About Jared C

I am a criminal appeals attorney, father of four, raised in Kansas.

One Mormon view of the Truth of Christ

I was once of the opinion that you could convert the entire world to Christ if you sat the world down and simply told them, with sincere love, that they could feel, that He was their Savior. Indeed, I thought that would inevitably happen.  I believed that once a person was converted to Jesus, and followed Him as a disciple, that it did not matter what I believed or thought outside of that one Truth—so long as I lived by what Jesus taught and the Spirit. I think this is a belief that many Mormons might share, and have tried to root out its source—-in my own mind at least.

To me, the core of what Jesus taught was very simple and clear—even if it was mind-blowing, revolutionary, and extremely humbling. It seemed that that was all anyone really needed—everything else was just another conference talk or sermon. The wild variation I saw within the scriptures was merely a function of the fact that the Truth was essentially ineffable, as was the Life. Given the task Jesus gave his disciples–to love as He loved–I did not think you could even precisely explain how to act like a Christian in any particular circumstance without the Gift of the Holy Ghost. The capacity of love was a supernatural gift. It was a gift offered to everyone, and it could be expanded by faith and hard work, but it was the only mark of a true follower of Jesus.

The process of arriving at the Truth also seemed very simple—you could only really know that Jesus was the Christ by the Spirit. These most important truths could only be expressed with the Spirit, and the Spirit was practically instantiated and invoked through love and sincerity.  Hence, the root of my belief that all we could convert anyone to Christ by simply finding the right words.

I recognize that this belief was ultimately unstable. But perhaps I saw things in these terms out of a tendency to keep things simple in what I found to be an immensely complex world.  Perhaps it was pride–I wanted to believe in truth without reservation, and that demands simplicity. Perhaps it was out of recognition of the difficulty of asking and answering the question: What is truth? As a Christian, the answer was ultimately both obvious and simple. The Truth was what Jesus told of. All other truth flowed from That. Whatever we could work out through reason was true, but without that Truth, what did it matter?

Is this an acceptable Evangelical church policy towards Mormons? 

I saw this excerpt from a Southern Baptist Convention policy on the internet the other day and modified it to fit Mormonism:

“In light of the fact that many tenets and teachings of Mormonism are not compatible with Christianity and church doctrine, while others are compatible with Christianity and church doctrine, we therefore recommend that consistent with our denomination’s deep convictions regarding the priesthood of the believer and the autonomy of the local church, membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints be a matter of personal conscience. Therefore, we exhort Christians to prayerfully and carefully evaluate Mormonism in the light of the Lordship of Christ, and the teachings of the Scripture as led by the Holy Spirit of God.”

Would this be an acceptable policy for low-church Evangelicals?

 

Is the Protestant Doctrine of Salvation Incommensurate with the Mormon View?

I am always harping about how Mormons are allowed to believe a lot more things than traditional Christians and still be Mormons. I don’t think the Mormons that run the Church care about truth per se, but its usefulness in the cause, and it is eminently useful not to engage in debates about what you have to believe to be LDS.  I think most sane people believe this— it is generally not wise to declare how stupid you think others are within their earshot, and most people are apt to say stupid things when they are cutting down another cause.

From my point of view, this reality presents those who make massive truth claims, such as Evangelical Protestants, an interesting test: Here is a group of people who ostensibly believe a lot of the same things you Evangelicals believe; they are going to hell, forever, because of their confusion; it seems that the power of your message should be able to convert these people.  For me, it’s as if the Mormons are laying ready on Mount Carmel and Evangelicals can’t make so much as a spark to ignite what is dry kindling. I thought a good place to put my pet theory to the test is to determine whether a Mormon can fully believe the Protestant view of Salvation and remain LDS.  Is there some logical necessity of rejecting the message of the Restoration?  If they are not now, Mormons even become saved Christians and remain in the Church?

