The Council of Deerfield

I want to pose a hypothetical scenario.

Let us say that a council of Christian leaders convenes for a meeting at Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois to discuss the question of Mormonism’s relationship to the historic, orthodox Christian faith and issue a ruling on the matter.1 The Council of Deerfield is attended by prominent leaders from all across the Christian spectrum including members from the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Church of England, and representatives from all manner of evangelical, Pentecostal, and mainline Protestant churches.

The findings of the Council of Deerfield are as follows:

  1. Just as Christianity was eventually classified as its own religion rather than a branch of Judaism in spite of its Jewish origins, Mormonism is best categorized as a new world religion rather than a subset of Christianity in spite of its initial Christian heritage. The Council stresses that Judaism is considered its own world religion, yet Mormons already claim more adherents than Jews.
  2. If Mormonism is to be considered a form of Christianity at all, it is a heretical one, having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.2
  3. The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price are an abomination in the sight of God and all their professors corrupt.3

The Council of Deerfield makes the following recommendations in proceeding with members of the LDS faith:

  1. Members of Christian faiths should be discouraged from seeking baptism in the LDS church in the strongest terms possible.
  2. Members of Christian faiths should attempt to share their faith with Latter-day Saints whenever possible with the goal of proselyting Mormons out of the LDS church and into orthodox Christianity.
  3. Converts from Mormonism should be re-baptized by an ordained or licensed Christian minister, even if they had a baptism in another Christian church before joining the LDS faith.
  4. Christians are strongly discouraged from receiving communion in LDS church meetings. Local Christian churches are advised to discourage Mormon visitors from receiving communion with them—although the Council of Deerfield does not condone slapping anyone’s hands away from the communion table.
  5. The Council of Deerfield takes no position on whether or not it is acceptable to pray with members of the LDS faith, recognizing that there exists a difference of opinion among Christians on this matter. The Council only recommends that Christians prayerfully consider the matter themselves and come to their own conclusions.

These recommendations shall stand until a time when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should reform its teachings on the following issues and bring itself in line with historic Christian orthodoxy:

  1. Its “finite theism in which God at some point in eternity past was merely a man and not divine”;
  2. Its “view of the universe as not eternally contingent on the will or being of God”;
  3. Its “denial of the necessity of prevenient grace to overcome humanity’s sinful disposition in the process of conversion or regeneration”;
  4. Its “denial of Trinitarian monotheism”;
  5. Its “denial of the classic Christian understanding of the relationship of the two natures of Christ;”4 and
  6. Its canonization of the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price in their current form.

At which point the Council shall reconvene to reconsider its ruling on the matter.

The ruling of the Council of Deerfield is endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Church of England, the World Evangelical Alliance, the World Council of Churches, and almost all other independent Protestant denominations and ecumenical bodies. As a result, counter-cult activity aimed at Mormonism dramatically decreases. Instead of referring someone to Mormonism Research Ministry or Utah Lighthouse Ministry when members of Christian churches have questions about Mormonism, Christians are generally referred to the Council’s analysis and ruling. It is only if they still have questions afterward that other sources on Mormonism are recommended.

Why this hypothetical scenario? Mormons often say that they do not attack other Christian faiths. Evangelicals and other Christians usually respond by pointing to passages such as JS-History 1:18-20, which sure sound like an attack on our faith to us. To this Mormons typically reply that those passages are just part of the church’s foundational, exclusive truth claims, which is somehow supposed to make it less of an attack on other Christian faiths.

The fact is, the reason Mormons are able to have foundational denunciations of other Christian faiths is that they came later. Evangelicals can’t exactly go back into the biblical canon and insert a passage that says “Mormonism is not true.”5 However, historically the Christian faith has always responded to new heretical sects and teachings by issuing rulings through councils and defining orthodoxy through creeds. A council ruling would hold the same function in traditional Christianity as JS 1:18-20 does for Mormonism.

With that in mind, here are my questions:

  1. Are the rulings and recommendations of my hypothetical Council of Deerfield reasonable to Mormons? Why or why not?
  2. Assuming that such a ruling does decrease counter-cult activity, would this situation be preferable to the way things are currently done, where most denominations have no official position on Mormonism and confusion on the issue abounds? Where the work of arguing that Mormonism is a heresy is largely carried out by small, independent parachurch ministries?
  3. Would your answer to #2 be the same even if the rulings of the Council of Deerfield became incredibly well-known and accepted among lay Christians so that Mormon missionaries began finding it more difficult to proselyte among Christians?

——————
NOTES:

[1] I have no idea where such a hypothetical council would meet, so I am using my own seminary location as an example. This scenario is 100% fictional and (to my knowledge) has never been proposed, not by TIU or anyone else. This post represents my own opinions and not those of Trinity International University or any of the other denominations and organizations I mention.

[2] JS-H 1:19

[3] Ibid.

[4] These first five points are listed by Blomberg as “the five most objectionable common Mormon doctrines, admittedly not all held by all Latter-day Saints.” See Craig L. Blomberg, “Is Mormonism Christian?,” in The New Mormon Challenge, ed. Francis J. Beckwith, Carl Mosser and Paul Owen (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2002), 489.

[5] Cf. JS-H 1:20, “I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true.”

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About Ms. Jack

My name is Bridget Jack Jeffries and I am a graduate student and human resources assistant living in Palatine, Illinois. I hold a BA in classics from Brigham Young University with a minor in Hebrew and I am currently pursuing my MA in American religious history at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I am a member of the Evangelical Covenant Church and a single mother of two.

111 thoughts on “The Council of Deerfield

  1. Just continuing the hypothetical, what would happen if Mormons happily accepted this censure, and went on doing what they’re doing, finally freed from the self-imposed burden of trying to prove that they are indeed Christian?

    What would the point of this entire exercise be? And what would the impact be on both Christians and Mormons? Would there also be encouragements to prevent your Christian children from associating with Mormon children? Would there be an encouragement to avoid doing business with Mormons until they repent and become Christians?

    Or could we just stop at the “We’ve decided once and for all that you’re not Christians” step, and then happily go on our way, living our lives day after day in our individual efforts to achieve happiness and peace the way we see fit?

    I guess I’m all in favor of this if we can let it be once the declaration has been made. It is not without trepidation — I’d hate for either group to see the declaration as a license to subject the other to any sort of economic or societal prejudice or segregation. But believe me, I think the Mormon sub-culture would ultimately be ecstatic and wonderfully relieved if we could be convinced that nothing we ever did would ever convince you that we were Christians. I’ve been conceding that point for years anyway.

  2. W. Kelly ~ I find it interesting that you read this as mainly trying to establish that Mormons aren’t Christians—a point that the post is actually ambiguous on—as opposed to all of the other things discussed in the post.

    what would happen if Mormons happily accepted this censure, and went on doing what they’re doing, finally freed from the self-imposed burden of trying to prove that they are indeed Christian?

    Then I imagine there would be a lot of happy parties among traditional Christian denominations that feel anxiety on the confusion surrounding this issue.

    What would the point of this entire exercise be?

    Clarity on the issue for traditional Christian denominations. This post itself was also meant to be an exercise in putting the shoe on the other foot.

    Would there also be encouragements to prevent your Christian children from associating with Mormon children? Would there be an encouragement to avoid doing business with Mormons until they repent and become Christians?

    Why? Even if we decide that Mormons are not Christians in any way, shape or form—which was not the point of the post—and therefore unbelievers in the fullest sense, are you seriously under the impression that Christians usually discourage their children from associating with unbelievers? Or that they discourage believers from doing business with unbelievers?

    But believe me, I think the Mormon sub-culture would ultimately be ecstatic and wonderfully relieved if we could be convinced that nothing we ever did would ever convince you that we were Christians.

    Well, I accepted years ago that nothing I could ever do as a non-member would convince Mormons that I’ve been baptized into Christ and endowed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. I’m over it.

  3. I think W. Kelly provided a good answer. I have no problem if other denominations make a formal declaration that mormonism is not a saving faith. Reciprocity is entirely appropriate. It would be wonderful if such a declaration would replace the “counter-cult” efforts. I want to talk honestly about our doctrine. If somebody thinks that our claim to Christianity is merely a smokescreen to con the gullible or uninformed, I would much rather that they be content with such a declaration rather be carried to overzealous “protection” of the uninformed through perhaps questionable means.

    Of course such a declaration in itself would not give any justification for discrimination, but there are some individuals that would do so anyway. I do not know that it would be any different from the current attitudes, so such a concern probably does not matter.

  4. “Are the rulings and recommendations of my hypothetical Council of Deerfield reasonable to Mormons? Why or why not?”

    Well, it kind of seemed a moot point since that seems to be how all those parties view Mormonism to begin with. How does this council change things from what official Catholic/Orthodox/Protestant thought on Mormonism is right now?

  5. Well done, Jack.

    What bothers me about counter-cultists is their rampant dishonesty. I think that your hypothetical would go a long way to clear some of that out, so I’d be for it.

    And for the record: your faith is wrong. There, I attacked your faith. And JS-History 1:18-20 also attacks your faith. What I don’t like are dishonest attacks, or attacks that are disguised as something else, or attacks that aren’t admitted as such (e.g., claiming that JS-History 1:18-20 is not an attack).

    (I will insert a little caveat though: some attacks are more attack-y than others. JS-H 1:18-20 is meant as an explanation for Joseph’s position, not as a direct assault on other churches. Similarly, your hypothetical council is more about defining how one group of Christians should view Mormonism and less about attacking Mormonism directly.)

    P.S. I find Blomberg’s #5 kinda funny, simply because I doubt whether even 1% of Mormons could tell you what on earth he means by “the relationship of the two natures of Christ.” “What? We deny that? I had no idea.” :)

  6. Seth ~ How does this council change things from what official Catholic/Orthodox/Protestant thought on Mormonism is right now?

    I don’t think that it does. It simply composites Catholic/Orthodox/Protestant thought on the matter in a form that’s semi-authoritative, accurate, concise, and clinical in its treatment of the matter. Then Christians can refer to this rather than having to Google for Web sites that call Mormonism blasphemous and damnable to the tune of rotating skull & crossbone graphics.

    It would hopefully reduce the distracting identification of Mormonism as a cult and cut to the heart of the matter.

    Also, while the Catholic and GO churches have official positions on Mormonism, and a few Protestant denominations do, a lot of Protestant denominations don’t.

    BFF ~ I doubt whether even 1% of Mormons could tell you what on earth he means by “the relationship of the two natures of Christ.” “What? We deny that? I had no idea.”

    Yeah, Mormons tend to not be all that familiar with the concept of the hypostatic union, but it does constitute a concern for other Christian churches.

  7. First of all, I’ll get three things out of the way before I deal with the heart of the original post:

    1) I agree with BrianJ’s comments about attacks. I take no offense when other churches say we’re wrong, heretical or even satanic, if that’s their honest view. We’re all entitled to be wrong. I do find tactics used by certain “ministries” to be offensive attacks, however (although in the U.S. I would defend their First Amendment right to be offensive).

    2) My emotional reaction to the hypothetical scenario (and, honestly, the advice I would give if asked) is that this ecumenical group would be better off weeding out the heresies in its own midst and/or making sure that their own members understand what their own churches are teaching (as I’ve said before, it bugs me to no end when evangelicals criticize our version of trinitarianism and yet many, many evangelicals believe in modalism, which is every bit as heretical in traditional Christian theology). However, I recognize that this issue is irrelevant to the question at hand, and what other churches do internally really has nothing to do with me.

    3) I don’t believe in a “finite theism,” and I’d take some issue with some other points listed. But in light of your footnote, no big deal. I just didn’t want to indicate my assent to those doctrinal views.

    Later this morning, I’ll post my substantive response to the original post.

  8. @ Jack — please don’t read my initial comments as attackish. Not meant that way at all. They were really a sort of semi-knee-jerky, semi-free-associationish response. My thoughts were focused on early Christianity, the attacks Christians took first from purist Jews and later from the Romans. The eventual “secting” of Christianity away from Judaism (and to a certain extent the embrace of paganism that was deemed practical by Christians in the 2nd-5th centuries) resulted (in part) in millennia of animosity between Jews and Christians, which persists today. I would like to avoid the same animosity between Christians and Mormons, if and when we accomplish the same meiosis.

    Also, I was sincere in my declaration that this proclamation, if Mormons really believed it was definitive and non-negotiable, would relieve an enormous amount of internal knots we’ve tied ourselves into try to prove our Christianity.

    For the record, I’m not of the ilk of Mormons who get off on denunciation of other faiths. In fact, I’m absolutely one who doesn’t understand or appreciate hypostatic union, and couldn’t begin to tell how you that establishes an insurmountable gulf between us. I’m an orthoprax, but heterodox Mormon who tries to focus the bulk of my effort and attention on tangible fruits of love, tolerance and peace. Perhaps to the detriment of my eternal soul. But I figure if I live by my principles, things will probably turn out OK.

    So there are Mormons who flail around trying to prove our Christianity, and Christians who flail around trying to prove our non-Christianity, and in the mean time, we haven’t solved poverty, and my neighbors (who are Buddhist) are mourning the loss of their father, and the neighborhood school is in need of more volunteers. And if you count it up, the effort required to truly live according to one reading of the NT mandate (cf Matt 25:34-40 and note the surprise and humility on the part of the “sheep” in v38,39) is pretty overwhelming.

    Please, let us issue the statement and be done with it, and let us then turn our attention to the widows and fatherless.

  9. Jack,

    I am wondering about this:

    “Converts from Mormonism should be re-baptized by an ordained or licensed Christian minister, even if they had a baptism in another Christian church before joining the LDS faith.”

    Is there a reason for re-baptism if a person was baptized prior to joining the LDS church? I know that the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches re-baptizes after ex-communication, but the Lutheran and Reformed Churches have been historically against re-baptism even for a returning excommunicated member.

    I am not trying to nit pick a thoughtful and well presented post I am just curious about how a need for re-baptism plays into membership in the covenant community of the church? I am thinking of a imperfect parallel to the Donatists where denial of the faith for Mormonism would invalidate sacraments preformed prior to the denial?

  10. Let’s put it this way… take two different attacks:

    1. Mormons do not have a proper understanding of the tri-une nature of God, but are rather tri-theistic – therefore they are wrong.

