We will kick you out. Is being a Mormon for everyone?

I once knew a guy who lived with more than one woman at a time, essentially having a common-law marriage with one woman and then having a live-in girlfriend or any number of affairs.   He was openly unapologetic about his lifestyle and seemed to consider it healthy, if not wholesome in some strange way.

What I was surprised to find out was how religious this guy was. Always blessed his food before eating (even at McDonalds).  Attended church regularly, contributed generously, considered himself an active part of an evangelical congregation.

From a Mormon perspective this was very strange.  Mormons are generally not at all comfortable having people openly live such “alternative” lifestyles in their midst.   You can’t become a member of the church if you don’t renounce such lifestyles and its not  particularly comfortable or fulfilling to attend church if you are not a member. Until recently the general direction from the leadership is to slow down conversion so that the church can nurture the new members so they can maintain theMormon lifestyle and remain active in the church.   Baptism and conversion is not for everybody who is willing.

If you do become a member, if you openly and un-apologetically live alternative lifestyles, you are liable to be kicked out of the church, excommunicated.

Temple worthy endowed members are another even more exclusive sub-set.

For better or worse,  Mormons are an exclusive club in these respects.

However, contrary to some notions within the church,  it was designed to be such a club.

For example, the missionary efforts and building of the church is not really to convert the world to Mormonism, but to gather the few “elect” of the house of Israel to establish Zion and prepare for the second coming:

D&C 29: 7 And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts;

8 Wherefore the decree hath gone forth from the Father that they shall be gathered in unto one place upon the face of this land, to prepare their hearts and be prepared in all things against the day when tribulation and desolation are sent forth upon the wicked.

As well as to receive a certain new covenant and power from on high at the temple:

27 Behold, this I have given unto you as a parable, and it is even as I am. I say unto you, be aone; and if ye are not one . . .

31 And that ye might escape the power of the aenemy, and be gathered unto me a righteous people, without bspot and blameless—. . .

42 And go ye aout from among the bwicked. Save yourselves. Be ye cclean that bear the vessels of the Lord. Even so. Amen.
(there are many other instances where the D&C bring out this theme of the elect. and the “peculiar people” . . I am a bit too lazy to cite them all.)
Kicking people out of the church, especially for doctrinal reasons and sexual preference, sticks in the craw of some Mormons and ex-mormons.  The exclusivity reinforces the counter-cult group’s attacks that we are some sort of secret, manipulative cult.  For others, it preserves the church as a vehicle for peforming the marvelous work and wonder that is promised in the latter days.   Either way you look at it, the Mormon church really doesn’t seem to be designed for everyone.
Evangelicalism, in some ways is quite a bit different, especially in the case of this guy I knew.  In some ways it seems refreshing, in other ways very incongruous from a Mormon perspective.  Almost as  incongruous as Christian “death”-metal bands.
My question is how close evangelical churches are to the Mormon church in this respect?
We know they will denounce you as a heretic and anti-christian if you believe in strange doctrine, but what if you believe and live strange lifestyles?
Is there any consensus at all on these sorts of issues among Evangelicals?
Mormons, if we are the elect, is there a role for non-elect churches (i.e. all the rest of these christian gentiles) in the great plan or are they just to mingled with the “great and abominable church”?  What do you think their role is?
Lots of questions, like to hear your answers,  have at it.
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172 thoughts on “We will kick you out. Is being a Mormon for everyone?

  1. The way I see it, as a mormon, is that if you exist on this earth, there is a role and a purpose for you. Anyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, will ultimately be part of the same church. The mormon church helps to assist the growth of the Kingdom of God by doing baptism for the dead, etc – not that those baptized are then mormon but rather part of the church of Christ. The three-fold mission of the church is to perfect the saints proclaim the gospel and redeem the dead. In the end, anyone who believes in Christ and seeks to follow Him will be part of the same church. Everyone will have a fair chance to accept or reject this, whether it’s in this life or the next. The mormon church as it is today is not for everyone. It will not become all it is meant to be until Christ comes again to perfect it and us.

  2. Jared ~ Almost as incongruous as Christian “death”-metal bands.

    And where do Christian punk rock and ska bands fall on your scale? You’d better answer that question carefully…

    @the topic: As I see it, evangelical Christianity puts more accountability on the individual and less accountability on institutional checks and balances. Regular members don’t have “worthiness” interviews with their pastors once a year or whatever, and we don’t have some higher level of ritual and worship which requires adherence to high standards. For plain members in no positions of leadership, it isn’t required that you confess sexual sins to a third party to be forgiven, either, though you can certainly talk with a leader to help facilitate further abstinence. We teach the exact same principles of chastity as Mormons do, we just don’t have earthly means of monitoring them. There’s pros and cons to both systems.

    In this case you’re highlighting one of the cons of the evangelical system because a sexually promiscuous person can get away with attending an evangelical church and maybe even being a member, and probably no one will ask him about his sex life. People may try to call him to repentance if they do find out, but excommunication of regular members is pretty rare in evangelical churches.

    For leadership it’s different. You certainly don’t have to confess sins to be forgiven, but conduct unbecoming of a leader is conduct unbecoming of a leader and the other leaders need to evaluate if you’re still fit for ministry. I have personal experience with this. When I attended Rock Canyon Assembly of God in Provo, a weekend came when I got some phone calls indicating that something really terrible had happened with our youth pastor and our music pastor. Everyone was so gloomy and secretive about it, I was seriously worried they had been killed in an accident or something. Sunday came around and Dean Jackson explained to the congregation very somberly that our youth pastor and music pastor had committed sins which made them no longer worthy to be leaders. While he was speaking the two men came in and kneeled at the altar and buried their faces in their arms. He did not say what they did, only that each had acted on his own. He said that they were welcome to attend our church as members if they wanted, but he could not see restoring them to leadership ever again. I don’t know for sure if their sin was sexual; most major, non-illegal sins are.

    I bawled and I bawled and I bawled. Everyone was crying. I’ve never cried so hard in church. I loved those men, and part of me felt betrayed and part of me wanted there to be healing and forgiveness and trust again. And at the same time, just a tiny part of me was relieved. I had been really worried that they were dead, and I was happy to have them alive-but-sinners. Sadly they only came by the church once or twice after that, and then I never saw them again.

    Anyways, my point is it’s not that evangelicals are okay with serious sin. We just don’t regulate it on the membership level like Latter-day Saints do.

    BTW, D&C 29:7, only God’s elect become Mormon? That sounds horribly Calvinist!

  3. My dad is of that opinion.

    He repeatedly tells me I’m wasting my time online dealing with the “hard cases” and thinks I’d be better served focusing on feeding my family and finding “the elect.” He feels that if people leave the Church, it’s regrettable, but just shows they weren’t “the elect.”

    Kind of a “don’t let door hit your butt on the way out” approach.

  4. Jared: first, excommunicate ≠ kick out. This openly promiscuous friend of yours would still be welcome to attend church, come to activities, have hometeachers, receive priesthood blessings, and probably some other things I’m not thinking about. You’re right that that level of involvement in the LDS church is not particularly satisfying to most, but it’s definitely not the same as being “kicked out.”

    As for Mormons being the elect, I highly doubt it. I believe that the elect are members of the Church of the Lamb of God. The LDS Church is merely a temporal tool God uses to bring people into fellowship with his eternal church. From that you can extrapolate my views on all other churches.

    Jack: that’s a heart-wrenching story. Would you say that evangelical ministries stress the importance of good works because good works stem from good belief? Otherwise, why not determine fitness for the ministry solely on the basis of orthodoxy?

  5. Seth ~ Your dad’s attitude reminds me of the story in Bridging the Divide where Greg Johnson was having lunch with an evangelical friend who asked whether he could honestly ever see Robert Millet converting. When Johnson answered no, he asked what the point was then, and Johnson said something like, “You’re the point. People who think there’s no point in interfaith friendships if conversion isn’t a possibility are the point.” (all a loose paraphrase without me checking the text)

    Brian ~ I would say that good works stem from the regenerating indwelling of the Holy Spirit after true conversion. A person who continues to sin after conversion and feels no remorse (like Jared’s example) probably isn’t saved.

    As for leaders, well, the Bible says there must be standards for leaders. They’re supposed to be examples to other believers.

    The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:1-7)

  6. I agree, that excommunication doesn’t really mean kick out. The church generally wants those excommunicated to remain in contact to re-up once they resolve their issues. however, you can’t speak, say a prayer, take the sacrament, etc. You can show up, you just can’t say or do anything. Not sure on the Home-teacher thing.

    However, there is a strong pressure that you have to appear to be on the straight and narrow to be active.

    Does anybody know of a case where a unmarried couple, living together would attend church regularly? Seems almost far-fetched.

    This is not necessarily a bad thing in the context of what the church is about. But exclusivity has its costs, one of which is a feeling of unjustified superiority. Another is a degree of alienation.

    “Elect” in this context seems to me to be “called to a particular job” rather than “better than everybody else” Mother Theresa, and any number of other great devoted people are elect in their own way. They are going to get saved in some respect and have an opportunity for exaltation. The question is, what is our role in this life. Some of us probably not meant to be Mormons.

  7. I don’t know, Jared, I get what you’re saying, but didn’t Christ come to heal the sinners, liberate the captive, and change us all from something bad to something holy?

    To me, this appears to be a classic example of us as a people “looking beyond the mark.” I think by making it so exclusive and so publicly embarrassing to commit certain types of sins, we are in grave danger of denying the very essence of the atonement.

    It makes the “worthy” say: “Hey, I’m not doing so bad; I’m in the club, right?” and in so doing, they neglect to acknowledge their utter dependence on the Savior. It makes the “unworthy” say: “Well, I’ll never be that good,” and they turn away from Christ as a result.

    It seems to me that it has the exact opposite effect of what we say we’re trying to accomplish, and that is to bring people to Christ.

    I don’t know how the “elect” verses tie in to all this, but I’m pretty sure it DOESN’T mean reject the sinners; otherwise, we’d all be rejected. You know?

  8. The second sentence in that second paragraph was poorly-written. Obviously, I’m not saying the church makes committing certain types of sins “exclusive.” I meant that by 1)–making the church so exclusive AND 2)–making certain types of sins so publicly embarrassing, we are in danger of denying the atonement.

  9. I think the problem is that the Mormon stuff about the elect is inconsistent with a lot of stuff about Jesus Christ’s mission and the atonement.

    Yes, I know you have some pet way to reconcile the two. But they need to be reconciled because they are contradictory.

  10. Jared, it of course varies from bishop to bishop and excommunicant to excommunicant, but I know for certain that an excommunicant can still participate in class discussions (read, ask/answer questions) and have hometeachers; i.e., there’s no written rule against it.

    “However, there is a strong pressure that you have to appear to be on the straight and narrow to be active.

    This is not necessarily a bad thing in the context of what the church is about.”

    I can’t for the life of me see anything good in that at all. What do you think the church is all about if you think this could be a good thing? I’m missing your point here…

    Kullervo: What do you think the “Mormon stuff about the elect” is?

  11. To me the church is to fulfill a particular mission, if you believe the leaders are inspired it is about building these strong family units, spreading the gospel, building temples, preparing for the second coming. Its not about saving humanity. At root, we believe in other mechanisms to do that. Human beings are going to get their experiences they need to grow and progress in their own contexts and they are going to be judged on those, they will get full and fair opportunities to hear and accept the true Gospel, and an opportunity at exaltation eventually, no matter what their religion. That is Mormonism. Mormons are called apart in the latter days to do something special as part of the plan, many will just be part of the crowd, some will be prime movers, others will sidetrack the Church from this goal. (this is how I make sense of it anyway.)

    I would admit that I may see Mormonism from a very different perspective than most. I don’t know if I am fully on board with the church program and wish that it would be something different. I don’t know if they are really on track with the stated goals or the scriptural goals. However, it is what it is. De-facto the Mormon Church is not about welcoming all of the sinners of the world, it has not really been about Zion as much is it could be. I am not in a position to influence (or judge) the direction the church is going, only judge whether I want to be a dutiful soldier in that army. I still have my reservations. . . but I haven’t taken off my uniform.

