What Separates Mormons and Evangelicals Most?

I’m hoping that we can find agreement in a discussion about what separates Mormons and Evangelicals the most. We may not ever come to an agreement on all things, but at the very least we can agree about exactly what it is that we disagree about.

The idea for the this post came from a comment made by The Yellow Dart.  He as an aside suggested that he thinks the thing that most separates us is the doctrine of “creation ex nihilo” (which means that God created everything out of nothing).  I think that is for sure a key area of disagreement but not the thing that MOST separates us.

Instead I think our disagreements start and end with Joseph Smith.  In every instance of conflict, everything boils down to the prophetic authority of Joseph Smith.  Evangelicals hold him to be a false prophet and thus disregard anything new or contradictory to the Bible.  Mormons hold him to be a true prophet and more relevant to our day and age.  If we came to a mutual understanding of Joseph Smith virtually every other difference would fade away.

Am I wrong? Is there something more fundamental to our differences?

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361 thoughts on “What Separates Mormons and Evangelicals Most?

  1. There’s only our beliefs in 7 small areas that really separate us:

    1) Nature of God
    2) Nature of man
    3) Sin
    4) Salvation
    5) Heaven
    6) Hell
    7) Creation

    If you can get past those, we’re really quite alike…

  2. I think also the nature of revelation should be mentioned. Most of the discussions I have at least hinge on the fact that individual non-Mo Christians feel they have the right to authoritatively interpret scripture. Most Mormons would say individuals only have a right to non-authoritatively interpret scripture.

    Also, mode of scriptural revelation, transcriber vs interpreter model.

    I don’t know that Sin is much of a matter of disagreement, rather only the whether the first transgression counts as a sin, and whether or not everyone else on the world is damned because of it or not.

  3. The question of whether it is important of whether God the Father could have been a sinner.

  4. I believe you are correct in stating that it all boils down to Joseph Smith, although it is not Joseph Smith as a person but Joseph Smith as a prophet. Members of the LDS church claim that Joseph Smith received the priesthood authority (and keys) from God to re-establish Christ’s church on the earth. Most (all?) Evangelicals (I have to add that technically Mormons are “evangelical” although we do not use the term much for ourselves, just like Macs are technically P.C.s (personal computers) but in practice a Mac != a PC) reject this notion of the necessity of priesthood authority, at least those with whom I have spoken.

    Yes, there are some doctrinal differences but there are doctrinal differences between Presbyterians, Baptists, Catholics, and so forth. As far as the root difference between Evangelicals and Mormons, the latent construct (to use a statistical term) of differentiation is the priesthood authority Mormons claim was given to Joseph Smith. All other differences hinge on whether or not Joseph Smith really was a prophet.

    Yes, that is simplistic but that is the difference.

  5. I think rejection of Joseph Smith is a good starting point for our divergence. But why do we reject Joseph Smith? Are evangelicals open to the possibility of God sending a prophet today with the same authority over the people of God as Moses and Elijah?

    If we say “no” we’re in trouble because technically the New Testament never says that the office of prophet (as it’s understood in the Old Testament) was finished. We have rationalizations for concluding that it was finished—we don’t need it now that we’ve seen Christ, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide us now, etc.—but still, it is not clearly laid out that prophets and revelation are done for.

    Very well then, we’re open to the possibility of a prophet today with new revelations and scriptures. So why do we reject Joseph Smith then?

    One answer is because he contradicted the Bible. We must reject new revelation which conflicts with the old. But that’s problematic, because contradiction is and always will be a matter of interpretation. Doesn’t the New Testament, arguably, contradict the Old Testament? A second or third century Jew arguing with the new Christian sect could well have pointed out passages in the Old Testament indicating that there is only one God (Isaiah 43:10) and God is not a man (Number 23:19) to reject the argument that Jesus Christ was God. Jews to this day argue that Christianity can’t be true because Trinitarianism contradicts monotheism.

    Okay, let’s try something else. Joseph Smith was a creep. His prophetic authority gave him the perfect window to produce “revelations” to seduce teenage girls and other men’s wives. He cheated on his first wife. He told lies and uttered false prophecies. Clearly he can’t be trusted. “By their fruits ye shall know them” and all that. However, that’s also problematic because we have prophets in the Bible doing some pretty questionable things. Not as bad as all that, we argue, and men of God in the Bible who screwed up seemed to either repent or were punished by God unlike Joseph Smith, whose flaws have been swept under the rug. But still. Precedent for men of God to make mistakes is there. Precedent for men of God to be total asshats is also there.

    In the end, I think we reject Joseph Smith because we reject Joseph Smith. The faults we find in him are largely defensible when broken into pieces and considered on their own under the correct circumstances, but pile them all together and it’s just too much. The shelf breaks.

    In other news, is anyone else tired of discussing the differences between Mormons and evangelicals? I kind of am. Some people at T&S have suggested that I blog about the similarities in LDS and evangelical thought while I’m there. I’m thinking about it.

  6. …pile them all together and it’s just too much. The shelf breaks.

    I guess this explains why so many of our discussions turn into:

    EV: JS was a creep!

    MO: SO?

  7. Tim: TYD is right, but so are you. Depends on who you’re talking about. For the average member of either religion, Joseph Smith is THE dividing factor. But for the theologian, or the member who gets into the theology, creation from nothing is the biggie. And that’s also why Joseph Smith bugs Evangelicals: it’s not his claims to prophecy or visions, it’s what he taught about God that makes you reject him.

  8. Tim,

    I believe that I was referring to the biggest philosophical-theological difference(s) that I perceived between Mormon Christianity and conservative Evangelical Christianity.

    I chose creatio ex nihilo as the biggest philosophical difference because I believe that this notion logically leads to the conclusions of predestination and the denial of human freedom, the denial of genuine relationships of love between humans and God, God as the source of all evil, metaphysical monotheism (a notion nowhere found in the Bible), etc., and these are all conclusions that, I believe, Mormonism rejects (and rightly so since none of these positions are biblical [except perhaps some passages in the Hebrew Bible which suggest that God is the source of evil], whether you accept Joseph Smith as a prophet or not).

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  9. Aaron–I don’t think that Mormons require that God was a sinner, just that he was capable of it. Like Jesus. Jesus was capable of sinning, but chose not to.

    There’s no reason why God the Father couldn’t have been the Jesus Christ of his time.

  10. In smorgasborg fashion, Joseph Smith mixed together the language of traditional KJV Christianity and choice morsels of paganism and then dressed the buffet table in the garbs of American Protestantism as he sought to build his version of Zion in God’s country.

    We look almost exactly alike in the outward package, but the chasms are deeper then Idaho’s Hell’s Canyon on God and the Gospel.

  11. Bridget,

    So, in the end, Mormonism is rejected on the basis of the logical fallacy of an ad hominem attack?

    That is very true, based on my experience. If it’s not an ad hominem attack against Joseph Smith, it’s a straw man attack on the church. You hit the nail on the head, many people reject Mormonism based on their perception of Joseph Smith’s fatally flawed character. When reason ends, let the ad hominem attacks begin! Online discussions about Mormonism are like many other online discussions, it’s only a matter of time before Godwin’s Law comes into play (or at least, a corollary to Godwin’s Law). The same sort of attacks happen on Christianity as a whole by many atheists

    I think we should spend more time talking about how Mormonism and the rest of Christianity (assuming the readers of this comment are willing to grant LDS Church members the status of Christians!) are similar, rather than how we are different. That doesn’t mean differences are ignored but there is more room for us all to work together and bring about good.

  12. Personally, I think a lot of Evangelicals would LIKE this to be primarily about Joseph Smith.

    It makes their job easier.

  13. In my view, the key difference between evangelicals and LDS is the basically the same as the key difference between evengelicals and Catholics: We, like Catholics but unlike evangelicals, recognize the existence of a present-day authority who can speak on behalf of God. That issue goes beyond Joseph Smith, although obviously he played a central role.

    So the more interesting question becomes, why can many (not all) evangelicals grudgingly accept Catholics as genuine but perhaps misled Christians but not do the same for Mormons? (I’m not saying they should, just asking the question.)

    I don’t have a satisfactory answer to that question.

    One reason I don’t is because there is so much misunderstanding in the evangelical community about what Mormons believe (and vice versa, for that matter). And many evangelicals who present themselves as knowledgeable focus on points of doctrine that aren’t important in the everyday lives of LDS believers. If evangelicals truly knew what made Mormons tick, I don’t know what their attitudes would be, or what they would see as the divisions.

  14. I can’t speak for Evangelicals or Mormons in general, but it seems that one of the things that I feel the most separated from others here is in the purpose of engaging in dialogue with Latter-day Saints and Evangelicals. In other words, the rationale for dialogue between myself and others seems radically different, much more different than our respective theologies. The rest of my comment may illustrate what I mean.

    Perhaps it might be useful to refine the question. Are we speaking about differences theologically, philosophically, demographically, geographically, politically, structurally, historically, personally, socially, or attitudinally? Differences culturally or ritually?

    In many ways, at least if we confine our discussion to the U.S., Mormons and Evangelicals still go to work, go to church, pay their taxes. I don’t know if the demographics are that different. At least from the people who participate on this blog it doesn’t seem that different. Most people seem to be from the same areas geographically as well. The age cohort seems to be similar. Politically and morally both Mormons and Evangelicals tend to be conservative. I use ‘tend’ in a statistical sense; the political spectrum is very diverse. Both run for political office, for example.

    Theologically speaking, there are areas Mormons are closer to Catholics and other areas they are closer to Evangelicals. And of course, other areas where Catholics and Evangelicals are closer to each other than to Mormonism. If we are strictly discussing philosophical differences, then I tend to agree that creatio ex nihilo is a large difference, and not just because of creatio ex nihilo by itself, but simply because it is the substructure upon which almost all other (at least several important) Christian theologies are built upon. I’m not certain it had to be that way, but looking at the history of Christian theology, creatio ex nihilo, it seems to me, allowed other Christian doctrines to develop in a particular direction. Whether that distills down to the way one prays, it is very unclear. I tend to think that Mormons and Evangelicals probably do not differ that much in prayer or their expectations of what prayer does in their life. I remember reading a book with four views on predestination and free will, and each view included how prayer would be affected by each of the four views. It didn’t seem to me that the views necessarily made a great difference in how people pray at a cognitive or psychological level. But that was just my reading.

    In regards to theological attitudes, I see that many Evangelicals and Mormons are similar in that they like apologetics and debate. Other Evangelicals and Mormons aren’t that interested in those areas and rather choose other activities. Some hold very literal interpretations of scriptures, others hold a more loose interpretation of the text.

    Yet, even in all the theological differences, can we really say that the differences have a direct causality to the kind of faith one holds? I meet both Mormons and Evangelicals who, I suspect, really aren’t influenced heavily by their respective faith traditions. People within a faith community hold divergent views all the time. Some Mormons hold theological views that seem to me to be completely different from views that Joseph Smith himself held. I just met a self-proclaimed Calvinist the other day who sounded to me like an Arminian; all he could talk about was free will. And I think we’ve covered that many Christians hold a heretical view of the Trinity. So, sometimes I wonder exactly how we can account for this, the fact that people in a particular faith tradition can almost be resistant to the views of that tradition. In other cases, I tend to think the more dominant influence on Mormons and Evangelicals is Western cultural society, rather than any kind of doctrinal influence found in a particular theology. I think some people tend to be more influenced by ideas and notions in popular cultural, film, movies, novels, than perhaps in particular notions from the Reformation. I think particular experiences we encounter in our lives, greatly shape our world views or life philosophy and in many ways I think our experiences tend to drive our theology, rather than the other way around. We have an experience and from that experience we extract a particular world view. In my view, I think St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas lead two completely different kinds of lives and I think this had a profound influence on their theological sensibilities. Therefore, it isn’t an easy question to answer how Mormons and Evangelicals are different, especially if we are attempting to isolate the cause of that difference. If we are seeking to find that cause only in doctrine or theology, I’m not entirely certain we are looking in the right place.

  15. Jared ~ BTW, welcome to the blog. Did you find your way over here from T&S?

    Ad hominem isn’t always a logical fallacy:

    It is always bad form to use the fallacy of argumentum ad hominem. But there are some cases when it is not really a fallacy, such as when one needs to evaluate the truth of factual statements (as opposed to lines of argument or statements of value) made by interested parties. If someone has an incentive to lie about something, then it would be naive to accept his statements about that subject without question.

    So I do think questions about Joseph Smith’s character and how he used his authority as a prophet of God are relevant to whether we should accept him as a prophet of God.

    However, as I see it, evangelicals and Mormons approach this from two different ways:

    Mormons: I know the things Joseph Smith taught were true for reasons independent of Smith, therefore Smith’s questionable behavior either has a benign explanation or God was fine with using a very sinful, unrepentant man to do His work.

    Evangelicals: Joseph Smith did XYZ, we know such a person isn’t of God, therefore Mormonism isn’t true regardless of other evidence.

    And so we’re at an impasse for which there seems to be no solution. Each of us refuses to accept the evidence which convinces the other that his/her position is correct.

    Eric ~ I actually don’t think the LDS priesthood system is all that different from the Protestant one. But I think I’ll save that argument for T&S.

  16. The biggest difference is that most Mormons were born in the church or had accidental positive encounters with LDS or LDS churches while most Evangelicals were born into evangelical homes or had accidental positive encounters with Evangelicals or Evangelical Churches.

    Plus, Mormons don’t have TBN, (general conference is much less colorful and only semi-annual).

    Those of us chatting on this blog are not much different at all. We are all pretty sure of some position that is based on faith supported by some reasoning, that ultimately cannot be definitively proven.

    All of us believe in some things that are downright silly to non-christians or non-religious (and they have good arguments to think so), and all of us have had some access to transcendent spiritual experiences, either our own or those we have known.

    To the average non-religious person we look like basically the same animal.

    Brad~ its seems that your seven points unite us rather than divide. Both mormons and evangelicals believe in :

    1) God
    2) Man as children of God
    3) Sin
    4) Salvation
    5) Heaven
    6) Hell
    7) Creation

    Since we don’t have a lot of solid historical/empirical evidence and experience with most of these things we have different ways of describing them, but since we don’t know how our descriptions really ground into hard reality, the differences are generally stuck in the artificial structures of our theological debate.

  17. Also, judging from those present, Evangelicals and Mormons both have computers and a propensity to waste time talking about this stuff, but it seems Mormons are more likely to do so.

  18. Brad~ its seems that your seven points unite us rather than divide. Both mormons and evangelicals believe in :

    1) God
    2) Man as children of God
    3) Sin
    4) Salvation
    5) Heaven
    6) Hell
    7) Creation

    Jared, a thoroughly foolish statement you make, to be sure, but one that is typical from most online Mormons.

    Hey, I know a guy named Seth? Do you know anyone named Seth? What? You do? Great! I sure am glad we’re united in our common knowledge of a person named Seth. That’s great and…

    Wait – you mean the Seth you know isn’t from the same place the Seth I know is? You mean the Seth you know is younger than the Seth I know? But, I thought we had a common knowledge of Seth – you mean we really don’t? What, you say it’s because we actually don’t know the same person? Wow, I never thought of that before…

  19. Jared C said:

    Plus, Mormons don’t have TBN

    FWIW, there are plenty of evangelicals who believe that TBN preaches heresy.

    BJM said:

    I actually don’t think the LDS priesthood system is all that different from the Protestant one. But I think I’ll save that argument for T&S.

    I’ll look forward to reading it.

  20. Jared C said:

    To the average non-religious person we look like basically the same animal.

    And, actually, to me it seems that functionally we can be very similar. I hope Jack doesn’t mind if I post here what I wrote a few weeks ago on her blog:

    As a member of the Church who was raised evangelical and converted as an adult, I make comparisons all the time. I frequently think in evangelical terms with an LDS spin, perhaps more so than the other way around although I am firmly committed to the Church and what it teaches. When then-President Hinckley told me (and anyone else listening worldwide) before I joined the church that I should bring what I already have in my faith and have it added unto, I took him at his word. And I am grateful that I did.

    My general observation is that the best of evangelicalism (”best” as I use the term, of course) is remarkably similar to the best of Mormonism. There’s an emphasis on grace — but not cheap grace. There’s an emphasis on who we’re becoming, not the checklist of the things we have to do. There’s an emphasis not on the initial human act of salvation (”accepting Jesus as your personal savior” in evangelical terms, agreeing to baptism in LDS terms) but on what it means to live as a Christian (”enduring to the end” in LDS terms, sanctification in evangelical terms).

    Although evangelicals and Mormons use different language, and Mormons are more likely to differentiate between the Father and the Son, we often talk about our relationship with God and Jesus and the Christian life in remarkably similar terms when we understand our faith as its best. At least that is what I have observed.

    I remember sitting in a stake meeting fairly recently, a meeting that had the flavor of the best of Mormonism, thinking that it was the sort of meeting that I wish my evangelical brothers and sisters in Christ could experience. The emphasis was on those things mentioned above, and most of those things that drive some evangelicals crazy were barely mentioned (I counted Joseph Smith’s name mentioned only three times in the two hours, for example). I think that evangelicals who would have attended that meeting would have had a similar reaction to what Jack had with Dr. Huntsman [one of her BYU profs] — the ones astute to theology may have come away calling us a bunch of evangelical Mormons. Maybe that’s overstating things. At the very least, however, they would have come away not thinking that the main speakers there (two general authorities, one of them an apostle) were talking about a different Jesus than they one they worship.

    On the flip side of that, I’m in a book discussion group, one in which we read a wide, wide variety of books, and the book group is made up mostly of LDS couples. As a semi-experiment once, I chose the book What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey, an evangelical author. And the Mormons in the group loved it! Yancey teaches grace, but he doesn’t teach cheap grace. The Jesus that Yancey wrote about in that book is the Jesus that the Mormons in this group know and love, and they felt that they learned more about him through Yancey’s writings.

    I’m not saying that evangelicalism and Mormonism are the same thing, because they’re not, even when they’re both at their best (which doesn’t happen as often as it should). But we both can judge the other too harshly and rely on stereotypes rather than looking to see where the other is coming from. Despite theological differences, I believe there is a lot we can learn from each other.

  21. Jared, a thoroughly foolish statement you make, to be sure, but one that is typical from most online Mormons.

    See what happens when you stick up for ad hominem Jack?

  22. Jack, I don’t think that Joseph was relatively half as sinful as many Evangelicals make out.

    Brad if you and Jared both identified me by name, both of you identified the kind of law I practice, both of you identified were I live, named my wife and kids, and were able to point to my blog posts correctly…

    Then I’d say you were both talking about the same guy.

    Even if one of you thought I knew Kung Fu, was immune to bullets and fought crime at night wearing a blue cape, while the other disagreed strongly with that assessment, I’d STILL say you both had the right guy.

  23. BrianJ- I don’t think that Brad was making an ad homenim argument. He was attacking what I said, not me. It would be much easier to discredit me personally, believe me.

    Brad- The statement maybe foolish. I would guess that it is just as foolish as your original statement.

    Saying Evangelicals and Mormons are radically different is like saying Democrats and Republicans are radically different. Its a matter of perspective. Without some reference point its hard to gauge what a big difference is.

    My point was that Mormons are Evangelicals generally argue from similar reference points, e.g. the Bible, which tells all about those seven things. Both Mormons and evangelicals believe the Bible. . . and all of those things. To others we look like different flavors of Popsicle, rather than pie and ice cream.

    Now I agree that it may be foolish to think that Evangelicals believe in the Bible, considering what they say about it, but “thoroughly foolish”? I would give your theology a little more credit for consistency than that.

    😉

  24. oh, sorry Brian and Psychochemiker,

    the ad homenim statement was made by Psychochemiker. Don’t know why I mixed that up.

  25. Brad ~ Jared, a thoroughly foolish statement you make, to be sure, but one that is typical from most online Mormons.

    Try being a little less of [a butthead] about your disagreements with Mormons, Brad. Kullervo’s the only one who gets to pull that crap around here.

    Psychochemiker ~ Technically it’s not ad hominem if the attack is made on the person’s statement rather than the person. Must be some kind of new counter-cult “witnessing” strategy: tell the Mormons how foolish they’re being when they politely try to interact with you. Yeah, that’ll win ’em over to “the real Jesus” for sure.

    What I just did wasn’t ad hominem either, it was just good old-fashioned name-calling.

    Seth ~ I think it’s established that you and I respectfully disagree on Joseph Smith.

    Jared C. ~ Is that a difference? Are Mormons hotter than Evangelicals?

    Not if I’m around.

    I don’t know if Seth is a kung fu badass, but I know that he is a fencing badass, so I imagine he can do the same stuff Sulu did in the new Star Trek movie. So if we ever need someone to take an orbital skydive onto a Vulcan drilling platform and kick a little Vulcan ass, we know who to call.

  26. Jack, as you pointed out, unless you’re a strong cessasionist, Evangelicals don’t believe that the gift of prophesy has died out. I’m convinced that most of us could be won over by an argument for a not-yet-closed canon. As you also point out, we already accept sinful prophets and apostles. We don’t reject Joseph Smith as a true prophet just because we reject him. We reject him because we don’t have sufficient reason to accept him. His character flaws don’t help his case but the reliability of his scriptures are the basis of the more foundational rejection. Joseph Smith could have lived up to the Sunday School picture of him and our rejection would still stand.

    Seth your comments indicate that you acknowledges that an argument based on Joseph Smith life and character is a tough sell. It’s preferable to talk about his doctrine than his claims to authority. And while you don’t believe Smith to be half as sinful as we might make him out to be, I’m sure if you regarded him as a false prophet you might think of him as more sinful than he’s made out to be.