The question seems important. If the answer is “no,” Protestants should joyfully want Mormons to believe in their view of the Gospel whether or not the Mormons remain faithful to their LDS covenants or attend LDS church or believe the Book of Mormon is the word of God, or even continue to gather converts.  The entire approach to LDS missionary work would not be to show them where they are wrong theologically (which is extremely boring), but to teach them the truth in spirit and in power like Paul advocated (manifestly less boring). I recognize that many Mormons do not, and never will, understand or believe the theology behind the Evangelical view of salvation from original sin. But most Mormons are new Mormons without set theologies, and LDS Missionary efforts require a wide tolerance for strange beliefs. (I learned this acutely while eating dinner with a Jet Propulsion Laboratory physicist and my missionary companion, who was convinced that the earth was hollow.)   Continue reading

Christian Creeds and the Great Apostasy

Gundek and Kullervo are on me to clarify why I don’t think Mormons have creeds in the way traditional Christians do. I thought I would go further and try to explain why Mormon rejection of creedalism is also a critical part of their belief system. I think G.K. Chesteron’s essay “What is America?” is a good place to start. (This is a bit long-winded so be warned.)  Chesterton describes how he was required to answer numerous questions about his political beliefs before being allowed to enter the United States, something he found laughably intrusive leading him to compare the Spanish Inquisition to the American Constitution:

“It may have seemed something less than a compliment to compare the American Constitution to the Spanish Inquisition. But oddly enough, it does involve a truth, and still more oddly perhaps, it does involve a compliment. The American Constitution does resemble the Spanish Inquisition in this: that it is founded on a creed. America is the only nation in the world that is founded on creed. That creed is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence; perhaps the only piece of practical politics that is also theoretical politics and also great literature. It enunciates that all men are equal in their claim to justice, that governments exist to give them that justice, and that their authority is for that reason just. It certainly does condemn anarchism. And it does also by inference condemn atheism, since it clearly names the Creator as the ultimate authority from whom these equal rights are derived. Nobody expects a modern political system to proceed logically in the application of such dogmas, and in the matter of God and Government it is naturally God whose claim is taken more lightly. The point is that there is a creed, if not about divine, at least about human things.  Continue reading

Do the differences swallow Protestant “orthodoxy”?

Kullervo was kind enough to point out that Protestant theologians have been tackling the Christian Unity problem lately in the form of a written debate and discussion of Peter Leithart’s call for a visible sign of unity between traditional Christians (during the oral discussion he explicitly said that Mormons wouldn’t be at the table.)   The links Kullervo shared give a good rundown of the discussion held at Biola University and the aftermath.

If anything, it was good to know that somebody very smart can point to what seems a huge problem in Christianity with few, if any, practical suggestions on how it can be accomplished.

Leithart said something during the discussion at Biola that resonated with my observations of Protestantism:

All members of Christ, recipients of the spirit, baptism and confession of certain truths, is a visible expression of unity, but those expressions of unity have become meaningless in the face of our differences.

I think this is on point.  Mormons are outside the boundaries because they don’t accept the summative doctrines of the creeds, but the differences between other Christian groups add up to dramatically different religious experiences, doctrines and spiritual foci. For a Mormon, the protestant world looks like a bunch of camps, with a barely visible unity, that essentially boils down to the Trinity, and often that doctrine is presented in a misleading or straightforwardly incorrect way.  The lack of unity, or even a path toward unity makes the Christian world look less-than-Christian to those who are (by definition) outside the tent.

Also, even if Mormons are properly excluded from the big tribe Leithart advocates, the way Protestants deal with Mormons shows some of the same sort of tribalism he feels is a leprosy on the body of Christ.  Identifying the tribalism on the margins of orthodoxy may help identify tribalism within.

From my perspective the entire discussion was very enlightening, and gives a very broad view of the differences between traditional Christians and why those differences matter theologically and historically.  I would recommend it to non-traditional Christians as a snapshot of what matters between the varied versions of Christianity, and how the differences grew and how they are sustained.

Interfaith dialogue: Knowing God Exists

I was reading Summa Theologica the other day and couldn’t get his imagery out of my head. So I dreamt up this dialogue: 

Kathy:  I think you can know that God exists.

