An Open Letter to Fellow Evangelicals

Over the past 180 years the Evangelical world has had two primary missions in response to Mormonism. The first was to protect our own sheep, the second was to call Mormons to repentance and motivate them to join the fellowship of true believers. These were both accomplished by pointing out the heresies inherent in Mormonism and by drawing questions to the trustworthiness of Joseph Smith and Mormon origins. I hope to persuade that the time is now upon us to consider a new approach to Mormonism. I do not wish to criticize the way we have historically approached Mormonism. On the contrary I think the two overall missions have been praiseworthy and Biblically motivated. I do not by any means think that Mormonism stands with historic, orthodox Christianity. I do not think the LDS church teaches truth in regards toward the nature of God. I think the LDS church draws the majority of those it teaches away from the Gospel as taught by Jesus and his apostles. I do not think that Joseph Smith bears the marks of a trustworthy prophet. Despite my continued stance against Mormonism it’s becoming clear to me that a new set of circumstances is now upon us. The signs of a new season are showing and we need to pause for a moment and consider our efforts and the allocation of our resources.

A New Day
We are entering a new day. The world of Mormonism has changed significantly in the seven years in which I’ve explored it. As many have observed, the internet has sparked an information revolution. Materials are widely available and the ability to collaborate and unify with like-minded people has increased tremendously. This has had a tremendous effect on traditional Mormon debates. I’m flabbergasted to see faithful Mormons agree with Evangelicals on the facts of such things as the Kinderhook Plates and the Adam-God theory much less Joseph Smith’s Polyandry and his non-translation of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers. The focus of the debates has changed from “is it true” to “does it matter”. That is a monumental shift.

In addition, non-traditional Mormon voices are beginning to form and they are being heard. The censoring of the “September Six” is not likely to happen in today’s environment. If such an attempt were made by Mormon authorities it would not go well for them. In many ways such efforts would only make those “un-correlated” voices more clearly heard because the controversy would add attention to their work. Grant Palmer was correct when he predicted that church discipline would only increase sales of his book “Insider’s View on Mormon Origins”. Many disaffected and “New Order” Mormons may even hope for church discipline as they continue to speak out on a number of topics. [update June 26, 2104: this prediction turned out to be untrue as the church has excommunicated Kate Kelly, a feminist who sought to influence the church to ordain women. Whether or not the church will benefit long term from this is yet to be seen.]

In many ways our concerns about Mormon origins and the character of Joseph Smith are being carried further and farther by those still inside the church. Ex-Mormons, New Order Mormons, Disaffected Mormons and even some BYU professors and other faithful Mormons are carrying this message forward. Their words about these concerns travel further and farther because it is often wrapped in the package of “Mormon” rather than Evangelical. A perceived friend is more trusted than a perceived enemy.

For many reasons we Evangelicals have been viewed as the enemy. We are not at fault for all of those reasons. Mormonism began with a strong polemic against traditional Christianity and hasn’t let up. In addition we have a Biblical mandate to defend against false doctrines and false prophets. We’ve been correct in taking a stand against the false ideas Joseph Smith presented. Sadly that stand has not always been carried out in love. Evangelicals who think it is appropriate to literally slam their doors on Mormons or in any other way treat them inhospitably have not been the best example of the love of Christ. Those that have intentionally exaggerated or misconstrued Mormon beliefs have given Mormons plenty of reason to view our message and our intentions skeptically. But reasons and motivations for the animosity aside; we need to recognize that the way Mormons perceive us stands in the way of our hope to carry the true Gospel forward. I think we need a new strategy and I think the time to aggressively change modes is now.

Why Change Now
Recently Elder Marlin K. Jensen conducted a Q&A at Utah State University. In that session Elder Jensen stated:

“The fifteen men really do know, and they really care. And they realize that maybe since Kirtland, we never have had a period of, I’ll call it apostasy, like we’re having right now; largely over these issues.”

This statement isn’t all that revealing in terms of the suspected number of people who are now losing their faith in Mormonism (whether they officially resign or remain members is another topic). What’s remarkable about this statement is that it’s being stated by Elder Jensen, Church Historian and a member of the Quorum of the 70. The real news in his statement is that the First Presidency and the Quorum of the 12 are aware that people are losing faith and they are aware of what is causing them to lose faith. That Elder Jensen states this in any kind of public forum is significant. The effects of this apostasy are being felt. In addition the LDS church’s growth rate in the United States is hovering somewhere near its birth rate (which is also dropping). Finally, Generation Y is less committed to the faith of their parents than any generation before it. I do not believe that any sort of significant change will take place within the LDS church to change these trends. The church is too bureaucratic and too invested to make a significant risk that may backfire. In addition the age of the leadership does not incline them to take risks. At best the church will make apologetic answers from unofficial resources such as FAIR more broadly available. But I do not believe this will stem the tide.

People discover questions that threaten the LDS church from search engines not from Gospel Doctrine classes. Those same search engines are already providing these apologetic answers and they are proving to be largely ineffective. Publishing these answers in a manual is only taking a step backwards in technology. Additionally, providing answers in official venues has a double edge, publishing these questions under the church seal reveals them to members who are already disinclined from reading anything that is not officially published by the church.

I predict in the next 20 years there will be a radical shift within the LDS church. If Mitt Romney becomes President that shift may occur sooner (due to heightened media scrutiny). Many people will leave the Salt Lake branch either because they no longer believe the message or because they believe the church is making compromises that it shouldn’t make. We’ve already seen the pattern of this behavior in the Community of Christ and the Worldwide Church of God.

In that sort of environment the LDS church will need friends. Many may be glad to see the organization crumble and hope for its entire evaporation. I do not. I believe the organization of the LDS church can be separated from the heresies of Mormonism. There is much good in the organization and in the people of the LDS church. What doesn’t directly conflict with the authentic Gospel of Jesus should be preserved if at all possible. Jesus is out to make all things new.

If you disagree with me about the organization, I still think it would be appropriate for you to consider changing strategies. Your Mormon friends and neighbors in this time of change will need friends. I’m alarmed and discouraged by the great many ex-Mormons who become secular agnostics or atheists. This is in part the bad fruit of Mormonism. As the saying goes; “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Another part of this is the rising cultural shift toward secularism. A third part has to do with the way Evangelicals are perceived by Mormons. We are rarely viewed as helpful or friendly by Mormons. In our efforts to stand strongly against heresy we’ve become viewed as the opposition. For many in the midst of a crisis of faith the idea of joining in worship with Evangelicals is immediately rejected because of the preconditioned view Mormons have of Evangelicals. A Mormon missionary in distress is not likely to seek out a Protestant minister for help. Again, this isn’t entirely our fault, but perception is the reality that we must deal with. We must make an extra effort to overcome perception. We must do what we can to help Mormons see us as a friendly and helpful face in the midst of a faith crisis.

A New Strategy
For these reasons I believe we need a new strategy. I think we need to largely abandon our role in exposing Joseph Smith and Mormon origins. As I’ve mentioned, I think this work will continue at the hands of Mormons and will have greater traction than anything we could hope to produce. The role “Rough Stone Rolling” has had in changing the tone of the debate should be evidence enough. Terryl Givens has a forth coming book on the evolution and progression of Mormon doctrines. This book will undoubtedly challenge the notion that many Mormon doctrines have been static. Works such as these will continue to erode the traditional Mormon narrative. Our best efforts at expose’ can’t do better than these in terms of effectively demonstrating the LDS church to not be what it historically has claimed to be. The era of Joseph Smith being viewed as a trustworthy figure is closing one internet search result at a time both inside and outside the church.

Instead I think we need to focus on explaining how and why we live out our faith. Many of us have effectively learned how to communicate and frame language in a way that Mormons are familiar with. We need to talk more about the advantages of grace over legalism. We need to proclaim the heart of living solely in the New Covenant. We need to explain better the beauty we see in the Trinity. We need to talk more openly about our own struggles in faith and how we overcame them. We need to better explain appropriate hermeneutics. We need to explain clearly what we mean by “inerrant” and how that differs from “literal”. We need to more boldly proclaim our confidence that the Bible was transmitted throughout history reliably. Many are already doing all of these things, but we need to step up these messages at the expense of talking less about Joseph Smith.

Rest assured, Joseph Smith is being talked about and will continue to be talked about. But don’t spoil your future witness by leading with his failures. Continue to resist his influence. Boldly state when asked about him that you think he’s a false prophet. But don’t get into details. If you are asked for details share them slowly and cautiously. Be confident that everything you know can and will be discovered. The heart of your message is not the bad fruit of Joseph Smith, the heart of your message is the hope that lives within you. Stick to your message. Instead of making you and your ministry the place Mormons become disenfranchised with their faith become the place where they can safely ask “what’s next”. Become a recovery center for the spiritually wounded rather than an artillery range against Joseph Smith. Though some are still converted to Mormonism, the LDS church is not the threat it once was and mostly likely never will be again. I wouldn’t want even a single Evangelical converted into Mormonism but I don’t believe guarding our sheep needs to be our chief focus any longer.

Some may be tempted to disregard what I’m saying. I’ll be branded by some as a compromiser. I can assure you I am not compromising. Instead I’m calling us to see what even the Mormon apostles recognize; the times have changed. We have a new mission. Let us recognize that our battle is not against Mormon flesh and blood but rather Mormon powers and principalities.

Begin your transition. It’s time to be spiritual healers. It’s time to be pastors. Let us no longer erect bulwarks against those lost to Mormonism. Let us now build bridges for those Mormonism has lost.

NOTE: I think the “Transitions” study produced by Western Institute for Intercultural Studies is a great start. Let’s build on it.

NOTE #2: These survey results were posted shortly after I posted this article. They illuminate more on why Mormons become disaffected.

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201 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Fellow Evangelicals

  1. I listened to Elder Marlin K. Jensen and came to a different conclusion. You quoted that the fifteen men really do know the problems of Mormonism and that it is significant that Jensen is admitting this publicly. I agree that it is significant, but you didn’t address what led to his statement. At the 29:30 mark of that recording, a lady comments about Mormons finding out about the real history of Mormonism. The results are that they are leaving “in droves.” The LDS Church is admittedly in their biggest historical apostasy since Kirtland, and you want to change what is working?

    I say we can always refine our approach to Mormons, but I do not see a need for a wholesale change. Specifically in the light of the fact that they are now admitting that what we are doing is working. If it ain’t broke…

  2. As to why ex-Mo’s don’t turn to Evangelicalism:

    1. Relating to my own experience, I’ll simply say that I found Jesus in Mormonism and THAT Jesus took away the guilt and shame of my sins and gave me a new life of hope. That “new creation” is a continual progression for me. I struggle with a great many things (as we all should), but once you convince me that I believe in a “different Jesus” and that Mormonism is a complete sham, its not much of stretch for me to dismiss the whole of it. There are a number of things that need to be reformed about Mormonism – but Jesus is not one of them! (I’ll admit that the way the LDS Church teaches Jesus can sometimes be false, but I don’t see it as unique to Mormonism)

    2. The same tools used to cast doubt in JS, BoM etc. can be used against Evangelical approaches to the Bible. (NT authors proof-texting the OT, Theological diversity – to name a few)

    3. In general, I find the NoM/MS/ME crowd to be theologically and socially liberal. Nuff said?

    Overall, I groan within myself whenever Mormons talk about missionary work. “We need to look in the mirror first!” is what comes to my mind. I suggest Evangelicals do the same.

  3. Tim, I think the stark reality is that Evangelicalism is facing the same crisis that Mormonism is.

    I think both of us have more to fear from New Atheism and secular malaise than either of us have to fear from each other.

    This Mormon-Evangelical divide really has reached the point where it’s becoming a circular firing squad.

  4. Keith,

    The LDS Church is admittedly in their biggest historical apostasy since Kirtland, and you want to change what is working?

    Given my travels throughout the bloggernacle, the DAMU, NOM-land, the discussion boards, etc., I think the evidence largely shows two things: 1) The majority of those who leave the LDS church do not become Christian, or even remain theists, and 2) The issues that cause the most trouble for believing LDS are not those raised by Evangelical Christians, but those raised by secularist ex-Mormons.

    If your goal is only to get Mormons out of the church, regardless of where they end up, then yes you are part of a movement that is indeed working. If your goal is to get them to be Christian, it’s largely a failure. Also, bulk of the people leaving the church never see, hear from, or even care what Evangelical Christians think about the matter. I’m sure you see quite a few people come through your ministry, but my impression is that you are dealing with a very small percentage of the overall number of Mormons leaving.

    Now, to give credit where it is due. Evangelical Christians were early movers in bringing these issues to light. For example, whatever you think of them or their motives, the Tanners were instrumental in bringing lots of historical documents to light, publishing non-whitewashed history, and printing never before seen documents (such as the KEP). But I think their direct impact has been minimal. Their work has been taken up, both by apologists and critics, and amplified, changed, and cleaned up. Plus newer scientific and historical data has been added to it. It’s this stuff, in the hands of ex-Mormons, especially secular ex-Mormons, that is causing so many to leave the church. In other words, Evangelical Christians did a lot to get the ball rolling, but it’s being pushed by other people, people that tend to be more trustworthy to believing members. There really isn’t a need for Evangelical Christians to try and keep pushing the ball anymore.

  5. Keith,

    If I’m at all tapped into the state of Mormon disaffection, I completely disagree that what you (counter-cult ministries) are doing is “working”. You’re going to have to look long and hard to find an ex-Mo who left because of outdated teachings about the nature of God, current teachings about the eternal potential of humans – or our place as children of God. In fact, most of them would hold the heretical (in your view) doctrine of a Divine Mother (one example) as one the things they like most about Mormonism.

    As I stated before, much of what causes them to leave (gender issues, homosexuality, scriptural trustworthiness) would not be remedied in most versions of Evangelicalism.

  6. Tim,

    I don’t disregard what you are saying.

    I say take “ministry to Mormons” out of the hands of the para-church and put it in the hands of the Church. The Church is called to make disciples not to outsource. Don’t picket general conference, plant churches in Utah, support local congregations, arrange a productive mission trip in support of a local church.

  7. Tim interesting post. I do agree that in general a ministry can either be welcoming to Mormons or hostile to Mormonism. While there are some people who convert out, are angry and want nothing to do with their former religion most people while having mixed emotions have affection for large parts of their former faith. Environments which are brutally hostile towards affection make that impossible. That why in general conversion-out for most people is a multi-generational issue.

    As far as believing the secular community will investigate… I think that’s unlikely. Deep investigation, like say the kind MRM does takes a lot of effort. The secular community is unlikely to do that kind of deep effort for a minor religion. X-Mormon secularists are going to create sites that are secular. I think both need to exist.

    For example on another blog I just answered the first 10 of Keith’s “quick questions”, more to show they weren’t unanswerable. But the direction of the questions is quite different from what you’d get from an atheist. For example in one Keith is trying to force the person to address the issue of propitiation. Now I don’t Keith has actually heard the anti-propitiation position so the question falls apart but that question is going to naturally lead one to explore salvation from an evangelical perspective. An atheist doesn’t believe in salvation in either the Mormon or the Protestant sense and thus is unlikely to want to try and focus someone on the contradiction (as they see it) between Mormon doctrine and Romans.
    ___

    I’ll hit out conversion in my next post.

  8. I’m going to repeat what I wrote on the November 19th

    For a child raised Mormon (I’m including all self identified Mormons like Community of Christ and Fundamentalist sects in this data but LDS is 95-99% of totals so pretty much other groups have little impact).

    70% stay Mormon
    15% convert to Non-Religious (Atheist, Agnostic, None, Don’t know, Don’t care)
    14% convert to a majority religion (evangelical, catholic, mainline protestant…)

    It is harder to track for Evangelical because the definition of Evangelical churches changed during the lifetimes of many Americans. But for Protestants more generally:

    54% of the population is Protestant.
    1/12 Americans converts to Protestant.
    1/5 Protestants converts away (lifetime unaffiliatibn counting).

    (by way of comparison .4% of Americans convert to Mormonism).

    Both groups are gaining and losing at about the same percentages. Mormons lose members more often and gain long term converts more than Protestants (relative to size of the population).

    The comparison breaks down worse though when we go to the next level. Mormons don’t look like a Christian group in terms of intergenerational marriage. 74% of current Mormons were raised Mormon. Mormons have the 2nd highest rate of homogeneous marriages of any group but it appears when Mormons marry out they convert out in large measure relative to Protestants. For Catholics the data is more mixed but still bad. It appears the real bleed for Mormons is not handling intermarriage to Protestants well. Their missionary efforts are essentially just keeping the intermarriage problem from devastating the ranks.

    With Protestant the situation is reversed. Intermarriage is a huge net gain for Protestants with respect to just about any group. The data is pretty clear that Protestant churches are more welcoming to the intermarried, when couples intermarry they frequently both become Protestant.

    Further Mormons are rather committed to traditional practice inter generationally. For example 36% of people raised Evangelical believe their subdenomination is the best choice for them. 57% of Mormons believe that, coming in second only to Jehovah’s Witnesses (80%).

    I think if we really want to talk conversions Evangelicals and Mormons aren’t using the same techniques.
    Mormons: convert then marry
    Protestants: marry then convert

  9. Christian J —

    Following on your post… It is my belief that really within the LDS you have 3 distinct subgroups:

    King Follet Mormons — Mormons who are drawn to the esoteric doctrines and would like Mormonism to keep developing in that direction. Your example of Heavenly Mother… they would like to see roles of the Heavenly Mother(s) enhanced. They like the Mormon distinctives, “keeping Mormonism weird” to use Joanne Brooks’ term.

    Neo-Orthodox Mormons — Mormons that would like to move the church towards being an evangelical Protestant sect. They try and minimize differences, and encourage merger with Evangelicals.

    Community Mormons — Mormons that are drawn to the community aspects of the church and the church experience. They are drawn towards what others would consider the authoritarian aspects, that build this community and see this as a unique advantage.

    First… do you agree? Second, if you ran the church how would you reconcile these groups?

  10. Gundeck, it’s an interesting dynamic that most of the picketers at Mormon events and Utah-based anti-Mormon ministries are largely peopled by people who “flew in” from out of state to do so. The local Evangelical ministers actually don’t appreciate these outsiders coming in and “kicking over the beehive” – because it tends to undo a lot of community outreach and progress they’ve been painstakingly cultivating.

  11. @ David Clark,
    I respectfully disagree. I am going to keep doing what works in bringing Mormons out of Mormonism and refine where I think I can improve. Just last month one of the ex-Mormons in our Bible study said something to the effect of, “I never would have searched for Jesus had I not known that something was wrong with Joseph.”

    Coming to Christ is another issue. Being a Christian, I do not think that conversion to Christ is due to any methodology other than the preaching of the gospel. Granted, there are many Mormons who fall into atheism. I think that is the natural outcome of people trusting Smith and the Church instead of Christ. Jesus Himself said it clearly in Matthew 7:7-8, ” 7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”

    We have the promise from Jesus that if you seek, you WILL find. If Mormons are not finding Christ, it is because they aren’t looking.