  12. Kullervo: What do you think the “Mormon stuff about the elect” is?

    What I think is not even relevant. Go back and read Jared’s post. I’m only referring to stuff other people are talking about here.

  13. Brian

    I said:

    “However, there is a strong pressure that you have to appear to be on the straight and narrow to be active.

    This is not necessarily a bad thing in the context of what the church is about.”

    To explain,

    If I am active in the church but have an “alternative” interpretation of the Word of Wisdom, I am naturally going to erode confidence in the official program. If I live and voice my view I am going to be pushed out of positions of influence and I won’t be allowed to teach If I keep my mouth shut about my interpretation, I can participate. In many cases the church encourages this sort of internal subterfuge when they say “You can believe anything you want, just don’t teach it”

    If you are trying to build a strong “army” of god to perform “a great and marvelous work” some diversity of opinion and lifestyle will be sacrificed in order to maintain unity.

    There are certainly drawbacks to this sort of program. Like that of the Army, the approach is basically anti-intellectual and somewhat exclusionary.

  14. Jared C:

    Does anybody know of a case where a unmarried couple, living together would attend church regularly? Seems almost far-fetched.

    One reason you’re unlikely to see that in the LDS church is that ours is a church that strongly discourages anonymity, whereas the anonymity is what attracts people to many of the larger evangelical churches.

    That might not be true in a smaller evangelical church. Just down the street from me, for example, is a Baptist church that probably has a Sunday morning attendance of 120 or so people, a bit smaller than my ward. My guess is that that are no regularly attending cohabitating couples there. But the situation may be different at the megachurch further down the street, which has about 1,100 attending over the course of two rock concerts followed by a sermon worship services each weekend.

    A second reason is our emphasis on a lay ministry. In most evangelical churches, I would assume, you aren’t going to be teaching a Sunday school class or hold any prominent position if you’re openly cohabitating either. And some evangelicals can be just as arbitrary as Mormons. A niece of mine was fired from her job as a part-time church secretary because she refused to quit dating (I’m talking about chaste dating) a young man who had recently been divorced. (She quit the job rather than quit dating the guy, and she ended up going to a different church. Not surprising.)

    All that said, one thing that many of the larger evangelical churches do quite well is establish small groups that allow people to openly discuss their shortcomings in an environment that doesn’t affect their standing in the church at large. People can get help without having a stigma attached, and that sort of thing is (from what I’ve seen) very rare in the LDS church.

    KL said:

    To me, this appears to be a classic example of us as a people “looking beyond the mark.” I think by making it so exclusive and so publicly embarrassing to commit certain types of sins, we are in grave danger of denying the very essence of the atonement. It makes the “worthy” say: “Hey, I’m not doing so bad; I’m in the club, right?” and in so doing, they neglect to acknowledge their utter dependence on the Savior.

    It happens, and the temptation to do that is definitely there. But I also know many, many who do not succumb that that temptation, and who are actually quite accepting of people who are struggling with sin of one kind or another. “Loving the sinner and hating the sin,” to use a phrase I’ve heard in both LDS and evangelical circles, is much easier to talk about in theory than to do in practice. It’s very easy to fall short.

    KL also said:

    It makes the “unworthy” say: “Well, I’ll never be that good,” and they turn away from Christ as a result.

    Sadly, that happens all too often, and I’m not sure what the best way is to tackle that problem.

  15. Does anybody know of a case where a unmarried couple, living together would attend church regularly? Seems almost far-fetched.

    Just in Mormonism, or in any church?

  16. But I also know many, many who do not succumb that that temptation, and who are actually quite accepting of people who are struggling with sin of one kind or another.

    Eric, I think the concern I’m talking about here actually has less to do with how those who are “in the club” treat others who are struggling–though that is obviously a huge consideration–and more to do with how we get a false sense of our own personal righteousness.

    I know there are many Mormons who understand how much they need the Savior, but I just get concerned that our worthiness culture might lead too many of us to think we’re doing okay on our own.

  17. I know there are many Mormons who understand how much they need the Savior, but I just get concerned that our worthiness culture might lead too many of us to think we’re doing okay on our own.

    I think vastly more Mormons are convinced that they are utterly forsaken because of their unworthiness than are sure they’re doing fine.

    But either position denies the power of Christ’s Atonement.

  18. My question is how close evangelical churches are to the Mormon church in this respect?

    Since I can’t necessarily verify or disprove Jared’s statements on the reaction of the LDS church to members who don’t behave according to doctrine, I can’t really make a comparison.

    However, I can share some experiences and observations.

    Experiences
    I have been extremely blessed to only have had first-hand experiences with two “evangelical” Churches in this regard. The first one is the Baptist church my spouse grew up in, the second with the non-denominational Bible Church we are members at.
    The first experience came when my wife, as she decided to divorce her first husband after 14 years of psychological abuse, her membership was removed. Since it was the Church body she actually grew up in, it was a very painful experience for her. She took the initiative and it seemed none of the elders, deacons and pastoral staff was willing to listen or intervene with counseling or advice. The only reaction was to remove her membership when she decided not to “rescind” unless there was pastoral guidance for her husband as well. This process took place during the entire 16 months she was separated, taking care of 4 kids with limited support of her husband, etc. Just to indicate it was a process over quite some time and she thought and prayed long and hard about it, not a knee-jerk reaction. Needless to say, it hurt her deeply that the only thing the Church seemed to be focused on was make her “rescind” her decision to leave her husband and not help or guide in making the marriage actually work. I only met my wife after she was already separated, so I came in somewhat on the tail end. But shared some of her grief.

    The second experience is similar to Jack’s. What surprised me was that it happened quite opposite to the first experience. There was a lot of compassion, crying, trying to reach out to the affected person, etc. The chairman of the elder board broke down when he had to deliver the news to the Body. Since it happened when we had been attending this Church for less than a year, we noticed the difference in approach. It has been one of the reasons we stayed.

    Observations
    I highlight these two examples to indicate that I think there’s a difference amongst the evangelical Churches in
    1) Whether or not they take action
    2) The manner in which they take action.

    Personally, I have the impression not enough evangelical Churches take action to start with. I agree that the example Jared gave, should generate some raised eyebrows in the Christian community these people are a part of. Too often we see Christians that don’t live any differently from the society we are a part of. I believe we are to live in the world, not necessarily be a part of it in everything we do. We are called to be set apart and if our lifestyles don’t reflect this, I think there’s a fundamental discrepancy. This is not faith by works but rather works by faith (or lack of works / action because of our faith in this particular case)

    And if we then go to the members of our Christian Body to exhort, correct and call them back, we are always to do it lovingly and gently. I’ve seen it happen aggressively or vengefully. Where is the love and compassion ? We should weep and mourn those that are no longer part of the Body of Christ because they have rejected their Savior ! And I don’t see enough of that.

    In summary, I think we lack accountability sometimes, and if we do have it, I’m not sure we are very good at it.

    Hope this can help.

    In Him
    Mick
    (aka Michael L from previous posts. Since I now am on WordPress as well, I guess I’ll keep using my logon)

  19. Is it possible Kullervo that the first group skews higher on internet participation than the second?

    I’m not sure which one is first and second, but I am basing this on personal real-life Mormon experience than internet interaction, for what it’s worth. I mean, granted, we’re not talking reliable data either way. It’s just my hunch, based on my experience.

  20. I can say that I have definitely known evangelicals who were living together before they got married. I don’t know what most pastors think in that situation. I imagine that they feel that the damage is done and it’s best to marry them as soon as possible so that they’re no longer living in sin.

    I also had an evangelical friend who was a former youth pastor, but he had reached a point in his life where he was hardly ever without a girlfriend who was also his sexual partner. I remember arguing with him about this on the phone, how he could claim to be a Christian and have so little regard for what Christianity says about sex and marriage. His justification? “It feels good.”

    He went to Europe that summer, had a live-in girlfriend there, and came back to the states with genital herpes. I feel like an ass for admitting this, but the first thing I thought when I learned that was, “I told you so.” I know, I know, I should have been compassionate and sympathetic, but that’s how I felt.

    Mick ~ The second experience is similar to Jack’s. What surprised me was that it happened quite opposite to the first experience. There was a lot of compassion, crying, trying to reach out to the affected person, etc.

    Personally I wanted nothing more than for there to be healing and to keep seeing R. and M. at church after this happened, and I believe that’s what Pastor Dean offered, but I don’t think they wanted to come. The few times they visited they were greeted with much hugging and tears, but they just stopped coming back.


  21. Does anybody know of a case where a unmarried couple, living together would attend church regularly? Seems almost far-fetched.

    Kullervo Aasked: Just in Mormonism, or in any church?

    I am, of course, speaking of Mormon church. I would say a good percentage of people I know who are sexually active outside of marriage also attend other churches with little or no guilt or discomfort about it.

  22. Jared ~ I have known single Mormons who were sexually active and regularly attending church. BYU students even.

    They just lied to their bishops about it and went about their days.

  23. I have known single Mormons who were sexually active and regularly attending church. BYU students even. They just lied to their bishops about it and went about their days.

    My daughter (who is single and a few years younger than Jack and lives in an area with a high LDS population) tells me that’s not uncommon, even for those who get married in the temple.

    In her opinion, lying about it is the worse sin.

  24. Yeah, there were even certain apartment complexes in Provo that had a reputation for those kind of people.

    I think I spent my last year at BYU in one of them.

  25. Seth ~ Yeah, there were even certain apartment complexes in Provo that had a reputation for those kind of people.

    I think I spent my last year at BYU in one of them.

    You know, that could be taken in all the wrong ways…

    I was told that if you live in one of “those apartments,” you just hang beads on your bedroom doorknob so that your roommates know not to come in. I had a rather annoying freshman roommate the last year I lived in Heritage Halls, so I started hanging beads on my bedroom door to see if that would make her leave me the hell alone, but she always came in anyways.

  26. Really, promiscuity among Mormon college kids? Who would believe it.

    Mormons are people like everyone else. Our culture probably produces marginally less promiscuity, but significantly more lying about it.

  27. Kullervo said: I think the problem is that the Mormon stuff about the elect is inconsistent with a lot of stuff about Jesus Christ’s mission and the atonement.

    I agree there are all kinds of contradictions within Mormonism and any other religion that believes in the Bible.

    The Bible represents a contradiction in itself: The God of all works through one obscure nation to bring about his great plan of Atonement for all mankind. Prophets only come to the Chosen people, who really didn’t behave a whole lot better than anybody else.

    Jesus himself only really came and ministered to the Jews in Judea.

    When you consider the history of humanity and the diversity of humanity this whole state of affairs appears as silly as believing that the small tribe of Mormons is the carrier of the only standard of truth on the earth regarding God and man.

    If you are going to swallow the Bible story I think you have to accept that God uses different nations, organizations, churches, etc. for different purposes. I think not at all inconsistent or contradictory to the Biblical story to think that the Mormons are a new “elect” group that will be used to prepare for the second coming. The only contradictions occur is when you assume that the “true” church must be the monolithic and universal “catholic” church, and that God makes no distinctions between groups and people. The entire Bible belies this understanding. God has always made striking distinctions on how he deals with different groups, nations, races, etc.

    Now this also brings out some troubling distinctions between how God acts on the large historical stage and how he acts in individual lives. Members of the “elect” group seem to get the real deal by pure historical accident (they were born in the right place or simply happened to be in the right place at the right time).

    Mormon understanding seems to make sense in this context, we believe that all of these competing and diverse groups of people have their own measure of inspiration and will all be saved and learn and grow from their experiences. They aren’t being condemned to hell, the Atonement will touch all, even the un-elect. The individual experiences of life are generally shared, people generally know right and wrong, and they share the same vices, propensities, sins, strength’s etc. People are people regardless of whether they are Mormon or otherwise.