    Eric, you make an interesting comparison to the Papal authority. There are some nuanced but important distinctions between the Pope and the LDS Prophet. The Pope is bound by scripture. He can’t contradict the Bible. While LDS may reject that the Prophet is currently contradicting the Bible, they believe that he has the authority to do so. The Pope can only add to scripture via tradition. The LDS Prophet can add and change scripture itself.

    We Protestants certainly reject the idea of Papal Authority (if we didn’t reject it we would be Catholics). But our rejection of it doesn’t carry as far as our rejection of Mormon Prophetic Authority because it is a more limited authority.

    Aquinas As always you raise some interesting points. I think “Joseph Smith, True Prophet” is something more than just the source of our differences. It’s also an idea that forms other ideas. It speaks to who God raises up and gives authority to and how we accept or question that authority.

    I absolutely agree that both Mormons and Evangelicals may be influenced by outside things as much as their respective faiths. But I fundamentally believe that ideas have consequences. So when studying differences it’s of ultimate value to go upstream and investigate those ideas.

  27. Wait – you mean the Seth you know isn’t from the same place the Seth I know is? You mean the Seth you know is younger than the Seth I know? But, I thought we had a common knowledge of Seth – you mean we really don’t? What, you say it’s because we actually don’t know the same person? Wow, I never thought of that before…

    Brad, this is what I hear when you talk like this:

    blah blah blah blah blah blah blah

    Just so y’know.

    Joseph Smith could have lived up to the Sunday School picture of him and our rejection would still stand.

    Tim, so this means that your rejection of JS is based on his teachings, not his character? The character stuff just “sweetens the pot”?

    What about Jack’s point that the NT “contradicts” the OT?

  28. BJM,

    To be honest, I don’t give 3 craps what you think about the statement. I’ve read enough of what you write to know I disagree with you on quite a bit, and I find your personality as unlikable as I’m sure you find mine.

    I don’t care to break into the Mormon/Christian internet club that most on here love to belong to. I write what I write b/c I believe it. If others don’t, not my issue.

  29. Katie,

    Your point? Whatever your point, see my response to BJM above – I would probably direct the same to you, as well.

  30. Brad ~ I write what I write b/c I believe it. If others don’t, not my issue.

    I always assumed that your goal in participating on these discussion threads was to convince Mormons of your beliefs in the errors of their ways and convince other Christians to watch out for Mormonism. But, apparently I was mistaken and you’re only here because you like to hear yourself talk. Read on.

    Your point? Whatever your point, see my response to BJM above – I would probably direct the same to you, as well.

    That’s real smart. Katie is a lifelong Mormon who openly admits on her blog that she’s struggling with her faith in the LDS church and is sympathetic to evangelical Christian teachings. She’s exactly the kind of Mormon that counter-cult evangelists should be trying to reach, but every time she tells one of you counter-cult types that your tactics are a turn-off, she gets brushed off like you just did, and this is a consistent pattern I’ve observed.

    Here’s Aaron grouping her in with LDS apologists who are intellectually hardened against evangelical Christianity and therefore her disagreement with his approach isn’t worth his time.

    Here’s a guy on my blog who came by touting the whole “Mormons are non-Christians who believe in a different Jesus” bag. When Katie told him that his approach was a turn-off, he did the same thing counter-cultists always do: told her that she was the real problem and she wouldn’t listen to his message no matter how he presented it.

    You certainly don’t have to care what I think. Hate to brag, but I’m not exactly short on people who are actually listening to my ideas, so no skin off my back.

    But if you’re not here for polite and respectful interfaith dialogue, and you’re not here to reach Mormons who are openly struggling with their faith, what exactly are you here for?

    That’s right. You’re here to hear yourself talk, because if Mormons are turned off by your style of presentation that’s their problem, not yours. Have fun with that.

  31. Tim, so this means that your rejection of JS is based on his teachings, not his character? The character stuff just “sweetens the pot”?

    It certainly makes it more obvious to us. Probably not a big surprise that Evangelicals think this way, so I’ll throw it out straight forwardly: We view the method Joseph Smith brought about his teachings as corrupt. We view his teachings as corrupt. So we’re not at all surprised to see things in his life that make us think he is corrupt.

    What about Jack’s point that the NT “contradicts” the OT?

    This gets back to the what I was saying about “sufficient reasons” to accept authority. Jesus backed up his smack by claiming to be God and then rising from the dead. His apparent contradictions to the OT are validated by the authority he proved he possessed.

    If Joseph Smith (or the Book of Mormon or the Pearl of Great Price) could back up his smack with something more than a burning in the bosom I’d be much more inclined to ponder his teachings more. I’m not putting my own fleece out and asking God to perform signs for me. I’m asking for Joseph Smith to live up to the signs he claimed for himself.

    Just imagine, for instance, if he had actually translated Egyptian hieroglyphics correctly and if he had actually drawn the missing portions of the facsimile correctly. That’d be pretty compelling evidence that he had the authority he claimed he possessed. He’s the one who said he was translating the thing, I’m not arbitrarily building a wall too high for him to jump over.

  32. Earlier, I said:

    I don’t know if Seth is a kung fu badass, but I know that he is a fencing badass, so I imagine he can do the same stuff Sulu did in the new Star Trek movie. So if we ever need someone to take an orbital skydive onto a Vulcan drilling platform and kick a little Vulcan ass, we know who to call.

    Oh noes. My husband the Star Trek nerd corrects me that Vulcan should be Romulan in this paragraph. Shows what I know.

    Anyways, you get the point.

  33. And BJM, I’ve read enough of what you write to see that you don’t make a clear enough distinction between the 2. You’re more about being nice on blogs (to those who click with your personality) and inclusive than about really calling an ace an ace and a spade a spade. Don’t care if you don’t think that’s the case or not.

    For every person listening to you, there’s others who aren’t. Your views aren’t the only ones – neither are mine. But whether someone holds my views or not, I express them nonetheless. Again, if Katie is wavering, I’d suggest some real searching before it’s too late – not internet chat.

    Nobody will ever please everybody 100% of the time. There are always people who don’t like other’s methods. I can’t stand yours – you can’t stand mine. I’m OK with that.

    As to liking to hear yourself talk, seems you do quite a bit yourself. For as high on myself as you think I am, believe me, others hold the same viewpoint of you.

  34. Again, if Katie is wavering, I’d suggest some real searching before it’s too late – not internet chat.

    Come on. You think all I do is sit around on internet message boards all day and call it good in terms of my spiritual searching?

    That’s a pretty presumptuous and insulting position to take, not a great way to win someone’s trust.

    But whether someone holds my views or not, I express them nonetheless.

    Fine. Express your point. Most people are more than willing to listen to other perspectives. I know I am. In fact, I seek them out. But when you are rude and unreasonable, it turns people off.

    Nobody will ever please everybody 100% of the time.

    And this is a cop out. “I’m never gonna please everyone, so I can be as nasty as I want?”

    Listen Brad. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that more Mormons are driven to atheism and away from Christianity by unkind, impolite, inconsiderate “witnessing” tactics of the counter-cult ministry than are brought to Christ.

    Sure, you often do a good job of getting people to doubt. You do a good job of rocking their foundations. You can get people to leave Mormonism, perhaps. And every once in a while, you’ll score some converts. But for every convert you gain, you have dozens of people whose faith and spiritual lives are shattered beyond repair.

    I know many former Mormons who say they will never consider Evangelical Christianity because of the way they were treated by the counter-cult ministry.

    And you think the ends justify the means? Those handful of converts are worth the shattered lives?

    What if you had taken just a little bit more care, a little bit more kindness? Could you have won these people’s hearts and minds instead of turning them away?

    And even if you couldn’t, is it really worth it?

    I submit that even if it’s occasionally effective–no, even if it is THE MOST EFFECTIVE tool in the box–when it comes to converting people to Christ, vitriol, bitterness, and anger are sucky ways to go about it.

    This isn’t about “your approach” vs. “my approach.” This is about a Christlike approach. Period.

    /end soapbox

    Gotta get back to work now. Peace everyone.

  35. Brad ~ Don’t care if you don’t think that’s the case or not.

    Then why bother saying it at all? This is why I say you just like to hear yourself talk.

    Again, if Katie is wavering, I’d suggest some real searching before it’s too late – not internet chat.

    So apparently it’s your position that “internet chat” is useless toward evangelism and spreading the truth. In that case, again, what are you doing here?

    For as high on myself as you think I am, believe me, others hold the same viewpoint of you.

    Then tell them to have some cojones and speak up. I can’t tell you how eager I am to hear who these people are and what they have to say about me.

    Anyways, you don’t care what I think of you. Great. You really stuck it to me there. Hope you got the catharsis you were looking for. But if you’re going to hang around here and insist on acting like a jerk towards Mormons, you can look forward to me calling you out on it just the same. You may not care what I think of you, but other people will, so either change your attitude or get used to it.

  36. Katie,

    We get so concerned with the approach, that we forget the reason we witness – b/c people are lost. We’re so worried about what the other person will think, that we often don’t say what needs to be said.

    Sorry, I don’t suscribe to that. And I don’t succumb to any guilt that might try to be placed on me for it, either.

  37. You may not care what I think of you, but other people will, so either change your attitude or get used to it.

    BJM, using your logic, you must also like to hear yourself talk, for if you don’t care what I say, then why respond either? Same thing you say I do.

    And the above illustrates exactly what I’m saying. Are you enjoying that other people hold your opinion in such high regard? That seems to me to be your motivation. I think you act like a jerk to others to. It doesn’t take any getting used to – feel free to say what you want, it doesn’t bother me. I’m not looking for your approval. Seems you may be looking for others.

  38. Something about the tone of this blog changed ever since Kullervo got back from his National Guard duty. I blame him.

  39. OK, so, funny story that seems marginally appropriate to this, since it seems people agree that Joseph Smith is the dividing line.

    I talked ON THE PHONE to Joseph Smith the other day. No joke. I was getting yelled at by some compliance jerks at my firm, and they made me speak to their manager–good ‘ol Joseph Smith.

    I believe that it was Joseph Smith, speaking to me from the Celestial Kingdom, because the reception was so bad I could hardly hear what he said. I am certain it was either, “Come back to the LDS Church” or “Get a DC CPA license now.”

    I know they don’t sound like they could sound the same, but it totally wasn’t clear reception (one might say interplanetary), and because I get totally nervous when I talk to celebrities, I couldn’t ask him anything about the Celestial Kingdom, if he felt like retracting anything, how many wives came to heaven with him…

    His secretary, though–NOT that friendly. Avoid her, for sure.

  40. Brad ~ BJM, using your logic, you must also like to hear yourself talk, for if you don’t care what I say, then why respond either?

    Show me where on that thread I said I don’t care what you say. That’s right, I didn’t. So much for that “logic.” Since you claim to represent evangelical Christianity, I care immensely what you say, which is what this is about. If I saw someone wearing a WWJD bracelet punch a Mormon in the face, I’d care. I’d do something about it. I just might hit him back, and I’d care that other people saw me hitting him back so that they understand that not all evangelical Christians are okay with punching Mormons in the face. That’s what this is about.

    And the above illustrates exactly what I’m saying. Are you enjoying that other people hold your opinion in such high regard?

    If you’re accusing me of talking because I enjoy it when other people listen to me, that’s kind of the opposite of talking because I enjoy hearing myself talk, don’t you think? Make up your mind.

    I think you act like a jerk to others to.

    Definitely! But usually I only act like a jerk to people who throw the first punch, which is exactly what went down with you.

    I also never claim that my time spent acting like a jerk constitutes “witnessing.” Big diff.

    I’m not looking for your approval.

    I don’t want you to look for my approval, either. I want you to quit punching Mormons in the face and calling it “witnessing.” Your brush-offs to Katie L. on this thread make it perfectly clear that you don’t actually care whether or not you’re effective in reaching “lost” Mormons, so quit ruining it for those of us who do.

    Oh, and I like how you’ve figured out that I do my best to present my message in a way that will appeal to Mormons and encourage them to listen to me. Sinister.

    Tim ~ I can’t speak for Kullervo, but I will do my best to swear less and engage in name-calling less often, just for you.

  41. Jack, last time I actually had an extended exchange with Brad, he ended up saying he would never hire me as his lawyer because my logical skills were so obviously wanting.

    Ever since then, he has simply lurked around pouting about how “nothing I say is going to make a difference to you anyway, so why bother?” Or some variation on that theme.

    Nice to see him coming out of his shell again.

  42. Yeah Seth, I figure I’m wasting time in responding to him, but what the hell. It’s fun for a few rounds.

    “nothing I say is going to make a difference to you anyway, so why bother?”

    This is becoming the anthem of evangelical anti-Mormons, I’m noticing.

    And for what it’s worth, I would totally hire you as a lawyer, especially if you threw in some dead Romulans as a bonus.

  43. I’ll stick up for Kullervo: he and I disagreed over on that Need of Correction/Gay Marriage thread, and we managed (somehow!) to discuss it rationally and carefully. If you don’t like Kullervo’s tone, you might ask why he freaks out on some people but not others. The answer might be interesting….

  44. Show me where on that thread I said I don’t care what you say. That’s right, I didn’t.

    I never said you SAID you didn’t, I implied that I don’t believe you do, based on your responses. If you truly do, well I’m man enough to admit I was wrong about that, no problem.

    Since you claim to represent evangelical Christianity, I care immensely what you say, which is what this is about.

    And I would say the same. If you are an evangelical Christian, as you say you are, then I care immensely how YOU hold yourself out to be to others, as well, so they don’t get a false impression.

    If I saw someone wearing a WWJD bracelet punch a Mormon in the face, I’d care. I’d do something about it. I just might hit him back, and I’d care that other people saw me hitting him back so that they understand that not all evangelical Christians are okay with punching Mormons in the face. That’s what this is about.

    Except for nobody has punched a Mormon.

    If you’re accusing me of talking because I enjoy it when other people listen to me, that’s kind of the opposite of talking because I enjoy hearing myself talk, don’t you think? Make up your mind.

    I think you enjoy both. Mind made up.

    Definitely! But usually I only act like a jerk to people who throw the first punch, which is exactly what went down with you.

    I would say the same about you. I think Jared’s comment WAS foolish, and is fully representative of the incorrect Mormon thinking that goes on. Further, your support of it is worse, since as an EV, you ought to know better. Shame on you.

    I also never claim that my time spent acting like a jerk constitutes “witnessing.” Big diff.

    I made a general statement ABOUT witnessing, I didn’t what I was doing WAS witnessing. Big diff.

    I don’t want you to look for my approval, either. I want you to quit punching Mormons in the face and calling it “witnessing.”

    I didn’t punch anyone, and I never called anything specific witnessing – see above. Try to keep up, BJM.

    Your brush-offs to Katie L. on this thread make it perfectly clear that you don’t actually care whether or not you’re effective in reaching “lost” Mormons, so quit ruining it for those of us who do.

    You’re assuming there’s a right and wrong way to do it – what may not work for Katie, works for others, and vice versa. I don’t hope to convert on the internet, but I do enjoy discussing, and if I see incorrect belief, from Christians or Mormons, yep, I’ll point it out in the way I see fit. Gee, doesn’t sound that much different from you, does it?

    Oh, and I like how you’ve figured out that I do my best to present my message in a way that will appeal to Mormons and encourage them to listen to me. Sinister.

    Watered down, right? Whatever’s easiest to swallow? I’ve read your background on your blog, BJM. A lot of confusion going on, and a general unwillingness to call an ace an ace, and a spade a spade. I have my guesses as to why.

  45. In that particular exchange, Seth – they were.

    I lurk forever, and come in and out of my shell.

  46. Brad and Jack, I think you guys are more similar than either one of you would like to admit and aren’t about to resolve whatever this is in any meaningful way. Move on.

    For what it’s worth, Kullervo had nothing to do with this and I certainly don’t want him calling anyone an a$$hat on this thread either.

  47. Brad ~ If you truly do, well I’m man enough to admit I was wrong about that, no problem.

    I eagerly await your admission of being wrong.

    Except for nobody has punched a Mormon.

    Lrn2metaphor, Brad.

    I would say the same about you. I think Jared’s comment WAS foolish, and is fully representative of the incorrect Mormon thinking that goes on. Further, your support of it is worse, since as an EV, you ought to know better. Shame on you.

    I didn’t support Jared C.’s comment, what I did was denounce your gratuitously rude response. However, I can’t tell you how much I enjoy it when you shame me. Do it some more.

    You’re assuming there’s a right and wrong way to do it – what may not work for Katie, works for others, and vice versa.

    No, I believe that there are a variety of Christ-like ways to do it. Yours just isn’t one of them.

    I’ve read your background on your blog, BJM. A lot of confusion going on, and a general unwillingness to call an ace an ace, and a spade a spade.

    I believe I demonstrated my willingness to call “a spade a spade” when I made this comment above, and there was nothing confusing about it.

    Want more examples of me calling a spade a spade? See here and here. I’m actually pretty damn good at this spades and aces stuff.

  48. Katyjane, LOL. If I were JS’s secretary, I wouldn’t mess with me either. Too many feuding wimmin to deal with. 😉

    We get so concerned with the approach, that we forget the reason we witness – b/c people are lost. We’re so worried about what the other person will think, that we often don’t say what needs to be said.

    Maybe I can try again, a bit more nicely. (BTW, sorry if I’ve been a negative nelly today, all.)

    I never meant you shouldn’t say what needs to be said. On the contrary, I think you have an obligation to share what you consider to be the truth with Mormons. And I am never offended when someone approaches me with a message about God. I always do my best to really listen and honestly consider what is being shared with me.

    What turns me off is a combative approach. Because always underscoring the combativeness are assumptions about my beliefs, my sincerity, my motivations, my spiritual experiences, my personal journey, and my relationship with God.

    I just refreshed and saw that Tim has asked that we move on, so I won’t belabor the point. Allow me to just humbly suggest that “what works for some doesn’t work for others” isn’t really true. I’m a marketer and an actor–which really means I’m a student of human nature. 😉 Brad, everyone wants to feel respected, listened to, and understood…especially when you’re telling them why they’re wrong. And it’s okay to tell them that. But the way you tell them matters. A lot. If you want to be effective, that is.

    Anyway, per Tim’s request, I won’t respond again on this issue. Thanks for hearing me out.

  49. I’ll stick up for Kullervo: he and I disagreed over on that Need of Correction/Gay Marriage thread, and we managed (somehow!) to discuss it rationally and carefully. If you don’t like Kullervo’s tone, you might ask why he freaks out on some people but not others. The answer might be interesting….

    Thanks! Amen!

  50. BJM, calling an ace an ace and a spade a spade, in the context I meant it, has nothing to do with bashing CARM. It has to do with theologically right or wrong.

    You know, the questions you don’t like, and in fact you say you hate, such as “are Mormons saved”? Answering those is NOT difficult, if you look at the beliefs of each compared to the Bible, BJM. It just isn’t. Unwillingness to admit the answer usually comes from 1 of 2 things: either a misunderstanding of Scripture, or a knowledge of the implications of the correct answer. Not sure which yours is.

    Anyway, as Tim requested, I’ll leave it alone – for now.

  51. Getting back to the point of this post…

    I would have to say, IMO, the biggest difference between Mormons and Ev’s is:

    1) The Nature of God

    2) The Nature of Christ

    3) The Nature of Man

    For the most part, the other differences between our respective faiths flow from the above. These are STARK differences… so much so, that IMO, we are worshipping different Gods – I know you don’t like my opinion on this Jack but as a Former Mormon now Ev it is the view I hold.

    God Bless All!!

    Darrell

  52. Anyway, as Tim requested, I’ll leave it alone – for now.

    Firing off one more time to get the last word is not “leaving it alone.”

  53. Firing off one more time to get the last word is not “leaving it alone.”

    I suppose your comment on it isn’t either, but who’s keeping track?

  54. Kullervo wasn’t even a part of the back-and-forth you were having to begin with Brad.

    Can I fire off a final stab before exiting dramatically Tim?

  55. You just did, didn’t you Seth?

    Funny how with both you and Kullervo trying to call me on commenting then stopping, you’ve BOTH done the same thing you tried to call me on.

  56. Darrell: you hit on a big one: “The Nature of Man”

    Mormons believe that we have always existed. Whether that belief stems from or gave rise to our rejection of creation from nothing I don’t know.

  57. I’m with Darrell and Brian that the nature of man is a really, really big one.

    I’m as yet undecided on the issue, because I think an eternal man and an “organizer” God solve some philosophical conundrums better than the traditional view–namely, the problem of evil. On the other hand, I’m not so sure the scriptures back it up.

  58. Katie,

    What specific philosophical issue in regards to “the problem of evil” are you speaking about? Can you give the quick breakdown on it?

    Darrell

  59. Kullervo ~ Firing off one more time to get the last word is not “leaving it alone.”

    I agree with this statement.

    Darrell ~ I never disagreed that there are stark differences between Mormonism and evangelical Christianity on the nature of God, the nature of man, and the nature of man. I never even disagreed with Brad’s OP on this thread.

    What I disagree on is that God automatically disqualifies Mormon worship and sends them to hell for sincerely getting things wrong about Him. I don’t believe the biblical evidence supports such a sweeping assumption, and I think that approach is harmful to sharing the truth with Mormons since it arrogantly dismisses whatever sincere spiritual experiences they may have already had so that they stop listening.

    Those are my concerns with that approach. But if you want to keep using it, obviously I can’t stop you.

  60. the nature of God, the nature of man, and the nature of man.

    Whoops, this sentence should read “the nature of God, the nature of Christ, and the nature of man.”