  12. @CD- Host,
    What is your channel name on YouTube? Just because you have provided an answer doesn’t mean that it actually answers the question. ;-)

  13. For many reasons we Evangelicals have been viewed as the enemy.

    I don’t think that we Mormons view Evangelicals as the enemy. We just view you as apostate. (And the feeling is likely mutual.) Most Mormons are too nice to say that out loud or to one’s face, but it is what we believe. I’m not one of those tactful Mormons. I call Christianity, “apostate Christianity,” all the time. And when a person asks if I’m a Christian, I always say, “No. I’m a Mormon.”

    Now, Jensen is right. There is an apostasy going on among the LDS church, however, it has been going on for decades and generations. It is nothing new. It is simply maturing into the next phase of apostasy. This is why Mormons now self-identify as Christians. They don’t mind appearing as apostate Christianity in name, if not fully in deed.

    Let me explain to you what will happen in the future. There are three stages of the church of Christ, whether we are talking of the primitive church of Christ, or the restored church of Christ during the time of Joseph Smith. The first stage is when the church is built upon the works of the Father. In this stage you get all the signs and wonders and miracles, angelic visitations, healings, speaking in tongues, etc., that happened during the primitive and restored churches of Christ.

    The second stage is when the church of Christ is built upon the works of men. During this stage, people preach with authority, but no power, and miracles are all but gone. Angels stop visiting men, etc. Now, the restored church of Christ has been in this stage for quite some time. There may be here a man or woman who manifest the signs that follow the believers in Christ, and the gifts of the Holy Ghost, that perform the miraculous works of the Father, but by and large the general populace of those who profess Christ have no such power given to them. Apostate Christianity is also in this stage, whether it be the Catholic branches or the Protestant branches.

    The third stage is when the church of Christ is built upon the works of the devil. Now, the LDS church, which is the main branch of the restored church of Christ, has legitimate and active priesthood, having both sets of keys, both the keys of the priesthood and the keys of the church, manifested by common consent. The Catholic claim priesthood keys, but do not have the keys of the church, therefore their priesthood is invalid and not legitimate. The Protestants claim a “priesthood of believers,” which itself is a fable, but they have restored the keys of the church, or common consent. Nevertheless, neither of these apostate branches of the primitive church of Christ have legitimate authority of the priesthood, meaning priesthood keys.

    The LDS church, however, still has such legitimate authority, because they still possess both sets of keys. However, they do not do the works of the Father, therefore, they do not manifest power, only authority, and all appeals are to authority.

    So, because of this greater blessing that they have received of the Lord, and thus the greater rejection on their parts (for it is apostate Mormonism), the LDS church will be the first of these three apostate branches of the church of Christ to enter the third phase, or the works of the devil. It will be broken up as a church, into churches, and then will descend into all manner of iniquity. Only a remnant of righteous among them will remain and the rest will be wiped out.

    Now, this doesn’t leave the Protestants and Catholics off the hook. No, in fact, after these things occur, all you guys will follow suit, descending into all manner of iniquity, with a remnant among you converting to…can you guess?…non-apostate Mormonism, joining the remnant Mormons who also remain.

    I’m sure this sounds like a fairy tale to you, but keep it in your memory and on this blog. You will see a three-fold break-up occur, in the form of a great CA earthquake, then the further scattering of Israel and destruction of Jerusalem, and then the break-up of the LDS church. And when you see these prophecies come true, know that everything else I’ve told you, especially concerning your own religions, will also happen. For there are still a few among the Mormons who are possessed of the spirit of prophecy and revelation, as was Joseph Smith, Jun.

  14. Keith, just because you had success with ONE individual (or even several) does not mean that your approach is working generally. For example, your success with 6 individuals would be statistically irrelevant if your approach was at the same time driving away tens of dozens more.

  15. Fantastic, Tim! You’ve taken a big step in the right direction! Praise God!

    I also liked Christian J’s first comment.

  16. CD-Host,

    I agree that those 3 view points exist – but not so clear cut. I know a lot of people who have expressed pieces of all 3.

    My point was that the kind of people who commonly leave the LDS Church, do so as theological and cultural liberals. Most versions of Evangelicalism have little to offer them as an alternative.

    *Jesus* you say? Well, the stubborn truth is that a great number of Mormons I’ve come across have a deep love for a person named Jesus, taught about in the NT and elsewhere. They really believe that peace and joy is found through him in this life and salvation in the life to come. They weep as they explain how he changed their life and express faith and hope in his mercy and love in the future. Of course, the predominant Evangelical message is that these “feelings” can only be false, because they occurred in the realm of Mormonism. Some start to believe that message – and onward to a life of skepticism and disbelief.

  17. *Jesus* you say? Well, the stubborn truth is that a great number of Mormons I’ve come across have a deep love for a person named Jesus, taught about in the NT and elsewhere. They really believe that peace and joy is found through him in this life and salvation in the life to come. They weep as they explain how he changed their life and express faith and hope in his mercy and love in the future. Of course, the predominant Evangelical message is that these “feelings” can only be false, because they occurred in the realm of Mormonism. Some start to believe that message – and onward to a life of skepticism and disbelief.

    Well put! Modulo specifics that sort of how I left. My spiritual life, the feelings. were actually on an upswing as my faith was falling off in huge chunks. I had the feelings but I did think of them as false since I no longer believed any of the rigid doctrines. And well yeah onward to a lifetime….

    As far as Unitarians…. theologically maybe. But culturally liberal Christianity is very different than evangelical Christianity (where culturally I’ll put the LDS firmly in the evangelical camp). Basically they would have to stop being Republican not just stop being Mormon. The LDS church is so paradoxical, there really is nothing else like it as far as I know.

    I don’t know where Mormons could land.

  18. Seth said

    Tim, I think the stark reality is that Evangelicalism is facing the same crisis that Mormonism is.

    I think both of us have more to fear from New Atheism and secular malaise than either of us have to fear from each other.

    I can concede that the challenges Mormons face with 19-25 year olds are also facing Evangelicals. Our ability to meet those challenges is something that we could perhaps discuss at a different point.

    I think the problem for Mormonism is different though because the LDS church is losing Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers. These are the generation that is currently taking on leadership. Their faith already survived their 20’s (which is huge) and now they are facing doubts. It’s not a big priority of mine to prove to any Mormon that the LDS church is facing a problem. I think the evidence is already presenting itself. The results of a survey were just released and as you can see, traditional secular attacks against Mormonism are not the primary factor for disaffection (though they do weigh in).
    http://whymormonsleave.com/2012/01/31/causes-and-costs-of-mormon-faith-crises/

    The problem the LDS church faces is Joseph Smith. Evangelicals for a number of reasons aren’t as tied to their non-Divine church founders as Mormons. Do some research on Aimee Semple McPherson. Her scandals have very little effect on the Foursquare Church.

  19. Christian J said

    My point was that the kind of people who commonly leave the LDS Church, do so as theological and cultural liberals.

    I think there is a chicken and egg thing going on with Mormon liberalism. I think it’s true that the more politically liberal an individual becomes the less comfortable they’ll be. But I also think that a significant number begin to question Mormonism and then questions all of their inter-related suppositions. As the survey I mentioned shows politically liberal issues are a contributing factor but they are not the primary factor.

    addition: I think those that are liberal are more likely to adopt a post-modern viewpoint and stay within the church

  20. Christian J said

    The same tools used to cast doubt in JS, BoM etc. can be used against Evangelical approaches to the Bible. (NT authors proof-texting the OT, Theological diversity – to name a few)

    This common supposition is why I mentioned some of the work we need to be doing to expose Mormons to our apologetic resources. The tools can certainly be used against but I think they aren’t nearly as effective or strongly targeted as the criticisms against Joseph Smith. I think many disaffected Mormons suffer from skeptical fatigue and toss in the towel on Christianity. In addition, Mormon polemics already equip Mormons with the belief that Christianity is lost without Mormonism. If we lead with any sort of attack on Mormonism it should be on the Great Apostasy and the trustworthiness of the Bible.

  21. If only the Unitarian Universalist Association was into the outreach business, they’d clean up with ex-Mos.

    This assumes that the thing that makes a religion successful is the community and the worship experience rather than the expression of truth claims. I agree that the UUA fits the ex-Mormon ideal of what the LDS church should be. But they prove through their attendance that such a church offers little to inspire devotion.

  22. See, I would question whether those who leave the LDS Church over controversies are more likely to be “liberals” than “conservatives.” I think most of us in this conversation are operating off anecdotal evidence.

    “John Dehlin is a liberal – so that must mean that this is a “liberal” problem!”

    Somehow, I doubt it’s that simple.

  23. Tim — If I were an evangelical, I’d probably agree with almost everything you said.

    From this Mormon’s perspective, I see two broad types of issues related to your open letter: the increasingly secular nature of our society, which seems to be affecting both evangelicals and Mormons, and probably in similar ways, although that’s probably best left for another, future discussion; and those issues that are peculiar to the LDS church, such as matters of history and of legalism.

    As to matters of history, something I read this morning in the Salt Lake Tribune jumped out at me:

    Another issue is the “veneration for [Joseph] Smith and other leaders that imposes on them an idealized portrait of goodness and inerrancy out of all proportion to Smith’s own self-understanding of his role,” said [Terryl] Givens, a professor of literature and religion at the University of Richmond. “Biblical prophets like Moses and Jonah are depicted as accomplishing God’s purposes in spite of personal flaws, misjudgments and downright bad choices.”

    Why not take the same approach, he asked, with Mormon prophets?

    I think something we need in the LDS church, and I assume it’s something you would welcome, is a paradigm shift that openly recognizes Joseph Smith (and anyone in our current leadership, for that matter) as a flawed human being, a belief we have in theory but to which we as an institution give only lip service to.

    I don’t know what effect such a shift would have on the Church, but I think it would be spiritually healthy.

    I could probably make 20 more points, but I’ll make just one: When I’ve heard my fellow Mormons criticize evangelicals, two issues have been prominent. First, they simply can’t understand why Mormons would be viewed as non-Christian. To the Mormon, that concept is so preposterous that those who would say such a thing lose all credibility. It’s about the worst evangelistic tactic you could come up with, and, fairly or not, it tarnishes all evangelicals. Second, Mormons tend to like the evangelicals they know personally (partly because of their strong family values), but those who have had contact with institutional evangelicalism (such as by attending a church service) tend to find it shallow. (I think their initial impression of evangelicalism is right in many cases, but again that’s for a future discussion.)

    And, actually, Tim, these observations probably support your main point. If you evangelicals want Mormons to listen to you, you need to focus on what Jesus has done for you, not on where the Church has (according to to the evangelical perspective) gone wrong.

  24. Tim:

    As usual, extremely thought provoking and well written. Thank you for opening the dialogue and all of your ongoing efforts to bring us all together to share with one another. I completely agree that it is has been somewhat ineffective to approach Mormons with a strategy of “how wrong” their religion is and to give them a fire hose of information on why that must be the case (including the falsehood of Joseph Smith). I have always asked Evangelicals who have approached me with this strategy to stop shooting at me and my religion long enough to share with me the joy their own religion gives to them and why I should consider moving to their way of thinking (understanding it is simply moving from one denomination of Christianity to another). They often stammer in disbelief that I would ask them such a question and usually have nothing to say or spout something that sounds scripted. The World Christian Encyclopedia states there are over 33,000 Christian denominations in the world today, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints being one of them, and therefore it would be quite useful for an Evangelical to explain why their Christian denomination (or their particular church’s belief system) is better than the one being embraced by the Mormon today.

    I do however take exception with your thought that there seems to be a trend toward Mormons believing Joseph Smith to be an untrustworthy prophet and the doctrines to be incorrect or somehow evolving. I have lived this religion heart and soul with a diverse and large group of people around the world for over 20 years and I don’t sense that at all. What I sense in general is a decay in the faith of all Christians around the world (Mormons included) into what Groeschel calls “The Christian Atheist” (believing in God but acting like he doesn’t exist). Christianity is under attack in a more passionate and open way, sometimes quite subtle, and it is taking its toll on those who are weak in the faith or making themselves susceptible to the temptations being offered by Satan on a relentless scale.

    Bushman’s book “Joseph Smith, Rough Stone Rolling” has indeed helped many Mormons come to accept the vulnerabilities of Joseph Smith as a prophet of God. That needed to happen. Just as we have seen biblical prophets such as Jonah (who ran from God), or Elisha (who sent she-bears to murder 42 children for calling him bald) have their own human vulnerabilities, so did the prophet Joseph Smith. It is very good to have these conversations with Mormons who often venerate the prophet without realizing he was susceptible to the same imperfections as prophets in the Bible (the prophetic standard of the world).

    What will continue to spread Mormonism around the globe, despite its detractors and the ongoing flow of information you mention, is the unmistakable and irrefutable results of living its precepts as seen in the Barna studies, the National Survey of Youth and Religion survey, and other studies of both adults and youth. The Books “Almost Christian” and “Soul Searching” both outline an incredibly strong spiritual culture in Mormonism that fosters strong Christian faith and values in living the gospel to the point of producing fantastic fruit when compared to other Christian sects. In the end we have people who are looking at Mormonism and saying “if its doctrines were false then their people would not be able to produce such fruit in Christ.” This is not about works, this about the fruits that come from living a Christian life as a Latter-day Saint.

    Mormonism has its detractors who continue to find issues with its history, its teachings, its leaders, and its standard works outside of the Bible. Traditional Christianity has an equal number of its own detractors who have found numerous issues with the Bible and other aspects of Christianity. In my upcoming book I cover the history of Christianity and one cannot ignore a multitude of issues that create many questions. In the end it will all come down to faith and the influence of the Holy Ghost given to us by the Savior. Faith in Jesus Christ as our personal savior and the inspiration of the Holy Ghost will trump intellectual knowledge or reasoning every time. There are gaps and questions, but that is the nature of religion and faith. Thank you Tim for another engaging conversation.

  25. See, I would question whether those who leave the LDS Church over controversies are more likely to be “liberals” than “conservatives.”

    I don’t know if this is agreeing with your or disagreeing, but in my experience the “liberal” factor usually plays out in one of two ways. First, people who are politically liberal tend to not feel as included in the LDS church and tend to disagree with the church when it makes the rare foray into politics. I think this sometimes plays out as a contributing factor in disaffection, but I don’t think it accounts for much in the bigger picture. Second, most people progress towards more liberal beliefs in an attempt to maintain faith in the LDS church when they are experiencing a crisis of faith. Since social costs for leaving tend to be high, it is easier to try and modulate beliefs toward a more liberal view of things, and sometimes this is taken to an extreme.

  26. You’re right Seth, I am going on my own experience – which is not limited BTW to the Internet ex-Mo crowd. I know and have heard about Mormons who turn into conservative Evangelicals but I can count them on one hand. It may be a result of the circles I run in…

    Out of those I know and have heard about who leave for theological or historical reasons (which are the primary methods used by Evangelicals), I have not known any one who would trade one rigid truth claim for another (as one example) or trade our the messy history of Mormonism for the checkered history of traditional Christianity. (or another)

  27. The same tools used to cast doubt in JS, BoM etc. can be used against Evangelical approaches to the Bible. (NT authors proof-texting the OT, Theological diversity – to name a few)

    I have to disagree. Though, I think this is going to be one of the biggest challenges to selling Christianity to ex-Mormons. In my experience ex-Mormons often spend hundreds of hours dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s on their way out of Mormonism, making sure that they know all of the controversies and that they have the facts straight. For many, that’s the end of religion in their minds. It’s not a logical position to take, after all you have only rejected a small and idiosyncratic religion because of a highly specific set of historical and doctrinal problems, but it is understandable from a psychological standpoint.

    But the funny thing is that a few do go on to examine Christianity. And their conclusion is usually to conclude that it has all the same problems (like your quote above), but this conclusion is usually based on spending very little time doing the research. It’s almost like the ex-Mo Holy Ghost told them in their gut that it was all crap and they just went with it. Maybe old habits die hard?

    In any case, having extensively looked at the question of evidence from both sides, I don’t think they are similar. About the only similarity is that both sides are making supernatural claims. The nature of the human evidence in both cases is very different.

  28. I wouldn’t call it “dotting all the i s and crossing all the t s”

    I’d call it learning just enough to be dangerous, and then turning off the inquiry because it’s been too stressful of a journey up to that point.

  29. I’d call it learning just enough to be dangerous, and then turning off the inquiry because it’s been too stressful of a journey up to that point.

    Glad to know the old chestnut about those leaving the church being weak willed sinners is still alive and well Seth.

  30. Tim,

    Thank you for this letter, and thank you to all who responded. I was raised in the Mormon church and as such, I have many friends and family who are Mormons. This conversation has made me realize one important thng: that I need to stop focusing on our differences and start focusing on our commonalities. All of these people believe in Jesus and that he is their savior – by sharing what I know, and experience, with them may not change the false doctrines surrounding their beliefs….but then again…it just might!
    I am also excited to see the direction of the Mormon church in the next decade. If they can acknowledge that JS (and other Mormon prophets) were fallable humans (as we all are) I actually think this would do a lot to strengthen their faith. This was the main reason I left the Mormon church – the hypocrisy and not being taught that we are all sinners and we are saved by faith, not by works. Being a Mormon, I felt i could never do enough to earn my way to heaven. It’s been over 30 years since I left the Mormon church but I know this sentiment still exists as my brother (a Mormon) said to me once ‘I know I’m not going to heaven, I haven’t done enough good things’. This broke my heart and allowed me to tell him about God’s grace and mercy. He’s still a Mormon, but I know he sees Christ in me, and I know he longs for that same peace (he’s told me this). i will continue to share and love all my Mormon friends and family, not in an effort to ‘convert’ them but because I’m called to love….

  31. David, I wasn’t going to say anything about it.

    But if you’re going to use rhetoric that boosts one side of the equation, just keep in mind that there is rhetoric that boosts the other side of the equation.

    And who said anything about sin?

  32. But if you’re going to use rhetoric that boosts one side of the equation, just keep in mind that there is rhetoric that boosts the other side of the equation.

    Oh believe me, I sincerely hope and pray that your rhetoric continues to be heard by all and sundry. Keep up the good fight Seth!

    And who said anything about sin?

    My mistake, being weak willed and dangerous of course has no relation to sin. I can’t imagine why I would have made the connection.

  33. Eric said

    I think something we need in the LDS church, and I assume it’s something you would welcome, is a paradigm shift that openly recognizes Joseph Smith (and anyone in our current leadership, for that matter) as a flawed human being, a belief we have in theory but to which we as an institution give only lip service to.

    I don’t know what effect such a shift would have on the Church, but I think it would be spiritually healthy.

    I agree that a shift is necessary. I think Jack is thinking through an post about this so I don’t want to steal her thunder. Mormons aren’t threatened by the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the Kirkland Banking Scandal or Mormon segregationism. I think Joseph Smith treasure digging exploits could absolutely be tied into a redemption narrative.

    But there are other issues that can’t be tossed aside because Smith chose to cloak his character into the doctrines of the church. I think the Book of Abraham and D&C 132 have to be decanonized for the LDS church to successfully shift the paradigm on Smith being a flawed individual. This threatens the security Mormons feel about a prophet never leading the church astray. It cuts to the heart of the LDS church’s narrative. The church would undoubtedly become healthier in the long run if it made these changes, but that is a gigantic risk to take. The best they could do without risk is continue to de-emphasize and then sweep them both under the rug. I don’t think the information age allows for this kind of waiting game. The church’s current financial base is being threatened. In the short run, this is worse than any amount of 21 year olds who return from their mission and decide to check out.

