The Apostle Paul: the first Mormon?

St. Paul on road to Damascus

St. Paul on road to Damascus (Photo credit: bobosh_t)

Christian J pointed out in the discussion of my last post that he thought the Mormon model of seeking spiritual confirmation of doctrine was biblical. I think he is right. When I was LDS, I was very impressed by Paul’s discussion in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 2.  It captured perfectly my view of the core of Missionary work.  Those interested in Mormonism would do well to understand how Paul’s words are lived by LDS today.

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The Weeping God of Teryl Givens

Teryl and Fiona Givens were recently on a tour of British ward houses giving a series of talks entitled “The Crucible of Doubt”. The point of the talk seemed to be to encourage Mormons who may be struggling with doubts. One attendee recorded the talk and shared it.  Another attendee took notes on the talk and shared those notes.  I’ll set aside the content of Givens’ apologetic arguments in order to focus on something he said about Protestantism. Continue reading

Explaining Jesus to a child: the witness of the spirit.

I put my six-year-old son to bed the other night and reminded him to say his prayers.  ten or fifteen minutes later he came down with a huge smile on his face, he wanted to call his mom and tell her something (his mother and I are not married anymore). It was too late so he went back to bed. First thing the next morning he came directly downstairs and called his mother to tell her about the feeling he had when he was praying.  He explained to her, and later me, that he had this amazing feeling when he was praying and could not stop smiling about it.  Watching this experience–like so many I have had as a parent– was like looking into a mirror reflecting myself at his age.

Of course this experience raises so many questions for me, and for perhaps should raise this questions for all Christians: How do we explain the witness of the Spirit to a child.

I actually do not have a good answer– a satisfactory explanation of spiritual experience like this is perhaps the biggest question I have in life. I know there are all kinds, including those that do not involve belief in God, but my son deserves one.  And he deserves one in language he can understand.  I reject many aspects of the explanation he is routinely given at LDS church, and I am not satisfied with what I did tell them.  So I put it to anyone who reads this–how would you explain this experience to my son, if he was yours?

Why Mormonism is only for those who desire it, and why it matters.

In our discussion about the LDS temple ritual.  I mentioned that I do not believe the endowment is for everyone, nor was it meant to be.  It is only for those who desire it.

While this seems to be a somewhat technical/semantic point. I think it is important in the context of the “Mormonism-seems-to-be-a-cult-because-it-has-secret-Rituals” discussion. By saying that endowment is ONLY for those that really want it, I underscore how different this position is from any sort of cult-like view of the ritual. Mormons are not forcing people to do weird things against their will. This seems akin to the same fallacious argument that Mormons are somehow disrespectful for performing rituals for the dead or that they disrespect holocaust victims by baptizing them. It makes no sense in context of Mormon thought and doctrine. It seems that among the pervasive misunderstandings and/or misrepresentations regarding the religion are that Mormons are a cult that pushes people or brainwashes them into making crazy commitments and weird secret rituals against their will.  This is unsupportable by the doctrine or the scriptures.

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The disaffected Mormon problem. My 2¢.

There is a recurring question posed on this blog– What can be done about disaffected Mormons who leave Christianity?

I was first attracted to this Blog about five years ago by this post on the subject: We Push Them Into What? followed up with “Challenged by Jesus” among many others.  And it comes up routinely ever since. David Clark had recent suggestions regarding the problem in  “The C & E Problem“, “Be Positive, Be Christian“, “Consider Christianity(Forgive me if I don’t have any other blogosphere references to this topic  but strangely enough, this blog is the only one I read or comment on with any regularity besides cagepotato.com.)

Tim’s most recent thoughts on the problem are found in “More Than a Bible” I thought I would post my thoughts separately because I wanted to propose an alternative view of the nature of the problem from a post-Mormon, not-at-all-traditional follower of Jesus.  (Plus my comment was just way too long.)

In “More than a Bible” Tim pointed out that statistics show that only 11% of former Mormons identify as some other type of Christian.

I can appreciate the problem that these statistics raise for Evangelicals.  Here  you have a stream of Bible educated one-time very faithful people leaving Mormonism and NOT choosing the real Jesus. This seems like a big failure and lost opportunity for Evangelicals.