    So, in my view, Mormons have a different calling than others, but they are generally the same as others. Being a Mormon has certain advantages and disadvantages in life and the hereafter compared to those who happened to be Muslim, or (heaven forbid) Evangelicals, but its really hard to make a cogent “Mormon” argument that we are definitively better off. we have to assume we are all pieces in God’s game. To further the analogy, only the nature of the game will tell whether a pawn is any better not any better off than a rook when the king is ultimately mated. Likewise, we simply don’t have enough information about how God is running things to really see how and why groups, nations, churches, roll the way they do.

    So, I don’t see any contradictions, but I think both Evangelicals and Mormons need to see the church a bit differently than they conventionally do.

  28. Our culture probably produces marginally less promiscuity, but significantly more lying about it.

    Um, if the anecdotal information about college students at BYU is accurate, I can say, unequivocally, that it doesn’t appear the Mormon culture produces marginally less promiscuity. At least if we are comparing BYU with the non-denominational Bible college I attended. I didn’t know of anything even remotely close to apartments where you hang beads on doorknobs…

    I didn’t personally know any singles who were sexually active. That’s not to say there weren’t, I just didn’t personally know any. I knew of two people who were struggling with homosexuality and later received counseling and help to overcome this.

    I agree with the comments that have been made about how it’s easier to “hide” in a bigger church, though. That’s very true. I think people who are living a sinful lifestyle are possibly drawn to a larger church for that very reason. (That is not to say that everyone who attends a larger church is living in sin.)

    I’m not a fan of the two-rock-concerts-and-then-a-sermon type of church either, Eric… 🙂

  29. I should also note that most of the students in my particular apartment I mentioned were going to Utah Valley State College over in Orem, and the nearby hair styling academy.

  30. I agree there are all kinds of contradictions within Mormonism and any other religion that believes in the Bible.

    [snip]

    So, I don’t see any contradictions…

    Buh?

  31. Well, Jessica, given Jack’s noted propensity to attract perverted Mormons, it doesn’t surprise me much that her ear might’ve been a bit closer to the ground to detect these kinds of illicit escapades. 🙂

    My experience tells me that wherever people are, there is also sexual immorality.

  32. Kullervo:

    My point is that, I don’t see anything contradictory between the idea of an “Elect” and the gospel of the Bible.

    You seemed to be saying that you can’t reconcile the Mormon elect idea with the Christianity of the Bible. I disagree.

    If you are saying the whole damn project is filled with confusion, well, I am with you.

    If you swallow the Bible, you are swallowing all kinds of confusing ideas and irreconcilable differences.

    So what I am saying is when you are already engaged in a full on mental gymnastics competition, the “elect” idea is not even a somersault.

  33. Katie ~ Well, Jessica, given Jack’s noted propensity to attract perverted Mormons,

    My reputation precedes me.

    But seriously, the other part of it is that I was a non-member at BYU. People are willing to tell inside-outsiders anything; we’ll understand the situation because of our close proximity to Mormonism and since we’re not loyal to LDS authority figures, we aren’t going to report our confidants.

    I do imagine that it probably happens at evangelical colleges, but have no personal experience with it.

  34. So what I am saying is when you are already engaged in a full on mental gymnastics competition, the “elect” idea is not even a somersault.

    But that’s what I was saying in the first place. Latent or patent, the contradictions are there. I know everyone has their own personal sweet mental gymnastics they use to reconcile the irreconcilable, and I said as much. But that doesn’t actually make the contradiction go away.

  35. People are willing to tell inside-outsiders anything; we’ll understand the situation because of our close proximity to Mormonism and since we’re not loyal to LDS authority figures, we aren’t going to report our confidants.

    Yeah, I can definitely see how people would feel more okay about telling inside-outsiders stuff.

    So here’s a rumor I heard and have always wondered about. Is it true that BYU students are supposed to rat each other out for honor code violations? ‘Cuz something about that ain’t right.

  36. I do imagine that it probably happens at evangelical colleges, but have no personal experience with it.

    Yes, I actually thought of one person between yesterday and today that I believe was sinning in this area. It didn’t come to mind until after I posted the comment. I’m sure there were others.

    Katie said, My experience tells me that wherever people are, there is also sexual immorality.

    Agreed.

  37. Kullervo,

    I think we might be on the same page for the most part, however, I am not sure which contradiction you are specifically talking about regarding the “elect” and the mission of Jesus.

    Judging from Gödel, even the most rigorous systems will either be incomplete or inconsistent. Theology is bound to be full of inconsistencies, especially if you try to be rigorous and complete about it.

    The question I have is what is the significance of the contradiction?

    I suppose my distilled argument for consistency of the “elect” doctrine with the bible is:

    1. The Bible describes how God has interacted with the World
    2. In the Bible, God sets apart nations, groups and organizations in the bible to do special tasks for the world and gives them special dispensations of knowledge and power.

    THEREFORE it is not inconsistent with the Bible for a modern group (such as the LDS church) to be set apart to do some special work for the world.

  38. Katie ~ Is it true that BYU students are supposed to rat each other out for honor code violations?

    Pretty much. Officially though, the Honor Code office says that you need to speak with the individual about what they’re doing wrong before you report them. You can see their statement on it here.

    There’s a lot of politicking that goes on with the HC office though. It has a notorious reputation among students on campus for being arbitrary and unfair, and I think it’s well-earned. I could give you examples but I really don’t want to say more about it than I already have. Suffer it to say that I had no intention of ever reporting someone to the HC office unless what they were doing was dangerous and/or illegal. Call it civil disobedience on my part if you want.

    Besides, there were LDS students coming to our evangelical Bible study who wanted to leave the church and formally convert, but ex-Mormons are absolutely not welcome at BYU, and they did not want to have to transfer to finish the last year or two of their education. I’m not crazy about that rule because it forces people in that situation to pretend to be believing Mormons when they’re not. If I actually kept the HC office’s rule about reporting violations, I’d be reporting those people for wanting to convert. Like I was gonna do that.

    As much as I may not have had any interest in reporting my fellow students, for my own part I was dead serious about keeping the promise I’d made to the school to live the Honor Code. I never had a “serious” violation and if I told you the times I actually broke the Honor Code you would snort and say “big deal.”

    I had an evangelical friend who got her belly button pierced while she was there. That was the closest I ever came to reporting someone. I really do think people should keep promises when they make them.

    Is that enough stories from the underbelly of BYU? Now ask me sometime about Gadianton missionaries…

  39. My view on the “Honor Code” is that if it’s mandatory, and enforced, it isn’t an “honor” code any more.

  40. Jack, I just read that link. I must say, I’ve never heard anyone refer to snitching as “encouragement” before. Very creative.

    By the way, what are Gadianton missionaries? Just misbehaving elders or something?

    Seth, good point.

    Seriously, though, major props to anyone who went to BYU and kept the Honor Code. That is an amazing display of personal integrity. I actually applied to BYU out of high school because my best friend was going, but I didn’t get in. I was pretty bugged about it for a while, until I realized that I’ve got such a rebellious streak, by the time I graduated I probably would have been running a combination brothel/cocaine lab out of my apartment just to prove I could.

  41. sorry—time to play cath-up

    Jared: “I still have my reservations. . . but I haven’t taken off my uniform.”

    Clever. I like it. If I understand you correctly, you feel that scripturally the Church has peace (i.e., Zion) as its main goal, but at least lately Church leaders seem focused on other things—things which probably are part of Zion, but are not themselves Zion. And you’d like to see more of a Zion focus.

    It would seem to me then that you would eschew a system that actively excludes nonconformists, as a peer pressure judgmental system does. I agree that for Zion to exist, in your words, “diversity of opinion and lifestyle will be sacrificed in order to maintain unity,” but I don’t think Zion should force the individual to make that sacrifice. Compulsion is not Zion, and I also don’t see how Zion can be established by simply excluding excluding excluding until only the “desirables” are left.

  42. I think eccentrics can actually be happier in an environment that encourages uniformity.

    Being different and noticed for it makes you feel special.

  43. “Our culture probably produces marginally less promiscuity…”

    If so, why isn’t that reflected in teen pregnancy rates?

  44. If so, why isn’t that reflected in teen pregnancy rates?

    Two possible explanations I see:

    1)–It doesn’t really produce less promiscuity.

    2)–Our promiscuous kids are so guilt-ridden/uneducated about it, they don’t use protection. (ANECDOTAL SUPPORT: I had a friend in college get pregnant because, even though she was sleeping with a guy regularly, they never used protection because that would mean they’d “premeditated” it instead of just being caught up in the moment–which somehow they felt was more okay. I have no idea how widespread this is, but it makes sense to me that it would be a factor.)

  45. “If so, why isn’t that reflected in teen pregnancy rates?”

    I thought it was reflected in teen pregnancy rates. Last news source I read stated that such rates are lower for Mormons than for others.

  46. Katie, Seth: that was my point: all data I’ve seen shows much lower teen pregnancy in UT than neighboring states—and even lower abortion. But if Mormon culture is only slightly less promiscuous than others, one would expect similar rates. Yes, I am conflating “Utah” with “Mormon Culture.”

  47. Teen pregnancy rates have little to do with promiscuity,

    Finland has ultra-low teen pregnancy rates and very high teen promiscuity. They just educate people about how to use contraception.

  48. I think Mormons probably are at least somewhat successful in promoting chastity because they have better checks, balances and social controls for it through personal interviews and urging people to shoot for a temple marriage.

    Yes, it’s possible to just have sex anyways and lie about it, but there is a lot more cultural stigma to being found out and not getting married in the temple.

    Plus you have all those awful licked cupcake and chewed gum analogies…

  49. KL — From what I’ve seen, the answer depends on which evangelicals. Certainly the standards (with the possible exception of masturbation) are basically identical.

  50. It depends, Katie. In general I would say that evangelicals don’t take it as seriously as Mormons do, not because we’re “okay” with people doing it, but merely because we don’t have a hierarchy of sins on a theological level. Dishonoring your parents, fornication, murder, they’re all sins which get you kicked out of heaven and needing God’s grace. I’ve never heard sexual sin described as “second to murder” by evangelicals.

    At evangelical youth conferences I frequently heard speakers who hadn’t saved sex for marriage and emphasized that it’s never too late to make that commitment and repentance makes you a virgin again in God’s eyes. That’s one of the reasons I dislike the stupid food analogies I hear about in LDS youth programs. To paraphrase something Robert Kirby said in his column on it, you need to get to the other half of that idiotic analogy, the part where repentance unchews the gum and makes it new again.

    If my daughter is still attending the LDS church as a teenager and I hear anything about licked cupcakes or chewed gum in her YW classes, there’s gonna be hell to pay.

  51. Certainly the standards (with the possible exception of masturbation) are basically identical.

    What a minute. Masturbation = okay for evangelicals?

    Repentance makes you a virgin again in God’s eyes.

    Hmmmm…interesting. And it probably doesn’t take Evs a year to repent of sexual sin, I’m guessing.

    If my daughter is still attending the LDS church as a teenager and I hear anything about licked cupcakes or chewed gum in her YW classes, there’s gonna be hell to pay.

    Okay, but what if the analogy has more to do with bananas or apples? 😉 (As an aside, my husband told me last week that he thought licked cupcakes was a perfectly fine analogy. We had it out over that one, to put in mildly.)

  52. Katie ~ What a minute. Masturbation = okay for evangelicals?

    It’s debated. Here is a 22-page thread at TheologyWeb chock full of people arguing about it. The Bible never explicitly condemns it; it condemns lust, but some people argue that masturbation can be done without lusting, and if you’re married and you’re thinking about your spouse while doing it, it’s hard for the lust argument to hold.

    And it probably doesn’t take Evs a year to repent of sexual sin, I’m guessing.

