Encouraging Signs

I want to make a public record of some positive things I see in Mormonism lately.  The first is a recent article published by the church detailing the human origins of the Priesthood Ban against Black members.  It stops short of an official apology which is where I think the church needs to go, but it offers an official refutation of folk doctrines surrounding the issue and of the church’s previous racism.

The second leaves me in an awkward spot of praising an LDS temple.  In this case, it’s the Fort Collins, CO Temple which appears to be designed in the shape of a cross.  It’s not yet an outright explicit worship symbol but it’s a gateway drug.  I think the activities within the LDS temple are actually a contradiction of the power of the cross, so it’s a weird mashup for me.  I think if I had to choose between LDS temple worship or LDS use of the cross in worship and art I would prefer to see the temples done away with.  But it’s a cross nonetheless and for that I’m grateful.

 

The third is a FAIR podcast discussion between Ned Scarisbrick and Evangelical Bobby Gilpin.  The two discuss the what it means to be saved and I was quite encouraged to hear Mr. Scarisbrick side with Gilpin against the traditional LDS understanding that a person must earn the right to receive the free gift of salvation.  I appreciated the tone and style in which the discussion was held and was very glad to hear the two men share the same conclusion.

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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Evangelical Response to the Undercover Mormon Temple Videos

Timothy Dalrymple the Director of Content of the Evangelical portal at Patheos recently published a series of articles concerning the publication of hidden camera videos inside a number of LDS temples. One of these videos in particular has recently gone viral (over 1 million views as of this writing).

The first article is an interview with “NewNameNoah”, the individual responsible for creating the videos and uploading them to YouTube. “Noah” is remarkably straight forward about his motivations and I think you’ll probably have an accurate idea of who he is and why he published the video.

In the second piece Dalrymple considers why Evangelicals should defend Mormons against mockery.

Evangelicals are not wrong to be concerned about the growth of Mormonism. The truth matters, and I like many of my evangelical brethren am convinced that Mormonism does not fully teach the truth of Jesus Christ and his gospel. But we are wrong to let that concern, that suspicion, that fear, drive us to treat Mormons worse than any other religious group in America. It’s not a matter of compromising our commitments to truth, but of fulfilling our commitments to love. Just as it would not be loving to let the saving truth of Jesus Christ be distorted, for in that truth is the liberating message of God’s forgiveness and provision for all people, so it’s not loving to misrepresent what Mormons believe and condemn them in vicious and exaggerated tones.

More to the point, it’s unloving to communicate the truth in such an unloving manner that our hearers conclude that whatever is delivered by people who behave in this way cannot possibly be true. God’s Word comes to us “full of grace and truth.” It is never morally or Christianly acceptable to secure the truth by abandoning grace. The end does not justify the means.

The third article concludes Dalrymple’s thoughts on protecting Mormons from ridicule.

Do the rituals recorded in those videos seem weird to me? Yes, of course. Just like the Eucharist must seem bizarre to people who don’t understand its world of symbolism. Is there anything wrong with having ceremonies that are only for the faithful, ceremonies that are meant to be kept secret? Of course not. Should Christians celebrate that someone lied repeatedly to gain admission, breached the rules to secretly record the proceedings, released those films with an obvious political agenda in the midst of an election contest, and invited the world to join in the mockery? Would that be a Christian thing to do?

The answer is obvious. Mormons view us as hypocritical when we tell them they’re not Christian, but then behave in a non-Christian way toward them. And, well…they have a point. To the extent that Christians take advantage of these videos to engage in more Mormon-bashing, they should be ashamed.

Though I’m sure it will distress some of my Mormon friends, I’m not sure my own response to the videos is as clear as Dalrymple’s. To be sure. Some of the videos are intended to mock Mormonism and some of the comments in the most popular video are skewed against Mormonism. I most definitely condemn those actions and comments. I’m not at all interested in that kind of activity. I also have no interest in using these videos as a means of bashing Mormonism. The timing of the release of the videos is certainly an effort to capitalize on the Mormon moment and the Romney campaign. Whether that be for political motivations or an effort to capitalize on the media buzz is of lesser interest to me.