  61. Jack,

    I understand your concern and I agree with you that we need to be careful how we witness to Mormons. I do think it is important to remember, however, that just because we don’t llike one particular approach does not automatically make it “bad”. Different approaches work with different people. For example, I know you don’t like the Kirk Cameron/Ray Comfort approach – nevertheless, it works for some people. The bottom line is we just need to make sure we approach each and every situation prayerfully.

    I think where you and I disagree is in the area of whether Mormonism teaches a different Jesus. We have spoken about this before. I happen to believe it does; this has nothing to do with an “apologetic approach.” It is, rather, simply what I believe to be true. As a result, I don’t want to lead them to believe they might be “OK” by continuing to hold their beliefs. We need to tell the truth but do so lovingly.

    This is how I have heard it put in the past:

    “Truth without love is too hard. Love without truth is too soft.”

    If we blast somebody out of the water with the truth, then we are not being loving. However, if we go to far and hold back sharing the truth simply because we don’t want to hurt feelings, then we are STILL not being loving.

    Darrell

  62. Jack,

    I am curious about something. Do you believe JS had a first vision experience at all? I am not asking you if you believe God appeared to him – just do you believe he had an experience at all. Or, do you believe he made the whole thing up?

    Darrell

  63. Darrell ~ I do think it is important to remember, however, that just because we don’t llike one particular approach does not automatically make it “bad”. Different approaches work with different people.

    Believe it or not, I agree with this statement. There are many approaches for reaching out to and interacting with Mormons which work besides my own. There are things counter-cult ministry types do which I certainly would never do, but I won’t discount that they may be effective. I’m willing to live and let live on it. (For example, I gave a pretty neutral stance on the Manti pageant evangelists here. I’m even willing to concede that Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort do some good in their own way.

    I’m a bit of an agnostic on Joseph Smith’s First Vision. I’m open to the possibility that something may have actually happened to him in the woods, but I’m also open to the possibility that he made the entire thing up.

    I definitely don’t believe in the First Vision as it’s currently canonized by the LDS church if that’s what you’re asking. I’m not even open to that one.

    (off topic) Seth ~ Thanks for the “Nicest Evil Villain” nomination, though I don’t see how I could possibly compete with Aaron for that one.

  64. Whoops, this sentence should read “the nature of God, the nature of Christ, and the nature of man.”

    Whatever. Freudian slip! Arian heretic!

  65. “Thanks for the “Nicest Evil Villain” nomination, though I don’t see how I could possibly compete with Aaron for that one.”

    Uhhh, because you are actually nice.

    Darrell: I just think your “Mormons teach a different Jesus” is confusing and/or misleading to many. I agree that there are stark, irreconcilable differences in the divine attributes we profess about God, but when you say “different Jesus” many people think you’re talking about the person who lived 200 years ago and died on a cross. But in that sense, we’re both talking about the same guy. Thus, I find your approach…well, sneaky, and therefore not conducive to “truth” or “love.”

  66. “I’m a bit of an agnostic on Joseph Smith’s First Vision. I’m open to the possibility that something may have actually happened to him in the woods, but I’m also open to the possibility that he made the entire thing up. ”

    Jack,

    So what you are basically saying about the first vision is “I don’t know. Something MAY have happened.” Personally, I believe this is the dividing line on the LDS Church.

    Here is the thing… IF the first vision happened, then there are only two possibilities for Mormonism…

    1) The being who appeared to him was in fact Jesus Christ. If so, the LDS Church is what it claims to be – the true Church of Jesus Christ. If this is the case, we all need to join it.

    or

    2) The being who appeared to JS was NOT Jesus Christ. If this is the case, the LDS Church is a flat out lie and, in fact, was started by a FALSE ANGEL pretending to be Jesus Christ.

    The bottom line is, if a First Vision happened then the being who Mormons worship IS the being who appeared to JS., for this being claimed to be Jesus! Either that being was Jesus Christ or he wasn’t – he was either sent from God or sent from the devil. There is no in between. Therefore, either the LDS Church IS true and worships the true Jesus or it is a lie and worships a false Jesus.

    Now, one could claim that JS made the whole thing up. Personally, I find that far fetched. JS caused an aweful lot of people to “see visions” etc. How does one explain these? Especially from a biblical perspective which teaches that false demons have power. To say he did this without supernatural help is simply too far fetched for me. In addition, one cannot discount the spiritual hold the LDS Church has – it is powerful.

    Jack, since you are willing to admit that you don’t know and a being may have in fact appeared to JS, I would like to caution you about so freely saying Mormons worship the same Jesus we do. For you are then saying they are “OK” and that the being who appeared to JS WAS, in fact, Jesus Christ.

    Darrell

  67. “I know you don’t like the Kirk Cameron/Ray Comfort approach – nevertheless, it works for some people.”

    If a manipulative approach “works” what does that say about what is accomplished in the teaching?

    I think it says a lot about your theology if indoctrination makes a lot of difference in the long run.

    But on this point Mormons and Evangelicals are pretty similar.

  68. IF the first vision happened, then there are only two possibilities for Mormonism…

    Darrell, so you would say it’s not possible for someone to be honestly deluded–to imagine they saw something or even hallucinate something?

    BTW, I’m not saying I think that’s what happened. The jury is still out on JS for me. I’m open to any number of possibilities. But it seems to me the “either he did or he didn’t” is a false dichotomy both our camps have created and leaves out any number of alternative possibilities.

  69. Darrell ~ I think you are committing a severe black-and-white fallacy here. You discount the possibility that the being who appeared to Joseph Smith was Jesus Christ (or another divine agent), but the message presented was not what Joseph Smith later reported. The earliest account of the First Vision as told by Joseph Smith contains nothing that the traditional Christian world need reject; it’s mostly concerned with his own desire for salvation and need to have his sins forgiven. It’s entirely possible that Smith received some kind of genuine testimony from God in his teens, then turned away from it as time went on.

    Paul Owen also proposed a way that Christians could consider Joseph Smith as a prophet and the LDS church as being “from God”:

    I do believe that Joseph can be viewed as a prophet of sorts (something along the lines of Balaam in Numbers 22-24), who experienced a taste of the charismata, and who may have been used to speak a true word of rebuke upon a worldly, divisive church which was gripped by the spirit of revivalism. God used Joseph to speak to the churches, and to expose their shallow versions of the Christian religion… When the Church does not bear witness to its Catholicity, when the Faith becomes more of a mechanism of producing converts than maintaining the unity and identity of the visible body, God raises up men and movements to rebuke the worldly church. The Rechabites (Jer. 35) and the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) provide us with comparable models in which to understand God’s purpose in raising up Joseph Smith and the Mormons.

    So no, I don’t believe you’re considering all of the possibilities here, and I refuse to go around warning Mormons that their church is straight from Satan.

  70. Mormons only think Jack is nice because she’ll have sex with them (okay, maybe just one of them). But it’s still more than most Evangelicals will do. As Meatloaf would say, “I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that.”

    ——————————————————–

    Darrell,
    I think there’s a better way to phrase the “different Jesus” thing to the satisfaction of Mormons that doesn’t make them think we are misrepresenting them. Something akin to “they have a different perception of Jesus”.

    I think your dichotomy of the First Vision is interesting. I certainly think the other spiritualist activities that were happening at the same time in the area could support it.

    That being said, I do think that a “fraudulent Joseph” could be leading other people to spiritual visions without the assistance of Beelzebub. Research some of the mind-control things Scientologist do to their people. Or watch this You Tube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnNSe5XYp6E . You put people in the right situations and they buy what you’re selling.

    Joe Rogan loves talking up the power of eating mushrooms on an empty stomach for the origins of religion.

  71. Here is the thing… IF the first vision happened, then there are only two possibilities for Mormonism…

    1) The being who appeared to him was in fact Jesus Christ. If so, the LDS Church is what it claims to be – the true Church of Jesus Christ. If this is the case, we all need to join it.

    or

    2) The being who appeared to JS was NOT Jesus Christ. If this is the case, the LDS Church is a flat out lie and, in fact, was started by a FALSE ANGEL pretending to be Jesus Christ.

    Hello false dichotomy. I can think of a bunch of other explanations, just off the top of my head. But I will be generous and assume that what you really mean to say is, “given the truth of Evangelical Protestantism, if the First Vision really happened as it is recounted in the current officially accepted version published by the LDS Church, then there are only two significantly probable explanations.”

    And even then a lot of your stuff does not really follow. At the very least, you’re buying into the deeply flawed Mormon logic that if the first vision happened, then the LDS church is what it claims to be.

  72. Jack,

    I don’t think that there is any Biblical evidence that God accepts worship, no matter how sincere, that is not prescribed by Him. I think that the Bible takes worship pretty seriously. The sacrifice of Cain was not accepted (Gen 4:3). The second commandment (Ex 20:4-6) specifically addressing idolatry, does not leave any opening for sincerity. God was specific with Moses that he should construct the tabernacle “according to the pattern shown you on the mountain” (Ex 25:40) and rejected the innovations of Nadab and Abihu (Lev 10:2) because he did not prescribe them (Lev 10:3). The rest of the OT is full of examples where God rejects sincere worship that he did not prescribe.

    The NT is equally clear, Jesus Christ himself condemns the Scribes and Pharisees for there worship practices (Mark 7:6-9). In John’s Gospel our Lord Jesus condemns the worship of the Samaritans (John 4:22). The apostle Paul tells the Galatians that “You observe days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain” (Gal. 4:9-11) condemning sincere practices that are not prescribed by God. These are just a few of the many examples.

    Far from being arrogant in pointing these things out, I think it is just being honest. The rub is how do you explain that God, as he Has revealed Himself in the Bible, cares about our beliefs, practices, and piety without being overly offensive and appearing arrogant. I think that for Christians to gloss over these things and chalk them up to sincere spiritual experience is frankly dishonest and demeaning to Mormon beliefs as well as foundational Christian doctrines. We need to follow Paul’s example and say “I fear for you…” with love and compassion. Like I said the rub is to explain the importance of beliefs, piety, and practices without being perceived as arrogant. Not an easy task.

  73. Katie,

    “Darrell, so you would say it’s not possible for someone to be honestly deluded–to imagine they saw something or even hallucinate something?”

    The problem is JS assisted OTHER PEOPLE in sharing in his “hallucinations.” This, IMO, could only be of supernatural origin. Again, either of God or not of God. I don’t see much room in between.

    Jack,

    “I think you are committing a severe black-and-white fallacy here. You discount the possibility that the being who appeared to Joseph Smith was Jesus Christ (or another divine agent), but the message presented was not what Joseph Smith later reported.”

    and

    “It’s entirely possible that Smith received some kind of genuine testimony from God in his teens, then turned away from it as time went on.”

    I don’t see this as a black and white fallacy because logically there really is no in between – it is too far fetched. How do you account for all the supernatural “visions” that JS helped other people experience? According to your scenario God (or an agent from God) appeared to JS as a teen and then several years later JS wrote the BOM (without supernatural help) and caused all of these other people to experience visions (without any supernatural help). That is just not logical.

    “So no, I don’t believe you’re considering all of the possibilities here, and I refuse to go around warning Mormons that their church is straight from Satan.”

    First of all, I would never suggest approaching a Mormon using your exact wording above. Unless you have a great relationship with the person to whom you are speaking you would come across rather crass. Nevertheless, my point remains. It appears you are comfortable taking the position that Mormons worship the same Jesus as Christians even though you cannot say for sure what or who appeared to JS. You appear to be OK with putting other people’s salvation in the category of “maybe they are ok.”

    Darrell

  74. “And even then a lot of your stuff does not really follow. At the very least, you’re buying into the deeply flawed Mormon logic that if the first vision happened, then the LDS church is what it claims to be.”

    Kullervo,

    Yes, I am approaching this from the standpoint of Christianity being true. I am directing my comments to a professed Christian (Jack) so that is the perspective I am coming from. Feel free to share some othe “other possibilities” you have as I would love to hear them (sincerely). The ones I have heard (group hallucinations, etc) seem really far fetched.

    Darrell

  75. I’ll go on record and say that SOME Mormons MAY worship the same Jesus as Christians even though I cannot say for sure what or who appeared to Joseph Smith. I would never prescribe Mormonism as a way to approach Jesus, but I think it’s possible that some are honoring Jesus (though not being well discipled) while in the LDS church.

    Darrell, do you have your conversion story up anywhere to read?

  76. “I’ll go on record and say that SOME Mormons MAY worship the same Jesus as Christians even though I cannot say for sure what or who appeared to Joseph Smith.”

    Say for argument sake it was not Jesus who appeared to JS but this being was “pretending” to be Jesus. Would you then say Mormonism worships the Biblical Christ – the Christ of Christianity?

    As I see it, whatever being it was that appeared to JS, IT is the being Mormons worship. President Hinckley said:

    “For the Christ of whom I speak has been revealed in this the Dispensation of the Fulness [sic] of Times'” (June 20, 1998, . ”

    He admits that Mormonism worships the being who appeared to JS in the “fullness of times”. If this being was not the Jesus Christ of The Bible, who do they worship?

    As for my conversion story, I have not typed up the whole thing. I do have a little bit about it on the “About Us” page of my blog.

    Take Care!!

    Darrell

  77. Tim did not say “sometimes Mormonism worships the same Jesus as Christians.” He said some individual Mormons, despite being members of the Mormon church, may as a result of their actions and their understanding of Jesus, actually be worshipping the same Jesus as Christians.

    Mormonism isn’t one person. Mormonism is not monolithic. There is not one consistent body of doctrine that is taught by the Church hierarchy and accepted and believed by all membership, even if Mormons think there is.

  78. Darrell,

    Coming from someone who worships 2000 year old Jewish zombie that you think is magically going to turn you into a nice person and make you live forever…

    Talk of “far-fetched” is just a tad late, dontcha think?

  79. Kullervo,

    So you are saying some Mormons may not actually worship the being who appeared to JS. I can agree with that.

    But I would also point out, from experience, that if this is the case they would not last long in the LDS Church. For the being that Mormonism teaches one to worship, as pointed out by Hinckley, is the being who appeared to the boy Joseph.

    Darrell

  80. “Coming from someone who worships 2000 year old Jewish zombie that you think is magically going to turn you into a nice person and make you live forever…

    Talk of “far-fetched” is just a tad late, dontcha think?”

    Seth,

    Based upon our past conversations I know you are going to love this one…

    Not based upon THE EVIDENCE! 🙂

    Darrell

  81. Gundek ~ What’s interesting about the majority of your examples (Gen. 4:3, Ex. 25:40, Lev. 10:2, Mark 7:6-9, Gal. 4:9-11) is that they refer to correct practice, not correct belief. Given that evangelicals are all over the map on correct practice, I’m a little astonished to see you using such passages.

    Is it acceptable to ordain women? Whoever is on the wrong side of that question must be going to hell, because God doesn’t allow for unauthorized servants.

    Is it acceptable to baptize infants? Whoever is on the wrong side of that question must be going to hell, because God doesn’t accept incorrect acts of worship.

    Is it acceptable to baptize by sprinkling and pouring? Whoever is on the wrong side of that question must be going to hell, because God doesn’t accept incorrect acts of worship.

    Is it acceptable to celebrate Halloween, Christmas and Easter? Whoever is on the wrong side of that question must be going to hell, because incorrect observances of holidays threaten the soul.

    Seems to me like you just made a fantastic biblical case for Mormonism with its emphasis on orthopraxy instead of orthodoxy, and I’m sure our Mormon friends are grateful for that.

    As to your other passages, Exodus 20:4-6 doesn’t say anything about people who are sincerely doing their best to serve the God of the Bible but honestly getting beliefs wrong, and Jesus only describes the woman’s worship in John 4:22; He doesn’t condemn it.

    Now here’s what the Bible does say:

    “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” (Acts 10:30b-31a)

    And he said to the woman, Your faith has saved you; go in peace. (Luke 7:50)

    And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Acts 2:21)

    “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord.” And believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the scripture says, “Anyone who trust in him will never be put to shame”. For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile- the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him. For “Everyone who called on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13)

    You know what’s missing from these passages? An in-depth analysis of the Trinity or a pop quiz on the hypostatic union. Romans 10:9-13 says it all: People who confess with their mouth that Jesus is their Lord and believe in their hearts that God raised Him from the dead will be saved. That is what I believe, and it’s incredibly biblical.

    Darrell ~ I don’t see this as a black and white fallacy because logically there really is no in between – it is too far fetched.

    Incorrect. I showed you exactly how there was room for an “in between” answer, there was nothing far fetched about it, and I’m not going to keep repeating myself just because you’d rather ignore my answers.

    There are dozens of secular scholars and historians out there who reject the supernatural message of Mormonism and believe the Book of Mormon is completely man-made. It’s elaborate, but I don’t think the idea that it’s man-made is impossible, and I have no problem being an agnostic on the subject.

  82. “Dealing with your profound lack of self-observation got stale a looong time ago.”

    Grumpy today, huh.

    Darrell

  83. “Incorrect. I showed you exactly how there was room for an “in between” answer, there was nothing far fetched about it, and I’m not going to keep repeating myself just because you’d rather ignore my answers. ”

    Jack,

    What you appear to fail to see is that just because you may believe an alternative explanation is possible does not by definition make it so (same goes for my opinion). I am not ignoring your answer. I simply disagree with it.

    Darrell

  84. So you are saying some Mormons may not actually worship the being who appeared to JS. I can agree with that.

    But I would also point out, from experience, that if this is the case they would not last long in the LDS Church. For the being that Mormonism teaches one to worship, as pointed out by Hinckley, is the being who appeared to the boy Joseph.

    Yes exactly. Just as not everyone sitting in a Protestant church is worshiping the “Jesus” that saves.

    I agree that the LDS church teaches its members to look to the figure/figures that appeared to Joseph Smith in the First Vision (whoever/whatever that is)

    Darrell, did you watch the You Tube video I directed you to? Fawn Brodie’s premise was that this was the kind of situation that Joseph put the witnesses of the Book of Mormon in (intense, late-night repetitive prayer sessions, with strong rebukes for personal failings, etc.).

    I read your “about” page. I’d love to see your full story.

  85. Actually, Darrell, I’m going to second Jack’s perspective on both the First Vision and the orthopraxy v. orthodoxy issues.

    I really don’t understand the First Vision…I mean, I get the different versions of it, but I have no problem believing JS had a mystic experience with Jesus. I have no problem believing that others had mystic experiences. That doesn’t mean I have to believe everything JS said afterward, especially as his theology developed.

    Also, as someone who was baptized as a baby by sprinkling and who observes all sorts of holidays (especially those that were co-opted from pagan sun worship rituals…yay Christmas!), I certainly hope God’s willing to cut me some slack on my worship practices. I also participated in the sacrament at a few LDS wards because I didn’t really see a problem with it at the time. Hope I’m not condemned for that one. Oh, and I don’t believe that most of Genesis is historical fact, nor is Job, and I think Revelation was a fantastic testimony in response to the circumstances in which it was written rather than a prophesy of actual occurrences that I need to look out for. I hope God will forgive me for seeking out Truth in those passages despite those non-literal views.

    So I think it’s pretty clear that I approach my Christian faith in a manner very different from a lot of evangelicals. But at the end of the day, I believe that God exists, that Jesus Christ was divine and sacrificed himself for my sins, and that grace will keep me in the presence of the Father for eternity. If you can tell me why I should consider myself saved while Mormon’s shouldn’t, I’d love to hear it.

  86. Tim,

    Yes, I watched it. Thanks for the link. I have heard and read some of these type of explanations for JS and his achievements.

    I know where these type of explanations are coming from but I see some weaknesses. First, even if JS did use some of these tactics to cause “hallucinations/visions, etc.”, what about the continual hold the LDS Church has today? The church does not practice sleep deprevation, starvation, etc. today and they DO HAVE a strong spiritual hold on people.

    Second, keep in mind that with some of the visions, JS caused multiple people to see, hear, touch, feel and describe the same thing at the exact same time. There is disgreement among professionals about the ability to produce these type of “GROUP” hallucinations (some agnostic/atheists use this theory to explain away the resurrection – I saw Licona and Erhman debate using this tactic a few months ago).

    In addition, these type of explanations tend to discount the spiritual aspect. They tend to describe everything in a physical/secular manner, giving no credence to spiritual powers. However, the Bible teaches there is an unseen battle going on – that spiritual powers DO exist. The Bible talks about other Jesus’ being preached, it warns about false prophets, and it talks about false angels coming delivering false gospels. To me that is a pretty clear warning against, among other things, Mormonism.

    Thanks for the comment about my “miniature story”. I am going to try to go into more detail in the near future.

    Darrell

  87. Whitney,

    Thanks for your insight. I would never venture to tell you whether or not you are saved. Heck, I don’t even know you. All I am speaking about is what Mormonism teaches – whether the LDS Church teaches the same Jesus Christ as Christianity.

    Are their ramifications for those who follow Mormonism if it is following a false Jesus? According to The Bible, yes. In this age of “God is all loving and never shows wrath or judgement” and “everyone is going to heaven no matter what they believe”, I realize this is not a popular topic. Nevertheless, I believe it is one that is well worth discussing.

    Darrell

  88. I know where these type of explanations are coming from but I see some weaknesses. First, even if JS did use some of these tactics to cause “hallucinations/visions, etc.”, what about the continual hold the LDS Church has today? The church does not practice sleep deprevation, starvation, etc. today and they DO HAVE a strong spiritual hold on people.

    Uh, this is completely irrelevant.

