I first heard the following chestnut as a teenager. Though it is sometimes shared by miscellaneous kinds of Christians (often as a humorous but good-natured anecdote meant to show how confusing the Trinity can be), it was first introduced to me by a Mormon friend who wanted to show me that belief in the Trinity was ridiculous. It reads as follows:
“Whom do men say that I am?”
And his disciples answered and said, “Some say you are John the Baptist returned from the dead; others say Elias, or other of the old prophets.”
And Jesus answered and said, “But whom do you say that I am?”
Peter answered and said: “Thou art the Logos, existing in the Father as his rationality and then, by an act of his will, being generated, in consideration of the various functions by which God is related to his creation, but only on the fact that Scripture speaks of a Father, and a Son, and a Holy Spirit, each member of the Trinity being coequal with every other member, and each acting inseparably with and interpenetrating every other member, with only an economic subordination within God, but causing no division which would make the substance no longer simple.”
And Jesus answering said “What??”
The joke was recently posted to the comments of an LDS scholar’s blog, with the scholar who runs the blog calling it, “A wonderful joke, and right on target.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a problem. A historical problem. A problem disclosing the difficult parts of its history to its members. This problem exists because the church’s current outlook on itself and its leaders makes it difficult—and at times, impossible—to craft the entirety of its own history into a faith-promoting narrative. Those parts that cannot be safely included are instead quietly omitted.
Evidence of these omissions is abundant. Ex-Mormon disaffiliation narratives frequently revolve around some point in a person’s journey wherein the member learned something about church history not previously known before, something that became a catalyst for loss of faith. The recently published (2011) Daughters in My Kingdom manual makes no mention of the first Relief Society President’s defection from Brigham Young’s faction of Saints, or 19th century Mormon women regularly performing blessings and anointing with oil, or the fact that the Relief Society was shut down in 1844 because Emma Smith was using it to oppose polygamy, making DiMK but one of many official church manuals to carefully tiptoe around the problematic aspects of the church’s history. More obviously, the Church’s official Joseph Smith Web site says not a word about polygamy. It mentions the existence of some of his polygamous wives, like Eliza R. Snow, but it fails to mention that they were married to Smith. When it comes to potentially troubling details in LDS history, the church’s unspoken policy seems to be something to the effect of, don’t ask, don’t tell.
Unfortunately for the church, its history has a habit of getting loose in very public and embarrassing ways despite its best efforts to sweep it under the rug. Continue reading
Approximately 1.75 years ago, I published my second guest-post at this blog, a little number entitled “Evangelicals, Theosis & Exaltation.” Quite unexpectedly, that post sparked an immense discussion that got to 281 comments, brought in numerous first-time commentators, and seemed well-received by most. In February of this year, I was contacted by the Mormonism portal gatekeeper at Patheos with a request that it be re-published there, and after making some minor modifications, it was.
As you may recall, I used something of a gimmick at one point in the article. I quoted a lengthy excerpt which I attributed to The God Makers film by Ed Decker. This excerpt taught that:
- Mormons believe in becoming God. Not just a god, or a God, but becoming God.
- Mormons believe they will one day rule over their own universes.
- Mormons believe women are needed for exaltation so that they can give birth to the spirit children who will populate these universes.
After citing this excerpt, I pulled a “just kidding” and came clean that the dialogue comes from an LDS Institute manual called Achieving a Celestial Marriage, and I did not get it from Ed Decker or any anti-Mormons. I purchased it from the Distribution Center in the basement of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building on Temple Square during my first trip to Utah in August 1999.
I had my reasons for this ploy. Continue reading
Bridget Jack Jeffries (“Ms. Jack”) is a member of the Evangelical Covenant Church. She blogs at ClobberBlog.
Romans 16 has often been overlooked and underappreciated when compared to the rest of Romans. It’s far lower in theological content and subsequently tends to warrant less space in commentaries and fewer mentions in sermons so that many end their reading of Romans without taking a careful look at this chapter. I find this unfortunate, because I consider Romans 16 to be the “cool-down” at the end of a high-energy theological cardio work-out. And as anyone who works out can testify, while it may be tempting to turn off your television and step away from your exercise video once the trainer initiates the cool-down phase, you’ll only be cheating your body if you do. Likewise, Romans 16 does have important lessons to teach us, even if they’re of a much different tone and nature than the heavy theological treatises of the preceding 15 chapters, and we cheat ourselves out of a portion of God’s “revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past” (v. 25) when we skip over this chapter and call it a day.
(If you are new to this blog, please see this disclaimer about this post.)
Recently, commentator Aaron (no, not that Aaron) dropped by and posted a list of questions that he would like Mormons to answer. It has also come to my attention whilst Googling for the counter-cult site from which Aaron plagiarized copied-and-pasted the questions that you cultists won’t listen if I try to preach to you, so I should bait you with questions instead and make you think I’m interested in joining your religion.