It’s my understanding that the text of the endowment ceremony has been publicly available for close to 100 years. Secretly recorded audio of the ceremony has been available for over 30 years. It’s also my understanding that the only portion of the ceremony that Mormons actually covenant to not reveal are the signs and tokens. Mormons are culturally wary of discussing the temple at all but the vast majority of the ceremonies are not, strictly speaking, off limits for comment.

Someone showed me the tokens at some point in college, well before I had any real interest in Mormonism. Later while on a long car drive, a woman who had left the LDS church described for me what happened in the temple. Shortly after visiting a temple open house years ago my wife and I researched any remaining questions we may have had via Google. Already having knowledge of the tokens and knowing the rest of the ceremony was not off limits I didn’t think I’d be committing any harm by watching the full endowment ceremony (which included no commentary). I didn’t really learn anything new in viewing the videos. That being said, video is certainly a powerful medium and it put all of the elements together in a way I didn’t expect. The story of creation as told in the temple has certainly grown my understanding of Mormon theology. (For instance, I better understand how the Adam/God theory practically plays out in Mormon cosmology and I better understand how Mormons view the Fall as a necessary and positive step for mankind.)

Where I think I most radically depart from Dalrymple is that I’m not as clear headed that viewing the video is participation in mocking Mormonism on something akin to the level of someone defecating in my church baptistry. The ceremony is strange and unfamiliar but viewing it, absent commentary, is an observation that can lead to understanding. If I fail to speak out against the videos am I really doing the same thing as idly watching a Jew be physically abused by Skinheads? Is the existence of a video camera in the temple a desecration in and of itself? I most certainly understand the angst the creation of the video causes and would by no means enter the temple myself or assist in the creation or publication of the video.

I’m not certain that my religious values align with Mormonism in a way that I value secrecy in the same way as Mormons. Particularly considering that Mormonism claims these ceremonies to be an important, salvific part of Christianity. As a devout Christian I feel I have a stake in that claim and want to judge it for myself. I also think that Christianity does not reserve secrets about itself from outsiders. There is clearly an understanding that some things remain a secret to outsiders, but they are nonetheless clearly and openly taught. So to posit that Christian secrets must remain secrets seems to be something of an oxymoron to me. I simply reject that understanding of Christianity.

I think a question that has yet to be answered about these videos is “how will they change Mormonism?” I think it’s a given that these videos will have an impact. Might sealing ceremonies be opened to non-Mormon family members as a result? I think the window for that possibility is now open. I think you can count on a number of pre-initiatory Mormons to seek these videos out before their first temple endowment experience. Having a knowledge of what a member is covenanting to beforehand may have a positive or a negative impact on the willingness of those who have yet to experience the temple first hand. Will the knowledge that open house visitors might seek out these videos change how and why open houses are conducted?

Regardless of your view of the videos I think we can agree that this is a moment where Mormonism changed, be it in policy, practice or perception.

The Wedding of Jesus

I was wondering how Mormons view Jesus’ status as a bachelor. In Orthodox Christianity singleness and lifelong celibacy are view as acceptable and at times even preferable for followers of Jesus. The value for singleness, devoted to lifelong service of God, is in part centered on the example of Jesus himself.

This lifestyle choice is held in tension in Mormonism. A temple wedding is the penultimate ordinance to qualify for Exaltation. It seems to be THE most exciting and highest honor in temple worship. From an outsider’s perspective it seems the Mormon experience is lacking without a sealing to an eternal spouse.

In light of this, how do Mormons reflect on Jesus’ life without a wife? What kind of justifications are offered for this disconnect? Is it a fact of His life that needs no explanation?

Truly, Honestly. I tell you, this is not just a cheap plug for the post that has become known as “The One True Post.” But I also recognize that I can’t bring up the subject of Jesus and Marriage without referencing it. So consider my obligation to silliness fulfilled.

You Are a Temple

I decided to type the word “temple” into BibleGateway.com to see what would come up in the New Testament.  The results are listed below.  I left out historic references to the Jerusalem temple listed in the Gospels and the book of Acts.  I also left out references in the Revelation of John which are always references to God’s Heavenly Temple.  So these are all text with Christian instruction on the word “temple”.

Romans 9:3-5

For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

1 Corinthians 3:15-17

If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

1 Corinthians 6:18-20

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

1 Corinthians 9: 9, 12-14

For it is written in the Law of Moses . . .