    I don’t see why it would. Seriously, who decides this stuff? Jesus didn’t make Paul wait a year after throwing Christians in prison and approving their execution before he could be an apostle, and that sounds a lot more serious to me than sexual sin.

    Ever see the film version of Jack Weyland’s Charly? I haven’t read the book and the movie was hit-and-miss for me, but I did like how it covered Sam’s struggle to accept that baptism and repentance really had made Charly a new person and erased her past sexual sins. It seems to me like the idea exists in the LDS church’s doctrine, but culturally it isn’t emphasized very well and people who mess up sexually really are seen as “used goods” regardless of repentance. It’s certainly something Mormons could do better.

    As an aside, my husband told me last week that he thought licked cupcakes was a perfectly fine analogy. We had it out over that one, to put in mildly.

    I hope this fight ended with you saying (with a dramatic flair), “Well, we’ll see if you ever get your cupcake licked again!”

  53. Katie

    Just noticed Jack jumping on this one. I’m close enough to the same opinion.

    It’s hard to make these general statements like Wait a minute. Masturbation = okay for evangelicals?

    There’s no common hierarchical organization that would dictate a doctrine like this. Roman Catholics tend to condemn it.
    Jack’s comment is true, but in some evangelical environments it’s frowned upon, in others it’s not. As Jack said, there’s little in the Bible about it.

    And it probably doesn’t take Evs a year to repent of sexual sin, I’m guessing.

    And who said how long one needs to repent for it to stick ? 😉

    Finally.. comparing anyone to a cupcake is denigrating…. unless you dress in a little paper tutu and have some kind of frosting on your head. And if you do… you’re in way more serious trouble than I thought. Nothing we say here is going to be of any help.. 😎

    In Him
    Mick

  54. I think any reference to “a year” is probably referring to a specific LDS bishop’s own style in handling such cases. Other bishops don’t make you wait that long. Some are even cool with as little as a month. Just long enough to make sure the issue is really put to rest and not just an artificial sort of repentance.

    Either way, I think its an issue that could stand a little less harshness in ecclesiastical response.

  55. Seriously, who decides this stuff?

    Jesus, through the use of his batpho com-badge communicators with SLC HQ.

    Yes, I saw Charly. It was mostly miss for me, I’ll confess. 🙂 I appreciated the part you mentioned, though the fact that it even needed to be said bugged me. It’s like the seminary video when it comes out in a prenuptial TR interview that the girl had gotten a little too friendly with a previous boyfriend. So the fiance dumps her. Moral of the story: If you fool around, you don’t deserve love.

    Okay, one more question. If you commit sexual sin as a Mormon, you get kicked out–or at least disciplined (per the original point of this thread). If you’re an Evangelical and you mess up, are you un-saved?

  56. I hope this fight ended with you saying (with a dramatic flair), “Well, we’ll see if you ever get your cupcake licked again!”

    In fact, Jack, I think that’s exactly what I said.

    Needless to say, I won. 😉

  57. Seth ~ Isn’t there an official rule that if there’s any sexual transgression before marriage, a couple has to wait a year before they can get sealed in the temple? Or is the length of time determined by the bishop?

    Katie ~ It’s like the seminary video when it comes out in a prenuptial TR interview that the girl had gotten a little too friendly with a previous boyfriend. So the fiance dumps her.

    Oh hell no. Is there actually such a seminary video? And is it just me or are all these analogies and illustrations awfully focused on getting the woman to make sure she doesn’t spoil herself with little attention on the guy?

    I’ll have to see if I can find my copy of Boy Meets Girl by Josh Harris and type up some of the excerpts on when he was dating his wife and learned that she’d had so many sexual partners before she became a Christian. It’s really a touching chapter in which Harris argues that Christians who do remain virgins until they are married have no right to judge the people who don’t. Sin is sin and we’re all sinners, and the work Jesus did on the cross was big enough to wash away all sin.

    My own attitude was always that if I fell in love with a guy who’d had sex, and he’d repented and remained chaste ever since, of course I would take him. Who am I to say, “Oh, you committed a sin I’ve never committed, even though I’ve committed lots of other sins, so you’re not good enough for me. See ya.” That’s a stupid mentality. Forgiven is forgiven and it’s as if it didn’t happen in God’s eyes.

    I should warn you though, while I’m pretty satisfied with the evangelical attitude on sex and repentance and we don’t have any awful youth videos about that, we do have awful youth videos on other topics. My least favorite is the one where a group of high school students gets into a car wreck and they all die, and the Christian kid gets to go to heaven, and all the other kids get sent to hell (on a freight elevator with nasty red lights) wailing, “WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL US ABOUT JESUS???”

  58. Oh hell no. Is there actually such a seminary video?

    I just spent a few minutes trying to find it on YouTube so you could watch it for yourself, but, alas, I came up empty. What a bummer. I think you might love it–and by love it I mean you would probably hate it so much that you love it. (That is, if you’re anything like me and have a thing for awful movies.)

    The segment is called called “Godly Sorrow” and it’s from the New Testament videos. You should seriously try and check it out from your husband’s ward’s video library; I’m sure they’d let you.

    While you’re at it, watch Pioneers in Petticoats from The Worth of Souls collection. This one teaches that if you dress immodestly, you’re just asking to get raped–and, thus, happens to be my #2 favorite church movie of all time (second only to Saturday’s Warrior, which will never be surpassed by anything at any time, ever).

    Although I must say, the movie with the kids going to hell on a freight elevator sounds pretty damn awesome.

  59. I’ve never seen that video, but here’s how it ends in my mind: the very wise and faithful bishop learns of the boyfriend’s cowardly betrayal of his fiance and decides to pay him a “visit.” As it turns out, this particular bishop is a fan of Brazilian jiu-jitsu; he rips off one of the loser-jerk’s arms and beats him with it until both of them pass out. When the dumped girlfriend finds out, she rushes to her ex-boyfriend’s aid and nurses him back to health. When he asks why she helped him, she responds,

    I used to think that “I love you” meant finding someone who is exactly what you want and then keeping them for yourself. Then I did something that made me feel sad and unworthy to even think of God. My bishop helped me understand that God still loves me—and at first I was confused, because I thought I didn’t deserve God’s love. But I prayed anyway, and before I could even beg for forgiveness (and I was determined to beg), the Lord comforted me and let me know that I was forgiven. But I had to ask, “Lord, how is this so? How can you still love me?” and he answered saying, “Because I’m not a selfish prick.”

  60. Brian, if Polygamous Jesus: Assassin Wives of Fury ever becomes popular enough to be remade into a video game…you should totally write the dialogue.

  61. KL asked:

    If you’re an Evangelical and you mess up, are you un-saved?

    The basic answer is no, but there are two schools of thought in evangelical circles (I’m oversimplifying a lot, but oh well).

    One is the Calvinist school of thought, which says that “once saved, always saved.” So once you’re saved, the grace of God is such that nothing you can do can unsave you. You could rape children and commit mass murder, and you’ll still saved. (As a practical matter, though, Calvinists would say that if you do such things you were never saved in the first place. It’s a convenient out.)

    The other view is the Arminian view, which says that you have free will and can, in essence, decide to lose your salvation. Just as one becomes saved by committing one’s life to Christ, one can uncommit one’s life and God isn’t going to stop you.

    From what I’ve seen, those who take the Arminian view (which has some similarities to the LDS view) would not say that even a serious sin by itself would be enough to “unsave” a person. The atonement and the grace of God still cover sins that are committed after one is saved, even serious sins, although a continued life of intentional transgression might, not because God doesn’t forgive the sin, but because it would suggest that a person is no longer making the commitment to follow Christ.

  62. BJM said:

    … we do have awful youth videos on other topics. My least favorite is the one where a group of high school students gets into a car wreck and they all die, and the Christian kid gets to go to heaven, and all the other kids get sent to hell (on a freight elevator with nasty red lights) wailing, “WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL US ABOUT JESUS???”

    One film I remember from way, way back when is the dreadful 1972 A Thief in the Night, basically designed to scare people into becoming Christians. It was even worse, if that’s possible, than the similarly themed Left Behind.

    I never did think that fear was an appropriate motivator for encouraging someone to become a Christian. It was just that approach that turned me off to evangelicalism for a long time.

    Until I read Jack’s post, I thought that evangelicals had gotten away from that sort of thinking. Actually, I suspect, most have. I hope that film was an aberration.

    One of the advantages of not growing up LDS is that I’ve never seen the dreadful films I’ve heard about (or, more commonly, read about). Maybe I should see if they’re available at Netflix.

  63. Until I read Jack’s post, I thought that evangelicals had gotten away from that sort of thinking.

    What about Ray Comfort’s Way of the Master? Would you say that’s more about fear or about guilt? Or just, you know, bad logic?

  64. Katie ~ If you’re an Evangelical and you mess up, are you un-saved?

    Sorry, I forgot to answer this earlier, but I think Eric’s answer on the issue is actually pretty fair. Coming from the Arminian camp, I don’t think one or two transgressions in this department mean that a person is not saved; I do think a consistent pattern of it is probably evidence that the person was either never saved or has rejected salvation.

    BTW, Eric, I can’t say how much I appreciate how fair your are to your old belief system. I was ranting on Todd’s blog the other day about how much ex-Mormons-turned-evangelical and ex-evangelicals-turned-Mormon tend to piss me off when they make dumb comments about their old religion, but that’s never been you. So thank you.

    Eric ~ One film I remember from way, way back when is the dreadful 1972 A Thief in the Night, basically designed to scare people into becoming Christians. It was even worse, if that’s possible, than the similarly themed Left Behind.

    You know, I have an embarrassing confession to make.

    I used to be a mildly enthusiastic fan of Left Behind, once upon a time.

    I got better.

    I never got over Frank Peretti though. I still like his books because they have deliciously morbid lines in them like, “Well, we only found half of him.” And you blink for a second and look at the cover again to make sure it’s a Christian book you’re reading.

    Until I read Jack’s post, I thought that evangelicals had gotten away from that sort of thinking. Actually, I suspect, most have. I hope that film was an aberration.

    I think it was. Most of the evangelicals I know aren’t into fear and hellfire preaching.

    Then again, there is Kirk Cameron…

    Kullervo ~ What about Ray Comfort’s Way of the Master?

    Who and what is this?

  65. Katie: “Polygamous Jesus: Assassin Wives of Fury”

    This comment is many levels of goodness. First, I want a t-shirt of that—or, more truthfully, I want to see someone wearing a t-shirt of that, ’cause I don’t have the guts to wear it. Second, I love the possibility that “Assassin Wives of Fury” is just one installment in a series about Polygamous Jesus. Let me guess one of the sequels: “Polygamous Jesus: Quorum of the Twelve Apostates.”

  66. Thanks for the clarification, Eric and Jack.

    I used to be a mildly enthusiastic fan of Left Behind, once upon a time.

    I got better.

    Oh no no no. One does not “get better” from enthusiastic fandom for Left Behind. It is SO GOOD on so very many levels. Like Kirk Cameron’s special tutorial on how to witness after Left Behind Part 2 on DVD. Or when the Russian anti-Christ’s face melts. Or how they’re sending a whole shipment of contraband Bibles to Utah. Seriously, the fact that you just publicly denied Left Behind has me questioning the state of your everlasting soul.

    I want a t-shirt of that.

    Okay, so I totally considered creating a Polygamous Jesus: Assassin Wives of Fury logo a couple weeks ago (I’m in marketing and all). But I didn’t.

  67. Katie ~ My favorite part in the movie is the part where Kirk Cameron converts to Christianity in a bathroom stall before he goes in to face the anti-Christ.

    You remember Jessica’s post on Kirk Cameron not kissing other women for his acting? I recall that there’s a part in Left Behind where Chelsea Noble (Kirk Cameron’s wife) playing flight attendant Hattie Durham makes out with pilot Rayford Steele. Now I’m curious to watch the scene again to see if she actually kissed the actor or if they used a double in some way or another.