Tim suggests more pro-bible apologetics and less anti-bible rhetoric is a solution. The argument seems to be that if those leaving Mormonism believed in the Bible more, then they would still believe in Jesus when they leave Mormonism. Thus, the problem is being laid at the feet of the Church, who claims to want to be part of “regular” Christianity, but consistently undermines the sole source of authority of Protestantism.

First, I don’t think most Mormons believe that the Bible has a hard time standing on its own. Although Mormons talk about inconsistencies and problems with the Bible, they rarely do anything other than read it very closely and as authoritative.  (Surprisingly similar to how they view Church leadership.) Mormons hold very reverential, sometimes literal, and sometimes even fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible. I think most Mormons think the Bible is true and reliable in all matters of faith, essentially infalliable. The big problem for Mormons is not what is in the, but what is not.

Even if rhetoric that undermined Biblical validity was common, I can make these observations that may explain the phenomena better:

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Mormonism Demystified

I listened to a recent podcast at On Being, by Krista Tippett. She interviews religious thinkers of every stripe. I like Tippett, definitely on the happy liberal unitarian side, but positive and fair.  In 2008 she interviewed conservative Mormon apologist Robert Millet (Audio /Transcript).

In the wake of the Romney-Jeffress discussion over Mormonism, seeking a less “orthodox” voice she interviewed Joanna Brooks. (Audio/Transcript)

Tippet described Mormonism and how she sees Brooks as a good representative:

“A highly disciplined, highly effective frontier culture grows up and migrates back out into centers of power. It’s a classic American story. But there’s also some kind of religious and cultural coming of age here, for Mormons and the rest of us.

I couldn’t have found a better person than Joanna Brooks to shed some distinctively informative, candid, and meaningful light on it all. She’s a literature scholar and a journalist. HerAsk Mormon Girl blog and Twitter feed is a remarkably reflective, compassionate community of questioning with Mormons of many stripes.
And Ask Mormon Girl, as she notes on her website, is housed on the “legendary Feminist Mormon Housewives blog.” That is just one of many things that does not meet the traditional American eye on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — but which we engage through the voice and life of Joanna Brooks.

I thought Brook’s perspective was a refreshing alternative to apologists like Millet’s.    I find her as a good example of one who remains faithful to Mormonism despite serious problems with the way the Church represents its ideals.  Mormonism with its authoritarian structure stuck on top of a very expansive, revolutionary, and often undeveloped view of the world has produced many who live the faith while dealing with many internal contradictions.

The Prophet Will Not Lead the People of the Church Astray

LDS apologist Michael Ash has an ongoing series at Mormon Times and the FAIR podcast called “Challenging Issues and Keeping the Faith”. I was interested to hear him speak directly to the popular Mormon expression that “the prophet will not lead the people of the church astray.”

In his article on this issue he states

The purpose and mission of the church is to “invite all to come unto Christ” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:59). Prophets stand as leaders in this invitation and the things they do and say (as prophets) are intended to accomplish this goal.

How do we come unto Christ? The Book of Mormon gives us the six-point pattern: belief in Christ, repentance, baptism, gift of the Holy Spirit, enduring to the end and being found guiltless at the final judgment.

I’m glad to see someone putting some more meat on the idea and clearly defining the places in which a prophet might lead the people astray. It’s interesting that Ash chose to reduce the arena of possible prophetic negligence down to 6 messages that all serve to help us “come unto Christ”.

Based on this criteria we could assume the absolute worst about every LDS prophet and all of them would safely be in the bounds of doctrinal orthodoxy. For instance we could take the view that polygamy was indeed started to cover up Joseph Smith’s desire for extra-marital affairs, that the Book of Mormon was a fraudulent scheme to make money, that the priesthood ban was a blatant attempt to spiritually affirm racism or that Brigham Young collaborated and conspired as an active part of the Mountain Meadows Massacre; and still safely regard these men as prophets who never led the church astray. Perhaps some future prophet could use his pulpit to disband the priesthood, bulldoze under every LDS temple or even encourage all faithful LDS to invest in another failed banking venture and still it could be said that he “never led the people astray”.