    2. Joseph Smith was a pedophile, and Mormons place their faith in pedophile prophets – therefore they are wrong.

    I have no problem with #1 or anyone who wants to argue it.

    I do have a problem with #2 and the people who argue it.

  11. It’s not so much the attacks as how a lot of the attacks are utterly lacking in class, play off the ignorance, prejudice and fear of the audience, and basically red-flag the person using them as a polemical jackass.

  12. A very interesting supposition.

    “The Council of Deerfield is attended by prominent leaders from all across the Christian spectrum including members from the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Church of England, and representatives from all manner of evangelical, Pentecostal, and mainline Protestant churches. ”

    I know this is a hypothetical situation, but are such grand councils even convened for non-denunciation purposes? Would they use Joseph Smith’s own words to formulate their denunciation? Do all of these groups consider the LDS church such a threat? Would they focus this much effort on any other “heretical” group or practice?

    As far as the recommendations go, would they also withdraw from any interfaith charity organization in which the LDS church is a contributor? Would they denounce the LDS church’s heavy involvement in Proposition 8? Boy Scouts of America? The millions of dollars and man hours contributed in disaster relief and welfare programs? Or is it purely a spiritual denunciation? Can they entirely reject the tree but enjoy the fruits?

    If such a well defined statement could indeed be formulated and was the actual view of the “lay Christians,” I think as a latter-day saint I would be prefer it over the unsavory tactics of the paraministries, although I don’t think most LDS members would pay that much attention to it. We are kind of used to being denounced by the evangelicals and the secularists alike.

    “Please, let us issue the statement and be done with it, and let us then turn our attention to the widows and fatherless.”

    Amen. Christian is as Christian does.

    I have noticed more and more apologetic talks given in LDS General conferences recently, specifically with regards to the acceptance of latter-day saints as Christians. Here are some talks given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles specifically addressing two of the main charges against the “Christian” status of Mormonism. They specifically address points 4 and 6 on the list in the post. Do these seem like accurate portrayals of the early Christianity or do they seem overstated? There is also a recent talk by Elder Quentin Cook I thought might be found interesting regarding this matter.

    http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?hideNav=1&locale=0&sourceId=d2552bce258f5110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD

    http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?hideNav=1&locale=0&sourceId=dfc3558fcc599110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD

    http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?hideNav=1&locale=0&sourceId=5a46230bac7f0210VgnVCM100000176f620a____&vgnextoid=f318118dd536c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD

  13. Are the rulings and recommendations of my hypothetical Council of Deerfield reasonable to Mormons? Why or why not?

    I can’t speak for other Mormons, but I’d say they’re reasonable in the sense that (in general) they flow logically and implicitly from a rejection of the LDS church’s claims of exclusivity. I would question, though, the logic of calling the Book of Mormon an “abomination,” as 99 percent of its theology is consistent with traditional Christianity, although I suppose it could be considered abominable from a non-LDS perspective in that it presents itself as historical. But this is a quibble. In general, the conclusions seem fair enough (even if wrong).

    I do have to say, though, that the LDS scriptural language referring to abominations and corruption have to be understood in their historical and cultural context. But fair is fair, and if you want to insert 19th-century rhetoric in a 21st-century context, be my guest.

    Assuming that such a ruling does decrease counter-cult activity, would this situation be preferable to the way things are currently done, where most denominations have no official position on Mormonism and confusion on the issue abounds? Where the work of arguing that Mormonism is a heresy is largely carried out by small, independent parachurch ministries?

    That’s quite an assumption to make. In real life, the parachurch groups that attack Mormonism the most vociferously tend to be groups that couldn’t care less what some ecumenical council would say.

    Basically, though, I don’t really care whether denominations other than my own care to adopt official statements.

    As a practical matter, if one of your goals is to get the LDS church to change its theology à la Worldwide Church of God, such a move would probably be counterproductive. And such a widely adopted statement might have the effect of making many Mormons less willing to hear what individual non-LDS Christians have to say; currently, you can always disavow any connection with the countercult ministries, but it would be harder to distance yourself from such an official statement.

    Would your answer to #2 be the same even if the rulings of the Council of Deerfield became incredibly well-known and accepted among lay Christians so that Mormon missionaries began finding it more difficult to proselyte among Christians?

    There will always be people somewhere who are willing to hear the Gospel, and there will always be those who aren’t. Proselytizing in our culture is already a hard sell, and I’m sure we’d adapt under the scenario. As a practical matter, those who would care the most about their church’s official statements aren’t the best conversion prospects anyway.

  14. Nice post Jack.

    From a non-LDS perspective I think this would indeed be helpful. Too often I’ve ended up discussing why Mormonism is Christian or not-Christian instead of really discussing doctrinal differences. And it usually has ended up in just one more back-and-forth discussion.

    However, considering I work with a lot of Muslims, Hindus and the like, we recognize quite immediately we have different faiths and the conversations tend to be more constructive and exploratory with a sense of discovery and mutual respect.

    Loved the way you posted it. I think it would have some merit to focus discussion on the real differences.

    In Him
    Mick

    PS: Going back to lurker status now. Too much going on at work and at home ;-)

  15. Would your answer to #2 be the same even if the rulings of the Council of Deerfield became incredibly well-known and accepted among lay Christians so that Mormon missionaries began finding it more difficult to proselyte among Christians?

    I am intensely skeptical that this is even possible in modern America’s largely secular society. Christians are “Christian” on a pretty wide spectrum of intensity, from the entirely secular but nominal Christian to the fanatically devout. I don’t know where you would draw the dividing line between which “lay” Christians knew and accepted the Council’s ruling to the degree that they would be vaccinated against Mormonism, but I seriously doubt this document would move the percentage of “Christians” willing to seriously investigate Mormonism much at all.

    Plenty of “lay Christians” convert to overtly non-Christian religions as it is, even armed with the full knowledge that Christianity disapproves.

  16. I think I have to agree with Eric about an answer to #2 “Would your answer to #2 be the same even if the rulings of the Council of Deerfield became incredibly well-known and accepted among lay Christians so that Mormon missionaries began finding it more difficult to proselyte among Christians?”

    This comes from an assumption that being a missionary is in anyway easy as things currently stand now. You might be falling victim to some ethnocentrism, thinking that the rest of world outside the United States treats religion equally, and that any council’s decisions are held in any regard. I served in Brazil, a largely catholic nation, on my mission, and I can tell you that I knew more about Vatican 1 and 2 then any of the lay Christians I met down there. They just don’t care as much down there, and the Brazilian culture is largely reflective of most of south and central america’s view of religion. Also since the church is world wide and moving into areas where no form of Christianity have a strong foothold, a Council’s decisions would be irrelevant since a Hindu, Muslim, or Buddhist just wouldn’t care. If that meant a shift in church membership to the Far East it would make little difference. Like Eric said there are always people willing to hear the missionaries out.

  17. My concern is not with the content but the process.

    From my understanding, Someone is going to form a committee of men who have very divergent views of the gospel, and who are not necessarily authorized by God but have claimed the privilage of preaching their particular philosophy and are trained at a college. These men will basically discuss, compromise and maybe vote on criteria of acceptance into Christianity (sounds like how the nicene creed was formulated).

    So, where is God in this discussion? Just because there is no prophet in sight, does that give people the OK to take matters into their own hands?

  18. Peter: Jack’s hypothetical committee doesn’t need authorization from God to meet, discuss the views of their churches, and decide on points of common ground between them—any more than a neighborhood council needs authority from God to decide on where to build a speed bump or what color of siding is acceptable on homes.

    The only authorization the committee members need is from their respective churches, and that’s assuming they come to the meeting as representatives and not as individuals.

  19. The councils members would have authorization to make such a ruling based on the authority vested in them by the members of their churches. It’s really no different than the LDS church which requires its leadership to be sustained by the membership before the individual leaders have any true authority.

    On a different note I was thinking about how the “street screechers” would be in a difficult place with the Council of Deerfield. On one hand they would be pleased the Christian world is officially declaring Mormonism to be “not-Christian”. But on the other hand they would have to denounce it for being so ecumenical. Catholics and Orthodox can’t show up in a room with Protesants for any purpose other than to get poked in the nose for them to be happy about it.

  20. I object to the presumptive use of the title “Christian” of this hypothetical committee to refer to themselves as if they were some historical continuity with those called Christians in the first 3 centuries. I object to the use that presumes that any group could, even by their collective vote, so easily define what a real Christian is.

    Here is my concern: With respect to your historical teachings not accepted by Mormons, I suggest that neither Jesus nor any Christian in the first centuries would qualify as a Christian — and any definition, even by group fiat, that excludes Christ from the group of Christians is just laughable on its face. Let’s look at your list:

    1. Its “finite theism in which God at some point in eternity past was merely a man and not divine”

    First, what do you mean by “finite” and compared to what? By definition any being that isn’t the whole of reality (i.e. pantheistic) is finite in some respects. Further, is the Mormon Deity really finite? Is the Godhead (the deity) finite in Mormon thought? You’re going to have to get a lot more careful in your treatment here. The Christian God is “finite” in the sense that God is not all reality (this not absolute in this sense). Many, many in the tradition agree that God is limited in time and space. Do you reject out of hand Open Theists who accept the view that God limited in knowledge of the future? How about Arminians who claim that God is limited in the sense that he cannot bring about free acts done by other free agents? In other words, your category here is next to useless.

    2. Its “view of the universe as not eternally contingent on the will or being of God”

    Yeah, and this notion is virtually absent in the first 200 years of Christian tradition. Neither Christ nor any writer of scripture ever, even once, suggested that the universe is “eternally contingent on the will or being of God.” Further, most who believe in creatio ex nihilo don’t even believe that the universe is eternal at all.

    3. Its “denial of the necessity of prevenient grace to overcome humanity’s sinful disposition in the process of conversion or regeneration.”

    This is just wrong. Mormon scripture teaches a robust notion of prevenient grace to overcome any sinful disposition in the process of regeneration and conversion. Indeed, our free will is based on prevenient grace as the basis of the free acceptance of the salvation offered as a a matter of grace (and I present extensive citations in vol. 2 of my series to establish it). You at least ought to get the doctrine right. Further, you ought to look at what Arminians teach about prevenient grace.

    Now if you mean that Mormonism doesn’t teach that who is saved or damned is up to God, then you are right –and thankfully so. Individual predestination to damnation (whether single or double predestination) is heinous doctrine that contradicts what Jesus taught about God’s love. We don’t want to leave Jesus out of our Christianity do we?

    4. Its “denial of Trinitarian monotheism”

    Uh? Have you been paying attention to what Mormon scholars have argued about Mormonism’s view of the Social Trinity? Are you suggesting that all those in the tradition that believe in the Social Trinity instead of the Latin Trinity (that is an implicit form of the modalistic heresy) are not Christian on your view? Just what do you mean by “Trinitarian monotheism”? You’re going to have to get a lot more specific before this label has any meaning. Just look at it — Trinitarian (that means three) and mono (that means one). You’re going to have to parse the three somethings with the one something before you can make this assertion — and then we can begin the conversation.

    Could you point me to just one citation where any person in the first 3 centuries ever referred to Trinitarian monotheism? It looks like once again we leave Jesus out of our Christianity.

    5. Its “denial of the classic Christian understanding of the relationship of the two natures of Christ;”

    Boy, you got this one right. Now could you show me anything that remotely approaches the two nature theory of christology anywhere in the first 400 years? Why does a Christian have to accept this view? Does that mean that all those who adopt a kenotic view of christology are left out of Christianity? Why does a Christian have to accept an incoherent and non-scriptural view about Christ’s joint humanity/divinity?

    and last but not least.

    6. Its canonization of the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price in their current form.

    Well, you’ve got me here. The earliest 300 hundred years of believers (at least in the Old World) didn’t have these scriptures. But what of the status of new scripture? If the earliest believers had believed in a closed canon, there wouldn’t even be a Christian tradition in any sense of the term.

    Given this remarkably poor track record that excludes Jesus, his apostles and all of the believers in Christ in the first 300 years, what kind of arrogance allows you to claim the title “Christian”? Now let’s ask the really pertinent question — not are Mormons Christian, but “are Mormons followers of Christ”? If you deign to answer that one, then it seems to me that you have assumed a position to judge that isn’t yours to assume. It’s the only question that a true Christian ought to care about. Who cares what some group of people votes?

    I say to the final judgment of the committee — why would any Mormon care? Well, maybe we care this far: Maybe given such clarity we could then discuss the real issues and show why those who appropriate the title of “Christian” to themselves in such ways deserve the very judgment that the Father revealed to Joseph in the First Vision.

  21. “God at some point in eternity past was merely a man and not divine”

    I have saved this part for special comment. First, no Mormon would accept that God was “merely a man.” And what do you mean by “God”? The Godhead or Trinity as a whole? The Father? The Son? You see, you could only mean the latter two — so let’s get more specific.

    If we assert that the Son was at one time in the past a man, isn’t that the very essence of Christianity? If we say that it was revealed that the Son only did what he saw the Father do first, would that mean we’re not Christians?

  22. I have a lot of comments to respond to, so please don’t hate me if I keep this brief. I’m really enjoying the feedback that I’m getting on this. In fact, I’m pleasantly surprised. I’ll freely admit that I expected more upset people.

    Just a bit of background about where I’m coming from for people who do not know me: I started studying the LDS church when I was 16 at the behest of an LDS guy whom I had met in online chat rooms. We had an online relationship (yes, I was a lonely teenager) with some expectation that it would become a real life relationship when we were able to meet in person. But the religion thing was an issue. He said he was Christian and claimed he accepted me as Christian, but he was trying so hard to convert me. I had just fallen head-over-heels in love with a local Presbyterian church and I had zero interest in changing religions. When I began trying to learn about Mormonism from evangelical sources, they vehemently denied that Mormonism was Christian and told me to break it off. Counter-cult sites were often shrill and alarmist though and hard to take seriously (that skull-and-crossbones Web site was around 12 years ago, and quite literally one of the pages I found for information on Mormonism!). It was all very confusing. I wanted to believe that the guy was just another Christian like me, that Mormonism was just another Christian denomination, but the attempts to convert me were deeply troubling. In my mind, if you were “Christian,” it mattered little which Christian church you attended and there was no need to change churches.