  89. Jack,

    I apologize I should have been more specific to what I was responding to. You said, “What I disagree on is that God automatically disqualifies Mormon worship and sends them to hell for sincerely getting things wrong about Him.” This is why I was presenting a biblical case for an orthodox orthopraxy.

    I honestly do not see how you can claim that when Christ says “You worship what you do not know” to the Samaritan woman he is just describing Samaritan worship practices, but he goes on to explain that we “must worship in spirit and truth…” If we are to… if we must, worship in “spirit and truth? how can worship of the unknown or the mistaken be proper?

    You have made the case well enough for the need of orthodox beliefs, “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord.”” Paul is not referring to an abstract “historical” Jesus, but to Jesus as God. Ex 20:2 makes it clear that there is but one God of the Bible. This is also Biblical and incredibly important.

  90. Both Darrell and Gundeck…

    I think the point is that the Jesus Christ I worship and the various ramifications of how I understand Jesus Christ obviously lead you and I to different conclusions. So are we worshiping different Jesuses? I mean, you’re free to say that we are and that I’m out of luck, but I can assure you that even a quasi-post-modern approach to living in relationship with God has had a pretty powerful impact on my own life.

    And if we are in fact worshiping the same Jesus simply because I accept the Trinity, doesn’t that pose a problem for those who don’t actually understand the Trinity? I mean, I accept it, but if my understanding is mistaken, am I not actually worshiping based on a mistake? (Thanks to Jack for bringing up that point in a post long ago.)

    I think Jack makes a very valid point on her blog–that those rejecting the LDS church are stretching to say that those who follow LDS teachings are necessarily condemned. In the end, I think your nearly-black-and-white point of view on this proves too much, simply because I have seen those very arguments turned on my own denomination by evangelical bloggers, and it’s just not something I buy.

    So put me in the “I disagree” camp.

  91. If we are to… if we must, worship in “spirit and truth? how can worship of the unknown or the mistaken be proper?

    Then you’d better be damn sure you are certain you have a complete, total, full, and in no way misled understanding of Jesus. You have no room to learn more, to develop a deeper understanding: anything less than total, perfect knowledge would mean you were worshipping “the unknown or the mistaken,” and thus your worship does not cut the mustard.

    Good luck with that, for the record.

  92. Tim: “Something akin to “they have a different perception of Jesus”.” The problem with this is that it is too accurate. Meaning, it’s not catchy. If you want to grab someone’s attention, may I suggest a sneakier—I mean, looser phrase?

    Whitney: Your comments here are reasoned and appreciated.

  93. Kullervo and Whitney,

    When using the word “mistaken” I was trying to be charitable and to keep from using the word “heretical”. I see by your responses that this was a poor choice of words. I will admit when I misspeak.

    I cannot separate my view of God from the Trinity. In creation, revelation, salvation, in all of the actions of God I see the the Triune nature of God. Prayer, union with Christ, our worship, the word and sacraments they all scream Trinity.

    Just look at salvation and the work of the Three in unity to recreate humanity from its fallen nature. The will of the Father, the sacrifice of the Son and the Sanctification of the Holy Spirit. I am not able to describe the beauty I see.

    “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” and his name is God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

    Please do not think that I am pointing to people and saying “damnation to you…” Judgment is not in my job description. But I do think that we need to work out our salvation with fear and trembling and we are duly warned that ““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” and we should take this to heart.

  94. Gundeck, I guess my concern is that your position seems to create a purely academic Christianity. There are plenty of people who do not have the time nor inclination to work out the philosophical nuances of understanding the Trinity, and I for one think that’s fine. I mean, if a perfect understanding of the Trinity was so crucial, wouldn’t Jesus have told us exactly how it works in so many words? I accept that the Trinity is “Biblical,” but it’s not so easy as just pointing to one scripture. There’s some analysis that goes into it; even Eastern and Western Christian traditions can’t quite agree on the nature of it. So if one side is mistaken in its understanding of the Holy Ghost, aren’t they in the same trouble as Mormons?

    My feeling on this is that God did not send his Son so that we could find salvation by mulling over the intricacies of that philosophy…God sent Jesus to atone for our sins and show us the Way to living in God and through God that we may grow in faith and love with God. It seems to me that for purposes of debate in the blogosphere, we’re better off looking at mistakes/heresy in terms of how that may lead us away from God instead of simply altering our path to Him.

  95. Whitney,

    I think what we may need to distinguish between here are essential doctrines versus non-essential doctrines. I like how Augustine put it:

    “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”

    Is one damned if they accept that there is but one God who can save them and that He existed among us as the man Jesus Christ without having a complete apprehension of the Trinity. I am not God but I would venture to say no. No one can completely understand God and His nature… nevertheless, we can accept what He has told us. This is, afterall, what Abraham was commended for.

    Tis is very different from teaching that Jesus Christ is our older spirit brother, he was spiritually born of God the Father and progressed to become another God. Add to this that God the Father was once a man who by follwoing the teachings of his God progressed to become a God himself (as some Mormons have taught and some still believe) and you lead to many, many problems. I was recently conversing with Ethan (a very devout Mormon)over on Jessica’s blog and Ethan even went so far as to say that “Mormons don’t worship Jesus, we worship the Father”. This type of thinking is a natural consequence of the Mormon teaching on the nature of Jesus (plus listening to a little too much Bruce R McKonkie).

    Off to a church 4th of July celebration. Everyone have a good night!

    Darrell

  96. “I cannot separate my view of God from the Trinity.”

    Gundeck,

    How can you have a “view” that is inseparable from an incomprehensible concept?

    If you’re talking about having a “view” of “God” that includes three distinct persons, well – Mormons have that as well.

  97. Whitney: “I mean, if a perfect understanding of the Trinity was so crucial, wouldn’t Jesus have told us exactly how it works in so many words?”

    Reminds me of what Jack was saying about Jesus’ marital status: if was really essential, wouldn’t the Bible (sola scriptura) spell it out? Not exactly the same argument, mind you, just that you reminded me of it.

    Darrell: “….and you lead to many, many problems.”

    Or, you solve many, many problems. Depends on one’s perspective. 🙂

    ““Mormons don’t worship Jesus, we worship the Father”. This type of thinking is a natural consequence of the Mormon teaching on the nature of Jesus.”

    Nah. If there weren’t trinitarians insisting that the Father and the Son are the same person, then there wouldn’t be a “backlash” from Mormons to distinguish between the two. The most straightforward reading of Mormon scripture is that Jesus is worshiped.

  98. If you’re talking about having a “view” of “God” that includes three distinct persons, well – Mormons have that as well.

    In fact, not only does Mormonism have a view of three distinct persons, but it says that these three persons = One God.

    I’m not trying to argue that ALL strains of Mormonism are Trinitarian, but you can make solid Trinitarian arguments from LDS scripture.

    Look, I think it’s important to get your facts as right as you can about God. But I’m pretty sure an Incomprehensible Being cuts us mere mortals some slack when we get it wrong from time to time. Which we ALL do.

  99. Whitny,

    I do not propose a perfect understanding of the Trinity, as if that was possible, is necessary for salvation. Far from it. I propose that it is biblical to believe and worship the one true God of the Bible. He has revealed Himself as one “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” and three, God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is an eternal divine mystery and to assume otherwise is a hubris.

    To deny the Trinity is to deny how God has revealed himself. To deny the necessity of believing this is to go further than scripture will allow. God’s oneness, testified to over and over in scripture, prevents errors that would rob god of his unique nature, his complete simplicity and his difference from his creation. The creature creator distinction is missing from any theory that posits more than one god. To deny the threeness is the deny Godhood to either the God Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit. A denial of the three is to also claim that God is not independent in and of Himself and that His actions and plans require concurrence from outside Himself.

    I only point out the Trinitarian nature of God’s work because this shows the essential nature of the doctrine of the Trinity. This is easily seen in God’s work in salvation the entire Trinity working in perfect union take an unregenerate sinner and “…when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” Union with Christ, by the Holy Spirit, bringing us to the Father.

    Let me make one more point. The Trinity was not easy for me but the people who taught me Christianity were honest with me. They did not move around the Trinity and say, “just Love Jesus.” They showed me the importance of the Trinity and the fundamental nature and position that the Trinity holds in all Christian doctrines from creation to re-creation. To do anything else would be dishonest and disrespectful. If I am arrogant in presenting the the Trinity and its essential nature for Christian beliefs at least I am not disrespectful or dishonest to you.

  100. Seth,

    I would not be so presumptious to claim or to dictate the essentials or to draw a line claiming that you must know this much and no more. If you truly want to know more about the Trinity the Athanasion Creed is a good place to start.

  101. The Athanasian Creed is a non-statement.

    I want to know what you think I ought to know about this.

    If you don’t know what I ought to know about it, you shouldn’t be pushing it in online debates.

  102. gundek: you can write 4 whole paragraphs of trinitarian mumbo jumbo but can’t answer Seth’s simple question?!

    I’ll try to help you. Here as some details I gleaned from your comment:

    “God’s oneness/threeness (yes, you used both)

    his unique nature

    his complete simplicity (no idea what this means)

    his difference from his creation

    God is independent in and of Himself

    Throw out the one that makes no sense to me, and I’d say you have a pretty reasonable list there.

  103. Mormonism has no problems with emphasizing the threeness of God. To be exact the threeness is emphasized nearly to the exclusion of His Oneness. Jesus is created/born of another God and God progressed to become a God. The Almighty is merely an exalted man – there is no distinction between creator and created. In many ways it is the Arian Heresy (Helenized in some ways) reborn in modern times.

    Darrell

  104. “The Athanasian Creed is a non-statement.”

    The Athanasian Creed is very much a statement. Every read it?

    Darrell

  105. “If there weren’t trinitarians insisting that the Father and the Son are the same person…”

    BrianJ,

    You have mischaracterized or perhaps you just misunderstand the Trinity. We don’t teach The Father and Son are the same person. You are talking about Modalism which is a heresy.

    Darrell

  106. “You willing to explain to me what the hell it means?”

    I would be happy to talk with you about it – not sure about the “hell” part though. 😉

    What specifically is your question?

    Darrell

  107. “How are the three individual beings united?”

    Three individual beings are not united. There is one being who eternally manifests/exists in three persons.

    You are asking for me to explain the infinite God of the universe in finite terms. It is a logical impossibility.

    Darrell

  108. Seth,

    I misread your question I thought you were asking me to draw a line claiming that you must achieve this much understanding of the Trinity in order to be saved. I should read closer.

    You asked “What is it about the Trinity that it is so essential that I understand?” The answer is simple, the Trinity is the true nature of God as he has revealed Himself. We are commanded to worship in spirit and truth, in order to obey this we must come to an understanding of the true nature of God as he has revealed Himself. As to what you “ought to know about this”. You ought to know that the Triune nature of God is revealed in the Bible and the works of God such as creation and salvation. To deny the Trinity is an error that has far reaching ramifications on doctrines and leads to other errors like a break down in the creator creature distinction. Hope that helps.

    BrianJ,

    Did I say something to upset you? Simplicity is the way of describing that God’s attributes cannot be separate from his essence. For instance “God is Love” not because he loves or is loved it is His essence to be love. Another way of saying this is that Gods attributes are identical with His being.

  109. “To deny the Trinity is an error that has far reaching ramifications on doctrines and leads to other errors like a break down in the creator creature distinction.”

    Gundeck,

    I could not agree with you more! Everything starts with a understanding of the true nature of God. If you get that wrong, everything else falls apart. When one starts with the understanding of a God who progressed to become a God or is part of creation not the creator of all that exists, everything that flows from it will be skewed. That is one of the reasons I find discussions with Mormons about peripheral issues to be pointless and fruitless… for until you get God right nothing else will make sense. Good point!

    Darrell

  110. Seth said:
    What is it about the Trinity that it is so essential that I understand?

    I think it’s essential that you understand that there is only one God and there is no other like him. He exist as the only uncaused cause and through him all other things are created. Those things he creates are unlike him and can never be anything that resembles him.

    To claim to be like him in being, species or essence is a statement made in pride that diminishes him to be less than he is and exalts oneself to a position you have no merit to deserve. It is an acceptance of the serpent’s original temptation. It offends God and is a sin. Because he is righteous, he cannot be in intimate communion with anything or anyone that is unrighteous. Your only hope for reconciliation with God is found in the loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

    But you’ve heard all of that before.

  111. Darrell: “You have mischaracterized or perhaps you just misunderstand the Trinity. We don’t teach The Father and Son are the same person. You are talking about Modalism which is a heresy.”

    Misspoke. I was writing quickly at work and used the wrong term: “person,” which has a specific meaning to trinitarians (I constantly have to remind myself which terms you use and how). Replace “person” with “being” and my point is still valid: Mormons emphasize the distinction between the Father and Son largely as a response to trinitarianism, and that has led some Mormons to err in their over-emphasis.

    And it doesn’t help, btw, that the majority (in my experience) of members of trinitarian religions describe their beliefs in Modalist terms.

    Gundeck: you didn’t upset me, but I was annoyed with your answer. Since you later recognized that you misread Seth question, I think you can also see why I was annoyed by your (non)answer. Your second answer was more helpful. Thanks. And thanks for defining “simplicity.”

  112. Tim: you answer why it is bad to have an incorrect understanding of God—it’s pride/sin/offensive—but not why it’s important to have a correct understanding. What is the consequence of never knowing about Jesus at all?

  113. BrianJ,

    Closet modalism is a problem in the broader Evangelical Church, there is no denying it. I believe that this stems from a separation of the doctrine of the Trinity from other doctrines. I personally came to a better understanding of the necessity of the Trinity when studying the cross and atonement, but as I said before the nature of God touches all of theology. Christians need to take the Trinity off the shelf, it is not an abstract principal of dead creeds but the heart and nature of our understanding of the one true God and His works.

  114. I’d just like to point out that creatio ex nihilo once again comes into play. Creatio ex nihilo tends to lead to parsing of reality into two mutually exclusive categories: the created and the uncreated. One often hears the argument that the serpent is the one who is saying that man can become as the gods. Yet, one must remember that it was God who concluded: “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:22). God also creates man in his image which directly contradicts the claim that man can never be anything like God. Then the “image of God” seems to lose significance. By drawing this distinction, one may think he is preserving the uniqueness of God (as was the case in the second century), but this theology comes at a great price since it effectively makes Christ a logical impossibility. It leads to the doctrine that while Christ’s divine nature is uncreated and eternal, Christ’s human nature and human soul is created, and therefore falls within the created category.

    There was once a time when Christ’s human nature was not (the condemnation of Arius notwithstanding), meaning Christ’s human nature is contingent, and it is not at all clear whether the resurrected body of Christ has any significant function. In addition, it is not at all clear that in Christ the human and the divine can ever be one in any meaningful sense. In fact, the Christian tradition has been clear that commingling of the human and divine nature is impossible. This has been the position since Chalcedon. Again, while this may seem the solution to preserve the singularity of God, it compromises the doctrine of the Incarnation as outlined in the biblical narrative. In what meaningful sense can we really say that God became man? God simply cannot become man because the uncreated can never become created and vice versa. The divide not only separates God from man, but it requires two natures for Christ and eternally divides Christ’s human nature from his divine nature. This makes any sort of reconciliation between God and man illusory. Therefore, in what sense can it be said that God became man? Under this theology, Christ’s divine nature can never be influenced by his human nature. Christ’s human nature may have suffered, but this leads to Christ’s divine nature being immune and isolated from suffering since to suffer is to change and become diminished in some way and the uncreated cannot do this. Christian theologians have recognized this theological tension and have pushed their Christology to it’s limits, as far as they can go within the system demanded by a creatio ex nihilo framework.

  115. “To claim to be like him in being, species or essence is a statement made in pride that diminishes him to be less than he is and exalts oneself to a position you have no merit to deserve. It is an acceptance of the serpent’s original temptation. It offends God and is a sin. Because he is righteous, he cannot be in intimate communion with anything or anyone that is unrighteous. Your only hope for reconciliation with God is found in the loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ.”

    Tim, this is no answer.

    It essentially boils down to – “because I said so.”

    Your point on pride is well-taken. But if divinization is pursued in humility, problem solved. Right?

  116. Pingback: Rules of Engagement Part 2: How to Participate in Charitable Religious Discourse « Standing, Sitting, Lying Down

  117. BrianJ said:

    And it doesn’t help, btw, that the majority (in my experience) of members of trinitarian religions describe their beliefs in Modalist terms.

    My experience has been the same.

    Even Darrell came very close to doing that:

    There is one being who eternally manifests/exists in three persons.

    It’s no wonder evangelicals are so often confused on this matter.

    Tim said:

    Those things he creates are unlike him and can never be anything that resembles him.

    What does it mean, then, to be created in the image of God? Why does Paul write that we will “bear the image of the man of heaven”? Or John that we will “be like him”?

    Of course, you’ve heard all this before.

    Tim also said:

    Your only hope for reconciliation with God is found in the loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

    On that we agree.

  118. Aquinas,

    I readily admit that the Incarnation is a greater mystery to me than the Trinity. There is something to Christ “emptying” himself of divinity to become a man that explains it to me. How he can do this is beyond me.

    Brian,

    I was answering the question for Seth, a Mormon. You bring up a totally different issue. The consequence for not knowing Jesus is eternal separation from God.

    As for “where’s justice?” for those who have never heard of Jesus. . . . that is yet another issue altogether.

    Seth,
    If that’s the case, then ALL of our arguments boil down to “because I say so”. But I’m not the one saying so, it’s what the Bible says.

  119. Eric,

    There is nothing remotely moralistic about the
    statement, “There is one being who eternally manifests/exists in three persons.”

    Modalism is the heresy that teaches that there is one god that manifested himself in three different persons, first the Father, then the Son, then the Holy Spirit.

  120. I agree that productive interfaith dialogue is almost impossible unless both sides understand that the biggest difference, which affects so much of our understandings, stems from our disagreement over creatio ex nihilo.

    For example, under Tim’s understanding and framework of creatio ex nihilo, he honestly thinks that “to claim to be like [God] in being, species or essence is a statement made in pride that diminishes him to be less than he is and exalts oneself to a position you have no merit to deserve.”

    Yet, this fails to account for how Latter-day Saints view it under our framework. For us, I think nothing could be further from the truth.

    Parenthetically, I have a question. When Seth asked what part of the Trinity is so essential to understand, Tim replied: “I think it’s essential that you understand that there is only one God and there is no other like him”.

    When you say “him”, who are you talking about exactly? Don’t just say “God”, because it’s my understanding that under proper Trinitarian doctrine, the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Father, therefore they are separate persons. So saying that God is “him” borders on the heresy of modalism to me, since “him”, being the Father, and “him” being the Son, are not the same person.

  121. okay, let me rephrase

    I think it’s essential that you understand that there is only one God and there is no other like God.

    Thanks for sharpening my language.

  122. Clean Cut,

    It is perfectly reasonable Trinitarian language to refer to the one God as Him, it is also Biblical. Gregory Nazianzen said, “No sooner do I conceive of the One than I am illumined by the splendor of the Three; no sooner do I distinguish them than I am carried back to the One.”

    To refer to the one to the exclusion of the three can lead to modalistic tendencies, errors, and eventually heresies. To refer to the three to the exclusion of the one can lead to error of tritheism.

    When Trinitarians complain of modalism in the broader church today they worry that beleifs, piety, and practice is approaching God as if he were some form of relational monad. Hope this helps.

  123. “To deny the Trinity is an error that has far reaching ramifications on doctrines and leads to other errors like a break down in the creator creature distinction.”

    To be clear, Latter-day Saints do not deny the biblical data that God is one and also three. We simply deny the post-biblical Trinitarian doctrine that explains how this is so.

    As mentioned on my post “That They May Be One As We Are One”, I don’t believe the only way to understand God’s “oneness” is to understand God is ontologically one. There are more ways to understand “oneness” than ontologically or numerically.

    http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2009/05/that-they-may-be-one-as-we-are-one.html

    Moreover, there are more ways to understand God’s “threeness” than to simply say that one being “eternally manifests/exists in three persons”. If God can eternally be three and yet still be “one”, who’s to say that Trinitarians are right and Mormons are wrong when each believe this?

    I don’t understand why Trinitarians say that Latter-day Saints are “going too far” or “emphasize separateness” more than oneness just by acknowledging that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three separate beings. They may be three, but they are infinitely more united as one Godhead.

  124. I forgot to mention that even though Latter-day Saints don’t believe in the Creator/creature distinction to the degree that traditional Christians do, it’s still important to know that we are not erasing ALL distinctions between “God” and the rest of us.

    As a Latter-day Saint, I believe we are of the same essence, or species, as God. God is still God, and has eternally been so (however one decides to define “eternal”). He is still the source of all light, worship, and power in the universe. I am not. But I believe that He is my Heavenly Father in more than just a figurative sense. So there is naturally an eternal closeness that I believe in, apart from the distinctions.

    Furthermore, I also believe that there will always be a distinction between God and his exalted children who are referred to as gods. Just because I believe in theosis/deification does not mean that I will become equal to God or independent of Him. So even though we are of the same kind or being as God is, there’s still going to always be a distinction.

  125. This is actually why I think creatio ex nihilo is the biggest difference between us. It seems to me that those who share that Creator/creature divide framework focus on the distinctions between God and man. However, more than just dwelling on the distinctions, we can also dwell on how it is that we can be considered “one” with the Father and the Son, as Jesus prayed in John 17. (Again, see my post “That They May Be One As We Are One” http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2009/05/that-they-may-be-one-as-we-are-one.html).

