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.

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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Freedom and Friendship

Ravi Zacharias Mormon LDS

Ravi Zacharias will again be speaking in the Mormon Tabernacle. His visit to Utah will also include a stop at BYU. I hope some of my Utah based friends can attend. Live streams of the event are included below for those who can’t be there in person.

BYU Live Stream

Friday, January 17, 2014 – 12:00pm-1:00pm (MST)

Title: What Does It Mean To Be Human?

Dr. Ravi Zacharias will speak on what it means to be human as he believes faith, family, and society cannot be fully appreciated until this question is first answered.

Mormon Tabernacle Live Stream

Saturday, January 18, 2014 – 6:30pm-8:30pm (MST)

Title: Lessons from History: Building A Nation Under God

Dr. Ravi Zacharias will speak on the centrality of the Word of God as the guide for personal conduct, true freedom, and building a nation under God.

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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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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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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Making sense of Christian Spirituality

The Sun

I believe spiritual experience is as unique as any other personal experience.  We experience the world through the lens of our minds, our culture, and our past experience.  I think it makes sense to think that spiritual experiences will differ dramatically from one person to the other based on these factors.  If an omnipotent God exists, whose Spirit flows through all things, it seems that experiencing it would be very similar to the human experience of the sun, i.e. it will appear very similar but would be interpreted very differently based on the environmental factors.   The sun in the desert is viewed differently than the sun in the rainy Pacific Northwest.  Typical human experience tells us different things about the sun. It may seem a life-giving force to some, or an oppressive burden to others.  This analogy helps me understand why we cannot prove things about God through our contact with the Spirit.   Before modern physics, the sun was an inscrutable force in the universe, no human experience could explain it properly, but its presence and effects were everywhere.   Theology is no match for modern science in its explanatory power because it does not have experimental tools to rule out interpretations.   Theologians rely on conventional interpretations of Scripture to guide them in nailing down what is the Truth of the matter, and the rest of experience is viewed through this lens.

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With Gentleness and Respect

This strikes me as a way to serve notice that “I am right and you are wrong” rather than an effort to find clarity and understanding for why he views Mormonism as “non-Christian”. It doesn’t in any way engender Mormons to his point of view.

http://townhall.com/columnists/mikeadams/2013/06/05/my-apology-to-mormon-readers-n1612799/page/full

The last part of 1 Peter 3:15 seems to have been neglected.

Explaining Jesus to a child – How should I indoctrinate my children?

indoctrinate_xlarge_xlargeWhen children are taught religion, they are indoctrinated. As parents we can’t explain how the world really works to them–they won’t understand and nobody has the patience–so we happily give them simple skeletons which they can build on, that they can organize the necessarily limited experience and information they stumble across.  We hope that the skeletons are elegant and strong enough to gird all the good information our children come across and allow them to create a robust, useful picture of how things are. Of course the problem with indoctrination is that it shuts of lines if inquiry, creating intellectual bias.  If the process of education moves people from cocksure confidence to thoughtful uncertainty, indoctrination attempts to stall or abort this process–on a few important areas of thought at least.

Indoctrination is a big issue in our multi-cultural, increasingly divisive, political and ideological climate. At least one writer — David French– contends that Evangelicals’ failure to properly indoctrinate their children is part of the reason they fall short in church growth compared to moromons.   Citing the Barna Group’s conclusion that of the 84 million Americans who claim to be Evangelical, only about 19 million actually hold orthodox beliefs, French advocates that Evangelicals must follow the LDS lead in teaching their distinctive beliefs and culture early and well.

But indoctrination is an extremely inflammatory concept. It is almost universally condemned by those who don’t want children to be indoctrinated against their positions. But I don’t think indoctrination can or should have the bad rap given it by fervent opponents of religious indoctrination such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Arguably most childhood education in areas of history and even many areas of science smacks of indoctrination in one form or another.

Given its unavoidable necessity, I have started to take indoctrination of my own children more seriously. My kids are indoctrinated Mormons, their skeletons come from church.   They have a surface-level, Sunday-school understanding of the church, salvation, and the righteous life. But because I am no longer what can be fairly called a believing Mormon, I want to temper this indoctrination with indoctrination of my own–one that reflects the understanding I have developed in my spiritual life and education.  I am trying to find a way to explain Christianity differently without closing the lines of inquiry that I find critical.  I want to add a few limbs to my kids’ conceptual skeletons without making their existing frameworks useless.

So, my project is to develop simple, short, easy-to-understand narratives of important historical events and religious principles- sort of like the Gospel Principles Manual in the LDS Church. Something that can give my children a place to start inquiry based roughly on what I think are proper conclusions about history and the world; a different narrative to expand and allow critical evaluation of the narrative they receive in church.

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We Pretenders

When I was a kid, I loved to pretend.  My life was filled with forts, guns, armies, horses, dragons, talking animals, magic swords, and space armadas.  You didn’t have to point out to me that I was pretending, I was doing it on purpose.

Jesus pointed out the pretenders who did not seem to know they were pretending. To the Romans he pointed out that they were merely pretending to be the masters of the world. In fact, the Kingdom of God was in our midst and held sway over what mattered.  To those pretending to be good, he said there is no good but God.  To those pretending to honor the temple of God, he dealt a beating.  To those pretending to be his disciples, he exposed as denyers, betrayers, and court jesters. Jesus was God who pretended to be a man and–in the end–He exposed this pretense as well.

Few would disagree that those who follow Jesus only pretend to.   The Old Testament teaches us that we are foolish and pretending children to a Perfect Father who has given us his law, the New teaches us that we are all fallen and lost, incapable of following the law God gave–we can only pretend. The Book of Mormon teaches that when it comes to obedience, we are less than we are not the dust of the earth, only pretending to be submissive. Joseph Smith taught that our compliance and authority is often–because of our nature and disposition–simply pretense to fulfill our pride and hide our sins. Jesus’ apostles made it clear that Jesus was the Christ, we merely pretend to be Christians. Paul taught that whatever we are of Christ is not us, but Christ in us.

Ironically, Christians also like to point out pretenders.

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Prophet, Priest, Member, and Disciple– A way to understand Mormon life

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about Christianity and religion in general lately. I’m trying to figure out what was going on when I was a full-believing Mormon, and how to compare that to the religious lives of others.   I came up with some simple (i.e. over-simplified) categories of roles people play while involved in an organized religion like Mormonism.  I found them helpful in providing a way of understanding my Mormon experience and comparing it with others without worrying too much about theology.   I see four roles people play in organized religion:

Prophet: receiving spiritual guidance from the Spirit of God.

Priest/Clergy: administering teachings within a community. Teaching, preaching, helping, managing, setting policy, etc.

Member: special attachment, loyalty, and duty to particular community or group

Disciple: a devotee seeking to practice the principles taught by the prophets.

I admit it’s an over-simplified model;  there are a bunch more roles that come into play: e.g.,Saint, Missionary, Theologian, Convert, Skeptic, Monk, Mystic, etc.  And I am probably not using the terms in a  completely standard way.  But for me it’s a start on trying to grasp all the dynamics involved in living a faith.

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