Carl:  What does it mean to say that God exists anyway? Whether God “exists” necessarily depends on your definition of God.  If there is only one God, can there be more than one correct definition, and if you don’t or can’t define God, how can you know he exists?  But, if you alone decide the definition of God, then “knowing God exists” is simply affirming a personal belief in a certain definition. Right?

Kathy: St. Thomas Aquinas tells us:

To know that God exists in a general and confused way is implanted in us by nature, inasmuch as God is man’s beatitude. For man naturally desires happiness, and what is naturally desired by man must be naturally known to him.

This, however, is not to know absolutely that God exists; just as to know that someone is approaching is not the same as to know that Peter is approaching, even though it is Peter who is approaching; for many there are who imagine that man’s perfect good which is happiness, consists in riches, and others in pleasures, and others in something else.

Norman:  In terms of that example, I know God exists because I have met Him in my personal experience. I can positively recognize Him every time as the same Spirit.  I define God by the doctrines and teachings that are spoken through the Spirit.

Chris: I have felt God as well, I know God as Christ, a historical person.  I have a lot of beliefs about God but I really only trust what comes from the Bible.  If you don’t believe the Bible, you can’t really know that God exists, because you won’t know who or what God is.

Kathy: But wait, in order to identify God you must be able to identify God’s interaction with humanity,   If you can’t identify God’s church—you can’t really <i>know</i> assuredly God exists, because whatever you call God will either be your interpretation of your experience, or your personal interpretation of the text.   And these subjective interpretations will always result in a morass of different definitions.  The Church provides the tangible basis for the existence of God and is the only reliable basis to define and identify God.

Carl: So does the entire question come down to whether your church is also part of God’s church?

What do you all think? 

Listening to the Spirit

Viktor Frankl was a very important influence on my worldview in my adolescence. I found this clip the other day and it seemed to be a very good explanation of my view of religion as a Mormon. You could quite comfortably be LDS and believe everything Frankl says here.  Toward the end of the clip, he explains that if God is anything, he is not a fossil. (also an important theme in the LDS worldview).

The first part of the interview gives what amounts to a Mormon idea of the Spirit—which he refers to as “intuition”—and a fairly passable view of why the Spirit is so important in the LDS Religion and its spirit-based epistemology.

To those who can’t listen to the video, Frankl’s position is that intuition is the primal source of truth in human situations because cognitive capacities cannot deal with the absolute uniqueness of the situation in front of us, that requires intuition, which also includes conscience and access to a divine nature.  He says in the beginning of the clip:

“Intuition is the only way to arrive at truth, even when rational concepts, or intellectual capacities fail; because you can rationalize into rational terms only what is not absolutely unique.But if you are confronted with a phenomena which is unique, which never will recur, which only once appears and confronts you, you have to resort to intuition, because intuition can handle the unique things that only once and only here and now are confronting you. “

Frankl’s religion and Mormonism bear some characteristics of undifferentiated God-belief that springs up all the time. (see Insane Clown Posse)

The Curious Case of Sean McCraney (and the problem of church history)

Sean McCraney was a Mormon who openly put his faith in an Evangelical brand of Christianity and was born-again by most Evangelical measures. Yet, lately, he sounds like Joseph Smith or Brigham Young when he talks about the extant traditional Christian church.  This seems indicative of both his Mormon and Calvary Chapel roots, and his blatantly contrarian attitude.

Sean McCraney’s approach to theology seems common sense. To a modern liberal who answers to God alone, the church has clearly needed fixing over the years.  It does not represent the “good guys,” just “some guys” who happened to have attracted enough credentials and attention to make policy. Common sense tells people like McCraney that if you can fix something using Biblical interpretation, can’t you fix anything, including the Trinity?  Can’t you reject any doctrine of pagan origin if you can reasonably show it to be such?  McCraney’s refrain is as common as his sense. If “only God can judge us” it is clear to many that “we run things things don’t run we.”