    Regardless of the framework we have, whether we focus more on distinctions or similarities, They are inviting us into a relationship of unity and love. The Father promises us all that He has. Like most Latter-day Saints, I believe most literally in Peter’s reference to “partaking of the divine nature”, and Pauls reference to being “joint-heirs with Christ”. I believe that partaking of the divine nature includes all of the divine nature, even those attributes that some Christians have deemed “incommunicable”, including sharing in His divine power. But again, I maintain a distinction that it is always an extension of His power, not my own. There is a difference between exalted beings and the Exalted One we worship.

  126. Clean Cut — You expressed my understanding quite well.

    I think this is one case where we LDS interpret the Biblical language (joint-heirs and “partakers” — the Greek means something closer to “partners”) “more literally” than many evangelicals do.

    Gundek said:

    There is nothing remotely [modalistic] about the statement, “There is one being who eternally manifests/exists in three persons.”

    Modalism is the heresy that teaches that there is one god that manifested himself in three different persons, first the Father, then the Son, then the Holy Spirit.

    So to say that “there is one being who eternally manifests/exists in three persons” isn’t remotely modalistic, but to say that “there is one god that manifested himself in three different persons” is? I’m sincerely at a loss to see the distinction.

  127. Eric: I agree with Gundeck that there was nothing Modalist about his statement. He’s using the terms “person” and “being” very particularly (and carefully). They don’t mean the same in this context as in day-to-day usage.

    In trinitarianism, the three persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost have always existed united as one, whereas in modalism the Son was more like a role God played for a little while; i.e., God put on his Jesus hat for a few years, then took it off, then he’ll put it back on again at the Second Coming, etc. The real problem with modalism (for a trinitarian) is that it denies the unity that exists within the Trinity, because it says that God is only one person.

    Note that Trinitarianism is closer to what Mormons teach than Modalism (and if you want to get really technical, then Mormons are a certain kind of trinitarian).

    Tim: “I was answering the question for Seth, a Mormon. You bring up a totally different issue.” I wasn’t accusing you of anything, I was just identifying the question you didn’t answer that I would like you to answer. Yes, it’s a different issue, but I’m interested in your thoughts—if you’re willing to share them.

  128. Clean Cut: “I don’t understand why Trinitarians say that Latter-day Saints are “going too far”…just by acknowledging that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three separate beings.”

    Because to a Trinitarian, there is only one being who can claim the title of God.

    “But again, I maintain a distinction that it is always an extension of His power, not my own.”

    Why?

    “Just because I believe in theosis/deification does not mean that I will become equal to God….”

    Why not?

    “So even though we are of the same kind or being as God is, there’s still going to always be a distinction.”

    What distinction?

  129. “Because to a Trinitarian, there is only one being who can claim the title of God.”

    Correct. Orthodox Christianity teaches that there is but One God. God is not a title one earns or a badge one receives after “being good enough.” Rather God is a Being who has always existed as the uncreated, self-existent, self-sufficient omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, creator of all. He alone is the first cause and the only one who is, was or ever will be God (as Isaiah points out over and over again).

    Darrell

  130. “God is a Being who has always existed as the…omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, creator of all.”

    It just occurred to me that (maybe) a trinitarian needn’t assign all those attributes to God. I’m not aware of any trinitarian who doesn’t, of course, just that all those “omnis” aren’t essential to the doctrine of the Trinity.

  131. Good question! IMO, there are several very good reasons. Here are a few to start with…

    1) Science has effectively demonstrated that the universe had a beginning. Even Einstein relunctantly gave up his position of an eternal universe and came to the conclusion that it had to be CREATED by a prior cause.

    3) The 2nd law of Thermodynamics shows that matter is not eternal, as the universe is running out of energy. The essence of matter, contrary to Mormonism’s teachings, is TO NOT exist.

    3) The most important reason: The Bible teaches that God existed before ALL things. If everything is eternal, as Mormonism teaches, then God could not be before ALL things. An intelligence is something… if it existed eternally, God did not exist prior to it and thefore, God lied to us in The Bible.

    Darrell

  132. “It just occurred to me that (maybe) a trinitarian needn’t assign all those attributes to God. I’m not aware of any trinitarian who doesn’t, of course, just that all those “omnis” aren’t essential to the doctrine of the Trinity.”

    I’ll have to think on that one. You could be right. However, each of God’s attributes is inextricably linked to the others. If you give up one, all the others inevitably fall. They are a package deal.

    Darrell

  133. “The Bible teaches that God existed before ALL things. If everything is eternal, as Mormonism teaches, then God could not be before ALL things. An intelligence is something… if it existed eternally, God did not exist prior to it and thefore, God lied to us in The Bible.”

    What Bible verses are you quoting, Darrell?

  134. There are numerous verses throughout The Bible which talk about God’s eternality and separation from Creation. One of the verses which talks about Him existing before all things is Colossians 1:16-17. It talks about Jesus, the 2nd person of the Trinity, existing “before all things.”

    “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

    The Greek word used for ALL THINGS in the above verse is Pas. Pas refers not only to “things” as defined in the English language – as being distinguished from people and places. Rather Pas is used to refer to all, every, everything, any, anyone, full. It is meant in an absolute sense to include things seen, unseen, spiritual, physical, things on earth and things in Heaven above. IMO, this would include Intelligences.

    Darrell

  135. Seth,

    The union of the triune nature, perichoresis, is an incommunicable attribute, it is not shared with the creature. The perfect union of the three cannot be added to or taken away from, God is immutable.

    The union with Christ wrought by the Holy Spirit on the faithful is analogous to the triune nature but an analogy is not an equation, they are not the same.

  136. Eric,

    There are two keys to why “There is one being who eternally manifests/exists in three persons.” is not modalistic. First the “one being” in “three persons” is classical trinitarian language describing one God. The Second is the word “eternally”. Trinidadians believe God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have existed eternally. As it was explained to me once, “Before there was, He was.” Or as God names Himself, “I am that I am”.

    Modalists believe that there is one God who has revealed himself in 3 different ways.

    BrianJ answered this correctly but I wanted to emphasize the “eternal” factor.

  137. BrianJ,

    The “omnis” are essential to an understanding of God. They are not assigned to God by the trinitarian, they are revealed to us by God. Man cannot come to know God outside of his revelation.

    …And please excuse the word “Trinidadians” in my last post the spell check failed me again.

  138. Gundeck,

    If God is indeed immutable, then creation is a logical impossibility.

    Darrell, science actually says nothing whatsoever about a beginning of creation.

  139. One thing I’m trying to wrap my mind around is this idea that God is immutable and unchanging, yet in Traditional Christian belief He (God the Son, at least) took upon himself a second nature and became mortal. I’d say that’s a pretty big change! Furthermore, Jesus (as God) “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52).

    (I’m still trying to work through my own thoughts on how God can be both changing and unchanging. If any other Latter-day Saint wants to help me out–feel free!)

  140. Wow, I am really late to this conversation yet again, and I haven’t had time to read the comments, but I am sure that I am right ( 🙂 ) and that I am a hot LDS Christian (I got that far through the comments!).

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  141. gundeck: “The “omnis” are essential to an understanding of God. They are not assigned to God by the trinitarian, they are revealed to us by God. Man cannot come to know God outside of his revelation.”

    Yeah, yeah, yeah: you’re just talking about what God is really like, and Mormons like me are the ones assigning attributes to God (and pridefully so, according to Tim). I think you know the long-hand version of what I meant by “assign,” so I’m not going to bother typing it out every time I make a comment.

    My point was that a person could believe in a Trinity that is not omniscient and such a belief would not be internally inconsistent.

    “…And please excuse the word “Trinidadians” in my last post the spell check failed me again.””

    Spellchecker is often a source for good humor.

    Darrell: It’s a little strange, in my opinion, to appeal to science (logic, observation, etc.) to endorse the unknowable mystery that is the Trinity.

  142. katyhane, you said, “I don’t think that Mormons require that God was a sinner, just that he was capable of it. Like Jesus. Jesus was capable of sinning, but chose not to.”

    Please see the new Q&A’s on GodNeverSinned.com over this issue. I am speaking primarily about the Mormon tendency to speak of it as a historical possibility (not just a capability of faculties), and even more of the tendency of Mormons to say that the whole question of whether God the Father could have historically been a sinner is even important.

    Bridget, I’m sorry if I too quickly lumped in Katie with apologists. I don’t really know her. The primary people I was responding to in Todd’s thread were Blake, Seth, and BrianJ. Looking back I did blow her off and I should have directly make more of a gentle response to her.

    All things considered, I think the emperor’s nakedness still need to be publicly spoken of with regard to how utterly boring and spiritually dead General Conference is. For people who have been brought up to expect great and wonderful things out of it, that’s going to hurt, but it needs to be said. Mormonism’s chief spiritual event every six months is a flop, and if more Mormons knew what kind of spiritual nourishment was available to them outside the Church, I think Temple Square could turn into a ghost town. Also, note that a good portion of my infamous Conference comment was simply quotations from Mormons.

    As for whether I simply shrug off complaints by lumping people into the apologist bucket, I would ask you to make a more holistic judgment of my interactions, not based on what you perceived from on that thread alone. To be realistic, I doubt even then you’ll agree with my methodology, but at least it’ll be a more meaningful judgment.

    After having Mormons personally tell me they hate my guts and methodology, only to have them later personally tell me they are thankful up-and-down to God for instrumentally using me to help them leave the Church and be born again—after that kind of thing, after these same people tell me that with new spiritual eyes they look back and see love where they used to think they saw hate—it’s hard to let a “you offended me” kind of complaint drive me down the neutralizing road of Western irenicism.

    Grace and peace in Christ for those who love the God who absolutely never sinned,

    Aaron

  143. Love and Hate – two powerful words

    I have been studying these two terms in John 15. In looking at differences and similarities, it is interesting to delve deeply into what people love the most and what people hate the most.

  144. “Mormonism’s chief spiritual event every six months is a flop”

    Aaron, this in know way accurately describes my experience every six months with General Conference. I look forward to every General Conference as a spiritual feast. I just couldn’t disagree with you more on this.

    Also, while I know it’s a very serious concern to you that some Mormons consider it a possibility that God the Father sinned during His mortal experience, I find it almost hilarious that you would list that as the biggest difference between Mormons and Evangelicals. It’s not even important enough difference to separate Mormons themselves! It’s just not as important to us in our framework as it is to you in your framework.

    (For the record, I believe that God the Father’s mortal experience was similar to Jesus Christ’s mortal experience (since Joseph clearly taught in the KFD that He also had the power to lay down his life and take it up again, among other reasons). I know Jesus never sinned. Therefore, I believe that the Father, who was also God while experiencing mortality “the same as Jesus Christ himself did” (according to Joseph Smith) never sinned either.

  145. “…lumped in Katie with apologists. I don’t really know her. The primary people I was responding to in Todd’s thread were Blake, Seth, and BrianJ.”

    Still cracks me up to be called an apologist. lol!

    “All things considered, I think the emperor’s nakedness still need to be publicly spoken of with regard to how utterly boring and spiritually dead [bringing up tangential topics from old threads is].”

    Agreed.

  146. Clean Cut, you said, “it’s just not as important to us in our framework as it is to you in your framework.” Isn’t that the very point I was making in the first place? The disparity is a religion-splitting, family-dividing, heaven-and-hell one. If you don’t think it’s important whether God the Father was a sinner, then you simply don’t know the same God that I do.

    As for the special strain of savior gods issue, I just posted this on another blog just minutes ago:

    shematwater, you, like many defenders of Mormonism, take the “special strain of savior gods” view (I know you didn’t use that exact phrase). I have dealt with this objection and others on GodNeverSinned.com in the Q&A section.

    This is the theory that both God the Father and Jesus Christ belong in a special strain of savior gods. There are multiple problems with holding this view: 1) It has the non-biblical assumption that God the Father had to progress over time unto full godhood. 2) It is a private interpretation that your Church has not endorsed. 3) You are (presumably) still unrepentantly committed to a religion which acqueisces to millions of its members believing that God the Father could have been a sinner. 4) If you still hold to the traditional Mormon view that we can become gods over our own worlds and spirit children, then it fellows that your own spirit children would be worshiping you, a being who is not in the special strain of savior gods. So the problem is simply moved from one planet to another. Also of note is Bruce McConkie’s thoughts on the issue (as reported by his son):

    “KFD 5:1 Jesus, what are you going to do? To lay down my life as my Father did. Joseph Smith’s purpose is to show that the Bible teaches that our Father in Heaven was once mortal, as we are. To do so he takes John 5:19 as a text. Here the Savior said, ‘The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.’ The Prophet then reasons that it is Christ’s purpose to lay down his life and take it up again. Thus, if Christ can do only that which his father did, his father must also have been subject to death, he must have died and then taken up his life again as a resurrected being. From this statement of the Prophet, many have attempted to reason that he was saying that his father was also a savior for those of another world and thus that all worlds require their own saviors. The Prophet never taught such a thing and was not alluding to it here. His remarks centered on the doctrine of resurrection, not the salvation of God’s endless creations. The Prophet had already clearly taught that the atonement of Christ—which was infinite—embraced all that he had created under the direction of the Father (see commentary on D&C 76:23-24). Responding to those who wanted to argue that there is a special strain of savior gods, Elder Bruce R. McConkie often asked, ‘What earthly good could possibly come from teaching such a thing?’ ” – Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig J. Ostler, Revelations of the Restoration: A Commentary on the Doctrine & Covenants & Other Modern Revelations

    In my experience of talking to LDS about these issues, the “special strain of savior gods” view seems to be in the minority. The video I’ve done is partially to counter the Mormonism-defender-on-the-internet notion that the “special strain of savior gods” is the traditional, mainstream, and even institutional view.

  147. Aaron, I watched the video and I’m glad you included several Mormons who flatly rejected the possibility that God the Father was ever a sinner. In addition, remember you are asking Mormons if they believe in possibilities and it sounded like many of them had not considered the idea before, but when asked on the spot said it could be possible, yet others said no. What I would recommend is asking Mormons whether they believe it is possible that God the Father was without sin, exactly as Jesus Christ was also without sin. I would like to hear what your Mormon interviewees would say in response to that question. My guess is that you would get very few people who would respond “No, that’s just not possible. God must have been a sinner.” And, in the case you get someone who thinks both are possibilities, it would be useful to ask which possibility is more likely to be the case. Or, even asking them which belief is stronger, the belief that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ, or the belief that it might be possible that God could have been a sinner. I think that would give better attitudinal data.

  148. Aaron, if you want to bring up boring General Conferences, can I bring up the shallow dog-and-pony-show that constitutes a huge swath of modern “blue-jean Evangelical” worship?

    Oh wait. I forgot. You shopped around for a pastor didn’t you? That would mean your exempt.

    Pastor-shopping saves the day again!

    Must be nice to be so unaccountable for your fellow human beings…

  149. aquinas, of course Mormons would also say that it is possible that God the Father never sinned. That is a natural human belief about God.What I am drawing out for people is the fact that Mormonism has in so many Mormons stripped and remove the rock-solid confidence that Christians otherwise have that God the Father never sinned. The follow-up questions I have begun asking (“How does that make you feel?”, etc.) really expose the relevant attitude. That God could have been a sinner makes people feel “awesome” and “comfortable” because it means we sinners can become gods just like God the Father (once perhaps a sinner) became a god.

    As for comparing the certainty of the existence of God and the potential past sinfulness of God, it sounds like you’re looking for something that would soften the embarrassment. Heck, because of the nature of human experience, I am more certain that I exist than that other minds (God included) exist. But I am still certain that other minds, God included, exist. How far do you want to take that kind of questioning in a short interview? People are already often elaborating on their own answers. It’s working out great so I’m sticking with the line of questioning.

    Seth, I’m only up this late because I’m headed to Provo for some pre-parade evangelism. Maybe you need a few more hours of sleep? 😉 See here where I openly invite you to publicly criticize shallow evangelical tendencies without first “earning the position” to be able to criticize.

    Time to go tracting… later guys.

  150. “Oh wait. I forgot. You shopped around for a pastor didn’t you?”

    Seth,

    What do you find so inherently wrong with one making sure the Pastor one listens to is following the word of God? Given your Arminian perspective I would think you would find this refreshing. Why should a person sit around and listen to lies, half-truths and distortions? Why not take responsibility for what you are listening to and learning about and find a Pastor who actually follows the word of God? Rather than being a criticism, I find it commendable.

    Darrell

  151. Aaron,

    I agree with your point about the idea of “God having sinned.” This is a serious difference between our perspective faiths. I believe this would fall under the “Nature of God” category I listed.

    Clean Cut,

    You said:

    “It’s not even important enough difference to separate Mormons themselves! It’s just not as important to us in our framework as it is to you in your framework.”

    As Aaron mentioned earlier, I think you are proving his point. The very fact that you don’t think it is a big deal that some Mormons believe this demonstrates the utter gulf between our concepts of God.

    Darrell

  152. BrianJ,

    You said:

    “It’s a little strange, in my opinion, to appeal to science (logic, observation, etc.) to endorse the unknowable mystery that is the Trinity.”

    I am not using logic, observation, etc. to endorse the Trinity. Rather I was responding to Seth in regards to the need for a first cause. It had nothing to do with the Trinity.

    Darrell

  153. Aaron, what I witnessed through your video is that you stop a Mormon on the street and ask them whether they believe it is possible that God the Father could have ever sinned in a past mortal probation like us. Again, I appreciate that you include people who say “No way, Heavenly Father is perfect.” And for those Mormons, the do have that rock-solid confidence that God was never a sinner. However, some people you interview do sort of mull it over in their minds and conclude “Yes, I think it is possible.” Now, at this point when you say “How does that make you feel?” the question seems to change from a mere possibility to a fact that he was indeed a sinner. I agree with your intuition that most Latter-day Saints if asked whether it was possible God the Father was sinless like Christ was, would say it is not only possible that God the Father never sinned but most likely the case that he didn’t with a greater certainty than the possibility that he did.

    The 2001 Barna Survey noted revealed the following:

    One of the most remarkable insights into America’s faith is the fact that less than half of all adults (40%) are convinced that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life during His three decades on earth. Following the established pattern, the people most likely to describe Jesus’ life as sinless were those who attend Pentecostal and Assemblies of God churches, as well as Mormons, while those least likely to view Jesus as sinless attend Episcopal, Catholic and Lutheran churches.

    So, it would seem that out of 6038 Christian denominations polled which included Latter-day Saints, the Latter-day Saints were high on the lists of those most likely to view Jesus as sinless. Perhaps it may be embarrassing to know that according to the 1035 self-identified Baptists in the Barna Survey, only 55% professed a belief that Jesus was sinless (without any Lorenzo Snow couplet mind you). So, you need to place your results in a larger context.

    It seems most of the people you interview are coming up with tentative justifications on the spot and none of the rationales people offer for why they accept the possibility that God the Father could have sinned are compelling. If they think it gives them comfort to know that God could have sinned, I would ask them if this means they have no comfort knowing that Christ lived a sinless life. These are very weak indicators of belief. And again, I just point out that many Mormons rejected the view that God the Father could have been a sinner (I do appreciate you adding this information). So asking additional questions isn’t to soften the reactions but to gain better and more useful data. What I want to know is of those Mormons who accept God could have been a sinner, what other beliefs do they also accept? Are these Mormons who might accept that Jesus was as sinner too? And how do we account for the difference between Mormons who flatly reject the possibility and those who consider it? I think you could be contributing to a greater understanding of Mormon belief if you added more questions to your survey.

  154. Seth,

    You said:

    “Darrell, science actually says nothing whatsoever about a beginning of creation.”

    Actually, science is very much pointing toward the fact that the universe and all matter had a beginning. There are several factors which point to this. For example, since the universe and matter is running out of energy (2nd Law of Thermodynamics) it had to have a beginning. For if its energy is being depleted it could not have been in existence for infinity. Logically it is an impossibility.

    As Einstein hinself discovered, much to his dismay, science is pointing more and more towards a beginning to all things… which is what Christians have taught for 2000 years. As I have mentioned to you before, I would highly recommend “I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist” by Geisler and Turek. They lay a lot of this information out.

    Darrell

  155. I very much agree with aquinas. Aaron, this isn’t personal. I know you’ve invested a lot in your pet project, but the fact that only “some” Mormons hold to a “possibility” that God “could” have sinned is hardly representative enough to say that this is THE most important and dividing issue between us.

    Perhaps a better statement would have simply been the one Darrell suggested: that there is an “utter gulf between our concepts of God”. I, of course, recognize that our concept of the nature of God is very different than the incomprehensible and illogical trinitarian doctrine, and I’m glad this is the case. So perhaps this is the larger case you should actually be making (rather than focussing on one little aspect that not all Mormons believe anyway) and then I’d actually agree with you.

    As for the “strain of Savior gods”–did you make that up too? I don’t know how you interpreted my earlier statements to mean that I therefore believe in a special “strain of Savior gods”. No, I believe that if God the Father created multiple worlds by the power of His Son, then He also could redeem those worlds by the power of His Son. I believe it is significant that we hold (and the Book of Mormon teaches) that Christ’s atonement was “infinite”.

  156. Seth,

    When you say that an immutable God would be logically unable to create I think that you are confusing divine immutability with some form of immobility. God is always acting he does not change that which is around him changes. To deny this is to deny Gods self existence his aseity. Both His independent self existence and His immutability are incommunicable attributes of the infinite God and defy finite explanation.

    All miracles defy a logical explanation, how much more does the greatest miracle of the incarnation, but the incarnation brought no change to God’s being, incommunicable or communicable attributes, nor his purposes or will. God remains the same, now and forever. Our relationship with God does change, particularly when we are “in Christ” having union with Him.