I think the phrase has to mean more than a prophet’s ability to direct people into these six principles. If it doesn’t the unique voice and role of the LDS prophet quite quickly because functionally unnecessary. In addition, the LDS teaching of a great apostasy or its status as the only one and true church lose all significance.

I can’t think of a single time in Christian history when the majority of Christian churches were not leading their people in some form of this six-point pattern. As a non-Mormon, Ash’s argument leaves me unconvinced that I need something that only the LDS church offers. Further it opens the door to prophetic fallibility so widely that we can’t be certain that the every single unique teaching of LDS prophets and LDS scriptures (given to us by modern prophets) are nothing more than overstated opinions. If the truth claims of the LDS church are really only vital in regards to this six-point pattern of belief, there are no unique LDS doctrines that aren’t and weren’t being taught by other churches.

I understand that Ash’s role as an apologist is to reduce the surface area that critics might use to attack the LDS prophet, but he’s gone so far that he’s also reduced the unique role of the LDS church to nothing and entirely eliminated its evangelistic message. If the world needs modern prophets, their role must be for something more than what my pastor delivers every week. Orson and Parley Pratt took a tact of strongly embracing difficult teachings, I think Ash should reconsider his apologetic strategy before he leaves the LDS church with nothing more than an optional-belief-in-God.

Divorce, lust, terror and plunder: The position of the religious doubter.

There was a fascinating exchange awhile back between Rollingforest and Ms. Jack, Tim and Hermes regarding the appropriate response to one who doubts his or her religion. I thought I would bring it before ye denizens of this site front and center for my own edification. I am going to paraphrase select positions  referenced, but I will try to be true to their essence (but please comment if you feel you are being unfairly attached to a particular viewpoint):

Rollingforest appeared to advocate from the position of intellectual authenticity. I.e. when one truly disbelieves the religion, then its dictates no longer have any hold on that person.

Jack argued that a commitment to a religion is like marriage. And like in a marriage, when one has doubts as to its utility, one owes it to their commitments and covenants, and perhaps an abundance of caution, to maintain a practical commitment to flesh out the doubts before moving toward divorce.

Tim approved of the marriage analogy and mentioned that many who claim Christianity or Mormonism may be having emotional affairs with other world views.

There is something about both of these positions that piqued my interest and raised some strange things about religious belief that I have been wrestling with. I think that Rollingforest’s position represents a modern position that a religion only has purchase on our lives insofar as we believe it to be true, and we should follow our own authentic beliefs wherever they lead. Furthermore, if for some reason we are no longer convinced of a particular proposition of faith, we are either free to, or even compelled to abandon that faith. The falsity of some proposition frees us of any commitment because the commitment is based on a falsity. An example of a modern exponent of this approach could be Walter Kaufmann.

Jack’s analogy is an interesting take on another approach. The Bible is filled with marriage/sexual analogies of God’s relationship with his people and his people’s relationship with other religions. Idolatry (i.e. worshiping a god other than Jehovah) in religion is the complement of adultery in marriage.    However Jack’s appears to be a more neutral approach than that of the Bible,  i.e. she refuses to assume a priori that there is only one true partner and you should reject any partner when you find out that they are not it.  When one finds oneself in an unhappy marriage for any reason, we should should consider practical commitments as we sort out what is the best way to go with our head and heart.  William James strikes me as a modern adherent of Jack’s approach. (see the “Will to Believe” here and a summary here.)

Tim’s position seems similar, recognizing that some may caught in marriages that make it hard to leave, and recognizes that leaving may lead to a rejection of the correct relationship, but advocates honesty or authenticity so as not to “make a sham” of both relationships.  The “be hot or cold approach.”

Looking to the Bible I gather a stronger position, which I might call the Aaronic approach to religious pluralism. The Biblical approach assumes, a priori, that there is only one true mate.  When it comes to religion the Bible doesn’t recognize divorce or even choice of mate.   The chosen are betrothed to Jehovah or Jesus and straying is adultery. It assumes that those who are given the truth through scripture or revelation who stray to other views are always in error when they look elsewhere for spirituality.

