Navigating Living Waters – Helping Our Evangelical Friends Make Sense of “Mormon Doctrine”

The following guest post  is written by Seth. I successfully guilted him into writing it  (we all know guilt is the most effective way to motivate a Mormon). Thanks Seth for adding to the cause.

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Evangelicals are sometimes express irritation at the complex nature of Mormon doctrine and theology. They complain that once you think you’ve pinned Mormon theology down on something, the Mormon in front of you will say things like

“Oh, but that’s not what we believe today.”

“That was just Joseph’s personal opinion.”

“That’s not official doctrine.”

“You aren’t taking that quote in context.”

And you’re back to square one and still not sure what Mormons – as a whole – are supposed to be held accountable for in their doctrine. You might be forgiven for considering us, at best, confused or even, at worst, plain sneaky. I won’t deny that some of us Mormons may be both, but bear with me and I’ll try to do my best to provide a few ground rules for sifting the unfamiliar world of Mormon doctrine.

First thing to keep in mind is that Mormonism is a relatively young religion. We haven’t been the first religion in this awkward position. Our current situation is actually unsimilar to Christianity in the first couple centuries, when people like Tertullian took the first tentative stabs at explaing themselves to the world and its existing systems of thought and belief. Like early Christianity, Mormonism does not have the most developed approach to theology. And like most early religions, the focus is more correct practice rather than correct theological belief. Mormonism is more focused on orthopraxy than orthodoxy. So to ask Mormons for a go-to source of orthodoxy is asking the wrong question, because honestly, most Mormons aren’t all that bothered about orthodoxy and questions of orthodoxy. Questions of practice and community concern us more.

That said, Mormons are not entirely indifferent to orthodoxy. We do try to approach our doctrine with a semblance of discipline. Here are the sources of Mormon doctrine, in order of importance as I see them:

1. Canonized scripture. Currently this Entails the Holy Bible (we use the KJV), the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price and the Doctrine and Covenants.

A book does not become canonized in the LDS Church until it has been presented to the entire membership of the Church and sustained as such. I believe the last time this occurred was in relation to some passages in the Doctrine and Covenants. All other sources of doctrine must be tested against this canon.

2. Statements of living prophets (this includes the President of the Church and the other Apostles), spoken officially to the Church, and disseminated to the Church.

This only applies to the currently living General Authorities of the Church. We consider them prophets, and their words are going to have great impact. But you have to make sure that their statements were made in an official capacity and meant to be binding upon the membership. Usually, this means that their words have to be disseminated to the membership by official means. The current vehicle for doing this is the official magazine of the LDS Church (”The Ensign” in the US and “The Liahona” elsewhere). General Conference addresses (in their final published form) are also a good example. Official declarations such as the recent “Proclamation on the Family” top off this category.

3. Doctrine as disseminated in official LDS study materials – such as the teachers guides for youth classes, or Gospel Doctrine handbooks.

You’d think that if it has the LDS seal of approval for being taught every week in Church, that’s as good as God’s own iron-clad guarantee, right?  Well, not quite. While they are a great resource for guaging what modern LDS are being taught, and what they are thinking and believing, the manuals should not be viewed as always binding doctrinally. You have to be careful to constantly reassess these sources against numbers 1 and 2. Especially in light of #2 since Church manuals have been known to become outdated in some respects years before new updates are budgeted for. For instance, you might find an old quote from a long dead apostle in a current Church study guide that presents a certain spin on the question of “grace vs. works.” But you have to read that quote in light of the more recent statements made by living General Authorities.

The famous “Church Handbook of Instructions” disseminated to LDS local leadership also falls into this category. It is more of a book of current Church policy than a disciplined and binding statement of timeless doctrine (and since a large swath of the membership is unaware of its precise contents, it doesn’t always accurately portray what ordinary Mormons believe either). Fiinally, statements made on the LDS Newsroom website would also fall into this category – though I think these are often more up-to-date than the actual manuals, due to the fluid and constantly updated nature of the internet.

4. Doctrine as presented by past prophets and apostles.

Once the prophet is dead, he is replaced by successors whose words carry modern authority to the Church going forward. If the successor moves on from policies or (more rarely) doctrines espoused by his predecessor, the living prophet generally trumps the old one. The quotes, sermons and writings of that old prophet must now be subordinated to #4 on the totem pole of Mormon authority.

The Journal of Discourses – that document Evangelicals counter-cultists are always mining for radioactive Brigham Young quotes – falls into this category. Even old Joseph Smith quotes can fall into this category – although his prestige within Mormon belief often prevents his quotes from falling out of favor so quickly. The LIVING prophet takes precedence in guiding the present-day Church. Old quotes do not always stand the test of time. Brigham Young’s Adam-God idea being a prime example. No one in the LDS Church really knows what Brigham meant by those quotes, they seem to conflict with what we know of canonized LDS scripture, and even Brigham Young himself seemed to contradict the notion on occasion in his own statements. Thus the doctrine was discarded.

I imagine some Evangelicals would be horrified at the notion of discarding the doctrinal explanations of a living prophet with a direct connection to God-almighty, but his is not overly concerning from a Mormon perspective. We never claimed our prophets were infallible to begin with. Nor did we ever claim they were exempt from being tested against the scriptures, or even against plain common sense. Prophets in the Mormon tradition are always subject to a great many checks and balances. Those who expect to find a theological dictator with an iron-grasp over the beliefs of the membership will be disappointed (or pleasantly surprised). The LDS Church appears authoritarian on the outside, but in reality, it is surprisingly grass-roots. All must find their own witness among a variety of doctrinal guides.

5. Books apostles write in their spare time, and statements made by General Authorities that were never meant for Church-wide dissemination.

Just because an apostle wrote it doesn’t mean you’re holding binding doctrine in your hand. LDS General Authorities try to be very careful in their writings (perhaps moreso today than in decades past) because they are aware that people will inevitably be tempted to take their opinion as law. But sometimes stuff slips through the cracks.

The most obvious example of this, is apostle Bruce R. McConkie’s landmark book – “Mormon Doctrine.” It’s an invaluable resource and shows a great deal of care and scripture cross-referencing. It’s a resource I use all the time. And most of the time, it gets the doctrine essentially right. Most of the time….

McConkie’s fellow apostles and even the President David O. McKay specifically asked McConkie not to publish the book. They did not want a single apostle giving the impression that he was speaking definitively for Mormon doctrine. The title of the book certainly didn’t help matters in this regard. But McConkie disregarded the advice, and published it anyway. After a few years of circulation, McConkie was forced retract certain incendiary remarks about Catholics and his own theories about the eternal status of certain racial groups among other things.

It’s a dang useful book and will give a lot of insight. But you’ll get a warped view of Mormonism from McConkie if you don’t test it against the doctrinal sources that are higher in priority and status.

Another book example along these lines is Spencer W. Kimball’s book – “The Miracle of Forgiveness.” Another good book that has become something of gold mine for Evangelicals wishing to proof-text how Mormons are obsessed with works at the expense of grace. I personally think the book is a bit dated and due for another book to come along and unseat it.  It’s also worth noting that Kimball wrote it as an apostle, not as President of the Church – which gives it less status than something that the President would have written.

Books written by apostles really should not be viewed as binding – merely persuasive. Sort of like rabbinic commentary on the Torah in the Jewish tradition. If it jives with the canon of scripture, great. If it’s out of step with that canon, we need not feel bound by it (though we are encouraged to consider that maybe, just maybe, that apostle knows something we don’t).

6. Mormon literature in general.

Here you have all the other LDS books published. They aren’t published by General Authorities which means they will have varying force and persuasiveness depending on the author. Hugh Nibley has a lot of cachet in some circles. In others Robert Millet or Stephen Robinson might be highly regarded. In yet others, you might have lay LDS gushing over the latest Chicken Soup for the Soul-style offering from a popular LDS author from the youth speaking circuit or what have you. The “Encyclopedia on Mormonism” also falls into this category. It had a lot of scholarly input and I believe they were being as careful as they possibly could in their pronouncements. But, despite it’s impressive name, it is still not the final word (nor would it’s authors claim it was).

Scholarly Mormon magazines and publications fall into this category, as does the online content of various private Mormon sources – such as Mormon blogs. All sources in this category are, of course, best viewed with a highly critical eye.

That’s the best I can do for a summary for you. I hope it’s becoming clear to the readers here that defining the limits of Mormon doctrine is more of an art than a science. Maybe that bothers some who see religion first and foremost as a source of theological and personal security.

But I don’t consider this a bad thing. I’m sure others will disagree with me, but I like the flexibility and natural adaptivity that is built into the LDS interface with doctrine. It makes for a religion that is far more exciting to me than any of the alternatives. And the truth is, you are just going to have a more complex authoritative mix when you throw living, breathing, and dying prophets. That said, Mormonism offers a real opportunity to not be commanded in all things, to move off-script for a moment and stand revealed before God without the shield of a biblical text, and take ownership of your own beliefs.

I believe there comes a time in every Mormon’s life when he or she has to stop a moment, do some serious thinking, and ask themselves – do I really believe that?  After such reflection, we Mormons are invited to ask God directly if a teaching should be embraced or disregarded.

I would suggest this isn’t a bad pattern for outside students of Mormonism either.

Best of luck to you. It’s a strange and interesting world you are entering.

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178 thoughts on “Navigating Living Waters – Helping Our Evangelical Friends Make Sense of “Mormon Doctrine”

  1. Seth, I agree with what you are saying, that this is the way to approach Mormon doctrine. I think you’ve got to convince Mormons of it before Evangelicals though.

  2. It should be noticed that one thing Seth R. didn’t put in his list was Mormon folk doctrine. There are plenty of things out there that a fair number of people in the church might believe even though there isn’t much support them. A couple that come to mind are the idea that we don’t know much about Heavenly Mother because Heavenly Father doesn’t want her name sullied, or that we don’t drink coffee because of the tannic acid. These aren’t uncommon beliefs at all, but they certainly aren’t scriptural nor anywhere near binding.

  3. I agree, Seth.

    Although, I was under the impression that only First Presidency Statements were given the stamp of “official doctrine”.

    Mormon folklore is always good for a laugh, and to add to Eric’s comment, I would say that not being able to drink caffeine is up there on the list.

  4. Seth: well done. We could summarize this as:

    Scripture ~ Living Prophets >> Church manuals ~ former prophets* >> “freelance” books by GAs** >> Deseret Book.

    * Living Prophets ~ Joseph Smith
    ** Members’ acceptance of BRM varies w i d e l y

    Tim: probably 99% of the Mormons I’ve known would agree in general with Seth, so I don’t know what “convincing of Mormons” you think needs to be done.

  5. BrianJ, I wouldn’t say 99%.

    But I think a lot might agree with it if they had some spare time and wanted to think about in an organized fashion.

    Most of us aren’t all that disciplined about our doctrinal sources, actually. Like most religions, I imagine.

    That’s a good point Trevor. I think General Conference statements very-well might need to be demoted a notch.

    And just between you and me… I have on occasion entertained suspicions that we might be better off viewing even General Conference addresses as basically “rabbinic commentary” on the canon. But I don’t think a lot of other active Mormons see it that way.

    Take home point – recent General Conferences are important in taking the pulse of the state of modern LDS doctrine.

  6. As I have written elsewhere,

    sola scritpura – Scripture is the final and alone binding source of authority. If it’s not in scripture, or if it is not inferred by scripture, it is not doctrinal and it is not binding. This is the view that neo-orthodox Stephen E. Robinson ostensibly takes in How Wide The Divide.

    prima scriptura – Scripture is the highest, most final binding source of authority, but it is not the only source of that which is binding and doctrinal. Other sources, such as current church leadership (considered lesser because they are compared with scripture and discarded if in contradiction with scripture) are also binding. This is a view that more sophisticated LDS apologists like Blake Ostler ostensibly take.

    prima ecclesia – Modern church leadership is the highest, most final binding source of authority and doctrine, and may override other sources of authority and doctrine, like scripture, if there is contradiction. This is the view that Mormon traditionalists take, and it was perhaps most clearly promoted by Brigham Young. This is the view that often comes into practice when the Bible’s reliability is questioned and the Church is esteemed as the final authority in interpreting scripture for members, and as the holder of special knowledge by the “keys” of the elite positions of priesthood.

    There are nuances and ambiguities to these models (well, particularly in how Mormonism applies them), and variations thereof, but you get the basic idea. My contention is that Mormonism oscillates between varying models to keep alive the theme of the “continuous stream of revelation” as well as enforce some regulatory sanity.

    Seth has simply described the prima scriptura model, but it is not the only functioning Mormon model. And let us not forget that, in the strictest sense, Mormonism does not have a permanent, consistent, official doctrine of what constitutes official doctrine.

    Those Mormons who promote the prima scriptura model are often the first ones to break it with issues like 2 Nephi 25:23. They obstinately reject the usage and interpretation from General Conference and modern church publications, preferring instead their own personal interpretations. So neo-orthodox folks like Millet can say that “we need modern prophets to understand ancient prophets” all he wants, but he only seems to selectively apply the principle.

    Also, there are some issues that people often overlook:

    1. We care about what the Mormon mainstream people and individual persons actually believe. When they believe something the institution doesn’t strictly, officially bless (according to some particular model of doctrine and authority), it still matters with regard to the spiritual condition of their individual heart.

    2. The institution, regardless of the lack of formal approval, often still ought to bear responsibility for acquiescing to unrepudiated longstanding beliefs that were initiated or at least fostered by Mormon leadership or by the implications of the traditional Mormon worldview.

    3. Regardless of whether a particular Mormon individual agrees or doesn’t agree with important teachings that have been recently been promoted from institutional Mormon channels of influence, that Mormon’s spiritual heart condition is also related to his or her willingness to be a part of such an institution that tolerates and/or teaches such things.

    4. Regardless of how old a particular Mormon teaching is, it can still have bearing on whether a person today should choose to become or remain Mormon. There are plenty of old teachings that have been abandoned by Mormonism that still call into question the reliability and integrity of the historic succession of alleged prophets and apostles. It only takes one false prophecy or one public heresy about the nature of God to make a prophet false.

  7. Tim said, “I think you’ve got to convince Mormons of it before Evangelicals though”, and I think he is absolutely correct. I talk to Mormon friends and strangers on a regular basis who in practice reject the prima scriptura model. When they learn of certain biblical passages, it is a common response to talk about the superiority of the continual stream of prophetic counsel over the corrupt Bible. In other words, instead of even just appealing to extra-Biblical LDS canon that trumps the Bible, they appeal to a source that is considered of lesser authority in the prima scriptura model.

  8. Seth said,

    “But you have to make sure that their statements were made in an official capacity and meant to be binding upon the membership… While they are a great resource for guaging what modern LDS are being taught, and what they are thinking and believing, the manuals should not be viewed as always binding doctrinally… Just because an apostle wrote it doesn’t mean you’re holding binding doctrine in your hand”

    This consistent appeal to what is “binding” absolutely screams out to be defined. What does it mean for something to be binding? In the common usage of the word, it is usually assumed it means that members are simply expected to believe it. But the term seems to be, all things considered, used ambivalently, sometimes referring to a loose concept of “binding”, other times a strong concept.

    In one sense, Mormonism has zero binding doctrine. After joining, you can quietly admit to your bishop that you are an ardent atheist who rejects even the historical existence of a Palestinian Jew named Jesus and yet still retain your good standing and membership as long as you don’t raise a stink about it. Sure, you won’t have a temple recommend, but you’re still considered a member, and in the formal sense, you’re still considered a Mormon. So in that sense, not even a belief in God (in any general sense) is a binding doctrine.

    It’s difficult to have words like “binding” which can simply further the confusion by functioning as wiggle words—words you can smuggle various meanings into to make what you’re saying technically “correct”.

    And for Seth to so consistently appeal to the notion of what is “binding”, and yet say, “Mormonism is more focused on orthopraxy than orthodoxy”, seems odd, because the way the practice-over-doctrine notion is used it seemed to negate even the need for the notion of binding doctrine. Even having a truly binding doctrine would imply that it is important to have one’s orthopraxy rooted in a binding, true orthodoxy, yet to say that orthopraxy is focused on as more important than orthopraxy can imply that a set of practices are binding, not a set of doctrines.