While anarchy is not necessarily an irrational response to the corruption of the world, it is clearly a practically unreasonable one. Tim’s last post pointed out the firm, yet soft-spoken response to McCraney by Pastor Jason Wallace of Christ Presbyterian Church.  For the first time, perhaps, I recognized the complexities of positively explaining the historical church and its necessity for those who believe in the historical theology.

McCraney’s case might show Evangelicals something important about their brand of Christianity strikes people. It is easy for Mormons to pick up Evangelical views of salvation–and these views are also often quite spiritually effective–but it is very difficult to explain and swallow the historical Church. This is one of the seeds that sprouted into Mormonism. It’s far easier to reject the church as fundamentally corrupt or essentially irrelevant than to shoehorn its history  into a neat package that can appeal to modern sensibilities.  In a small way, the McCraney case shows that Evangelical Protestants have as big a problem with church history as do Mormons.

Me & Gentiles: the Existentialists

existentialismAfter reading existentialists, Mormonism seemed like a radically existentialist theology.

Like anything grown in America, Mormonism emerged in a climate of rebellion and turmoil. Springing from a backwoods boy, growing up near the spearhead of the industrial revolution in America, self-educated, proud, visionary, it lashed out against every orthodoxy in sight, it embraced the most dangerous heresies. 

It this way, Mormonism seems a massive existentialist project. ‘Existentialism’ names not a way of thinking, but a group of thinker: some Christian (like Pascal, Dostoevsky, and Kierkegaard) some post-Christian (like Heidegger and Sartre), and some anti-Christ, like Nietzsche.

Walther Kaufmann, described existential philosophers in terms that are easily analogized to how early Mormons viewed themselves as religious thinkers:

Existentialism is not a philosophy, but a label for several widely different revolts against traditional philosophy. . . The refusal to belong to any school of thought, the repudiation of the adequacy of any body of beliefs whatever, and especially of systems, and a marked dissatisfaction with traditional philosophy as superficial, academic, and remote from life—that is the heart of existentialism.

Swap out “existentialism” with “Mormonism” and “theology” for “philosophy” and it seems we have an observation as insightful as Kaufmann’s.   As a philosophical term, existentialism is nearly useless for lack of precision, but it points to a frame of mind reminiscent of Joseph Smith’s.

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Evolution vs. Bronze-Age creation Myths

Carlosbyu, believes in a theory of creation that I described as “stupid.”  Gap theory has been an accepted answer to explaining very old bones starting in the 1600s. (And Carlosbyu, my friend, I meant no personal disrespect in describing your theory as “stupid”.  The best people I know have stupid theories about scientific and philosophical subjects.)

I remember reading as a child that Brigham Young’s explanation was that God had, in fact, taken parts of older worlds and put them together as this world, dinosaur bones at all. By that time I fully believed that evolution was the best way of explaining the material cause of human life.  But I knew that it did not explain the efficient cause of existence, nor the final cause, or purpose, of human life.

Brigham’s was a clean way of solving the problem, if laughably implausible. I actually admired it for it’s audacity and simplicity. It was a prophetically audacious way of saying “creation theories don’t matter”.

Tim’s question of Carlosbyu, as I am sure it would be of Brigham Young:

“If God was using pre-existing elements to create the earth we inhabit, why didn’t he break the dinosaur bones down to the most basic and unrecognizable forms? Why leave them in tact at all?”

Tim’s question begs mine: Why did an all-powerful God use the 13-Billion-year process of evolution to create the universe rather than popping it into existence like Bronze-aged creation myths depict? The answer to both of these questions is “strange and inscrutable are the ways of our Lord.”

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What are we doing here? (Part 2)

I got involved in this blog about six years ago.  It’s the only blog I regularly participate in that doesn’t have to do with cage fighting. Over the years many LDS and Evangelicals have challenged whether what goes on here is a good thing.  Some of Seth R.’s comments on Tim’s last post prompted me to give some explanation (to myself at least) of what I am doing on this blog.