    But alas, I only own Left Behind on VHS and my daughter broke our VCR the other day.

    Kullervo ~ If he’s associated with Kirk Cameron, I already hate him.

    I wonder if Way of the Master are the people who put up that ridiculous http://www.tenthousanddollaroffer.com site which Eric D. Snider did such a good job making fun of.

  68. Jack, the bathroom conversion is a real good part. I also like how everyone’s clothes get left behind–like whole outfits just sitting in vehicles and stuff. Makes me happy.

    I, too, would be very curious to find out if Chelsea Noble really kissed the pilot dude. Perhaps I’ll watch it again this week and let you know. Or…perhaps I’ll burn it for you and send it to you so you don’t have to be without a working copy for a moment longer. (Would it be extra wrong to pirate a religious movie?)

    A couple years ago, my husband and I created this tradition called “Bad Mormon/Evangelical Movie Sunday,” where every so often we invite tons of people over and watch bad religious movies. I would invite everyone here to come to our next one if I could. We had a Fireproof party last week. Words cannot express how much I liked it.

  69. Would it be extra wrong to pirate a religious movie?

    I don’t think it’s pirating if I already own the movie in another format, which I do. Or at least it’s close enough to not-pirating that I don’t care.

    I have Facing the Giants to watch tonight, and I just saw that Frank Peretti’s House (made by the same folks who gave us the ghastly Thr3e) is on DVD now, so I’ve had to move that to the top of my Netflix queue past Saturday’s Warrior. I’ll let you know how terribad they are.

  70. Wow – my ears must have been burning… 🙂 While ya’ll were over here talking about my GREAT post on Kirk I just wrote another one. You would not believe how many hits I get on my blog because I have a post on Kirk Cameron. It’s the most viewed post I have!

    So, Jack, despite your embarrassment, apparently not everyone shares your views… 🙂 They have not all deserted the lovable child star from Growing Pains.

    BTW, I love the bathroom conversion scene myself. Other parts of the movie were very cheesy.

    Interesting point about Chelsea Noble – now I’m curious, too, whether she kissed that other dude.

  71. Funny coincidence, Jessica. I know what you mean about celebrities and getting tons of hits. My most-viewed posts ever have to do with Sarah Palin, and I got a ton of hits wondering if she was Mormon, too (“No, Sarah Palin is not Mormon“) back when McCain first picked her. Seems that every time there’s a clean-cut religious famous person out there people start wondering if s/he’s Mormon.

  72. So, something everyone here seems to be taking for granted is that sex before marriage is a sin. Why? Does it say somewhere in the Bible (or BoM) that I am unaware of that “having sexual relations outside of the bonds of a lawful marriage by the state is BAD”?

    I mean, of course there are risks and issues and stuff. And it’s clear why it’s a sin in the LDS Church (what with prophecies and stuff). But why do Evangelicals care? Who decided that it was so bad?

  73. There’s probably dozens of passages in the New Testament condemning “sexually immoral” people, katyjane (Greek: πόρνος for a sexually immoral person and πορνεία for sexual immorality, obviously the Greek root for our English pornography). A few examples (ESV):

    Hebrews 13:4 ~ Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

    1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ~ Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

    Exodus 22:16 ~ If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife. — This one clearly shows that the Israelites understood sex as an act of marriage so that if fornication happened, the best thing to be done was to get married. Of course I don’t think that’s the best course of action for fornication these days, and can explain why if anyone needs it.

  74. BJM said:

    BTW, Eric, I can’t say how much I appreciate how fair your are to your old belief system.

    I have found you fair also (Tim too). Once I started seriously looking into the Church umpteen years ago, it took very, very little research to realize that the antis either didn’t know what they were talking about and/or were intentionally misleading. So it’s refreshing to interact with non-LDS Christians who don’t do that.

    Oh, and I’m not sure how much I discarded an old belief system when I joined the Church. There were a number of evangelical tenets I long had difficulty with. In fact, the last non-LDS church I attended regularly, I did so for about seven years, went every Sunday, donated money — and intentionally never became a member. I just couldn’t say I agreed with its statement of faith, even though I agreed with probably 90 percent of it (and still do).

    As I started looking into the Church, I found that much of what it taught I already believed. And some core beliefs of mine (top on the list being that salvation is a process rather than an event), although not necessarily flat-out contradictory to evangelicalism, fit in much, much better with LDS teaching. It just wasn’t that big of a leap, and I took then-President Hinckley at his word when he said that the Church was asking to add to what we already have rather than throw out what we already have that is good.

    So I really have no bone to pick with evangelicals or other non-LDS Christians. Our society is generally better off because of them, and we share a common belief in the saving work of Christ. I do think that 21st-century American evangelicalism has more than its share of quirks and such, but I’d say the same about the church I belong to.

  75. There’s probably dozens of passages in the New Testament condemning “sexually immoral” people, katyjane (Greek: πόρνος for a sexually immoral person and πορνεία for sexual immorality, obviously the Greek root for our English pornography).

    But does sex before (or totally without) marriage necessarily equate to sexual immorality? Adultery, fine. Infidelity, fine. But sex within a committed relationship? I don’t see why a purely legal act like marriage would change something from wiched impurity to holy sancitiy in the eyes of the supreme being. It seems awfully arbitrary, and I utterly reject the notion of an arbitrary supreme being.

  76. Okay, ladies, I watched the opening of Left Behind again today (it’s on Google Video). The camera cuts just before Hattie and Rayford’s lips touch. So it looks like Chelsea Noble probably doesn’t kiss other male actors, either.

    I’m glad we’ve settled that.

    Kullervo ~ πορνεία was understood as referring to fornication among other types of sex acts; in fact, the thought just occurred to me that πορνεία is probably the root for fornication with the “f” sound having been swapped in for the “p” sound somewhere along the line, but I digress. Here’s Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament by F. Wilbur Gingrich:

    πορνεία, ας, ἡ unchastity, prostitution, fornication, of various kinds of unlawful sexual intercourse.

    Here’s Liddell-Scott for the classical Greek definition:

    πορνεία, ἡ, fornication, prostitution

    Insisting that Paul and other biblical writers don’t have committed pre-marital sex in mind when they condemn πορνεία kind of renders the biblical writers unable to condemn it, since that was their word for fornication even if it had other definitions. Passages like 1 Cor. 6:9-10 condemn πορνεία in addition to adultery, while other passages condemn πορνεία in addition to prostitution, so what else could it mean?

    But sex within a committed relationship? I don’t see why a purely legal act like marriage would change something from wiched impurity to holy sancitiy in the eyes of the supreme being.

    I don’t think God intends marriage to be a “purely legal” act, but I’m not sure I follow what you’re saying. You think sex should be okay so long as the couple truly loves each other, even if they aren’t ready for a lifetime commitment? What about open marriages? Feel free to elaborate, I’m genuinely curious.

  77. No, I just think it’s completely ridiculous for a moral system to damn an act if it is done pre-contractually and celebrate its beauty if it is done post-contractually. Especially since the contract doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with God or religion. I mean, I can have sex with my fiancee and God is angry, and then we can go to the county courthouse and have sex and God approves? Really? That’s dumb. God hates or loves the exact same act depending on whether or not a (potentially) purely civil arrangement has been completed?

    Especially since I am under the impression that the Church wasn;t in the marriage business at all for a long time–the Church wasn’t blessing marriages in Paul’s time. So wTF.

  78. I think Kullervo has a good point, how much is the sexual morality of the Bible (and the Church) simply social control measures. Rules and laws are the natural way to keep the herd in line, but ultimately they are arbitrary. Sort of like the 8 year old age of accountability.

    Another thought ( at the risk of raising the ire of Rick Hurd) If Joseph was having as much sex as alleged with multiple women and other men’s wives, AND was still a prophet, it seems that God doesn’t really worry so much about sexual promiscuity per se, did he?

    I think that Joseph Smith’s views of marriage and sex seem to be a bit more realistic, if unorthodox than the traditional romantic/victorian view of sex and marriage that dominates current Christian morality.

  79. I agree that it can appear arbitrary in the example Kullervo uses, but I think no matter where you draw the line, similar examples will follow. And that is the problem. You either have to draw the line somewhere or you have to say all types of sex with whomever is okay so long as both parties consent. The former is going to look awfully arbitrary in some cases and the latter is going to create all kinds of problems.

    If you disagree, tell me where you think the line should be drawn and I’ll give you some examples of how that’s arbitrary. Limiting sex to marriage is the simplest solution in my view.

    If Joseph was having as much sex as alleged with multiple women and other men’s wives, AND was still a prophet, it seems that God doesn’t really worry so much about sexual promiscuity per se, did he?

    That’s kind of Mormonism’s problem, and one of the reasons I don’t think Smith was a prophet. I think it’s no coincidence that so many charismatic leaders of false religions wind up getting sexually involved with their followers. It seems to be the bane of powerful men (and a few powerful women).

    Go ahead, bring up King David. I know someone wants to.

  80. Jack asked: “Jared ~ Almost as incongruous as Christian “death”-metal bands.

    And where do Christian punk rock and ska bands fall on your scale? You’d better answer that question carefully…”

    If its good music I can hang. Unfortunately, for some reason Punk (and rock) loses some of its edge when you are not rebelling against authority (including religious).

    I can dig Ska better with a religious bent. it doesn’t really go against the grain of the energy behind the music.

  81. And that is the problem. You either have to draw the line somewhere or you have to say all types of sex with whomever is okay so long as both parties consent. The former is going to look awfully arbitrary in some cases and the latter is going to create all kinds of problems.

    I think this is a false dichotomy. And even if not, do you really think the supreme being is going to issue an arbitrary moral code that splits hairs based on whether a purely civil arrangement has or has not been made?

  82. Kullervo ~ do you really think the supreme being is going to issue an arbitrary moral code that splits hairs based on whether a purely civil arrangement has or has not been made?

    Letter of the law and spirit of the law, Kullervo.

    The spirit of the law is that God intends sex to be enjoyed by two people who have made a loving and lifetime covenant with one another. The letter of the law is legal marriage.

    There are scenarios I can conceive of where God would not condemn two people who have sex outside of legal marriage in the context of a lifetime commitment to each other. Exodus 22:16 is one example where God seems to say, “You had sex early? Get married and I’ll let it slide.” Common law marriages might also qualify.

    Likewise, I think it’s a bad idea for couples who are legally separated but headed for divorce to have sex. The law still says they’re husband and wife but the lifetime covenant to each other and to God is no longer there. And we’ve all heard urban legends about BYU students driving down to Vegas for a quickie wedding so that they can have sex within marriage and then get it annulled, probably just an urban legend but who knows. Obviously that’s not what God intended.

    People need something as a guideline so legal marriage is what’s prescribed, but I can see exceptions in both ways.

  83. The camera cuts just before Hattie and Rayford’s lips touch. So it looks like Chelsea Noble probably doesn’t kiss other male actors, either.

    I’m glad I know this, because I actually lost sleep over it last night.

    Especially since I am under the impression that the Church wasn;t in the marriage business at all for a long time–the Church wasn’t blessing marriages in Paul’s time. So wTF.

    Really? But there was still legal marriage…right?

    I agree with Jack that the spirit of the law is paramount–and would add that marriage is the ultimate fulfillment of the spirit of the law. In other words, in the vast majority of cases, if you’re living the spirit of the law, it will inevitably lead you to marriage before sex. If you’re not willing to get married and enter into that lifetime covenant before God and the law, especially given the relative lack of expense and ease with which marriage can be performed in our modern society, that probably says something about the level of your commitment.

    There may be societies and situations that are exceptional, but I’d wager they are very few and far between.

  84. Jack on On Joseph’s attitude toward sex:
    “That’s kind of Mormonism’s problem, and one of the reasons I don’t think Smith was a prophet. ”

    My point is that I don’t think that its a problem.

    Joseph reasoned that as long as he took care of his wives, he was good to go. I think that is solid reasoning on a lot of levels.