    I think that something like my proposed “Council of Deerfield” ruling would have helped my sixteen year-old self get a grip on this difficult issue. I do remember reading PCUSA’s ruling on Mormons, which was around at the time, but it didn’t carry a ton of weight with me since they were just one denomination among many.

    Eric ~ I agree that there are things that such a council might be better off doing . . . but can’t that be said of almost anything? Couldn’t President Hinckley be fighting poverty instead of telling women how many earrings they could have? Couldn’t Peter have found a more productive use of his time than forbidding jewelry and braided hair? Besides, I think that the people who are teaching heterodox variations on Trinitarian theology are exactly the sort of people who don’t care so much about the rulings of ecumenical councils.

    I only called the LDS Standard Works an abomination as part of the tit-for-tat component of this post. I actually wouldn’t expect such a council to say anything on the subject, and I’d strike #6 from my list of demands. It seemed weird to only have Blomberg’s 5 if I was going to spend energy calling the LDS Scriptures an abomination.

    I agree with you that the FV statements about abominations and whatnot belong in the context of 19th century polemical denunciations against other churches. I just wish more Mormons felt that way. My last post on this blog didn’t give me great hope of that interpretation changing anytime soon.

    W. Kelly ~ I like your way of thinking on this. I’m a pretty praxis-concerned individual myself. That’s why I tend to focus on what Mormons do about us (i.e. insist on re-baptizing us, refuse to share a communion table with us) rather than what they say about us (“yes, you’re still Christians”). I’m glad to hear though that such a statement might actually be seen as a relief to some Mormons.

    Unfortunately, I have no power to make these things come to pass. I don’t think the leaders of the World Association of Evangelicals or the World Council of Christian Churches read any of my blogs. :P

    gundek ~ I think you might know the history behind baptism theology better than I do, especially in reformed traditions. When a person who has been baptized completely denounces Christianity and joins another religion such as Judaism or Islam, then later migrates back into Christianity, is re-baptism recommended?

    If yes, then I think what I’ve written about re-baptism is a good idea. If no, then I’m in the wrong. Either way, I wouldn’t mind leaving the question more open to decision by local churches.

    badgerdude ~ Would they use Joseph Smith’s own words to formulate their denunciation? Do all of these groups consider the LDS church such a threat? Would they focus this much effort on any other “heretical” group or practice?

    No to the first one; that is something I did strictly as part of the “shoe on the other foot” component of this post. I think if Christians ever convened such a council, we should examine Mormonism on our terms according to our needs and not show any interest in returning rhetoric to the LDS church eye-for-an-eye style.

    I don’t think this is about considering the LDS church a threat. It’s about clarifying that LDS members are to be considered prospects for conversion just as much as members of other religions would be.

    As far as the recommendations go, would they also withdraw from any interfaith charity organization in which the LDS church is a contributor? Would they denounce the LDS church’s heavy involvement in Proposition 8? Boy Scouts of America? The millions of dollars and man hours contributed in disaster relief and welfare programs? Or is it purely a spiritual denunciation? Can they entirely reject the tree but enjoy the fruits?

    The procedures outlined here are almost identical to how the LDS church treats other Christians. Does the LDS church discourage charitable or political alliances? I think that’s the answer to your question.

    I’ll try to read the talks you’ve linked to later.

    Peter ~ Well, my council wouldn’t be much of a fantasy if it didn’t have women on it. :D

    But more seriously, Tim answered your question pretty well. I would add that the way we got the Nicene Creed is also the way we got the canon for the Bible, which Mormons accept. So in some sense, the LDS church has already accepted a certain degree of inspiration behind this sort of authority.

    You’d actually be surprised to hear about how authority works in Protestant churches. I was reading the by-laws of my church the other day (Evangelical Covenant Church) concerning the admission of candidates to the clergy. To put it in very Mormon terms, the by-laws directed that the leaders pray to receive revelation from God confirming that a candidate has actually been called to ministry. They don’t just take anyone who applies.

    My own pastor told me a story a few weeks ago. She said that when she was a teenager, she was attending a youth conference wherein the speaker said that he wanted all students who felt called to ministry to stand up and come forward. At the time her friends were always bugging her to go into ministry, but she had no interest in doing it. When the speaker made the call, she felt someone shove her from behind. She whipped around and scolded the friend who was sitting behind her for pushing her. Her friend looked at her like she was a crazy woman and said, “I didn’t touch you.” As she turned back around, she said she felt someone forcibly push her to her feet. She believed it was God calling her into ministry and she went forward, and that was when she decided to become a pastor.

    Our leaders do have authority from God. We just don’t see it as linear or coming strictly through a human hierarchy.

    Blake ~ I had a feeling this one would draw you out. And as I said earlier in my comments to W. Kelly, I find it odd that you think this is mainly about saying that Mormons aren’t Christians when the post is actually ambiguous on that issue.

    I made it pretty clear that this would be an internal council for the purposes of defining Mormonism’s relationship to the historic Christian tradition and recommending how to proceed with Latter-day Saints. A proper understanding of sola scriptura holds that the teachings of the Christian tradition are authoritative (but fallible). Or in other words, I don’t have to limit myself to what’s taught in the biblical canon and the first three or four centuries of Christian history. You as a Mormon wouldn’t even have your biblical canon if it weren’t for councils like this.

    Besides, are you implying that the LDS church changes its mind on issues when new evidence of what Christians believed in the third and fourth centuries turns up? Color me skeptical.

    Given that your church attempts to moderate who can and cannot call themselves “Mormons,” I don’t feel the least bit guilty about any efforts on our part to moderate what is and isn’t Christianity. And so long as the LDS church teaches in its official manuals that the non-LDS Christian world is “false Christianity” (Gospel Principles Chapter 16) and has done so for over 30 years, I’m pretty nonchalant about other Christians coming to verdicts on exactly what sort of Christianity Mormonism is (or isn’t).

    Though, feel free to satisfy my curiosity: do you agree with your church’s attempts to regulate the Mormon label? Do you agree with your church’s persistent denunciation of us as “false Christianity”?

    I find it pretty bizarre that you would attempt to start a debate on every point on my list when you know perfectly well that I’m citing Blomberg for 5/6. Didn’t have time to reply to that essay in TNMC or something?

    I do think that you have a good point that Blomberg’s denunciation of “finite theism” could rule out the Open Theist crowd. While some evangelicals may be interested in kicking out the open theists, I’m not.

    Now let’s ask the really pertinent question — not are Mormons Christian, but “are Mormons followers of Christ”? If you deign to answer that one, then it seems to me that you have assumed a position to judge that isn’t yours to assume.

    Blake, I have no interest in second-guessing LDS attempts to commit their lives to Jesus Christ. I have a close friend on the religion faculty at BYU who is thoroughly and completely Mormon and one of the godliest men I know. If he isn’t a true follower of Jesus Christ, then I’m not sure who is. That is all I have to say on the matter.

    I say to the final judgment of the committee — why would any Mormon care?

    Obviously you care to some extent or you wouldn’t have written 1100 words arguing with me. But I agree with the thrust of your question. This post is largely about the benefits of such a hypothetical council ruling for the non-LDS Christian community. The course of action prescribed largely mirrors the way Mormons already treat other Christians. So why should you guys care?

  23. Blake, I encourage you to pick up your copy of New Mormon Challenge and reread Blomberg’s chapter and footnotes.

    We’d have an even more difficult time getting Jesus to line up with “Restored” Christianity.

  24. Blake: so basically your concern is that no group should get together to define what makes them distinct from Mormonism unless their doctrine is correct (i.e., agrees with Mormonism).

  25. This “hypothetical” is already the de facto belief set/practice, anyway…at least in the South. There may not have been a formal announcement by a league of religions, but there wasn’t one point in the Deerfield Council’s ruling that hasn’t already been openly expressed.

    I can only speak from personal experience, but I imagine when some Mormons say they don’t attack other religions, like ours is attacked, they don’t mean it quite like you take it. Sure, JSH is pretty blunt. It states clearly where we believe our faith, and others, fit in the eternal perspective. It’s our belief. It’s based on what we believe is truth. But that’s not what I consider “attacking”. I live in Alabama. Drive around town and look at some of the marquees: “Cult Weekend: Mormons”. Wherein they bring in their “expert” on Mormonism to inform their parishioners what “Mormons really believe.” Sit in on the meeting and it becomes very apparent, very quickly, that that expert has 1) never read the Book of Mormon in its entirety, 2) is only regurgitating what they’ve gathered from Ed Decker, and 3) is not interested, in the slightest, about teaching truth as it concerns our beliefs. Rather, it’s a scare tactic to keep them from praying with us, or having formal discussions with us or with our missionaries because, after all, that’s how we “get them”. “Attacking” to me is spreading falsehoods, teaching half-truths, etc. about us. If a baptist friend of mine says he believes we’re not Christian, or that we’re going to hell then that’s not “attacking”. It’s stating his beliefs. Good on him for proclaiming his beliefs. However, if that same person says we’re going to hell because we don’t believe Jesus Christ atoned for our sins, or because we pray to Joseph Smith, etc. then that is “attacking” because those statements propagate falsehoods and misconceptions about our Church.

  26. And I should clarify, not to paint everyone with the same brush…it’s the de facto practice by many faiths here in the South. There are many that don’t fall in that line.

  27. 1. I have no problem with other Christian faiths having official recommendations and ruling on how to treat Mormonism. I also have no issue with them declaring Mormonism to be a heretical sect of Christianity. From the non-LDS standpoint, we are. As a Mormon, I think my non-Mormon friends and family are heretics. It seems fair for them to have the same stance.

    2. I am in agreement with the others who have said that such a ruling would have no effect on counter-cult ministries. Every counter-cultist I have come into contact with is much more worried about what Mormons say and do than what their own churches say and do. However, if all the counter-cult ministries did take a more intelligent, honest approach (i.e. Mormons are heretics, and this is why…), I wouldn’t be nearly as annoyed with them as I am now.

    3. As has been stated by others, the LDS missionary program already has plenty of difficulties among other Christians. I don’t think any official Council of Deerfield ruling would have any effect on missionary efforts.

  28. Brian J. “Blake: so basically your concern is that no group should get together to define what makes them distinct from Mormonism unless their doctrine is correct (i.e., agrees with Mormonism).”

    Of course not! Every (private) group has a right to define itself and exclude others. What I object to is: (1) misrepresenting and just getting the doctrines of the rejected group wrong; (2) mis-defining and getting their own doctrines wrong; (3) drawing lines based upon nonsensical and meaninglessness distinctions; (4) purporting to be something they are not; and (5) most importantly, purporting to make judgments that they are in no position to make. Did you even read what I wrote?

    It so happens that the criteria of this hypothetical committee is totally indicative of the way evangelicals approach their supposed Christianity. They want to define proper doctrine and exclude those who don’t get the doctrine right from Christianity. That is wrong-headed many times over. What is apostate about this approach (mark it Jack) is that it adopts a doctrinal litmus test. I’ve never even met an evangelical that could adequately address the notion of the Trinity and most are terrible at addressing even their most foundational doctrine of justification by grace alone by faith alone. Hardly any of these attempts at definition allow for the range of possibilities of those who self-identify as evangelical. The entire way of approaching the issues is a misbegotten mess.

    What I object to most is this: the very naive and frankly stupid view that one can define a Christian by a list of essential creeds and beliefs. (Note it Jack and all who discussed apostasy on this site). The very assumption and arrogance that one can define creeds that define those who are in Christ is the essence of apostasy. If you want to know what apostasy is — that is what it is. It consists in the arrogance that Christianity is a set of beliefs and doctrines defined by a vote of a council. It is the specter of those whose lips profess god by defining who is in and who is out by measuring others to fit their Procrustean bed of belief criteria but whose hearts are far from God because they refuse to listen to his duly called prophets and acknowledge their authority to act for God.

    What I object to is an attempt to state that Mormons don’t accept the notion things like the Trinity while leaving it so vague that it is meaningless. I object to using the term “finite” in a way so misleading and vacuous that it means nothing except “I don’t like what you teach, whatever it is.” I don’t like any evangelical defining their view of creation in a way that almost all evangelical would reject and then say it is definitive of evangelical belief.

    I agree with Jack to this extent. Turn about is fair play — to the extent it is meant to soften hearts rather than build walls. To the extent it is just drawing lines to exclude it is the essence of apostasy.

    I also agree with Jack that Mormonism stands in relation to the tradition as the earliest Christians stood in relation to Judaism of Christ’s day. For both there has been a new revelation and the existing hegemony refuses the new revelation, persecutes the new believers and rejects them, and the new revelation is a decisive break from those in existing power structures who refuse to listen to God’s voice. Those who break from the prior tradition denounce it as out of touch with God for refusing to hear his voice in the new revelation. The new tradition thus constitutes a new episode of salvation history and a new religion. The old power structures that attempt reject the new revelation are in apostasy for refusing to hear the new revelation and have stopped their ears when God is speaking.

  29. Tim: Are you under the illusion that I haven’t read Blomberg’s chapter in the New Mormon Challenge even after writing no less than 6 reviews of various chapters? I wrote a review of Blomberg that basically called his categories and approach nonsense and his theological categories woefully uninformed from the perspective of the philosophy of religion. Then I decided that it was just too dismissive of a man that I had respected before writing several articles to follow up on How Wide the Divide. So I never published it. But you get a feel for what I wrote here.

  30. Blake ~ What I object to most is this: the very naive and frankly stupid view that one can define a Christian by a list of essential creeds and beliefs. [SNIP] The very assumption and arrogance that one can define creeds that define those who are in Christ is the essence of apostasy.

    Blake, if you really believe this, please answer me this:

    Why hasn’t God given my denomination (the Evangelical Covenant Church) the priesthood? Since all this theological mumbo-jumbo isn’t important enough to use as a guideline in discerning who the true servants of God are, why doesn’t God just make things easy and give everyone the authority to act in his name so that we can all get involved in the work of carrying out these saving ordinances?

    What is it about those men in Salt Lake City that makes them worthy to act in God’s name while the John Pipers and N. T. Wrights of the world languish in powerlessness? Is it not that they hear God’s word and teach his truths about who he is and what he wants from creation? Or are they simply chosen at random from among the world’s churches, by grace, through no merits of their own lest they should boast?

    Because I’ll tell you what I object to: the naive and frankly stupid view that denying someone’s baptism into Christ is somehow less offensive than denying someone’s Christianity. And I believe that Mormonism teaches a God who has rejected the rest of Christianity based on what we teach and believe about him.