But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. Don’t you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

Ephesians 2:19-22

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-4

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for (that day will not come) until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

1 Peter 2: 4-5

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Most of these verses point to the Christians temple being the body of believers or the body of a believer.  I Cornithians is considered the first New Testament writing (about 15 years after the crucifixion) and you can see how many times in that letter alone that Paul calls the believer the temple of God (rather than direct believers toward a temple).

There are two passages here that may cause a problem with this overall trend.  The first is I Corinthians 9.  But given the context, Paul is citing the Law’s provision that priest are to eat from the meat that is sacrificed in the Jewish temple., So it’s a historic reference rather than a contemporary teaching.  His teaching in the passage is not about temples but rather about Gospel preachers being paid for their work (that is a discussion for another time).

The other passage is 2 Thessalonians which is an end times prophecy about the Anti-Christ.  It could be considered ambiguous if he is talking about the Jewish temple, a Christian temple or God’s heavenly temple as described in Revelation .  But there seems to be only one temple that the Anti-Christ can set himself up in.

Given the weight of all the passages together it seems abundantly clear that Paul and Peter were not out setting up new Christian temples but rather telling Christians everywhere that they are the temple.

How do LDS incorporate these passages into their teachings on temples?

The Sacred and The Secular

A consistent teaching that I have heard in Evangelical churches is that there is no such thing as sacred vs. secular.  The idea is that all things hold spiritual significance.  The way you drive your car through traffic says as much about you spiritually as the way you sing a hymn.  The act of taking communion can be just as defiling as foul language.

There are a number of passages that bring this teaching out.  One of significance is Colossians 1:19-20

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven . . .

Part of the reason we aren’t raptured up into heaven once we receive salvation is because we are to take part in God’s reconciliation of all things ( 2 Corinthians 5:18).  We are to do the work of making everything part of God’s Kingdom.  So what we listen to on the radio on Sunday morning shouldn’t be any different than what we listen to on Monday morning.  What we say and do at church is no more significant than what we say and do at the grocery store.  Our ministry reaches into anything and everything.  A stock broker is in full time ministry just as much as a pastor. There simply is no “holy ground.”  All ground is once again being made holy.

This is contrast against the strong Mormon theme of the sacred and the secular.  This dicotomy is most obviously set up by LDS temples.  “The LDS temple is the holiest place on earth for Mormons.  It is a sacred space” (source).  The vows made in a temple are of much greater signifcance than vows made elsewhere.  The actions taken in a temple have greater significance than actions taken elsewhere.

LDS garments are another source of this differentiation.  Mormons have sets of clothing which have a greater religious significance than any others.  I believe the LDS priesthood plays into this as well, setting the words and deeds of some as higher than the words and deeds of others.

I don’t here much discussion between Mormons and Evangelicals about this difference.  But I think it’s cultural implications are profound and should be recognized.  For Evangelicals there is no such thing as sacred teachings and secular teachings of the Bible, they are all the same thing.  Some  Mormons have anitpathy toward Evangelicals for showing up to church in blue jeans all the while Evangelicals mock Mormons for thinking that underwear can be holy (when both should be recognizing that all underwear can be a testament to Christ).

Evangelicals might have the tendency to become to casual with their faith and fail to treat God with reverance. Mormons have the danger of pining away for the sacred and remove themselves from their work within the secular. I believe the difference are sublte but greatly divide us.

Temple Time

It was pointed out to me that I might have an incorrect view on how frequently Mormons visit the temple. I understand that distance makes the answer different for everyone, but I wonder if you could tell me; How often do you visit the temple?

Weekly
Bi-Weekly
Monthly
Quarterly
Annually
Other

How often should a Mormon be visiting the temple (given distance is not an issue)?

While I’m asking questions about the temple; does it bother you that nothing like it is found in early Christian practice? That means the first endowment performed for any Christian was done by Joseph Smith. Has that ever been a disconnect for you?

Me & Mormons — Part 6

We finally had our opportunity to hear a real life prophet speak and we had to walk away thinking that it didn’t live up to the hype. Without too much judgment I will lay out our general outsider impressions after hearing Gordon B. Hinckley speak at the Newport Beach Temple celebration.

