New Religious Movements

Evangelicals tend to put the LDS church in the same category as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientist, Branch Davidians, Oneness Pentecostals, Inglesia ni Cristo, The Children of God and The People’s Temple (among others). That is, we view all of you as heretical sects of Christianity that have strayed so far out of orthodoxy that you may no longer fit the classical definition of Christianity at all. When the New Testament speaks of false prophets and wolves in sheep’s clothing, we tend to point at all of you as examples of such. I understand that LDS may not accept that classification or the classical definition of Christianity (nor am I asking you to).

I’m wondering though, how do LDS view these other new religious movements? Do you take fellowship with them in persecution from mainstream Christians? Do you think of them as just another product of the Apostasy? Do you think of them at all?

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14 thoughts on “New Religious Movements

  1. I remember once on my mission we ran into our counterparts in the Jehovah’s Witness. Two male missionaries stopped us and after a quick introduction, invited us the next morning to their apartment to discuss religion. I of course was excited to teach two “heathens”, for I had grown up believing they did not believe in Christ as their Savior but just a prophet.

    As our visit progressed, I pressed them to find out what their belief was about Jesus. They reassured us they believed he was the Savior, and that he died and was resurrected. They kind of skirted around the questions. At that point, I basically said, “Well if you believe in Christ as your Savior, then you’re on the right track.” and basically left it at that. I felt they weren’t being honest with me. If they were then we really didn’t have much else in common, so I felt it was pointless to continue the visit.

    Over the years, I’ve personally taken the view that whatever religions are out there, if they teach Jesus as the Savior, then I’m ok with it. I feel most churches have a form of truth. I personally am not familiar with most of the ones you mentioned so I cannot comment specifically on them. But I really don’t feel any kinship with their “persecution complex” if they have one. And, I really don’t care if Christianity accepts the LDS church or not. I do think the LDS church has a lot to offer the Christian community who values “values”. Together we can be a great team.

    I think in recent years, there has been a rise in counter Christianity. With the discovery of the Nag Hammadi library and the Gnostic Gospels, in addition to Dan Browns book “The Davinci Code” plus the recently published The Gospel of Judas, all of which are missing the “Good News” of Christ, it seems they are looking for a “new” New Testament in which Christ is just a man who teaches love and forgiveness.

    I think anyone who believes in Christ and believes in defending good values is worth having around regardless of their theology.

    Specifically, they would definitely be included in the by-product of the world wide apostasy.

  2. Austin (#1),

    I would be interested in how you would define “believ[ing] in Christ” and “good values.” Those seem like rather subjective thoughts, as well as an extremely exclusive philosophy. If I understand you correctly, just because any one of Eastern religions (or any of the NRMs mentioned above) might not “believe in Christ” the same way as you do, you would deem them not “worth having around”?

    In answer to Dando’s post, I would hope Mormons would, to some degree, identify with other persecuted religions, whether it be 1st century Christians, medeival Jews, modern Muslims, or present-day Christian Scientists. It seems to be the “Christian” thing to do (and Mormon scriptural canon does admonish baptized church members to “mourn with those that mourn”). However, the cynic in me doubts this is the case (and if Austin is representative of Mormonism at large, my thoughts have been confirmed).

  3. When talking about the nature of God and of the Person of Jesus it’s important to get specific as to definitions. Who do the JWs believe Jesus is? He is “a god”. In their version of the Bible it reads “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was a god.” That’s truly a mistranslation of the Greek text. So all this business of Jesus is my Savior is really a smoke screen. I really resent it when people won’t be honest about what they believe and attempt to hide it. At least stand-up and proclaim it honestly.

  4. When I was an active LDS, I definitely sympathized with other NRMs. I didn’t think they were true religions (because only Mormonism was true). I figured there was probably a lot of good in them. And Kullervo always had good things to say about knocking on Jehovah’s Witnesses’s doors (they will ALWAYS give you some water).

    However, I think part of being Mormon is isolating yourself from other religious movements. Mormons are a ‘peculiar’ people, and consider that they have the higher truth.