    The mechanism for control is different but the end result is exactly the same.

    persecutes the new believers and rejects them

    I would like to hear some ways in which non-LDS Christians are currently persecuting Mormons. And don’t try to point me to counter-cult Web sites and angry temple protesters. That isn’t religious persecution. This is religious persecution.

    In any case, if Mormons really want to believe that they’re the next grand revelation of God’s truth to the universe, be my guests. Traditional Christians like the analogy because it gets Mormonism out of Christianity and Mormons like the analogy for the reasons you listed. It’s win-win and it’s why I use it.

  31. Jack: “Why hasn’t God given my denomination (the Evangelical Covenant Church) the priesthood?”

    Your denomination could have had the priesthood; it just chooses not to. God has chosen to give his priesthood through a New York prophet. That is all that there is to the explanation. Expecting me or anyone else to explain why God chooses this small group (the male Levites) or that group (the early disciples of Christ) to give his priesthood is like asking me to explain God’s plans and purposes. You surely don’t expect me to do that do you? However, at this point there is no unfairness. God can choose whom he wants to represent him for his purposes. He can choose a small group of male Levites, just males who accept baptism, or everyone male and female who accepts his name. It is his choice. What is certain is that John Piper has access to choose to accept this gift of priesthood if he wants to.

    Jack: “What is it about those men in Salt Lake City that makes them worthy to act in God’s name while the John Pipers and N. T. Wrights of the world languish in powerlessness?”

    God chose them. They accepted and remained faithful and were willing to listen to God’s voice. They are not necessarily more or less worthy than anyone else; just like Ezekiel was no more or less worthy to be a priest. Further, neither Wright nor Piper speaks with prophetic authority (read Kierkegaard’s The Difference Between a Prophet and a Genius sometime). They speak with the voice of scholarship and have no more authority than the persuasiveness of their scholarly arguments. That doesn’t leave them languishing in powerlessness, but neither does it allow them to speak with prophetic authority. Their knowledge is based on the latest biblical scholarship; Joseph Smith’s was based on the latest word from God.

    Jack: “And I believe that Mormonism teaches a God who has rejected the rest of Christianity based on what we teach and believe about him.”

    You have it bassackwards. They rejected God’s voice and walked out on him while he was speaking. You see, here is the really telling point. While your hypothetical counsel gets a bunch of people to get together to vote on what they think; Joseph Smith had the audacity to say what God told him. He doesn’t speak as one guessing and pontificating based on his own noggin. He declares what God has declared to him. Their lips are near to him, but their hearts are far from him, and it is precisely because they profess to speak all about him when they don’t know him as God speaks face to face with prophets.

    Jack: “I would like to hear some ways in which non-LDS Christians are currently persecuting Mormons. And don’t try to point me to counter-cult Web sites and angry temple protesters. That isn’t religious persecution. This is religious persecution.”

    Well, I was thinking of Haun’s Mill and Far West and Salt Lake City and jailing the Mormon leaders etc. Further, if you think that the counter-cult isn’t persecution, try the monthly anti-Mormon meetings of numerous baptist and other evangelical churches in Utah . . .and Atlanta etc. If that doesn’t work, check out those Mormons who lost their jobs because they supported Prop. 8. However, presently we are blessed because physical beatings, deaths and pillaging and plundering are in the past for us — at least for now.

    Jack: “it gets Mormonism out of Christianity”

    I could choose to take offense at this arrogance. It gets Mormons out of a tradition of drawing lines and fencing a person in, but you don’t get to arrogate the name “Christian” for yourselves. It gets us out of “the tradition” with which we never wanted to be identified. We do, however, choose to be identified with Christ and as Christians. You see, you are the ones using the term “Christian” in a non-standard and question-begging way. It is incumbent on you to explain to those to whom you make the claim that “Mormons aren’t Christian” to explain that what you mean is that Mormons don’t accept your rather questionable list of litmus-test beliefs and not that you claim that they don’t faithfully and truthfully follow Christ and can be counted as “being in Christ” just as much as you can. That is why the arrogation of the name Christian is a game you play to win a rather dangerous and un-Christian game of drawing up creeds and litmus test lists of beliefs.

  32. Blake ~ Your denomination could have had the priesthood; it just chooses not to.
    God has chosen to give his priesthood through a New York prophet.

    Okay. And do you know why we refuse to submit to the demands of those fifteen men in Salt Lake City and the New York prophet whose legacy they claim to bear? Because of the theology they teach.

    And do you really not get how ironic it is that you rankle at the thought of us demanding that you submit to the recommendations of a council of leaders whom we consider to be called by God in their positions to carry out the work that they do, yet you don’t think twice about instructing us to submit to a council of 15 men in Salt Lake City whom you claim have been called by God? You’re really lacking perspective here, Blake.

    Expecting me or anyone else to explain why God chooses this small group (the male Levites) or that group (the early disciples of Christ) to give his priesthood is like asking me to explain God’s plans and purposes.

    We don’t have to second guess why God would set aside a holy people for himself and endow them with power. He tells us himself in his word:

    Exodus 19:6a: “[B]ut you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.”

    1 Peter 2:9-10: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (NRSV, emphasis mine)

    God sets aside a holy people so that they may proclaim who he is to the world. Their role is to know God and to make God known. The entire nation of God’s people are meant to function as priestly ministers to the entirety of the world; not just the males or the Levites or whatever. That was true in ancient Israel and it’s true today. Therefore, God has good incentive to leave out people who teach incorrect things about who he is and the work he does.

    Or in other words, correct theology matters—to both of us. Mormonism is not a “creed-less” religion, it merely calls its creeds by other names and arrives at them through different mechanisms.

    Further, neither Wright nor Piper speaks with prophetic authority [SNIP] They speak with the voice of scholarship and have no more authority than the persuasiveness of their scholarly arguments.

    Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the most ironic statement Blake T. Ostler has ever written. I’ll remember this next time you claim to have corrected your own leaders on their theology or chide me for not taking into account what LDS scholars are arguing in regards to what LDS theology is.

    While your hypothetical counsel gets a bunch of people to get together to vote on what they think; Joseph Smith had the audacity to say what God told him.

    Yeah, that’s right, Blake. Because everyone knows Joseph Smith and the Mormons are the only ones who prayerfully seek out the will of God and proclaim what he tells them. My hypothetical council? No way they’d do anything of the sort.

    I was thinking of Haun’s Mill and Far West and Salt Lake City and jailing the Mormon leaders etc.

    Are you claiming all of these were carried out exclusively by Christian zealots for religious reasons? And even if they were, events like these are long over.

    if you think that the counter-cult isn’t persecution

    Calling the work of the counter-cult ministry “persecution” is like saying that the swarm of mosquitoes that pelted your car windshield was an “animal attack.”

    If that doesn’t work, check out those Mormons who lost their jobs because they supported Prop. 8.

    Now you’re claiming that it’s other Christians who are picking on Mormons for their role in Prop. 8? You sure about that? Remember, we’re talking about persecution of Mormons by non-LDS Christians for religious reasons, not political abuse heaped on Mormons by liberal moonbats for messing with gay marriage and the ERA.

    presently we are blessed because physical beatings, deaths and pillaging and plundering are in the past for us — at least for now.

    Yup. That’s what happens when you don’t proselyte in countries where Christianity is illegal. As of right now, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is illegal in 52 countries, restricted in 38, facing hostile treatment in 14—and we’re still boldly declaring it in all 104 of them. You’re welcome.

    I could choose to take offense at this arrogance.

    I could choose to take offense at the fact that you’ve accused me of arrogance no fewer than four times in your replies here. But I’d rather shrug it off, wrap up this post and go watch Battlestar Galactica Season 2.5 Disc 2.

    And besides, in spite of the abrasive and uncharitable tone you’ve demonstrated here, Blake, all said and done, I still like ya.

    It is incumbent on you to explain to those to whom you make the claim that “Mormons aren’t Christian”

    I think you’re having severe reading comprehension problems today, Blake. Name me one spot anywhere in the entirety of this post and the comments on this post where I have claimed “Mormons aren’t Christian.” You can even consult the entirety of everything I have written on this blog and my own blog if you wish. You won’t find it. Here is my official position on whether or not Mormonism is Christian.

    And frankly, I think my own position on Mormonism’s claims to Christianity is a hell of a lot more charitable than the LDS church’s teachings on my Christianity.

    You have a nice night, Blake.

  33. Jack: Could you explain who the priestly nation was that was referred to in Exodus 19:6? Wasn’t it Israel (not the nation of all believers)? And wasn’t that later revealed to be limited to only a part of the nation — the Levites? Are you sure that you’re not wresting this scripture for your own eisegetical purposes? And since 2 Peter was referring to that “holy nation,” in a late writing, just who do you think he was referring to?

    Jack: “While your hypothetical counsel gets a bunch of people to get together to vote on what they think; Joseph Smith had the audacity to say what God told him.

    Yeah, that’s right, Blake. Because everyone knows Joseph Smith and the Mormons are the only ones who prayerfully seek out the will of God and proclaim what he tells them. My hypothetical council? No way they’d do anything of the sort. ”

    Jack: could you clarify that? It sounds to me like you are claiming that your church prayerfully seeks out God’s will but doesn’t have the wherewithal to claim that it receives revelation. What is it that they wouldn’t “do anything of that sort”? Claim that they received revelation from God? That sounds about as contradictory as two sentences can get. This was just confusing to me.

    Further, let’s get real clear on what I claim for my writing: no more authority than the persuasiveness of my arguments. Could you point to a revelation I have attempted to correct for me? Because that is what you have accused of me doing.

    And despite all of the claims that “we” (we who?) proselyte illegally in 52 countries (and I’m supposed to be glad that you poison the well for Mormons?), I still like you too — you lawbreaker you. [grin]

    And don’t waste your time on Battlestar Galactica — especially since you’ve already watched it about a billion times. Read Zen and the Art of Motorcycles Maintenance.

  34. I have to agree with Jack on at least one thing: Labeling what Mormons are undergoing today, whether from the anti-cultists or gay activists, as persecution isn’t doing justice to the word. There are many Christians in the world today who truly are being persecuted, and I’d be surprised if 1 percent of them are LDS.

  35. Jack: “Name me one spot anywhere in the entirety of this post and the comments on this post where I have claimed “Mormons aren’t Christian.”

    Gee, Jack, this ought to do it:

    “Let us say that a council of Christian leaders convenes for a meeting at Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois to discuss the question of Mormonism’s relationship to the historic, orthodox Christian faith and issue a ruling on the matter. The Council of Deerfield is attended by prominent leaders from all across the Christian spectrum including members from the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Church of England, and representatives from all manner of evangelical, Pentecostal, and mainline Protestant churches.

    The findings of the Council of Deerfield are as follows:

    1. Just as Christianity was eventually classified as its own religion rather than a branch of Judaism in spite of its Jewish origins, Mormonism is best categorized as a new world religion rather than a subset of Christianity in spite of its initial Christian heritage. The Council stresses that Judaism is considered its own world religion, yet Mormons already claim more adherents than Jews.
    2. If Mormonism is to be considered a form of Christianity at all, it is a heretical one, having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.2
    3. The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price are an abomination in the sight of God and all their professors corrupt.”

    And you are claiming that I am the one with a reading comprehension problem? Come on. I know that this was hypothetical, but it is your hypothetical scenario to which I am responding. This scenario concludes that Mormons aren’t Christians and gives reasons why. It is to these reasons and the hypothetical you that I am responding.

    However, I have a hard reading this statement by the non-hypothetical you as anything but a rejection that Mormons are Christians: “And do you know why we refuse to submit to the demands of those fifteen men in Salt Lake City and the New York prophet whose legacy they claim to bear? Because of the theology they teach.” In other words, you are adopting the position of the hypothetical Deerfield council as your own.

  36. Blake: “Did you even read what I wrote?” Nope. I typically just jump on blogs and randomly type words. In fact, I don’t even know how to read.

    “What I object to is: (1) …getting the doctrines of the rejected group wrong; (2) mis-defining and getting their own doctrines wrong; (3) drawing lines based upon nonsensical and meaninglessness distinctions; (4) purporting to be something they are not; and (5) most importantly, purporting to make judgments that they are in no position to make. “

    What I object to about your objection is this: It’s based on criticizing Jack’s hypothetical council because they get things wrong, but I think that misses the point of the post (if I can speak for Jack…).

    Now, of course Jack’s council is going to get things wrong. For starters, their faith is wrong (from my perspective), so I’ll never agree on their points—neither on what they choose to regard as meaningful distinctions, nor on what they propose as “correct” doctrine. Second, it’s nearly impossible for anyone to capture perfectly what Mormons believe/teach—including you, despite all your expertise.

    “What is apostate about this approach (mark it Jack) is that it adopts a doctrinal litmus test. I’ve never even met an evangelical that could….” I don’t care. It’s totally beside the point. Let them—no, let everyone in the whole world—go and think long and hard about all the reasons they are not Mormons. Then let every person write it all down and post the list right on their front door—a sort of twist on Luther’s theses. Then we have something to discuss…upfront, in the open, nice and clear.

    “What I object to most is this: the very naive and frankly stupid view that one can define a Christian by a list of essential creeds and beliefs.”

    Good, you have a different belief than the Council. I don’t see how that pertains at all to the council a) holding their belief, and b) acting on it. You may as well object that they attended this council instead of getting baptized and doing temple work. They believe differently than you, and this council is just a reflection of their belief.

    And pretty much the rest of your reply is just you explaining how your belief is different than the council’s beliefs. But again, that is really beside the point. In fact, it’s actually ironic: you are essentially doing what Jack’s council would try to do: viz., define exactly what it is that you find so objectionable about someone else’s faith. Of course, you allow yourself to do it because, well, because you are right and they are wrong.

  37. BrianJ: You missed the entire point of what I have been arguing. I’m objecting to the beliefs that are propounded only because the very task of propounding a set of beleifs that one must adopt to be Christian is nonsensical — because it is impossible. I don’t care if they get beliefs right or wrong, it is the very project of defining beliefs that I object to. Objecting to the project of defining beliefs is not at all like trying to say that I object because you get my beliefs wrong. It is inevitable that they will get beliefs wrong because the very attempt is ill-begotten. So it isn’t just that I hold a different belief — it is that Jack thinks beliefs can be defined like this council attempts to do.