    You could think up any number of good rules regarding sex that don’t include marriage.

    An example- Kant’s categorical imperative.

  85. “There may be societies and situations that are exceptional, but I’d wager they are very few and far between.”

    Most societies don’t see marriage in the same way that contemporary Americans see marriage.

    Most of us would be pretty appalled by how those early Christians/Jews treated their wives and looked on marriage and sex.

    And most of them would be appalled by how we view marriage.

  86. Jack on On Joseph’s attitude toward sex:
    “That’s kind of Mormonism’s problem, and one of the reasons I don’t think Smith was a prophet. ”

    My point is that I don’t think that its a problem.

    So here’s what I’m hearing:

    In order to accept JS as a prophet, you have to completely loosen your interpretation of sexual morality.

    At the same time, modern Mormonism is completely, almost unforgivingly, rigid on this point.

    Huh?

  87. These are my feelings on Joseph Smith’s sexuality: I’m a woman. If my husband is having sex with someone I’m not aware of, it’s adultery. I don’t care if he thinks an angel with a flaming sword told him to do it and he performed a wedding ceremony to the other woman and told himself it was polygamy. Having sex with a woman your wife doesn’t know about is adultery.

    Yeah, that’s harsh. But you will never, ever convince me otherwise.

    How did we get off on this topic again? Blah, I gotta run.

  88. This probably qualifies as an unwanted tangent, but you might be surprised how many stories we heard in my old government office about elderly couples who had to legally divorce in order to retain their Medicare/Social Security benefits so that they could pay for food and medication.

    Without getting into a discussion of senior citizen sexual activity, I do think it casts an interesting light on the arbitrary nature of civil marriage laws.

  89. Katie,

    I agree that the Joseph’s sexuality vs. the current attitude of the Church is palpably ironic.

    But I disagree that Mormonism is unforgivingly rigid on sexual immorality

    Jack,

    Regarding adultery.

    I agree, my point is that depending on the circumstances, the Wife might care more than God. My guess is that wives don’t forgive adultery as easily as God.

  90. Katie,

    I don’t think you have to loosen your definition of sexual immorality, I just think you have to re-think how critical those rules are vs. other rules.

    If you treat you are faithful to your wife, but treat her like shit, is that really better than treating her really well but having a mistress out of weakness or temptation.

    Having a mistress will get you kicked out, being a total emotionally abusive dick won’t hardly raise eyebrows.

  91. It blows my mind that you guys don’t seem to see the problem with God drawing the line between sin and sanctification on the presence or absence of a civil arrangement.

    Honestly, I think you have internalized the norm of “sex outside of marriage is wrong” so deeply that even if I could, I don’t know, demonstrate that God invented it by throwing a dart at a board or something, you would still find a way to justify it as central to God’s plan.

    Without getting into a discussion of senior citizen sexual activity, I do think it casts an interesting light on the arbitrary nature of civil marriage laws.

    This is exactly the kind of thing I am talking about. Maybe it’s that (excepting Seth and I think Jared) as laypeople regarding the law, the concept of law is kind of a black box to most of you, and particularly as Evangelical Christians your conception of human law is contaminated with a lot of natural law and eternal law concepts, but seriously, trust me when I tell you that most of what we call “law” is arbitrary, convoluted, unreliable, unjust, and rarely justifiable without doing the cruelest torture to rational thought. I exaggerate a bit, but only a bit: we accuse Mormons of having to do mental gymnastics to justify their religious beliefs to themselves, but it’s nothing compared to what happens in courtrooms and law journals.

    The idea that anything of eternal import could possibly hang on a person’s status under human law is ludicrous.

  92. Another interesting anecdote…

    We read a contracts case my first year of law school that dealt with a man who was married, disappeared on his first wife (but never bothered to change his will), got married again, and then died. The court essentially decided that no matter how good-faith the second marriage was in the second wife’s eyes, it wasn’t legal, and she didn’t get anything from his estate.

    (And thus why I will never, ever practice family law.)

    So Kullervo, based on personal experience and from horror stories that I’ve seen, I am sympathetic to your point. I don’t have the scriptural chops to back up my thoughts on this, but I do think something has to be accounted for with respect to the sheer inconsistency in man-made law.

  93. Kullervo, for all of your picking apart at what I believe God desires regarding sex and marriage, you still haven’t put forth what you believe about it. Anytime you feel like it.

  94. So, what you guys are saying is that because the line is arbitrary as to where we can define something as “moral” or “immoral”… someone (who?) defined the arbitrary line as “after being legally and lawfully wed”? And you believe that God is concerned with whether Maryland recognizes my marriage vows?

    What if, instead, we tried on an idea that people–Christians–being rational thinkers (ideally), and having a relationship with Jesus (in theory), would be able to make the decisions prayerfully–between them and God–without fear that they will be judged for their actions or condemned for having a different response to prayer than the person next to them? Perhaps it’s a bit postmodern emergent of me, but shouldn’t the focus be on our relationship with God?

    An analogy: When I left the LDS Church, I did so because I received an answer to prayer that told me, essentially, that the LDS Church was not where I was supposed to be. This came from the same “still small voice” that told me to join the Church in the first place. However, when I tried to explain that to my MIL, I was told that Satan is very convincing, and that clearly God would not answer my prayer that way. Um, really? Who the heck are ANY of us to say what God can or cannot, or will or will not do?

    As opposed to just blindly assuming that God would never answer a prayer a certain way, or that there is only one way, I instead choose to focus on my relationship with God and follow that where it leads me.

    And for the people who are not capable of doing that for whatever reason–developing a relationship with God and following what feels right based on that–then does having arbitrary rules set up make them more Christian? Or just more blind sheep? If God gives us the power to exercise free will, why don’t we allow ourselves the same freedom?

    Maybe we need a bunch of blind sheep to pay the rent on the building?

    Plus, I think that a lot of Paul’s teachings were much stricter and more rigid than it seemed like Jesus’s were. Jesus seemed to teach ideas to follow, principles to obey, moral codes. Paul seems to impose rules to stay within those moral codes. Helpful? Sure. But it is also very Pharisee-like, too.

  95. BJM said:

    Most of us would be pretty appalled by how those early Christians/Jews treated their wives and looked on marriage and sex.

    I think that’s one reason Paul said that in Christ there is no male nor female, a pretty radical thing to say at the time. The same goes for his admonition for husbands to love their wives, and the idea that husbands and wives are to submit to each other.

  96. Jared said, Regarding adultery.

    I agree, my point is that depending on the circumstances, the Wife might care more than God. My guess is that wives don’t forgive adultery as easily as God.

    While I agree that God is certainly ready and willing to forgive all sin, I don’t think he cares less about it than the wife…

    I say this because of what the scriptures have to say about God’s view on marriage. I wrote this comment for this topic on my blog the other day so sorry if you read both blogs, but here it is again for those who don’t read my blog:

    In the beginning, God’s plan for marriage was thus:

    “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24)

    In the NT, God’s ideal for marriage (as to be exemplified in the lives of the leaders) was thus:

    “a bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife” (I Tim. 3:2)

    “if any be blameless, the husband of one wife” (Titus 1:6)

    In speaking of divorce, Jesus gave God’s original plan on the sacred relationship between one man and one woman:

    “The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.” (Matthew 19:3-11)

    Jesus’ entire argument rested on the foundation of the two becoming one flesh as God’s design from the beginning. Polygamy (and adultery) falls completely outside this picture.

  97. Could somebody please put this business about committing adultery by marrying a divorced woman into context for me? Or at least direct me to a satisfying answer? Because while I understand that divorce is not part of the master plan, I have always had a lot of trouble with the idea that a woman left by her husband is simply out of luck.

    And does that mean that women who remarry after their husband divorces them are living an “alternative” lifestyle in the eyes of their church (whether evangelical or LDS)?

    (I will qualify this question by saying that neither of the translations that I’m looking at–The Message and the NRSV–have the bit about “whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery,” so I could be misreading this.)

  98. Whitney ~ I think you would find this post by C. Michael Patton over at Parchment and Pen to be helpful.

    @ the topic: as I said above, I think it is the spirit of the law that is in view, not the letter. There are a few scenarios where I can see a couple being technically legally unmarried and still right with God in their relationship and other scenarios where a couple could be legally married and not right with God in their sex life. I believe it’s the lifetime covenant to each other and God that counts.

  99. If you treat you are faithful to your wife, but treat her like shit, is that really better than treating her really well but having a mistress out of weakness or temptation.

    I dunno, Jared, I get what you’re saying here…but if my husband took a mistress I’m pretty sure I’d feel shat on.

    Tangent: I think about poor Emma often. Given the way things went down with her dad and then Joseph and then Lewis Bidamon, I’m pretty sure she felt like she was never good enough for a man. My heart breaks for her.

  100. I agree with Kullervo, that the law is a bit silly and arbitrary, and convoluted. Having actually practiced family law I could relate tons of stories of lunacy that God cannot have much of a part of. (of course nature has its own lunacy and ecclesiastical law can be just as ridiculously arbitrary).

    A few examples of how convoluted it could get:

    A good percentage of marriage during the 19th century was not even recognized by the state except through the common law. Marriage was about sex and commitment, not a marriage license. Technically the same common law is in place in many places, so if you are living together as if you are married, you ARE legally married.

    Another interesting twist, according to statue in Utah, technically if you are living as you are married, hold yourself to be married and consider yourself married, you ARE married according to the law.

    So, the line between “legally” wed is actually much more fungible than most imagine.

    Basically, if you are basing the law of God on human law, if you have a good enough lawyer, I think you can get out of a fornication charge, maybe even adultery, depending on the circumstances.

  101. Jared ~ Basically, if you are basing the law of God on human law, if you have a good enough lawyer, I think you can get out of a fornication charge, maybe even adultery, depending on the circumstances.

    Is there anybody here who is basing the law of God on human law?

    I think we should round up all of the lawyers and law school students into one city and see if that gives us some kind of re-enactment of Sodom and Gomorrah. Yes, even you, Whitney.

  102. So, the line between “legally” wed is actually much more fungible than most imagine.

    This word, I don’t think she means what you think she means.

    Is there anybody here who is basing the law of God on human law?

    Uh yeah. You. Sure, you’re saying there are exceptions, and you keep saying “spirit of the law” over and over again like you’re trying to convince yourself, but when it boils down to it, you are saying “if a couple has sex without being legally married, then they are guilty of sin.”

    Which means you are saying that God’s law is only intelligible with reference to human law.

  103. Kullervo ~ You acknowledge that I believe in exceptions yet you continue to pigeonhole my position in terms of black and white. I’m not the one who’s repeating things over and over again trying to convince myself.

    Which means you are saying that God’s law is only intelligible with reference to human law.

    Can you propose to me a system of determining sexual immorality that does not require reference to human law? I’ve asked you three or four times now and you’ve remained silent, so thus far I’m assuming you can’t.

  104. Acknowledging exceptions to the rule does not change the fact that you believe in the rule. Though you think it can and should be bent, you do believe that fundamentally, the rule is in reference to human marriage.

    Otherwise, there is a rule that you’re just somehow unable to articulate that encompasses the “no sex without human marriage” rule and its exceptions. But that means that “no sex without human marriage” isn’t really the rule but a convenient shorthand.

    If there’s a real rule, why not articulate it and own it? And more importantly, if this rule is god-given, why can’t He?

    I realize that you have asked me to articulate a different rule and I have ignored you, because it’s completely irrelevant. The discussion is purely about (or has turned into) the coherence of Evangelical and Mormon views on sexual morality. I am neither Evangelical nor Mormon, so my personal beliefs are not really at issue.

    The blog is about Mormonism and Evangelical Christianity. I am discussing sexual morality in those two contexts (specifically, that I think both are incoherent and ridiculous). I’m the voice of an outsider that brings a different perspective to the discussion at hand, not someone whose religious beliefs are even of interest here.