The starkest description I can think of this attitude is found in Ezekial 23 (CAUTION: Rated R content)

Here God compares Jerusalem and Samaria to two young prostitutes who are seduced away by their foreign clients.  In the allegory the women and their children are brutally killed for their indiscretions.

“This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Bring a mob against them and give them over to terror and plunder. The mob will stone them and cut them down with their swords; they will kill their sons and daughters and burn down their houses.
“So I will put an end to lewdness in the land, that all women may take warning and not imitate you. You will suffer the penalty for your lewdness and bear the consequences of your sins of idolatry. Then you will know that I am the Sovereign LORD.”

Now, I don’t think we can imply that the Lord will be as angry with those who choose secular humanism as those Hebrews who sacrificed their children to idols (oops, except those that believe in abortion), but it pretty clear that “tough love” is the route the Lord is taking here.

I bring this up to point out that, to the Bible, casual flirtations with the wrong view may cause the Lord to “get medieval” on you.

There is a lot more to talk about here, but I will leave off here for now.

Where does the person straddling more than one viewpoint fit within your faith system?

Hellenized Christianity

A charge that some Mormons make against Classic Christianity is that it was Hellenized by Christians either in an effort to make it more acceptable or on accident as a result of doctrinal negligence. The end result was the Council of Nicea which codified and enforced non-Biblical doctrines.

For individuals with that perspective, I’d like to recommend “When Athens Met Jerusalem” by John Mark Reynolds. At first blush this book may appear to reinforce that idea. Instead, I think this book may illuminate how there are Greek influences on Christianity but they only extend to “how we think”, not “what we think.”

You can listen to a brief review of the book here


You can read that same review here.

Hi from Kolob! Why E.T. might be a Mormon (probably not an Evangelical)

According to some estimates, there are billions of inhabitated planets in the universe, and maybe even tens of billions of “earth-like planets”  in our galaxy alone.

Mormon scriptures are in accord.  We believe that there are unumerable  inhabited planets created by God. In Moses 1:33-39: God tells Moses:

33 And aworlds without number have I bcreated; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the cSon I dcreated them, which is mine eOnly Begotten.

34 And the afirst man of all men have I called bAdam, which is cmany.

35 But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I aknow them.

. . .

38 And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no aend to my works, neither to my words.

39 For behold, this is my awork and my bglory—to bring to pass the cimmortality and deternal elife of man.

For me these are some of the most intriguing and powerful descriptions of God.  They are at the heart of Mormon ideas of the purpose of life and the relationship between man, God and creation.

When you consider that there are over 100 billion galaxies and tens of billions of earth-like planets in each of those galaxies you are really talking about an unimaginably large number of worlds like ours.

Later in the Pearl of Great price, Abraham sees a vision of the greatest of these worlds: Abraham 3:2-3

2 And I saw the astars, that they were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God; and there were many great ones which were near unto it;

Evangelicals and others are quick to laugh at references to a planet Kolob. In a recent blog conversation I had with a few Evangelicals and I was told that the Mormon belief in the planet Kolob was simply unbelievable.

I really have no idea what Evangelicals think about extra-terrestrial life aside from these sorts of comments,  but given the scientific evidence of other worlds, the evidence for extra-terrestrial life is far stronger than the evidence for a worldwide flood or any number of biblical accounts.

I do think, however, that christian thought is generally earth-centric.  If no one is saved without knowing about Jesus while alive, it looks like the infinitely vast majority of God’s creation is just out of luck, or out of touch. If traditional Christianity hasn’t been able to effectively penetrate the Indian subcontinent, how can we expect it to penetrate the depths of the Milky-way?

Mormon thought seems to take into account of the cosmological reality a bit better than what I know of Evangelical thought.  Am I wrong?

P.S. here is in an interesting related discussion from Parchment and Pen, an evangelical theology blog.

Mormons believe in a Mother in Heaven

Since Tim is gone, I thought I would back him up by writing a Tim-Style Post.  i.e. throw out a controversial LDS doctrine in sort of a challenging way and then open it up for comments.

Few Mormon doctrines are more radically paradigm-shifting than the believe in the existence of a Heavenly Mother.