    So pretty much you missed the entire point that I was making. I am not doing what Jack (or at least her hypothetical council) is doing. I am criticizing the very attempt to do what she (or her HC) attempts to do. Now maybe I wasn’t as clear about that as I could have been and thus you have misread or misunderstood me because I was writing in a way that makes understanding me hard — but I thought it was pretty darn clear. So let me say it clearly — I don’t give a crap about what the council says about Mormonism or my beliefs because: (a) the attempt to define beliefs in this way is always going to fail; and (b) such a litmus test of a list of beliefs is the essence of apostasy (even if they get them all right).

  38. Blake — Now I’m even more confused about what you’re trying to say than I was earlier. In particular:

    the attempt to define beliefs in this way is always going to fail

    So how is Jack’s hypothetical different than the way the Apostles and First Presidency come up with revelation?

    If we take as an example something like the 1978 proclamation about the priesthood, that isn’t something that was just handed down from the sky, so to speak. President David O. McKay was ready to make such a declaration quite a bit earlier, and, in essence, there was some politics (I’m not using the term in a bad sense) involved in the decision to go forward in 1978. And I have it on good authority that the adoption of the quasi-scriptural Proclamation on the Family was somewhat similar in the sense that it was something that was hashed out and discussed much by the Brethren rather than appearing instantaneously in way that Joseph Smith received revelation. (I’m not saying that’s bad, by the way. I think that’s the way revelation sometimes comes about, and I believe that both the 1978 declaration and the PotF were inspired.)

    So is the difference between Jack’s hypothetical and the Church’s proclamations a matter of process, or is it a matter of who’s making the proclamation?

    I’m not so much arguing against your point as trying to get a clarification of what it is you’re saying.

    Also:

    such a litmus test of a list of beliefs is the essence of apostasy (even if they get them all right)

    But don’t we LDS have litmus tests too? To me it seems obvious that we do, and examples would be too many to list. I’m just baffled by this point of yours. If I were to teach in Gospel Doctrine class today that Jesus didn’t die on the cross, that he merely fainted, you can bet I wouldn’t be teaching the class next week. And there are countless things far more innocuous that I couldn’t get away with — in fact, despite all our talk about personal and continuing revelation and such, in some (not all) ways we’re more rigid about what acceptable beliefs are than many evangelicals are.

    So if things like the Articles of Faith or the doctrinal statements of D&C 20 aren’t litmus tests of belief, what are they?

    I could understand saying that our litmus tests are right and theirs are wrong (in fact, I believe that’s the case, although I try to temper that with humility), but I can’t understand saying we don’t have litmus tests all.

    To me, saying that we don’t have litmus tests seems absurd on its face. Am I misinterpreting your statement?

  39. Sure hope we don’t discover any Mormon committees correlating “true Christian doctrine”. Especially with a prophet presiding over them.

    Blake, quit condemning us for the things you’re blind about yourself.

  40. The LDS church still prevents false teachers from participating and representing it right? Pretty sure that David Clark, despite his existing priesthood authority, wouldn’t be allowed to say what’s on his mind in an official setting and still be allowed to call himself part of the club.

    As for Blake, he has a doctrine against defining doctrines. If you violate his doctrine you’re and apostate or a heretic. Unfortunately his doctrine is self-refuting and doesn’t represent the LDS church in practice.

  41. Blake: you’re losing everyone, I see, and I think it’s because you are being duplicitous (even though you have yet to realize that you are). It’s impossible to argue two sides without confusing your audience.

    “it is the very project of defining beliefs that I object to.”

    Why then have you spent so much effort here defining, for example, “apostasy”? And likewise, time spent elsewhere exploring and debating (and in the process defining) Mormon belief—or, at the very least, your belief? The only difference I see between you and Jack’s council is that you work alone and they work together.

    You can’t put as much effort as you have into defining, for example, the correct way to interpret the atonement—along with illustrating all the errors of other interpretations—without inherently saying that people who disagree—people who hold a different belief—are wrong. That’s what you do in your writing, and that’s what this Council would do in its meeting.

    “such a litmus test of a list of beliefs is the essence of apostasy (even if they get them all right).”

    Let me change that so it reads how I’m seeing it: “such a litmus test of a list of beliefs is the essence of apostasy, as it is defined by Blake, who alone is allowed to make definitions because by definition only Blake is allowed to make definitions, (even if they get them all right).”

    “So pretty much you missed the entire point that I was making.”

    No, I looked beyond the point you were trying to make and saw the contradiction.

  42. Hi Blake,

    I don’t think I’m committing eisegesis with Exodus 19:6 and 1 Peter 2:9-10. The context makes it pretty clear that all of the nation of Israel is intended. This is what God tells Moses on the mountain (NRSV again):

    “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.”

    The act of setting apart priests within Israel is a type for what God is doing with the whole of Israel: just as the Levites are set apart to be holy ministers within the nation of Israel, the entire nation is set apart to be holy out of all the world.

    1 Peter 2:9-10 is an obvious allusion to Exodus 19:6. What Moses teaches about the people of Israel, the author of 1 Peter teaches about the first century body of Christ’s believers. This is well-recognized by scholars; for example, my NRSV HarperCollins commentary (hardly prone to evangelical bias) says, “A chosen race . . . God’s own people, four honorific titles taken from Ex 19:6; Isa 43:20-21. What in the OT describes Israel here applied to the Christian community, as also v. 10.”

    Point of all this being, if God wants to set apart a people for himself, it makes sense that there would be controls on who can be in the community.

    could you clarify that?

    This is from the “Rules for the Ordered Ministry” for the Evangelical Covenant Church:

    Ordination in the ECC is an act of the church by which a person called by God is formally set apart as a minister of the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The ECC ordains only after determining through careful examination that the person has been called of God, is genuinely committed to the apostolic message, and lives in conformity to it. . . . The person ordained to word and sacrament has a broad theological education and acts as a theologian for the local congregation as well as the larger church. The ordinand interprets the gospel with authenticity and leads the church to live out its apostolic mission. In ordination to word and sacrament, the ECC gratefully accepts the ordinand as one called by God and given to the church to minister in the spirit of Christ. The ECC sets apart the person ordained to the ministry of word and sacrament with the authority to preach and teach the gospel, administer the sacraments and rites of the church, and exercise pastoral care and leadership.

    I’m pretty sure that prayerfully seeking God’s will is part of determining if a person is called to this position, both for the applicant and for the board.

    Another example: I have a professor here who did work in the 70s as a missionary and Greek teacher for the persecuted church in Romania and its surrounding countries. She explained her call like this: when she was in her early 20s, she (as a young French teacher) was heading into her local church when the elders pulled her aside. They said, “______, we’ve been praying about this and we really believe that you’re gifted for ministry. We want you to go to seminary, and if you can’t pay for it, we will.”

    I would call examples like that (and the example I gave with my pastor several comments ago) “revelation.” I have no problem saying that I have received revelation from God in my own life. Some Protestant traditions seem uncomfortable with that and would rather call it “inspiration.” I don’t see a functional difference.

    Could you point to a revelation I have attempted to correct for me?

    “I personally believe that [Brigham Young's] theology was a disaster for the most part — tho I like his emphasis on God as a person and not merely a title or essence as the basis of our worship.” (Source)

    You also have a story you like to tell about how you educated Elder Neal Maxwell on the problems of thinking God is timeless. You describe this a bit in “The Mormon Concept of God,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 17.2 (Summer 1984): 75, footnote 30 and the surrounding text. I’m told you repeated this account in your remarks at the latest SMPT Conference.

    Gee, Jack, this ought to do it

    Blake, I am of two minds on the “Is Mormonism Christianity?” question, and this is reflected in my hypothetical council’s suggestions. For pure taxonomic purposes, I think it can be categorized as either its own religion or I think it can be counted as a branch of Christianity. Good cases can be made for either of those options.

    For the internal question of how other Christians should view Mormonism, we can view it as Mormonism–the separate religion, and therefore no more of a “threat” to us than Judaism or Islam. Or we can view it as a heretical Christian sect within the umbrella of Christianity, like the Donatists and Arians.

    In my head, I think the former option is the best thing for everyone. I echo W. Kelly’s sentiments: I think Mormons themselves would feel liberated no longer laboring under the burden of trying to convince the world that they’re part of Christianity. In my heart, I want it to be the latter option, because I want you guys to be in fellowship with us, and there’s always room for a heresy to reform, for a prodigal son to come home. But once you’re your own religion, the divide is probably set in stone.

    I rarely cast judgment on whether or not individual Mormons are Christians. When I applied to my mission to Utah with TEDS last year, I listed Eric Huntsman in the BYU Religion Department as a character reference. The electronic application asked, “Is this reference a Christian?” with “yes” “no” options and no room for clarification. I was afraid of what the missions team would say if I listed a Mormon as a Christian because I knew what the question was asking, but I checked “yes.” And they did ask me about it later.

    After turning in the application, I called Eric and told him what I’d done and that I was nervous about what they were going to say, but it felt wrong to say he was not a Christian. He said, “Well, thanks! I’m gonna affirm that you’re a Christian when we stand before the Father.”

    And don’t waste your time on Battlestar Galactica — especially since you’ve already watched it about a billion times.

    Actually, this is my first time watching the series.

  43. Blake said:
    Your denomination could have had the priesthood; it just chooses not to. God has chosen to give his priesthood through a New York prophet. That is all that there is to the explanation.

    Actually that’s not true. The LDS church chooses who will and who will not receive its priesthood. If Jack’s church or my church asked President Monson for the priesthood he would only offer it conditioned on acceptance of Mormon doctrine (specifically where it departs from our current beliefs). The LDS church withholds authoritative priesthood based on doctrine just as the Council of Deerfield would withhold the classification of “Christian” based on doctrine.

    The LDS church is no more or less exclusionary than the Council of Deerfield. It’s just shifting the exclusion from “Christian” to “authoritative priesthood”. The consequences of both exclusions are the same (defining who can/can not speak authoritatively for God). Mormons are more sensitive to the non-Christian exclusion because of the sociological implications of how other people view their relationship with Jesus. But I’m pretty sure we all agree it’s more important how Jesus views our relationship with God and our priesthood than any council, quorum or club.

    Jack’s point was to mirror the LDS church’s exclusionary habits using Mormon terminology and practice.

    Blake, perhaps your version of Mormonism doesn’t act this way. Unfortunately your version of Mormonism is not one the LDS church is currently practicing. The preisthood over you doesn’t agree with it and it doesn’t matter how many tens of thousands of words you write about it. You don’t have the authority to say “this” is what Mormon doctrine is. The pleebs in Correlation are the ones who’ve been given that job. From now on when it comes to discovering what the LDS church believes, I’m listening to them rather than you. On this topic the verdict is clear, the LDS church practices correlation and excludes and disciplines false teachers based on doctrine. You’ve got some nice ideas, but they are just yours.

  44. See… Blake is the perfect example of what I mentioned

    You’re arguing back and forth about whether Mormons are Christians or not. From all perspectives, and even most Mormons admit this freely, Mormonism is not historical Christianity. That statement is what got me in trouble two years or so ago when I started on this blog.

    BrianJ (who I believe is Mormon) summarized nicely what I agree with:
    I don’t care. It’s totally beside the point. Let them—no, let everyone in the whole world—go and think long and hard about all the reasons they are not Mormons. Then let every person write it all down and post the list right on their front door—a sort of twist on Luther’s theses. Then we have something to discuss…upfront, in the open, nice and clear.

    Amen to that ! Nailing my doctrines to my front door right now ;-)

    Mick

  45. Let me do my best to respond to the various responses, questions and BiranJ’s personal attacks:

    Eric: There is a vast difference between getting together a group of scholars who try to figure things out and getting together as apostles to proclaim what has been revealed. The First Presidency doesn’t rely on scholarship and they have the authority to proclaim what they have been called to proclaim by revelation. They claim personal revelation as their source and don’t rely on scholarly arguments to establish their position.

    I agree that there are essential beliefs to be Mormon — but there isn’t a list of such beliefs that has been drawn up to say those who believe X, Y and Z are Mormon but those who don’t are not. I agree that you wouldn’t be allowed to teach Gospel Doctrine next week if you teach that Christ just fainted on the cross; but no one would demand your membership. If you commit adultery, it’s a different matter.

    So here is my challenge — show me the list of things in the Mormon tradition that have been drafted to anathematize those who don’t accept a particular position like the creeds have done.

    Tim: You are distorting what correlation does (though I admit that it isn’t my favorite). It correlates the lessons taught so that everyone teaches the same lessons each week from the same resource manuals and insures that the lessons can be taught by those with minimal training. It does act to make sure the the teachings can counted as reliably established as accepted — but it doesn’t create a list and say that if someone doesn’t accept everything on the list then they aren’t Mormon. That is what the creeds so.

    Could you show me anything suggesting that it does more than that?

    BrianJ: I usually don’t respond to lame hacks who accuse me of duplicity. But in the forlorn hope that I may still count you as a friend some day, let me explain that I spent time on the doctrines to show that the attempt to create a list like Jack did is doomed to failure. Note that I didn’t just respond regarding Mormon beliefs, but also where this hypothetical committee got the beliefs of evangelicals wrong and excluded those who are, in my view, rather clearly evangelical. So, can you see that I wasn’t just attempting to define what is Mormon doctrine or what is Christianity? I was showing that such an endeavor is self-defeating whether it is dealing with Mormonism or evangelical beliefs.

    I spent time defining apostasy to show that it isn’t jsut acceptance or rejection of a particular set of beliefs that is apostasy, but the activity or attempting to define by scholarly means, without even a claim of revelation, what true doctrine is. Note that like the creedal councils, the council of Deerfield didn’t claim to arrive at its list of anathematized doctrines by revelation that revealed the list.

    For example, this statement is just not accurate: “You can’t put as much effort as you have into defining, for example, the correct way to interpret the atonement—along with illustrating all the errors of other interpretations—without inherently saying that people who disagree—people who hold a different belief—are wrong. That’s what you do in your writing, and that’s what this Council would do in its meeting.”