  34. “In any case, having extensively looked at the question of evidence from both sides, I don’t think they are similar. About the only similarity is that both sides are making supernatural claims. The nature of the human evidence in both cases is very different.”

    A sensible take on it David – one that I would expect from someone who has traveled contrary to my position.

    I agree that Traditional Christians don’t get enough credit for developing a sturdy and well-thought out theology over hundreds of years by some of the best minds of Western Civ. (Of course, they have the great advantage of sorting that all out in the pre-modern period – void of many of the reliable tools of scrutiny we have now.) However, *Evangelical* truth claims don’t stack up against a historical/critical method of interpreting the Bible. (the very method that Evangelicals are asking Mormons to apply)

    Joseph Smith declared prophecy that didn’t come true? He did some things that look pretty shady for a prophet of God? The Book of Mormon has contradictions and presents narrative that lacks scientific evidence? Ever read the Bible?

  35. Tim, I’m an evangelical Christian scholar currently doing a lot of research and writing on Mormon topics (like you!). It is likely that the most effective strategies for interpersonal evangelism toward Mormons have always focused more on presenting the evangelical gospel as a viable and vibrant alternative to LDS religion than on presenting arguments against Mormonism. In that respect I don’t think the current trends of Mormons leaving their religion call for a new strategy; we should always, in our personal discussions with Mormon neighbors, friends, and loved ones, have been sharing our faith in a largely positive, winsome way. That having been said, it has also always been important for evangelicals to be educated about the differences between the two faiths and to be given at least some basic information as to why the LDS Church’s scriptures, prophets, and religious claims are false. This need will continue even if, as you suggest, conversion rates from evangelicalism to Mormonism are low (I suspect they are significantly higher outside the United States). Our people need reliable information on these matters and need to have these issues set within a believing context, both for their own benefit and for their use as appropriate in evangelistic discussions with Mormons. I’m very much a “both-and” kind of guy, and I think we should be prepared to discuss key problems in Mormonism even while majoring on the majors of our own positive Christian faith. “We should be doing this *instead of* that” statements are problematic unless the “that” is something wrong rather than merely something less important.

    As for evangelical ministries in which much or all of their work has been Mormonism, it all depends on what they are doing and how they are doing it. There are a number of ministries and websites that do little else than recycle old materials critical of Mormonism, often in grating fashion. I don’t care what’s going on in the LDS community, such “ministries” are hardly worthy of the name. We don’t need hundreds of websites bombastically saying the same things over and over with frequent use of all-capitals and exclamation points. We don’t need people marching around Temple Square waving Mormon sacred garments around and screaming inflammatory comments at Mormons. We not only don’t need these things, we never did, and we would be a lot better off without them. But evangelicals who lovingly engage Mormons in civil discussion and seek to help them see that they are being misled by false prophets are not hurting the cause of the gospel of Christ, and I see no reason why they should abandon those efforts.

    I also think there is still an awful lot of work to be done in historical and theological scholarship pertaining to Mormonism. Evangelicals have produced shockingly little serious literature on the Book of Mormon, for example. Mormon scholarship needs to be answered with good, sound evangelical scholarship, not simply ignored, even if the Mormon scholarship is not stemming the tide of disaffection from the LDS Church. If we leave it to the secularist ex-Mormons to expose the errors of Mormonism or to try to answer Mormon scholarship, the reality is that those convinced by the secularists that the Book of Mormon or the Book of Abraham is fiction are likely to be convinced by those same secularists that the Bible is also fiction. That’s why I think we need evangelical scholars producing materials that do two things at the same time: show why the Mormon scriptures are false and why the Bible is not at all subject to the same just criticisms. Again, I’m for taking a “both-and” approach: I want to help Mormons see why the Bible is trustworthy in a way that the Book of Mormon is not; I want to help them see that Joseph Smith was a false prophet while the apostle Paul was not.

    Finally, I’m not opposed to some evangelicals deciding to deemphasize polemics against Mormonism in favor of a mostly-positive evangelistic approach. God gifts and calls people in different ways. We find ourselves in differing situations, with differing skill-sets. Let’s make sure we don’t lose sight of the fact that we have the same ultimate goals: to glorify God and be a blessing to Mormons by sharing truth with them in love, in the hope that some will come to know the assurance of eternal life with which we have been blessed in the biblical knowledge of Jesus Christ.

  36. You know David, my comment wasn’t really hostile and was solely a response to you trying to rhetorically rig the game in one side’s favor here.

    In essence, you threw the first hostile punch here. I’m not picking a fight, but I won’t let you self-congratulatorily suggest that “being informed” automatically means you either trivialize or reject the LDS Church’s claims.

    You have no right to be offended here. You were the one subtly expressing contempt for people in the first place.

  37. Christian J,

    However, *Evangelical* truth claims don’t stack up against a historical/critical method of interpreting the Bible. (the very method that Evangelicals are asking Mormons to apply)

    I know what you mean, but I’m hesitant to make a blanket statement about Evangelical interpretation. Evangelical can mean everything from a liberal leaning infallible approaches like those at Fuller Theological Seminary, but also includes inerrantism, verbal plenary inerrantism, and KJV onlyism. There’s all kinds of stuff a Mormon or ex-Mormon is going to dismiss without a glance, but then there are self identified Evangelicals like Pete Enns, John Walton, or N.T. Wright who I think would find a lot of resonance with Mormons/ex-Mormons. Part of a new strategy is going to mean making an honest assessment of what types of Christianity and which interpretive approaches will sell among disaffected Mormons. I think many in the counter-cult ministries have to face the reality that many ex-Mormons would do just fine in many Christian churches, but that those churches are not the ones the counter-cultists favor or attend themselves.

  38. In essence, you threw the first hostile punch here. I’m not picking a fight, but I won’t let you self-congratulatorily suggest that “being informed” automatically means you either trivialize or reject the LDS Church’s claims.

    I wasn’t taking Mormons to task for anything. I was taking ex-Mormons to task for assuming that their newly found knowledge about Mormon origins somehow granted them knowledge and insight into things that were not Mormon.

    If there was any insulting, it was you insulting ex-Mormons for “learning just enough to be dangerous, and then turning off the inquiry because it’s been too stressful of a journey up to that point.” I guess in bizarro-Seth-land, direct insults are innocent statements of fact, while taking ex-Mormons to task is somehow a direct insult against long cherished beliefs of faithful Mormons.

    But like I said, I hope you continue to speak your mind.

  39. David, I love Enns, Walton and Wright and think Evangelicals would do well to follow their lead. (they’ve all been labeled as “dangerous” or heretical in more than one circle, however)

  40. Tim, I failed to mention that I think your proposal is a breath of fresh air and I believe will be much more effective in reaching your goals.

    However, I still don’t know what to do with this Jesus figure who, myself and a great number of my fellow Mormons, find so much grace, peace and joy in. When you say, “we need to bring them to Jesus”, it sounds a lot like you’re disregarding any and every interaction or experience I’ve had with Him. I don’t know how I’m ever going to want to listen to what you have to say next. You should be building on this common belief, not tearing it down.

  41. “In my experience ex-Mormons often spend hundreds of hours dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s on their way out of Mormonism, making sure that they know all of the controversies and that they have the facts straight.”

    Yes, that does boost ex-Mormons and imply that the members are NOT doing all this.

    But if you want to claim it wasn’t an attack, I’ll take your word for it and back off at this point myself.

  42. I appreciate your suggestion that ex-Mormons should not let their experiences prevent them from taking a second honest look at Christianity. But I would say it also shouldn’t prevent them from taking a second honest look at Mormonism either.

  43. However, I still don’t know what to do with this Jesus figure who, myself and a great number of my fellow Mormons, find so much grace, peace and joy in. When you say, “we need to bring them to Jesus”, it sounds a lot like you’re disregarding any and every interaction or experience I’ve had with Him.

    I can only take your word for it that you’ve experienced Jesus. Regardless of the prophet we’re discussing, I’m sure you’d agree that the experience of Jesus without the added burden of a false prophet would be better. True?

    Other Mormons though, I’m not sure have had any sort of personal interaction with Jesus. They don’t necessarily claim one and in some extreme examples say we shouldn’t even entertain the idea. They seem to have a relationship with their church more than with their savior. What I have to offer them is entirely new and quite unlike anything they currently know.

    (keep in mind as well, this is a letter written to Evangelicals with Evangelical assumptions)

  44. If we lead with any sort of attack on Mormonism it should be on the Great Apostasy and the trustworthiness of the Bible.

    Tim do you really think you are ready to defend against the Great Apostasy? A Catholic is going to have a much easier time here. You are going to have to argue that a Great Apostasy never happened but on major, major areas of doctrine which predated the canon the church fell into error (call it the Protestant doctrine of the midsized apostasy)

    A.D. 90 – the Lord’s Supper as a sacrifice
    A.D. 95 – apostolic succession
    A.D. 110 – real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist
    A.D. 110 – the necessity of bishops to the Church, and the necessity of submitting to bishops
    A.D. 150 – baptismal regeneration and the necessity of baptism for salvation
    A.D. 150 – basic structure of the Mass as Christian worship
    A.D. 155 – veneration of saints and their relics
    A.D. 160 – Mary as the New Eve
    A.D. 180 – primacy of the bishop of Rome
    A.D. 367 – today’s 27 book New Testament canon

    How are you going to be able to defend that church without undercutting your own faith? In the early 19th century restorationism won this battle and since then we’ve had 200 years of more documents and evidence supporting the restorationist position. The only saving grace (excuse the pun) for the Protestant position is that layers are the onion. The actual (proto-)Christian religions 200 BCE – 200 CE are so alien that no one is interested in practicing them and so they turn back. That IMHO is what happened to Mormonism when Brigham died, they saw where the road they were on was leading and chickened out.

    As for the historical reliability of the bible… The first 3rd of the bible has as much questionable history as the Book of Mormon. If one can believe in the historicity of Exodus or Joshua then what is the problem with Nephites? Joseph Smith already pointed his people towards reading the Hebrew bible for what it says, not what Paul claims it says and that is going to undermine the 3rd third. I don’t see how you can hold the bible up as reliable to an X-Mormon.

    As for the idea of getting rid of D&C 132, the Book of Abraham and Joseph Smith from my “fan of Mormonism” perspective is a terrible idea. I think what is great about Mormonism is the distinctives. Lose 132 and you lose exaltation, a cornerstone of the faith. Embrace exaltation. Embrace doctrine of the 3 heavens. Even embrace the divinity of Adam. In other words embrace Joseph Smith fully. Joseph Smith is America’s great prophet. Without him what is left in Mormonism worth saving? The RLDS/CoC is the church that did what you are suggesting and well they are a nice liberal Protestant sect that’s part of the NCC; they aren’t even a contender to be one of the world’s great religions like the LDS.

  45. “Other Mormons though, I’m not sure have had any sort of personal interaction with Jesus. They don’t necessarily claim one and in some extreme examples say we shouldn’t even entertain the idea.”

    I believe that this is your experience – and I have witnessed the problem your referring to. But, its not a predominant view in my interaction and activity with Mormons. We both know that personal spiritual experiences are important to Mormons (even to a fault sometimes). Who do you think they’re communing with? Thomas Monson? Their bishop? The COB?

    Anyway, I think Mormon’s can take a big chunk of blame for this perception.

  46. Christian J,

    I think that’s more because Mormons (especially in Utah) are culturally highly reserved and tend to view big bombastic declarations of faith and Jesus with distaste.

    Most of us consider our relationship with Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ to be deeply personal and not for public consumption. We don’t even like saying the word “Jesus” much because we feel it cheapens the sacred nature of the name through repetition.

    To this day I inwardly wince every time I hear an Evangelical use the words “my Jesus” boldly. It’s not because I don’t have a personal connection with Christ. It’s just because I don’t like hearing it expressed openly like that. It sounds jarring and almost a little sacrilegious to me.

    And of course we consider bad Evangelical pop songs that consist solely of an infinite musical loop of the refrain “Jeesus! Jeeeeeesus! Jeesus! Jeeeeeesus!” to be something close to outright blasphemy.

    In our culture, you just don’t treat sacred things like that.

  47. Pingback: What does Evangelical Christianity have to offer to disaffecting Mormons? « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

  48. CD,

    Yes I think I can make a coherent argument that Christianity didn’t fall into complete apostasy.

    And no, I’m not sure I can convince an ex-mormon that the Bible is reliable. That’s why I think we should focus more on it with people before they become ex-Mormons.

  49. “But I have asked Latter-day Saint leaders repeatedly, “Who when you did your mission was the most hostile to you?” and the answer is always somebody who is either a self-identified Evangelical or an ex-Mormon” – Craig Blomberg (link above)

    Sounds about right to me. Although in my case the ex-Mormons were nice.

  50. Tim —

    I get it. Get them in that period of time where they are questioning Joseph Smith but not when they’ve started to question the bible yet. Interesting…. So how exactly do you stem the tide? How would you convince them that Moses or Paul is reliable in a way that Joseph Smith is not?

    I certainly can get the draw of evangelical Christianity for a Mormon focused on the issue of discrepancies between Mormon doctrine and the New Testament. But it seems like the point of skepticism is church history.

    ____

    Also I’m intrigued, how would you make the argument that Christianity didn’t fall into a great apostasy while arguing for the mid-sized apostasy you need to avoid Catholicism. It has been my experience that most Mormons haven’t read say Hugh Nibley and thus put the great apostasy too late. Assuming that is the case, I can see the initial attack… showing them say 3rd century Christianity and how much it agrees with Evangelical Christianity. But those 3rd century Christians are going to be Catholic so while they agree with Evangelicals more than Catholics they ultimately are going to be doing stuff like considering Mary a key component of their theology, attacking sola scriptura and considering the deuterocanonicals scripture. And of course on some areas, like baptismal regeneration from the last thread, they are going to agree with Mormons over evangelicals. I don’t get how this plays out.

    And that’s all assuming that the doubting Mormon doesn’t just push the great apostasy back which is perfectly in line with Mormon apologists. This is essentially a new thread but I don’t see how you can make this work.

  51. Seth R —

    Jews BTW agree with you on this. Yahweh is never ever written by a Jew, excluding a scribe and even they use the Hebrew (essentially YHWH). When they read Yahweh out loud in prayer they substitute Adonai (my lord). At other times they use HaShem (the name). Thus they show tremendous reverence for the name of God. Muslims (and middle eastern Christians) use al-ilah (the diety) for similar reasons. So you aren’t alone in that objection.

  52. I wonder how much of the divide between Mormons and Evangelicals is simply due to Mormons viewing Evangelical worship as far too casual, and Evangelicals viewing Mormon worship as too up-tight.

  53. It’s almost like the ex-Mo Holy Ghost told them in their gut that it was all crap and they just went with it. Maybe old habits die hard?

    +1000

    I think Jack is thinking through an post about this so I don’t want to steal her thunder.

    Yeah, I guess I really do need to get to work on that “Can Grace Save Mormonism?” post.

    You can get a small preview of my idea for the post here.

  54. I’ll second Eric Shuster’s statement that “faith in Jesus Christ as our personal savior and the inspiration of the Holy Ghost will trump intellectual knowledge or reasoning every time.”

    Eric revealingly said, “When I’ve heard my fellow Mormons criticize evangelicals, two issues have been prominent. First, they simply can’t understand why Mormons would be viewed as non-Christian. To the Mormon, that concept is so preposterous that those who would say such a thing lose all credibility. It’s about the worst evangelistic tactic you could come up with. . . .
    If you evangelicals want Mormons to listen to you, you need to focus on what Jesus has done for you, not on where the Church has (according to the evangelical perspective) gone wrong.”

    Thanks for that.
    I’d like to reinforce Eric with something from my experience. My wife and I have been holding weekly meetings with two Mormon missionaries and various other Mormons whom they bring with them. I’ve asked the Lord, “Do you want me to steer conversation toward our disagreements or toward our agreements?” He impressed on me that he wants us to focus on our agreements.

    Amazing things happen when we do this. What Jesus has done for us comes up incidentally. What Jesus has done for them comes up incidentally. Disagreements also come up incidentally but in a non-argumentative way. They tend to assume we have an inferior relationship with Jesus, and we tend to assume our job is to help them see more light. But as long as both sides do what we’re accustomed to doing, that is, seek God’s glory and his presence, act in humility and love, God does incredible things with these meetings. It seems to be dawning on all of us that we’re serving the same Jesus!

  55. “It’s almost like the ex-Mo Holy Ghost told them in their gut that it was all crap and they just went with it. Maybe old habits die hard?”

    Just want to say that whether I agree or disagree with it, this was a good point. It brightened up my email inbox, anyway.

  56. Seth,

    I met a church planter from Utah at the last general assembly who agreed with your observation about people flying into Utah to protest. There were not any Mormon protesters at our general assembly, the least we could do is return the favor.

  57. gundek, The anti-Evangelical signs could be awesome!

    “DAMNED TO THE LOWER PORTION OF THE CELESTIAL KINGDOM!”
    “2ND RESURRECTION IS YOUR FATE!”
    “LUTHER AND HITLER WERE BOTH GERMAN!”
    “YOUR PRAYERS ARE INFORMAL! – THOU, THEE, THINE!”

  58. “YOUR PRAYERS ARE INFORMAL! – THOU, THEE, THINE!”

    Epic linguistics fail.

    “Thee,” “thou” and “thine” are in fact the English language’s (now archaic) informal pronouns, the equivalent of “du” in German or “tu” in French or Spanish.

  59. And as we all know – an “anti” protest sign should always display the highest degree of linguistic vigor.

  60. Jack, per your comment on that board about “Can Grace Save Mormonism?”…

    Yes. I think that’s about the only way to go, actually.

  61. Thanks for suggesting to Evangelicals that a paradigm shift may be in order. We’ve suggested that for some time where the new religions are concerned, bringing our approach more in line with evangelical missions overseas to the world religions, through various publications and the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. And thanks for mentioning Transitions as an example of this. We worked hard to produce a much-needed resource for the emigrant out of Mormonism from their perspective and their needs, and to do so with cultural-sensitivity and relevancy. Hopefully many making the journey of emigration will find value in it.

  62. CD-Host ~ Tim do you really think you are ready to defend against the Great Apostasy?

    Well, I can’t speak for Tim, but I am. In fact, I regard the claim of a “Great Apostasy” (i. e. Christ’s church was not present on the earth) as one of the least daunting in Mormonism’s arsenal.

    I think defending the Bible (particularly the earlier parts of the Old Testament) from charges of similar problems to the Book of Mormon is where evangelicals have the greatest challenge. I also think that evangelicals need to be better at explaining what is appealing about our theology, our doctrine of God and humanity.

  63. Bridget —

    How do you defend it? Exactly the question I asked Tim, you need to argue for a moderate sized apostasy. You need to avoid continuity because then you are arguing for Catholicism and you need to avoid a Great apostasy since that’s the point in question. Who in the ancient world shares your theology? Can you name one figure in the first 1500 years of Christianity that rejects baptismal regeneration and accepts an incarnation rather than lesser deity or adoptionism? Forget a whole sect can you name one person at all?

    Once you accept there is no one running around the 2nd century that is remotely a Protestant, you have a serious problem with Protestantism claims to be able to define “historic Christianity” as anything other than “stuff that goes as far as we like that we agree with”. Yes this really is a serious weakness in the Protestant case. I’ve expanded my denominational origins chart through to revolutionary America (sects to the reformation). I’d identify “ancient Mormonism” with the Hermetic Judaism -> Simonians -> Basilideans -> Priscillianism chain.