    BrianJ,

    My position is not to accuse you of pridefully recreating God, but to explain that I have no point of reference to explain a triune but mutable deity.

  157. Darrell said:

    There are numerous verses throughout The Bible which talk about God’s eternality and separation from Creation. One of the verses which talks about Him existing before all things is Colossians 1:16-17. It talks about Jesus, the 2nd person of the Trinity, existing “before all things.”

    This is what I just love about evangelical anti-Mormon apologists. They’re so fond of quoting the Bible to prove something, and then when I check out the verses I find that they don’t say that at all and/or are subject to multiple interpretations.

    Such is the case here. The Greek word translated as “before” doesn’t have to mean “before” in the sense of time. It can suggest a pre-eminent position. And I would suggest that in context, the sentence “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” has nothing to do with a time sequence.

    Also, the word “create” in the previous verse can mean to make from pre-existing matter. There’s no reason to impose creation ex nihilo on that verse.

    Aaron said:

    I think the emperor’s nakedness still need to be publicly spoken of with regard to how utterly boring and spiritually dead General Conference is. … Mormonism’s chief spiritual event every six months is a flop, and if more Mormons knew what kind of spiritual nourishment was available to them outside the Church, I think Temple Square could turn into a ghost town.

    Well, yeah, if I were listening to something for the purpose purpose of finding things wrong with it, I’d find it spiritually dead too.

    My experience with General Conference? Yeah, much of it is boring. Yet, much of it is spiritually enlightening. I take away what speaks to me and benefit from it, and the rest of it I hope is of benefit to someone else. There’s just no way that everything said over eight hours is going to speak to everyone, and I don’t expect it to.

    I do agree with you, though, that there is spiritual nourishment to be found outside the Church. There are some excellent evangelical authors out there whom I have found to be quite helpful. I’ve even heard a couple non-LDS sermons in recent years that I thought were quite good (and more that weren’t, mostly because they were shallow and/or marked by lousy exegesis).

    The interesting thing, though, is that I have heard from many Mormons who had occasion (such as when visiting relatives) to attend non-LDS services. From my experience, what they usually end up saying is that they found them to be quite shallow. So even if the non-LDS Christian world is so much more spiritually rich (and I’m not conceding that for a second), it’s not immediately evident to those I have talked to.

    And for what it’s worth, my two adult children recently attended General Conference in person for the first time. Both of them said that the assembly hall was packed, and they both described the experience as “awesome.” Many people travel hundreds of miles to attend General Conference. That doesn’t sound like a flop to me.

    I don’t think we need to worry about Temple Square emptying out anytime soon.

  158. Eric,

    Your view ignores the preceding verse “for all things in heaven and on earth were created by him – all things, whether visible or invisible” If “all things in heaven and earth – all things, whether visible or invisible” are created by Him how could he not precede them in relation to time?

  159. “They’re so fond of quoting the Bible to prove something, and then when I check out the verses I find that they don’t say that at all and/or are subject to multiple interpretations.”

    Eric,

    Certainly one can approach Colossians 1:16-17 with an a priori opinion that Christ/God did not exist PRIOR TO all creation/matter. I understand that is what Mormons do, for the LDS church teaches that matter is eternal. However, to say that this verse does not teach that Christ existed PRIOR TO all creation is a little bit of a strain on the text. The Greek word translated BEFORE is “Pro” and this word literally means “Fore,” “IN FRONT OF,” or “PRIOR TO” (Strongs Greek Dictionary).

    While one can apply a FIRGURATIVE meaning to this word (i.e. superior to) I would suggest that the best exegesis on this verse is the LITERAL meaning of the word “Pro” or prior to, for there is nothing within this verse or chapter to suggest a “figurative” translation. To apply figurative meaning without the suggestion of the text is simply bad exegesis.

    Bottom line, Mormons who say Christians have nothing Biblical upon which to base creation ex nihilo are wrong. This verse literally teaches creation ex nihilo.

    Darrell

  160. Darrell said:

    Bottom line, Mormons who say Christians have nothing Biblical upon which to base creation ex nihilo are wrong.

    Some Mormons may say such a thing, but I never did.

    I do think it is possible to make a Biblical case for creation ex nihilo. But I also think it’s possible to make a Blical case for creation ex materia (which Genesis 1:2 presupposes in the case of the Earth).

    I wouldn’t say you have nothing in the Bible on which to base your beliefs. What I am saying is that the Biblical evidence on this matter isn’t persuasive in either direction.

    Darrell said:

    For example, since the universe and matter is running out of energy (2nd Law of Thermodynamics) it had to have a beginning. For if its energy is being depleted it could not have been in existence for infinity. Logically it is an impossibility.

    If you understood science, you’d know this doesn’t make much sense.

    What current science suggests is that matter and energy are the same thing. The only way you can make energy is to get it from matter. The only way you can get matter is to make it from energy. They are the same thing.

    Unlike many others here, I don’t think it makes much difference whether creation ex materia or creation ex nihilo is true, so that’s probably all I’m going to say on that matter.

  161. Actually Darrell, it isn’t just about LDS Christians saying creatio ex nihilo isn’t a biblical concept. It’s also about the fact that pretty much all biblical scholars who have investigated the issue and who aren’t conservative evangelical Christians with an axe to grind don’t think that it is biblical. Creatio ex materia is simply all over the Bible. In fact, I haven’t seen a scholarly commentary about Genesis that posits that it teaches creatio ex nihilo in years. Moreover, there are even conservative Evangelicals and other scholars who have a personal belief increatio ex materiabut still agree that the Bible teaches creatio ex materia (see some of the works of Richard J. Bauckham, Bruce Waltke, Frances Young, or William Lane, for instance). So you can try and argue about this with Mormon Christians all you like, but you have a much bigger battle than that (and one inside your own camp too!). LDS Christians have much more scholarly support on their side on this issue than you do (of course, I am not claiming that a scholarly consensus is necessarily or always right, but it should at least be taken seriously), which, at the very least, means they have no real reason to seriously engage your proof-texting of the Bible when you haven’t even truly yet engaged the relevant scholarship that strongly contradicts your position on this issue (an important point made by Blake Ostler in his article concerning whether the New Testament teaches creatio ex nihilo anywhere; see here: http://mi.byu.edu/publications/review/?vol=17&num=2&id=590#_edn32 ).

    And, finally, Strongs Dictionary? C’mon! Let’s get serious!

    TYD

  162. There are two separate inquiries regarding creatio ex nihilo. The first, which is the subject of the original post is whether the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo is what separates Mormons and Evangelicals the most. Most of my comments have been inquiring into this and offering examples as to how this may be the case.

    The second argument that has been recently introduced on this thread is whether creatio ex nihilo is biblical. This is a totally different argument and, might I suggest that perhaps there is merit in keeping these claims separate because they require completely different kinds of argumentation and supporting evidence. For those interested, I’d like to point out that the topic of whether creation out of nothing is an post-biblical invention has been discussed in Tim’s 2008 post “Through Him All Things Were Made” and the subsequent comments. Those interested in might find his 2007 post useful as well “Created from Nothing.”

  163. Nuts Aaron, you were at the parade in Provo?

    I just came from there. Missed you again. One of these days I’ll meet you face to face…

    My sister did get one of those fake dollar bills with the “million dollar question” on whether you’d go to the Celestial Kingdom if you died today on them. I thought the portrait of Joseph Smith on the fake currency was a punchy, if somewhat tactless, touch.

  164. You can give me a ring if you want.

    My cell phone (which is currently the same as my work number) is on my website:

    frontrangebankruptcy.com

    Leave a message if I don’t answer.

  165. I agree with your intuition that most Latter-day Saints if asked whether it was possible God the Father was sinless like Christ was, would say it is not only possible that God the Father never sinned but most likely the case that he didn’t with a greater certainty than the possibility that he did.

    That has not been my experience. Most LDS I talk to lean against the “special strain of savior gods” idea (many not even having heard of it in content), and even more affirm that we can become gods who are worshiped by our own spirit children, even through we were once sinners.

    Perhaps it may be embarrassing to know that according to the 1035 self-identified Baptists in the Barna Survey, only 55% professed a belief that Jesus was sinless (without any Lorenzo Snow couplet mind you).

    Yeah, let me at ’em. I want to herald publicly against such heresy. Jesus was sinless, through and through, and no respectable church father or teacher or pastor in Christianity has even theologically allowed for the idea that Jesus could have historically been a sinner.

    Are these Mormons who might accept that Jesus was as sinner too?

    Very, very, and I mean very rarely do I ever meet a Mormon who thinks Jesus could have historically been a sinner. Van Hale is one who has been leaning in this direction (in an albeit ambiguous way), but he’s a goofy Mormon with fringe beliefs. In my experience, most any Mormon who thinks God the Father could have historically sinned are willing in the next heartbeat to confidently affirm that Jesus never sinned. It’s Jesus who is usually thought of as the exception, not the Father. Jesus is also viewed as unique for achieving godhood in the pre-mortality, whereas we, like the Father, have to achieve it after progressing through a fall/mortality.

    As for the “strain of Savior gods”–did you make that up too?

    That is Joseph Fielding McConkie’s phrase, not mine. I’m using it to refer to the idea that Jesus “saw” (cf. John 5:19) the Father living a sinless mortality in the role of an atoning savior. The strain includes at least two, but not necessarily more, savior gods. An natural extension of this idea is that the Father’s atonement once covered sins of others.

    Seth, I’ll try giving you a call!

  166. YD,

    Thanks for your comments. I am actually in the process of attending seminary and intend to delve into the scholarly research on Creation Ex Nihilo/Ex Materia. Haven’t gotten their yet, but I am looking forward to it.

    You said:

    “I am not claiming that a scholarly consensus is necessarily or always right, but it should at least be taken seriously.”

    I am really glad you don’t believe scholarly consensus is always correct – especially given the fact that a large portion of scholars are atheist/agnostic and view The Bible as nothing more than a history book interlaced with fairytales. Nevertheless, I find this comment puzzling because in nearly every conversation I have had with you – no matter what topic – you always wield the sword of scholarship. You are also quick to point out what the “consensus” of scholars believe on a subject (while never providing proof of this “consensus”) as if to bolster your position. While you say it is not necessarily ALWAYS right, you do appear to bow at its alter an aweful lot and present it as the lens by which one should always view what scripture says.

    In addition, why are you so quick to cast aside what all but a few Evangelical Scholars have to say on this subject? Do you believe any scholar who is Conservative Christian has an unreliable opinon on the matter? Do you not think those who are not conservative christian have an axe to grind in the argument? Are their opinions on the matter more reliable since they are atheist, agnostic, Mormon, etc? IMO, probably not… with a topic as well known as this one everyone who comes to the table has an axe to grind. I find it a little disingenuous on your part to discount them so quickly as the only ones having “an axe to grind.”

    Something else you said really puzzled me:

    “they have no real reason to seriously engage your proof-texting of the Bible when you haven’t even truly yet engaged the relevant scholarship that strongly contradicts your position on this issue…”

    So you are of the opinion that no LDS should talk to me about this until I have argued it out with Christian Scholars who don’t agree with me? Really!! Scholarship is the holy gate that everyone has to pass through prior to being worthy of YOUR engagement. If that is the case, you really DO bow down to its alter. Very telling.

    “And, finally, Strongs Dictionary? C’mon! Let’s get serious!”

    Is their definition of “pro” not correct? If it is, tell me; otherwise, you appear to be making an ad hominem attack against the writers of Strongs.

    Darrell

  167. For the record, I’m a Mormon who believes in creation ex nihilo. I believe Nibleyite Mormons who reject it are confusing creation of the Earth, certainly created from recycled matter given our sun is a third generation star, with creation of the Universe which was certainly ex nihilo a la the Big Bang. It’s not a Mormon creed in any event. Rejection of ex nihilo creation falls into the same realm as the KFD, or anti-evolution nonsense, basically Mormon apocrypha that many small tent LDS sadly choose to promote as established doctrine, driving free thinkers from the faith.

  168. Aaron, I appreciate the interaction. It seems to me then that the Barna Survey confirms your experience that it is the rare Mormon who entertains the idea that Jesus Christ was a sinner. It just doesn’t make any sense to me that a Mormon could affirm that Jesus lived a life without sin (LDS scriptures are explicit on this point D&C 45:4), but then believe it is possible that God the Father could have been a sinner and have that be consistent with Joseph Smith’s view that Jesus did what he saw his Father do before. It seems like these interviewees simply haven’t thought through the implications, and of course they are formulating their answer on the spot. I’m not exactly sure how this can be your experience if you haven’t been asking these follow up questions in your encounters with Mormons. I’d be interested if you could run the experiment and then communicate those findings.

    Now, as to your position that there is no theological possibility in the Christian tradition that affirms or suggests that Jesus Christ was a sinner, the fact remains that empirically speaking, self-identified Christians apparently come up with their own ideas. How can we explain the phenomena that Christians can hold ideas completely at odds with their own tradition? I suggest that human behavior is such that people don’t follow neat and organized models. According to the Barna Survey, Christians that were polled responded that they do not believe Jesus lived a sinless life. Contrast this with your findings that some Mormons believe in the possibility that God the Father could have been a sinner. Again, what is this telling us? How do we interpret these findings? My own sense is that this doesn’t tell us much more than the fact that people within a faith tradition don’t always follow the teachings of their own tradition.

    Now, the quote from Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig J. Ostler’s “Revelations of the Restoration” (1964) demonstrates that Elder McConkie publicly rejected the view that God the Father was a savior in addition to the Son because it ran counter to the scriptural teachings of an infinite atonement. McConkie and Ostler’s view is that Joseph Smith never taught that God the Father was a savior during a mortal experience. They note, as others have pointed out, that Joseph Smith specifically taught that the Son is doing what he saw the Father do in that the Son had power to lay down his life and power to take it up again.

    Yet, one must not therefore conclude that anyone is teaching that God the Father was a sinner during his mortal experience, only that there is one Savior in Joseph’s theology. To reject the view that God the Father was a savior is not to reject the view that God the Father lived without sin. I get the sense you do not take into account the position that God the Father lived a sinless life but that only the Son of God is the Redeemer.

    It should also be pointed out that apparently McConkie speaking as an apostle at local conferences is publicly rejecting this view. If the purpose of your video is to counter the notion that Mormonism affirms that God the Father was also a savior, then it would seem McConkie would be pleased with your efforts.

  169. Bridget, I’m sorry if I too quickly lumped in Katie with apologists. … Looking back I did blow her off and I should have directly make more of a gentle response to her.

    This was directed to Jack, but I will take it as a sort-of apology. Accepted. Sort of, I guess. 😉

  170. Katie, allow me to directly apologize. Sorry. 🙂

    acquinas, I define a “Christian” as being someone who, among other things, believes that Jesus never sinned. If a person told me they believe Jesus sinned, or that he historically could have been a sinner, I would call them non-Christians in need of repentance. The people Barna was surveying weren’t all Christians. They were at least professing Christians. Of course cultures can drift from their own religious traditions, but it really starts to become a whole different beast when the religious tradition itself has, via worldview formation, fostered the very cultural belief in question. The traditionally promoted understanding of Lorenzo Snow couplet theology has us modeling our mortal probationary experience after the Father, because he wasn’t an achieved-godhood-in-premortality exceptional figure like Jesus. Retreating to one’s personal reading of the KFD doesn’t change this.

    “It just doesn’t make any sense to me that a Mormon could affirm that Jesus lived a life without sin (LDS scriptures are explicit on this point D&C 45:4), but then believe it is possible that God the Father could have been a sinner and have that be consistent with Joseph Smith’s view that Jesus did what he saw his Father do before.”

    Ask that question to BYU professor Alonzo Gaskill for yourself. This isn’t merely a “those dumb ol’ uninformed cultural Mormons” issue.

    To reject the view that God the Father was a savior is not to reject the view that God the Father lived without sin

    Sure, I’ve heard some pretty fringe ideas on that from a few Mormons (like that the Father could have died and resurrected for an unknown reason other than self-sacrifice and/or sin), but for the most part, Mormons I talk to who take the view that Heavenly Father never sinned take the view that God the Father was an atononing savior on another planet. Hence their very appeal to John 5:19. Sure, some Mormons can come up with variations, but so what? Many of the same Mormons who often tell me the Father never sinned because of his savior-role would tell you, “It just doesn’t make any sense to me that a Mormon could deny that the Father was a savior on another planet and have that be consistent with Joseph Smith’s view that Jesus did what he saw his Father do before.”

    We really should talk about all this on TinyChat.com sometime!

  171. Seth ~ If you’re in Provo, you should think about visiting my old pastor’s congregation tomorrow. They meet in the Thanksgiving Point Megaplex 8 in Lehi, Utah every Sunday, first service is at 9:00 AM and the second service is at 10:30 AM. 2935 Thanksgiving Way, Lehi, UT

    Aaron ~ I don’t have much time to comment this weekend, but I appreciate your apology to Katie.

  172. Sorry Jack. I think I’m all fun-ed-out for this trip.

    Would like to thank Aaron for the fun chat this afternoon though. As I’ve heard others say – he’s a nice fellow in person.

  173. TYD, I try to keep abreast somewhat of the contemporary biblical scholarship, but it is like eating unsatisfying corn husks rather than the juicy corn on the cob at a sumptuous July 4th celebration.

    A quick thought from N.T. Wright for the unbelieving form critics:

    “We come to him as ones unknown, crawling back from the far country, where we had wasted our substance on riotous but ruinous historicism . . . But when we approached, as we have tried to do with this book, we found him running to us as one well known, whom we had spurned in the name of scholarship or even of faith, but who was still patiently waiting to be sought and found once more.”

    TYD, I think how you and I approach the Bible creates big differences for our faith in God and His creative work.

    Have a good weekend.

    et

  174. You’re missing out, Seth. My former pastor’s wife has a rockin’ belt.

    Would like to thank Aaron for the fun chat this afternoon though. As I’ve heard others say – he’s a nice fellow in person.

    That’s good to hear. I, on the other hand, am just as much of a jerk in person as I am on the Internet.

  175. Aaron, no problem. 🙂

    And I will say this, and not only because you just apologized. I know lots of internet Mormons kind of hate you, but I don’t. You proclaim your beliefs boldly, but I think in general you do a good job of accurately representing what the Mormons you’re talking to actually believe. You seem to understand that there is diversity in Mormon thought and from what I can tell, you try to interact with our actual beliefs, not a caricature of our beliefs. So thanks for that.

    I, on the other hand, am just as much of a jerk in person as I am on the Internet.

    I can confirm the accuracy of this statement. 😉

  176. That’s good to hear. I, on the other hand, am just as much of a jerk in person as I am on the Internet.

    Sadly, this is also true for me.

  177. Todd,

    I think your what you say about the Bible and scholarship is a paradox and it relates to Evangelical discussion with Mormons.

    Mormons are often lambasted by Evangelicals because scholarship/science/archeology are not on their side in their support of the Book of Mormon and its spiritual truth and power.

    Evangelicals seem to claim the intellectual high ground only to the point that it interferes with their own comfortable views.

    Mormons focus on the real power of real experiences with God and Jesus now, rather than relying on historical interpretation and old scripture.

    You seem to do the same thing. You rely on the spiritual power you find in your own experience with the text and in your life, rather than focusing on the “facts” of history.

    This is sort of why I see Mormons and Evangelicals as very similar animals, who trust their experience with God over what scholars and scientists have to say, even in the face of contrary evidence.

    Considering this foundational similarity, I see the squabbling over who has the historical/scientific/rational high ground seems a bit strange, even comical.

    If God is with you, in you now, then history is a bit irrelevant. I, for one, believe that both Mormons and Evangelicals could have access to this argument.

  178. Jared, many LDS see eye to eye with me on the dangers of biblical scholarship, though YD does not.

    Lower criticism of the sacred text is a fine and beautiful study. Though we disagree on our sacred texts, the BYU religious faculty experiences the same tension that I do toward higher criticism.

    But then there are many, notable ones in bloggernacle, who have long crossed over the threshold and embrace higher criticism with ease. And here is the irony, I don’t think Joseph Smith would linger with the BYU religious department or the General Authorities of today. I think he would be way out in the front with YD leaving the old paths and enjoying the supposedly wide open sky of contemporary biblical scholarship.

    But as for me . . . I am completely lost in the wonder and awe of the old paths, and as a child, mesmerized by the words of the ancient prophets and unencumbered by the “wisdom” of the form critics.

    And yes, history, science, and reason – all are important to me. But as I utilize such beautiful tools as these, I must always bow my knee to the authority of God’s biblical word. History, science, and reason – divorced from Christ – saves and satisfies no lost heart.

  179. Brian said
    What is the consequence of never knowing about Jesus at all?

    Romans 1:18-20 says
    The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

    My take on the issue colored by this verse makes me conclude that each person will be judged based on what they do know of Jesus based on God’s invisible qualities which are clearly seen and understood by all men.

    There’s also a common expression that God knows what each person would have chosen to do with Jesus if they had been introduced to him.

    Some suggest that God sends missionaries to a people when there is a person ready to receive the message. So of the millions and millions of Hindus who died without hearing of Jesus, God using his foreknowledge already knew that none of them would have accepted Him.

    A Calvinist would answer the question differently.

  180. “God using his foreknowledge already knew that none of them [Hindus] would have accepted Him.”

    No offense to my brother Tim here, but that sounds racist. I never want to look an unreached people group and think that group was hitherto foreseen as less righteous in the exercising of their wills. I prefer the doctrine of unconditional election (in conjunction with the mandate to energetically preach to all people groups with every ounce of strength we have) because it places the issue in the mysterious and ultimate wise sovereignty of a holy God. Either way you have philosophical objections, of course, so it comes down to scripture, but I just thought I’d point that out. Sorry to introduce any rabbit trails.