What equally interesting to me is what this particular doctrine tells about how Mormonism works.

I think Evangelicals often stand with open-mouth when they read that those crazy Mormon’s believe such things because they are nowhere to be found in the Bible.  Aside from being a radical shift in understanding of God and Man between Protestants and Mormons, the doctrine also shows a fundamental difference in the way Mormons form their personal theology vs. the way Evangelicals seem to go about it.  This is what I want to explore with this post.  To try to explain to bible-focused (limited?) Evangelicals why Mormons believe in a Mother in Heaven, even when its not in the bible.  For this I am going to have to call on the usual bunch of commentators.

Few people, if any, know the ultimate origin of the idea that we have a Mother in Heaven.  Joseph Smith does not seem to have spoken directly about it in his life and there is no reference in the LDS Canon.

The first time we see it in writing comes from a woman, Eliza R. Snow, in a hymn, “O My Father”  President Kimball acknowledged that “O My Father” was a “doctrinal hymn” and dozens of prophets and apostles have reiterated this idea.

President Lorenzo Snow explained that Eliza Snow got the doctrine from Joseph shortly before he was murdered.

President Spencer W. Kimball in a general conference address:

“When we sing that doctrinal hymn … ‘O My Father,’ we get a sense of the ultimate in maternal modesty, of the restrained, queenly elegance of our Heavenly Mother, and knowing how profoundly our mortal mothers have shaped us here, do we suppose her influence on us as individuals to be less?” (Ensign, May 1978, p. 6.)

The doctrine of the hymn is pretty straightforward, there is a mother in heaven and we will return to live with Her and the Father, and that they together sent people on their mission to earth:

I had learned to call thee Father,
Thru thy Spirit from on high,
But, until the key of knowledge
Was restored, I knew not why.
In the heav’ns are parents single?
No, the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason; truth eternal

Tells me I’ve a mother there.
Let me come and dwell with you.
With your mutual approbation
All you sent me forth to do,
Then, at length, when I’ve completed
When I leave this frail existence,
When I lay this mortal by,
Father, Mother, may I meet you
In your royal courts on high?

So there we have it, a revolutionary new way of looking at God and heaven that turns traditional notions on their ear.

Mormons believe it, but I can see the Evangelicals left scratching their heads:

  1. The doctrine is not found in scripture, including Mormon Scripture
  2. The doctrine was not explicitly taught or explained by Joseph Smith (even though it is pretty clear that he was claimed that he originally  taught the doctrine)
  3. It really shifts away from all traditional interpretations of the Bible.

I can see how an Evangelical is probably left dumbfounded:  “You can’t win with those Mormons, how can I teach them correct theology whenthey are going to beleive stuff like this with such slim support or understanding?”

Here we have, in my mind, the genius as well as the vulnerability of  Mormonism. . . our willingness to believe in things that are not in the Bible.  To some Mormons, this doctrine is very uncomfortable.  We sometimes downplay it and even reproach those that make “too much” of it due to the little we “know” about it.  To others, agreeing with Eliza R. Snow, it makes religion make more sense: i.e. “If man is made in the image of God, why wouldn’t there be family in heaven as well as on earth. “

I think if we can give a good explanation to our Evangelical friends  of why we believe this doctrine, they will be a lot closer to really understanding Mormonism.  (and we might have a clearer way of understanding our own view of how “doctrine” is born).

So Mormons, explain to Evangelicals :

1. Do you believe in a Mother in Heaven? and

2. Why?

3. What is the significance of the doctrine to you, to the Church, and to the world?

Evangelicals, we know you don’t believe it, and we know its not in the Bible, if you try to understand why we believe you may learn a lot about Mormonism in general that will enlighten you on how we do religion in other areas.

DOES GOD EXIST? A Debate

DOES GOD EXIST?
A Debate
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS vs. WILLIAM LANE CRAIG
Moderated by Hugh Hewitt and hosted by Craig Hazen

Get your tickets now before it’s too late! Two sections already sold out!
Saturday, April 4, 7:30 pm
Chase Gymnasium (with overflow sites on campus)
Biola University

$20 for Prime SOLD OUT
$15 for Balcony SOLD OUT
$10 for Standard BUY NOW BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!

www.apologeticsevents.com

Witness one of the great debates of the new millennium. Devoted atheist, Christopher Hitchens, author of the bestselling GOD IS NOT GREAT, squares off with one of the most formidable debaters in the Christian world, Dr. William Lane Craig, on the topic: Does God Exist?