  64. “Great Apostasy”…one of the least daunting in Mormonism’s arsenal.

    I would go so far as to say that it’s a non-issue. The reason being that two crucial pieces of information are needed to take it seriously from an outsiders perspective: 1) When did it start? and 2) In what did apostasy consist? Neither question has any good answers unless you already accept Mormon truth claims and Mormon authority claims.

    I think defending the Bible…from charges of similar problems to the Book of Mormon is where evangelicals have the greatest challenge.

    I’d just reiterate that there are good answers, but the problem is that certain varieties of Evangelicalism refuse to go there. If one takes a consistent approach to evidence, provided one does not assume that the divine is non-existent from the beginning, then large portions of the Bible are defensible as an ancient and historical document. The same cannot be said for the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham. That’s a question Evangelicals have to think long and hard about: Do we want the tools to show the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham to be unhistorical and simultaneously defend large portions of the Bible? Or do we want to defend the entire Bible and give up the tools to show Mormon scripture to not be historical? My guess is that most are going to choose the latter, which means Mormons will continue to be able to assert, with justification, that the evidential strengths of Mormon scripture and the Bible are identical.

  65. Who in the ancient world shares your theology?

    In big picture terms, such as the nature of God, the deity of Christ, the life of Jesus, etc. (the stuff that is in the creeds), pretty much everyone who would be identified as orthodox or proto-orthodox. When you get down to less important issues, such as baptismal theology, then there is going to be disagreement between ancient theologies and Protestantism. But, if you want to push it far enough, everyone’s theology is different from everyone else’s theology.

  66. David, did you mean to write – “large portions of the Bible are IN-defensible as an ancient and historical document. The same cannot be said…”?

    Actually, wait… I’m not sure I’m reading you right.

    Let me try to restate:

    You are basically saying that Evangelicals have two choices here:

    A) continue to defend the ENTIRE Bible as completely historical – but if they wish to do this, they’ll have to stop attacking the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham as unhistorical (basically because historical evidence for Genesis is really no stronger than for the Book of Abraham, for example), or

    B) acknowledge that only SOME of the Bible is historical – or maybe only the most “crucial” portions – and THEN go on to dismiss the Book of Mormon and Abraham as “unhistorical.”

    But they’ll have to pick one stance or the other.

    Did I get that right?

  67. Yes, you have him right, and Evangelicals wouldn’t even need to necessarily abandon inerrancy to do so. (as Eric demonstrated in his post on Genesis).

  68. 1) When did [the Great apostasy] start? and 2) In what did apostasy consist?

    It started either either before or near Jesus death. By the time of the apostles it was already in full swing. And true Christianity (ancient Mormonism) was mostly dead by the end of the 1st century. The keys were gone. http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=43&chapid=217

    The apostasy consisted of a 2 phase process:

    The supernatural gifts of Jesus quickly disappeared and others tried to fake them resorting to mysticism and philosophy.Followed by this mysticism and philosophy totally corrupting the doctrines to the point that all that remained were the faintest shadows of what had been the religion of Jesus.

    _________

    then large portions of the Bible are defensible as an ancient and historical document.

    No question. The problem is that doesn’t get you very far. The bible claims to be more ancient and historical than the evidence warrants. For example you can make an excellent historical case that the Pentateuch is 2600 years old. The problem is the evidence is terrible it is 3600 years old.
    There is essentially no question that the Pastoral epistles exist by late 2nd century the problem is for them to be authentic they need to be mid 1st century.

    Ancient and historical just ain’t gonna cut it. Conversely many of the doctrines that Joseph Smith restored date to the beginnings of human writing. Pico della Mirandola had tried to blend Kabbalah with Christianity to restore the Hermetic Christianity of the ancient world. While he was influential he never built a mainstream church from it, unlike Joseph Smith.

  69. CD-Host,

    Mormonism seems to, depending on context and person, shift between soft&minimal and harsh&maximal definitions of the Great Apostasy. On soft&minimal description, it was a loss of apostolic priesthood authority which resulted in the eventual universal loss of priesthood authority among the church. On harsh&maximal definition, it was also a loss of a remnant of true Christians.

    There is a catch 22. If Mormon goes with the soft&minimal definition, then a lot of the traditional Mormon language and arguments the LDS Church has given become irrelevant and embarrassing. If they go with the harsh&maximal definition, they have the tough job of proving the lack of a remnant.

    The theology of the Great Apostasy makes important assumptions about the nature of apostolic succession and priesthood authority and early Christian teachings. It’s unclear to me how showing a general corruption of professing Christian character and theology, etc., proves the Great Apostasy. By its very nature, you need to prove something that requires something more than a reformation. But most LDS arguments for the Great Apostasy seem merely focused on things remedied (or able to be remedied) by a reformation. It seems like Mormons have a tough time arguing for their assumptions about apostolic succession and priesthood authority and early Christian teachings, so they shift the parameters. But to really make headway, parameters need to be chosen. I’ll be blunt: Mormonism depends on incredible ambiguity when promoting the Great Apostasy. I think clear discussions over the issue don’t work to the advantage of Mormonism.

    On a related note, Charles Harrell has some important things to say about the idea of the apostasy in his new book, “This Is My Doctrine”:

    > Early Mormonism

    > The earliest recorded LDS teachings give little indication of a universal apostasy, especially in the way it is currently understood. At first, Mormonism shared the popular evangelical sentiment that the apostasy simply consisted of a departure from gospel teachings and practices, and not the withdrawal of priesthood authority. The Book of Mormon, for example, makes no prediction of an apostasy which involves either the priesthood or the Church being taken from the earth; nor does it mention that important ordinances pertaining to exaltation (e.g., temple ordinances) would be discontinued and need to be restored. Rather, the earliest Mormon teachings of an apostasy, like those from other contemporary restorationists, spoke only of moral corruption, a clouding or perversion of the basic teachings of Christ causing “an exceedingly great many . . . to stumble” (1 Ne. 13:29), and a denial of the power of the Holy Ghost—which includes the working of miracles (2 Ne. 28:4–15; Morm. 8:26–31).

    > The Book of Mormon refers to the “formation” after the time of the apostles of a “great and abominable church” (1 Ne. 13:6–9, 26–28), which early Saints understood as referring primarily to the Catholic Church. But since the Book of Mormon further defined it non-denominationally as any group opposed to “the church of the Lamb of God” (1 Ne. 14:10), Saints also came to see it as referring to any religion or government opposing God’s work. Notably, the Book of Mormon doesn’t ever suggest that the church of the Lamb would be taken from the earth, only that in the latter days, “its numbers . . . [would be] few, because of the wickedness and abominations of the whore who sat upon many waters” (1 Ne 14:12).

    > Prior to 1834, there is no mention of priesthood being taken from the earth—or restored for that matter (see Chapter 4). Instead, the Lord tells the Saints in December 1832, “The priesthood hath continued through the lineage of your fathers . . . therefore your life and the priesthood have remained” (D&C 86:8–10; emphasis mine). It isn’t until several years after the restoration of the Church that apostasy narratives began to include a loss of authority along with essential saving ordinances, thus paving the way for the current LDS understanding of the Great Apostasy.

    > Throughout the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth century, the apostasy continued to be defined primarily as a period of gospel perversion, spiritual darkness and loss of priesthood authority. Catholicism continued to be seen by many as being the principal culprit in corrupting the church.

    > Contemporary Mormonism

    > Current LDS historians note a cultural bias underlying early Mormon characterizations of Christianity as a corrupt morass of false teachings; moreover, there is still considerable inertia which keeps these legacy teachings alive. In his historical survey of LDS literature on the apostasy, BYU history professor Eric Dursteler observes that early LDS treatises on the apostasy were “clearly” influenced by “the highly polemical, popular, confessional, historical literature of the nineteenth century and the anticlerical literature of the eighteenth-century enlightenment.” He further notes that, although the characterization of the Middle Ages as a dark and decadent era and the Renaissance as an era of spiritual awakening has been repudiated by virtually all modern historians of the past century, “Latter-day Saint treatments of the apostasy . . . have retained much of their binary vision of the Middle Ages and Renaissance.”

    > With modern scholarship having an increasing influence on Mormon perceptions of history, Dursteler observes that there seems to be a growing tendency among LDS writers to “move away” from depicting the apostasy as bringing on a long period of darkness followed by the dawning of the Reformation. “Instead,” he notes, “the apostasy is depicted simply as an age in which priesthood authority did not exist.” Thus, the concept of the apostasy has shifted from a loss of spiritual gifts and truths to primarily a loss of priesthood authority.

    > LDS characterizations of other religions as the “church of the devil” have significantly diminished. In 1990, for example, the mock representation of Protestant ministers as hirelings of Satan was removed from the LDS temple ceremony.

  70. CD-Host ~ The LDS conception of church and apostasy is entirely different from my own conception of church and apostasy, ergo what has to happen before a Mormon can say “there was a universal apostasy” is not the same as what has to happen before I’ll agree. I believe that Christ’s church consists of all believers across time and eternity who have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ and received salvation from him, regardless of other theological differences that divide them. That certainly includes (to use your example) believers from the second century who promoted baptismal regeneration. In order for me to accept that there was a universal apostasy, I would have to think that every single Christian from the time this apostasy supposedly happened (whenever that was) to the time of Luther was not truly saved. Not what I believe.

    The LDS position isn’t about correct doctrine or true saving faith in Christ, although those things are expected to follow to some degree. It’s about priesthood. It didn’t matter what anybody taught once the priesthood was gone from the earth. A group that has the priesthood is God’s church regardless of what they are teaching, and a group that does not have the priesthood is not God’s church regardless of what they were teaching. Athanasius could have authored and promoted his own King Follett Discourse instead of the Nicene Creed and he still would have been in apostasy as far as Mormonism is concerned.

    In any case, I don’t think that the LDS case here is very threatening because the evidence that something resembling an LDS priesthood existed in the first century is extremely weak, and the historical problems surrounding the alleged restoration of this priesthood in 1829 are far worse.

    Back to your argument though. Perhaps you’re not just talking about spiritual apostasy (even though that is what Mormons are talking about when they say “Great Apostasy”). Perhaps you only meant doctrinal apostasy. You seem to be suggesting that Protestants only have two options here:

    (1) Believe that there was a partial, serious doctrinal apostasy very early in Christian church history

    (2) Try and trace some kind of silver thread of proto-Protestant theology from Jesus to Luther.

    I reject both options. There is no thread of proto-Protestants from Jesus to Luther, nor do I believe the developments of Protestant theology all existed in the primitive church only to be lost by later generations of Christians. The ideas may have existed—I can’t rule them out for certain—but, for the most part, I don’t think first century Christians were doing theology. They were fleeing persecution and trying to make sense of their new religious identity, especially its relationship caught between Judaism and the Gentile world. I think that revelation is progressive and the later developments of Christianity (such as Trinitarianism) were indeed later developments.

    The main sense in which I think Protestantism “restored” early Christianity is that early Christianity was heavily schismatic. The idea that Christ established a monolith organization called “the church” and that all or most Christians were, for some number of decades at least, under the organizational leadership of just one man or group of men is highly ahistorical (and the bulk of early church historians would agree). Early Christianity did resemble Protestantism in that it was a loose coalition of somewhat competing movements with different practices and different approaches to certain theological issues.

    If Christianity apostatized from anything, it was its Semitic roots. And most restorationist movements have done very little to return Christianity to that.

    Can you name one figure in the first 1500 years of Christianity that rejects baptismal regeneration and accepts an incarnation rather than lesser deity or adoptionism?

    I couldn’t name someone off the top of my head who rejects baptismal regeneration (if they existed, they were certainly rare), but the second part of your challenge has me scratching my head. You want someone in the first 1500 years of Christianity who believed in the Incarnation, who didn’t believe in adoptionism or think Christ was a lesser deity?

    Okay.

    I’m also not certain why you’re favoring the Roman Catholic church as the only kind of church that can make an unbroken, linear claim that goes back to the apostles. IMO, the church with the best case for that is the Eastern Orthodox.

  71. Aaron —

    Great response! Let me define Landmarkism-Lite to be the doctrine that something like a faithful remnant church survived alongside and inside the Catholic church down the centuries (I’m very familiar with this position BTW it is what I was raised with). Traditional Protestantism (Magisterial Reformation) that makes historical claims, is equally killed by either one of these. Sects that came out of the Radical Reformation are fine with Landmarkism-Lite.

    Tim was originally saying that he saw the Great Apostasy as a point of attack, to which I responded with a list of doctrine which predate the bible he disagrees with. For example:
    A.D. 90 – the Lord’s Supper as a sacrifice

    You seem to be making a very different argument that it is hard to disprove a faithful remnant as long as they were small enough. I can grant that. Could something like a collection of isolated Mormon churches each with only hundreds of members have existed through the centuries leaving behind no trace? Yes, I don’t so any reason to believe in it, but I can’t disprove it, Russell’s teapot.

    As for your comments that Joseph’s Smith’s doctrines of the Great Apostasy evolved and contradicted each other, I agree. I don’t see any evidence that Smith ever had a consistent vision of what happened. As I mentioned above, I think most Mormons want the Great apostasy way too late to make their doctrine defensible, and I’d include Joseph Smith in this. From where I sit, once you actually start trying to map Mormon doctrine to actual datable ancient proto-Christian sects, then the “true church” becomes early enough that most New Testament authors are the people killing the true church. I can identify the sects in Colossians 2 with a form of ancient Mormonism but if I do that, I can’t escape the fact that Paul is attacking not supporting that sect. That Paul has to at least represent a 2nd phase away from the “true church”.

    I have talked to Mormons about this position, that they might have the wrong bible, and there seems to be some level of agreement. But it is sort of a casual “maybe” not a real definite “I gotta figure out what I believe really happened and when”.

    Finally as for the middle ages / dark ages. Let me just throw a little light here. Other restorationists sects from which Mormonism likely evolved hold to an great apostasy that happens at the start of the dark ages. So for example the way I was raised:

    Soon after Jesus lifetime the Jerusalem church is founded and spreads out to form local churches. The Jerusalem church is destroyed so there will be no idolatry. These local churches have doctrinal pollution like what exists today among Baptists, which we can read about in the New Testament itself. In 311 (or 313/314) the church decides to become a state church under Constantine and thus loses its keys. That is the church exists for the purpose of spreading the gospel and it no longer exists to do that, but rather to hold the empire together as a state church. By 536 the church is wholly Satanic, that is it now exists in a supernatural sense primarily to surpress the gospel.

    I suspect that early Mormons had something like that in mind. The problem is, as your quote mentions the types of changes they wanted eventually are so deep that they would have needed almost a complete doctrinal shift by the mid 2nd century, so the more traditional “Landmarkism-Lite” style timeline above doesn’t cut it.

  72. “…Evangelicals wouldn’t even need to necessarily abandon inerrancy to do so. ”

    As a Mormon, my understanding of inerrancy is still undeveloped, but I get a sense that the meaning of the concept is not necessarily settled among Evangelicals themselves. Or, at the very least, that David’s latter suggestion (that some of the Bible is not historical) does not fit the majority’s definition.

    http://iandibook.com/responding-to-the-critics/criticism-3-ii-denies-inerrancy/

    It may be my NE liberal bias speaking, but I think we have some time to go before ECs in this country abandon cherished wedge issues like creationism.

  73. Bridget —

    I believe that Christ’s church consists of all believers across time and eternity who have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ and received salvation from him, regardless of other theological differences that divide them. That certainly includes (to use your example) believers from the second century who promoted baptismal regeneration. In order for me to accept that there was a universal apostasy, I would have to think that every single Christian from the time this apostasy supposedly happened (whenever that was) to the time of Luther was not truly saved. Not what I believe.

    You are actually changing the question a bit. The original claim was that the Mormon doctrine of the Great apostasy could be attacked on historical grounds. You are creating your own personal definition of what you think the Great Apostasy should mean and saying that you don’t believe that happened. Further you are redefining so that effectually it has to do with salvation, for which there is no way to make a physical judgement. So you have redefined it from a question that could be answered by a guy with a time machine to something that’s a matter of personal opinion. I can’t disprove anything about how much you like strawberry icecream.

    The LDS position isn’t about correct doctrine or true saving faith in Christ, although those things are expected to follow to some degree. It’s about priesthood.

    Actually as far as I understand it, that isn’t the case it is a two stage process. For example: The fate of the vast majority of Christians was not to be overcome by a frontal attack—true martyrs were relatively few—but to be led astray by perverters. The spoilers do not destroy the vineyard but “seize the inheritance” for themselves; we read of betrayal, disobedience, corruptions; of deceivers, perverters, traitors; of wresting the scriptures, denying the gifts, quenching the Spirit, turning love into hate, truth to fables, sheep to wolves; of embracing “another gospel,” and so forth. The offenders are not pagans but loudly professing Christians. As, once the prophets are dead, everyone paints their tombs with protestations of devotion, so “when the master of the house has risen up and shut the door,” shall the eager host apply for admission to his company—too late. The apostasy described in the New Testament is not desertion of the cause, but perversion of it, a process by which “the righteous are removed, and none perceives it.” The Christian masses do not realize what is happening to them; they are “bewitched” by a thing that comes as softly and insidiously as the slinging of a noose.

    (end part 1)

  74. (part 2)

    A group that has the priesthood is God’s church regardless of what they are teaching, and a group that does not have the priesthood is not God’s church regardless of what they were teaching.

    I don’t think that is true either. Mormons certainly have a belief that ordinances have to be combined with correct belief. The keys aren’t magic, a say Hindu temple founded by people that had a proper laying on of hands would not be a valid Mormon temple.

    I don’t think that the LDS case here is very threatening because the evidence that something resembling an LDS priesthood existed in the first century is extremely weak,

    I’m not sure I’d agree. But more importantly how is the evidence relative to the existence of something like Protestantism existing in the 1st century?

    The main sense in which I think Protestantism “restored” early Christianity is that early Christianity was heavily schismatic. The idea that Christ established a monolith organization called “the church” and that all or most Christians were, for some number of decades at least, under the organizational leadership of just one man or group of men is highly ahistorical (and the bulk of early church historians would agree). Early Christianity did resemble Protestantism in that it was a loose coalition of somewhat competing movements with different practices and different approaches to certain theological issues.

    You do understand you have just denied Luther and Calvin’s central claim? I do happen to agree with you regarding the sects pulling together to form Christianity, (per the diagram) but… that belief is inconsistent with historical Protestantism.

    If Christianity apostatized from anything, it was its Semitic roots. And most restorationist movements have done very little to return Christianity to that.

    Actually, no. I’d say the 19th century Adventists were making a real attempt. Arian theology is far closer to something like Philo’s Logos theology. And of course obedience to old testament law…. That still a long long way from early Christianity but they were trying.

    I couldn’t name someone off the top of my head who rejects baptismal regeneration (if they existed, they were certainly rare), but the second part of your challenge has me scratching my head.

    The point was that typical Protestant beliefs are completely unknown in the ancient world. But you seem to be granting that so we can move on…. That is I wasn’t saying name someone who believed A and another person who believed B I wanted one of both because that is what current Protestants hold to.