  9. Sorry for the consecutive comments. Let me share two links and then get back to my programming work…

    1. “I propose that we now have no Mormon ‘doctrine’ whatsoever.” – Blake Ostler, Is There Any Mormon “Doctrine”?

    2. Mormonism’s Church-Centered View of Membership, by me. This is where I talk about Mormon atheists, etc.

    “One can reject the First Vision, the prophetic mantle of Joseph Smith, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, or the very existence of God, but they are not yet considered actionably apostate. Since Mormonism claims to be Christian, why doesn’t it require for its members to remain believers in (what is allegedly) the gospel of Jesus Christ?”

  10. Aaron ~ It’s interesting that you bring up prima ecclesia as a possible term to describe the LDS position on scripture & tradition/authority. I just did a post last night mentioning that as a potential term for the LDS system, and I’d never seen your article on it.

    My experience says that most of the Mormons I know in real life are prima ecclesia, and I don’t even think that it’s merely a matter of questioning the Bible’s authority on something. Even the D&C, PoGP, and Book of Mormon can be disregarded in some way or another under this system. Mormons won’t say that those books are “mistranslated,” but they will find other methods of not having to listen to what they teach in favor of current church practice. A good example of this is the restrictions on eating meat in D&C 89:13, which gets rationalized away under the “refrigeration” defense or simply ignored altogether.

    I have more to say on this subject, but I have to run.

  11. As Seth stated, if you actually pressed Mormons on it, it’s likely that they would come the conclusions he did. But as they go about their day choosing what to believe is truly Mormon Doctrine (without some hard thinking about it) there are all sorts of things that Mormons consider to be official which is not. Convincing them of such would first require that they read this post (or something like it).

  12. Aaron,
    What would you say is the Evangelical take on those three sources of authority? Or, since evangelicalism is notoriously splintered, what would you say is the appropriate take on them?

    I would assume that the spoken answer is sola scriptura, but I suspect that the reality is prima ecclesia. I also suspect that this goes equally for unaffiliated Evangelical Christians.

  13. Aaron, I would also ask if you would be willing to apply the following to Evangelical belief:

    “3. Regardless of whether a particular Mormon individual agrees or doesn’t agree with important teachings that have been recently been promoted from institutional Mormon channels of influence, that Mormon’s spiritual heart condition is also related to his or her willingness to be a part of such an institution that tolerates and/or teaches such things.”

  14. John C, good questions. I need to work and then later go to Temple Square for some evangelism, so I predict that I will either answer late tonight or tomorrow at lunch. I’m getting comment updates to my e-mail.

  15. I think it also matters how much attention your average Mormon is paying to either scripture or to the living prophets. A Mormon who reads more General Conference talks than his scriptures will obviously prioritize those talks over the scriptures – whether consciously or not.

    Aaron brings up an important reminder that Evangelicals in a witnessing capacity are always well-served to focus primarily on what the individual Mormon in front of you believes. We can talk trends all we want, but everyone is an individual and approaches the body of doctrine differently.

    Aaron, I think my use of the word “binding” here is probably a bit lazy. If you want to nail down what I mean by the term, I would probably venture to say it means “whatever the Church body as a whole can reasonably be held to account for and own up to.” I’m not entirely satisfied with that answer, but it’s the best I can come up with on short notice.

    Now, if you want to shift the focus from Mormonism as a whole, you can require an accounting of a variety of other things as well. If you shift, for example, to the individual level, you might find all sorts of prized quotes, notions, and beliefs that the general membership should not, as a practical matter, be held accountable for. Perhaps you have an individual Mormon, for instance, who believes in Brigham Young’s Adam-God theory (although calling it a theory is probably too generous since Brigham never did get around to explaining exactly what he meant by it). But if the belief is held individually, you can call the individual to account for it.

    So is it just finding that basic common core held by “most Mormons?”

    If you wish to call Mormon culture at large to task, yes. But since popular ideas are not always correct, I don’t think we have reached the level where you are actually addressing Mormonism as such.

    The problem isn’t just a changing picture within the diverse world of Mormonism Aaron.

    The problem is that too many Evangelicals and other outsiders to Mormonism are not accurate enough in specifying what they are addressing with their remarks. In fact, I don’t think a lot of Evangelicals even know what they are addressing.

    If an Evangelical encounters a particular heresy in his Mormon friend and decides to blog about it, he would be most accurate to describe it as a refutation of HIS FRIEND’S belief.

    But a lot of people are not this careful. The Evangelical in question typically frames his attack on what his friend believes as a refutation of Mormonism as a whole. The whole thing!

    But that is not being careful. What my post was meant to do was provide guidelines for navigation.

    By the way, very interesting outline of Sola Scriptura, Prima Scriptura, and Prima Ecclesia. I remember reading a breakdown of each of these paradigms over on the Pen and Parchment blog last year. But I’d forgotten about them. Thanks for the reminder. That’s helpful.

    Final point – I wouldn’t say Stephen Robinson is unqualifiedly a sola scriptura person. Yes, he makes some favorable remarks about it in “How Wide the Divide.” But if you read closely, he qualifies the notion of sola scriptura so much that it loses a lot of its force. I remember thinking that the notion of sola scriptura just wasn’t useful any more if you were going to qualify it as much as he did.

  16. Bah, forgot one more thing in that long post:

    Aaron, you wrote:

    “In one sense, Mormonism has zero binding doctrine. After joining, you can quietly admit to your bishop that you are an ardent atheist who rejects even the historical existence of a Palestinian Jew named Jesus and yet still retain your good standing and membership as long as you don’t raise a stink about it. Sure, you won’t have a temple recommend, but you’re still considered a member, and in the formal sense, you’re still considered a Mormon. So in that sense, not even a belief in God (in any general sense) is a binding doctrine.”

    A very tenuous sense I think. This equates the criteria for membership or participation with doctrine. Criteria for participation can and should be broader than the doctrine.

    This is such a hard area to be careful in.

  17. To those arguing for a prima ecclesia model: I am highly skeptical. In my experience it is extremely rare to find a Mormon who argues for a GA’s comment trumping scripture. Mormons often appeal to authority to defend their view of what a scripture means, or whether it applies to their situation, but I can count exactly how many times I’ve heard a Mormon say, “I don’t care what Alma 42 says, Elder Soandso says otherwise.” (the answer is zero)

    As Aaron states in his definition of prima ecclesia, “the Church is esteemed as the final authority in interpreting scripture for members….” That is very often the case, but that doesn’t place leaders above scripture. By analogy, would you say that the Creeds are “the highest, most final binding source of authority and doctrine” for other Christians?

  18. Seth, “But I think a lot might agree with it if they had some spare time and wanted to think about in an organized fashion.”

    Which means that they currently agree but just haven’t taken the time to look at themselves in the mirror and realize it. We see this “authority hierarchy” on display every week in our classrooms—in how the class responds during a discussion/disagreement to appeals to scripture versus Conference talks versus something I heard from a GA on my mission….

  19. I think this is variable and entirely dependent on the amount of attention the individual LDS has devoted to either GA quotes or scripture.

  20. John C. ~ I’m not trying to answer for Aaron, but there’s a series of posts at Parchment & Pen by C. Michael Patton on Sola Scriptura and the other positions on the traditional Christian spectrum starting here. I think that’s the post Seth is referring to.

    I do think that evangelicals sometimes fall into the trap of placing church tradition over what the Bible says. A clear example of this, for me, is gift of the Holy Ghost by laying on of hands. It’s clearly and regularly practiced in the New Testament, but very rarely practiced by evangelicals today. We haven’t been practicing it for ages so we interpret the Bible in light of our current practice instead of the other way around. That’s one area where I would like to see things change.

    Seth ~ You keep arguing that there is no orthodoxy, and you’ve been very open and up front about your own deviant beliefs (though I suppose “deviant” is a misnomer if there’s no true “correct” from which to deviate, but I digress). However, I think we both know that if you taught in Sunday school or sacrament meeting that the priesthood ban on blacks was completely Brigham Young’s invention or eternal polyandry should be openly allowed, there’d be hell to pay.

    There may not be an ultimate orthodoxy as far as private belief is concerned, but it sure seems like there’s a functional orthodoxy.

    Brian ~ I can give several other cases where current, non-canonical LDS teaching completely trumps scriptures, but consider two things: (1) Are any of the LDS scriptures considered “infallible”? (2) Doesn’t the current living LDS prophet theoretically have the power to overturn and re-write any and all past revelation (assuming he’s directed to do so by God)?

    Like I said above, I do think Protestants sometimes fall into the trap of giving fallible traditions precedent over biblical teachings, but at least in our theoretical framework, the Bible is infallible, tradition is fallible, and current teaching cannot overturn past teaching. I don’t think the same can be said for Mormonism. It’s all fallible, and it can all be changed at any time.

  21. Jack,
    In my experience with Evangelicals, it seems like they play just as fast and loose with scripture as Mormons do. I don’t see either group treating scripture as “infallible” in any but a very abstract sense. In both groups, attempts to get at “original meaning” are greatly informed/distorted by eisegetical tendencies. Neither really gives more than lip service to original context in any case. Individuals and movements tend to ignore, excise, reinterpret, and apply as they see fit. I don’t see that tendency as a Mormon (or heretical) tendency; I see it as a human tendency.

  22. Jack: What do you mean “other examples”? The example you gave (meat and the D&C) is an example of members interpreting the scripture a certain way, or interpreting that the scripture only applied to a certain situation/time period. Unless you want to argue from a literalist viewpoint, I don’t see how this is any different than the approach other Christians make to the Bible that has lead to so many differences in Christian belief (i.e., interpretation).

    “(1) Are any of the LDS scriptures considered “infallible”?” Nope—but I confess that I’m still trying to figure out what you Evs mean by that term since it just doesn’t make sense to me!

    “(2) Doesn’t the current living LDS prophet theoretically have the power to overturn and re-write any and all past revelation (assuming he’s directed to do so by God)?” Sure, but it would undoubtedly need to be ratified as canon—like the entire D&C, even though it doesn’t overturn and re-write any and all past revelation (yes, I know that’s arguable {smile}). Point is: if we bother to canonize teachings that expound on other scripture, wouldn’t we also canonize something that outright rejected other scripture? Then it’s just NT versus OT all over again.

  23. Seth, now if I just had an LDS authority to confirm all that you said.

    (just joking, friend)

  24. It’s a joke Todd, but all good jokes have some truth in them. When Millett first articulated this position I for sure had the “according to whom” thought cross my mind.

  25. Yes, but Millett is accountable to the Priest above him. He has some one earthly to answer to here and now.

  26. BJM,

    On D&C section 89, you of all people should know the LDS church is in apostasy on any enforcement of section 89. Its original intent was advice and good practice, not a requirement to enter the kingdom. The four enforced don’ts HJG pulled from section 89 (no booze, no tobacco, no tea, no coffee), have become a modern LDS circumcision ~2000 years after such barriers to entry into the Kingdom were supposed to be dropped. Section 89 even allows beer; today’s LDS interpretation of section 89 is utterly moronic

    I guess you have to be LDS to know where to fire the torpedoes?

  27. Really, Tim? And if you suddenly decided to start preaching from the Book of Mormon there would be no earthly repercussions? Nothing would happen at your church?

  28. Nice job Seth.

    For Todd and others, who think Seth is different or making things up, what he has said has been more-or-less stated in Approaching Mormon Doctrine at lds.org.

    Seth is giving you a slightly expanded explanation which is right in line whith what has been officially published on the subject.

    Nice Job, Seth.

  29. John C,

    Our commitment is to sola scriptura, and part of our sanctification process is better implementing that. Sola scriptura, when seen properly, affects the entire life of the church. One example of how this plays out is in the provisionality of a pastor’s sermon: Pastors throughout my life have routinely advised us to “chew the meat and spit out the bones”, and be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11 when examining the preaching from the pulpit. The assumption is that the pastor is going to inevitably going to teach something wrong, and that it is our responsibility as Christians to actively examine what is taught to us by comparing and contrasting it with scripture.

    From my understanding of Mormonism, the “testing” has more to do with seeking personal inward spiritual revelatory confirmation, but ironically personal revelation is taught to be kept within the boundaries of institutional teachings. So it doesn’t really seem to function as a practical and real test. I can count on my hand how many Mormons I’ve met who’ve said they have “tested” the teaching of a prophet or apostle from General Conference, etc., and rejected it as wrong. And those Mormons have gotten in trouble with their local leaders when peacefully expressing that concern of theirs in a bottom-up way.

    Other perhaps more subtle example factor is the kind of authoritative reverence / presentational accentuation that is given by conservative evangelicals to the text of scripture. This kind of authoritative accentuation seems to be primarily given to personal testimonies, not scripture, in Mormonism.

    Aaron, I would also ask if you would be willing to apply the following to Evangelical belief:

    “3. Regardless of whether a particular Mormon individual agrees or doesn’t agree with important teachings that have been recently been promoted from institutional Mormon channels of influence, that Mormon’s spiritual heart condition is also related to his or her willingness to be a part of such an institution that tolerates and/or teaches such things.”

    I actively encourage people to shed any financial or participatory connection with the ministries of Joel Osteen, Brian McLaren, etc. And with even with those groups that aren’t as bad, I actively encourage people to leave doctrinally weak evangelical churches and instead opt for churches that have expository preaching and better doctrine.

    Seth, I strongly agree with the need for evangelical (and particularly evangelical countercultists) to continually progress in their ability to better nuance and qualify their statements about Mormon teachings and beliefs. Generalizations are inevitable and necessary, but qualifying phrases—and a sense of historical consciousness—goes a long way and we have some work to do on that.

    You offered a definintion of “binding” as that which the Church body can be held to account for. Please expand on this. Do you believe the body of teachings the institution and faithful body are generally expected to believe are equivalent to that which they can be held accountable for? At first glance I think this is problematic. Like I said, the institution should still be held accountable for acquiescing to longstanding, unrepudiated ideas among members that were initiated and/or fostered by Mormon leadership and the generally understood implications of the traditional Mormon worldview. Please see the “How does Mormon doctrine die” discussion on TimesAndSeasons.org for related issues.

    As a sidenote, have you read “Conflict in the Quorum”, Seth? I’d challenge you to read that (chalk-full of primary sources) and see if you can walk away from it still thinking that we don’t have a basic understanding of Young’s Adam-God teaching. Mormon apologists seem very divided over whether Brigham actually taught it, but I’m glad to see an increasing number of them own up to it.

    Regarding church membership: In almost any religion, including mine, one can can just show up as an unknown guest and participate. What I am speaking of is the criteria for membership and formal participation. To allow for members to privately confess ardent atheism and a strong disbelief in the historic person of Christ and yet retain their membership and formal participation speaks to Mormonism’s value system.

    To others who question whether prima ecclesia is a fitting description of how many Mormons often treat various issues, I would agree that these Mormons would not bluntly say that “GA’s trump scripture”. The issue is that members functionally treat GA’s as more authoritative when the authority to interpret the canon is given to the leadership. This is an issue for others like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who explicitly claim allegiance to sola scriptura, and yet lets the Watchtower import tons of theology into the canonical text. Their functional commitment adherence to prima ecclesia is shown by the very way they hold their Kingdom Hall services. Check one out sometime. It is staggering.

    Another point I need to make is that a true, consistent adherence to sola scriptura or prima scriptura requires a higher view of the canon than Mormonism gives us. For starters, it requires a higher view of the authority and perspicuity and generally self-evidencing nature of the text (through some responsible hermeneutic like the historical grammatical method). Mormonism simply hasn’t fostered that kind of attitude toward the canonical text. It has fostered an attitude that the “living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works” (>>).

    But keep in mind, I don’t think one model like prima ecclesia is alone fitting to describe mainstream Mormonism. Like I have argued, there is an oscillation between all three listed models. That is why Mormonism needs to be holistically approached from many different angles. Approaching Mormon teachings and beliefs through the prima ecclesia model isn’t a sufficient way to account for all that is significantly going on within the mainstream membership or the institution.