Get your tickets early!
Cosponsored with Biola Associated Students

Mormons and Evangelicals, Can we rally around the Cross?

Recently I bought a couple of cool Ethiopian Orthodox cross in a flea market in Helsinki. I started wearing it. I have been reading the New Testament with my two daughters (8 years and 10 years) and I recently read The Last Temptation of Christ and the cross has been sort of a symbol for my renewed interest in what it means for me to be a Christian, so I have been wearing it nearly all the time for the last couple of weeks.

My wife questioned whether it was appropriate for me to wear it or use it as a symbol considering the prevailing Mormon position on the cross, i.e. we don’t use it as a symbol of Christ at all. I did some cursory research and found the standard justifications for not using the cross (i.e. that its a symbol of the torture and death of Christ by romans rather than the atonement and resurrection and that it is not an original primitive Christian symbol) but I could not find the origin of the tradition. I checked the handbook of instructions for priesthood leaders and found no reference to the cross. I am pretty sure that a prohibition against crosses is not in the Scriptures so it makes me wonder whether the prohibition might be hurtful to the cause.

So I have a bunch of questions.

For Evangelicals: What would your reaction be to Mormons using the cross as a symbol, would it make you all more likely to sympathize with Mormons as followers of Christ? (or would it be seen as more craftiness to dupe people into believing we are really Christians.)

For Mormons: is there any harm in allowing or even embracing the use of the cross? Is it “selling out” to gain acceptance from more worldly (less inspired) churches? Is a feeling of stronger brotherhood with other believers in Christ a good thing or a hindrance to the work of the restoration and the “gathering of the elect.”? Is there anything really doctrinally unacceptable with the cross, if so, where is the revelation that tells us this?

I am not sure of my own view yet so it would be interesting to hear from all who have anything to say.

(Forgive me if this was discussed previously I could not find any previous post on this with a search of the blog, but I might have missed it)

Historical Evidence for the Resurrection

Michael Licona is one of the Evangelical world’s top experts on the historical evidence of the resurrection of Jesus.  There isn’t a single Christian whose faith and belief are not grounded on the events of Easter.  In this Stand To Reason interview Licona explains the “minimal fact” argument which relies on only those things that historical scholars universally agree upon.  I strongly encourage you to hear these arguments.  Your faith will be strengthened by them.

As a bonus, in the second hour, the guest host Brett Kunkle has recently returned from an Evangelical mission trip to Manti, Utah. Brett discusses his trip and his interaction with faithful LDS.  I recently posted a link to an article about a Mormon’s encounter with some Evangelical missionaries and I believe it’s more than likely that Brett trained the young women mentioned in the article.


Direct Link

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For what’ it’s worth.  I emailed Brett Kunkle and does not know the students mentioned in the article above.

A New Low Point

Evangelical and LDS relationships hit a new low point. This audio clip is from the Evangelical show “Heart of the Matter.” Hosted by “Born Again Mormon” author Shawn McCraney. A caller tries to silence him by the power of the Melchizedek Priesthood.


Direct link

Me & Mormons — Part 8

After my first discussion with the LDS missionaries I got a true introduction to anti-Mormon literature. But I didn’t get it from Anti-Mormons. In a quest to find better answers to my questions I started doing Internet searches. That’s how I came across FAIR, The Foundation for Apologetics Information and Research. FAIR is a Mormon apologetics organization that runs a website with answers to tough questions and used to run an internet message board (which is now independently run by the same people).

It was through FAIR that I found much more sophisticated and accurate arguments against the historicity of the Book of Mormon and the prophetic status of Joseph Smith. To be fair to FAIR (no pun intended) there are plenty of bad anti-Mormon arguments and some of the more popular ones are the bad ones. So I give them props for effectively dismissing the bad arguments. But the good arguments were only strengthened in my mind by the mediocre responses to them. It seemed the best FAIR could offer were arguments for people who already believed in Mormonism that either were distractions from the main point or appeals to why it didn’t matter. The other technique they employed quite a bit was to deny what Mormons have traditionally believe and claim that a new position is what the church/Book of Mormon/Joseph Smith had always taught.