    Finally in terms of Catholic I was using it to include Eastern and Western rite.

  75. Christian J,

    I have a post in the works on inerrancy. To answer something directly, I have as Evangelical of a pedigree as they come. 6-day creationism is a minority position in my circles.

  76. Tim, I was probably overstating with my reference to creationism. Do you agree though, that the work of Enns and Walton (for example) would/does fly against inerrancy for many mainstream Evangelicals?

  77. CD,

    I have read a certain amount of Calvin and I am afraid you may be overstating your case. Theologically aware Protestants don’t think their theology was created ex nihilo, they understand it has developed inside of the covenant community. The Magisterial Reformation was just that a reformation not a restoration. I think you misrepresent position of Calvin and Luther when you demand that their positions be proved out by historical precedent. That seems to confuse the basic Reformational claims about the source of church authority.

    As an example If you defined Baptismal Regeneration with any amount of clarity I am pretty sure I could find a whole host of theologians who disagree with it. As much as Romes position on the sacraments has changed (especially in the scholastic period) It is certain that the current Roman doctrine on Baptism cannot be supported solely by historical precedent once you get beyond a surface level examination.

  78. I forgot,

    Someone can correct me if I am wrong but I have understood that priesthoods is central to the LDS understanding of the Great Apostasy. Once the priesthoods are withdrawn the church is apostate, period end of story.

  79. gundek–isn’t that what Aaron’s point was? The “LDS understanding of the Great Apostasy” has changed over time. In the sort of modern, correlated version, it’s about priesthood authority, full stop. But thats not always how the Church has articulated it.

  80. I guess I should have put a question mark in my comment, but I took Aaron’s comment to be that there was doctrinal development inside early Mormonism regarding the nature of Apostasy resulting in two basic Great Apostasy narratives both of which are historically vague but both related to or resulting in removal of the priesthoods. As I understand Aaron he believes that the historical ambiguity of current Apostasy narratives are an attempt to make the Great Apostasy non-falsifiable but that they actually result in an indefensible doctrine.

    I also understood Jack to point to the direct association of the priesthoods with apostasy.

    This is why I found CD-host’s reply to Jack confusing and was looking for clarification.

    If I am mistaken on my understanding of removal of the priesthoods and the great apostasy, I would like to be corrected.

  81. I have read a certain amount of Calvin and I am afraid you may be overstating your case. Theologically aware Protestants don’t think their theology was created ex nihilo, they understand it has developed inside of the covenant community. The Magisterial Reformation was just that a reformation not a restoration.

    I’m having a tough time following you as you seem to be intermixing what I wrote, opinion and Calvin’s opinion. What exactly do you think I’m claiming? What exactly do you think I’m claiming Calvin is claiming? And what exactly do you think really happened (i.e. historical fact)?

    I think you misrepresent position of Calvin and Luther when you demand that their positions be proved out by historical precedent. That seems to confuse the basic Reformational claims about the source of church authority.

    Not really. They made historical claims about what the faith was given the apostles and the early church. They made historically testable claims about doctrine. Book 4 of the institutes unquestionably identifies the church, the previously sound church with the Catholic church, since it has vestiges remaining. Which means they are claiming their faith is continuous with the Catholic church. This church:

    A.D. 90 – the Lord’s Supper as a sacrifice
    A.D. 95 – apostolic succession
    A.D. 110 – real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist
    A.D. 110 – the necessity of bishops to the Church, and the necessity of submitting to bishops
    A.D. 150 – baptismal regeneration and the necessity of baptism for salvation
    A.D. 150 – basic structure of the Mass as Christian worship
    A.D. 155 – veneration of saints and their relics
    A.D. 160 – Mary as the New Eve
    A.D. 180 – primacy of the bishop of Rome

    As an example If you defined Baptismal Regeneration with any amount of clarity I am pretty sure I could find a whole host of theologians who disagree with it.

    OK lets use Calvin’s Institutes 4.14.9 that the sacrament of baptism in and of itself is ineffectual and gains effect only via the recepient’s state and grace. Versus the Catholic claim that the sacraments are ex opere operato. I think that’s pretty clear cut. Luther’s main reason for continuing to assert baptismal regeneration was the overwhelming evidence from the pre-Nicene and anti-Nicene fathers. Which father that you would consider orthodox agrees with Calvin’s position? Let me just give you a short argument (http://www.philvaz.com/apologetics/num2.htm).

    I can certainly find Gnostics who held Calvin’s view but I’ve yet to find an orthodox. I’ve even heard Presbyterians argue Cornelius Burgess sided with Baptismal regeneration because the first people he could find who rejected it were Lollardy like Walter Brute (haven’t checked this all myself).

    As much as Romes position on the sacraments has changed (especially in the scholastic period) It is certain that the current Roman doctrine on Baptism cannot be supported solely by historical precedent once you get beyond a surface level examination.

    Probably. But for purposes of this discussion it doesn’t matter. For your sect’s views to have been the ancient views there must have been a pretty profound loss of continuity very early… what I’ve been calling the mid-sized apostasy.

  82. Let’s look at the Institutes, who does Calvin quote the most for support for his position on baptism? Ad fontes. Calvin and the Reformers clearly felt the liberty to disagree with the Fathers in matters where they disagreed with Scripture while not throwing out 1500 years of Church history.

    While I think that most of your dates are off by decades and centuries, if you want to call doctrinal error a mid-sized apostasy, sure fine. We continue to participate in the very mid-sized apostasy today. I would say that doctrinal error has been around since before John wrote “amen.” The noetic affect of sin assure that. It does not change the point that the 16th century Protestants claimed a reformation while you are demanding that people prove a restoration.

  83. Gundek —

    As far as the dates, pick one. I’m ready with quotes from the fathers to back those dates up.

    ______

    Mormons don’t throw out 1500 years of church history either, otherwise where did they get a King James Bible from? Most Protestants want to argue that Protestanism was the religion of Christ and the apostles, that was lost gradually. They don’t want to assert it is nothing more than a fabrication of Luther, Zwingli and Calvin. Particularly in the debate with Mormons they want to argue that Calvin did not get up one day and deciding to pick what he liked from Catholicism and fabricate the rest based on his personal opinions. Because otherwise there is no grounds for a Protestant objection to what Joseph Smith did other than the matter of personal taste as to whose creation one likes better. The church, by the time it wrote the creeds and picked the canon was hopelessly corrupted by Catholic interpretations. What argument then against an Orson Pratt who argues scripture itself is hopelessly corrupted? What argument then against rejecting the “orthodox” creeds and replacing them with the articles of faith?

    Once you accept that nothing remotely like Protestantism ever existed, the what right do Protestants have to judge other churches? What does their judgement amount to beyond your chef didn’t agree with our chef when he picked which ingredients to mix? Rejecting this nihilism is how this whole debate started on the great apostasy.

    Don’t get me wrong I’m glad you aren’t asserting there are a bunch of Protestants running around in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th century because that’s absurd. But if you do believe that nothing remotely like Protestantism existed at that time, and at the same time believe Protestantism is the “true faith” then you are a restorationist in denial.

  84. “Someone can correct me if I am wrong but I have understood that priesthoods is central to the LDS understanding of the Great Apostasy. Once the priesthoods are withdrawn the church is apostate, period end of story.”

    Gundeck, that is exactly how the concept of “Apostasy” has always been framed to me (when talking about the historical event and not personal actions) throughout my life in the LDS Church. There was never a location, ward, or time period when that was not the exact focus of the LDS teachings on the subject.

  85. Restorationist? No, I am a Presbyterian who believes the Magisterium doesn’t have the right to bind peoples consciences contrary to the Scripture. But then it is equally absurd to believe there we any Roman Catholics running around either.

    A.D. 90 – the Lord’s Supper as a sacrifice (Don’t quote the Didache, because it doesn’t say anything about the supper itself being a sacrifice)

    A.D. 95 – apostolic succession (Don’t quote Clement because he doesn’t say apostolic succession is a requirement)

    A.D. 110 – real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist (I believe in the real spiritual presence on the Eucharist)

    A.D. 110 – the necessity of bishops to the Church, and the necessity of submitting to bishops (Don’t use Ignatius because pastor, elder, and bishop are used interchangeably)

    A.D. 150 – baptismal regeneration and the necessity of baptism for salvation (Any time after the Shepard of Hermas this is probably true except that there has often been exceptions for infants and catechumen)

    A.D. 150 – basic structure of the Mass as Christian worship (Tell that to the Eastern Church, but don’t us Justin because he describes a Protestant service)

    A.D. 155 – veneration of saints and their relics (Don’t quote the Martyrdom of Polycarp because “worthily love” is a long way from veneration.

    A.D. 160 – Mary as the New Eve (Typologically who could argue?)

    A.D. 180 – primacy of the bishop of Rome (Don’t tell this to the East.)

  86. CD-Host ~ You are actually changing the question a bit. The original claim was that the Mormon doctrine of the Great apostasy could be attacked on historical grounds.

    And that it can. As I already tried to explain, very little that could be argued to resemble the Mormon concept of priesthood existed in the earliest Christianity, and the current Mormon concept of priesthood didn’t exist in 1829 when it was supposed to have existed. Ergo, Mormons don’t have a Great Apostasy in the sense that they mean it.

    Further you are redefining so that effectually it has to do with salvation, for which there is no way to make a physical judgement. So you have redefined it from a question that could be answered by a guy with a time machine to something that’s a matter of personal opinion. I can’t disprove anything about how much you like strawberry icecream.

    Exactly. What Mormons believe about church continuity is falsifiable and could be proven or disproven (to use your analogy) by a guy in a time machine. What Protestants believes about it isn’t necessarily falsifiable. At least, it doesn’t have to be.

    I don’t think that is true either. Mormons certainly have a belief that ordinances have to be combined with correct belief.

    To some extent, yes, and it was probably an overstatement on my part to imply that doctrine doesn’t matter at all. But at the same time, the threshold for error is pretty darned high. If that weren’t the case, Brigham Young would have been deposed for teaching Adam-God (to give one example). Furthermore, Mormon beliefs have changed immensely since the founding of the church—yet very few Mormons today are open to the possibility that their own church is in a doctrinal apostasy. The church supposedly has the true priesthood and that’s what matters.

    Or as one ex-Mormon I know sarcastically put it . . .

    Apostasy: When your church changes.
    Revelation: When my church changes.

    The point that I was trying to make though was that priesthood is absolutely essential to the LDS apostasy narrative. If that weren’t the case, if they were merely arguing that it was an apostasy of doctrinal belief, then they could make a better case—although, since many of their distinctive beliefs aren’t found in early Christianity, either, they wouldn’t really be in better shape than those Protestants who believe in a silver thread of proto-Protestantism from Jesus to Luther.

    You do understand you have just denied Luther and Calvin’s central claim? I do happen to agree with you regarding the sects pulling together to form Christianity, (per the diagram) but… that belief is inconsistent with historical Protestantism.

    Rather than argue about whether or not that was what Calvin and Luther taught, I prefer to ask . . . so what if I am? In my view, if historic Protestantism is holding to views that are ahistorical, then historic Protestantism needs to update its thinking. And I think Protestantism is one of the best-equipped Christianities for doing that.

    BTW, I took Luther last year, and I’m in Calvin now. Plenty of things those two said that I disagree with. Still learn a lot from them.

    Actually, no. I’d say the 19th century Adventists were making a real attempt.

    Well, I did say “most,” not “all.” But I’d be more impressed with restorationist groups if they were focusing on getting Western Christians to understand and read the Bible in the social and cultural context in which it was written, a la the work of The Context Group. It’s a place where I think early Christianity really did depart from its origins quite early in its history, and I think our understanding of the Bible has always suffered because of it.

    But I’m probably getting lost on a tangent.

    You have a good night, CD-Host.

  87. Gundeck, that is exactly how the concept of “Apostasy” has always been framed to me…There was never a location, ward, or time period when that was not the exact focus of the LDS teachings on the subject.

    If you haven’t already listened to it, I would recommend a recent Mormon Stories podcast:

    http://mormonstories.org/?p=2414

    In a nutshell Harrell’s thesis, at least with regards to a Great Apostasy, is that the Mormon idea of what it was has changed over time. I believe Aaron quotes from Harrell’s book above.

  88. @Ms Jack —

    And that it can. As I already tried to explain, very little that could be argued to resemble the Mormon concept of priesthood existed in the earliest Christianity,

    There are definitely ideas from the Mormon concept of priesthood that exist rather early. Melchizedek priesthood as a priesthood opened not based on birth is an idea we see in Psalms, the dead sea scrolls so seems well developed by about 100 BCE. Once we get beyond that… There is other stuff like mixing of Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods that exist in rabbinic Judaism, as a theory not a practice, but to the best of my knowledge never existed in Christianity. Finally, there is other stuff like “high priest” as a title for a ward president which is total fabrication.

    yet very few Mormons today are open to the possibility that their own church is in a doctrinal apostasy. The church supposedly has the true priesthood and that’s what matters. [order changed in quote]

    What does a “true priesthood” mean in your opinion? If they don’t mean the priesthood of the early Christians, the one that Jesus created, then what makes their priesthood “true”?

    Or as one ex-Mormon I know sarcastically put it . . .

    Apostasy: When your church changes.
    Revelation: When my church changes.

    Yes, you get the same thing with Catholics. But the response is the difference between heresy and “development of doctrine” is whether the institution is protected from error. But that’s better than Protestants who tend to deny there has been any development.

    and the current Mormon concept of priesthood didn’t exist in 1829 when it was supposed to have existed. Ergo, Mormons don’t have a Great Apostasy in the sense that they mean it.

    I’m going by Hugh Nibly on what the Great Apostasy meant and what was lost. I’m going to ask Seth R to clarify his comment below.

    If that weren’t the case, Brigham Young would have been deposed for teaching Adam-God (to give one example).

    Why? Adam-God does quite possibly date back pretty far. I’ll defend that one. For example in Philo he resolves the 2 creations through the idea of a primal man (οὐράνιος ἄνθρωπος ) who is incorruptible, non material neither male nor female while Adam is made of clay. You can go back and see this idea in Plato. I think Joseph’s vague notion that there was something there, and Brigham’s expansion on Adam-God was right and was an example of successful restoration. I don’t think they quite grasped what Paul was talking about in 1Cor 15:45-50 but they did grasp there was something there.

    I think the church’s current reaction to it, is a perfect example of how the Mormon church started to chicken out after Brigham’s death, arguably repeating the Great Apostasy. Which you mentioned in your comment.

    Rather than argue about whether or not that was what Calvin and Luther taught, I prefer to ask . . . so what if I am? In my view, if historic Protestantism is holding to views that are ahistorical, then historic Protestantism needs to update its thinking.

    Well the problem is that four of the five solas are ahistorical. Most importantly, ultimately sola scriptura and historical reasoning conflict, you will lose perspicuous and self-interpreting if you start trying to read the bible in historical context as you are advocating below. That road is not Protestantism (in a doctrinal sense) but rather Esoteric Christianity. I think it is a better road, because you don’t have to work so hard to convince yourself of nonsense you are supposed to believe but don’t anymore. But it ain’t Protestantism.

    That was the point of the Bultmann project to create a Christianity which modern people could believe in. Ultimately it failed, Protestantism reacted violently to shake off this attempt to remake the religion into something that holds up to historical scrutiny. The process is going to have to happen much more slowly and less deliberately.

    Well, I did say “most,” not “all.” But I’d be more impressed with restorationist groups if they were focusing on getting Western Christians to understand and read the Bible in the social and cultural context in which it was written, a la the work of The Context Group. It’s a place where I think early Christianity really did depart from its origins quite early in its history, and I think our understanding of the Bible has always suffered because of it.

    I agree with you on this. But what you are really saying is you believe in the Great Apostasy you just don’t agree that Joseph Smith successfully restored things.

  89. Seth R —

    “Someone can correct me if I am wrong but I have understood that priesthoods is central to the LDS understanding of the Great Apostasy. Once the priesthoods are withdrawn the church is apostate, period end of story.”

    Let me get this clear, in terms of scope of the Great Apostasy. Let’s assume that I sat down and had a chat with someone around 50 CE and asked them questions about Christianity. Lets say James:

    a) If I asked him about the Melchizedek priesthood would he tell me he was one or would he tell me it was a spiritual priesthood that had predated Levi and now was defunct except in one special case of the savior?

    b) If I asked him about sealing to parents, or second anointing would he know what I was talking about and tell me about ones he had recently performed or would he look at me blankly.

    c) If I asked him about spiritual pre-existence, or spirit prison would he know what I’m talking about?

    d) If I asked him if the atonement started in Gethsemane would he say “yes”?

    e) If I asked him if God creates or organizes matter what would he say?

  90. CD-Host, I don’t know what St. James would have said. I don’t know how developed his concept of Priesthood was, whether he’d know the concept well, or have a different perspective on it. All of that is possible.

    But it’s also not ultimately a problem for LDS claims either.

    Joseph Smith didn’t really set out to restore 50 AD Christianity. This is a popular fallacy about Mormonism’s claims. He set out to restore OLD TESTAMENT Christianity. The original item. The religion handed down to Adam, Enoch, Abraham, and Moses. The one true religion – not just Peter and Paul’s mortal attempts to implement it.

  91. Joseph Smith . . . set out to restore OLD TESTAMENT Christianity.

    That may be the most succinct and descriptive thing I’ve read about Mormonism in years. I’ll set aside a critique of the project so that I can just bask in the brilliance of that synopsis.

  92. He set out to restore OLD TESTAMENT Christianity.

    You can get even more specific, he set out to restore GENESIS Christianity. Exodus – Malachi play only a minor supporting role in the restoration.

  93. Somehow I think that Genesis (which he wasn’t limited to) is plenty enough ambitious.

    A guy can only do so much you know.

  94. One quick observation – if you count the LDS temple liturgy, Joseph went well beyond Genesis for source material. Not that I can say more about it, but…

  95. The LDS temple liturgy isn’t based in the Old Testament any more than the Hellenistic temples were based in the Old Testament. The only thing they share is the word “temple”.

    Feel free to compare them. The ordinances performed in Old Testament are described in quite a bit of detail in your quad. (they apparently weren’t very sacred).

  96. Joseph Smith didn’t really set out to restore 50 AD Christianity. This is a popular fallacy about Mormonism’s claims. He set out to restore OLD TESTAMENT Christianity. The original item. The religion handed down to Adam, Enoch, Abraham, and Moses. The one true religion – not just Peter and Paul’s mortal attempts to implement it.

    As a Mormon, I would have disagreed with you, and said that his intent was to restore the church established by Jesus Christ during his ministry and after his resurrection.

  97. Yes. And I imagine that a lot of my fellow ward members would disagree with me too.

    But Joseph Smith wouldn’t.

  98. I (and Hugh Nibley) disagree wholeheartedly.

    my fellow ward members would disagree with me….But Joseph Smith wouldn’t.

    Let it never be said that Seth is presumptuous.

  99. Seth —

    OK thanks for the correction. I’m being slow I think and not quite getting what you are saying. I’m not being critical I’m trying to figure out what this claim of restoring Adam / Moses religion even means.