    Okay, now back to work…

    Take care,

    Aaron

  30. Aaron,
    I will begin by asking you the same question that I asked Tim. How well does it go over when you begin to publically question the leadership of your church? Do you continue to feel welcome in that institution? Are there repercussions? I have the feeling that you are establishing a false dichotomy.

    Regarding another false dichotomy, Aaron, how do you know that the Bible is God’s word? Did someone convince you of it? Did you have some sort of experience? Were you born again? Even with the Bible as catalyst, did you have some sort of personal experience that firmly convinced you that the Bible was the word of God? I am deeply, deeply skeptical that study of Bible alone is sufficient to convince people that the Bible is God’s word. This is mostly because I know lot’s of people who have studied the Bible intensely (at least as intensely as your congregation does) and who have come to opposite conclusions regarding whether it constitutes God’s word. To argue that you are more deeply respectful of the Bible than you are of individual testimony strikes me as being either deliberate obfuscation or simple denial.

    Regarding the last point directed at me, what I meant was how would you like it if I assume that all Baptists and Calvinists believe what Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist church believe? They are self described primitive Baptists and Calvinists, so, by the logic used in that question, why shouldn’t I assume that you believe similarly (certainly other Temple Square protesters seem to). If they are too out there, how about Pat Robertson? or Richard Muow? Both are representative of the more mainstream Evangelical movement. Should I assume that what they believe and say is representative of what all Evangelicals believe and say? Even if this isn’t the case, it makes one wonder about the spiritual heart condition of one who is willing to be a part of an institution that tolerates and/or teaches such things. Should I touch on how well Evangelical christianity in the south dealt/deals with racism while we are at it?

    Are you starting to get why I see a double standard being applied in all of your criticisms of the church?

    “To allow for members to privately confess ardent atheism and a strong disbelief in the historic person of Christ and yet retain their membership and formal participation speaks to Mormonism’s value system.”

    Good point, Aaron. Let the shunning commense!

    “The issue is that members functionally treat GA’s as more authoritative when the authority to interpret the canon is given to the leadership. This is an issue for others like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who explicitly claim allegiance to sola scriptura, and yet lets the Watchtower import tons of theology into the canonical text.”

    I don’t see any reason why this can’t be equally applied to Evangelical Christianity (or any other religion, frankly). In my experience, the Evangelical tendency is not to come together in love and slowly work toward the unified truth of the text. In my experience, the Evangelical tendency is to schism until you have created a group that believes as you do (I’ll refer you again to Pastor Phelps and his merry band of baptists). This is, I admit, probably an unfair characterization. Of course, so are many of the one’s you are making regarding Mormons, so at least we’re even.

  31. John C., we have an Arminian on the board of elders, and yet our pastor (also an elder) is a Calvinist, etc. Some of my most enjoyable conversations with my pastor have been hearty theological debates. That sort of thing isn’t so taboo in my religious subculture.

    We don’t claim to be the One True Church Institution. I am not under a giant hierarchy. Mormons, however, are. And that comes with its own accountability and set of responsibilities.

    Subscribing to sola scriptura and not belonging to a giant hierarchical institution gives me a lot of freedom that Mormons don’t have. I’ve written more about that here and here. I can freely and publicly criticize people like Fred Phelps without feeling like I’m speaking against the Lord’s anointed.

    Good point, Aaron. Let the shunning commense!

    Think about this some more. Should it necessarily be an act of shunning to at least first encourage members who privately admit to ardent atheism to resign their formal membership? That this would involve shunning in your mind says more about your experience in Mormon culture than it does about the reasonable or unreasonableness of maintaining some more integrity with the church rolls.

  32. John ~ I would disagree that evangelicals play just as fast and loose with the scriptures as Mormons do. I have never in my life heard an evangelical say anything to the effect of, “Well, the Bible is wrong here.” I can’t even count the times a Latter-day Saint has told me, “That part must be mistranslated”—Mormonspeak for “the text of the Bible as we have it is wrong here.” I suppose the rare evangelical who believes in biblical errancy (like I. Howard Marshall or my friend JP Holding) might do something similar, but even they are never as flagrant and open about rejecting the text as Mormons are.

    However, the way Mormons sometimes treat the D&C, PoGP, and Book of Mormon is very comparable to how evangelicals sometimes treat the Bible. Both groups demonstrate bad eisegetical tendencies at times in those areas. But they still aren’t exactly the same.

    You said to Aaron:

    In my experience, the Evangelical tendency is to schism until you have created a group that believes as you do (I’ll refer you again to Pastor Phelps and his merry band of baptists).

    Two things on this:

    (1) Mormonism does schism, and your schisms can be just as crazy as ours. We have Fred Phelps, you have those polygamist nuts in Colorado City. The difference is, you have a centralized hierarchy that can officially disown them. We don’t. However, the FLDS folks are still just as much a part of the broad tradition of Mormonism as Phelps is part of the broad tradition of evangelicalism.

    (2) Schisms aren’t always a bad thing. I for one am grateful that if I study the Bible for myself and conclude that women can be pastors and deacons, and my church won’t ordain women, I can go to an evangelical church that will. If a Mormon studies the Bible and concludes that women can be prophets, there is absolutely nothing you can do to get the church to change its policy. You’re stuck with it.

    Denominations have their pros and cons, and one of the pros is that they allow us to exercise our freedom to evaluate the scriptures on our own and worship according to our conscience. You can certainly evaluate the scriptures on your own in Mormonism, but the church will only let you take your personal conclusions so far if they aren’t in line with church policy, and there’s pros and cons to that as well.

    Brian ~ See my comments to John above. Yes, I think both groups can conduct some awful eisegesis, but I don’t believe there is a parallel in evangelical Christianity for the way the 8th Article of Faith allows Mormons to treat the Bible.

    The other place where I don’t see a parallel: Mormons have some pretty major doctrines and practices which aren’t contained in the standard works. For example, God the Father having once been a man with a mortal probation. The vast majority of my LDS friends believe this, and I think it’s pretty significant, but I don’t think it’s even hinted at anywhere in the standard works.

    “Infallible” means that evangelicals never place the blame for something on the text of the Bible itself. When translated and understood correctly, the Bible is never in error. Mormons would agree with that in theory, but I don’t know any Mormons who believe the text of the Bible has been transmitted correctly, therefore correct translation in our day and age is impossible.

    Point is: if we bother to canonize teachings that expound on other scripture, wouldn’t we also canonize something that outright rejected other scripture? Then it’s just NT versus OT all over again.

    I agree with you that it would be analogous to a NT v. OT situation, but my point is that the mechanics for such an overturning exist in Mormonism. They don’t exist in evangelical Christianity; the Bible, however interpreted, has to be the final word in some way or another.

  33. Aaron,
    So that we are clear, you have directly and publically contradicted the leadership of your church, implying that it is uninspired or leading the flock astray? There is a world of difference between theological debate and calling the leadership of the church to task for misreading or misapplying scripture. As you well know, there is a lot of theological debate in the Mormon bloggernacle, so I don’t know what you think I am talking about. For clarity’s sake, I am asking what would be the consequence if you started picketing your church or if you interrupted a sermon to inform the congregation that the pastor is talking from his butt. Please let me know.

    Also, while I appreciate the suggestion from an Temple Square Evangelizer that I make the LDS church less welcoming to people as a matter of integrity, I can’t believe that you are making that suggestion in good faith. For that matter, why doesn’t your church boot that Arminian out? If your congregation can determine what constitutes a deal-breaker in terms of community fellowship, please refrain from suggesting what “integrity” demands our standards should be.

    Jack,
    This may be an eisegesis is in the eye of the beholder situation. As an example, I’ve seen the hoops through which Evangelicals jump in order to insert Modalism into the Old Testament. I don’t find that to stretch original meaning any more than what Mormons do with the Bible as a whole (or other LDS scripture). For my money, I don’t find that Mormons do more or less interpretive damage to the Bible than Evangelicals, but since such a thing is unquantifiable, we may have to drop the point.

    I agree with you, Jack, about Mormonism’s schisms (although there have been fewer over the years). Of course, who can officially disown whom depends on the schismatic branch you are discussing. However, Aaron appears to be arguing that sola scriptura means that since all Evangelicals reverence Jesus as described in the Bible then there is one true interpretation (one that, for example, excludes Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons). I pointed out that Evangelicals aren’t known generally speaking for ecumenicalism even within their ranks (again, this may be a matter of what I grew up with/media portrayal), instead they are known for founding new congregations when scriptural disputes cannot be resolved authoritatively. I imagine that this is likely an unfair generalization. I would be interested in your experiences as a counter to my own.

    I should also note that my perception is that Evangelical theology is fairly rigid and inflexible on the borders. I am happy to be proven wrong on that front if I am (both Mormonism and Evangelicalism have fairly gooey centers, I would guess).

    “I don’t believe there is a parallel in evangelical Christianity for the way the 8th Article of Faith allows Mormons to treat the Bible. ”

    Of course there is. When have you ever heard a kind word in your church for the Bhagavad Gita (when have I, for that matter)? When was the last time the Book of Mormon was spoken of approvingly? That you can be dismissive of something someone considers scripture indicates that you must have something similar to the 8th article of faith. Not that I think that we treat the Bible the way we treat the Bhagavad-Gita in Mormonism, but I agree that we don’t treat it with the bibliophilia ya’ll do.

  34. John C., I’ve had disagreements with teachings from the pulpit in the past (and voiced them), but I’ve personally never had to call a church leader of mine to repentance. But don’t overlook the fact that I’ve been able to join churches with pastors that agree with my belief system to begin with. If a pastor of mine started teaching that we had to merit eternal life, you can bet your britches that a bunch of us in the congregation, including me, would interrupt the service to object.

    Being Arminian isn’t a deal-breaker with regard to formal and intimate fellowship. Believing that God could have been a sinner or that we need to merit eternal life? Definite deal-breakers. Being an ardent atheist and a denier of the historical existence of Jesus? Yet more deal-breakers. Such people wouldn’t retain their formal membership at our church. Actually believing the items on our statement of faith (and not just at the time of initially becoming a member) is required for remaining a formal member.

    Do you really think theological debate within the bloggernacle counts as theological disputation with your priesthood leadership? Odd.

    And yes, I am well aware that if LDS church had policies that conformed more to integrity it would make some people feel less welcomed and dramatically lower the membership statistics. But that’s the price of integrity sometimes. John, just because an action or policy would make some people like the Mormon Church less doesn’t make it wrong. Your Church already requires affirming a set of beliefs to join. It’s not a stretch to say that you should be requiring the continuance of that basic set of beliefs to remain a formal member. What you’re basically saying to me is, “Oh, but if we encouraged or even required ardent atheists who denied the historical existence of Jesus to resign, we’d make them feel less welcome!” Good flippin’ Mormon cricket grief, is this a fraternity or a church you’re in?

    Again, I’m not in a heirarchy that claims to be the One True Church, but you are. It’s a whole different ballgame with a different kind of accountability and set of responsibilities, many of which Mormons don’t seem to want. But in the end you can’t have it both ways. If you want the freedom that comes with sola or even prima scriptura, then make the jump with all the necessary corequisites. But if you want your members to be able to boast in a continual stream of living modern-day prophetic counsel that can “clarify” corrupted or outdated, dead scripture, then you need to own up to the problems that occur when examining Mormonism from a prima ecclesia paradigm.

    No hard feelings, but I’m done with this thread. Don’t take it personally, I just am busy.

    Take care,

    Aaron

  35. Thanks for dropping in Aaron. Appreciate the comments.

    Jack, you brought up something Aaron touched on earlier. You said that for all my theories about orthopraxy vs. orthodoxy, I’d probably have real problems if I tried to push the orthodox barrier in Sunday School.

    Well, actually I don’t see this as a total contradiction of my point that Mormons are big on orthopraxis and not so much on orthodoxy. You make a stink in Sunday School and make people uncomfortable by trying to nail down and expose the limits of our belief – well, that’s just bad PRACTICE.

    See? See?

    Orthopraxy survives to fight another round!

    OK, maybe not a slam dunk there. But you have to admit that Mormons typically only care about orthopraxy when it has relevance for making life in the ward easier, or not.

  36. Aaron, I don’t think an ardent atheist is going to get a temple recommend or a serious leadership calling in this church unless he’s basically lying to people.

    But are you welcome to participate? Sure, Mormons are always thrilled to have outsiders who want to participate, pitch-in, and help out. Just so long as they don’t pee in the pool while they’re here…

  37. John I’ll get back to you tonight or tomorrow.

    Seth, go to http://www.wordpress.com and log in to your account, go to your Dashboard (probably the Nine Moons dashboard). There should be an option in the column on the left-hand screen for Users > Your Profile. On your profile tab there will be a box on the right-hand side for changing or uploading a new Gravatar. I believe you can upload almost any picture and they’ll let you crop it.

    I don’t know the specifics of how your interface with Nine Moons is set up, but it should be something along those lines.

    I just saw your orthopraxy post, but I gotta run right now.

  38. Aaron,
    If you leave it to me to rebut, I’m happy to do it.

    If you did object to some teaching, would it be well-received in a spirit of fellowship or something in your church? I wasn’t questioning your ability to object; I was questioning how the ecclesiastical reaction would be different. Based on your statement, I am not sure it would be.

    Regarding the bloggernacle, I assumed that the theological debate there was similar to the theological debates that you had had with your pastor. I brought it up because I thought you had missed my point.

    Again, Aaron, as someone who is paid in order to bring about the destruction of my faith, I don’t believe that you have a right to lecture me regarding what does or doesn’t constitute integrity (by this, I mean that I believe that no matter what the church did, you would continue to question its integrity). That said, the problem isn’t integrity; the problem is how you have chosen to define it. Luckily, as I am not a part of your congregation, I can continue to believe integrity is what I believe it to be. I can’t help it if the one true church (as you say) has a bigger tent that your brand of Evangelicalism or if we are not the sort of folk to engage in witch hunts (unlike you Calvinists, natch). Actually, that’s overstated, there have been plenty of Mormon witch-hunts (as there have been in every religious group). I’m happy we may be moving away from the mentality that leads to such thing, but if you feel that the way to emulate Christ is to drive the sinner away and to make the saint undergo regular loyalty tests, well, that is very Calvinist of you.

    Aaron, I will grant that you are not in a church that claims one true churchhood. But you are in a tradition that claims One True Interpretation-hood. One that, often, goes so far as to claim that people who don’t believe as you do will be thrust down to a hell of fire and brimstone and all that for all eternity by a “loving” God. How you can possibly believe that that is less offensive, less exclusive, or less prideful escapes me entirely.

    Regarding sola or prima scriptura vs. prima ecclessia, I’m with Seth on this, so you are preaching to the choir there. That said, I think you are missing a key point. Mormons don’t believe in dead scripture. Even the Bible is living scripture for us (although I am sure that there have been rhetorical flourishes in the past that may argue otherwise). That we can ask God or the prophet what day Christ was crucified on and believe that we might get an answer doesn’t indicate a lack of respect for the text. It indicates that we are interested in it and that we belief in using it and applying it to our lives directly. Just like Evangelicals.

    In case all ya’ll haven’t caught on to my primary message yet, I tend to think that the differences between Evangelicals and Mormons regarding how we read scripture are ephemeral. We have theological differences, but I don’t believe it is because one of the other of us has a more accurate reading of the Bible. I think that the religious experience between Mormons and Evangelicals is remarkably similar and that belief is going to be my schtick so long as I hang round these parts.

  39. John, I don’t know that Aaron gets paid for what he does necessarily. I have no idea how Mormon Research Ministries is set up.

    If he does get paid, I can’t imagine it amounts to that much.

  40. Seth,
    As far as I know, there is no taboo against payment for services rendered in Evangelical Christianity. I have no reason to assume he isn’t being paid (at least a pittance), but I’m happy to retract that until such time as Aaron says one way or the other.