The missionaries didn’t come around for a couple of weeks. I think they were discouraged and wrote me off of their prospect list.

They did tell me that one of the reasons no one seemed all that interested in President Hinckley’s talk at the temple dedication was that they hear him twice a year during General Conference. So it wasn’t all that novel to the average Mormon. General Conference happened to roll around in this time, so I decided to tune in for a little bit. I think I caught the tail end of the first day. President Hinckley implored the listening audience to encourage their friends and neighbors to tune in for the next day’s session. Within 30 minutes of hearing those words I got a call from one of the missionaries.

In our conversation I asked if I could visit a Sunday service with them. I also asked if they would be interested in visiting my church in return. (we have a Saturday night service so I knew that they wouldn’t have to miss their own service to attend mine). The missionaries agreed and we began to make plans. . .

About our Debate

I thought Jared made some great points in a comment on another post. I didn’t want it to get “lost” in the comments section of that post, so I’m offering it here as it’s own posting. Thanks Jared.

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A couple of things that I could add regarding the Mormon-Catholic-Protestant debate/dialog:

Naturally, devotees of these three faiths believe theirs is naturally better than the others. I think they each can make legitimate challenges to the others that are grounded in scripture, science, history, or intuition. I also think that there are believable arguments that appear to discredit all of them based on these same grounds. Some, but not all, of the arguments used by devotees and the irreligious alike unfairly draw from perpetual misinterpretations and ignorance of the doctrine and history of these faiths.

This said, I think the apologetics in all three faiths are advanced enough to counter almost all of the arguments against the faiths with explanations that the devoted can accept and feel comfortable with, generally because the core of the faith is not based on argument or reason that can be readily disputed. However, the apologetic arguments are not really convincing unless you shift your belief to the paradigm from which the arguments are made.

I personally think apologetics deals with the outer-trappings of a faith and overlooks the core, the reason for belief and the heart of the spiritual experience. I think it is a sort of comfort blanket that soothes us when we face the chaotic reality and uncertainty of the vast variety of human experience with the divine. It helps us think that we can ultimately understand and explain what is at other times admittedly ultimately unknowable and unexplainable.

I personally think my understanding of Mormonism explains the big picture of spirituality better than Protestantism or Catholicism, but my understanding is far from mainstream. But I can’ t reasonably think Mormons in general are any better or worse connected to God than other sincere followers of Christ. I would agree that many Mormons, including leaders, are stupid, ignorant and supremely uninspired. But that, of course can be said of all people. I think it is really the pot calling the kettle black to expect any other religion, scripture, or church to be free of such foibles, no matter what their claims to inspiration and infallablity.

Perhaps the most difficult problem in interfaith dialogue is to acknowledge and respect the spiritual experiences of devotees of a faith foreign to ours, even when their doctrinal paradigm is incommensurate with the paradigm that our experience with God has lead us to. Acknowledging that others may not just be under the influence of the ”devil” may leave our faith feeling vulnerable and without all of the answers. It forces us to make sense of a God of all people who is involved in each of these spiritual experiences, even as those who believe do not have the “right” picture of Him or whose prejudices may taint that experience. Such acceptance may allow us to give up our “resistance” to “evil” as Jesus suggests and may ultimately lead us to a position that will allow brotherhood and sisterhood across the sectarian boundaries.

Catholic Counter-Arguments

I found these videos on YouTube of a Catholic Apologetics class where they discuss Mormonism (surprised I beat Aquinas to this). I thought it was interesting to get their take on all of these topics. They take their shots at both LDS and Protestants and I acknowledge there are misinformed on a number of LDS beliefs.

Now I know LDS generally consider it bad form to talk about other churches. But I think if LDS missionaries are going to to try to gain converts from Catholic and Protestant churches, it’s reasonable for those churches to prepare their members with counter arguments.

Enjoy!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


Part 4