    Let me quote the definition from the LDS itself:
    When individuals or groups of people turn away from the principles of the gospel, they are in a state of apostasy. One example is the Great Apostasy, which occurred after the Savior established His Church. After the deaths of the Savior and His Apostles, men corrupted the principles of the gospel and made unauthorized changes in Church organization and priesthood ordinances. Because of this widespread apostasy, the Lord withdrew the authority of the priesthood from the earth. This apostasy lasted until Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son appeared to Joseph Smith in 1820 and initiated the restoration of the fulness of the gospel.

    First off I’m assuming you agree with this description? This is literally word from lds.org.

    a) I assume by “principles of the gospel” we are talking doctrine? I just want to clarify that because there is a claim floating around the apostasy was non-doctrinal in nature.

    b) It says after Jesus established his church. I assume they are talking about the church established around 50 CE? And then how could James not know about it if he were a major player in the church?

    Joseph Smith didn’t really set out to restore 50 AD Christianity. This is a popular fallacy about Mormonism’s claims. He set out to restore OLD TESTAMENT Christianity. The original item. The religion handed down to Adam, Enoch, Abraham, and Moses. The one true religion – not just Peter and Paul’s mortal attempts to implement it.

    What does that mean? Lets take an example of sealing.
    Lets assume something like
    1900 – 1500 BCE (time of Moses, where ever you want to put it) to 1050 BCE tabernacle
    1050 BCE to about 587 BCE Solomon’s temple
    538/517 BCE to 19 BCE Cyrus temple
    19 BCE to 70 CE Herod’s temple

    a) During what years could I have gone to a temple and got sealed to my wife? And during what years would the priest have given me a weird look and said he has nothing to do with weddings and given me a weird look?

    b) In what years would I have been able to go to the temple and do a once in a lifetime Baptism and not a regularly reoccurring ritual washing for ritual purity? In what years would a priest consider it his duty to actually perform the baptism / washing? In which years would it be performed while wearing clothes like a Mormon baptism but unlike a Jewish tvilah, or for that matter Christian baptisms till the middle ages?

    This is where I’m having trouble. If a doctrine is being restored it is being restored from some point in time. Otherwise the claim that Joseph Smith got new revelations and decided to found his own religion based on those revelations is completely true.

    The object of our visit to your city is not to subvert any moral or truly Christian principle, or to promulgate any doctrine other than that which was advocated by Patriarchs, Prophets, Christ and the Apostles; which doctrine or gospel, we believe is the same invariable plan of salvation that it ever was, and that it ought to be taught, administered and obeyed in the present age, precisely as it was in the primitive or golden period of Christianity.” [E. Snow and Benjamin Winchester, 1841]

  100. Of course it’s a presumption David.

    But is that really that bad of a thing in this context?

  101. CD-HostMelchizedek priesthood as a priesthood opened not based on birth is an idea we see in Psalms, the dead sea scrolls so seems well developed by about 100 BCE.

    Would you be kind enough to cite your source for this?

    There is other stuff like mixing of Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods that exist in rabbinic Judaism, as a theory not a practice, but to the best of my knowledge never existed in Christianity.

    Which is what I said. And I’d go so far as to say that there are parts of the New Testament that are antithetical to what Mormons teach about priesthood, making the chances that the early Christians had an ordination system along the lines of what one sees in the LDS church today highly improbable.

    But that’s better than Protestants who tend to deny there has been any development.

    If you think Mormons are good at affirming doctrinal development, then I really don’t think you’ve hung out around enough of them.

    “Those who observe us say that we are moving into the mainstream of religion. We are not changing. The world’s perception of us is changing. We teach the same doctrine. We have the same organization.” – Gordon B. Hinckley

    Just one of many that I could give.

    I’m going by Hugh Nibly on what the Great Apostasy meant and what was lost.

    I’m going by the 15 hours of religion credits that I took at Brigham Young University and the countless hours that I’ve spent conversing with Mormons about their beliefs. Also, the Gospel Principles manual (updated by the church in 2009) provides a pretty good summary (emphases mine):

    The ordinances and principles of the gospel cannot be administered and taught without the priesthood. The Father gave this authority to Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 5:4–6), who in turn ordained His Apostles and gave them the power and authority of the priesthood (see Luke 9:1–2; Mark 3:14). He reminded them, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you” (John 15:16).

    That there might be order in His Church, Jesus gave the greatest responsibility and authority to the Twelve Apostles. He appointed Peter chief Apostle and gave him the keys to seal blessings both on earth and in heaven (see Matthew 16:19). Jesus also ordained other officers with specific duties to perform. After He ascended into heaven, the pattern of appointment and ordination was continued. Others were ordained to the priesthood by those who had already received that authority. Jesus made it known through the Holy Ghost that He approved of those ordinations (see Acts 1:24).

    [SNIP]

    One by one, the Apostles were killed or otherwise taken from the earth. Because of wickedness and apostasy, the apostolic authority and priesthood keys were also taken from the earth. The organization that Jesus Christ had established no longer existed, and confusion resulted. More and more error crept into Church doctrine, and soon the dissolution of the Church was complete. The period of time when the true Church no longer existed on earth is called the Great Apostasy.

    [SNIP]

    Many of the ordinances were changed because the priesthood and revelation were no longer on the earth.

    As does LDS.org (emphases mine):

    When individuals or groups of people turn away from the principles of the gospel, they are in a state of apostasy. One example is the Great Apostasy, which occurred after the Savior established His Church. After the deaths of the Savior and His Apostles, men corrupted the principles of the gospel and made unauthorized changes in Church organization and priesthood ordinances. Because of this widespread apostasy, the Lord withdrew the authority of the priesthood from the earth. This apostasy lasted until Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son appeared to Joseph Smith in 1820 and initiated the restoration of the fulness of the gospel.

    During the Great Apostasy, people were without divine direction from living prophets. Many churches were established, but they did not have priesthood power to lead people to the true knowledge of God the Father and Jesus Christ. Parts of the holy scriptures were corrupted or lost, and no one had the authority to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost or perform other priesthood ordinances.

    In Mormonism, no priesthood = no Christ’s church. And if there never was a Christian priesthood in the sense that Mormons mean it, then there never was a Great Apostasy in the sense that Mormons mean it, either.

    Re: Adam-God, it is the later leaders of the LDS church who denounced it and called it a “false doctrine” (which you seem to be aware of). This leaves Mormons in the position of having one prophet (Young) whose teachings were denounced by later prophets (i. e. Kimball). If holding priesthood were really dependent on teaching correct doctrine, then Young should have lost his priesthood or been deposed. That was my point.

    Well the problem is that four of the five solas are ahistorical. Most importantly, ultimately sola scriptura and historical reasoning conflict, you will lose perspicuous and self-interpreting if you start trying to read the bible in historical context as you are advocating below.

    You’ve completely lost me here. Please elaborate.

    But what you are really saying is you believe in the Great Apostasy you just don’t agree that Joseph Smith successfully restored things.

    No. That is not at all what I’m saying, and I think you do a disservice to both myself and Mormons when you attempt to mash our beliefs together like that. I cited above what Mormons mean when they talk about a “Great Apostasy,” and it isn’t at all what I believe.

  102. Would you be kind enough to cite your source for [Melchizedek references]

    Sure in terms of Psalms, Hebrews is a classical midrash on Pslam 110. In terms of Dead Sea Scrolls the most famous Melchizedek DSS is 11Q13, where you see a lot of the ideas of Hebrews attributed to a heavenly Melchizedek. Words associated with God like council of El (Psalms 82:1) are used for Melchizedek. Isaiah 61:2 is applied to him. He atones for the righteous while executing judgement on the wicked, higher than the Aaronic Priest because he is both priest and King. Basically we are looking at a more primitive version of what is in Hebrews, though with Melchizedek playing the role later to be filled by Jesus rather than Jesus being a symbolic Melchizedek. Hebrews itself even acknowledges this early theology indirectly in 7:3.

    You see the theme of Melchizedek as a heavenly high priest in 4Q401. In 1QM he is associated with the Archangel Michael.

    In 4Q280 and 4Q544 you see this reversed with Melchiresha (king of wickedness), so Melchizedek has already expanded mythologically into some sort of dualistic being.

    In terms of dating 11Q13 before 100 BCE: The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated (The Qumran Texts in English) (2nd edition; Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill and Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1996). Which has a good discussion of all this. Though you can just google, it is all over the web at this point.

    Which is what I said. And I’d go so far as to say that there are parts of the New Testament that are antithetical to what Mormons teach about priesthood, making the chances that the early Christians had an ordination system along the lines of what one sees in the LDS church today highly improbable.

    If Joseph Smith is correct in his view of authentic ancient Christianity, ancient-Mormonism would have been identified with forms of Christianity that predate most of the New Testament. I mention this in my response to Aaron. Mark can stay, Jude is fine. Other books like 1Enoch and 2Enoch, 3 tables of Seth… they might want to consider. They would want to use Signs in place of John, John is too late in its theology, representing already a turn towards proto-Catholocism (i.e. doctrinal apostasy). Other books like Colossians are terrifically insightful as long as it is understood Paul is on the other side. Mormons will have to read between the lines the way Joseph Smith did. But that’s not a huge fundamental problem, they have always argued they have the KJV from convenience, not from a deep commitment.

    On the other hand if they try and date themselves late enough to have the New Testament canon, then the whole thing becomes indefensible. The Mormon church and the bible is another area where in the 1870s they saw the road, got scared and turned back.

    And responding out of order, that’s my feeling about Kimball and Adam-God. He is continuing in the pattern of them having frozen from the 1870s on. That being the case, Brigham was heading in the right direction on this one regardless of what Kimball says.

    As for gospel principles that’s a fine source but you snipped everything having to do with doctrine. I think you are trying to see. For example the 3rd line on the great apostasy is Some members taught ideas from their old pagan or Jewish beliefs instead of the simple truths taught by Jesus. . The 7th line on:

    More and more error crept into Church doctrine, and soon the dissolution of the Church was complete. The period of time when the true Church no longer existed on earth is called the Great Apostasy.

    Soon pagan beliefs dominated the thinking of those called Christians. The Roman emperor adopted this false Christianity as the state religion. This church was very different from the church Jesus organized. It taught that God was a being without form or substance. These people lost the understanding of God’s love for us

    Your own source, does a pretty good job of showing that the loss was doctrinal not just some sort of magical “priesthood authority”. Exactly what I had argued was the theory: loss of the “keys” led to corruption in doctrine and an apostate church.

    CD: Well the problem is that four of the five solas are ahistorical. Most importantly, ultimately sola scriptura and historical reasoning conflict, you will lose perspicuous and self-interpreting if you start trying to read the bible in historical context as you are advocating below.

    What I meant by that was that sola scriptura asserts that scripture is easy to understand and clear (perspicuous) without the need for additional resources (self-interpreting). If you want to assert that scripture is best understood in terms of a wealth of historical information and that a naive’s reader’s intuition is going to lead them astray because of cultural distance then sola scriptura is false.

    Further, the ancient church was familiar with the 5 lutheran doctrines they came up in debates with the early heretics and were rejected. For example Vincent of Lérins on the perspicuity of scripture.

    And the same thing with sola fide. So far after 5 centuries of trying Protestants haven’t been able to come up with a single author who wrote on justification prior to the reformation that believed Sola Fide. Every single time church fathers even use the expression “by faith alone” they mean faith working through love i.e. grace empowered works as being instrumental to one’s justification, the precise opposite of what Luther was asserting.

    That is Protestantism is fundamentally ahistorical. It can’t do what you want it to do in looking back into history, because history shows that their views were considered and rejected quite early by the Catholic church, and so to claim any kind of continuity requires games.

  103. Gotta love the esoteric Mormonism that pushes itself to be every bit the non-Christian religion Evangelicals suggest it is.

  104. CD-Host – I just want to note that I’m going to get back to you in maybe a week. I do have more to say in response, but I have exams on Monday and Friday of next week, two short papers due, and a presentation on Ursula de Jesús to give in one of my classes on Wednesday on top of my daughter’s doctor’s appointment and IEP meeting with her teachers. This all being complicated by the fact that my desktop is in the computer hospital for the weekend (at least).

    I went ahead and fixed the links from your last comment.

    See you in a week.

  105. Tim —

    Yep that’s why restoration is so divisive. (Proto-)Christianity as it existed 200 BCE – 200 CE was very different from the Christianity of today. Go back to 100 BCE and you don’t have people in Pews with their NIVs but apocalyptic Essenes in caves, rethinking and rebuilding all of Judaism and syncretize with the surrounding Greek cultures to create a new religion.

    As I’ve said before, about this, the onion is the layers. Go back to an actual ancient Christianity and what you find is ancient but may not feel Christian at all. The edges are still rough and protrude, it is not the smoothed rock that will exist 2000 years alter. It is with the later birth of Catholicism where the pieces finally amalgamate into something like current day Christianity.

    The LDS church can follow the path of Joseph Smith, Orson Pratt and Brigham Young and delve further into the origins of Christianity and create a modern version of the ancient faith, or they can follow the later leaders and be another Evangelical denomination. They can’t do both.

    ___

    Gundek —

    I wanted to pick one from the list and focus. And no I don’t think it is absurd to say by around 200 CE you have Catholics running around. How much further you can go is more debatable. Certainly by 160 or so you have something that is mostly Catholic and basic elements by 120 CE. I can’t say something remotely similar for Protestantism.

    Let’s take apostolic succession. I’ll grant that Clement I may not see it as a hard requirement, but rather a mechanism. However within a century Irenaeus is using it for apologetic purposes and Tertullian certainly a generation after that is making it a requirement. The church is the body that descended from Peter. That is a continuity of teaching.

    I have little doubt if I were to go back to a Tertullian with a modern copy of the CCC he’d agree with 98% of it. If I were go back and hand him the Institutes he’d agree with 90% of it. But… on the 10% that Institutes and the CCC disagree he’d 90+% of the time agree mostly with the CCC or be indifferent. And that holds even more so if we get to the 4th and 5th century church fathers who have a far more advanced Catholic theology.

    For example it is entirely possible that an early father might agree with the Orthodox (on papal authority) that the Bishop of Rome is first among equals and not a level higher on the hierarchy. But so what, with the exception of the Episcopal churches Protestants don’t have anything remotely like that.

    Don’t get me wrong. I think your (PCA) structure is close to ideal (except the women part) but if the question is authentic, i.e. which is most reflective of the early church? Then I have to answer a years of a chaos of equals followed by a rigid hierarchy that has survived more or less till today.

  106. You have no doubt that Turtellian would agree with 98 % of the CCC, and you call Protestant claims ahistorical? He simply wouldn’t have the grid to understand 3/4 of it.

    If you separate apostolic succession from historic development, the externals that caused the church to move from two offices elder/bishop and deacon to the episcopate, you lose any real connection with the hisoric church. You miss the why the doctrine developed and if that development was a valid result of biblical revelation. If your basis for theology is 9 out of 10 fathers agree then truly your skipping 2000 years of life with the church.

    In the words of Jaroslav Pelikan, “the effort to cross examine the fathers of the Second or Third century about where they stood on controversies of the 9th or 15th century is both silly and futile.

  107. You have no doubt that Turtellian would agree with 98 % of the CCC, and you call Protestant claims ahistorical? He simply wouldn’t have the grid to understand 3/4 of it.

    I couldn’t disagree with you more. Most of the CCC is rather clear even to someone far more spiritually naive than Tertullian. The CCC itself mostly sites sources form the early years.

    ” If your basis for theology is 9 out of 10 fathers agree then truly your skipping 2000 years of life with the church”

    Are you listening to how incoherent you sound? You are arguing that to understand history you need to ignore it. I’m arguing that to understand history and viewpoints you fully embrace it. Asking honestly what did the church fathers believe and why did they believe it.

    In the words of Jaroslav Pelikan, “the effort to cross examine the fathers of the Second or Third century about where they stood on controversies of the 9th or 15th century is both silly and futile.

    Further given his lifetime of work I don’t think he would accept the historical nihilism you are proposing. Pelikan embraced a history of doctrine and examined it, understanding fully how one step led to the next.

    But even ignoring that, on this Pelikan is wrong. The fathers had people like Luther who read scripture, disagreed with the dominant church and decided to form their own factions over it. By and large the controversies of today are not much different than those of previous generations. The issues faced by people are mostly the same all over the world and all throughout time.

    We may choose to reject the viewpoints of those that came before us, but to claim historical continuity while ignoring actual history is to construct a fable in place of history.

    I have enough respect for history to listen to it. To take it seriously and to believe people in previous centuries were quite able to think rationally. I’ve never suggested ignoring why doctrines developed in the slightest. What I have suggested is genuine honesty about those question and not using terms like “valid biblical revelation” in place of “agrees with me”.

  108. Romes sacramental theology isn’t codified until the Scholastic age, Christology isn’t worked out until Thomas Aquinas, the marion dogmas are finished in 1950 (unless you count the 5th outstanding) and you think Turtullian the montanist would agree with 98% of the CCC?

    It is simply a matter of fact that the monarchial epispacy is a second century development. Why would anyone aftre the Great Schism and the Avignon papacy not question the validity of that form of Church government. How is it historical nihilism to ask the question how and why the Bishop of Rome took his place?

    The issue is that the Reformers were not asking the question what did the fathers think, but what does the Bible teach. You may disagree with the results but they were not basing their theology on what the second century consensus was. That’s Rome’s argument not Wittenberg’s.

  109. Romes sacramental theology isn’t codified until the Scholastic age

    You are now hitting an area I’ve know a lot about because I’ve done a study of how the Christian theology of marriage developed. And what you are claiming simply isn’t true. Under Pope Callixtus I, the issue of whether slaves could marry without or in opposition to their master was specifically addressed. And the ruling set down most of the basics of the entire sacramental matrimony.

    1) A couple married each other. This is important because other sacraments like the Eucharist do require the church.
    2) Marriage requires intent to marry, not just sex. There was a tendency to consider marriage to be little more than a name for a couple who had regular sex, and this distinction gets explicitly codified in the Council of Toledo (400), where legal distinctions are made between wives and concubines. Further it works the other way in saying no sacrament of matrimony occurs without consent; it is consent, not law, which defines sacramental marriage
    3) Because of the public nature clandestine marriage became concubinage. Marriage is public.

    Of course the stuff the Protestants object to like focus on virginity goes back even further. In the things like Acts of Paul and Thecla (approx 150): we have a story that sees marriage as taking one away from salvation. In fact the book essentially asserts salvation through virginity (and thus contains strongly anti-family views), The book specifically praises Thecla for disobeying her family and abandoning her Betrothed to follow Paul (again strongly anti family themes). Most of this Thecla theology is fully developed and made official during the 4th century in the contra-Jovinian arguments, and of course the creation of monastic/covenant movement.

    Then by the time of the Carolingian dynasty you have 2 more key changes
    1) The classification of the products of sex and their respective claims on their father’s property.
    2) The classification of wife, mistress, concubine, prostitute.

    Which means not only do you have sacramental theology you have almost the entire Catholic legal theory of marriage about 400 years before scholasticism. What is it you think is actually missing that Aquinas has to add?

    If you want to argue there has been drastic change, it has been on the complete removal of concubinage from the entire theology of matrimony; which is not something your church fixes. Though society is essentially re-instituting concubinage on a mass scale currently.