In participating in this blog I haven’t thought too much about the greater good. I have always participated for more-or-less selfish reasons, the most identifiable are:

(1) It has been my only place to openly discuss Christianity at all (either the LDS or Evangelical variety), and I have not wanted to divorce myself from that line of thinking; 

(2) I find the differences and similarities between Evangelicals and Mormons fascinating. I think the problems surrounding reconciling different belief system and ideological differences between people who generally have the same values like these come up all the time in life. (See the typical differences between every married couple.)

(3) It’s something to write about when I need a break from writing legal briefs (thinking about that stuff too long is bad for you, trust me). For years I participated mainly as form of entertainment.

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The curious case of Matt Pitt

I ran across a two-part series Blurred Lines: The Basement and Evangelical History   (Part II)) by Charity Carney about the troubled and acclaimed youth preacher Matt Pitt.   Pitt is one of those people that hold your attention.  From my Mormon perspective Matt Pitt is a fascinating phenomenon that gives some insight into the some of the dynamics of Evangelical Christianity.

Pitt found God and Christ in his basement in the cathartic moment when his father told him he had to leave home if he continued to do drugs.  The transforming feeling led him to start the religious-entertainment ministry.  Cultivating a dance club atmosphere, the Basement appeals to those who affiliate with popular hip-hop culture.  Here is a taste of his ministry:

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Mormons as Bison

English: Bison bison. Original caption: "...

Over the past several years I think I have finally gotten a pretty good handle on the Evangelical view of salvation. As a Mormon I had thought about it, and I believe I understood it, but I only from the skeptical angle.  I didn’t take the theology seriously. As I endeavored to do that over the years, I can see it’s beauty.  I think more Mormons would do well to take it more seriously.  I don’t think there is anything to fear in doing so.

What interests me is why they won’t. The main reason is that Evangelicals are often as close-minded, clueless, and defensive as Mormons, and quite often, openly aggressive.   There is smugness on both sides, which generally produces contempt in both sides as well.  They both revel in the strengths of their religions without understanding what their smug adversaries with the bizarre beliefs have to offer.

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Keep Away from Christ-mongers, Right?

Benny HinnThis is a follow-up on the last post regarding the Didache. Some of my least favorite people are those that preach primarily for money, power, or fame. What I termed “money-preachers.”

As recorded in the Didache, the Twelve Apostles gave the following direction to believers:

12 Welcome Anyone Coming in the Name of the Lord

12:1 Welcome anyone coming in the name of the Lord. Receive everyone who comes in the name of the Lord, but then, test them and use your discretion.

12:2 If he who comes is a wayfarer, assist him as far as you are able; but he should not remain with you more than two or three days, if need be.

12:3 If he wants to stay with you, and is a craftsman, let him work for his living.

12:4 But if he has no trade, use your judgment in providing for him; for a Christian should not live idle in your midst.

12:5 If he is dissatisfied with this sort of an arrangement, he is a Christ peddler [also translated ["Christ-Monger"]. Watch that you keep away from such people.

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The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles show us how the first Christians were Mormons?

Early Christian Gravestone, Jesus the ShepherdIf you haven’t read the Didache, it’s a fascinating read.  Named after the Greek word for “teaching” this short work purports to contain the teaching of the twelve apostles of Christ.  Written as early as the first century, it was considered by some prominent early Christians as part of the New Testament.  The Didache is intriguing because it was not written to tell a story, or to explain theology, but as a manual for what Mormons would call “living the Gospel.”

The Didache is ostensibly the direction of the Twelve Apostles concerning how to practice Christianity.  It lays out how to live, how not to live, how to baptize, how to prepare the sacrament, how to pray and fast, how to deal with traveling preacher, how to appoint local leaders, and how to prepare for the Second Coming. One reason the book struck me as “Mormon” is that Jesus is not mentioned by name at all. The “way of life” is straightforward– love of God, the golden rule, and shunning immorality. It’s approach to religion is unsophisticated and straightforward, not unlike most LDS conference talks. 

The book is also Mormonesque in the way it directs believers to appoint church leaders from their own congregations. Professional, traveling preachers are to be accepted, but tested. Those that hang around too long, or leach off the membership, were to be rejected.  It also smacks of the Mormon worthiness narrative.  The congregations were told to confess and repent of their sins before Sunday worship so that their sacrifice to God could be pure. They were also directed to resolve all disputes with others. 