So, let’s see all you smarty-pants Mormons try and answer these . . .
I want to pose a hypothetical scenario.
Let us say that a council of Christian leaders convenes for a meeting at Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois to discuss the question of Mormonism’s relationship to the historic, orthodox Christian faith and issue a ruling on the matter.1 The Council of Deerfield is attended by prominent leaders from all across the Christian spectrum including members from the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Church of England, and representatives from all manner of evangelical, Pentecostal, and mainline Protestant churches.
The findings of the Council of Deerfield are as follows:
- Just as Christianity was eventually classified as its own religion rather than a branch of Judaism in spite of its Jewish origins, Mormonism is best categorized as a new world religion rather than a subset of Christianity in spite of its initial Christian heritage. The Council stresses that Judaism is considered its own world religion, yet Mormons already claim more adherents than Jews.
- If Mormonism is to be considered a form of Christianity at all, it is a heretical one, having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.2
- The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price are an abomination in the sight of God and all their professors corrupt.3
The Council of Deerfield makes the following recommendations in proceeding with members of the LDS faith:
- Members of Christian faiths should be discouraged from seeking baptism in the LDS church in the strongest terms possible.
- Members of Christian faiths should attempt to share their faith with Latter-day Saints whenever possible with the goal of proselyting Mormons out of the LDS church and into orthodox Christianity.
- Converts from Mormonism should be re-baptized by an ordained or licensed Christian minister, even if they had a baptism in another Christian church before joining the LDS faith.
- Christians are strongly discouraged from receiving communion in LDS church meetings. Local Christian churches are advised to discourage Mormon visitors from receiving communion with them—although the Council of Deerfield does not condone slapping anyone’s hands away from the communion table.
- The Council of Deerfield takes no position on whether or not it is acceptable to pray with members of the LDS faith, recognizing that there exists a difference of opinion among Christians on this matter. The Council only recommends that Christians prayerfully consider the matter themselves and come to their own conclusions.
These recommendations shall stand until a time when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should reform its teachings on the following issues and bring itself in line with historic Christian orthodoxy:
- Its “finite theism in which God at some point in eternity past was merely a man and not divine”;
- Its “view of the universe as not eternally contingent on the will or being of God”;
- Its “denial of the necessity of prevenient grace to overcome humanity’s sinful disposition in the process of conversion or regeneration”;
- Its “denial of Trinitarian monotheism”;
- Its “denial of the classic Christian understanding of the relationship of the two natures of Christ;”4 and
- Its canonization of the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price in their current form.
At which point the Council shall reconvene to reconsider its ruling on the matter.
On our other thread, Seth R. made this comment:
Mormonism generally does a pretty good job of highlighting the problems with classical Christian thought. You can’t just expect people to forget all that, and pretend they didn’t see it. Why aren’t there prophets anymore? Why aren’t there temples? Why did God stop talking around 100 AD? Why did his “plain word” in the Bible result in such a complete mess of denominations? And what on earth was John Calvin smoking when he came up with the TULIP? And what IS this three-gods-in-one stuff, and why can no one explain it to me?
Then later followed up with:
I think our very existence is an attack on traditional Christianity.
Assuming that you are LDS and you agree with Seth’s statements, my question is, what sort of reaction do you expect from traditional Christians as the ones your religion attacks?
Over the years, I have heard Mormons complain about all of the following things:
- That we refuse to accept Mormons as Christians
- That we publish books, tracts, Web sites, and pamphlets which aim to proselyte Mormons and dissuade others from joining Mormonism
- That said publications are often misleading, dishonest, not very accurate, or outright malicious
- That evangelicals distribute literature and proselyte at LDS events such as the Manti pageant and General Conference
- That evangelicals often behave very poorly at said events
- That we teach Sunday school classes and make films aimed at exposing the problems in Mormonism
- That said films and Sunday school classes are malicious, dishonest, misleading and inaccurate
- That we create entire parachurch ministries aimed at proselyting Mormons and educating people on the problems in Mormon theology and history
- That we proselyte Mormons at all.
I think most of us will agree that 3, 5, and 7 are bad. But what about the rest of them? If attacking traditional Christianity is an intrinsic part of what Mormonism is, and that can’t be changed, can you really expect traditional Christians to change the other things on that list?
People have asked me what exactly I was expecting. It’s difficult for me to answer that question because so many different Latter-day Saints over the years have given me different answers on their expectations for the future of evangelical-Mormon relations. I agree that I can’t expect Mormonism to change all of the distinctives that make it Mormonism. The question is, what’s essential to Mormonism? What could it theoretically change? Let’s take a poll:
Could Mormonism still retain its distinctive identity if . . .