The first thing we noticed about the audience was how homogenous everyone was. We live in a fairly diverse area but there was very little diversity in the people around us. It was kind of like the last white people who still wear suits to church in Southern California were having a conference. I certainly don’t have any problem with white people but it’s uncommon for us to see so many white people all together. I saw one African American teenager and I remember thinking to myself “does he know he’s not supposed to be here?” As white people, my wife and I were uncomfortable. And to be fair our own church is certainly not as diverse as we’d like it to be.

We met Scott’s niece and her husband beforehand. We found out that they lived exactly across the street from us in a different apartment complex. They were a very nice couple but bewilderment struck the conversation as Scott suggested that we visit a ward with them. Scott’s niece explained that we couldn’t go to their ward because we lived on the other side of the street. This seemed so odd to us. We were interested and eager but couldn’t visit a church because we lived on the wrong side of the street?!? It seemed like such an odd message to send to people you hoped to convert. It still sits so strangely with me that as we tried to push to visit a church with some newly met friends, everyone insisted that it was not permitted because we lived on the east instead of the west side of a street.

There was certainly a buzz in the room. People seemed to be excited to be there. An organist started playing some music as a prelude and everyone started singing the words along with the background music. So the organist had to stop playing so that everyone would stop singing. When President Hinckley finally emerged from behind the stage there was a celebrity atmosphere. Flash bulbs started popping and there was a quiet murmur throughout the arena.

We saw a brief slide show that among other things told us the Mayan temples in Mexico were actually Mormon temples. I remembered at that moment reading at least 10 years beforehand a statement the Smithsonian had put out stating that ancient civilizations in Central America didn’t resemble anything like what was described in the Book of Mormon.

When the stage was turned over to President Hinckley we expected the celebrity buzz to return. As he started to talk it seemed like someone had let the air out of the room. Here we were about to hear the words of the one and only prophet of God. Anything he was about to say might be a life and faith altering pronouncement from the mouth of God himself. As we looked around, everyone around us was bored. Not a single person seemed interested in anything he might have to say. Scott to my left seemed down right perturbed. If Gordon Hinckley was a prophet of God, it didn’t seem the people around us thought so, and if they did, at best, they found him uninspiring and a little bit irritating. I believe the main thrust of his message was that young people shouldn’t get tattoos if they hoped to visit the temple. And to the credit of those around us, I think their response generally matched the message they were hearing. It wasn’t very interesting or inspiring.

As we pulled out of the parking lot I asked Scott if they Native American dressed girl we saw singing was supposed to be a Lamanite or a Native Californian. He was a bit thrown off by my question and stated that she was both. We made plans to meet Scott, his wife and the missionaries again and talk more about my questions. . . .

Me & Mormons — Part 5

My hopes to try a new way with Mormon missionaries met a serious obstacle. I found myself living in gated apartment complexes for the next several years. Not once, for the cause of Christ, did a single missionary try jumping the fence to teach me about the Restoration. I didn’t mind not having teenagers show up at my door in an effort to earn points by selling magazines and their personalities though.

Things changed when the LDS church completed construction on the Newport Beach Temple. My former roommate had worked with a LDS Stake President and had received the word on the open house dates. LDS Temples are so mysterious and shrouded in secrecy that it’s hard not to jump on the opportunity to enter one.

So my wife and some of her coworkers made the trip down to the new temple during our lunch hour. We had a nice visit through the temple. It was a beautiful building and the only thing that really freaked us out were the oxen underneath the baptismal and the altars in a number of the rooms. I think the only thing that really freaked us out about the altars was our guides mishandling of questions about them. He got so flustered by questions about them and so awkwardly tried to change the subject we were all left with the impression that cats must be sacrificed on them or something.

After the tour we enjoyed some cookies and asked mostly benign questions of the missionaries in the stake center. My wife and I noticed that our tour guide took an unusual interest in us. He approached us several times and tried to introduce us to various aspects of the faith, genealogy in particular. I decided that he might be a great person to create a relationship with and ask some tougher questions of. So we exchanged phone numbers and email addresses and agreed that we should talk later.

Later he would tell us that in his temple tour trainings they told him that he would be able to see the Holy Ghost in the people who were interested in converting. He felt that most strongly about us, my wife in particular. That was no surprise to me when he said it because it’s the feeling everyone gets when they meet my wife, but he couldn’t have been more wrong about our interest in converting. Immediately when we got home, my wife hopped on the internet and looked up all our unanswered questions about the temple and scoffed at their similarity to Masonry.