    First, what I object to is not an incorrect doctrine of atonement. There are lots of different views and theories of atonement and many, many are acceptable to both Christian beliefs in general and Mormon beliefs in particular. They aren’t so much wrong as potentially misleading and less revealing than other views. Even I don’t suggest that my compassion theory of atonement is the one correct way to view atonement. I do claim that Calvinist view of predestination are just flat wrong — but there are many close-Calvinists views that I don’t view that way — like deterministic Molinism.

    You have misrepresented and distorted my position. It is far more nuanced than you are either capable or willing to grasp. Your charge that I believe that I am the only one who gets to define things is just sheer BS and uncharitable to boot.

    Jack: Let’s assume that your citation to Exodus meant all the Israelite nation. In context, it very clearly works within the practice of giving the priesthood to only the male Levites of this very small group. That is hardly a priesthood of all believers. No one has every suggested, to my knowledge, that the entire nation couldn’t be holy; but we were discussing the priesthood.

    Thanks for sharing the Rules of the Ordered Ministry. The “called by God” part was interesting to me. How is that determined? Does a person simply claim that they are called by God and the church is obligated to accept that? Does the church decide who is called — and if so, how?

    Also, I asked for a REVELATION that I had attempted to correct. You example of suggesting that BY’s entire theology is a disaster is hardly like pointing to a revelation. His entire theology wasn’t a revelation — and some parts of it were contrary to the revelations. But I still regard him as a prophet – precisely because I don’t believe prophets have to be infallible in everything that they believe.

    I also think that you make a good point about Mormonism being a separate religious tradition from the tradition. I also agree and like your point about individual Mormons being Christian. I have two observations: (1) From the standpoint of Mormonism, it seems to me that Mormons don’t have to deny that other Christians are Christians in the sense that a Christian is anyone who worships Christ as a savior (in some sense). It seems to me that we agree on this definition and agree that both Mormons and evangelicals fit this definition. (2) Mormons will still claim to be Christians in the sense that they believe in Christ as savior — but agree that we are (and desire to be) quite distinct from the received tradition. I think that we both agree on these points. But given these points, isn’t THAT the relevant distinction and not the list of beliefs you have listed? In other words, if individual Mormons can be Christians, then the line of distinctions between Christians and non-Christians isn’t some list of beliefs.

    Given your clarification on Battlestar Gallactica, I say go for it? I loved it — especially the gorgeous cylons.

    Tim: Anyone in your church could receive the priesthood in the same way that I have. No one asked me about a list of beliefs when I received it. They did ask about my conduct.

    Once again, Tim, I don’t believe that you understand correlation. Since my brother has been on the correlation committee, I know a great deal about it. They don’t have some list of unacceptable beliefs to exclude from being Mormon like the Deerfield council drew up. They don’t have a list of what is Mormon doctrine to parrot. It is really not a Deerfield council.

    Michael: Give my your list and let me shoot holes in it. I’m willing to bet right now that: (1) it doesn’t accurately or fully express the range of acceptable Mormon points of view; (2) it doesn’t accurately or fully express the range of acceptable evangelical points of view; (3) it will exclude Jesus. I look forward to seeing your list.

  46. Blake, your approach has been a tad abrasive here. So while I don’t really support the ad-hominem stuff (and I really am rather fed up with the constant assertion that apologists are trying to supplant revelation in the LDS faith when all we are really doing is trying to persuasively explain matters on which revelation is SILENT), however, I can see why there would be a temptation for some here to respond that way.

    Not trying to be superior here. I’ve been having a splendid little row with a fellow I’m generally fed-up with over at another blog this very week (I’m no model of blogging politeness). But just an observation.

    It’s a bit unfortunate because the tone possibly detracts from some otherwise good points you’ve made here. And since you, unlike me, have thought through these topics in an organized and compelling fashion, it makes the loss of the message a bit more unfortunate than when some local online schlub like me flips his cork.

    Maybe that’s not fair, but it seems to be the case.

  47. For all you Mormons who claim that there are no Mormon creeds and that Mormons do not anathematize based on creeds please answer me these three simple questions:

    1) Why will I be forbidden to baptize my kids based on a series of questions for which I will answer “incorrectly” ONLY ON THOSE THAT ARE BELIEF BASED?

    2) Why in October will I become a second class Mormon (i.e. no longer hold a valid temple recommend) since I will only answer “incorrectly” on those questions in the temple recommend interview which are BELIEF BASED?

    3) How in the name of anything you hold holy or good is this any different than a group of Christians anathematizing another group because they do not subscribe to a set of beliefs called a creed?

    And no BS like “I think you should be allowed” or “You would be allowed to in my ward, my Bishop is cool.” The fact is that I am not in your ward and you have no authority to say I am allowed so any answer done in terms of some hypothetical is pointless. I don’t live in a hypothetical world (and neither do you, though if you want to play make believe on your own time, be my guest).

  48. David, if your beliefs are such that you no longer wish to enter into the covenant paradigm we offer, then why on earth would you want to be in it?

    If you don’t believe in God, why would you want to covenant with him?

    If you don’t believe that Joseph Smith restored anything, then why would you assent to LDS administration of such a covenant?

    We have non-negotiables. Just like any group. But they do seem different in nature from those of Christianity. And unlike traditional Christianity, we don’t make the touchstones of our inclusiveness doctrines that aren’t even held by most or many of our own accepted members and then use them opportunistically as a club to beat away an undesirable group.

    No one understands the Trinity. Least of all – lay Christians themselves.

    So why some are making the Trinity a touchstone issue of inclusion is frankly beyond me.

  49. DKL:

    (1) What questions do you claim are asked before you can baptize your 8 year old? I’ve done it 5 times and apparently you belong to a different church than I do.

    (2) I suspect that you’re a second class Mormon for other reasons, if at all.

    (3) What? We’re not anathemetizing anyone. Indeed, we regard them as both saved and Christian.

  50. David Clark: What is the creed you claim excludes you? I suspect that you have a very weird definition of a creed.

  51. Are there NO questions about beliefs before baptism? Can an atheist be baptized into the LDS church?

    And let’s be clear, I have never seen anyone excommunicated from any Protestant church for not lining up on any creed or belief (though plenty who are not allowed to teach). My church has loads of people with wacky beliefs and plenty of other thoughts outside of orthodoxy. This discussion isn’t about individuals. It’s a nice rhetorical switch to flip but it’s not the point. It’s a question of who authoritatively represents Christ.

    The LDS church determines what other organizations are outside of its belief system. If all the historic Christian sects want to get together in one group and exclude the LDS church they can do that. It wouldn’t be any different than the LDS church declaring which sects of Mormonism are heretical and which gets the priesthood.

    I think you’re being naive about the power of correlation. If they can and do change conference talks before and after they are given, though they are delivered by apostles it is something much more than a Sunday School lesson planning committee. The reason the Creeds were formed was for the same purpose as the Correlation Committee; to clearly define essential beliefs.

    I think you’re also somewhat deluded if you think you can separate orthopraxy from orthodoxy. Beliefs and actions inform one another.

  52. apparently you belong to a different church than I do.

    How often do we have to hear this? So old. So lame.

    If he does belong to a different church than you do, do you blame him for wanting to find a different one? Would you look for a different one if you were in his church?

  53. Hi Blake,

    My discussion of Ex. 19:6 and 1 Peter 2:9-10 isn’t really about a “priesthood of believers” in the sense that Protestants usually use the term, though I understand that the latter passage is the usual proof text for that. It’s about why God would attempt to set apart a community of believers for himself. Priesthood is a regulating part of that. Putting a priesthood in the community—even when it isn’t technically held by the entire community—is part of God’s effort to make the entire community holy and set it apart for himself. It is natural, then, that there are going to be authoritative controls on who can be a part of the community.

    I really don’t agree with you that the LDS church does not attempt to regulate who is Mormon based on belief. I know someone who was excommunicated for believing in the Adam-God doctrine and believing that plural marriage ought to be practiced. He had absolutely no intentions of practicing it himself, it was all belief. Naturally, I only had his side of the story, but I was inclined to believe him. The leadership of his local ward later changed hands and he was able to get re-baptized.

    There’s also the fact that the LDS church has put out statements asking the press not to call fundamentalist LDS groups “Mormon,” even though “fundamentalist Mormon” is precisely how those groups self-identify.

    The “called by God” part was interesting to me. How is that determined?

    As I understand it, thoughtful examination of the candidate’s application and prayer. And you’ll note that my hypothetical “Council of Deerfield” says nothing about being attended by “scholars;” I said Christian leaders. We do believe that our leaders are called by God and have a certain degree of authority from God.

    You asked me for places where you corrected revelation, but I never claimed you had corrected “revelation.” I said you had corrected your leaders on their theology. Besides, I think all of the talk of Brigham Young’s theology being “speculative” and “not doctrine” or “not revelation” are presentist incursions on what he taught. It’s pretty clear when I read him that he thought most of his theology and teaching was authoritative and binding on the community.

    If you want to disagree with Brigham or explain God’s timelessness to Elder Maxwell, go for it, but it does seem odd that a mere scholar would know these things better than the Lord’s anointed, given the sentiments you’ve expressed here against mere scholars.

    From the standpoint of Mormonism, it seems to me that Mormons don’t have to deny that other Christians are Christians in the sense that a Christian is anyone who worships Christ as a savior (in some sense).

    Honestly? I don’t like that assessment of what a Christian is. It’s a little like saying, “I think anyone who claims to believe in the God of Moses and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is a Jew.” Maybe I should head down to the local synagogue this Saturday, tell them I’m a Jew and see what they think of that.

    Given your clarification on Battlestar Gallactica, I say go for it? I loved it — especially the gorgeous cylons.

    I actually rather enjoy the Cylon women, too. Caprica Six makes me feel good about my recent decision to wear heels when I want in spite of my ridiculous height. :)

  54. Seth: You are entirely correct that I come off as too harsh. In part it is because I write like a lawyer (terse and to the point) and in part because I’m just a jerk — especially to people that accuse me of duplicity rather than attempting to understand what I’m saying.

    Tim: Like Seth said, of course there are essential beliefs. Of course the Church isn’t going to allow an atheist to be baptized. Baptism is a covenant with God and I suspect that such outward pretenses to conform are not acceptable to God either. But the beliefs that are essential are not defined by some scholarly committee that got together to vote on what essentially a Mormon is and what makes one non-Mormon. Prophets can define who and what; scholars are just giving us their best guess. We have reason to give epistemic priority to revelation because God always knows more than we do; we have no such reason to give ground to some council. The authority of a council is no more than mine — the persuasiveness of their arguments and the coherence and fruitfulness of their statements. That is a lot different than a prophet.

    I prophet doesn’t have to give arguments and doesn’t even have to give a fully coherent view because there may be pieces to the puzzle that the prophet is not privy to. The authority of the prophet is based on the superior knowledge of God and not some argument. Can’t you see a difference here — a big difference?

    If your church doesn’t cast out or excommunicate for not accepting the creeds, then I suppose they’d be happy with those who reject the creeds like me? Could I be baptized into your church given my belief set?

    Bridgette: Really? You’d say that one who accepts Christ as savior isn’t Christian? How do you justify regarding Mormons as Christian then? I’ve read your personal statement on this issue and it seems to me to be at odds with holding that someone must meet some belief litmus test other than accepting Christ in as Savior.

    The only reason that everyone who believes in the God of Abraham isn’t a Jew is that it is obvious that such a definition underdetermines the issue: it includes Muslims and Christians as well. However, believing that Christ is Savior doesn’t include anyone but Christians.

  55. Tim said:

    I think you’re being naive about the power of correlation. If they can and do change conference talks before and after they are given, though they are delivered by apostles it is something much more than a Sunday School lesson planning committee. The reason the Creeds were formed was for the same purpose as the Correlation Committee; to clearly define essential beliefs.

    Are you aware of any incidents in, say, the past 10 years where the committee has substantively changed the doctrine of what an apostle said or wanted to say?

  56. Jack: “If you want to disagree with Brigham or explain God’s timelessness to Elder Maxwell, go for it, but it does seem odd that a mere scholar would know these things better than the Lord’s anointed, given the sentiments you’ve expressed here against mere scholars.”

    I don’t know anything “better,” I just have what I consider to be compelling reasons. It is strange to me that you would push this issue. Whether God is timeless or temporal is of course a philosophical issue since the revelations don’t directly address it. Indeed, Elder Maxwell agreed that it was not a settled issue and that I was free to disagree with his view. We are free to disagree with even an apostle when the apostle has no better basis for concluding an answer than I do. Paul admitted as much in his own writings. We’re both basing it upon our reasoning from what we understand has been revealed. But it hasn’t been revealed. As Seth said, the notion that I correcting leadership on such open issues is just poppycock — but it is what I would expect given evangelical assumptions about the status of belief structures as essential to salvation.

    Wahooo Cylon women!!!

  57. Uh, Tim, no correlation committee has ever deigned to define essential beliefs. Heck, they’ve never even had a vote.

  58. Jack: What is the “certain authority from God” that your church leaders have that I couldn’t claim as well? How is that authority established?

    One more question: what is the difference between revelation or inspiration to your present church leaders and the inspiration or revelation that constitutes scripture?

  59. Blake said:

    If your church doesn’t cast out or excommunicate for not accepting the creeds, then I suppose they’d be happy with those who reject the creeds like me? Could I be baptized into your church given my belief set?

    “being happy with” and excommunicating are different things.

    My church has no formal membership, so they probably would baptize you if you wanted it. It’s not a covenant of membership in our church like it is in yours. Many many Protestant churches would probably baptize you, but many many of those would not grant you membership if you didn’t affirm their statement of faith. Typically, baptism is between you and God, membership is between you and the faith community.

    Uh, Tim, no correlation committee has ever deigned to define essential beliefs. Heck, they’ve never even had a vote.

    Yes they have. Are you not aware of the 72 note cards?
    http://mormonstories.org/podcast/MormonStories-150-DaymonSmithPt2.mp3

    One more question: what is the difference between revelation or inspiration to your present church leaders and the inspiration or revelation that constitutes scripture?

    Scripture is for all of Christianity for all time (after it is delivered). Inspiration is for the individual or local community.

    Eric said:
    Are you aware of any incidents in, say, the past 10 years where the committee has substantively changed the doctrine of what an apostle said or wanted to say?

    I couldn’t name one off the top of my head. But there has been a change in the last 20-30 years that required all conference talks to be submitted to correlation. The authority and inspiration vested in the apostles was previously free from that oversight.