It makes me wonder how Christianity would differ today if this guidance was considered the infallible word of God.  Would Evangelical-style money-preachers be rejected more readily? How would the church look if these practical principles were enforceable as scripture?  These are some of the fascinating questions these just-barely-uncanonical works leave me asking.

Me & the Gentiles– Part 1: Mormon roots

English: The Handcart Pioneer Monument, a stat...

In keeping with Tim’s Me & the Mormons series, I thought I would chronicle some of my encounters with Evangelicals and other Gentiles over the years. But before getting into that, I wanted to give some background for the Mormons out there.  (None of them will know where I am coming from if they don’t know something about my background.) Mormonism is a religion of family activity and each family practices their own brand, especially the older Mormon families.  To get where another Mormon was coming from, I had to know something about how active they were, and how deep they were in the culture.   So for the benefit of Mormon readers, and those interested in Mormonism, these are the people that made me the Mormon I was. 

I grew up in what I would call an old-school Mormon family with an intellectual bent.  I was raised in the mission field, in Kansas. My mom was a fifth-generation Mormon, my Dad was a first.  They met when my dad was 12 and my mom was 10.   My mom’s family contains a healthy mix of every wave of Mormon plains-crossing immigrants since the church began.  My only relatives on my mom’s side that weren’t  newly converted immigrants from Europe, were the ones that were baptized in Nauvoo in the 1840s.  (before Joseph Smith’s murder triggered the migration to Utah and the western territories).

Many relatives on her side were amazingly devoted to the church.  I recognize that this may only have been how they were portrayed in the dozens of accounts of their lives in my mom’s book of remembrance, but most of them had the hard evidence to prove it.  My great-grandfather– one of the 26 children in a polygamist family– was a respected professor at Utah State University, a World War I vet.  He was a missionary in New York in the 1950s. He married his wife’s sister when she died.  For nearly 10 years straight, until his death at 85, he did over 80 endowment sessions a month in the Salt Lake Temple–he spent 50 hours a week watching the temple ceremony.

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Scared of Hell: Evangelicals don’t really know if they are saved?

Byline: Does the difficulty in feeling assured of salvation dissolve the practical differences in “works”-focused vs. belief-focused religion?Hell Awaits You!

I used to think that the problem of assurance of salvation was a big practical difference between Mormons and Evangelicals.  I am not so sure now.The theological differences seem stark. According to the rough academic analogy, Mormons believe that everybody is born with a passing grade, and you have to decide to fail.  So long as your intentions are in the right direction, and you are living up to your potential , you are going to the Celestial Kingdom. If you fall short you are going to get a great consolation prize– eternally living in heaven with Jesus forever.   If you criminally screw up and reject Jesus,  you are going to suffer for your  sins but eventually you will be in a heavenly place with the eternal joy that the Holy Spirit can bring you.  Mormons believe (or used to) that some striving souls could get a “second endowment.”  An ordinance performed in the temple that seals a person with their spouse to the Celestial Kingdom.  They have their “calling and election made sure.” Anymore, this concept and practice has practically disappeared from the Church.  Mormons are left completely sure they are going to heaven, but always unsure of which heaven they will go to. I believed that whatever I–or nearly anybody else–was in for in the afterlife, it was going to be a whole lot better than this world.

Contrasting my experience with the children of Evangelicalism. I can see how the “faith alone” doctrine would have scared the hell out of me.  Evangelicals believe you are born with a failing grade– the default is hell.  People qualify for salvation by correct belief and reliance on the work of Jesus alone.  It seems to me that if you are an Evangelical facing the never-ending torment of hell, you’d better make darn sure you are saved.  And the problem is, because non-saving faith can masquerade as true belief and faith, there is a lot of room for consternationJust as Mormons obsess about doing enough to be “good enough” , it seems that doubt-prone Evangelicals can easily fall into a cycle of severe anxiety trying to assure their faith is “true” enough.  And the stakes– and possibly the potential anxiety seem considerably higher.  It seems that many Evangelicals indeed have this problem of assurance gauging from this article in Relevant Magazine, by J.D. Greear, Evangelical author of Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart.    