A couple of days later our new Mormon friend, “Scott” sent us an email suggesting that he bring some missionaries by. We responded that we’d love to see he and his wife again and would love to meet any missionaries they would like to bring by. But we had a caveat. We said we’d prefer if they just came over for some pizza first so that we could all get to know each other a little bit better. I stated that I had had some bad experiences with some LDS missionaries in the past who just wanted to bludgeon me with their script and felt more comfortable if they at least knew my name and a little bit about me before talking about their faith. “Scott” said he knew exactly what I was talking about and agreed, pizza would be a good idea.

We had a nice dinner and scheduled a time when everyone could come back and talk more with us about Mormonism. With Mormon missionaries coming over I figured I had better at least be familiar with the Book of Mormon. So I picked up a copy I was given by someone else and read the whole thing in about 2 weeks. When “Scott” and the missionaries came over they were quite impressed. That was the same year President Hinckley had challenged the entire church to read the Book of Mormon in one year. None of them had made the same kind of progress on the goal as I had.

In between our dinner and our “first discussion”. The temple dedication celebration was being held at the Anaheim Pond. “Scott” asked us if we would like to attend and went to great lengths to secure two extra tickets for my wife and I. We gladly accepted the invitation and looked forward to hearing the Prophet speak in person. . . .

Ask a Mormon on 106.7 KROQ

The Kevin and Bean Show on KROQ recently had a featured called “Ask a Mormon”. Interesting what they decided to discuss. Their guest is an ex-Mormon, but by no means a raving lunatic.

It’s at the 14 minute mark if you want to fast forward. The Kevin and Bean show is a long running morning program on a popular rock station in Los Angeles, so you can expect to get everything that might come along with that. Sadly for us Evangelicals, I think they handled the subject matter much more respectfully than many of our own radio host would have.


Click here to download.

How To Be A Successful Mormon Missionary

I think I know enough about the LDS missionary discussions that I know how to be a successful Mormon missionary. I’m confident that I could serve 2 years and bring in a number of baptisms with this method. It comes down to focusing your visits and your investigators on the right thing. There’s really no need to ever focus on the Book of Mormon, the need for modern prophets, the Great Apostasy, the restoration of the priesthood, temples or even Joseph Smith.

If you want to get baptisms it’s all about Moroni’s promise and Galatians 5:22-23.

First you have the investigator read this passage. If you can get someone to read this passage without at all considering if it’s authoritative or true the battle is almost won. It sounds authoritative, that’s good enough. Even if the investigator is skeptical about it’s authority, you ask them to test it anyways. The proof is in the pudding. What’s it really going to cost them to try it? It’s just a prayer, that’s easy right?

Moroni 10:3-5.
3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

Notice the part I highlighted “he will manifest the truth of it unto you”. This is where you’ve got them sold. Now all you have to do is tell them HOW he will manifest the truth to them. Have them read Galatians 5:22-23

22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

You tell the investigator that this verse shows that peace and joy are a way the Spirit manifest truth to you. I’m totally taking this verse out of context. If you read the entire book of Galatians or even the entire chapter you’ll know that the “fruits of the Spirit” are outward manifestations in the life of a believer, they aren’t inward emotions that people experience. Just compare them to the preceding verses 19-21 which are the “fruits of the sinful life”

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

This verse being out of context is beside the point. Baptism is a worthy goal, so if we’re taking verses out of context, it’s okay since the end goal is beautiful and valuable.

The main point is that if you can convince someone that they can know something is true because they have the emotions of joy and peace you’re work is practically finished. If an investigator lets you in their home it’s likely that they already have some kind of positive emotions directed toward you or the LDS church. Missionaries are often charming and good looking. Their clean cut across the board. The church is full of nice and wholesome people. It’s not difficult to find reasons for people to feel good about the church. I think investigators generally already WANT to feel good about the church. It’s really not all that hard to manifest good feelings. Try smiling while you read this, you’ll automatically feel more positive about it. Start asking the investigator if they feel good about anything associated with the Book of Mormon or the LDS church. If they say “yes” to anything, let them know that’s the witness of the Holy Spirit in their life. They know it’s true and they’re ready for baptism.