    Also, it’s really easy to be Mormon and not know anything at all about other religions–whether it be mainstream Christianity, eastern religions, even the splinter groups from Mormonism. I think it’s easy to live in a bubble of Mormonism and forget about the rest of the world altogether–if you only have Mormon friends, and really only see other Mormons, the only things you might learn about other religions are what people who have left those religions have to say about it. And those people often aren’t even handed about those religions. (I say that knowing full well that that could apply to me, except that I’m not particularly bitter or angry about my time in Mormonism, and when I am, I can preface what I’m saying with that lol).

  5. As an active Mormon, I feel I am quite knowledgeable of other religious movements, protestant or otherwise. Honestly I view all of the religions you mentioned above as “not us.” What does that mean? Nothing really, I mean I believe the LDS Church to be Gods true church on the earth, all others teach good positive beliefs about Christ and provide a solid foundation, but I believe we add to it and provide more substance. So, ultimately I group them all together, despite their huge and obvious differences. http://www.dryflypolitics.com

  6. Swint,
    From what you wrote my impression is that you know the difference being taught in the various religious sects regarding the nature of God, Jesus; the doctrine of the trinity etc. That’s good. If you chose to believe that Joseph Smith was a true prophet and what he taught to be God’s revealed truth, that’s up to you of course. In the world of “credit” they talk about “the truth in lending law”. It’s a law that requires those who are lending money to disclose all aspects of the transaction. I think that’s basically what those of us who consider ourselves orthodox Christians ask of those proclaiming themselves to be Christians. How far off the mainstream bubble can a sect get before they are outside of the Christian family, I don’t know? I don’t even bother arguing with people regarding the soundness of their doctrine. I just want them to clearly articulate, without obfuscation, what they believe.

  7. Noclaf,

    I am not sure I feel it necessary for me or we Mormons to be welcomed under the Christian umbrella. I mean it would be nice to be accepted, everyone wants that. But I think we are confident enough in our beliefs to be able to completely stand alone, we have already been doing that anyway since 1830.

    If you are interested in knowing what I believe, perhaps on a particular topic, feel free to visit my Mormon Q&A page on http://www.dryflypolitics.com. There are few entries there, and if you have any other questions feel free to ask. I will answer as articulately and clearly as I can.

  8. Swint,
    I like your attitude. I think it’s a healthy and honest approach to your belief system. The opposite approach, which is too often “we believe just like you” can be misleading. It gives the impression of being a deception. I much prefer a “lay it all out there and let people decide” a better way to go. Even if someone disagrees……. it leaves a person’s integrity in place.

  9. Christopher,

    I think the LDS Church very much identifies itself with those groups who were persecuted in earlier times. The persecutions we went through, which were substantial, are discussed often and are a significant part of history. Likewise, it is sometimes the histories of other movements’ persecutions, such as early Christianity, Islam, and even social groups, in comments by people in Sunday school classes. (I should note here, that we try to go out of our way to avoid preparing a lesson about another faith, movement, or whatever. We try to stick with what we believe.)

    Speaking for myself, when I hear of persecuted groups in the news today, I feel for them and I feel I can somewhat relate, despite the fact that I personally have not had to endure persecution. I guess just because of my faith and the history of my great grandparents and all they had to endure, I feel that empathy.

  10. Swint-

    I’m glad to hear that Austin is not representative of all of contemporary Mormonism.

  11. I would certainly hope that my religion would want to reach out to the good in all religions and find common ground wherever it may be.

    But shared history of persecution doesn’t NECESSARILY lead to sympathy. Just one example would be historic Mormon and Catholic relations.

    Both religions were marginalized and persecuted by the Protestant majority. But both religions published scholarly attacks against each other throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s. In both cases, the arguments seemed to run:

    “we may be a little odd, but at least we aren’t like those Mormons/Catholics.”

    These criticisms and attacks are mostly ancient history today, but they do show that persecuted people can often turn on each other. It’s a sort of underdog mentality where one underdog will attack another underdog hoping to curry favor with the strong.

    I am glad that most Mormons I know today, and the Mormon church generally, do not exhibit this behavior.

  12. Christopher,

    Before a judgement is passed on me, please hear me out. I have not had a chance to answer your first questions as this holiday week has been quite busy for me.

