldn’t understand why evangelical Christians were going to such lengths to deceive if we were the ones with the truth. My thinking at the time was that maybe Mormons really did have the truth if we were doing so much to tear them down when they were essentially not hurting us.

    I’m older now. It’s been over eleven years since I reached that point and my perspective has changed. While I still have a low opinion of the things a lot of evangelical Christians have said and done to Mormons, I no longer see the LDS church as an innocent victim in a religious war that it did not start. Mormons do misrepresent and attack what other Christians believe, they just tend to do so in more subtle and institutionalized ways. Examples:

    - The pre-1990 temple ceremony. Say whatever you want about evangelical Christian treatment of Latter-day Saints, but at least we never incorporated mockery of Mormonism into mandatory religious ritual.

    - Gospel Principles Chapter 16

    - The current D&C reader’s manual for children

    The other reason that I’m not as choked up about evangelical anti-Mormonism as I used to be is because there’s only so much I can do to change it. I’m just one person of little distinction in a 700-812 million member movement. I haven’t written any books (yet), I’m not an influential speaker, and I don’t own any ministries to Mormons, which is sort of why I asked you. What do you want me to do about it?

    I do what I can though. I try to treat Mormons respectfully, I encourage other evangelicals to do the same, and I only recommend books on Mormonism which treat the subject responsibly. I try to write blog articles that interact with Mormonism responsibly and I’m teaching my daughter how to be tolerant of other religions. Last year, I even had a friend on the BYU faculty contact me because an evangelical church was trying to arrange a debate between him, an LDS friend of his, and two fairly well-known evangelical counter-cultists under the guise of “mutual interfaith dialogue.” He didn’t know anything about the counter-cult people involved and wanted my opinion of the matter; I told him not to do it. I’m doing my MA thesis on the Book of Mormon and I’m interested in having an LDS scholar as an outside reader because I’d like to ensure balance in my work.

    I titled this post “What do you want from us?” because sometimes I honestly don’t understand what it is that Mormons want from evangelical Christianity. It just seems like Mormons want it both ways sometimes.

    Maybe I’ll have to do a post on what it is that I want from Mormons sometime soon.

  230. I would just like to share that this Sunday was the week that Gospel Principles Chapter 16 was taught, and I was quite concerned about whether or not anyone else would be incredibly upset by the language of the section on the Apostasy.

    It turns out that, at least in my ward’s Elders Quorum, I didn’t need to worry, because the teacher completely ignored that entire section of his lesson. I don’t know the reason he chose to do so, but the lesson ended early, so it wasn’t that he just ran out of time.

    I’d like to think that he just didn’t think it was a particularly useful section, and therefore dropped it from the lesson. So, hurrah for that.

  231. In my high-priests group, the teacher said that the apostasy occurred within a generation or so of the Church’s founding, and he that Luther and Tyndale, among others, acted under inspiration to bring needed improvements to the Christianity of the day.

  232. In my high-priests group, the teacher said that the apostasy occurred within a generation or so of the Church’s founding, and he that Luther and Tyndale, among others, acted under inspiration to bring needed improvements to the Christianity of the day.

    I think that is consistent with the view of the apostasy currently authorized by correlation and subsequently held by most Mormons, particularly younger ones.

    However, I do not believe that it is consistent with what church leaders–including Joseph Smith–have historically taught.

  233. Ms. Jack..I appreciate your candor and the thoughts you provoke! I am greatly encouraged by what I’ve read, on both sides. I know that Mormons are not innocent of ill thoughts and deeds.

    Tim..I brace myself when other faiths are included in a Sunday School discussion..I’m sensitive toward anything uncharitable and will chime in to broaden their perspective, if needed. I’ve only felt the need to speak up once or twice in the last dozen situations. Just those few comments are the tip of the iceburg, I know, and we need to improve, but I cannot evenly compare our sharing our beliefs and our ignorance of others, with, the campaign of anti-mormonism. I never understood..why don’t they state their belief instead of lieing about mine?

    The current D&C reader’s manual for children states that there were no longer prophets and apostles..which is true. Catholics have different named preisthood offices, but non are prophets or apostles. The Great Reformers reformed because ther was something lacking. Confidence in the authority and role of the Catholic preisthood was found wanting. “The true way had been lost, and we must return to how it really should be.”. We interprete the source and purpose of priesthood differently, but our views of history are quite compatible.
    “At least ‘anti-mormonism’ isn’t the core of anyone’s belief in traditional Christianity.”
    Are you saying that anti-mormonism is the core of my untraditional Christian belief? My entire point would be that those are NOT true to what I believe..which I think you know. Your existence is an attack on the Catholics, and? Moot point..it matters how you share your belief/disbelief. Anti-Mormonism takes Christ out of the equation..they make fun of temple traditons and ignore their purposes, which are to draw our hearts and minds to Christ.

    Earlier temple ceremony…go back to Joseph Smith’s life and you’ll see religious leaders behind most , if not all the attacks. They were not representing the Spirit of Christ, and, with the hatred and voilence they fanned it is easy to see who’s works they were performing. They do not represent all religious leaders..and truly, they can represent ill spirited LDS just as well. The fact that satan goes as far as using the Word of God to confuse and divide us, ought to be instuctive, not offensive. Let us learn not to fill that role of the false preacher.

    Just as you know, very well, the risks (risk meaning that it is not the intended outcome) one faces whilest earning their livelihood from preaching the Gospel (money motivating more than the Will of God) we too must recognize the risks of our doctrines. One of the positives of anti-mormonism is that it teaches us what attitudes we shouldn’t have toward God…like focusing on works instead of faith, or having the mindset of “I am God” instead of being meek and lowly of heart. But no. Instead of sharing it as a danger, they impose it as our heartfelt belief..the core of Mormonism. Well, the core of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is Jesus Christ…self agrandisment and faithlessness are not conducive to God’s Spirit. Acknowledging the sweet promise that we may inherit a glory beyond comprehension is not contrary to God’s Spirit.

  234. Ms. Jack

    I think you’re already giving a Mormon all they could ever ask..love and respect enough to stand up for an honest representation of us. There are many facets besides that, but, the fact remains that I see nothing to add :)

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