    ____

    We have baptismal rites going back to the mid 2nd century, and we can see the basic structure of sacramental baptism as admission into the Catholic church and thus being offered the salvation of the church. The resolution of the Donatist controversy proves that at least by the 4th century you have an explicit doctrine of ex opere operato with respect to baptism, like you did earlier for marriage. You also here have the notion of ordinary ministers vs extraordinary ministers.

    I’ll address the rest later. This argument is odd for me. I’m almost always having to argue with Catholics that these things didn’t come down from Jesus and Peter but developed a little later. Now I’m having to argue that it was a century or two later not 1000 years later. But I see no evidence at all for the contention that sacramental theology is a 2nd millenium invention, or that there has been drastic changes.

  110. the marion dogmas are finished in 1950

    The Marian dogmas are late. Those would fall into the part where I don’t know and some of it would be in the 2%.

    Perpetual virginity of Mary. Good evidence for this in the early 2nd century with Ignatius and the Protoevangelium of James . By the 4th century Athanasius defends Mary as “Ever-Virgin” and again contra-Jovinian the whole thing is codified. So yes I think Tertullian would agree.

    Mother of God Turtullian might initially be on the other side, “Mother of Jesus”. This one I do think is 5th century. But it comes naturally from the hypostatic union. So I’m not sure how you can assert it is late, not a natural development given that you (I presume) want hypostatic union to be true in some meaningful sense. And I do think Turtullian would see the connection.

    Immaculate Conception of Mary Turtullian supported paedobaptism so in some sense he believed in something like original sin.

    Assumption of Mary. This is your 1950 example. There are 3rd century books that apply Revelations 12 to Mary claiming she is still alive. We know by the 4th century there were multiple fathers of the church who believed that Mary had never died. What changed in 1950 is that this belief is now mandatory rather than optional.

    Co-Redemptrix / Mediatrix . As an example of one not yet codified but moving towards it. There are 2nd century references.

    Queen of Heaven Again Revelations 12 presents this view if you consider the woman to be Mary.

    So even on what is obviously the worst case scenario I’m hard pressed to see anything here he’d be shocked by or not agree with. On the other hand the 4th century fathers would be unified in horror at your sect’s view of Mary.

    The issue is that the Reformers were not asking the question what did the fathers think, but what does the Bible teach. You may disagree with the results but they were not basing their theology on what the second century consensus was. That’s Rome’s argument not Wittenberg’s.

    Well yes and no. When arguing with Catholics and the wealth of historical evidence Catholics can present for their views they use a biblical fundamentalism. But even here they ultimately made all sorts of appeals to revelations, Luther (while never using this term) considered himself a prophet. With people like Erasmus who were willing to argue the bible he made appeals to emotion, feeling and revelation. Calvin is much less guilty of this but still his commentaries are loaded with extra biblical reasoning. There are areas like the canon question where Calvin talks about knowing things by virtue of revelation but those are rare.

    However, when arguing with groups like Anabaptists or Jews they become advocates of church history and the long theology of interpretation. They didn’t engage in arguments about the bible on equal footing. I think it is fair to say the Reformers believed that they had the right to reject tradition in favor of their biblical interpretation but other people did not. That didn’t last however and one of the great things that came from the reformation was true bible freedom.

    And incidentally that has continued to today. Protestants when talking to Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons suddenly become very interested in church history. Jehovah’s Witnesses and other 19th century Arians are bound by creeds, to believe in the trinity and thus are non-Christian; but you Calvinists are free to reject doctrines from those very same ecumenical councils at will.

    So no I’m not going to grant that the Reformers used a “bible alone” methodology. I’ll grant they paid lip service to it. They wanted to believe that historical Christianity needed mid sized doctrinal reform to be compliant with the bible, rather than a wholesale reinvention; and ran into the fact that just ain’t so. It was groups like Unitarians, Adventists, Landmark Baptists, Anabaptist sects that genuinely tried a bible alone approach. So for example staying on the sacrament theme many of them use foot washing. What I would say though is that Protestantism in general is moving further towards a bible alone theology. A good example of this is the Lutheran ministers refusing to have a laying on of hands from Anglican ministers, and the growing rejection of a bodily resurrection among Protestant laity.

    Finally, the issue regarding the Great Apostasy is a question of history not a question of theology and predates the reformation. If sacramental theology was widely believed by the 2nd and 3rd century church than either:

    a) This was the original theology of the 1st century church (the Catholic position)
    b) There was an early period of major innovation where new teachings entered rapidly and the original faith was lost (the Mormon position).

    The reason Luther believed in sacramental theology (particularly the mass as a sacrifice) was that the historical evidence for it was so overwhelming. And incidentally the reason I, 2 decades ago, began to believe in baptismal regeneration was that the historical evidence was so overwhelming. If baptismal regeneration was false there was no reason to believe that anything in early Christianity had survived to the current day.

    The first and second century evidence contradicts the Catholic claims. The next thirteen hundred years contradict the Protestant claims. Which is why I keep saying Great Apostasy is a strength for Mormons, providing they are willing to date it early enough.

  111. Historically the number of sacraments was up in the air, varying from 2-12, until 7 was dogmatized at the council of Florence (1439). The Church had to wait until Trent for Lumbard’s list to be accepted naming what the 7 sacraments were.

    Medieval theologians also formalized the elements of sacramental theology defining the matter, forms, symbol, etc. Prior to the school men these elements were also up in the air. Today’s sacramental categories, classifications and defining terms come from the Medieval theologians, they took what already existed and formalized the theology behind it. There is nothing wrong with that, I find much of what Aquinas wrote illuminating even where I disagree.

    I never understood Luther to teach the mass as an expiatory sacrifice, so I’m not quite sure what your point is?

    If the LDS want to make the claim that all of the doctrinal development made from the apostolic age until 1830 is a sign of the Great Apostasy, it is their prerogative to do so. I disagree, but being a Presbyterian I can still read the church fathers for who they were. I don’t have to make them proto-Calvinists. I can appreciate their insight even when we disagree. The Church exists were Christ is preached and the sacraments administered. The nice thing about justification by faith is that our doctrinal errors can be forgiven just like any sin.

  112. 1. Tim, I am playing a little catch up on reading tonight. Thanks for the post. I use to be more antagonistic to Morehead’s ambitions but the Transitions videos encouraged me. Yet I would echo some of Bowman’s reflections.

    2. Clark specifies, “he set out to restore GENESIS Christianity.”

    In the book, Mormons Believe . . . What?! (2011) by Gary C. Lawrence, the author writes, “Christianity did not begin with the earthly birth of Jesus. The religion that Adam and Eve were taught by God was Christianity. Then does that mean that every Old Testament prophet was a Christian? Yes, that is what we believe. From the beginning, Adam and Eve taught their children Christianity – that the Son of God would one day come to the earth, teach His doctrines in person, and then atone for (that is, make forgivable) all the sins of mankind from the beginning to the end. In time, the descendants of Adam rejected it, causing a falling away from true teachings, what we call an apostasy. Thus began a pattern: True Christianity was given to a prophet – Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, among others – followed by a falling away from those teachings.”

    “Mormons claim to be the re-established original Christian church.” (p. 5)

    I would conclude from Lawrence: amid all the prophets and periods of apostasy, LDS maintain one line of Christian continuity, periodically manifested throughout human history, from Adam in Genesis, to Isaiah, to John’s Gospel, to Joseph Smith, and on to our day with Thomas Monson. Monson leads one back to the purity of Adam’s Christianity.

    Of course, that does beg the question. Do Mormons believe Adam and Eve to be real?

    Lawrence answers, “Two out of three (68%) believe Adam and Eve were real people, while 28% believe they are fictitious characters. Mormons maintain they are real.” And as you all know, the issue is quite a debate within evangelicalism.

    3. Of course, I am the token creationist on this thread, but beyond debating a literal 6-day creation, the historicity of Adam and Eve, etc., is the weighty issues of laws, sacrifice, holiness, and priesthood authority in the genesis of our Bibles and their continuity to today.

  113. Of course, I am the token creationist on this thread, but beyond debating a literal 6-day creation, the historicity of Adam and Eve, etc., is the weighty issues of laws, sacrifice, holiness, and priesthood authority in the genesis of our Bibles and their continuity to today.

    I don;t think that the literal truth of the Genesis creation and fall narrative really has to impact “the weighty issues of laws, sacrifice, holiness, and priesthood authority in the genesis of our Bibles and their continuity to today.” Its a seriously false dichotomy to insist that not taking the narrative account literally means dispensing with the entire book’s authority.

  114. Kullervo said:

    Its a seriously false dichotomy to insist that not taking the narrative account literally means dispensing with the entire book’s authority.

    You, Tim and I all agree on something!

  115. Tim, back in the thread, thinking of the comic picture with Packer . . . it made me think of an opening statement by Matthew Bowman in his book, The Mormon People. “Joseph Smith’s church is the last incarnation — or, to use Mormon parlance, the last dispensation — before Christ’s Second Coming. Mormons believe that this time God has established his kingdom so firmly, and in such fertile ground, that it will not fall again.”

    Eric and Kullervo, I don’t get too passionate over wanting to debate with any LDS on creationism, not to say there is a lack of compelling exegesis out there. But I am curious, do either of you take the Melchizedek narrative account literally? Why so or why not?

  116. Gundek —

    If you look at the Orthodox churches they have the same list of 7 sacraments. Which means there were no official lists yes, but the doctrine had stabilized. If you aren’t going to count doctrines that are stable but not yet built in stone, then the list of canonical books presents a more serious problem. There were conflicting councils and Catholics didn’t agree on a final binding list that was also widely used until the 17th century, Protestants not until the 19th.

    As for the rest about the fathers…. the general claim made by most Protestants is that your faith is historically grounded and not a 19th century creation from pre-existing parts. If you are abandoning that claim, and agree that Presbyterian theology as it exists today is 19th century, then you really lose any right to be critical of the LDS.

    ______

    Todd —

    Just to throw my vote in. Melchizedek translates as “the King of Righteousness”. I also don’t think there was a historical Abraham in the Genesis sense. So not literally.

    On the other hand: “Salem” as a pre-existing name for “Jerusalem” and his connection with Canaanite. Also having another priesthood. I think we are looking at earlier pieces of the legend when the center of the Yahweh cult moves to Jerusalem and the Levitical priesthood is replaced by the Zadokite priesthood. So I’d say the clauses in Genesis is a reference to a legend written around 800-600 BCE recorded around 430 BCE.

  117. Todd Wood said:

    Eric … do …you take the Melchizedek narrative account literally? Why so or why not?

    To be honest, I’m not familiar enough with the account, nor have I studied it sufficiently, to give you a good answer. (I do believe there was a historical Abraham, though.)

  118. “If you look at the Orthodox churches they have the same list of 7 sacraments.”

    Well that is just not true.

    “There were conflicting councils and Catholics didn’t agree on a final binding list that was also widely used until the 17th century, Protestants not until the 19th.”

    Not true either. Either Florence or Trent canonized the Canon depending on who you ask.

    Remind me again why should I abandon the claim that our faith is historical? I am not the one making claims doctrines doctrines were developed in the first and second century. Protestants were not protesting first century doctrines but the doctrinal developments that existed in the 16th century.

  119. Eric and Kullervo, I don’t get too passionate over wanting to debate with any LDS on creationism, not to say there is a lack of compelling exegesis out there. But I am curious, do either of you take the Melchizedek narrative account literally? Why so or why not?

    No, I take it mythically, like I take all scripture.

    Also, I am not LDS.

  120. “If you look at the Orthodox churches they have the same list of 7 sacraments.”
    Well that is just not true.

    No actually it is.

    Orthodox Christian information list of 7 sacraments, Greek Orthodox website, and an entire book on them from the Greek Orthodox church Ethiopian Orthodox website, Armenian Apostolic, etc…

    CD:There were conflicting councils and Catholics didn’t agree on a final binding list that was also widely used until the 17th century, Protestants not until the 19th.”

    Gundek: Not true either. Either Florence or Trent canonized the Canon depending on who you ask.

    There are councils before that with the list of 75 books. But the Vulgata Sixtina controversy proves the list was not accepted by Catholics after after Florence. Even after Trent, Pope Clementine was walking on eggshells about Prayer of Manasseh, 3 Esdras, and 4 Esdras and Psalterium Gallicanum. Follow the history of those books and you can see authors on both sides through till the Clementine Vulgate. And those books are still in many Protestant bibles including the NRSV and REB.

    Remind me again why should I abandon the claim that our faith is historical?

    Read your own posts about the fathers. If Calvin and the church are free to construct doctrines as they sit fit you no longer have a historical faith. I think you put your historical rejectionism well, “You may disagree with the results but they were not basing their theology on what the second century consensus was. That’s Rome’s argument not Wittenberg’s.

    You are trying to have it both ways, where you get to claim a connection to the fathers while rejecting their theology of justification, their ecclesiology, their hermeneutics, in short their religion. Instead you are creating your own faith building on pieces of their’s.

    Protestants were not protesting first century doctrines but the doctrinal developments that existed in the 16th century.

    No we’ve already talked about things like Mary, and the mass as a sacrifice, and the role of Bishops. The Reformers were objecting to the historical faith. I agree they claimed that these developments they objected to were late. But the evidence both prior to Worms and now is overwhelming that they were just wrong, and they didn’t care.

    That ultimately was why sola scriptura became so important to Protestantism. Because the church fathers are one long indictment against Protestant theology. Luther was not the first to come up with the idea of sola fide.

    There is a 1500 year history, using Luther’s language, of people confusing sola gratia with sola fide just like Luther did and a 1500 year history of this being rejected by the church.

    When you examine the evidence the orthodox among the ancient church are Catholic, and they preach and teach Catholicism. So you can have one of 3 responses:

    1) Follow their lead and become Catholic/Orthodox. Or go even earlier and become a Gnostic.
    2) Argue for an early apostasy and try and recover the historical faith that was apostatized from using non-historical methods. Whether those be sola scriptura as if the bible fell out the sky or the revelations of Joseph Smith.
    3) Incorporate a theory of development into your theology whether liberal Christian, IFB or atheist.

    The difference between the Protestant position and the Mormon position is they believe in a Great Apostasy and you believe in a mid-sized apostasy. You claim a much greater historical connection when there is none. Joseph Smith tried to think through the implications of the apostasy honestly. Calvin, why far more schooled could never resolve the deep contradictions between his belief in an authoritative church and his unwillingness to submit to church authority himself.

  121. You really should spend some time studding Orthodoxy. I compared and contrasted Rome and the East for years before I became a Christian. You will find that their theology differs significantly from Rome. This is from the Orthodox Church in America.

    “The practice of counting the sacraments was adopted in the Orthodox Church from the Roman Catholics. It is not an ancient practice of the Church and, in many ways, it tends to be misleading since it appears that there are just seven specific rites which are “sacraments” and that all other aspects of the life of the Church are essentially different from these particular actions. The more ancient and traditional practice of the Orthodox Church is to consider everything which is in and of the Church as sacramental or mystical.”

    Kinda makes the rest moot doesn’t it?

  122. No it doesn’t make it moot.

    My original argument was the sacramental theology — the theology rejected by Calvin though not by Luther — was in place by the 5th century.
    You replied that it wasn’t in place. And the evidence you cited was that the list of sacraments wasn’t finalized till Trent.
    I commented that the Orthodox, who forked prior to trent had the same list of sacraments hence the basis for the list could not have been a Catholic fabrication at trent.
    You said that was false.
    I provided evidence for this.
    You are now saying that the Orthodox do have the same list but consider mysteries as well.

    I’d agree with that. The point is though the Orthodox have the same sacramental theology.

    The believe in baptismal regeneration.
    The believe in the Eucharist as a sacrifice.
    The believe in laying on of hands as a sacrament which bestows actual effective power.

    etc… Your church rejects that holy acts can bestow grace while essentially every Christian prior to your church stated the exact opposite. Both the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics attribute these rites to Jesus / Apostles. Your church attributes them to later corruptions. Either the entire Christian church was wrong in its theology of grace for 1500 years or Calvin was wrong. And that is the point, you are denying the Christian theology that actually existed.

    I certainly will grant that the Orthodox don’t incorporate Aquinas’ arguments about why there are 7 and the ties between natural and spiritual life fully into their theology, but even there they don’t reject this Roman Catholic theology. That is the point, and no minor disagreement, if they even exist, between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics on Catholic theology do not make that moot.

  123. No, your original argument was baptisimal regeneration in 150 AD and that Tertillian the Montanist agreed with 98% of the CCC.

  124. Read Cyprian’s “To Pompey, Against the Epistle of Stephen About the Baptism of Heretics”. Now it is clear that Cyprian does not separate the efficacy of Baptism from the work of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit saying, “For water alone is not able to cleanse away sins, and to sanctify a man, unless he have also the Holy Spirit.” Is it honest for me to put out a single quote, out of the blue, without historical context, or context of the rest of Cyprian’s writing, or what other theologians and councils of his day were saying?

    I’m not trying to undermine the originality of though for your argument, but your position is simply the same that Rome’s apologists have used, quite unconvincingly, since the Diet of Worms. Rome has continuity, either apostolic, ecclesiastical, traditions etc. Protestants are a whole cloth invention of Luther and Calvin. You add the little twist that because Protestants are the invention of Luther and Calvin an intellectually honest Protestant cannot complain that Joseph Smith invented his own religions, and besides, you say, if the Utah Church just reinvented their theology a bit it would be all the more compelling.

    The problem that you have is, since the Diet of Worms, Protestants have never accepted your position or the validity of the argument. In fact Protestants who are historically and theologically aware of what happens outside of their traditions find your argument to be overly simplistic when you say things like the sacramental theology of Rome and the East are the same.

    Besides being a little naïve your argument fails to take into account: (1) the general claim of the Reformers with regard to tradition scripture and authority, if a doctrine cannot be supported by scripture it doesn’t matter how early it can be demonstrated, (2) the legitimate development of doctrinal understanding, (3) the actual historical context of the early church writing and the authority that any given theologian.

  125. Cyperian was essentially an early Donatist, though before these views became schismatic. I’m not sure how he disproves baptismal regeneration. The doctrine of baptismal regeneration even today asserts the necessity of Holy Spirit:
    1266 The Most Holy Trinity gives the baptized sanctifying grace, the grace of justification:
    – enabling them to believe in God, to hope in him, and to love him through the theological virtues;
    – giving them the power to live and act under the prompting of the Holy Spirit through the gifts of the Holy Spirit;
    – allowing them to grow in goodness through the moral virtues.

    Catholics don’t disagree with sola gratia their objection to Luther’s economy of salvation is sola fide.

    I’m not trying to undermine the originality of though for your argument, but your position is simply the same that Rome’s apologists have used, quite unconvincingly, since the Diet of Worms.

    I don’t claim to be original here. The historical argument Rome made prior to Worms (there was no theology debated at Worms) was correct. You yourself essentially acknowledged that above when you agreed that if we just survey the church father’s we arrive at Rome’s position.

    Besides being a little naïve your argument fails to take into account: (1) the general claim of the Reformers with regard to tradition scripture and authority, if a doctrine cannot be supported by scripture it doesn’t matter how early it can be demonstrated,

    I’m not failing to take that into account I think you are conflating two entirely different things:

    a) What were the historical teachings of 2nd-5th century Christians
    b) What does scripture teach.

    (b) has no bearing on (a), it is entirely irrelevant. (a) is at its base a historical not a theological question. Introducing (b) is attempting to address the issue of whether the fathers were right or wrong, a theologically question.