    The post was about “heretical sects of Christianity”. If the post was about Eastern religions, etc. then my answer would’ve been similar but different.

    I think any religion that teaches basically to follow the Two Great Commandments which are 1. Love God and 2. Love thy neighbor as theyself (in whatever form those are taught) ARE worth having around, and which, I am assuming, includes most religions today. Christ taught and certainly lived these commandments perfectly. If a religious denomination claims to be Christian, but does not truly believe Christ is the Saviour, then I have a problem with it, as I explained in my example. If a religious denomination claims to be Christian, but does not incorporate Christ’s higher laws or values found in the Beattitues or other such Christian values into some form of it’s teachings, then I have a problem with that as well.

    In addition, and for example, I see no value in those religions, Christian or non, which support the idea of mass or individual suicide as the pathway to heaven. I feel bad for their members, but I would have to classify them as Dando classified them.

    Mormons certainly feel empathy for the early persecuted Christians as has already been stated by Swint. I believe we also feel a reverence for and empathy for those of the Reformation, as well as those who maintained and kept the Christian scriptures, who translated and kept the Word of God alive, at the peril of their lives. And to go further, I even feel bad for the Jews today as well as the Native Americans. But I do not think Dando is classifying any of these groups I just mentioned in the “heretical Christian” groups.

  13. Austin,

    Fair enough. My apologies for passing judgement. I guess I assumed that when you said “whatever religions are out there” you would include, well, whatever religions are out there (Christian or otherwise). Your clarification helps in regards to eastern religions, Jews, and Native Americans. Thank you.

    However, in your original response, you were not exactly charitable or kind in your opinion of Jehovah’s Witnesses (one of the groups Dando’s DID list). Not believing they were being honest in representing THEIR faith (not yours) seems rather unfair.

    Perhaps my favorite aspect of Mormon theology (as taught by Joseph Smith) is his expressed love for all mankind (and he specifically mentioned Muslims and Jews among those groups). Another doctrine espoused by LDS that particularly resonates with me is the idea that Mormonism embraces all truth, let it come what whatever source it may (Brigham loved this one) — even if that source is Eastern religions, Judaism, or even David Koresh or Jim Jones’s teachings. Not that I agree with mass suicide either or can specifically point out doctrine taught by Koresh and Jones that are true, but I find it silly to dismiss all of a group’s teachings and ideas simply because of violent incidences in the group’s history. For example, it wouldn’t be fair to dismiss truth as taught by Mormonism because of Blood Atonement and Mountain Meadows would it? Or to reject medeival Christianity because of the Crusades? Or Islam because of the 9/11 attacks?

  14. I think my fingers move slower than my thoughts. I should have, in the original comment, said “Christian Churches” that are out there, as the word “Religion” includes Christianity and all others. My bad.

    You are right, though. I was a bit harsh on the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I actually grew up as a teenager feeling really bad for the local JW members. Quite often they were slammed in print as well as on the air, as were the Mormons. When I moved to Southern California, I remember listening to a religious radio station in which each week Mormons or JW’s were slammed by “Christians” who should know better. I definitely felt some kind of kinship there.

    I really don’t know why, but my perspective changed a bit on my mission. Perhaps because of my inexperience and lack of knowledge. I wasn’t in the frame of mind to learn from the JW’s in that meeting. As a missionary, I was told to build on common ground with others while I am teaching them the gospel, and also to avoid arguments and contention. I just don’t think I had it in me that day.

    In spite of that experience, I try not to think badly about those Jehovah’s Witness missionaries who canvas our neighborhood from time to time.

    As far as learning from other religions, I do believe most have some truth in them, at least some good things to offer. As for the likes of David Koresh or Jim Jones, I’m not sure. Certainly we can reach out to them in the same way Dando and other Evangelical Christians are reaching out to us Mormons. And I think the LDS church tries to do that and tries to teach it’s members to do that as well.

    My problem is, I’m having a heck of a time just keeping up with my own religion/church. It’s only been in the last year that I have begun to study other Christian churches, and I am finding I am making a lot of assumptions that simply aren’t true. And certainly looking beyond past errors and finding what’s good in other’s faith is something all religions and all peoples would benefit from.

    Thanks for sharing your perspective and your advice.

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