  41. Jack: Please reconcile the following two comments:

    1) I don’t believe there is a parallel in evangelical Christianity for the way the 8th Article of Faith allows Mormons to treat the Bible.
    2) When translated…correctly, the Bible is never in error.

    Thanks for the definition of infallible—which still leaves me rejecting the term. I can’t accept that anything entrusted to humans is infallible. Furthermore, “When translated and understood correctly,” seems like such an impossibly high standard as to be meaningless—unless you allow the intervention of God, in which case we’re on a different playing field altogether (as in, “God told me so. So there!”).

    The major functional difference I see in the Ev versus LDS approach is that sloppy Mormons can toss out verses rather readily by saying a scribe inserted it. If they’re not being sloppy, however, then they’re going to treat the verse the same as any careful Evangelical. (I just deleted a lot on this ’cause it was getting really long and kinda off-topic.)

    “my point is that the mechanics for such an overturning exist in Mormonism. They don’t exist in evangelical Christianity” Agreed, but my point is that evangelical Christianity is based upon exactly this type of overturning: from the OT to the NT. I don’t know why you criticize Mormonism on this principle when you have already accepted it in practice.

  42. Brian,
    I was going to make a similar point regarding the shift from OT to NT, but I think that is endorsed to some degree within the NT by Christ himself. I think that may be where the difference lies, FWIW.

  43. John ~ I would be interested in your experiences as a counter to my own.

    Usually I’ve been overwhelmed by how well denominations are capable of working together in spite of their differences. I once had a pastor tell me openly that I was free to leave his congregation and attend another with his blessing if I felt like that was where God was leading me, so I did. My biggest concern as far as denominations go is the racial divide between black and white churches.

    That’s not to say that I’ve never felt disgruntled with evangelicals of other denominations, but in general, I’m satisfied with our system. Like I said, there’s pros and cons to both. We have more mess but we also have more freedom.

    When have you ever heard a kind word in your church for the Bhagavad Gita (when have I, for that matter)?

    Um, what? I’m talking about Mormons disregarding something they hold to be their own scriptures, and I don’t think there’s a parallel for that in evangelical Christianity. It’s kind of a given that neither group has much to say about the scriptures of other faiths.

    ——————————————-

    Brian ~ I can’t accept that anything entrusted to humans is infallible. Furthermore, “When translated and understood correctly,” seems like such an impossibly high standard as to be meaningless—unless you allow the intervention of God, in which case we’re on a different playing field altogether (as in, “God told me so. So there!”).

    From my point of view, the Bible is the intervention of God. But I’m not sure I understand you. Are you saying God has no sure way of communicating with men because as soon as it reaches men it inevitably gets at least a little bit screwed up?

    my point is that evangelical Christianity is based upon exactly this type of overturning: from the OT to the NT.

    Evangelical Christianity post-dates that overturning, and we don’t have the tools in place to make it happen again—or if we did, I think we’d stop being evangelical Christianity and become something more like Mormonism. As things currently are, I still see that as a difference.

    I don’t know why you criticize Mormonism on this principle when you have already accepted it in practice.

    I didn’t think I was criticizing Mormonism at all, I’m only trying to categorize differences. Evangelical Christianity relies more heavily on the writings of ancient prophets and apostles, Mormonism relies more heavily on the words of living prophets and apostles, ie the current church. I don’t see either of those paradigms as flawed in themselves; in fact, in theory, I’d prefer the LDS one.

    ——————————————-

    Seth ~ It may be the case that orthodoxy is ultimately irrelevant to being a practicing Mormon so long as you stay quiet about your heterodoxy/heresy, but I don’t think that’s the same as orthodoxy not existing.

    And honestly, don’t you think having to shut up about your deviant beliefs kind of takes all the fun out of it?

  44. Who says I “shut up” about it?

    Although I do try to stay subtle about it. The game of challenging people without utterly pissing them off can be rather entertaining at times.

  45. Jack,
    I actually think that Mormonism is more open to the scripture of other faiths than regular ol’ Christianity is, but that is more a matter of seeking good whereever you can find it than anything else. That said, I don’t think that we treat the Bible any differently than we treat other scripture. In saying that, I should say that I don’t treat it any differently. I’m familiar enough with the transmission history of the remainder of LDS scripture to treat them all with a combination of skepticism and faith (paradoxical, but true). That said, I am just as likely to be outraged by someone flippantly saying “that must be a scribal error” as you are and I don’t like that LDS exegetical quirk. If you want to posit a scribal error, do it in the original language and demonstrate it from extant texts, says I.

    “Are you saying God has no sure way of communicating with men because as soon as it reaches men it inevitably gets at least a little bit screwed up?”

    I would edit this to read that God has no sure way of communicating through men. God communicating to men is the revelatory experience that is at the heart of divine communion. But that experience is notoriously difficult to capture in language, music, or art. Communicating it is fraught with peril, but sometimes it works.

    “Evangelical Christianity post-dates that overturning, and we don’t have the tools in place to make it happen again—or if we did, I think we’d stop being evangelical Christianity and become something more like Mormonism. As things currently are, I still see that as a difference. ”

    This is good stuff. I see your point.

    “so long as you stay quiet about your heterodoxy/heresy”

    I don’t think the issue is being quiet so much as it is being non-disruptive (as Seth argued).

  46. I suppose so.

    Although they promoted me to 11 year old scouts a few months ago.

    Which also means I stuck with the same seven goofy boys I had to begin with.

  47. John C said
    Really, Tim? And if you suddenly decided to start preaching from the Book of Mormon there would be no earthly repercussions? Nothing would happen at your church?

    What I was trying to get at was that Mormon doctrine is supposed to be defined and delineated by the Prophet and the Quorum of the 12. In this case, Millett offered up something new on his own and apparently waited for the Prophet to grant his blessing (or not object). This was one of several turning points in Mormonism where a theologian applied his trade and the leadership took their belief from him (for lack of a better way to describe it at this moment).

    This was not the way things were handled in the past in Mormonism and I’m was speaking to this innovation. Not that Millett said anything so terribly heretical. FPR had a recent discussion about their hope for more of this (If I recall correctly).

  48. I’ve been having a similar conversation to this on a private blog elsewhere and it’s gotten me thinking a bit.

    The main point of contention here seems to be to ask whether Mormonism can really lay claim to it’s big selling point of modern prophetic guidance if that guidance is going to be subject to all these qualifications (such as Aaron’s Prima Scriptura model).

    Can Mormons brag about having a prophet if they are going to put restrictions on him?

    Related to that point, I’ve been thinking about the proper role of a prophet and came to a sort of interesting conclusion.

    I don’t think theological exposition is a prophet’s primary role.

    Think of the prophets of the Old Testament. How much theological clarification and explanation did Elijah do? How many new doctrines did he push?

    If you think it over, I think you’ll conclude he didn’t have that many. Jeremiah was the same story.

    While you get aberrations like Moses – who did produce a lot of theologically unique material – the vast majority of the prophets didn’t seem to have much to do with theology.

    No, what the prophets were usually doing was calling people to repentance, warning against idolatry, and (if you believe Mormon and Evangelical reads) looking forward to the central human event of the Atonement.

    Mormonism seems to fit this pattern. Like Moses, Joseph had a period of intense theological activity. But he has been followed by a relative period of theological inactivity. It seems that despite the rough-cut and undefined nature of Mormon theology, the whole affair has the mark of “good enough to go on” stamped on it. We’ve got enough for the time being and the current prophet’s main job is to direct the day to day of the modern Church.

    If you look at the content of Mormon prophets since Joseph Smith, it’s been largely a caretaker role. The focus has been on calls to repentance, spiritual advice, and calls for righteous living.

    If you buy into Mormon truth claims, it almost seems like God is not incredibly bothered about having the couplet “as man now is, God once was” hashed out.

    Is it impossible to contemplate that it just might not be his first priority to have that sorted out? Or any number of other technical holes in Mormon theology?

  49. John C. said:

    I don’t think that we treat the Bible any differently than we treat other scripture. In saying that, I should say that I don’t treat it any differently. I’m familiar enough with the transmission history of the remainder of LDS scripture to treat them all with a combination of skepticism and faith (paradoxical, but true). That said, I am just as likely to be outraged by someone flippantly saying “that must be a scribal error” as you are and I don’t like that LDS exegetical quirk.

    I’m in full accord.

    I cannot think of a part of the Bible I don’t believe in (although I don’t claim to understand it all either). Stephen Robinson said much the same thing in How Wide the Divide, so I’m not alone in that.

    And in my opinion, any thing about believing the Bible as far as it is translated correctly applies to the Book of Mormon and other nonbiblical scriptures as well. To me, the 8th Article of Faith makes that pretty clear, but I realize not all understand it that way..

  50. Just a few points: First, it is ironic in extremis for evangelicals to be asking Mormons about the ultimate authority for their doctrinal statements. The irony is a trinity of paradoxes. First, the bible as we know it may be pointed to as some ultimate authority — but it clearly wasn’t so for the earliest followers of Christ since they didn’t have the Bible as we know it. Their ultimate authority was the prophetic word first as it was declared thru Jesus and later through his successors, e.g., as shown in the revelation to Peter about how to interpret and supersede the Mosaic table-fellowship and dietary laws. Revelation overrode the prior word and commandment of God. The Judeo-Christians in Peter’s days (the many so-called “Christians” who refused to listen to God’s continuing revelation) rejected that revelation and so even tho they accepted Jesus, nevertheless, rejected the gospel and its ongoing vitality. They could easily have pointed to the their then-current Bible to refute Peter’s revelation.

    Second, the bible isn’t self-interpreting. It has been interpreted in so many ways that it has given rise to numerous vastly different approaches. What is the authority for any given interpretation? If it is the scholarly hermeneutic as one would expect with a written text, then the bible is left to the vagaries of the ever-changing scholarly assessment of the text. Further, the last word lies not with revelation but with the noggin of the smartest or most persuasive interpretation. That isn’t trustworthy and it certainly isn’t what Jesus taught us to trust.

    Third, the notion that the bible as we know it is all there is and the last and ultimate authority ain’t in the bible as we know it. Thus, if the doctrine of sola scriptura is true, then it is false because it violates its own criteria of truth.

    The entire discussion from the evangelical position asking for some ultimate dogma is just what Mormons ought to reject. Aaron’s false trichotomy hardly exhausts the possibilities. That is especially true since the meaning of the text isn’t and cannot be self-interpreting. That means that the scriptural authority will always be augmented or viewed through the lens of some other interpretive authority. If it isn’t a prophetic and revelatory authority, then why would we care about it since it cannot have authority with respect to the Christian?

    There is always an interplay between text, tradition and present authority. For evangelicals, the current interpretive authority is largely the current hegemony of seminary interpretive trends. For Mormons it is this complex interplay of scriptural sources with historical authority and present authority. However, for LDS, thankfully, it takes only one word from God thru the prophet to give us further light and knowledge that comes at the end of a revelatory tradition and thus places it all in context and under the authority of that statement. Regardless of what the dietary laws were, the revelation from God to Peter can change all of what went before. Despite any teaching or practice that went before, one word from God to Pres. Monson now could change all of that.

    What constitutes apostasy is the refusal to listen to God’s voice in the here and now through those whom He has called to deliver such messages. It is what constituted apostasy in Isaiah’s day, Jesus’s day and it is what constitutes apostasy and spiritual blindness in our own day. Their lips are near and speak of godly things, but their hearts are from from listening to God as he is currently speaking.

  51. Blake ~ It doesn’t sound like you read the sola scriptura series by C. Michael Patton which was linked to above. It deals with several of the arguments you raise, to some extent your first point and especially your third.

    The entire discussion from the evangelical position asking for some ultimate dogma is just what Mormons ought to reject. … However, for LDS, thankfully, it takes only one word from God thru the prophet to give us further light and knowledge that comes at the end of a revelatory tradition and thus places it all in context and under the authority of that statement.

    I find these statements a little contradictory. It’s wrong for evangelicals to ask what the ultimate dogma in Mormonism is, yet the prophet can deliver the ultimate dogma at any time as needed? Sounds like you’re trying to have things both ways.

    But in any case, I agree that the current church leaders have the most authoritative and binding word on a subject, which is why I think prima ecclesia is the best way of describing the LDS system. Or imprimis prophetis viventibus.

    And just in case I haven’t made myself clear on this thread: I’m not interested in arguing over whose authority system is better. I’ve already stated that I think the LDS system is better in theory. What I’m interested in is clarification and categorization of the LDS system, and I’m kind of surprised to see people mounting defenses against even that.

    What constitutes apostasy is the refusal to listen to God’s voice in the here and now through those whom He has called to deliver such messages. It is what constituted apostasy in Isaiah’s day, Jesus’s day and it is what constitutes apostasy and spiritual blindness in our own day. Their lips are near and speak of godly things, but their hearts are from from listening to God as he is currently speaking.

    Now is that kind of soapboxing really necessary? We’re all friends here. 😉

    —————————————–

    Seth ~ Interesting write-up. My only qualm is, to what extent can the same logic be applied to the evangelical system of authority? For example, “God didn’t clarify the fate of those who haven’t heard the Gospel in the Bible because He isn’t terribly bothered by it.”

  52. Bridget: First, you presumptuously assume that I haven’t read Patton. I just found him way less than persuasive — especially on the third point.

    You don’t get it. The “doctrine” isn’t prima anything. First, doctrine as evangelicals take it doesn’t exist in the LDS view and for a simple reason. Evangelicals believe that one must either mentally accept or mouth the proper proposition with the proper intention to be saved. In contrast, in LDS thought salvation has nothing to do with whether we are smart enough to expostulate a proper doctrine of the Trinity or something of that sort as a basis for salvation.

    Let me give the most essential and concrete example possible about how I believe the evangelical approach regarding doctrine differs and how it is just unacceptable. Look at the issue carefully. What “doctrine” is that must be believed (or confessed by mouth) to be saved? You see, the question assumes that believing a doctrine is what is essential to salvation. For most evangelicals it is something like “Jesus is Lord.” Do you believe that LDS are saved by believing — without elaboration — that “Jesus is Lord”? Since virtually every believing LDS believes this proposition (if that is what it is), all believing LDS should be saved as well, right? So what do evangelicals have to offer that we don’t already have? So we’re all saved in the same way and to the same extent, right?

    Well, not so fast. LDS believe that Jesus is Lord, but that just isn’t quite enough for many (perhaps most) evangelicals because when an LDS person says “Jesus is Lord” somehow we have a different Jesus and mean something different by Lord. What is it we must mean that we don’t? Since we are both referring to the individual known as Jesus of Nazareth who resurrected after his death, it isn’t the proper identity of Jesus that is at issue. So what is it? It must be that somehow LDS just don’t get what it means to say that “Jesus is Lord” even tho we believe it.

    So what is that we just don’t get? Must we say “Lord” with the tetragrammaton underlying the name and the identity of YHWH in mind? Since we believe that Jesus is identified with Jehovah, that can’t be it. So it must be that we don’t identify Jesus with the Father in the appropriate way when we say “Lord.” What is missing? Just the doctrine of the Trinity. So we aren’t saved because we don’t have the right implicit meaning of the Trinity underlying “Jesus is Lord” when we confess it? Or is it that we also believe in baptism — or that faith is pregnant with covenant confession of Christ as Lord thru baptism? Or is it that we also believe in prophets? You see, this is really important for evangelicals because somehow getting the right doctrine in mind is the basis of salvation.

    The problem is that I’ve never met an evangelical who could talk about the Trinity or what “Lord” means for more than two minutes without falling into what even they would recognize as heresy. Usually it’s not merely a logical but also a scriptural mess. So if the test of salvation is getting the right doctrine, implying the right proposition and intentional attitude toward that proposition to be saved, then I think that evangelicals will all go to hell by their own requirement for proper doctrine. I’m not as happy about that as most evangelical I talk to seem to be that they think I’m going to hell.

    But you missed the point of my comments entirely. For Mormons salvation is not about proper doctrine. What is authoritative for us is not getting the proper understanding of some scriptural formula from the handbook of all truth in the bible.