  60. Just goes to show you Tim that all authority is delegated authority in the LDS Church. And all authority is subject to other authority. Apostleship is not a matter of personality – it has checks and balances.

  61. Tim: “Scripture is for all of Christianity for all time (after it is delivered). Inspiration is for the individual or local community.”

    Your definitions don’t work. Scripture isn’t delivered by revelation. Revelation is delivered by inspiration and then recognized by the community as such. All scripture comes by inspiration, remember 2 Tim. 3:16?

  62. Let me try that again:

    Tim: “Scripture is for all of Christianity for all time (after it is delivered). Inspiration is for the individual or local community.”

    Your definitions don’t work. All scripture comes by inspiration, remember 2 Tim. 3:16?

  63. Blake: I think Seth probably makes a good observation.

    I completely agree that your view “is far more nuanced” than I am grasping. For the record, when I said “duplicitous” I meant it as in “doubleness of thought”. I realize that the word is also commonly used to mean “deliberately deceptive,” and so in hindsight it was not the best word for me to choose. I don’t see any other instance where I wrote something that could be taken as a personal attack—and yet, I don’t claim sole authority to interpret my words (so to speak).

    Either way, I cannot claim that I have tried to be truly kind with my comments to you, and for that I apologize.

  64. Blake if my distinction within evangelical thought did not answer your question to your satisfaction perhaps Jack can explain it to you.

  65. Thank you BrianJ. Your kindness is appreciated and I also apologize for the unkind things that I have said.

  66. Tim: Unfortunately the 72 cards were never promulgated, accepted or even implemented. Good try though.

  67. I think you’re being naive about the power of correlation. If they can and do change conference talks before and after they are given, though they are delivered by apostles it is something much more than a Sunday School lesson planning committee. The reason the Creeds were formed was for the same purpose as the Correlation Committee; to clearly define essential beliefs.

    Are you aware of any incidents in, say, the past 10 years where the committee has substantively changed the doctrine of what an apostle said or wanted to say?
    I couldn’t name one off the top of my head. But there has been a change in the last 20-30 years that required all conference talks to be submitted to correlation. The authority and inspiration vested in the apostles was previously free from that oversight.

    Tim, I think you’re overstating the authority of Correlation.

    I don’t know what extent what you say above is true, but even if it is completely true, I’m not convinced it would mean anything. To take a similar example, I often edit the writings of my boss, and sometimes even the boss of my boss — in other words, what they write comes through me. I have complete authority (in the sense that often my editing is not further edited by anyone) to change words and even facts in what I edit. As far as the anyone who reads the edited material is concerned, the words that come out of my computer have all the authority of those above me.

    But that’s a far thing from saying I’m the one in charge of the “doctrine” they put forth. And if I were to make any substantive change (for example, omitting an argument because it’s a stupid one), it would be incumbent on me to talk to my boss first about it.

    While the role of Correlation is a huge one — and perhaps too huge — to say that what the Correlation does is the equivalent of drafting creeds (or their functional equivalent) is overstating the argument.

    I’d also point out that the Church states that the products of Correlation should not be considered doctrinal. This disclaimer from the Church’s Bible Dictionary is typical: “It is not intended as an official or revealed endorsement by the Church of the doctrinal, historical, cultural, and other matters set forth.”

    That said, we do have some essential beliefs that define us. The fact that they aren’t organized into some sort of a formal “creed” doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.

  68. Seth: You are entirely correct that I come off as too harsh. In part it is because I write like a lawyer (terse and to the point) and in part because I’m just a jerk — especially to people that accuse me of duplicity rather than attempting to understand what I’m saying.

    You’re not the only lawyer here, Blake. Seth’s a lawyer, too. So am I, and I think Jared C. is also. Being a lawyer doesn’t give you a free pass to be [a butthead].

    If you are going to be [a butthead], at least have the balls to own it and not try to blame your profession.

  69. David, if your beliefs are such that you no longer wish to enter into the covenant paradigm we offer, then why on earth would you want to be in it?

    Because I still believe in the value of baptism. I have no problems with the actual words spoken in the LDS baptism ceremony, indeed they are nothing more than a summary of the great commission given at the end of the book of Matthew. No authority is declared (a rarity for a Mormon ordinance) so I would not be assenting to any LDS beliefs in saying the words. They are basically the same words that any other Christian group would say.

    If you don’t believe in God, why would you want to covenant with him?

    I do believe in God and consider myself a believing Christian.

    If you don’t believe that Joseph Smith restored anything, then why would you assent to LDS administration of such a covenant?

    Because I would not be assenting to an LDS administration of any covenant. If a Baptist minister rented the LDS font and baptized someone using the LDS language (which again is straight out of the NT) that would not be making a covenant under the purview of the LDS church. In truth, there is nothing in the LDS baptism prayer which gives any indication of the covenant being made, nor the authority used.

    I would not perform the confirmation prayer. That would be assenting to LDS authority by 1) declaring the authority used to perform the ordinance and 2) declaring the confirmee to be a member of the LDS church.

    Of course then there is the question of why bother with this whole charade. In all honesty, I’d rather this not even be an issue. But, LDS social reality dictates that it’s just less hassle for everyone involved if dad baptizes his kids. And since I still believe in the value of baptism and I don’t feel strongly on the credo/paedo baptism argument I’ll split the difference and call 8 years old good enough.

  70. DKL:

    I’m not DKL.

    (1) What questions do you claim are asked before you can baptize your 8 year old?

    Do you have a testimony of the restoration of the gospel in these the latter days?

    Do you sustain the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator and as the only person on the earth who possesses and is authorized to exercise all priesthood keys?

    Do you sustain members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators?

    Do you sustain the other General Authorities and local authorities of the Church?

    apparently you belong to a different church than I do.

    Probably so.

  71. Blake,
    Sorry I’m a little slow in responding here.

    My list would simply be the Nicean creed.

    And no, I’m not going to engage in this lengthy debate about how many Christians don’t even know it, or how you don’t get excommunicated if you don’t adhere to it or whether you even should be, etc…

    It’s a good, orthodox summary of the Christian faith that has served us well for almost 1,700 years and most orthodox historical Christian churches will accept it.

    The fact that you don’t (as you admitted earlier) makes you different from those historical orthodox Christian churches. Not better, not worse, just different. And the question is whether that difference is big enough to create a gap that would cause someone to say that Mormonism is no longer a Christian faith. IMHO the answer to that is yes. It has become “Christ-plus”.

    And perhaps I’m harsh and talking like an IT guy. 1+1 is always 2… it never stays 1. You could argue that the second 1 is really inconsequential. Or that 2 is really 1, just with some other stuff in there. But 1 and 2 are never the same.

    So let’s admit that, face it and move on. I believe that was the spirit of Jake’s post.

    Mick

  72. Eric said:
    I’d also point out that the Church states that the products of Correlation should not be considered doctrinal.

    That’s not true. Being in the correlated material and stated at a recent General Conference (which is correlated) are markers of “doctrine”.

    http://ldstalk.wordpress.com/2007/05/10/hes-no-apostle-but-hes-got-influence/

    I understand your point about editing. But could anyone deny that the content of General Conference talks has changed since correlation got involved? I doubt you’ll hear an endorsement of the John Birch Society any more. That may not be a change to a revelation but it is a change to a preaching point.

  73. Kullervo: In Blake’s defense, he did try to “own it” when he said, “because I’m just a jerk.” What he blamed on his profession was being “terse and to the point.”

    I’ll take “jerk” (his word) and “[butthead]*” (your word) as more or less synonymous.

    Just sayin’

    *I love the editing done here: the original word was unacceptable but “butthead” is not. Reminds me of a former boss who didn’t mind saying “sh*t” but was very put off whenever someone said “crap.”

  74. I did the edits, BFF, based on my own sense of severity of swear words and I’m sorry if that appears arbitrary. I’ve routinely heard Kullervo’s word edited for television, and never so with “butthead.” Tim has asked us to try to keep down the swearing so that this blog won’t be blocked by people using swear word filters for religious reasons and I’d like to try to do my part with that, at least on my threads.

    And yes, I realize that in the past I have cussed as much as anyone around here; I am trying to cut back on that and elevate the level of discourse.

    (Did I ever mention that I’m married to a man who literally refuses to say “butt” or “poop” or “fart”? And that I’ve seen families who won’t let their kids say “stupid”? Everyone’s sort of got a different level on what’s acceptable.)

    Blake, I am busy today and will get back to you later tonight or tomorrow.

  75. PS I am totally okay with Jack censoring me. I think its hilarious. I wish she would be more creative and colorful about it though.

  76. Jack, I am glad to see that Mormon culture is rubbing off on you.

    Mormons are generally bizarrely oversensitive to swearing. I have been trying to swear more for years to overcome this tendency.

    My standard response to Mormon who object to my swearing:

    “Why don’t you ram it up your pim-hole, you fusking cloff prunker.”

    And you can even say that in church.

  77. OK, Kullervo, I won’t use being a lawyer as an excuse, instead I’ll blame you since you’re so obviously above being abrasive as a lawyer and all. Just saying.

  78. David Clark: Assenting to the authority of the church is nothing like a litmus test of beliefs or a creed. It is the essential recognition that the ordinance is done by authority of angels who restored the right to perform the ordinance in God’s name. I’m with Seth — I wonder not only why you would bother but why you feel your little charade is somehow more honest than just assenting to the authority when you don’t. One lie is as good as another.

    Michael: “My list would simply be the Nicean creed.”

    Yeah, it is non-scriptural and incoherent and excludes Jesus because he didn’t teach anything like that creed. Not a good basis for excluding folks as Christian it seems to me. Moreover, it didn’t even solve the issues it was supposed to resolve because it is so vague. Do you believe that you understand it?

    Jack: Really? Butthead? That’s the best you could do? Let me see, I would have chosen arrogant a-hole or something like that — but I would insist that we send Kullervo a mirror so he could take a good look at what true sphincters surrounding a void really looks like. Oh, and I would insist that no one can use such language to describe any lawyers.

  79. Tim: “That’s not true. Being in the correlated material and stated at a recent General Conference (which is correlated) are markers of “doctrine”.”

    That’s just not true. Doctrine is what is accepted by common consent. Merely being published by the church in correlated materials is far from establishing doctrine. Like I said, the real purpose of correlation is just to get everyone on the same lesson and to make sure that people who were baptized 2 weeks ago and have no training can have some basic materials from which to teach.

  80. Tim, did one of your comments just get deleted or something? My email alerts shot me a comment you made, but it’s not showing here.

  81. Blake,

    As mentioned, I’m not going to get drawn into a whole discussion on the value of the creeds here. Either Tim does another post on it, or I’ll do one and we can take it elsewhere. I’ve had that discussion with Jared, Kullervo and Seth a while back on this blog and others as well. Look through the archives.

    That being said, you just made my point. Most historic Christian faiths will accept the creeds, with all its flaws and gaps. Mormons usually don’t. Hence my position that Mormonism is not a historic Christian faith.

    I really wonder why it’s that hard to accept that ? I was brought up very strict RC and over the years I’ve come to realize that a lot of the RC doctrines are “Christ-plus”. Hence I would question some of those as being not really traditional historic Christianity. So can we accept that and move on ? Jack’s post was exactly that hypothetical question. Would a council like this make it easier for all of us to move on ? I think it would.

    You seem to argue that you wouldn’t accept that council as being authoritative. IMHO since you’re not part of the historical Christian faith traditions, you wouldn’t have a say. But would it make it easier for you or not ? Looks like, with all due respect, you’re still stuck in trying to prove Mormonism is the true Christian faith. Which it may be, but it’s a big variance on what the other Christian traditions had accepted for anywhere from 1,500 (if you start at Nicea) to 1,800 (if you start with Apostle’s creed) years. So if those that do adhere to the historic traditions in some shape or form come together and say “Listen guys, you’ve varied from what we have held as doctrinal believe so much now that we don’t consider you part of our little group anymore“, how does that impact you ? I think it’s an interesting question.

    And again, this doesn’t mean an individual Mormon can’t be a Christian. Or vice versa that there can’t be non-Christians in the RC or Protestant churches. I’d like to emphasize that distinction.

    Hope this helps
    Mick

  82. The more I study the figure of Christ, the less comfortable I am labeling groups “Christian.” There are a handful of doctrines and practices that take the label from a historical perspective, and these find themselves scattered far and wide (among Christians and Christian heretics: though from my point of view every church is a heresy).

    Even before I realized that the LDS church’s claim to restore original, primitive Christianity rests on very shaky ground (speaking from the position of a dispassionate historian), I thought the argument over our Christianity was just silly (no matter what side of it one happens to take). Clearly, everyone can see that we worship the person of Christ (while drawing him in a rather unique way): so we are Christians (from the historian’s point of view, the Buddhists’ point of view, the atheists’ point of view, etc.). On the other hand, we pointedly differentiate ourselves from other Christian creeds. No matter how much we bluster about being Christian, this fact is not going anyway: so we are clearly un-Christian (from the Catholics’ point of view, the Orthodox point of view, the Protestant point of view, etc.). Why do we LDS care so much that some people coming from particular social contexts do not use a particular adjective to define us? Is our version of Christianity so shallow and weak that it demands the complete abjection of other versions? Is our ability to exercise faith, hope, and charity impaired because some people will not use a certain adjective to describe us? Whatever your position on the historical claims of the LDS church, the obvious answer to these questions should be no. So I have (and have never had) any problem with the kinds of distinctions that the Council of Deerfield would impose.

  83. Michael: “Listen guys, you’ve varied from what we have held as doctrinal believe so much now that we don’t consider you part of our little group anymore“, how does that impact you ? I think it’s an interesting question.”

    Well, this is moot since it has already happened. I agree with everything that Joseph said above. We’re not a part of the tradition. There is a question who varied — and that may be a matter of faith. I object to the entire idea of creeds for a lot of reasons, some of which I have stated here. In the end, however, there is one huge difference. Mormon don’t call evangelicals non-Christians because they have a different view of things. We accept that they have a genuine faith that can be efficacious for them — a saving even if a bit misguided faith. We don’t claim that evangelicals have a different Jesus and that their faith is not legitimate. If you are willing to accept the same for Mormons, then we can be at peace in Christ.