  181. I was using “them Hindus” as nothing more than an example of a large group of people who did not know Jesus.

  182. Right, how is that racist? Bajillions of Hindus and Buddhists have died without a chance to hear about Jesus. Calvinism says they were not predestined for salvation.

    Hmm, given that the overwhelming weight of Christians throughout history have been European, Calvinist God seems to have had a particular fondness for white people.

  183. The whole point of “unconditional election” is that the election wasn’t conditioned on foreseen faith or lack thereof (or any ethnicity associated with that).

  184. Just to clarify, I don’t think Tim is a racist, and I thank God that incorrect theology hasn’t proliferated to all the parts of his Christian worldview. Likewise, he is probably grateful to God that what he perceives as my bad theology hasn’t somehow turned me into an anti-evangelism hyper-Calvinist. In other words, a degree of incoherency is of God’s gracious goodness.

    At the end of the day, both Tim and I look at those Hindus and pray for their salvation (and I am glad to often hear so many of my Arminian brothers pray that God would literally grant such people faith).

  185. It doesn’t matter if it has anything to do with forseen faith. Unconditional election is worse, because it’s arbitrary. God arbtrarily chose to save a lot of white people and send a lot of brown people to hell.

    Even if some of them convert now, most probably won’t, and that doesn’t help the legions who have already died while white European people were being conveniently unconditionally elected.

    It’s just as bad as Mormon racism.

  186. Just to clarify, I don’t think Tim is a racist, and I thank God that incorrect theology hasn’t proliferated to all the parts of his Christian worldview.

    Wow, you are staggeringly arrogant to be so sure of something you could not possibly be sure about.

  187. I think God is racist. There is no question he favors some nations over others. From the beginning he was playing favorites based on ethnicity, birth, clan, family.

    (Plus He denied the priesthood to blacks for a long time, and before them any gentile, and before them, all but the Levite.)

    If God is racist, by action if not philosophy, what does that tell us?

    (I have a draft of a post on this so I will try to avoid the full thread-jack.)

  188. “Arbitrary” means, from my understanding, without reason or purpose. But my God has infinite purpose and reason and wisdom behind all the unconditional election he does.

    Kullervo, everyone has a degree of bad theology, including me (if I knew what it was I’d change it hopefully). The point is that, for the redeemed, God has graciously restrained bad theology from having a more widespread impact on the heart of the believer. I don’t mean it in the spirit of arrogance at all. I wouldn’t find it arrogant of Tim to thank God that my theology hadn’t taken consistent hold of the rest of my worldview.

    From the beginning he was playing favorites based on ethnicity, birth, clan, family.

    God chose an ethnic people (Israel), but it wasn’t based on their goodness (oh my, was it ever not; haven’t we learned better from the OT?), nor was it based on their ethnicity. It was based on his sovereign goodness. It was a demonstration of unconditional love.

  189. I meant, “I wouldn’t find it arrogant of Tim to thank God that my [bad] theology hadn’t taken consistent hold of the rest of my worldview.”

  190. Tim: thanks for answering. Let me try to restate your position to see if I understand it correctly:

    1) People are exposed to various amounts of knowledge of Jesus—from “hearing it all, explicitly” down to “hearing very little, vaguely.” (“vaguely” = they may not hear the actual name “Jesus,” but they still hear of “God’s invisible qualities.”*)

    2) Whether one hears more or less, one is judged based only on what one hears.**

    3) God knows beforehand who will not accept Jesus, so he doesn’t bother exposing them to the full knowledge; He doesn’t exactly prevent them from hearing it, he just doesn’t ensure that they hear it (because it makes no difference). They still, however, are exposed to “very little, vaguely,” because everyone is exposed to that.***

    Questions:

    *What are “God’s invisible qualities”? Do you mean general morals—charity, honesty, etc.—or do you mean basic aspects of God—triune nature, omniscience, etc.?

    **Can one be saved into heaven if one is only exposed to “God’s invisible qualities”?

    ***Why is everyone exposed to “God’s invisible qualities”? Is it:

    a) just a consequence of existing on earth—those qualities permeate all things?
    b) God actively ensures that all people will be exposed to that minimum?

  191. Aaron said:

    I prefer the doctrine of unconditional election (in conjunction with the mandate to energetically preach to all people groups with every ounce of strength we have) because it places the issue in the mysterious and ultimate wise sovereignty of a holy God.

    So where does free will enter in?

    If I understand you correctly, I wouldn’t like that kind of God at all.

  192. I reject the idea of ultimate human self-determination in favor of compatibilistic freedom.

    In response to Arminianism or open theism or pelagianism or semi-Pelagianism, I would likewise respond, “So where does God’s ultimate sovereign freedom enter in?”

  193. What are “God’s invisible qualities”?

    his eternal power and divine nature

    Can one be saved into heaven if one is only exposed to “God’s invisible qualities”?

    In a purely hypothetical situation . . . Yes, I think so. I think if someone recognizes their own failings against the Creator and their need to rely on Him to fix the problem, I think they’re on their way. There’s no sort of magic in saying the name J-E-S-U-S, like it’s an incantation that only works if you say the right words in the right order.

    And of course, the more a person is exposed to, the more they are responsible for.

    Why is everyone exposed to “God’s invisible qualities”? Is it:

    a) just a consequence of existing on earth—those qualities permeate all things?
    b) God actively ensures that all people will be exposed to that minimum?

    Yes to both.

  194. If I understand you correctly, I wouldn’t like that kind of God at all.

    I don’t know why it matters whether we like him or not. There are plenty of people that don’t like the Mormon version of God either. You don’t define your theology on the nature of God around a likability index. You base it on how he’s revealed himself to you.

    It’s the TRUE and REAL God that has to be worshiped not the nicest God we can think of.

  195. “So where does God’s ultimate sovereign freedom enter in?”

    Who cares about his freedom?

    I’m sure he’s perfectly capable of taking care of himself. Even if he doesn’t have the unlimited freedom to create rocks so big he can’t lift them, or practice divine mind-control on free beings.

  196. “Arbitrary” means, from my understanding, without reason or purpose. But my God has infinite purpose and reason and wisdom behind all the unconditional election he does.

    But it has nothing to do with the person chosen? From the standpoint of the redeemed or damned, then, it is arbitrary.

    I don’t mean it in the spirit of arrogance at all. I wouldn’t find it arrogant of Tim to thank God that my theology hadn’t taken consistent hold of the rest of my worldview.

    Smugly claiming that you re not being arrogant is still arrogant.

    God chose an ethnic people (Israel), but it wasn’t based on their goodness (oh my, was it ever not; haven’t we learned better from the OT?), nor was it based on their ethnicity. It was based on his sovereign goodness. It was a demonstration of unconditional love.

    No, it wasn’t. It was absolutely conditional: it was conditional on being a part of Israel. And the “nor was it based on their ethnicity. It was based on his sovereign goodness” line is garbage, too. He chose an ethnic group. That’s choosing people based on their ethnic group. His motivation may have been based on unconditional love (it wasn’t, but that’s not the point: the point is that you are conflating motivation with criteria).

  197. Who cares about his freedom?

    Amen. I’m pretty sure he can take care of his own sh!t, and he doesn’t need us to tell him what is attributes are based on our logical leaps and assumptions.

  198. I guess if one thinks they chose to be born into Israel in the pre-existence, that changes a lot, doesn’t it?

  199. “I guess if one thinks they chose to be born into Israel in the pre-existence, that changes a lot, doesn’t it?”

    This is nothing more than a speculative vein that runs in some circles of popular LDS culture.

    We know from LDS scripture that we chose to come to earth. But that’s about it.

  200. I said:

    If I understand you [Aaron] correctly, I wouldn’t like that kind of God at all.

    To which Tim said:

    I don’t know why it matters whether we like him or not. There are plenty of people that don’t like the Mormon version of God either. You don’t define your theology on the nature of God around a likability index. You base it on how he’s revealed himself to you.

    Of course, I’m not basing my theology on a likability index.

    So I’ll say that a God who would not grant his creations/children free will isn’t the God who has been revealed to me. I find that such idea contrary not only to my own sensibilities as someone who was created in God’s image but also to the whole teaching of scripture. What a dreary form of religion it would be to believe such a thing!

  201. I mean, it’s actually a fair question. Whether or not it is “official” doctrine (leaving aside the problem with whether that mythical beast exists or not), many Mormons do believe it. So it’s a good question to ask. Just, not to me. Well, I could answer, but my answer would be purely hypothetical.

  202. One of my prime concerns in interacting with Aaron, Kullervo, is to make sure that he is engaging ALL possible forms of Mormonism, not just the ones he finds easiest to refute.

    He’s put himself out there as someone who is going to refute Mormonism.

    I’d hate for him to do a less than thorough job.

  203. Tim: thanks.

    “I think if someone recognizes their own failings against the Creator and their need to rely on Him to fix the problem, I think they’re on their way.”

    I don’t mean to reduce (in the culinary sense) your view down too much, but it looks like humility is the primary determinant in our final judgment. If not, please let me know. If so, that’s an interesting position (and I mean that genuinely and not how “interesting” is often used to mean “weird and stupid and a weakness I can exploit”).

  204. If you’re going to reduce my viewpoint down that far, I’d say recognized need would be better than humility.

  205. Aaron said (and Seth R. responded to):

    I guess if one thinks they chose to be born into Israel in the pre-existence, that changes a lot, doesn’t it?

    Whatever doctrine Aaron is talking about, I have never heard of it before. Honest.

    It’s interesting how so many of our key doctrines are never taught in church.

  206. Sure we are. Just not an exhaustive encyclopedia’s worth.

    The core essentials are covered. And then we are told to study on our own time. Some do. Others don’t.

  207. How did what I said imply that it was an authorized, official, canonical, Thus Saith the Lord™ all-are-bound-to-believe-this doctrine?

    I know plenty of Mormons who think they chosen to live in their particular life circumstances and to be born to their particular parents. It’s how they often cope with the problem of evil (such as being born into rough circumstances or with a physical deformity).

  208. Aaron, the Handbook of Instructions is using the word “Apostate” as rather specific keyword for behavior that would merit a disciplinary hearing and possible excommunication.

    I think the very idea that we would drag a church member into one of those for simply not believing in Jesus is quite reprehensible.

    Maybe you Southern Baptist types get off on community hazing based on mere beliefs – but I consider it a credit to the LDS Church that it does not resort to the sort of theological bullying and social coercion that you seem to think would be a good idea.

    If we are going to adopt your recommendations here, I think the LDS Church can say goodbye to any pretense of being geared toward the sick and not the “whole” who “need no physician.”

    And you call OUR church unfriendly?

  209. I’m not even suggesting that such people be immediately dragged to an excommunication hearing. For goodness sake, at least just encourage such a person (such as an ardent atheist) to resign their membership. If keeping in touch is the issue, they can remain on some sort of contact list. And no one has to be banned from continuing to attend. If they aren’t willing to take their names off the rolls, then they should involuntarily be taken off the rolls. No big drama required.

    One does not need to be a theological bully to have the same requirements for keeping membership as one has for attaining membership. If it’s “bullying” to require a continued belief in the basic tenets of Mormonism for continued formal membership, then is it “bullying” to require an initial belief in the basic tenets of Mormonism to enter into formal membership?

    As long as Mormonism won’t take people off the rolls who deny all the tenets required for believing upon initially joining, it’ll be reasonable for me to say that a belief in God is not binding upon LDS members.

    It’s only binding for being a part of the elite subgroup of members.

  210. I can’t get that article you linked to out of my head. It’s that disturbing.

    I mean, really… think what you are asking the LDS Church to do here Aaron.

    You are calling on us to basically haul-in anyone who is having doubts about Jesus for excommunication hearings. You’d have us take some otherwise nice young mother who confessed to her bishop that she “just doesn’t really believe in Jesus” anymore, and haul her into a tribunal where we’ll determine if she needs to be forcibly removed from the congregation, and all bishops in the area warned as to what a threat this young lady is.

    Are you kidding me?

    Gee, I know you Evangelicals take your orthodoxy pretty damn seriously, but this is really just beyond the pale. This is theological hazing.

    “their creeds are an abomination” indeed.

  211. Why does such a person even need a hearing? If they privately confess to no longer believing in the tenets that were required upon initially joining, then simply take them off the rolls while you continue to lovingly reach out to them. Like I said, no drama required.

    Membership is almost a kind of sacrament in Mormonism. If you had a more reasonable view of membership, it wouldn’t be the end of the world to simply take someone off the rolls. There is no spiritual benefit to anyone in keeping an ardent God-hating atheist on the rolls of a Christian church. Mormons in general seem to disagree.

  212. I wrote the above before Aaron posted his response.

    “For goodness sake, at least just encourage such a person (such as an ardent atheist) to resign their membership.”

    Why on earth would I want to do that?

    Quarantine?

    Let people make up their own minds Aaron. I happen to feel that even a die-hard atheist could derive some benefit from participation in the LDS community, if he was willing (which, of course, seems unlikely, but…). Church is a hospital for people with problems Aaron.

    We only kick people out when they make trouble for the other patients.

    The end. Over and out.

  213. “Membership is almost a kind of sacrament in Mormonism.”

    It is, and one that we are very generous with. More generous than you apparently.

    The word Apostasy” – as contained in the Handbook – can be boiled-down to simply this:

    Behavior that jeopardizes the community of worship.

    That’s it. Private action that has no community tie-in is not part of the ballgame here.

    Out of curiosity Aaron, are you currently considering handing out simple theological quizzes on a quarterly basis to police your church’s membership?

    Heaven forbid there should be any pelagians on the roles!

  214. If they privately confess to no longer believing in the tenets that were required upon initially joining, then simply take them off the rolls while you continue to lovingly reach out to them.

    How about we just leave them on the rolls, so we only have to maintain one big list instead of a list of members and a list of people to lovingly reach out to? More efficient that way, eh? And leaves more time for blogging.

    Oh wait…

  215. Tim: “If you’re going to reduce my viewpoint down that far, I’d say recognized need would be better than humility.” Well, I’d probably have to define what I meant by “humility,” but since I didn’t have an exact definition in mind, then “recognized need” sounds good enough. Thanks!

    kullervo: I think you meant to write, “It’s because you are never taught what your Church really teaches.” LOL.

    Katie: Maybe your next Enrichment Night could be to apply padding to the handles of sticks with nails through the end so the elders and high priests won’t get so many blisters when they hunt down teenagers who aren’t quite sure that the Pearl of Great Price is scripture.

    Eric: “Whatever doctrine Aaron is talking about, I have never heard of it before. Honest.” Light up the fire boys; looks like we got ourselves an Apostate here!

  216. I happen to feel that even a die-hard atheist could derive some benefit from participation in the LDS community

    Seth, read what I wrote again please:

    For goodness sake, at least just encourage such a person (such as an ardent atheist) to resign their membership. If keeping in touch is the issue, they can remain on some sort of contact list. And no one has to be banned from continuing to attend. If they aren’t willing to take their names off the rolls, then they should involuntarily be taken off the rolls. No big drama required.

  217. “they can remain on some sort of contact list.”

    Great idea. I propose we enact this policy right away and refer to this contact list as “The Membership Roll.”

    “If they aren’t willing to take their names off the rolls, then they should involuntarily be taken off the rolls. No big drama required.”

    Also a great idea. and to avoid any drama, we’ll make sure to do it secretly.

  218. While we’re at it Aaron, should we mandate Evangelical Sunday dress code too? You know, blue jeans and polo shirts?

    You can never have too much casual when it comes to religion.

  219. I think you meant to write, “It’s because you are never taught what your Church really teaches.” LOL.

    Indeed.

    Anyway, taking people off the membership rolls would revoke their baptism, rescind their confirmation and gift of the holy ghost, terminate their eternal marriage, and revoke all of their temple blessings.

    Casually, with no fuss, no hearing, just because they expresssed doubts?

    That’s so lame that I accuse Aaron of being a troll.

  220. It is a preposterous suggestion, and Aaron know it. He thinks he’s playing devil’s advocate, but he has crossed the line into trolldom, where the only purpose is to rile people up.

  221. Anyway, taking people off the membership rolls would revoke their baptism, rescind their confirmation and gift of the holy ghost, terminate their eternal marriage, and revoke all of their temple blessings.

    I didn’t think an ardent atheist was entitled to many of those anyway?

  222. He’s entitled to as much time as he needs to come around if he so chooses.

    If the atheist then wants to make a dramatic point and go through the pomp and spectacle of a formal removal, this sort of therapeutic avenue is open to him.

    But if he really doesn’t care who’s membership rolls he is on (and I’ve actually met a lot of atheists who are very much of this sentiment), then he can just stay there.

    No harm done.

  223. As I have written,

    “How is it loving to encourage people to remain formally affiliated (or even actively involved) with a group they think is fundamentally based on fradulent, ignorant, or misleading claims? How is it loving to encourage someone to be inconsistent with their personal life like that, to lack integrity? Why not instead encourage a person to live with integrity, and be consistent with their religious beliefs and religious affiliations?”

    Also, should the institution of the LDS Church not really care who’s on the membership rolls? Integrity seems to call for some meaning behind membership. If the Church knowingly allows for ardent atheists to remain on the rolls, it should stop publishing its membership numbers.

  224. Is there a blogosphere title for someone who just says things to make people laugh? Because Kullervo just earned that title.

  225. encouraging doubters to resign is not something I think any church should be doing. By all means, don’t put them in leadership, but be gracious where you can be. A name sitting on a list is not the deterioration of a system of thought.

    Aaron if you prefer, just consider a Temple Recommend to be the true LDS membership and the other membership to be their “contact list”. They just happen to call it something else.

  226. 1. In practice, Tim nailed it. Those who never attend and don’t believe are essentially a contact list. If the records are removed, we no longer contact them.

    2. Moreover, the LDS Church highly values individuals’ rights to make their own decisions about membership. They choose to join. They must choose to remove their membership records. We’re not going to do it for them just because the last time we visited them they said they don’t believe in God or the LDS Church. I see it as very Christlike that as long as the person will accept contact from the Church, the Church continues to reach out and make contact, always encouraging them to repent and come unto Christ.

    3. Our doctrine is that the blessings of membership in Christ’s Church are eternal and will be of benefit in the next life. Thus, a “Mormon atheist” who dies and subsequently realizes that death is not the end may suddenly have a very active interest in laying claim to those blessings. And under our doctrine, he could repent and claim those blessings (or at least some of them, depending on how you interpret the DC).

    4. I can’t picture Christ formally removing someone from His Church just because they were going through a period of unbelief. Many who choose to remain on the records have a reason for doing so. Why is it the Church’s place to judge who does and doesn’t have a desire to remain on the roles?

  227. Professing Christian churches should not be counting atheists among its members.

    If the Mormon Church wants to consider it’s temple-worthy people as the true members, then it should use that statistic instead of the on-the-rolls statistic. If they did that, I’d stop complaining.

    If a church is going to do church membership and brag about numbers in the millions, it the “membership” should mean something.

  228. Also, I’ve never met a LDS that did not openly acknowledge that at any point in time 40-50% of our membership are not active. So it’s not like we’re trying to appear bigger than we are. What’s wrong with reporting official numbers?

    I never understood why we get so much guff for reporting the official numbers.

  229. Correction: “then the ‘membership’ should mean something”

    If someone just seems like they’re struggling, then sure, give them lots of patience. But an ardent atheist or a liberal Mormon who adamantly denies that Smith was a true prophet? No.

    Also, if someone leaves the church, they can always rejoin upon coming back to faith. So the whole appeal to “membership has eternal benefits” is moot.

    If Mormonism wants to start explaining/touting the membership rolls as a mere contact list, then that’d work. But that’s simply not the case today.

  230. It’s a lot easier to repent and come back to fellowship than to go through the process to get rebaptized.

  231. Aaron, the church reports official numbers once a year, and they are read publicly in the April General Conference. Pres. Hinckley often spoke very positively about our growing numbers, but “bragging?” I think not.

    Now, if individual members are “bragging” about it, they shouldn’t be.

    There’s a difference between acknowledging a fact and bragging.

  232. It sure didn’t take the Ethiopian eunuch long to find some water.

    If I had a dime for every time a Mormon missionary or laymen on the street bragged about the growth rate of Mormonism, I could buy a few new unlocked iPhones without an ATT service plane.

  233. Yes, but in the afterlife, it may take someone a very long time to get their standing back, especially if they have to wait for a proxy baptism. The Church simply doesn’t take it upon themselves to make the decision FOR someone. They must exercise their agency and ASK to be removed.

    Was the Ethiopian eunuch an ex-member? I’m confused.

  234. And when it comes down to it, why do you care? Because you you think there should be an asterisk next to 13 million reported members?

    Here’s an idea, write to the Office of the First Presidency, 47 East South Temple, Salt Lake City UT. See what type of response you get.

  235. Tom, will the church institution “respect my agency” by allowing me to become a member without professing any basic tenets of the Mormon religion?

  236. You’re conflating two things.

    To join, one must profess belief in the fundamental tenets AND choose to join.

    To have their records removed, they must choose to have them removed. Merely losing faith in some fundamental tenets is not enough for us to kick them out, as such a loss in faith may be temporary. I honestly do not think Christ would “clean house” as you are suggesting. Can you show me one shred of precedent from the NT to suggest Christ WOULD do this?

  237. Why must one profess a belief in the fundamental tenets? If I choose to join the LDS Church without believing in its tenets, and yet I am prevented, isn’t that a violation of my free agency according to the standard you earlier applied?