    Further, you miss the point entirely when you assert that the Mormon view is prima ecclesia — since it clearly ain’t. It is a synthesis of many different strands of scripture, tradition and present revelation that work together and are mutually reinforcing without clear primacy of one above the other. I wouldn’t even recognize the prophet as such but for the scriptures, and I don’t know what the scriptures mean by the word “prophet” without experience and tradition, and I don’t know what the priority of the current prophet’s words are unless I know what he says and what his words mean.

    I have written at some length on these issues and how even a prophet’s words are conditioned by the language, categories of thought and reading reception of such words — and that doesn’t even get into the relation between the prophet and God.

    Finally, you say that we’re all friends — and that somehow is opposed to saying that mouthing the right doctrine but not getting it in the heart is the essence of apostasy. You say that with the presumptuous implication that somehow what I say is contrary to friendship. Could you enlighten me as to how reminding folks that having lips that are near but a heart that is far from God is inimical to friendship? I guess I missed that implication. However, if you see the words of Isaiah, Jesus and God to Joseph Smith as somehow opposed to being friends with me, man, I’d really like to know what the issue is.

  53. Jack: “I didn’t think I was criticizing Mormonism at all, I’m only trying to categorize differences.”

    My bad; I was reading you wrong.

    From my point of view, the Bible is the intervention of God. But I’m not sure I understand you. Are you saying God has no sure way of communicating with men because as soon as it reaches men it inevitably gets at least a little bit screwed up?”

    First, let’s be clear that we’re discussing how to make sense of the Bible—my comment about “the intervention of God” was in response to your comment about the Bible never being “in error” when “understood correctly.” Of course the Bible is the intervention of God, but it’s not the intervention that is going to help you and I make sense of the Bible; i.e., the Bible is not going to make sense of itself. Thus, I am of course referring to some other intervention (e.g., the Holy Spirit) that perfects one’s understanding.

    “But I’m not sure I understand you. Are you saying God has no sure way of communicating with men because as soon as it reaches men it inevitably gets at least a little bit screwed up?”

    Yes and no. No, that’s not what I was saying, but yes I think that’s still correct as a whole. Let’s take the “Yes” part first. It depends what God is trying to communicate; some things are within our capability to understand and some are not. In other words, I don’t think that God could pass all of his knowledge on to a (mortal) person even if God wanted to.

    Now, what I was trying to say. I don’t believe that people are capable of passing communication from God on to other people without something being lost or at least a little bit screwed up. Maybe you and I have a different view of how scripture was written, but I believe that most of it was not the exact words that God wrote with his finger on tablets of stone (or whatever). Rather, I believe that inspired, knowledgeable people wrote according to their understanding, trying to put into words their feelings, experiences, visions, etc.—all of which came from God but did not come with an attached transcript.

    So, does God have some “sure way of communicating”? Yes, by communicating directly to individuals.

  54. So, does God have some “sure way of communicating”? Yes, by communicating directly to individuals.

    I wasn’t going to jump in on this thread, because all y’all are way smarter than me when it comes to this stuff :)…but I have to say this comment made me curious.

    Brian, are you saying that personal revelation trumps everything else?

  55. So this guy named Saul Paul thought he had it all straight: he was doing just what his scriptures told him, was a careful observer of the Law as given by the prophets, defended the truth as he understood it and so forth, but then bam! one day this God named Jesus visits him and changes everything. Blew his mind too.

    And then there was this other guy, named BrianJ, who grew up hearing all this stuff about God and prophets and scriptures and blah blah blah but who really cares because what difference does it make? And then there were a few times when he actually experimented with the doctrines he was hearing—honesty first, love your enemy, pray for guidance—and the promised rewards actually happened! Blew his mind too.

  56. Blake wrote:

    “Further, you miss the point entirely when you assert that the Mormon view is prima ecclesia — since it clearly ain’t. It is a synthesis of many different strands of scripture, tradition and present revelation that work together and are mutually reinforcing without clear primacy of one above the other.”

    And Aaron S. wrote much earlier:

    “But keep in mind, I don’t think one model like prima ecclesia is alone fitting to describe mainstream Mormonism. Like I have argued, there is an oscillation between all three listed models. That is why Mormonism needs to be holistically approached from many different angles. Approaching Mormon teachings and beliefs through the prima ecclesia model isn’t a sufficient way to account for all that is significantly going on within the mainstream membership or the institution.”

    ….

    OK guys, you’re really freaking me out here.

    Did I just hear Aaron Shafovaloff and Blake Ostler AGREE with each other?

    Man, I need to go to bed, because I’m clearly out of my skull here…

  57. Blake ~ Do you go out of your way to be abrasive, or is it just your regular modus operandi? Your frequent accusations of presumption and “you don’t get it / you missed the point entirely” come off as… well… presumptuous. I guess I generally prefer discussions where I’m not regularly assessed as having misunderestimated the people around me or stupidly missed the point entirely.

    But just for you, next time you repeat an argument that has been addressed in an article that was referenced earlier in a thread, I’ll just remember that you’re ignoring the counter-argument because of course you’ve already read it and wtfpwn’ed it in your head and it’s just that far beneath you. I mean, I wouldn’t want to be presumptuous or anything.

    Regarding evangelical soteriology: I believe (and I think a lot of evangelicals would agree) that what saves you is a confession of need for salvation from Christ in conjunction with a broken heart and contrite spirit. It’s a condition of the heart, not a condition of the head, and I’ve long found the notion that incorrect theology in itself can be a deal-breaker on this to be completely unbiblical.

    For Mormons salvation is not about proper doctrine.

    Why don’t you elaborate for me what salvation is about for Mormons? I always thought it was Faith=>Repentance=>Baptism=>Gift of the Holy Ghost and so forth, but those initial faith & repentance steps sound awfully similar to evangelical confession.

    It is a synthesis of many different strands of scripture, tradition and present revelation that work together and are mutually reinforcing without clear primacy of one above the other.

    Now we’re getting somewhere, but let me clarify my position: I think a lot of Mormons have what can be called a prima ecclesia view. You personally? Obviously not. What the church’s official position? Well, that’s frustratingly vague, which probably just goes to show that there are in fact different positions on it within Mormonism, even if there’s more than the 3 broad categories Aaron has made.

    Could you enlighten me as to how reminding folks that having lips that are near but a heart that is far from God is inimical to friendship?

    Well Blake, if someone came up to me at church tomorrow and said, “Jack, I’d just like to remind you that Exodus 20:14 forbids adultery,” I would take that to mean they believed I was committing adultery. If that were the case I might be thankful for my friend’s reprimand, but if that weren’t the case and they had no innocent reason for thinking so, I’d be offended and probably wouldn’t think they were much of a friend.

    I believe everyone here (even Aaron, unpopular though he may be) is doing his best to have a heart and lips that are close to God. If you weren’t implying that the evangelical system is about having lips that are near to God and a heart far from Him, then I apologize for misunderstanding you and you can forget everything I said on the matter.

    ———————————

    Brian ~ I like how you think, and honestly, the conversion and appointment of Paul is one of the most non-hierarchical revelations in the Bible. But I kind of think that if you think personal revelation trumps all, you really ought to be an evangelical. Soul competency sounds like your thing.

    Well, technically soul competency is a strictly Baptist doctrine, but I swiped it like Swiper the Fox on Dora the Explorer, which I have seen way too many times today for my own good.

  58. Jack—new term for me, and I’m finding different definitions of it depending on where I go (SBC site, Wikipedia, others). That said, it’s an interesting question: how does soul competency square with Mormonism? Is there a Mormon spin to it, or version of it?

  59. I don’t know that what BrianJ is saying is all that radical. I’d tend to agree with it. I’d go so far as to say that individual personal revelation is meant to be the prime mover for all action in Mormonism.

    I also like Jack’s equation of the first two steps in the LDS understanding of the doctrine of Christ with the evangelical conversion experience. What mystifies me is that people with such similar personal experiences of God can be so stubbornly willing to see the worst in each other. It’s sad.

    I, too, am completely unfamiliar with the notion of soul competency. If only I knew some Evangelicals who had a blog devoted to fostering interfaith dialogue who could explain it to me…

    Finally, Blake, dial it down, buddy. There’s only one MRM dude here and it ain’t Jack.

  60. Some clarifications on what I think regarding salvation:

    ~ No, I do not think incorrect theology in itself can invalidate salvation. It’s completely conceivable to me that someone who did his best to put Christ first in his life but ignorantly and sincerely got some things wrong about Him can be saved—see C.S. Lewis’s Calormene warrior in the Chronicles of Narnia. I was discussing this in e-mail with my friend JP Holding once and he said something like, “If a correct understanding of the Trinity is required for salvation, there’s only going to be, like, 12 people in the New Jerusalem. At least they won’t have to worry about the streets getting dirty!” I think he’s right.

    ~ However, incorrect theology can be an indicator that someone has either rebelled against and lost that broken-hearted saving condition or never had it.

    ~ Since Mormons make confessions of Christ but (from my point of view) usually have incorrect theology, where do they stand? That’s really not up to me. I definitely do believe there are Mormons who are saved in spite of having incorrect theology; I have met them. I’ve also met Mormons who really seemed not-saved to me, but I’m extremely uncomfortable judging that.

    On Soul Competency ~ The Wikipedia article on soul competency does a good job of explaining what it means, at least my understanding of it.

    In Mormonism, I think there’s room for the individual liberty and personal accountability before God aspects to translate, especially when you consider the 11th article of faith. Soul competency allows that your conscience and choices may take you outside of the Baptist faith, so if you accept that your personal revelation may take you outside of the LDS faith, then you’re really lining up.

    I don’t think the authority aspect translates very well. That’s very priesthood-of-believers-based, and in Mormonism some people have definite authority over others. You certainly have the authority to decide for yourself what truth is, but your interpretation of a scripture does not have the authority within the LDS system that Monson’s interpretation of a scripture does.

  61. Jack: If you think I’ve been abrasive, then all I can say is that you haven’t seen anything yet. Maybe it’s because I went to law school where teaching is by the Socratic method that I see challenging and asking further questions even when it becomes uncomfortable as the greatest teaching tool.

    That said, I’m sooo glad to hear that u (unlike most evangelicals I know) don’t think that incorrect doctrine is a disqualifier of salvation.

    But you have asked a very important question: “Why don’t you elaborate for me what salvation is about for Mormons? I always thought it was Faith=>Repentance=>Baptism=>Gift of the Holy Ghost and so forth, but those initial faith & repentance steps sound awfully similar to evangelical confession.”

    Well, I’ve written several chapters about that. I know, I know, I just can’t expect you to be aware of such things merely because I’ve written about them. Salvation for Mormons is basically being saved from the devil, hell and death. All but sons of Perdition are saved. They are saved when they bow the knee and confess that Jesus is the Christ — according to D&C 76. There are different uses of the term “salvation” in LDS usage as you must be well aware. In the Lectures on Faith, for example, to be saved means to be like God — that is, it means essentially deification. That is something beyond salvation as it is used in D&C 76.

    Here’s how I think about it. Any person is saved in saved in virtue of acknowledging Jesus as Christ in his or her heart (without having to be able to propositionally parse what it means). It is salvation by grace through faith in Christ. However, there is more beyond that based upon what we do — based upon our works — based upon the reward that we receive in judgment by works — based on what we do after we have been saved — based on the works that flow from our faith. Evangelicals would call it something like sanctification completed by glorification. Don’t you believe that sanctification and glorification are dependent on the judgment by and reward according to our works? LDS call it sanctification capped by glorified exaltation or deification. Because LDS focus on these doctrines rather than the initial salvation by grace through faith and confession of the heart represented in baptism, we are accused of rejecting salvation by faith alone, or by grace alone.

    I meant it when I said that true apostasy is consists in the refusal to listen to the prophets who deliver God’s message. If that causes you to choose to take offense (since I don’t have power to offend you if you choose not be offended), then so be it.

    Final Question: If Mormons can be saved just by believing the bible and Jesus is Lord, then what more is offered to us by the evangelical?

    John C: I just don’t remember accusing Jack of being an MRM dude or even of treating her as if she were.

  62. Jack said: “You certainly have the authority to decide for yourself what truth is, but your interpretation of a scripture does not have the authority within the LDS system that Monson’s interpretation of a scripture does.”

    I think the meaning of the greater authority of leadership to interpret scripture and doctrine goes back to the “army of God” concept I have mentioned previously.

    The Church, apparently, needs to be a tight-knit, unified organization. Because very few things are absolutely clear in scripture, a sort of artificially unified interpretation is necessary to avoid schism within the group. Mormon upper leadership has been relatively hesitant to lay down exclusively correct interpretations on lots of issues because it understands the limiting effect of this. However when it does lay down “official” doctrine. we have to assume that part of the reason is simply to get everybody on the same page, regardless of whether all of the fine points are correct. This is why you see adjustments over time and adjustments based on scholarship etc. because the “approved solution” to theological problems doesn’t always have to be the perfect solution in order to meet the needs of the church.

    I think this makes sense because most doctrinal issues don’t matter a whole lot in real life and many are simply to far removed to really meaningfully discuss. It also allows for some disagreement between members and leadership. We don’t have to agree with everything that is taught by the “brethren” but its also prudent not to rock the boat on some issues because it could detract from the ultimate purposes of the organization.

    Ultimately the church is told to “preach only repentance” and Jesus’ focus was about loving and living unselfishly. You don’t need to be correct on the intricacies of the relationship between God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit to practice this type of Christianity.

  63. Blake,
    My point was that her comment didn’t require the hostility that your response seemed to come from. If that is your regular mode of discourse, wow. Just wow.

  64. John, I’ve found I tend to treat Evangelicals more harshly before I get to know them than after.

    Other than that, I’m staying out of this one. Jack and Blake are both adults and can take care of themselves.

  65. “I don’t know that what BrianJ is saying is all that radical. I’d tend to agree with it.”

    Uh-oh. If John C agrees with me, then I really am a radical. {wink}

    Jack: I’m going to nag you on something I asked above. Please reconcile the following two comments:

    1) I don’t believe there is a parallel in evangelical Christianity for the way the 8th Article of Faith allows Mormons to treat the Bible.
    2) When translated…correctly, the Bible is never in error.

    Also, can you tell me (objectively) whether your definition of “infallible” is mainstream? Would Todd Wood use the same qualifiers “translated and understood correctly”? (Not that Todd is necessarily mainstream….) Would Tim or Aaron or Mark Driscoll?

  66. Blake ~ Concerning your tone, I can tell you that John and I weren’t the only ones on this thread who thought you were being needlessly confrontational. It has more to do with your writing voice than your methods of questioning and discussion. If that’s really just how you usually are, I’ll try to keep in mind that it isn’t something about me personally.

    It doesn’t sound like your ideas on salvation and mine are so different. I do believe in rewards in heaven and that works merit rewards; to that effect, I also believe in different degrees of punishment in hell, and I’ve long thought this isn’t entirely different from the LDS system (where the telestial and terrestrial kingdoms sometimes double as “hell” or punishment in the scriptures).

    I’m not completely sure yet what I think of the exact relationship between works, sanctification and glorification. I’m still working that out.

    If Mormons can be saved just by believing the bible and Jesus is Lord, then what more is offered to us by the evangelical?

    Freedom. (Sexy underwear also comes to mind…)

    But I sort of feel the same way about the LDS system. If I’m able to accept the LDS Gospel and progress in the next life just the same, what’s the point of accepting it in this life, other than speeding things up?

    Brian ~ When I say “translated correctly,” I literally mean translated from the extant Greek and Hebrew manuscripts. I’ve made it pretty clear that I think some English Bibles have been translated poorly in places (turn your KJV to Isaiah 34:14 and read all about the mythical satyr for an example). Every Mormon I’ve known who accused the Bible of being “mistranslated” meant that the extant Greek and Hebrew manuscripts are corrupt and no amount of consideration for linguistics, cultural context or textual criticism can restore its original meaning. It’d be more correct to say that they believe the text has been transmitted incorrectly. I realize that “translate” can technically mean “transmit,” but damn, am I tired of confusing terminology.