If the investigator has not accepted this, don’t move on. Stay with it. Everything else is an up hill battle unless they’ve accepted that spiritual truth is communicated through positive feelings. If you’ve convinced them that good feelings = truth from God, then they will take whatever other beliefs that come with the LDS church no matter how difficult they are to believe or live out.

In fact you have a built in defense mechanism. Any evidence that might contradict the church will cause negative emotions in the new believer. Since they believe that God brings good emotions, anything that causes negative emotions must be from Satan, and thus should be ignored and avoided.

This is all that is required to be a successful Mormon missionary.

Apocalypto Action Figures

apocalytpofigures.jpg

To whom it may concern,
Deseret Books

Dear Sirs,

I suffered great alarm while visiting your bookstore yesterday. It was seeing the action figures you sell based on Mel Gibson’s hyper-violent movie, Apocalypto that caused me such distress. As I remember, Apocalypto was an R rated movie making it quite clear that it was not intended for the audience of young children. So I’m uncertain why you would be selling action figures to children that might peak their interest in such a movie. Having read many reviews of the movie, I am quite resolved that no child should be exposed to such a violent and gory depiction of Mayan life. I am appalled that you would be involved in marketing it to children.

Most disturbing is that you make the Mayan temple the center piece of this toy set. If you have not seen the movie, you may not be aware of what happened at Mayan temples. It was the location of a brutal religious ritual in which slaves had their hearts cut out of their chest and their heads tossed down the steps of the temple to the cheers of a bloody thirsty crowd. Why would you think this is something children should be re-enacting as a form of play?

Perhaps you made a hasty purchasing decision. From the numerous pictures of Jesus on the walls I take it that you are a religious bookstore. I understand the great interest many Christians took in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”. Perhaps you are under the misguided impression that Apocalypto is another film with religious significance. If some vendor convinced you of this in order to sell these toys to you I can assure you that you have been taken in by con-men. I’ve been in a number of other religious bookstores, and while I have seen a great deal of them selling “Passion of the Christ” merchandise, I have never seen any of them selling anything associated with Apocalytpo.

In fact, I don’t remember seeing anything related to “Passion of the Christ” in your store. Perhaps you sold out of it so quickly that you thought you could have equal success with Apocalytpo based merchandise. If this is the case, then you are shameless hucksters and I will encourage a boycott of your store to all of my friends. I find it disgusting that you would offer such violent imagery up to children to line your own pockets with cash.

Please pull these toys out of your inventory and clarify this situation to me at your earliest possible convenience.

_____________________________________________________-
To my readers who may be unfamiliar with the context of this please check out this posting.

We’re Not Worthy

I think Evangelicals and LDS generally agree about the act of the atonement and the need for the atonement. It’s all about how we are unworthy. Because of sin, we are kept from our Heavenly Father who is holy. Our imperfection makes us unworthy to be with someone who is perfect. As a remedy Christ provides a perfect sacrifice and stands in our place. Only through the atonement do we become worthy enough to be with God.

Where we start to diverge is on what is required of us to accept the atonement. I think we both agree that salvation is contingent on something. Evangelicals believe that the only thing required of us is acceptance of the gift of grace. LDS believe that salvation is accepted through belief as well as performance of saving ordinances. These saving ordinances include baptism and the temple endowment.

To receive the temple endowment, a person must show that they are worthy enough to receive a temple recommend. Worthiness for entrance into the temple includes keeping the commandments, passing an interview with the Bishop, and proof of tithing (among other things).

This is where I’m wondering if someone can help me overcome a disconnect I have with LDS theology. We need the atonement precisely BECAUSE we are unworthy. But the only way to fully receive the atonement is to prove that we ARE worthy. So in essence, only worthy individuals may receive that which is intended for the unworthy.

Shouldn’t the temple endowment be readily available to all simply and solely because they are not worthy?

Added To The Temple Prayer Roll

I recently told an LDS friend that I was praying for her as she struggles through a difficult situation. She responded with gratitude and said that she regularly adds my name to the temple prayer rolls.

What exactly are the temple prayer rolls? Do temple workers go through the list and pray for each person individually. Do they pray for specific prayer request? Is this the Mormon equivalent to lighting a candle in Catholic mass?