  105. Put another way, both Evangelicals and Mormons agree that God makes the rules, and that “no sex outside of marriage”, whether or not you believe there are exceptions, is the rule. I am pointing out that I think the rule is incoherent and arbitrary and thus could not possibly be a God-given moral rule. However, I do not claim to speak for God or to be able to articulate the rules for God. So why are my personal views on sexual morality even interesting? We’re talking about Mormonism and Evangelical Christianity.

    Alternately if your argument is “this has to be the rule because you can’t come up with a better one,” then that’s a hilariously flimsy argument. The whole point of God-given rules (the existence of which is assumed in this context) is that God gave them. God. The perfect supreme being. The fact that I may not be able to articulate a better rule is irrelevant. I’m not God. And I’m certainly not claiming to speak for Him. So it’s a non-starter.

    What should the rule be? Dunno. I’m not a member of either of your religions so I don’t have to be an apologist for them. But if God did give a moral rule concerning sexual morality “no sex outside of marriage” certainly ain’t it.

  106. Kullervo ~ Though you think it can and should be bent, you do believe that fundamentally, the rule is in reference to human marriage.

    No, I believe that fundamentally the rule is about a covenant between God and each other. Human law in our day and age happens to supplement and facilitate that covenant, but I can think of plenty of cultures and contexts where it wouldn’t.

    I realize that you have asked me to articulate a different rule and I have ignored you, because it’s completely irrelevant.

    It’s relevant because I have asserted that no one else (Mormon, evangelical or otherwise) could come up with a system of church governance that would not turn on human law or at least turn on ecclesiastical rules which resemble human law. God has to couch His rules for us in human terms because we are human. It doesn’t matter how divine and eternal and mysterious He is; we’re still human and we need eternal concepts dumbed down into practical principles we can understand.

    Alternately if your argument is “this has to be the rule because you can’t come up with a better one,” then that’s a hilariously flimsy argument.

    And that’s a hilariously flimsy response. It’s always easier to poke holes at someone else’s attempts to explain God than to put forth your own product. Kind of reminds me of the atheists who thought it was ridiculous that Christians believe creation involves a snake talking, but when asked to give their own theories on where life on earth came from, the best they could come up with was maybe aliens seeded the earth.

    If you want to think the LDS & evangelical systems are stupid, be my guest, but until I hear of a superior system (from you or anyone else), I’m just fine with our allegedly arbitrary one.

    But if God did give a moral rule concerning sexual morality “no sex outside of marriage” certainly ain’t it.

    “No sex outside of a lifetime covenant with and commitment to the other person” is the rule. Explain why that can’t be God’s rule. Forget all about our current government, laws, culture, Barack Obama, the State of Maryland, whatever. Pretend that we’re all alone on a big, uncivilized earth with just men and women and nature on it and then explain to me why that can’t be God’s rule.

  107. “No sex outside of a lifetime covenant with and commitment to the other person” is the rule. Explain why that can’t be God’s rule.

    No reason at all. That would be a fine rule. Has this rule been explicitly articulated by God, or did you just make it up to fit all of the cases that you are aware of?

    Of course, if it is the rule, then marriage has absolutely nothing to do with sexual morality.

  108. I think Kullervo’s objection is well leveled against both Evangelism and Mormonism.

    I think Mormonism has the tools to make sexual morality less arbitrary and legalistic but it is far to conservative to do so.

    Here is an example of a morality not based on human law (courtesy of Immanuel Kant”)

    “Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never merely as a means to an end.”

    If you apply this to sex you can see that some sex inside of marriage is not right, and some sex outside of marriage is right. The standard itself is actually very noble and seems to be a maxim we could agree to. However, you have to get a prophet to accept it.

    I am not necessarily advocating this particular norm, but I think it makes more sense than the hard line of legal marriage.

    However, in practice, its nearly impossible to Police. If churches are in the business of policing, a legalistic and more or less arbitrary standard is nearly always emerges.

  109. If churches are in the business of policing, a legalistic and more or less arbitrary standard is nearly always emerges.

    So, given that moral policing by Churches basically inevitably results in legalistic and arbitrary standards which are not a perfect fit and are therefore both overinclusive and underinclusive, does it really make sense for Churches to be in the business of policing?

    I think this line of reasoning/questioning supports Evangalicalism and undermines Mormonism.

  110. I agree, it undermines the practice of policing the ranks for sexual immorality, however, Mormonism could, hypothetically institute less legalistic norms.

    However, as I argue, being a Mormon probably isn’t for everyone, so legalistic norms may be the way the church can makes the cut. God may not ultimately have the same moral standard as the church, and will judge as He may, but there may be utility in maintaining certain arbitrary standards while maintaining and strengthening a human institution.

  111. God may not ultimately have the same moral standard as the church, and will judge as He may, but there may be utility in maintaining certain arbitrary standards while maintaining and strengthening a human institution.

    That does not sound like particularly just behavior on the part of a being that is supposed to be infinitely just.

    I also think it’s a pretty big assumption to say that maintaining the human insitution has sufficient utility to justify overpolicing its members, resulting in some people being sanctioned in ways that have eternal import. But if God will just “straighten things out” afterwards, then the Church’s ordinances aren’t really absolutely necessary, and membership is not absolutely necessary, and all of that further undermines the justification for an institutional Church–especially given all of the problems inherent to human institutions.

    So why have the Church at all? Why not just have the priesthood passed from father to son like Mormonism teaches happened in pre-Mosaic times. Honestly, I can only see how that would improve the religion. Yeah, you’d have less policing of Orthodoxy, but how important is that, really? And we’ve already determined that institutional policing results in errors (even gross errors in terms of Orthodoxy, if you believe the apologists’ story re: race).

    So why do Mormons need an institutional Church? You don’t need to for revelation: individuals and patriarchs are perfectly capable of getting that. And you don’t even need it for ordinances–even temple ordinances (Abraham and his descendants apparently did fine without it!).

    In fact, it seems to me that the only one who gains anything from the hierarchy really is the hierarchy itself. It’s a self-perpetuating self-aggrandizing system, where those in the hierarchy have every incentive to perpetuate the hierarchy by insisting that membership in God’s kingdom is synonymous with being subject to the human institution.

  112. Go back to my logic:

    1. If the Church is necessary, than “a bit of bad policing” results in people being denied access to salvation who should have access to it. That would be unjust of God, and God is not unjust.

    2. If those people can have access to salvation/exaltation without the Church (i.e., God goes back and straightens it all out), then the Church is not actually necessary. If people will be exalted/saved despite their status with reference to the Church’s policing, then the Church’s policing is not of eternal import.

  113. If eternal salvation is obtainable outside the Church, then by definition the Church is not necessary for eternal salvation.

    This is not the position that the Church takes. It insists that it is necessary for eternal salvation.

  114. My argument:

    1. Memberrship in the LDS church on earth is not required for eternal salvation, since it is very limited in scope, power and membership and most people will not have access to it.

    2. The millennial church of Jesus Christ ultimately will be essential to eternal salvation, but it is not required that everyone be a part of the church now (I think this is an obvious part of Mormon doctrine)

    3. The LDS Church is here to prepare the way, lay the groundwork for the Millennial church.

    4. Membership in the church on earth today is basically for the elect called to do this “marvelous work and wonder”, not necessarily everyone.

  115. Well,

    Maybe “exaltation” is a less ambiguous term.

    Mormonism teaches that all must be baptized and “partake of the saving ordinances”

    The idea is that everyone who has ever lived will have the opportunity to be baptized. Ostensibly most of those baptisms will be done during the Millennium. Therefore the Millennial church is going to do the bulk of the work.

    Mormonism also teaches that “every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ” this will happen after the second coming as well when Christ shows up again to lead the church himself.

    So the Millenial church is the end game, The church will have the power of miraculous events and the second coming to do the convincing. People will just have to make a call, accept baptism or not and they will have really strong reasons to accept or reject (unlike now, where only the faithful elect can be really persuaded)

    Stepping back a bit from the entire scheme, it doesn’t make a lot of sense why God is doing things this way. (in some ways it almost seems ludicrous).

    But I can’t really make any “sense” of human history and experience in its entirety so I suppose this story may be as realistic as any.

  116. Kullervo: While I am enjoying the argument between you and Jack, one thing seems conspicuously absent. As much as you disagree with what she says—going so far as to use italics like three times—you still haven’t given her a “bullshit.” That’s just not fair; you could, in fact, say that it is downright dysfungible.

  117. Why do you need an institution for any of that?

    I could come up with some reason, but I have no clue why its done this way.

  118. I could come up with some reason, but I have no clue why its done this way.

    Of course you could come up with a reason. You can find a way to justify anything you want to. But that doesn’t change the point that theologically, Mormonism shouldn’t require an extrafamilial organization at all. The only reason an organization is necessary is all the places where it says “an organization is necessary.” And at the end of the day, the strongest voice telling Mormons their religion needs an organization is the organization itself.

  119. “And at the end of the day, the strongest voice telling Mormons their religion needs an organization is the organization itself.”

    You are absolutely right; welcome to the world of religion.

    The strongest reason Christianity has that Jesus is needed to atone for sins of the world is that the New Testament makes that claim.

    Muslims find it a bit strange that an all-powerful God would have to sacrifice anything in order to save His creation and to forgive sins.

    I can’t find anything that happens or is believed in religion that is really required by reason. However, the lack of a discernible requirement that something be the case is not an impediment from it actually being the case.

  120. I think there’s a big difference between a religion’s adherents claiming something as a theological tenet, and an organization insisting that one of those tenets is “membership in the organization is necessary for salvation.”

    I’m not talking just about religious beliefs that are accepted as a matter of doctrine or of faith. I’m talking about “oh, and also, you can only go to heaven if you’re a member of our organization.” when claimed by the organization.

  121. The difference between my example and yours is that Jesus isn’t in the Bible sales business. It’s not about the independent reasonableness of the claim–it’s about who is making it. The entity that stands the most to benefit from your membership insists that you are theologically required to be a member, when there is not really a separate and independent reason to think that. It raises something like a question of theological self-dealing.

  122. Well, my point is that Mormonism does not really require membership (at least in this life) in order to receive salvation. You become a member if you are of the “elect”. If you are not, your chance at the whole truth is yet to come, but not eclipsed. So I don’t see the self dealing. Mormons want people to join the cause to do the work, not necessarily to save them from hell.

    You argued: “But that doesn’t change the point that theologically, Mormonism shouldn’t require an extrafamilial organization at all.”

    My point is that according to Mormonism God says he needs the church and that it will do a marvelous work. You argue that it isn’t necessary, according to Mormon theology

    You are essentially proposing something other than what is in the scriptures as a perfectly acceptable alternative to what is in the scriptures. (i.e. a purely familial organization) Even if I agree with you that it does not appear that an organization is necessary, I can’t see how our opinions can possibly be reliable.

    I don’t think this argument is at all consistent with Mormon teaching, or even traditional christian teaching. The organization of the church is critical to meeting the stated goals of God as he explains them through revelation in the D&C. Followers are commanded to leave their families if necessary.

    Your second point appears to be “well the Mormon church promotes itself as very important, so its own witness is tainted” Well, I don’t think this criticism is particularly well leveled against the Mormon Church,

    One reason; Mormon leaders don’t have many ulterior motives outside of doing the work. Nobody is getting rich and famous by simply being a Mormon, while being a GA carries a certain celebrity, it mainly involves a lot of work, and based on trusted opinions of those who know and work with a lot of the upper leadership, the GAs generally are very conscientious, hard working people, not really about promoting their selves or making money. This ain’t CBN.

    Another reason: The claim that the church is needed to do a marvelous work was made before the church was anything near what it is today. At the time it was wildly optimistic and generally unrealistic. It often required enormous sacrifices of people.

    It seems to me that the Mormons have laid out (or were given by God) a very ambitious project and are working conscientiously to complete that. They are doing something pretty unique.

    Whether this is something of God, is of course a matter of faith, but it seems strange to second-guess whether the organization is necessary to do the work that the organization is doing.