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Are Mormons and Evangelicals stuck in a Cold War Mentality?

A barnstar

My uncle–an LDS international political consultant-once mentioned to me that he thought the LDS Church today was like the Soviet Union.  He was speaking of problems with having an 80+-year-old leadership base, but I think the analogy goes deeper.

The Soviet Union started with a bold revolutionary, was consolidated by a shrewd, ruthless, pragmatist, and perpetuated by those who were fully indoctrinated into the established order.

Mormonism also began as a bold, revolutionary movement. Joseph Smith was Mormonism’s Lenin, Brigham Young, its Stalin, perhaps Wilford Woodruff was its Khrushchev.Today it is an institutionalized ideology controlled by a small group of older men who are steeped in allegiance to the party line– much like the final Soviet regimes.

Like the Soviets, Mormon centralized authority has allowed the Church to accomplish amazing things that similarly sized religious bodies simply cannot.  Russians and their centralized economy kept up with the U.S. in weaponry, space flight, and world dominance.  Mormons are rich in resources, talent, and good culture, and the leadership focuses these resources relatively successfully on growth.

Just as with the Soviets, the Latter-Day Saints seek to spread their ideology through the world.  It is inimical to the established creeds and religious order.  Just as with Soviet Russia, Mormonism has been in a Cold War since its inception, waged by the established churches–i.e. the “whore of all the earth,” “the very mainspring of all corruption.”

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Mormons are Directioners, Evangelicals are Beliebers

Being around teenage girl culture I have seen up-close a phenomena that took me completely by surprise– Directionerism – the blind devotion to the boy-band One Direction.   I have seen more than one girl stricken with this frenzy.  A close corollary to this strange new sub-religion is  Belieberism- the blind devotion to Justin Bieber.    The devotion inspired by these two forces is truly staggering to me. I saw several girls close to me swept up in the frenzy of these two fandoms.  It was very much like a disease, and also very much like religion.

This made me think about how Evangelicals compare to Mormons, and about how religion works nowadays, and maybe where it will go. My resulting almost-fully-tongue-in-cheek thesis: Evangelicals are Beliebers, and Mormons are Directioners.

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Turns out, the Bible says that Protestants should unite with Mormons

Our friend charismatic protestant friend Cal has taken a position– beleaguered  by most non-Mormons here–that Mormons are Christians.  Although no longer a believer, I thought I would try to clearly lay out the argument for Cal’s position aimed at Protestants.

For purposes of the discussion I am assuming the truth of the Five Solae, the Nicene Creed, and the and the Bible.

I propose that these three premises are true:

1. Jesus prayed for and sought as a goal before God the unity of those that believe in him through the testimony of his disciples, i.e. the New Testament. (John 17: 20-23:

 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

2. The New Testament does not make orthodox theology a qualification for inclusion in unity. Jesus was not limiting fellowship or unity to the orthodox.  He is talking about orthodoxy or unity of creed or belief–Jesus established no creed, distilled his message and rarely made it explicit. He warns against false teachers, but Jesus put the focus on distinguishing false teachers based on their fruits– i.e. you will known them by their behavior and effects on the church not (necessarily) their theological errors. 

3.  Mormons believe that the text of the New Testament is the truth.  

Given these premises, my conclusion is that Protestants should embrace Mormons as part of the group that they are challenged by Jesus to be unified with, and seek to come to complete unity.

Notice that I am assuming what Protestant’s believe is orthodoxy to be correct but the strength of the argument holds on a practical and ethical level.  But there is no orthodoxy regarding how unity can and should be achieved. That is an open question.  I suggest that even if the path to reaching unity is unclear– efforts toward unity will lead–ultimately–to a greater prevalence of salvation and faith in Jesus more effectively than efforts toward disunity–which are, generally, the order of the day.