    (2) the legitimate development of doctrinal understanding,

    What does legitimate mean in the context of a schismatic sect that decided to invent their own religion? I agree your sect attempted to redefine legitimate in a way that made what they were doing legitimate. Either there is no such thing as “legitimate” or “legitimate” means in accord with the Christian faith up till that point, in which case Luther’s understanding was tried by multiple church councils and found heretical, no different than what happened with your denomination and the New Perspective on Paul / Federal Vision.

    (3) the actual historical context of the early church writing and the authority that any given theologian.

    The body empowered to weigh the various fathers against one another is the magisterium, not some monk who decides he is modern day prophet. Further on the core points on which Calvin and Luther disagreed with the church, they were against all or almost all of the early fathers. It is fairly easy to weight something like two-hundred and fifty to zero.

  126. It appears that everthing contributed after February 12 has been deleted–including some linguistic perspective which I contributed immediately previous to today’s date. I understand the reasoning: Don’t engage anyone who can make discussion upon a level at which you are incapable of answering objection: materially, logically, intellectually, etc. After all, isn’t that what this is all about–“witnessing” to misguided, beknighted, heathen “Mormons” and trying to set them straight–even though they particpate in what is arguably the most coherent and functional theology on earth, with a documented membership of more than 14,000,000…?

    [Ms. Jack edit: The comments Harlan was looking for are posted in a different thread, starting here.]

  127. Harlan, all you’re doing at this point is name calling (over a pretty stupid and trivial issue, I might add).

    Why would anyone feel a need to keep that on the blog?

  128. Thank you Seth! For the first time I get an “evangelical” to admit–albeit circuitously–that his only purpose in “engaging” members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is to discredit them…! Kinda like a sort of theological “big brother” looking out for all the poor, religiously-ignorant, folks out there who might fall into the evil “Mormon” trap inadevertently. You’ve shown your true colors–now live with it…!

  129. Oh, by the way, Seth… How do you explain the YHWH (Yahweh) thing, since there is no “w’ sound in Hebrew–ancient or modern…?

  130. Harlan all your comments are still there under the post you originally commented on entitled “what Mormons need to know about Evangelicals”.

    No one anywhere knows how to pronounce YHWH so I guess you might be right but no one knows why that makes a difference.

  131. Harlan, you’re being foolish.

    I’m a 2nd generation member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I served a mission to the Japan Fukuoka Mission in the early 1990s under President Pincock. My wife and 3 children (one on the way in June) are all Mormon and we attend our ward every Sunday. I’ve been a primary teacher, singles ward activities coordinator, in an Elders Quorum presidency, Executive Secretary to my bishop for about 2 years, Cub Scout leader, Boy Scout leader, and currently Ward Financial Clerk going on about 3 years now in my current ward. I haven’t missed a single Sunday of my LDS services all year so far.

    I regularly come onto blogs like this to DEFEND the LDS Church from criticisms.

    So nice try, but I’m afraid Evangelical isn’t really my style and never has been.

    I just didn’t like the way you were arguing here. I’m not going to give you a free pass on name-calling and bad argument just because you’re a fellow Mormon.

  132. Seth,
    If you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints–I sincerely and humbly apologize–to you. I too am in a habit of visiting on-line blogs, often just out of curiosity. I served a mission in New Zealand a long time ago–before there were even two million members in the Church, so I have seen a lot and done a lot–including serving as sunday school teacher, Priest’s Quorum advisor, councilor in the Elder’s Quorum Presidency, and Ward Mission Leader and one of the Seven Presidents of the Seventy in our stake. I have had on-line dialogs with everyone from evangelicals to self-described atheists–and even a gentleman who openly runs a rabidly anti-Mormon research ministry. This man has the gall to declare his brotherly love for us, but launches the most vicious, libelous attacks against–all in the name of Jesus…! But my blood boils when I hear any alleged theologian preach anything that resembles anti-Mormonism. Frankly, that is the prevailing feeling I sense when visiting blogs like this one. Anyone who has to resort to that kind of “witnessing” to grow his agenda should be exposed for the hypocrite that he is…! Sorry, but I often do not feel Christian love when it comes to that kind of hypocrisy, especially when it is flaunted in the public forum. Sometimes it is a little hard to tell the “good guys” from the “bad guys”, and that is the overwhelming negative sense that sweeps over me when I visit places like this that profess some purpose like “ecumenism” between theologies so diverse and diametrically opposed. Just viewing a anonymous little computer screen often does not give a clear or valid view of the guy at the other end.

    The way one self-appointed on-line evangelist approached it was to post an article entitled “The Mormon Faith: Friend or Foe…?” As it turned out, he was heavy on the foe end. Big surprise…!

    Seth, it probably would be wise for both of us to refrain from any kind of dialog like this, unless of course we happen to be officially appointed for such work by Church Headquarters or the General Authorities. I admit that I am not, so I’ll be going my own way, and minding my own business…!

  133. I just edited some links into two comments above so that the conversations on this thread are a little easier to understand.

    Also rescued five comments from spam (one from Brian J, three from Steve Martin/the old adam, one from my friend Patrick Mefford). Pay your protection money a little sooner next time, boys. ;)

  134. As a Believer/Christian/Disciple/Seeker/Latter Day Saint/Saint/Mormon I want to publicly express my eternal and deepest profound thanks to my The Lord of Life/Lord/Redeemer/Saviour/God/King/Master Christ Jesus for his awesome Atoning Blood Sacrifice for me. I must rely on him every second/minute/hour of every day. I must access His true Grace by way of my True Faith in His Holy Name.

    In His Debt/Grace
    Anakin

  135. Folks, there is no Mormon Church. That was a long-ago invention of evangelicals–for obvious reasons. There is a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints–the only church bearing the Savior’s name. That should speak for itself. If a church calls itself Christian, but does not proclaim the name of Jesus Christ in its name, there is very likely room for doubt about their authenticity. That should be the litmus test–as it were…!

  136. There is a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

    Sorry Harlan, there isn’t. There is however a church called “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Notice the hyphen and the lower case “d.” If you are going to get up in everyone’s grill about the name of your church, at least get it right. In case you don’t believe me, said church maintains a convenient website called MORMON.ORG, which is located here:

    http://mormon.org/

    Said obviously apostate website also manages to spell the legal name of the church correctly. Since the moniker “Mormon” is offensive to you, I eagerly await your calling for the excommunication of Thomas S. Monson who is cutting a check for the continued registration of that domain name, not to mention cutting the checks to pay web developers to maintain this site.

    By the way…Harlan…! Welcome Back…!

    Oh and I’m also glad that per your definition the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is also a true Christian church.

  137. Cool so the authentic churches:
    Church of the Little Children of Jesus Christ (Unitarian church semi founded by John Quincy Adams)
    True Jesus Church (Chinese Pentecostal)
    Church of Jesus Christ–Christian (Klu Klux Klan based church)
    Jesus Army (British, Brethern like)
    The Church of Jesus Christ (RLDS)
    Apostolic Gospel Church of Jesus Christ (Pentecostal)
    Restoration Church of Jesus Christ (affirming church for people from LDS)
    Most Holy Church of God in Christ Jesus (Philippine restoration church)

    Hmmm…. what’s the next step? These churches don’t seem to have all that much in common.

  138. Does that make the Church of Christ half true? What about the True Church of Jesus? Could two half true congregations join together and make a true Church?

  139. Harlan,
    Would people mistake the LDS Church for a Christian Church if it was called, “The Church of Lucifer’s brother of Latter-day Saints?” Would it still be true in your eyes?

  140. We all fell for it didn’t we, believing this was somehow an extended hand of friendship–of ecumenism…? What was it Jesus Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount…? “neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” How appropriate…!

    I feel like I just escaped from a pen full of hungry, mean hogs. I have lived long enough to know exactly what that feels like…!

  141. Harlan, you’re being an absolute hypocrite.

    YOU, brother, are the one who came on here attacking everyone, criticizing, blaming Evangelicals, touting how superior your faith was over everyone else’s.

    And now you have the gall to blame everyone else for a “lack of ecumenism?” If you want to talk hostility – the most hostile voice on this entire conversation thread has been you.

    Harlan, what the heck is your definition of “ecumenism” anyway? Is it “everyone agrees with Harlan, and acknowledges how superior his opinions are”?

  142. Seth: Who’s is being hostile? I was quoting the Savior. He had a tendency to say what was really on his mind. Is that hostility? Was he was being diplomatic when he blinded Saul on the road to Damascus? Read some of the other comments on this page before you start tossing around comments about hypocrisy. Read your own–and look around at the company you’re keeping. What was the old Persian proverb–something like, “When you point the finger of accusation, look at your hand. You’ll find three fingers pointed back at you…!” Anti-Mormonism is anti-Mormonism. If that’s what you like–enjoy it…!. But don’t hang around too long. That taint has a tendency to cling to everything it touches.

    I’m gone…!

  143. Yes Harlan. You were quoting the Savior. Here’s another quote:

    “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”

    OK Harlan – that’s a quote from our Savior in Matthew. Now what if I quoted that verse to you and said “that’s you Harlan!”

    Would you say I was being hostile toward you? “Yes” or “no” Harlan?

  144. Sorry, but I often do not feel Christian love when it comes to that kind of hypocrisy, especially when it is flaunted in the public forum. Sometimes it is a little hard to tell the “good guys” from the “bad guys”

    It’s because they are all good guys. (or bad guys. . . I’m not sure which, frankly, but they are all the same)

    And if you have no love for them you have no christian love. Whatever happened to loving those who despitefully use you and persecute you? This sort of Mormonism (or Evangelicalism) is what makes me think your churchiness is a fun game to play but ultimately not much more than tribal loyalty.

  145. I’m liking Harlan almost as much as Rick Hurd. :-)

    Don’t get me wrong, friends. I said ALMOST. No one will ever replace Rick Hurd in my heart of hearts. <3

  146. I recommend you click that link and see what Harlan has to say for himself.. . . over and over. . .and over. . . and over . . . again.

  147. As an observer: I find it very interesting that we as the supposed true Church(Body of Christ) criticize and malign LDS Latter-day Saints for what they espouse, yet there are so many denominational divisions regarding the Five-fold ministry doctrines including apostles and prophets operating in today’s Church. I find it quite ironical that the LDS Church are in complete unity and harmony world-wide. Why did our Lord Jesus Christ say in John 17:21 “That they all may be one as we are one” (to the Father)? I have personally met Latter-day Saints who live the testimony of Christ and practice His love as their guiding influence. Perhaps- we should start setting the examples for others to follow and be in complete agreement with the gospels we so dearly advocate. God bless and thank you for your time. Glenn Dickson

  148. Hi Thomas. Thanks for your comment.
    Yes, God has called all Christians to practice Christ’s love and work toward harmony. We have a long way to go, but with Him all things are possible.

  149. Today, the days of Evangelical rule have come to a halt. Today Mormonism has taken the grasp of power from Evangelicals. Today – Evangelicals have been defeated by the new power to be Mormonism.

    Evangelicals have allowed their hate and bigotry blind them from their faith – allowing Mormonism to divide and conquer the Evangelical movement. Evangelicals have cast away their brothers and sisters with hate and bigotry – now they open their eyes to find a new power that has come to be – Mormonism.

  150. @ Vegas,
    Let me get this straight. The existence of your Church is dependent upon the idea that ALL other Churches are wrong, ALL of their creeds are an abomination, ALL who believe those creeds are corrupt, and only pay lip service to God, yet somehow WE are the ones who are bigoted and hateful?

    Now I fully understand why Smith has forbidden coffee. He doesn’t want to you wake up and smell it.

  151. Pingback: An Open Letter to Fellow Evangelicals « Beggar's Bread

  152. Not often do I go back where I have stirred up a hornet’s nest of anti-Mormon ugliness, but this one I can’t resist…! Cal’s last comment about the “comical war of words” is dead on. This is a circus of the intellectually challenged. The thing that really cracks me up more than that is the guy with the Billy Jack set to his jaw, and the black cowboy hat–with the badge that he got out of a Cracker Jack box pinned onto it…!

  153. Harlan, did the FBI give you any problems for speculating on the death of John F. Kennedy? They must not have liked people writing about that subject.

  154. You’re a real clown, Tim, but you haven’t a clue…! And don’t bother requesting to be added to my Facebook “friends” list again, because I’m a little more selective than that…! At least I now know the identity of ONE person who Norton Antivirus has warned me has been trying to hack into my computer accounts. Thanks for identifying yourself to me–and to all your fans…!

  155. I’m sure your 12 friends enjoy hearing you plug your book every 14 hours. That’s buzz marketing at it’s finest

  156. Tim: There must be more than friends reading it–since you’re not on the list…! If you’ve read it then it’s pretty well getting everywhere. Go ahead and tell the world more about yourself, and how slick you are at snooping with your keyboard…! Preach away, Preacher–you have the whole world listening…!

  157. Harlan! Don’t worry about Jack and Tim and their typical rabid-anti-mormon behavior. What can you expect from people who are only worthy of the terrestrial kingdom?

  158. Billy Jack? I never thought of that. THANKS! He was one of my childhood heroes. Since you are curious about the hat, I’ve had too many compliments from Christians and Mormons alike to be offended at your comment. I don’t take offense to that statement at all, but since you obviously meant it as such, I think I should remind you of your scriptures.

    Alma 5:30-31
    30 And again I say unto you, is there one among you that doth make a mock of his brother, or that heapeth upon him persecutions?

    31 Wo unto such an one, for he is not prepared, and the time is at hand that he must repent or he cannot be saved!

    A word about the badge. It is an honorary deputy’s badge from the city of Nauvoo. I bought it at a souvenir shop on Mulholland street for six bucks. It is a great conversation starter.

  159. Keith: I wore a REAL badge for 24 years, as well as the uniform that went with it. Mine wasn’t a souvenir from a town where I went looking for trouble. I had nasty people to deal with. I didn’t need a “talking point” trinket to give me a leg up on picking fights with people with whose religion I disagreed. I had people’s freedom and safety to protect–including the sanctimonious preachers I knew who went into the local jails to pass out anti-LDS pamphlets. And don’t quote scripture about hypocrisy. You are its walking, talking epitome–as counterfeit as your badge…!

  160. Harlan, I don’t know you and you don’t know me. You’re judgmental statements reflect the fact that you don’t know the first thing about me. I don’t go picking fights. I go to talk to people and have even managed to calm down a vast majority of the Mormons who get upset at me. We walk away from our conversations as friends.

    You are obviously too upset with me and probably ever other Christian on this blog to really have a productive conversation. That being the case, I will ignore any further attempts to provoke me into an argument.

    Thank you for your service.

  161. Hi. I’m new here, and find the conversation generally informative and interesting. I’m an evangelical Christian who has been learning (or in some cases, unlearning) about Mormonism.
    Just an observation: from reading online, and from some comments here, it seems to me that Mormon (or do you prefer LDS?) doctrine may be in a state of flux. If so, that would seem to contradict much of the material written on Mormonism that it is a monolithic whole in terms of doctrine and practice. Is this an accurate observation?

  162. Hi Daniel, it is important to draw a distinction between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) and “Mormonism.” It is true that the LDS are the largest and most dominant faction of “Mormons” in the world. However, there are other spinoff groups. The RLDS (now “Community of Christ”), the Strangeites, the FLDS (the polygamists you saw in Texas) and several others. All of whom could debatably be called “Mormons.”

    That said – all religions’ doctrines are in “a state of flux.” Evangelicalism is in such flux, you never know what they are going to look like decade-to-decade. The LDS Church is not an exception to this.

    Welcome. And be warned – you have the exact same name as a noted BYU professor and Mormon apologist. So don’t be surprised if you get a few odd remarks online assuming you are him.

  163. Welcome, Daniel.

    And yeah, if your middle initial is anything other than “C,” then I recommend posting with your middle initial. Otherwise everyone is going to think you’re this Dan Peterson.

  164. I also have the same name as a domestic terrorist (one of the so-called Montana Freemen).
    I had a terrible shock one afternoon hearing on national radio on how the FBI was about to arrest “Daniel Peterson”. There’s also a pro-abortion advocate by the same name…

    Point taken about LDS versus “Mormon”.

    My point about Mormon theology “being in a state of flux” is that most Evangelicals are taught (if they’re taught anything at all) that Mormonism has a rigid set of doctrines and beliefs that effectively haven’t changed since the days of Smith and Young, with a few notable exceptions, and that these doctrines are ruthlessly enforced. What I’m seeing here on this site suggests that this isn’t true.

    Dan (not the BYU guy) Peterson

    (…wish I was smart enough to teach at BYU…)

  165. No, it’s a very different religion.

    A lot of critics of the LDS Church wish the religion hadn’t changed at all since the days of Brigham Young (since it would make the job of criticizing the religion easier) and a lot of members of the LDS Church ignorantly believe it hasn’t changed. But it has – quite a bit.

    Of course, I would argue that there are some crucial core founding fundamentals of the religion that haven’t changed at all. But I imagine most religions do that.

  166. As a former-Christian agnostic, I find many aspects of Mormonism far more appealing than evangelical Christianity (and particulary evangelism of the Southern Baptist variety):
    ~The lack of focus on Hell. Even though I’m not a Mormon and won’t make it into the Celestial level, I’ll spend eternity in the Telestial Heaven (I imagine that it’s sort of like the Holliday Inn–not too bad). Far better than the fire of lake that awaits me if I don’t worship God and accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. Mormonism is a far gentler religion to the ethical unbeliever than fundamentalist Christianity.
    ~The idea of a Godess Mother, even if Mormons don’t spend that much attention on her. For Pete’s sake, in evangelical Christianity you have the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: not one of them is female. Not one. What’s up with that? At least the Catholics have the cult of the virgin Mary, and a multitude of female saints. Deity-wise, women get nothing in evangelical Christendom.
    ~Mormons in general, and Mormon women in particular, are far better educated than evangelicals.
    ~The Mormon faith seems to promote quietly devoted lay priests versus wildly enthusiastic, often attention-grabbing evangelist preachers.
    ~The requirement that young men undertake two years of missionary work, often in foreign countries. It’s an experience that exposes Mormons to the outside world, may require them to learn another langauge, and truly tests their character. It can’t be easy going door to door trying to convice folks of Joseph Smith’s teachings in a language not your own.
    ~The super-funky, sci-fi idea that, after death, a Mormon husband and wife will become Gods and rule over their own planet. Just wow. How neat it must be for Mormons to gaze into the night sky or pour over star charts and say, “There….perhaps that planet will someday be ours.”

    Of course, Mormonism has its foibles as well:
    ~The fact that in order to enter the Celestial heaven, Mormon wives must be invited by their husbands. Of course, in evangelical Christianity, women have their own, personal relationship with Jesus Christ: the quality of that relationship alone determines whether they’ll make it into Heaven.
    ~The secrecy. The fact that non-Mormons aren’t permitted in their temples or at their weddings.
    ~The alleged unquestioning obedience to the head of the Mormon Church, called the prophet: the only Mormon blessed with the power of prophecy.
    ~Mormons’ disproportionate representation in the C.I.A and the F.B.I.

    A secretive religious organization that demands unconditional obedience from its members being very well represented in the very secretive and incredibly powerful CIA and FBI: What could possibly go wrong with that?

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