    I think that my understanding of “infallible” would be widely accepted by evangelical scholars who believe in inerrancy. I don’t know if you would call it “mainstream” because “mainstream” Christians usually don’t know crap about textual criticism and act like their preferred English translation of the Bible is what’s infallible.

    I can’t tell you what Tim and Aaron think, though I suspect they’d agree with me. Mark Driscoll? Honestly, who cares what he thinks? (His endorsement on the cover of my ESV Study Bible makes me want to cry.)

  67. John: Wow, just wow back at ya pal.

    Jack. But I sort of feel the same way about the LDS system. If I’m able to accept the LDS Gospel and progress in the next life just the same, what’s the point of accepting it in this life, other than speeding things up?

    I agree that our views just aren’t that different. That in itself is an important recognition. However, how would you feel if your husband had said — “look, I can marry you in 10 or 20 or 30 years, so what is the rush other than speeding things up?” I think you’d be perfectly justified in saying “it will take longer than that because you really don’t love me.”

    BTW you could have more freedom in the sense you’re using it by rejecting Christianity too — no more limitations on fidelity, no more need to worry about charity and you don’t need to dress modestly anymore. Just think of how many more skimpy dresses and outfits you could wear! Wahoo! Eat, drink and be marry, for tomorrow we die! Come on, what kind of attitude is that for one who would be a disciple of Christ?

  68. Jack: “Concerning your tone, I can tell you that John and I weren’t the only ones on this thread who thought you were being needlessly confrontational.”

    I’m going to be way more careful Jack because I didn’t know that you can read minds!

  69. Jack Said: “If I’m able to accept the LDS Gospel and progress in the next life just the same, what’s the point of accepting it in this life, other than speeding things up?”

    The “point”, according to my understanding of Mormonism doesn’t really have a lot to do with salvation. These are the reasons I can gather:

    (1) Mormon doctrine opens your mind things that may enrich your life through a greater understanding of God. (not a given but you could assume greater understanding may = greater happiness.

    (2) As a Mormon you may have more opportunity to better participate in building the kingdom of God and preparing for the second coming. (again not given, but likely if the church is “true”) You may be one of the “elect” called to be a part of this work.

    (3) If the church is true, you get the “gift of the Holy Ghost” which may equal a greater opportunity for spiritual power and understanding.

    Other than these reasons, I don’t think it matters much if you accept Mormonism now or after you die.

  70. Bring it Blake! – I like rough and tumble, especially when its just good old fashioned bible bashing. I know you don’t have anything personal against Jack (or the rest of us) since I am sure you haven’t read the Polygamy Jesus thread in its entirety yet.

    Blake said: “Eat, drink and be marry, for tomorrow we die! Come on, what kind of attitude is that for one who would be a disciple of Christ?

    I think this is closer to the Mormon attitude. But usually we say be “Married” rather than “be marry”.

    AND if marriage is of high concern, its not a bad policy. I think wine in moderation and sexy underwear on occasion might not be a bad strategy to increase marriage satisfaction.

    We may have something yet to learn from those Evangelicals. . .

  71. Blake said:
    You see, this is really important for evangelicals because somehow getting the right doctrine in mind is the basis of salvation.

    Blake, Jack did a fine job of addressing this already, but I’ll throw in as well that you are mischaracterizing Evangelicals here (though not all of us as long as Fred Phelps is running around).

    We believe salvation comes without merit. That goes for theological hoop-jumping-merit as well. I have never met an Evangelical who believes that everyone has to pass a theology exam to get into heaven (though I have been given a number of theology exams).

    When we express concern about doctrine it is to judge whether or not the doctrine is orthodox and whether or not the teacher is orthodox. We want to know if the Mormon view of the nature of God is Christian. What naturally follows is the question “where does following non-Christian teaching lead?” Unfortunately, many many Evangelicals have declared that anyone who ever follows a false-teacher must be on their way to hell with their teacher.

    I’m not comfortable or qualified to say who damnation waits for but I will do what the apostles instructed and identify false prophets and avoid them.

    Continuing to believe false doctrine speaks more to sanctification and discipleship than salvation.

    Blake said
    Final Question: If Mormons can be saved just by believing the bible and Jesus is Lord, then what more is offered to us by the evangelical?

    Freedom from false teachers and a greater abundance of the Kingdom of Heaven in your lives.

  72. she didn’t have to read minds. It was apparent to everyone, that even Aaron, despite how little you think of him, was doing a better job of being polite and cordial.

    Don’t worry about it though. I have bad days too.

  73. Blake ~ However, how would you feel if your husband had said — “look, I can marry you in 10 or 20 or 30 years, so what is the rush other than speeding things up?” I think you’d be perfectly justified in saying “it will take longer than that because you really don’t love me.”

    Which would be a good point if one assumes that it’s God’s intention for every person to accept the LDS Gospel as soon as possible. I don’t even think that’s what Mormonism teaches though. We’ve discussed elsewhere on this blog that Mormonism is for “the elect” and allows for the possibility that God has specific designs and intentions for people outside of the LDS church. For all you know, bridging the divide between Mormons and evangelicals is exactly what God wants me to be doing even if Mormonism is true, and in that sense I’m not actually putting off my progression.

    As far as my use of “freedom” goes, surely you can see what a waste it is to perform ordinances and keep rules if they aren’t actually necessary for Christian discipleship. Do you not think it’s a shame that women in Afghanistan believe “modesty” = wearing a burqa? Wouldn’t you rather they converted to Mormonism (and came to America) so they can be free to wear cap-sleeves and knee-length shorts? I feel the same way when Mormon women say that they feel ugly in their garments. If it’s true then I guess their sacrifice is merited, but if it’s false then what a terrible rule to keep.

    Jared ~ AND if marriage is of high concern, its not a bad policy. I think wine in moderation and sexy underwear on occasion might not be a bad strategy to increase marriage satisfaction.

    Wow Jared. After this comment, I just need to tell you that I love you, and I mean that in the creepiest way possible.

    If you were my polygamy Jesus, I would totally be one of your assassin wives of fury.

  74. Tim : Fair enough. From my perspective you’re rejecting the very light that constitutes the process of sanctification and the possibility of glorification.

    However, I can point to any number of evangelicals who believe that one must have the right propositional intention to be saved. Would you like citations? I’m not mischaracterizing evangelicals. I stated that many, perhaps most, evangelicals view propositional belief as essential to salvation. That you’re not one of them (and even that is qualified by you) hardly disagrees with what I stated. Come to think of it, now it appears that you are the one mischaracterizing what I said here.

    That said, if all that I have to lose is the risk of some false ideas, so what! I’ll take that risk if it also means that I might learn something valuable. I’m sure that I have all kinds of false and erroneous ideas and scads of sheer limitations in knowledge. Indeed, it is what it means to be human.

    In the end there is an overriding reason to accept the gospel here and now — it is a lot less painful for everyone in your life including you (and I say that also including me).

    Jared C: Good catch on my pun. I was wondering if anyone would notice.

  75. Jack~ I had my doubts before about its benefits, but now I am going to have to make sure my wife never reads this blog. . . 🙂

  76. Blake ~ In the end there is an overriding reason to accept the gospel here and now — it is a lot less painful for everyone in your life including you (and I say that also including me).

    I don’t believe you, Blake. I think you like having evangelicals to spar with on teh Intarweb and your life would be meaningless if we all converted.

    We complete you.

    Jared ~ I read my comment out loud to my husband before posting it. Honest.

    It’s okay though, you don’t have to tell your wife about me. It can be our little secret.

  77. Tim- I think I have to agree with Blake on this one. Nearly every (other) evangelical I have dealt with tells me I am going to hell because I believe in the wrong Jesus, which is simply another way of saying that I have failed a “theological test” about how I define Jesus. The “wrong Jesus” chestnut is nonsensical without the assumption that correct theology is necessary for salvation. This is simply because defining the “right” Jesus in evangelical terms always hinges on evangelical theology, not history, the bible or anything else.

    You can say that there is no theological test but ultimately if you see Mormons as “wrong Jesus” followers that that will send them to hell you are solidly of this view.

    I get what you are saying about the consequences of following false teachers and doctrines,but . . . if the grand promises of the new testament are worth anything there has to be a wide spectrum of latitude in what can be ok doctrine and interpretation of revelation to allow for natural temperamental differences and human error.

    Otherwise you are back position that a passing grade on an ‘exam’ is ultimately necessary.

  78. Blake said:
    Tim : Fair enough. From my perspective you’re rejecting the very light that constitutes the process of sanctification and the possibility of glorification.

    Ditto back at ya.

  79. Jack- I don’t have a problem with the creepy internet love comment. I am sure that is what my wife suspects I am looking for spending so much time online. 😉

    I am a little worried about being compared to a “polygamy Jesus” . Those are far too big of shoes to fill. The last thing I want my wife thinking is that I have to be as good a husband as Jesus was. ( . . and to 5 wives no less!)

  80. I think Evangelicals generally hate to admit that any Mormons might be saved as well under their sola fide doctrine.

    It seems painful to even consider that Mormons might be christian enough to pass this simple test of salvation.

    It far more satisfying and clean to simply condemn us all for damnable heresy.

  81. Tim: Could you explain why you believe that being Mormon somehow would disqualify me from sanctification and glorification from the evangelical point of view? I mean, look at it this way. What you have to offer is the Bible. I have the Bible. At least arguably, I can read it as well as you can. So why would I be precluded from sanctification on your view?

    Look at it another way. You don’t claim that a person must not harbor any false beliefs to be sanctified do you? If I have a few false beliefs (undoubtedly I do), what difference does that make to my sanctification? There is a clear reason why not being Mormon precludes you from growing in the light and toward exaltation. I just don’t see any similar reasons from the evangelical point of view.

  82. It’s okay though, you don’t have to tell your wife about me. It can be our little secret.

    Now THAT was creepy.

    Nearly every (other) evangelical I have dealt with tells me I am going to hell because I believe in the wrong Jesus…

    Jared, could it be because most of the other evangelicals you’ve dealt with are involved in outreach to Mormons? Because I can tell you that in my experience with rank and file evs (i.e. those NOT involved in such ministries), I have received almost exactly the opposite response.

  83. i had been planning a post on it already Blake. Your comments today have compelled me to give it it’s own topic.

    Short answer: should we go on sinning so that grace may abound?

  84. Most of the rank-and-file evangelicals I’ve talked with are agnostic on the matter, as they don’t claim to know enough about Mormonism to make a judgment (at least that’s what they’ll say to my face). The main exceptions seem to be those who have pastors who preach against Mormonism, but at least in the area where I live that isn’t all that common.

    Rank-and-file evangelicals seem to be a lot more accepting of alternative viewpoints (or at least people who hold alternative viewpoints) than their official theology (whatever that means) might suggest.

  85. Well, let me qualify. Nearly every evangelical that I have experienced as a missionary and as a netizen has this view. It is the predominant view in Mormon-evangelical relations, it appears to be the “official” view of most churches.

    The run-of-the-mill believer probably doesn’t have a strong opinion regarding whether Mormons in general are hellbound. Also, when you break it down to one-on-one relations, most people are hesitant to make such judgments about individuals. They don’t know enough (or care enough) about Mormons to make a judgment, however when they go to nearly every “official” source, the answer is a strong consensus:

    Mormons aren’t Christians and therefore aren’t saved.

    The nuanced, and seemingly more open view put forth by Tim and others, i.e. that some Mormons are saved Christians, is a bit hard for many evangelicals in any “official” capacity to swallow because, in my view, it seems to open to door to giving most Mormons the benefit of the doubt (as evangelicals seem to give most protestants and Catholics)

    i.e. since Mormons believe in Jesus, its hard to tell if they have a real faith in him or not. I think if you looked at the issue carefully, as well as the belief and practice of most mormons, it seems hard to really judge anything about whether their faith is in the “real” Jesus by their adherence to the tenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-say Saints.

    However, this certainly can be said for any member of any evangelical church.

    So, I can understand the fight against the Mormon heresies, correcting the incorrect certainly makes sense. But denouncing Mormons as generally non-christian seems a very hard, even inconsistent if you take seriously evangelical doctrine, as I think Tim and others like him do.

    The irony is, by denouncing Mormons generally as hell-bound, it seems to fly in the face of the all-powerful loving Grace of God. I think evangelicals should admit that He, at least, is going to give those wayward Mormon followers of Jesus the benefit of the doubt.

  86. ” should we go on sinning so that grace may abound?”

    I can’t wait for the right answer on this one. . . I am pulling for a big YES.

  87. “i had been planning a post on it already Blake. Your comments today have compelled me to give it it’s own topic.”

    Heaven forbid 😉

  88. I’m coming to this late, and don’t have much to add to the primary topics at hand, but I did want to respond to Bridget Jack Meyers’s comment about halfway through the comments:

    I think we both know that if you taught in Sunday school or sacrament meeting that the priesthood ban on blacks was completely Brigham Young’s invention or eternal polyandry should be openly allowed, there’d be hell to pay.

    I can’t speak to eternal polyandry, but there is some evidence that one can speak openly and honestly about the priesthood ban (even placing it squarely on BY’s shoulders) in sacrament meeting without there being “hell to pay.”

    http://www.juvenileinstructor.org/teaching-about-racism-including-the-priesthood-ban-in-sacrament-meeting/

  89. Wow Tim I’m looking forward to your explanation as to how sin abounds if I remain Mormon. Go for it! This should be entertaining.

  90. Jack: “Every Mormon I’ve known who accused the Bible of being “mistranslated” meant that the extant Greek and Hebrew manuscripts are corrupt and no amount of consideration for linguistics, cultural context or textual criticism can restore its original meaning. It’d be more correct to say that they believe the text has been transmitted incorrectly.” Thanks for the reply. Is it safe to say that you could agree with AoF 8 depending on how it is interpreted? In other words, your experience with Mormons is that they use AoF 8 as an excuse to mistreat the Bible, but the exact text of AoF 8 is not inherently problematic.

  91. Christopher,

    Regarding Jack’s point, I think your talk, although an excellent talk, was far too nuanced. If you had said the obvious, that “BY was a bigot, hence the policy”, there would indeed have been hell to pay. By the way, as I’ve commented elsewhere, I’m not too hard on BY for holding racial views that were the norm for his day. But I can’t forgive later leaders for taking far too long to reverse BY’s error. As I commented earlier on this thread, I feel the same way about HJG and the word of wisdom. We’re in a church that is loath to reform from obvious apostasy of past leaders. Outside critics are helpful in this regard.

  92. Steve, Brigham Young was no more a bigot than Abraham Lincoln was.

    Which is, of course, to say he was. But frankly – so what?

  93. Christopher ~ I think it’s wonderful that you were able to address such a difficult issue in Sacrament meeting, but I kind of have to agree with Steve. Saying that Brigham Young initiated the policy isn’t exactly the same as saying that it was his invention and not God’s. It’s rather ambiguous.

    Brian ~ Is it safe to say that you could agree with AoF 8 depending on how it is interpreted? In other words, your experience with Mormons is that they use AoF 8 as an excuse to mistreat the Bible, but the exact text of AoF 8 is not inherently problematic.

    Well, I’d like to see a similar qualification added to the other LDS scriptures, but yes, if it only referred to actual translation and didn’t condemn transmission, I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with it.

    Steve ~ You mentioned something earlier, I think on another thread, that I want to address, that I don’t know where to “launch the torpedoes” when it comes to criticizing Mormonism. That’s actually not really true; I know exactly where to hit hardest. I just refrain from doing so because it isn’t my church and there’s only so much I feel like I can comfortably say as an outsider and still be cordial. You and Seth have probably said much harsher things about the church much more directly than I’ve said in years.

    I can be frank with my own family members about their flaws and weaknesses, but if you tried to criticize my family, I’d tell you to back the hell off. I think it’s the same principle that applies.

    @ the topic ~ I was poking around P&P tonight and I came across this article by Rob Bowman (whom I believe is part of the counter-cult ministry in some sense or another): Must One Believe in the Trinity to Be Saved?