I’m not a Nauvoo Mormon

Could a Latter-Day Saint start describing themselves as a non-Nauvoo Mormon? Many of Mormonism’s most distinct doctrines and practices were formed while the church was headquartered in Nauvoo. If an LDS person said “I’m really more of a Kirtland Mormon” could they still call themselves Mormon? Is rejecting doctrines that were formed late in Joseph Smith’s life considered heresy that is too unacceptable to remain in the church? Is it heresy that would prevent someone from holding a calling? From getting a temple recommend? (not that they’d want to go through the endowment ceremony) Would it prevent someone from being in leadership?

I’d personally love to see a growth in Kirtland Mormons, but I don’t know if the Nauvoo Mormons would allow it. Do I need to clarify the difference between a Kirtland Mormon and a Nauvoo Mormon?

Explain the Temple To Me

Tidjwe posted this elsewhere and I thought it was a really helpful explanation about what happens inside the LDS temple. So for the benefit of non-LDS and LDS who have never been to the temple

One thing that really bothers me is the misunderstandings about the temple. The ONLY THING that members covenant not to talk about is that the signs and tokens are. You can’t tell anyone the special handshakes, and you can’t tell them the names of them. That’s it. As long as you don’t reveal what they are, you aren’t breaking any temple covenants.

I think they should just come out and say “First you’ll go into a room where they’ll symbolically wash and anoint you on your forehead to dedicate your life and body to serving God. There you’ll recieve your garment and then you’ll go to a room with a bunch of other strangers, and they perform a big massive ordinance all at the same time for all of you…it’s not some special event where everyone is there just for you like it is at a sealing or baptism. You will watch a movie about the creation where they will talk about certain precepts that you should make characteristics in your life and they will be represented by certain signs, etc to help you remember them. After the movie is over you will line up at curtain (veil) and repeat back those signs and their meaning and then pass through it and go into a beautiful room called the Celestial room where it will be peaceful and you can pray or meditate or just relax for a few minutes.”

That would’ve been a lot more helpful to me than reading Boyd K’s book on the matter that says basically nothing and makes no sense if you haven’t been through. or taking all the temple classes that still don’t tell you anything to expect. It really pissed me off…I had no clue at all and was completely lost the whole time.

The ordinance itself probably doesn’t do anything. Most of the temple stuff is symbolic. It teaches us the characteristics we need in order to be exalted. Service, Unity, Sacrifice, obedience, Charity, etc. It’s not some magical thing.

Also, a lot of the temple stuff used to happen outside the temple. Many temple ordinances were performed in the mountains, and the rivers, and in Joseph Smith’s house in the early church. Also, until a couple/few decades ago, most High Priest groups used to meet on Sunday, go to their quorum room in their temple clothes and several performed some of the token/signs from the endowment including the true order of prayer. After their quorum meeting was over they’d change back into normal church clothes and go to Sacrament or whatever was next. I mean it’s not until fairly recently that it got a lot more restrictive.

It Was in Leaf

Mark 11: 12-14
12The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

This passage has always bothered me. Why would Jesus curse a tree that didn’t give fruit when it wasn’t its season to do so? That seems so unreasonable. Does He expect me to give things to him that I’m not made to give? A troubling passage indeed.

This weekend I finally heard an explanation to this passage (which most choose to quickly skip over). Verse 13 holds a very small phrase that I didn’t pick up on; “in leaf”. Fig trees are only in leaf when they are bearing fruit. It had all of the outward signs of fruit, but when Jesus approached it, he discovered that it was a fraud. It wasn’t the season for figs and that means it wasn’t the season for leaves either. It’s no coincidence that the story of the withered fig tree book-ends Jesus clearing the temple. At the temple Jesus found people exactly like the fig tree; giving all appearance of fruit but actually fraudulent and corrupt.

It makes much more sense when compared to what Jesus said in Mark 7:6-7
6He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
” ‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
7They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.

The Curtain, Torn in Two

Upon Jesus’ death the curtain in the temple that separated man for the Most Holy Place was split in two. To Evangelicals, this event does not go unnoticed. We believe it clearly indicates that man no longer needed to go to the Temple or through the priest to enter into the presence of God. The Law had been fulfilled. The book of Hebrews sets Christ up as something greater than the Temple, greater than the sacrifices, greater than the High Priest and greater than the curtain. Through him we can boldly enter into the presence of God, not in the future, but now, currently.

To Evangelicals the significance of the curtain tearing in two is that the temple is no longer necessary. Do LDS place any significance on this event?