  123. As it is with Christianity in general. The Gospels are religious propaganda and their claims were meant to further some system as well.

    I think every ideological organization is going to justify its own existence and purpose. That is doubly true of religious ones (whether “true” or “false”)

  124. I stumbled on this site, and as a fence straddling Evangelical Mormon find it’s great people are having these open and honest discussions. Glad to hear people are people and BYU hasn’t changed much from my time there decades ago.

    Regarding the topic and sexual sin, it’s obvious to me the chastity emphasis in the LDS church came about as a backlash to polygamy. To really end polygamy, it couldn’t be allowed to go underground like it did post 1890. To really end it, the LDS church had to make sure all understood without ambiguity that extramarital sex outside a legal marriage would be considered adultery by the church and such “sinners” would be expelled from the church, hence the interviews (really interrogations) to root out such “sinners”.

    Like many things in a conservative organization, the law enforcement interrogation techniques the church used to root out and end underground polygamy gained a life of their own long after they’d served their original purpose. So today, the interview techniques continue even though many reasonable members find the practice and the questions uncomfortable if not completely inappropriate. Personally, I no longer believe in the law of chastity as promulgated by the LDS church as it has left us with a shell of a church were sadly for many LDS it is on chastity and the word of wisdom that hang all the laws and all the prophets. We’ve lost most of the current generation over this continued sexual sin focus, and when they do settle down and start families, it’s very hard to get them back. It’s distressing how our leaders don’t seem to give a rat’s rear about our incredible shrinking church. Those who promote the position that the elect will stay and small is ok, need to also then acknowledge they are abandoning much of our prior prophetic vision of how the church was to impact the world.

    Unfortunately, the LDS church doesn’t have a tradition of members petitioning the leadership for reform. And with no retirement tradition for our Apostles, we’re always about 4 generations behind the times. Our tradition is conform or walk, although individual members can rebel a bit in one on one situations. On separate occasions, upon being asked if I’d ever had a homosexual experience, I did tell a Mission President and Stake President if they asked again they’d be excommunicating me for assault. In the case of the MP, that was back in the day when youth and single adults were still asked about masturbation. I was never asked by that MP about masturbation in any later interviews either. He got the point. Good thing the church has moved on from that masturbation nonsense nowadays, so reform is possible, I just wish it would reform much faster on this unhealthy focus on sexual sins.

  125. Steve EM said:

    So today, the interview techniques continue even though many reasonable members find the practice and the questions uncomfortable if not completely inappropriate.

    For what it’s worth, I have never been “interrogated” about such matters, never having been asked anything beyond the temple recommend questions as they’re worded. The same is true for my spouse. Either of us would probably walk out if that happened, and either of us would certainly raise the matter with the stake president. I just can’t see that sort of thing happening with any bishop I’ve ever had, and that’s probably been half a dozen.

    I’m not saying it doesn’t happen anywhere, nor I am saying that hasn’t been the practice in some places in the past. What I am saying is that the practices you speak of are completely foreign to my experience, and I wouldn’t want my silence to give the impression that sort of thing is routine. It isn’t.

  126. FWIW, I have been subjected to such interrogations. When I was growing up, my bishop would open the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet and ask absolutely EVERY question in the book: media choices, fashion choices, if we cheated in school, if we swore, if we honored our parents…and then he drilled down into the chastity section in mortifying detail: whether our thoughts were clean, kissing, inappropriate touching, masturbation, sex, homosexuality, you name it.

    As a teenage girl, being asked those kinds of intimate questions by a middle aged man was humiliating. Most of the time I couldn’t even look him in the eye. I dreaded those interviews. They were completely, totally, and indescribably AWFUL.

    Then on my mission, I had the great displeasure of serving as the translator for a worthiness interview between my mission president and a young woman in one of the local branches preparing to serve a mission. He went through the same list. It was terrible for me, having to turn from the president after he’d asked an incredibly personal question and try to translate it into Bulgarian. I was a missionary, not a porn star: I didn’t know those kinds of words, for hell’s sake–so I had to DESCRIBE the stuff he was asking! Then she’d get all embarrassed and I was embarrassed and it seriously sucked.

    As I look back on it now, I realize those kinds of interviews are COMPLETELY INAPPROPRIATE. If I ever hear some guy is interrogating my daughter like that, he will wake up the next morning without balls, so help me God.

  127. I have started reading the beginning of the comments but there is far too much comments for me to have the patience to read them all, so i decided to answer the question from above on those quotes.

    “D&C 29: 7 And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts;”

    “8 Wherefore the decree hath gone forth from the Father that they shall be gathered in unto one place upon the face of this land, to prepare their hearts and be prepared in all things against the day when tribulation and desolation are sent forth upon the wicked.”

    It is talking about all the people that believe in God and our Savior Jesus Christ. Because those are the people that will listen to our Lord, and those who do not believe will harden their hearts and will not listen to his words. So there is no need to gather them for they will never listen. and they will waste your time that could have been used to gather the faithful people who will be willing to gather to this place.

    The Mormons will not reject anyone who is trying to come into the light of Christ. Anyone who believes in Christ and does there best to repent and do good is part of the elect. Doesn’t matter which church you’re from.

    As for the Excommunicated. This rarely happens in the Mormon church. It usually happens on extreme cases such as a member sinning and trying to bring others into sin, or if they are sinning and giving the Mormons a bad name publicly. But they are not Excommunicated forever. If they show that they are repenting sincerely and they are doing their best to correct their wrong doings, then the church will gladly accept them back.

  128. Steve EM. I don’t know where you get the idea of the Mormon Church decreasing in numbers of members of the church. Every missionary i have spoke to has at least baptized 6-10 people from when i met them, and they are usually only half done the mission. so they could easily get 12-20 people baptized before missions end.

    But lets say each missionary gets at least 10 people baptized every 2 years (equaling one mission) and lets say we have 1000 missionaries.. that’s 10,000 new members every 2 years.. and i know there are way more missionaries than 1000 people since there are missionaries all over the world so 10,000 new members a year is less than bare minimum.
    and there is like 150 temples (not exactly sure of how many temples, but the number is close) located all over the world.
    And lets not forget the new members that encourage their family and friends to join. They usually get 1-2 more people to join. and those 1-2 two new members will get other people to join. so the number of new members is always increasing.
    So Basically from the basic 10,000 people baptized. they will get 1-2 people to join so it will increase the number to 20,000-30,000 new members every 2 years.. and that’s not even bare minimum. and from those 20,000-30,000 will get more to join. so the number is always increasing..

    But of course we have the members that leave. and other members that cant keep up with the church’s standard of living such as the word of wisdom and chastity and they become less active in the church and indulge in their temptations.. but i always see them come back to church and do their very best to repent.

    I know my numbers are not accurate, but they are accurate at how the Church of Jesus Christ Grows.. The Word of God gets passed from one person to the next from recommendation from our friends and family. For if we see them enjoy The Gospel of Jesus Christ. We will be more willing to accept it into our lives as well. so thus the Word Of God spreads numerously as i have told.

  129. Katie: After reading your comment/treat/promise, I’m glad you’ve already updated your blavatar. I hate to think what sort of icon that would generate.

    /shudder

  130. Steve EM ~ Why do you call yourself an evangelical Mormon?

    Katie ~ You already know how I feel about this bishop interview stuff. I have heard that parents can have their children opt out of the sex questions. If Harley is still attending the LDS church as a teenager, you can bet we’re opting out.

    Come to think of it, I was interviewed by the bishop once when I was 17, for my ecclesiastical endorsement to BYU. My pastor did not want me to go to BYU and I was kind of worried about what he was going to say on the recommend, so I decided to cover my bases and have a recommend done by the bishop as well.

    I think this bishop was more afraid of me than I was of him. I had gone on the Laurels’ field trip to Temple Square for General Conference in October 1999, and having ridden in a van with me 14 hours to Utah and then 14 hours back had given him plenty of time to assess what a weirdo I was. There would be no lying to this man and trying to pass myself off as a nice Mormon girl; he knew that I wasn’t. And I think he had no idea why in the heck I wanted to go to BYU if I wasn’t joining the church. I’m sure the tales of the escapades I had put the missionaries through the year before that had been legendary for that ward.

    The only sex question he asked was, “Do you keep the law of chastity?” Pretty non-invasive.

    He seemed more interested in the fact that I was not wearing my black trench coat for the interview. “It makes you look kind of imposing,” he said. That’s the idea, I thought, but I promised him that if I got into BYU I would retire the coat.

    His name was Bishop Rogers. Something about that combination of words seems to worry me now, I can’t quite put my finger on it…

  131. Eric – Does working off a script make it less of an interrogatory? We can agree to disagree about it, but I find many of the TR questions offensive, albeit less so than when some leaders go off script as per Katie’s comment.

    JB — I’m referring to our activity rates of young single adults. Look around, we’ve lost most of a generation over this unhealthy focus on sexual sin. The poop won’t hit the fan with the bean counters in SLC until the expected children from this lost generation never show up. No missionary program can compensate for church leaders who drive away whole flocks and let virtually an entire crop wither and die.

    BJM — Obviously I’m not orthodox LDS. This old post and links thereon explains the origins of my handle:
    http://mormonopenforum.blogsome.com/2005/07/15/announcement-steve-fsf-born-again-as-steve-em/

    Aren’t you too young to remember Mr. Rogers? Man, that guy was creepy.

  132. Steve EM ~ Interesting story. You certainly do seem to take an evangelical view on salvation, right down to the blood on the doorposts stuff.

    I had a professor at BYU whom I always called an “evangelical Mormon.” I commented about why on this blog here, but eventually I’m going to do a formal post on him at my blog for my BYU series.

    Why were you banned from T&S? I’m not sure how some of the bloggers there feel about me, but Kaimi and Dave seem to like me well enough, and Kylie’s my old writing teacher so I figure I’m pretty safe.

    Aren’t you too young to remember Mr. Rogers?

    No, but that wasn’t the Mr. Rogers that worries me.

    Anyways, stick around, it’d be great to have you here for our discussions.

  133. Jack, the only ward my dad was ever a bishop of was a BYU student ward.

    All my ancestors on his side are old immigrant German stock that wound up in Minnesota, South Dakota and that area. My dad’s the only Mormon in his family. So I’m sure he was no relation.

  134. Steve EM: “Mr. Rogers? Man, that guy was creepy.” You really are apostate.

    Katie: Yes, that’s the blavatar I feared. (PS, you’re awesome.) I can’t believe you found anything creepy about Mr Rogers! The guy is pure honest good. I actually went to see Mr McFeely a few years ago on my birthday; had him sign my Frisbee “Speedy Delivery.” If you wanna knock someone from the Neighborhood, pick on Lady Elaine Fairchilde—she teh creepiness.

  135. Kullervo: I love that Seth is not a real Mister Rogers. You hear that Seth? You’re a fake! A fake!

    Katie: I was showing this thread to my wife and noticed that the shears you linked to are rusty.

    /double shudder

  136. I won’t have anyone bad-mouthing Mister Rogers.

    The real one, not Seth; I bad-mouth Seth all the time.

    It is an enormous relief to me that we are still free to bad-mouth Seth with Kullervo’s blessing.

  137. BJM,
    Sorry for my slow response. I only vaguely recall my banning at T&S but have to say it was earned and deserved.

    I somewhat recall taunting Adam Greenknob on some anti-porn post he wrote. Guys like Adam were dime a dozen at BYU thirty years ago. You know, the type who would disfellowship some poor kid for self pleasure and ex him if he used his left hand. So I couldn’t resist, knowing exactly where to fire the torpedoes to sink his arguments. Anyway, when he kept coming back for more, and I went way too far, describing a porn graphically as a tongue in cheek example of redeeming aspects to the genre that some couples could find useful.

    I’ve been wrongly banned from a couple orthodox blogs, but in the case of T&S, it was justified.

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