    Here’s the money parts:

    The short answer is that it is not quite accurate to say that belief in the doctrine of the Trinity is essential for salvation. Doctrinal accuracy on any theological subject is in any case at most a litmus test or barometer of the genuineness of a person’s salvation, not a prerequisite for receiving the gift of salvation. There is no theology exam on which a person needs a passing score before God will accept that person’s trust in him for salvation.

    Is it possible for someone in a non-Trinitarian religious group to be saved? I suppose it is, but it isn’t recommended. Again, doctrinal error may be a sign of spiritual lostness, or of spiritual immaturity, or perhaps of some other type of problem, and we aren’t in a position to judge definitively whether other people are saved or not.

    The things I wrote above, I honestly came to those conclusions on my own without seeing them clearly articulated by another evangelical. So I find it interesting that Bowman basically says the same thing.

    Though I’m not denying that there are evangelicals who would say belief in the Trinity is a requirement for salvation. But they’re wrong.

  94. Jack,
    That is essentially double-speak. It is like a Mormon saying, “You don’t have to be Mormon to be saved.” Technically accurate for a given definition of saved, but it doesn’t reflect our understanding of what will have to happen to get a person into the Celestial Kingdom either. If you say that there can’t be litmus tests, so correct doctrine doesn’t matter, but correct doctrine indicates that you have passed the litmus test, you are a religion in denial.

    On a side note, I believe that you don’t have to be Mormon to be saved. 🙂

  95. Steve EM: “But I can’t forgive….” Really?

    Jack: Despite John C’s criticism, I tend to agree with you and Bowman and do not see it as double-speak or denial. Rather, I think it’s a refreshingly non-judgmental view of others. Now—analogous to how you’d like to see AofF 8 extended to other LDS scripture—I’d like to see Bowman et al point that stance back on themselves; i.e., “Even we are likely wrong/falling short on some points of doctrine, and very much hope that our faith and hope are not therefore vain.”

  96. BJ asked BJM:

    Is it safe to say that you could agree with AoF 8 depending on how it is interpreted? In other words, your experience with Mormons is that they use AoF 8 as an excuse to mistreat the Bible, but the exact text of AoF 8 is not inherently problematic.

    To which BJM replied:

    Well, I’d like to see a similar qualification added to the other LDS scriptures, but yes, if it only referred to actual translation and didn’t condemn transmission, I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with it.

    That similar qualification is already there, at least according to the way I parse things.

    I simply don’t see the 8th article of faith as placing any higher status on the Book of Mormon than the Bible. First of all, note that it says the Book of Mormon is also the Word of God. This seems to indicate that the Book of Mormon is the same type of document as the Bible is, so the “qualification,” as you call it, applies just as well.

    Second of all, it is important to note that the word “translate” has changed in meaning since the first half of the 19th century. It had the meaning it has today, but it also meant “to interpret” and “to explain” — anything where something was put into other words so that someone could understand it. I don’t know this, but I don’t think that Joseph Smith was talking at all about the process by which the Greek and Hebrew originals eventually became the words of the King James translators who made the version of the Bible in common use at the time. I think what he was saying was this: We believe the Bible is the word of God, but that doesn’t mean we understand or interpret it in the same way that other Christians do, and even though we believe the Bible we aren’t bound by others’ interpretations of it.

    Third, Joseph Smith acknowledged that the Book of Mormon wasn’t perfect (even if more correct), and that any errors are “mistakes of men.”

    Fourth, it is well-known that Joseph Smith spent much time making numerous changes to the Bible. Although some of the changes were major (such as additions to Genesis that came to be known as the Book of Moses), most of them were very minor changes, a word here or there, the vast majority of which had little doctrinal importance and were often meant to clarify rather than provide a change in meaning. Obviously he felt that he had the power of inspiration to do so. Well, he was doing the same thing to the book of Mormon. There are changes from the original manuscripts and first edition to the later editions (1837 and 1840) published while Joseph Smith was alive. Among the changes Smith made were changing “mother of God” to “mother of the Son of God” in 1 Nephi 11:18 and similar changes in verses 21 and 32. (Actually there were quite a few changes in 1 Nephi.) He also changed “a white and delightsome people” to “a pure and delightsome people” in 2 Nephi 30:6. So it is clear that to a limited extent he saw the Book of Mormon as a fluid document in the same way he felt the Bible was.

    Finally, when Joseph Smith preached, he nearly always preached from the Bible and very seldom from the Book of Mormon. (He also thought the German translation of the Bible was better than the English one, for whatever that’s worth.) I can find no indication in Joseph Smith’s writings to suggest that he saw the Book of Mormon as the Word of God in a way that the Bible isn’t (more correct, yes, but not substantively different). His view of the Bible wasn’t that of the inerrantists today, but neither was his view of the Book of Mormon. To Joseph Smith, any interpretation of the scriptures, whether the Bible or not, was subject to the receiving of further light.

  97. Eric: I agree with what you wrote (although I don’t think “fluid” is the right term), but I’m sure you will agree that your careful explanation would not be necessary if Aof8 was written as:

    We believe the Bible and the Book of Mormon are the word of God as far as they are translated correctly.

    I think that’s what Jack wants. It’s there, as you show, but it’s not crystal clear.

  98. Jack on Bowman: [A correct belief in the Trinity is] a litmus test or barometer of the genuineness of a person’s salvation,”

    Man, I gotta agree with John C. This statement is sheer forked tongue talk. Bowman says that one doesn’t have to believe in the Trinity to get in to being saved, but one’s salvation ain’t genuine unless you believe in a correct doctrine of the Trinity. On that count, Bowman is surely not genuinely saved and I don’t know any so-called traditional christians who are — even by their own standards!

    On the other hand, kudos to Jack for getting that having the right words and right propositional content ain’t what is at issue for salvation.

  99. Let’s cut to the core of the issue. The problem isn’t in correct translation from Greek or Hebrew, as the 8th Article assumes. I can read Greek and Hebrew, but that doesn’t solve any of the inerrancy problems for me. The problem is much more basic and much earlier.

    Most of the OT wasn’t written by those whose names it bears. The Pentateuch wasn’t written by Moses. Isaiah didn’t write chapters 40-66. The gospels weren’t written by those whose names they bear. Many of the epistles attributes to Paul weren’t written by him.

    The Pentateuch is a pastiche of various traditions — often conflicting. The verses in Mark 16 after verse 8 are very likely added more than a century after the gospel of Mark was written. Matthew’s injunctions on divorce contradict those found in Mark and Paul’s epistles. I could go on for awhile.

    The problem is that the Bible just ain’t what most common believers believe it to be.

  100. John & Blake ~ How is what Bowman says any different from what I said earlier when I said, “However, incorrect theology can be an indicator that someone has either rebelled against and lost that broken-hearted saving condition or never had it”? I mean, I’m flattered that everybody liked my answer so much, but I’m having a hard time seeing the difference between my position and Bowman’s. I’m much more open and outspoken in my belief that those with incorrect theologies can be saved, but that’s the main difference I see.

    And my apologies Blake, but I have neither the time nor the inclination to debate biblical authorship and textual criticism with you right now.

    Brian ~ Even we are likely wrong/falling short on some points of doctrine, and very much hope that our faith and hope are not therefore vain.

    Not a chance. I am right about everything.

    j/k

    Yes, I for one am certain there are plenty of things about God which I have wrong and I would hope that my faith isn’t in vain because of it. The way I have been feeling about faith since my mother died, I think it is going to take a whole lot of grace on God’s part to make anything good of the faith I have. Doctrinal errors are the least of my worries.

    Eric ~ I agree that the church teaches that the Book of Mormon contains potential errors, and I even think the framework is there for saying the D&C and PoGP contain errors. Getting Mormons to believe that is the tricky part.

    And please don’t think I’m picking on you; I think I’ve made it clear that there are plenty of things I wish evangelicals did better.

  101. Jack: I of course understand the need to have time for dialogue. However, the 8th Article of Faith, in my view, assumes way too much about the Bible’s correctness and arguing about correct translation is, in my view, titling at windmills.

    And you are right. Of course a refusal to abide by sound doctrine may be a sign of spiritual rebellion in some sense — it is just that none of us are really in a position to make the relevant judgment. Further, the real issue isn’t about doctrine at all but about the heart from which we proceed. In that sense, doctrine is irrelevant because it just isn’t the real issue.

  102. Blake: I’m having a hard time seeing why you write this:

    Of course a refusal to abide by sound doctrine may be a sign of spiritual rebellion in some sense — it is just that none of us are really in a position to make the relevant judgment.

    …yet disagree with this:

    Again, doctrinal error may be a sign of spiritual lostness, or of spiritual immaturity, or perhaps of some other type of problem, and we aren’t in a position to judge definitively whether other people are saved or not.

  103. Brian: Where do I disagee with the latter statement? However, let me state that from the LDS position all are saved in a kingdom of glory except sons of Perdition. Thus, we can know that almost everyone is saved from that perspective.

    I write the former statement because the issue arose as to whether Mormons can be saved even if EVs are right and we have a few erroneous ideas along with a real faith in Christ. The answer for some EVs is that one must have a correct idea of doctrine to be saved. However, Jack quite correctly rejects that view — and as I understand her she claims that all right-thinking EVs have the same view as her. We aren’t damned for having wrong ideas since we all have more than a few.

    The real issue for salvation is whether we have real faith and a heart of obedience. But none of us knows enough to judge another’s heart and faith. Thus, EVs cannot judge that Mormons aren’t saved. Further, they cannot even judge whether another EV is saved — even if that EV spouts the most orthodox doctrine available (whatever that might be).

  104. Blake: looking more carefully I see that you (nor John C, with whom you agreed) did not specifically disagree with everything Bowman said (although what you did explicitly disagree with I think you misquoted).

    At any rate, I read the second Bowman paragraph (which you essentially agree with) as reiterating the first paragraph (which you disagree with, at least in part). That is the reason for my confusion regarding your position.

  105. If there is no theological test for salvation, this completely flies in the face of the general condemnation of Mormons by Evangelicals. It seems the reasonable position is to say that God can only judge.

    If that is the case, why are so many Evangelicals writing off Mormons in general as hell-bound, non-Christians? (This is especially true when the average Christian certainly could not pass the Trinity theological test.)

    Doesn’t the condemnation fly in the face of doctrine, grace, and reason?

    These are certainly two different propositions:

    1. Mormon teaching is not correct
    2. Mormons aren’t Christian (and therefore not saved)

    The first may be straightforwardly by Evangelicals and easily argued using the typical theological tactics.

    The second seems and impossibly judgmental assumption that simply cannot be adequately argued given how genuinely close Mormon beliefs about Jesus are to Evangelical beliefs. You have to be God to make that judgment don’t you?

  106. That should have read:

    “The first may be straightforwardly argued by Evangelicals using the typical theological tactics. “

  107. Jack,
    I suppose the difference that I see is the difference in likelihood. Bowman seems to find it extremely unlikely that anyone who doesn’t understand Jesus properly (as he understands properly) could have the kind of relationship with Christ that is indicative of salvation. It seems a bit like him saying that he understands that travel through wormholes is possible, but he certainly doesn’t expect to experience it in his lifetime. I may be reading him a little too suspiciously, though. It’s just the way it came across to me.

  108. Seth – So what regarding BY’s bigotry? LDS understandably want an explanation for the priesthood ban. In the absence of an explanation, we will continue to hear those disgusting racist folklore explanations that continue to cause harm throughout the church. Elder Holland’s statements are helpful but insufficient, doing nothing to fill the vacuum. The only explanation that passes Occam’s razor is BY was a bigot, hence the policy. When the church faces up to that and the sin of later leaders taking far too long to reverse BY’s error, then and only then can we put that sad history behind us.

    Jack – Yes, you bring up a good point regarding maintaining cordial relationships, as I couldn’t imagine dumping on someone else’s religious tradition the way I let loose on my own. In my earlier comment, I was wrongly assuming your being a BYU alumna, albeit not LDS, would buy you license with LDS to freely blast away. In reflection, my assumption was silly, and your approach is wise.

    That said, I was specifically surprised you would bring up Mormons only focusing on a few aspects of D&C 89 and largely ignoring other parts, when the far bigger issue from a NT Christian perspective is using anything like section 89 as a bogus barrier to entry into the Kingdom.

    I will say the LDS church is a much better today because of reaction to outside critics. From dumping BY’s bigotry and anti-grace nonsense, to a less offensive more effective temple liturgy, to hammering the nails in the coffin of the never canonized KFD, all those reforms were reactions in part to outside critics. I look forward to future days when the temple liturgy is simplified further, cultish garments go the way of the dodo bird and we again preach section 89 as a good practice, not a barrier to entry. Section 89 even allows beer. Hey, everybody needs a coach; why should churches be any different? So I say bring it on.

    To anyone who says I’m not an equal opportunity critic, check this out: http://mormonopenforum.blogsome.com/2005/07/21/disciplining-inactives/#comment-223

  109. Personally, I consider the King Follet Discourse to be one of the top five most awesome things about this religion.

  110. Seth — You could write a song “The Day the Doctrine Died”.

    I kind of feel for you as I would have decanonized the Book of Abraham to apocryphal status before hamming the nails in the KFD coffin. To be fair to JS, I think he was discussing eternal matters, only an aspect of which can be articulated in earthly space-time terms, akin to the wave/particle duality in physics. Hence why I also object to so much LDS doctrine being based on the first vision. After all, Moses never taught the Almighty is a burning bush; yet that’s how many LDS interpret JS’s accounts of his visions.

  111. “Personally, I consider the King Follet Discourse to be one of the top five most awesome things about this religion.”

    Amen. Joseph Smith’s revelations, including KFD and the book of Abraham, make Christianity intelligible.

    Steve EM,

    Are you really relying on Occam’s razor in a theological discussion involving both Mormonism and Evangelicalism?

    Seems to me that your dual Evangelical/Mormon views wouldn’t tolerate that blade well.

  112. These are certainly two different propositions:

    1. Mormon teaching is not correct
    2. Mormons aren’t Christian (and therefore not saved)

    The first may be straightforwardly by Evangelicals and easily argued using the typical theological tactics.

    The second seems and impossibly judgmental assumption that simply cannot be adequately argued given how genuinely close Mormon beliefs about Jesus are to Evangelical beliefs. You have to be God to make that judgment don’t you?

    The argument is that Mormon teaching is not Christian teaching, THUS Christianity is not found in Mormonism (if it is, it’s difficult to find). You don’t have to be God to judge that.

    Salvation is based on a man’s heart. You do have to be God to judge a man’s heart.

  113. Jared — Let’s just say while not an attorney, I learned a long time ago to never defend the indefensible, unless I’m getting paid for it.

    An anti bashes me with the KFD? Easy response: GTFO! Utterly apocryphal! Never canonized you moron! Do you have a serious question?

    Bash me with the BofA? That’s much more problematic unless someone opens their checkbook.

    I too appreciate JS’s attempt to convey revelation that the Gospel of the Savior was preached from the beginning and those plain and precious parts were lost from what made it into the bible. But the BofA? GMAFB!

  114. If an anti bashes me with the KFD, I usually call them a close-minded bigot. And sometimes a hypocrite too if applicable.

    In my experience antis never bash me with the CONTENT of the Book of Abraham. Usually they are too stuck on how we got the book to care what’s in it.

  115. Tim,
    If you will agree that it is a limited, arbitrary, and rigid definition of Christianity that Mormons are not participants in, I’m happy to agree with you.

  116. Tim, I think I understand and agree with the consistency of your position.

    But, are you saying that you cannot make a general judgment about the saved status of Mormons? e.g. “Most are probably not saved? based on the theological errors of Mormonism?”

    If not, I think this Evangelical position is still problematic.

    I think the problem when you say that Christianity is not in Mormon teaching, is that most Mormons read and follow the same primary text that most other Christians follow and believe it to be absolutely true, i.e. the New Testament. At their core Mormons believe that Jesus is their Savior and is Jehovah, God, etc and believe in his saving power.