  84. Blake,
    We don’t claim that evangelicals have a different Jesus

    Seriously ? You’ve got to be kidding. Everyone here knows better.

    that their faith is not legitimate: depends on your definition of legitimate.

    But I’m sure we can be at peace… after all.. I am at peace with several friends who are Mormon.

    Mick

  85. That there’s differences in interpretation/position on who Jesus is/was.

    I think I recall you accepting that. Then it becomes a matter of who’s right/wrong or closer to the truth or true meaning of His sacrifical work.

    Mick

  86. Yeah, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still think the refrain of “you guys don’t have our Jesus – you have ‘Mormon Jesus’” is rather stupid.

  87. I agree… but the refrain of “We all have the same Jesus so let’s huddle around the fire and sing Kumbaya” is equally stupid.

  88. Blake ~ Really? You’d say that one who accepts Christ as savior isn’t Christian? How do you justify regarding Mormons as Christian then?

    One who claims to accept Jesus Christ as Savior hasn’t necessarily done it. One can confess the Nicene Creed, believe the Bible is inerrant, and sit on the board of elders at his/her local church and still not be a true Christian in my book.

    However, I happen to be a believer in a limited degree of individual soteriological inclusivism, meaning that I think someone can still have a saving relationship with Christ and be a “Christian” in some sense in spite of believing in false theology. I’m sure you’re familiar with the example of the Calormene warrior in C. S. Lewis’ The Last Battle?

    Let me go deeper with my Jewish example. I think an interesting parallel to the Mormon-Christian argument is found in the Messianic Jewish community. There’s a Messianic Jewish PhD student here at TEDS with me. As I understand it, MJs keep kosher law, believe in the entire Old Testament, practice circumcision and Jewish holidays and hold worship services in the style of Jewish synagogues. They just believe Jesus is the Messiah.

    I have seen other Jews get absolutely livid when the subject of MJs is brought up. “They’re not Jews, they’re Christians! They’re deceiving our people into worshiping Jesus!” To them, believing in the Old Testament and practicing Jewish holidays and laws isn’t good enough to be Jewish. They aren’t questioning MJ commitment to their beliefs in what they call the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; it’s simply that believing in Jesus completely changes what all those beliefs mean so that they’re better categorized as Christians (according to Jews). They want to put the word out that MJs aren’t really Jews so that unsuspecting Jews won’t head to MJ synagogues when they’re looking for a congregation.

    The parallels for other Christians with Mormonism should be obvious. It isn’t a matter of questioning that Mormons have a commitment to what they understand to be Jesus Christ. But believing in Joseph Smith’s teachings completely changes what those shared beliefs mean so that some would say it’s better to categorize Mormonism as its own religion.

    I agree that you’re free to disagree with your leaders when what they’re teaching is not “revelation.” I just don’t think that Brigham Young would agree that his theology wasn’t “revelation.” He taught the Adam-God doctrine in the endowment. If you’re going to tell me that the endowment ceremony is meant to be the mere opinions of current church leaders, I don’t think I’m going to believe you.

    What is the “certain authority from God” that your church leaders have that I couldn’t claim as well?

    None. But your leaders don’t have any type of authority from God that I couldn’t claim either. If I say Peter, John, James, and John the Baptist appeared in my living room tonight and ordained me to the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods, my claims are equivalent to theirs.

    How is that authority established?

    I’m not sure I can explain this better than I have already. Protestants generally consider their authoritative succession to be a succession of teaching rather than some kind of force that’s transferred hand-to-hand. So I guess it’s established by correct teaching and personal inspiration / revelation.

    what is the difference between revelation or inspiration to your present church leaders and the inspiration or revelation that constitutes scripture?

    Scripture is considered infallible. Current leaders and religious tradition are fallible. I know that there’s a lot to question in that claim, but that’s what the distinction is supposed to be.

    Mormon don’t call evangelicals non-Christians because they have a different view of things.

    In your view, Blake, are there ever any valid reasons to question the Christianity of someone who self-identifies as a follower of Christ?

    Really? Butthead? That’s the best you could do?

    Okay. Next time I’ma steal some substitute swears from these people.

    It’s my husband’s birthday tomorrow, so I might not make it back to this fine thread till Friday.

  89. “Why don’t you ram it up your pim-hole, you fusking cloff prunker.”

    Masterful.

  90. I am a “converted” Eastern Orthodox Christian.

    The authority issue was always problematic for me as a Protestant. Determining who has the “revealed Word of God” is a squishy affair for Protestants because it still all comes back to individual inspiration or “leading by the Spirit”. Those Christian groups with a strong Tradition (yes, a capital T) compare individual revelations with the historical teachings of the Church, and when they are in conflict, they are rejected. Protestants have the scriptures, and denominational preferences to fall back on when the scriptures are unclear.

    How is this relevant? The Mormon Church has prophets, and much like the Protestant Church(es) it comes down to whether the person claiming inspiration/revelation is to be trusted.

    A new ecumenical council of those who claim “historic” Christianity is highly improbable, and would be highly suspect simply because the same exclusiveness that would be laid down by such a council already exists between the traditional branches of the Church. There is no agreed upon creed between the churches, and no agreed upon authority.

    The EO Church will recognize baptisms from other churches, if they are with water, and in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but will not recognize chrismations, as only those in the direct line of the Apostles have the authority to bestow the Holy Spirit. Would the EO Church recognize those outside of it’s membership as Christians? They are unwilling to draw that line. Would they say there is salvation outside the EO Church? They are unwilling to draw that line as well. Is Mormonism any different from Calvinism to the EO? Probably. But both are outside of Tradition, adding to and extrapolating from scriptures a new tradition, wholly disconnected from the Holy Tradition, and therefore heretical to some extent.

    You can talk about a hypothetical council if you like, but even if Protestants *think* they are part of the Church (in the same way Mormons call themselves Christians), the groups that they each split from think differently. Nobody likes talking about that either.

    If we start drawing lines, they might go anywhere, and I highly doubt that they will end up where everyone wants them, if any lines are ever agreed upon. But what do the lines even tell us? Anything important? It speaks of an outward view of the faith, focusing on “who’s with me!?” rather than an inward “am I on the right path?” The real inward question is what determines the individual Christian, which, we have acknowledged more than once here, is not dependent on the labeling of the group to which one belongs. Who knows the heart of a man?

    If I were an Evangelical, I would work harder on making sure Mormons *are* Christians, rather than trying to disprove/disparage/revile the doctrine of the Mormon Church. It does not have to be counter-cult, it can just be normal everyday sharing, edification, and love. Christianity is less about doxy than about praxy. Orthopraxy can come first, and I am not sure anyone is truly Orthodox.

  91. I did not say they had no tradition, but their own new traditions, disconnected from the original Tradition (Holy Tradition is a whole different and controversial topic).

  92. The original Tradition . . . Yes, it is all about what is fundamental, isn’t it?

    Fundamental to what is orthopraxy and orthodoxy, Tech.

  93. My point is that Protestant/Evangelical Christians are in the same position as the Mormons in some ways. They claim a title, but consider themselves “new and improved.” But in the same way that the Joseph Smith started something extra-Christian in the eyes of Protestants, the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestants (and all the denominational splits after that) started something extra-Christian in the eyes of the group that they left. A Evangelical Protestant with the idea that we can “collect” a consensus to tell the Mormon Church that they are formally not Christian is like a Roman Catholic trying to get the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs to join them in telling Protestants that they are not a part of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. To those who believe themselves the “trunk” of Christianity, the delineation is a little like the kettle calling the pot black. I just think that there are a lot of assumptions made about the unity of those who use the label of Christian. Can we get along and treat each other with Christian love? Sure. Can we share sacraments and declare that we are all a part of the same Church? Not likely.

  94. TechSamaritan

    There is no agreed upon creed between the churches

    Partly because Protestants just suffer from severe amnesia and don’t even know what Calvins or Luthers position on the creeds really was. Or haven’t even heard of 16th century creesd like the Belgic Confession, which in article 8 clearly speaks about the Trinitarian aspect of our faith.

    Without that amnesia, I would think EO, RC and most Protestant denominations would accept any of the main creeds (Apostles, Nicean, Chalcedon) as an agreed upon creed.

    But that’s just my two pennies…

    Mick

  95. TechSamaritan ~ I agree that it’s a stretch to say the Eastern Orthodox (or the Catholic) church would ever participate in anything like this. The only reason I included them is because the Manhattan Declaration took place last year, which makes the possibility slightly more feasible to me. In any case, I don’t think it’s horribly necessary for the EO and Catholic churches to participate in such a council given that they already have position statements declaring that they won’t accept LDS baptisms.

    Christianity is less about doxy than about praxy.

    I have to confess, I find sentiments like this thoroughly confusing. Praxy does not happen in a vacuum. If our policies, rituals, and religious observances don’t have theological meaning behind them, what’s the point of doing them? If the theological motive is wrong, how can we be sure that the action is still right?

    In any case, I think my post was far more praxis-oriented than people are giving it credit for. There are so many comments here focusing on the question of whether Mormons are Christians (something the post is ambiguous on) rather than on the question of whether my “recommendations in proceeding with members of the LDS faith” #1-#5 is a sound course of action. Bottom line being, I’m all for talking about praxis. How should we proceed in making sure Mormons are Christians?

  96. “having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof”

    I’ve always associated phrase “the power thereof” in JSH with a centralized church authority. Catholics have their Pope, Mormons their President; is there any other Christian sect with a similar central authority? If that were the only meaning of the phrase, the doctrine of Godly authority exercised through a mortal leader, would any other sect find offense with the statement?

    Yes, the wording is harsh. The “abomination” line is perhaps stronger still. In my own mind, the harsh wording was directed at Joseph Smith to get him to abandon old thinking and revisit long-established doctrines on some basis other than popular consensus. It was, then, a condemnation of established and unquestioned thinking rather than individuals or sins. But I can see how that’s little comfort to those belonging to the sects so condemned.

    I also recognize this view doesn’t explain why the statement condemns “professors” explicitly. Even so, from the context of the rest of the verse (and the rest of the scriptures generally), it seems to me to be doctrine, not men, being condemned.

    If we didn’t disagree with the mainstream on doctrinal points, our sect would have no reason to exist.

  97. Wow!!! Nice way for all of you to say that we just don’t agree.

    Here is my two cents. If the one and only true God of the bible is not your savior and master, it doesn’t really matter what else you do. You can be the best dressed most compassionate, most giving person going to hell on earth. Oh yeah you can be protestant, catholic, jewish, evangelical whatever you call yourself. You have to have a meaningful relationship with God.

    Here is one thing I know, the truth is always the truth. Lies in the end will be found to be lies. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Ephesians 2:8

    Here is the tricky part. What have you placed your faith in lies or truth. You must find it out. Theorize all you like. I like to put it in simple terms.

  98. Here is my two cents. If you live a good life, are honest and fair with other people, live up to your obligations to your family and community, it doesn’t really matter which god you pray to. You can be the most pious, theologically-minded, mystical, and godly niðing on earth. Oh yeah, you can be pagan, Hindu, heathen, Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, hellenic whatever you call yourself. You have to live a life of virtue.

    Here is one thing I know, virtue is always virtue. Ευγενειαν ασκει (live nobly); Επαινει αρετην (praise virtue); Πραττε δικαια (practice what is just): the Delphic Maxims.

    There’s nothing tricky about it. You can talk yourself out of virtue all day long, for any reason, but in the end you know you’re wrong. Theorize all you like. I like to put it in simple terms.

  99. Did not know this site existed three years ago, but I was busy anyway taking care of pressing issues.
    An example of persecution of LDS people today: When I was 12 years old a new family moved into my very small town (98% Hispanic). This Caucasion family came from Arkansas and were Baptists. The woman/mother of this new family worked with my mother at an elementary school (teacher). This new woman always tried to get my mother to renounce the LDS church, especially after finding out my mother was raised Baptist. When no one was around to witness, or no one was paying attention, this woman was brutal to me, a 12 year old kid, who could not defend myself, and who was taught to respect people of authority and adults (my parents were southerners so yes/no sir and yes/no mame was expected). I could not for the life of me figure out what I had done to her for her to hate me so much. I did not know about anti Mormonism. This woman made threats to me, hit me, pushed me, called me names (she hissed at me versus speaking in a normal voice – she sounded evil), ignored me when my mother was around, rude, and any other mean thing she could do to me, she did. I told my mother and my mother did not believe me. It was not until years later when this woman had a LDS kid in her class and my mother witnessed how this woman treated the LDS kid, then my mother believed me. My mother told the parents of the LDS kid to change class rooms/teachers. And it hurt that my mother doubted me because I had never lied to my parents. I got caught lying one time and I learned my lesson and never did it again.
    I also had to battle discrimination not only as a Caucasion but as LDS. When I was a junior in high school the town got a new Baptist Preacher who had a daughter my age. This daughter did to me what the mean teacher did to me, and she turned my friends away from me with lies. I even had someone ask to see my horn nubs. No joke. I was bullied all day long, everyday, in school.

    As an adult I had to endure the same sorts of things in the work place (I was never hit or pushed). How does one prove these things? You can not. I walked out of my last job a few years ago. After it was known that I was LDS the treatment towards me changed immediately – for the worse. And there is always a rumor in town (I do not live in the town I grew up in) that Mormons are the problem, Mormons cause problems for everyone, etc. So do not tell me that Mormons do not get hassled today. No, Mormons are not killed and driven out like in the early years. And yes there are Christians who are beaten etc. in other countries today. But to say that Mormons are not treated badly today is ignorance and denial. Chapels are burned down and vandalized. Temples are vandalized and bombs placed in the doorways, and envelopes of white powder sent to Temples. LDS people have their houses vandalized and/or burned; even a LDS school teacher had her school room vandalized! It happens all over the U.S. and other countries. If counter cult organizations and other Christian organizations did to other religions what it does to Mormons there would be an outcry. That in itself shows that Mormons are not given any respect, or very little respect.
    I did get some satisfaction against the mean Baptist teacher that worked with my mother. One of the sons of this anti Mormon lady became a Preacher. He committed adultery, left his wife for the other woman. Whenever I saw the mean Baptist school teacher I got back at her – I always asked about this son and his mistress and asked about his ex-wife and children, and if the son was kicked out of his church yet. It embarrassed her. Could not help myself, after all she physically, mentally, emotionally, and verbally abused me.

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