    So when you say that Christianity is not found within Mormonism it seems a bit strange unless you define “Christianity” as intrinsically connected with a separate layer extra-biblical interpretation and theological teaching.

    I can accept that you believe this, and can understand why you might want to argue for a more narrow definition of Christianity in order to preserve the what you consider to be precious truth.

    But I equally think it makes little sense to completely minimize the massive similarities between Mormons and Evangelicals in the context of this argument and then make sweeping judgments about their status with God. . .

    I can understand the open-hearted search to defend and preserve the truth, but the exclusionary and divisive judgment of individual believers in Jesus seems very inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus of the Gospels.

    The way Evangelicals generally try to get around it is the “other Jesus” argument, which you know my position on. This seems to simply provide a flimsy rationalization for the judgmental stance, rather than a real justification.

  117. Steve EM,

    I am not sure why you think being “bashed” by BofA is any different than being “bashed” by Genesis, but everybody has their own lines of what is solid enough to be defended.

    I suppose I don’t understand where you draw the line on what you can dismiss from Joseph, it doesn’t really seem to have anything to do with the LDS church canonization process.

    I am sure there are those that could defend a “GMAFB”answer to most everything you are saying about religion.
    However, I generally think such answers are, at root, naive to the truth in things that are less easy to defend. Reality is rarely straightforward.

    As a lawyer, I know full well that the strongest case in court is not necessarily the most justified. The strongest (most likely to be believed) is usually is defined by what most people are able or willing to understand about the details.

  118. Tim, Tim, Tim. Of course Mormon teaching is Christian teaching. If you mean that it isn’t stuck with the historical limitations of the traditions, of course I agree. Who gives a whoof?

    Look, I can read the Bible as well as you can — at least arguably. You’re in no position to assess or judge my heart or whether I am saved. To assert you got Christianity right and Mormons got it wrong is just way too presumptuous.

    Let’s go this far, Mormonism stands in relation to what goes for traditional Christianity as Christianity stood in relation to Judaism. Any Jew could show that the Christians believed things that the Jews didn’t even though they both accepted the same scripture — the Christians happened to have a living fount of revelation and thus also new scripture that the Jews didn’t have. So Mormons aren’t Christian only in the sense that Christians aren’t merely Jews. So what?

  119. Blake, would a false prophet’s influence have any bearing on a persons ability to clearly read the Bible and understand its message? Should Christians throw off false prophets or is the assurance of salvation good enough to live with?

    And I agree that Mormonism stands to Orthodox Christianity as Orthodox Christianity stood to Judaism. As something new and different. Christians don’t claim to be Jews. Mormons should be proud enough to be Mormons and stop trying to slum it with the unelected. The definition of Christianity includes our abominable creeds. Release yourself from its shackles.

  120. “Christians don’t claim to be Jews.”

    I am pretty sure that Paul probably didn’t see your dichotomy between being a Jew and being a Christian.

  121. I think Peter is an even better example than Paul.

    Peter basically thought that Christianity was “Judaism – The Sequel.”

  122. I am not too proud to slum with Evangelicals anyday… as long as they are not Republicans 🙂

    But maybe I am not really one of the Elect.

  123. “The definition of Christianity includes our abominable creeds. Release yourself from its shackles.”

    Ultimately Mormons are trying to release you from these shackles by slowly infiltrating and destroying your wicked theology.

    Once you realize we are almost like you, victory will be ours!!!!

  124. “The definition of Christianity includes our abominable creeds”

    And I thought you had to be LDS to refer to JS’s 1st vision account out of context. The influence of some of my misguided co-religionists is spreading ever wider.

  125. Tim: Yeah, a false prophet would make it difficult to have fully correct beliefs, but it isn’t a requirement of salvation that I have fully correct beliefs anyway. Undoubtedly we both misread the bible in numerous ways — but so what? It wouldn’t change the fact that I have as much access to the bible and what it teaches as you do and that I am as capable, at least arguably, at reading the bible as you are. It wouldn’t change the fact that I acknowledge and declare that Christ as my master and Savior and Lord. It doesn’t change the fact that I know I am justified.

    It follows that any assertion that Mormons aren’t Christian in the only relevant sense — in the sense that they are saved by accepting Christ — is false a accusation and a more than presumptuous judgment. It follows that you’re focusing on a meaning of “Christianity” that is semantic at best and has no real import for what matters.

    In my view, you and most EVs trade on confusion caused by equivocating between the meaning of Christian as one who has accepted Christ truly in his or her heart, and the semantic meaning where it merely means one accepts the dogmas of an historical tradition. Any accusation that Mormons aren’t Christian requires a further explanation of which of these meanings you are asserting and failure to make that distinction results in a false judgment and accusation that neither you nor any other Ev is in a position to make.

    However, I am happy and even delighted to distance myself from the EV tradition (especially its Calvinists readings and leanings). I have no problem saying that Calvinist readings of the scriptures makes it very difficult to believe in God and that God could ever be described as loving. I assert that such teaching lead us away from God’s love and not toward it — and thus away from a heart of belief and faith in which the gift of salvation is accepted.

    Firther, if, as I declare and believe, you are rejecting God’s prophet and refusing to listen to his voice, then it has much further reaching consequences for you.

  126. Yellow Dart and Seth, I agree that neither Paul nor Peter thought of themselves as somehow not being a Jew. However, they didn’t think that they were merely Jews. they were also followers of the true Messiah and King whereas other Jews were in apostasy because they refused to hearing God’s new revelation. It is the same now with the relationship between the restored Christianity and the other brands of Christianity that refuse the new revelation because they already have enough scripture.

  127. I forgot. Tim, we don’t believe in election, really, so there aren’t any unelected amongst whom we could slum.

  128. John, I dunno. When I was on my mission, they were always talking about finding the elect 1% and kind of skipping the rest. Unless I don’t understand the term somehow, which is a distinct possibility?

  129. Katie,
    I’m not familiar with that usage. However, as I understand the Protestant notion of the “elect,” that is the group that God has predestined to glory (everyone else is out of luck). If that is what Tim had in mind, I don’t believe that we have a parallel.

    That said, I have heard tell of “Zion” in the sense of the group who are especially worthy of the gospel and who will leap to it and live it in this life. I tend to ignore that, as I do all discussions of pre-existent worthiness, as I think it does more to swell heads than change hearts. I also think it is more folklore than doctrine, but folklore in LDS belief is always in the eye of the beholder.

  130. John,

    I think Tim is referring to the issue that I brought up here:
    https://ldstalk.wordpress.com/2009/04/01/we-will-kick-you-out-is-being-a-mormon-for-everyone/

    It is clearly Mormon doctrine and scripture that there is fore-ordination and election. The second endowment, once considered an essential ordinance, was having your “calling and election made sure”. The Lord explained that missionary work was gathering the elect, not everyone D&C 29: 7.

    From my point of view, its hard to make sense of Mormonism without the concept.

    However it is quite different than the protestant/calvinist concept of “elect”

  131. So to clarify, protestant/calvinist concept of “elect” = God pre-determines who gets saved…

    Mormon concept of “elect” = pre-existent valiance determines who will heed the call in this life?

    I know it’s not easy to summarize these concepts in single-sentence statements. I’m just trying to get the gist.

  132. My brief understanding of the concept of the “elect” in Mormonism and protestantism.

    Mormon doctrine essentially says that everybody will eventually follow Christ and be saved (except for those few sons of perdition who willfully reject him) i.e. “every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is the Christ”

    However, some of us are called to be part of the Marvelous Work an Wonder that is the mission of the church to prepare for the second coming.

    Therefore: Not everybody is meant to be Mormons in this life, only the “elect”.

    It is different from the protestant/c version since if you are not on of the”elect” you are essentially un-savable and hell bound.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unconditional_election

    The Mormon version is a special job in this life that does not necessarily have anything to do with what will happen in the afterlife.

    The Protestant version is the precise designation of what will happen in the afterlife.

  133. Seth, I re-read your post. Correct me if I’m wrong, but regarding McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine, I believe he published it in 1958 long before he was an Apostle and without consulting with any of his church superiors. I recall reading they were broad sided by McConkie. If so, there was no time he was asked not to publish that first edition.

    Essentially my understanding is McConkie dumped a turd on the 1st Presidency by publishing a book with a title that implied an official LDS publication that in fact had no such review or standing. Hence the Apostles review of the work ordered by Pres McKay, etc. Post review, I believe they asked him not to reprint it, and he did not. But there was a 1966 second edition partial clean-up.

    I say partial clean-up because as a kid convert from Catholicism in the early 1970s, I recall reading the 2nd edition and quickly concluding it wasn’t the scholarly work it purported to be. Virtually any scriptural reference I looked up had little or nothing to do with the subject at hand. It was just McConkie’s encyclopedic ramblings sandwiched in-between a cover mislabeled Mormon Doctrine. It wasn’t too long after that interest in my new religion was largely replaced by the considerable affections of my first gf, metal music and experimentation with drugs. But while I consider Bruce to be a false prophet and a half, I’m not blaming him for my youthful recklessness; that was more excessive hormones than anything else.

    I believe McConkie was called as an Apostle in 1972. To bad the September Six weren’t treated so graciously back in 1993 for doing far less harm to the church.

  134. Jared and Katie,
    I’m familiar with those notions of “Zion” and “Israel” but I tend to categorically reject them for the reasons I mentioned above and a second reason: they have almost always been presented to me as “higher” doctrine that only the initiated can understand. Well, I’m initiated and I think it is just dumb. If a member of the 12 comes out talking about it in general conference these days, I might give it a listen, but for now I am happy to leave it on the dustbin of Mormon theological history.

  135. Jared, I guess that I don’t read “the gathering of Israel” as referring to some subset of pre-existent worthies. That’s a tad too Protestant for me.

  136. Well, I agree that pre-existence worthiness may have little to do with whether people are called to be Mormons.

    For all we know Mormons are all of the spiritually retarded spirits in the pre-existence that have to do more of their share once they get to earth.

  137. Jared ~ Well, I agree that pre-existence worthiness may have little to do with whether people are called to be Mormons.

    For all we know Mormons are all of the spiritually retarded spirits in the pre-existence that have to do more of their share once they get to earth.

    I missed this comment before.

    I had this conversation with my husband a few days ago (inspired by John C.’s poll here), asked him if he thought being BIC had to do with what type of person you were in the pre-existence. He pretty much stated that he thinks most people BIC are born that way because they knew they’d have to be spoon-fed the gospel or else they’d never accept it.

    I have to admit, the thought of Mormons thinking I’m amazing and awesome just because I was born to a non-member family and they weren’t kind of puts a smile across my face.

    Oh, and Katie, I finally saw Saturday’s Warrior a few days ago. Why would you put me through that? WHY??

  138. I’ll just say that we Mormons have almost always gotten in trouble whenever we tried to “rank” what groups of people were like in the pre-mortal existence. I think we’d be better off dropping this particular cultural quirk.

  139. One related issue is the destination of those who die as infants. I have had Mormons tell me they are assured of Celestial exaltation because they have already sufficiently proved their meritorious worthiness in the pre-existence.

    It was one of those moments for me where I was struck by the relentlessness of traditional Mormonism’s merit system.

  140. I think why infants get a free ticket is one of those theological areas that we really haven’t thought-through enough in Mormonism.

  141. Fascinating thread, Brian. I’m glad to see there are Latter-day Saints who reject the notion that children who die are automatically exalted. That idea always bothered me and struck me as extremely problematic, something people want to believe because the death of children is so hard. Ditto on the notion that people with severe mental disabilities were really awesome in the pre-existence.

    And after reading that thread, I’m also slightly less afraid of Blake. Only slightly though.

  142. Yeah, I get lost in NCT threads all the time. Those fellas are beyond my capacities for thought, but I love reading it.

  143. Oh, and Katie, I finally saw Saturday’s Warrior a few days ago. Why would you put me through that? WHY??

    Muahahahahahahaha!!!!

    “Zero population is the answer, my frie-end. Without it, the rest of us are dooooooomed!”

    Oh, I bet you hated it, just hated it. The only thing I regret is that I wasn’t there to watch you watch it.

    I don’t apologize for putting you through it, though. You needed to see what the Mormon children of our generation were raised on.

  144. I especially love how the villains are a rebellious teenage gang whose big evil motivation is to convince people not to have more children than the earth can reasonably sustain. How sinister!

  145. You needed to see what the Mormon children of our generation were raised on.

    Hey, I have seen The Princess Bride, TYVM.

    I considered doing a blog post on how awful Saturday’s Warrior was Katie, but decided it’d be like beating a dead horse.

    However, here are the thoughts I wrote down as I was watching the movie:

    ==============================

    Scene: Twins singing in the pre-existence and beaming down to earth

    I gather that, according to this movie, you don’t beam out of the pre-existence until Mom is actually giving birth to you. The twins beam down to earth together at the exact same time. OUCH! Poor mom! It was mom who should have wound up in a wheelchair, not one of the kids.

    Scene: Some of the guys are about to leave on their missions and the girls are singing about waiting for them

    Aren’t there any women going on missions? This movie is sexist. Oh man. I don’t think doing the can-can for a bunch of 19 year-old men about to leave on two-year missions is a very good idea.

    Scene: Those worldly kids are dancing around and singing about how having kids sucks and overpopulates the world

    These non-Mormon characters are even showing off their midriffs. I can’t believe they allow this kind of smut in a wholesome Mormon production!

    Scene: The male twin is sitting on the porch outside talking to his crippled twin sister

    Oh gods. Men, PLEASE don’t sit down when you’re wearing shorts. Please, please. Think of the children.

    Scene: Julie is singing about how the guy she’s seeing is “just a friend” and she really still loves the dude on the mission

    Paul: He’s just a friend. That’s why she’s getting all dolled up for him, because he’s just a friend.

    Me: Well, she’s not getting laid in that outfit anyways. Look at her!

    Paul: Honey, when you’re single, that’s a good thing.

    Me: Sure it is.

    Scene: The missionaries are being sucky missionaries

    I can see GARMENT LINES on these missionaries. Make it stop!

    ==============================

    That was when I stopped jotting down my thoughts. And thus ends my aborted blog post on Saturday’s Warrior.

  146. I considered doing a blog post on how awful Saturday’s Warrior was Katie, but decided it’d be like beating a dead horse.

    Jack, not to get all philosophical on you my friend, but some horses never die.

    Here are a few of my favorite parts from Saturday’s Warrior

    –The part where they do the daddy’s nose song. I actually have to look away, it’s so painful.

    –The part where the bad kid says “hell”–and Mormon mothers everywhere cover their children’s ears

    –The part where the little girl is in the Pre-Existence and says, “Jimmy! Don’t forget your promise!”–as though Jimmy has any say over when and if the parents have unprotected sexual intercourse.

    –The part where the mom gives birth to the little girl and then everyone just goes ahead and sits on the couch two minutes later. What, are they sitting in the afterbirth? (Sorry, too graphic?)

    There are more–many more–but for the sake of everyone reading, I’ll stop. Oh, I love, love, love Saturday’s Warrior so much. SO MUCH.

    Next up, Jack, you need to watch Pioneers in Petticoats. It’s so good. You HAVE to.

  147. “‘We have a son and a daughter who have qualified to go to the celestial kingdom because they died before the age of eight.’ That knowledge has given us great comfort” (Richard G. Scott, “Temple Worship: The Source and Strength and Power in Times of Need,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 2009, p.45).

  148. Given what he has said elsewhere…

    “The demands of justice for broken law can be satisfied through mercy, earned by your continual repentance and obedience to the laws of God… Through the Atonement you can live in a world where justice assures that you will retain what you earn by obedience.” – Richard G.Scott, “The Atonement Can Secure Your Peace and Happiness,” Ensign, Nov 2006, 40–42. From General Conference, October 2006.

    … is seems likely that pre-mortal merit has a lot to do with his view of those who die before 8.

  149. Katie,

    … not to get all philosophical on you my friend, but some horses never die.

    That is about the best line I’ve heard today. 🙂

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