    I honestly do not think Christ would “clean house” as you are suggesting

    Notice Paul’s inclusion of idolaters in the list of people to kick out in 1 Corinthians 5.

  238. Yeah, PC, you’re right. I’ve now sufficiently proven that Kullervo’s response was far superior to anything I have siad (or could have said).

    “Whatever, troll.”

  239. Wow, Aaron BLOWS THE LID OFF Mormon membership statistics. It never occurred to me that an atheist can be a “member of the LDS church” in the most technical, legalistic, and hollow sense of the term when you define it as simply having your name on a list.

    After reading Aaron’s article, I was tossing and turning all night agonizing that some of the Roman Catholic church’s one billion members might be atheists. And all day I’ve been drinking Maalox out of the bottle from worry over the millions of people on Adherants.com under the various brands of traditional Christianity that may have fallen by the wayside since the stats were collected.

    I’m thinking of getting some pharisees together to go bowling and get my mind off it. Aaron, wanna come?

  240. On Friday nights we have our weekly New Order Mormon Atheist bowling excursion. Come oooon doooowwwwn.

  241. Aaron, I’m bothered by the membership stats the LDS church uses as well, but conflating this issue just makes you look petty. There are some very real, very large concerns I have about Mormonism. Whether or not some atheist are still on their membership rolls is not one of them. If THAT is a major cause for concern, the Anglican church should be your chief concern over the LDS church. It’s not the atheist that are over inflating the membership numbers it’s the luke-warm, jack Mormons who never attend or the soccer baptisms.

  242. Tim, at the bottom of the MRM article you’ll notice this link. Like I wrote,

    Part of what makes this membership issue more exasperated is that the Mormon Church is a monolithic hierarchical institution that accomplishes much of its goals via top-down policies. It would not be hard to include a paragraph-long policy in the CHI mandating the terminated membership of anyone who can no longer affirm the beliefs required for initially joining the Church.

    That goes for any institution that has the same problem.

    The issue of keeping atheists on the rolls is just an example that brings up the principles related to responsible and “integritous” views of membership. Having a few atheists on the rolls wouldn’t be such a big issue if there weren’t easily correctable institutional policies (and lack thereof) that essentially encouraged such atheists to stay formal members.

  243. Tim, would also love to hear you expound on how I am unfairly “conflating”. As said above by Tom, one “must” profess belief in the tenets of Mormonism to join, so why is it petty to call for integrity in having that same “must” standard for maintaining membership?

    People here just seem to be appealing to a Gestapo slippery slope without really thinking through the principles of integrity behind the issue. The main principle is simple: the standard for gaining membership should be the same standard for keeping membership.

    Otherwise you start to look like a fraternity, especially when membership is so valued.

  244. Aaron,

    We could add another layer of administrative trappings to deal with what you are talking about. But somehow, I doubt this would satisfy you anyway.

    We’d probably just get a sermon from you about how hierarchical and controlling the Church is, and how we ought to be more kick-back like you.

    I see little practical point in your suggestions here.

    And if it comes to integrity, somehow I doubt that any Evangelical church – yours included – has all that much integrity on the issue of membership numbers.

    Unless you get around it by utterly ignoring who is in or out of your church. If you guys wants to walk the path of organizational dysfunction, that’s your call. But I wouldn’t say it really gives you that much more integrity than the LDS Church.

    All it really means is that you hide from problems rather than deal with them.

  245. “Otherwise you start to look like a fraternity, especially when membership is so valued.”

    Again, are these criticisms Aaron?

  246. I doubt that any Evangelical church – yours included – has all that much integrity on the issue of membership numbers.

    That’s a sweeping judgment for a religion which is decentralized and varied in its local level. We embrace the relative organizational independence and see the dysfunction as a realistic part of being a part of the messy still-being-purified Bride of Christ.

    We’re not the ones claiming to belong to the One True Church Hierarchical Institution. Touting that comes with a level of responsibility and accountability that folks here don’t seem to want to accept.

  247. For the Jews that had become so shallow in their view of old-covenant-membership via circumcision, Paul’s words were penetrating. The words are still relevant today that have the same sort of view of membership as somehow being a magical sacrament that benefits even God-hating atheists:

    25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded [2] as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code [3] and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. (Romans 2)

  248. Yes, yes Aaron.

    If we all started wearing blue jeans and bringing guitars to church, this would all just go away.

    It’s so simple. Amazing that Mormons haven’t chosen to cash-in on this wonderful criticism-avoidance mechanism that is available.

  249. Have we wandered into Willow territory? I hope so.

    Well, Dungeons and Dragons really, but both Willow and D&D took their idea of trolls from Jack Vance’s Dying Earth books anyway.

  250. Hey Aaron, is your avatar really a picture of you? Because you don’t seem to have a wild tuft of bright-colored hair. But I’ll bet you’d still look adorable if I stuck you on the end of my pencil!

  251. Kullervo, even though I know you’re trying to dig into me with condescending toll-jokes, I must say, you have me rolling with laughter.

    Seth R., adopting institutional integrity or ecclesiastical independence doesn’t mean you have to wear Tommy Hillfinger. There are plenty of independent baptist churches, I can assure you, that take the whole church experience very serious, very formally, etc.

    It’s been fun, but I really must focus more on my work. Gandolf calls.

  252. Willow used to scare the crap out of me. I loved it, but the troll was disgusting, and those dog things still give me nightmares.

    And now, back to the Seth and Aaron show!

    Actually, fwiw, I think there’s a similar criticism that could be lobbed at churches practicing open communion. In many of them taking communion is assumed to confirm a Christian belief, but based on what some here have said about their problems with liberal Christianity, I think you could apply Aaron’s criticism with similar force. Granted nobody’s publishing “communion numbers,” but hopefully people take communion a little more seriously than membership rolls. What it does come down to is how much churches are trying to play Thought Police, and how that may or may not interfere with a person’s ability to come to Christ.

  253. Kullervo, all you need to do is wave your magic wand, and transform Rick Hurd (or random Strangeite commenter) into an ugly two-headed dragon. That’d take care of your troll problem.

    I mean, you’re a pagan, right? You could get a magic wand if you needed to, right?

  254. Kullervo,
    I’m rolling with laughter.
    Thanks for a laugh today. I needed it.

  255. “We’re not the ones claiming to belong to the One True Church Hierarchical Institution.Touting that comes with a level of responsibility and accountability that folks here don’t seem to want to accept.”

    The Church has less responsibility, God is responsible for guiding it. You are the ones that have to take the responsibilty to get things right. If God doesn’t want atheists on the rolls, he is free to send down revelation to sort it out.

    Obviously he doesn’t give a damn.

  256. This all makes so much sense now: the whole reason trolls are so fond of hanging out under toll bridges is that they are obsessed with accurate population counts.

    trolls = bean counters*

    Fascinating.
    ______________
    * excepting katyjane, of course.

  257. Wheat and tares, folks. Wheat and tares. Who are the wheat and who are the tares? We’ll find out at the 2nd Coming, I suppose. Or the final judgment. Whatever.

    Come to think of it, though, I’m sure a fire-breathing version of Rick Hurd could indisputably fulfill some prophecy from Revelation…

    You should get to work on that Kullervo.

  258. On a serious note, my ward recently found a member who had begun attending another local church. She said she’s happy there and asked to have her name removed. As far as I know we are proceeding with her request.

    When my dad was branch pres. I went with him on a home teaching visit. We visited a guy who said he didn’t want to be a part of the church anymore. My dad told him he could have his name removed. The guy said he wanted that. My dad explained what that meant, the guy agreed to it, and his name was taken off.

    Every year we publish an official report of Church statistics. We have no way of monitoring things other than removing people when they ask to be removed.

    Can someone who is actually human tell me why this approach is dishonorable? And how would we do it differently?

  259. Actual attending members would paint a much more accurate picture of the religious movement. Wasn’t there a national religious survey that had only half as many people in the US identify as Mormon as the Church claims are Mormon?

    It’s also not entirely clear to me that the numbers reported annually do account for people who have their names removed.

  260. After a day like today, I think I can confirm without many exceptions that bean counters = trolls.

    SOMEONE HELP ME!!! They didn’t tell me that in college.

    So, say a prayer (to whoever your god is) that things work out on American Idol tomorrow, k?

  261. At the very least I think every ward/local church should take people off the local rolls who haven’t attended in a few years. This could simply be a check done every few years. If you haven’t seen someone in forever, call then and ask how they’re doing and get a feel for things. If a person isn’t on any local roll, they shouldn’t be in the general roll.

    And if a person confesses to rejecting a fundamental tenet of the church that was initially required for joining, they should be taken off the rolls. That should be an understood part of initially joining: that if you ever should reject the things that were initially required upon joining, you will lose your membership.

    That should go for any church. One ministry that has been encouraging integrity with church rolls is 9Marks.

    See here and here.

  262. Kullervo,

    I agree it would be much cleaner and more representative, but people getting earnestly offended over something so silly? Come on….

    And what about the administrative nightmare? I home teach a family that comes to church a few times a year. Where would we report them – attending or not? Or do we do an annual survey of who still identifies as Mormon? What about the people we can’t contact? What if someone doesn’t identify as Mormon but they don’t want their name removed? What do we do then? And don’t tell me it wouldn’t happen. You know it would in some cases.

    On Sunday we found a family that nobody knew, and they actually want to come to church but he’s on disability and some other stuff has been going on to prevent them. How is it “more accurate” or Christilike if we just drop them from the roles and pretend they don’t exist except on some secret list somewhere?

    I would like to hear a detailed plan for how all the whiners would want us to do it differently.

  263. I’m in a newly formed ward. We have names after name on the role that no one knows. I’ve been working for weeks with the Elder’s Quorum Pres. to visit people. So far we have found one that wants his name removed, a few that don’t want visits but have not asked to have their names removed, one family that wants to come back, and the rest are still unknown.

    The one who asked is being removed, those who didn’t are not. We will continue to minister to them as we are able, mostly through letters. Obviously the family that wants to come back we are actively ministering to.

    What of the unknowns? We can’t find them yet, but is it really our place to say, “Well, we haven’t heard form them in years and can’t get ahold of them, it’s time to cut ties!”

    Does that really square with Christ’s standard of leaving the 99 for the one? What I’m hearing is that the second people becoming wandering sheep no longer actively associated with the fold, we go ask them if they want to come back and if they say “No” we cut ’em loose.

    Of course they don’t want to come back – they are wandering from the fold sowing wild oats. We minister to them, we do not tell them they are going to hell and we don’t want them in the Church!

    It’s all about wheat and tares. Don’t try to pull out the tares too soon or you’ll end up losing some of your fruitful harvest.

  264. Are you calling me a whiner?

    I’m just saying that your Church’s internal counting system is probably wildly inaccurate. It wouldn’t be that hard to find a decent way with parameters and standards to do a count. They have people who do that kind of thing for a living and who know what they are doing better than you or me, Tom, and the Church can definitely afford them.

    I’m not saying you should purge the membership rolls, though: because of the effect on Mormon ordinances, that would be shitty to do without the person’s request or some kind of hearing.

    Errors in reporting aggregate membership are misleading, misrepresentative, and possibly fraudulent. However, actually purging someone from the Church would be inappropriate. I don’t think it would be crazy for the Church to report two sets of numbers, honestly. The number of people baptized is theologically significant to members of the Church, and the number of people who can be reasonably described as active Mormons has broad social significance.

  265. It’s all about wheat and tares. Don’t try to pull out the tares too soon or you’ll end up losing some of your fruitful harvest.

    I think this is actually a really good response to Aaron Ye Trolle.

  266. Kullervo, if you’re whining then yes. If not, then no. Honestly I can’t really tell.

    I don’t think the Church has any desire to parse the records into “not affiliated,” “affiliated but not attending,” and “active.” So why would they spend the money? I think the numbers are mostly for our own benefit anyway. Notice that they are announced in our conference and not in a press release.

    Also, the activity rate is almost always 50% and everyone knows this, so we’ll let people do the math. But there’s a lot of flux between who is active and who’s not. It’d be a nightmare having to keep that list in addition to all the other reporting we do.

    I doubt there’s fraud at work here.

    I honestly see it as a “99 and 1” situation. We have to know who the wandering sheep are to minister to them. As long as the system is encouraging ministering to the wanderers, i don’t care what it looks like in the aggregate.

  267. They count how many people attend the service each Sunday. The ward theoretically reports this number. Why not take the average for the year, and aggregate for the entire church? It actually wouldn’t take too long or require any additional work or manpower.

    And then, why not report actual numbers vs. baptized numbers, and have an annual ‘call to the masses’ to get everyone out and looking for the lost 1? Why not use this number to help people have incentive for home teaching/visiting teaching?

    I am one of those people who do not identify as Mormon but leave my name on the church rolls.

  268. Oh, and do any churches really drop people’s name for nonattendance?

    We still get newletters from churches we attended once or twice years ago when we first moved here. That means they still have our names somewhere…

  269. Ha, I have the newsletter influx, too.

    There was one year where I pretty much stopped attending church. There were some very difficult personal reasons that I did so, and even though I couldn’t bring myself to attend, I would have been pretty offended if my name had just been removed due to my apathy, especially if I hadn’t heard from anyone prior.

  270. Kullervo and Katyjane – I think there are some things we could do to improve how we “watch over the flock.” But I would only be in favor of any changes if they actually helped us better minister to people. I don’t care (and I don’t think the Church is too concerned either) about how it “looks to the outsider.” I just want to help people any way I can.

    Katyjane – it would be easy to report attending members as a percentage of members of record. Honestly, though, what is the practical benefit? As I said, it’s pretty much a given that activity is around 50% church wide. So, I’d say we’re at about 6.5 million out of 13 million right now, and anyone can do that math. I don’t see any benefit in turning that into an official number. Rest assured that 99% of bishops in the Church are painfully aware of the percentage in their own wards. It’s not a “yearly call to the masses” to search for the proverbial lost sheep. It’s every week. We meet and discuss people and how we can minister to them. Sometimes we fail in our ministry, but every ward I’ve been in has tried very hard to help those wandering sheep.

    My stake president is constantly reminding us – “Home teaching is not a visit. It’s a ministry.” I’m taking that to heart and I am regularly urging my Elder’s Quorum to do the same.

  271. Hey, Kullervo, I’m sorry if I was too harsh responding to you. I was having trouble mentally parsing Aaron’s responses and yours. I wasn’t intending to be stubborn or contentious.

    Thanks to you and Katyjane for engaging this on a serious, practical level.

  272. Tomchik–you don’t see practical application in giving people official numbers of how they can help the Church?

    For all of the talking people do every week, we haven’t been home taught or visit taught in years. And I have welcomed every visit.

    And it’s bad when an inactive member (me) is reminding people in the ward to look after some of their active members–specifically a widow with a young child that we know.

    So, anything that helps put a stark reality to the situation should be welcome.

    Also, you don’t think people in the church care? If nobody cares, then why report the number of people in the church at all? Why report the number of new members? Why report the positives if none of it is that important?

    Just sayin’

  273. Katie,
    I used to understand why no one from church comes to visit you, Kullervo used to annoy me.
    Once he started making jokes I could laugh at, I’ve learned to enjoy him.
    Maybe you should just move to Illinois so Tomchik and I could home-teach you, even unofficially.
    It’s a thought anyway.

    On a more serious note:
    Thank you for asking members to help that sister.
    🙂

  274. I haven’t read all the comments so sorry if someone already responded to this, but I didn’t see it.

    Way up the thread Kullervo said, God arbtrarily chose to save a lot of white people and send a lot of brown people to hell.

    Even if some of them convert now, most probably won’t, and that doesn’t help the legions who have already died while white European people were being conveniently unconditionally elected.

    It’s just as bad as Mormon racism.

    Actually, according to current statistics 60% of Christians live in the developing countries of the world. “More than 2 out of 3 evangelical Christians now live in Asia, Africa, and South America.” In the early 1900’s less than 10% of Africans were Christians. Today it’s nearly 50%. Millions of South American Catholics have become evangelical Protestants. “In Brazil, for example, there are now 50 million evangelical Protestants whereas a few decades ago there weren’t enough to count.” There are an estimated 100 million Christians in China and, if current growth rates continue, China will become the largest Christian country in the world in a few decades. South Korea has become the world’s second-largest missionary-sending country with over 12,000 missionaries in other countries. “At one time Christian missionaries went to the far continents of Africa and Asia, where white priests in robes proclaimed the Bible to wide-eyed and uncomprehending brown and black people. In the future, we may well see black and brown missionaries proclaim the Bible to wide-eyed and uncomprehending white people in the West” (all quotes and statistics as cited in What’s So Great About Christianity? by Dinesh D’Souza (2007), pp. 10-12.

  275. I guess…

    But it still seems like God really wasn’t on the ball if it’s taken him this long to fix things.

  276. Jessica, the key word you used was “currently”.

    btw… I’d love to see a post on the Evangelical ideas of hell and who goes there, how one winds up there, what happens to those people that will never really get a chance to learn about Jesus, and other stuff like that. Because I hope that the people who I grew up around who told me I was going to hell all the time weren’t representative.

  277. If Tim’s not up to it, eventually I plan to get around to a hell post. I kind of dread doing it though because everyone’s so touchy about hell, and while I have the biblical arguments for an eternal hell down, I’ve barely scratched the philosophical objections. I do differ from some evangelicals in that I think the suffering in hell is mental anguish, dishonor and shame, not literal fiery torture. And I think there are different degrees of hell. I don’t believe one lie will get you the same punishment as Hitler.

    C. Michael Patton had a pretty good post on the subject covering some of these ideas: “Why is Hell Eternal, or Will One White Lie Send Someone to Hell for Eternity?

    What happens to those who never hear is a related subject, but could probably be a post of it’s own.

    If either topic is going to get done anytime soon though, Tim will have to do it. I have way too much stuff I need to catch up on.

  278. Jack – interesting idea about “graduated damnation.”

    I have always been interested in the EV belief on graduated salvation. Jessica mentioned once that she believed in differing rewards (based on 1 Cor 3), but she hasn’t gotten around to writing a post about it. (Hint, hint.) 🙂

    I’d love to see it addressed here or at Jessica’s blog. Or both.

  279. “What happens to those who never hear is a related subject, but could probably be a post of it’s own. “

    Tim responded to my same question here. (Thanks again, Tim!)

    So Jack, if you wanted to start it as a new thread, you could just quote me asking Tim and quote Tim’s response. (If you do that, make sure to pick up our two follow-up responses to each other.)

    “I think we feel the same way about this 1800-year total apostasy thing…”

    You realize, of course, that we have a much easier out than Evangelicals because of our whole baptism for the dead, etc. doctrine.

  280. I didn’t get a chance to read through all the responses, but I agree with Brad’s response on the seven major differences.


    1) Nature of God
    2) Nature of man
    3) Sin
    4) Salvation
    5) Heaven
    6) Hell
    7) Creation

    If you can get past those, we’re really quite alike…”

    Ultimately though, the biggest difference between EVs and Mormons comes down to continuing revelation through the living mouthpiece of God today. (i.e. LDS Prophets)

    Mormons believe that the current LDS Prophet’s revelation can trump anything in the Bible or anything revealed by previous LDS Prophets. Hence, there are no concrete doctrines in the Mormon church on those seven issues Brad listed because there is always an open door for changing them. Continuing revelation is a nice fix for previous errors in the church. 😉

    Further, apologists/internet Mormons believe that LDS Prophets can be wrong on their sermons and teachings to the church on those seven issues. The fallibility of Prophets extends to their doctrinal statements to the church and is dismissed as opinion when it is out of sync with science or changes in the church as it evolves. (i.e. polygamy, blacks and the Priesthood)

    So here we have a religion that believes the living Prophet speaks for God today and we are commanded to obey when he is acting as such, but at the same time believes that Prophets can make gross errors in doctrinal teachings when they are acting in their official role.

    While both EVs and Mormons can find common ground that Prophets are fallible in their personal life and sin just as we do, I haven’t seen EVs who believe the revelations spoken by the Prophets in the Bible could be “just opinion.” (not to be confused with literal vs. metaphorical interpretations)
    That is a significant difference in how both groups view a Prophet of God.

  281. While both EVs and Mormons can find common ground that Prophets are fallible in their personal life and sin just as we do, I haven’t seen EVs who believe the revelations spoken by the Prophets in the Bible could be “just opinion.”

    That’s because the Bible prophet’s opinions aren’t in the Bible. That’s a luxury EV’s don’t seem to appreciate.

  282. “I haven’t seen EVs who believe the revelations spoken by the Prophets in the Bible could be “just opinion.””

    You haven’t hung out with enough Evangelicals then. I know quite a few who take a pretty darn “liberal” view of the Bible.

  283. You are correct. I probably haven’t then. The EVs I’ve spoken with do not view the words of the Prophets in the Bible as full of opinions and gross errors. Sure they might view stories in the Bible as metaphorical instead of literal, like the flood for example, but that’s an entirely different issue. The Bible is full of parables and allegorical stories that believers differ on.

    As I mentioned earlier, I’m not referring to whether or not EVs believe stories from the bible are literal or if they believe there could be translation errors, etc.

    What I’m asking is,
    do EVs believe the Bible contains opinions and gross errors from the Prophets the same way Mormons view LDS Prophets who got it wrong on doctrines? Or do they see all these scriptures as Gods voice through the Prophet?

    I ask this because it’s not Joseph Smith’s personal weaknesses and sins that invalidate Mormonism. Clearly there were some OT Prophets that were very immoral and dishonest. But it certainly doesn’t help Joseph’s credibility that his behavior parallels many other cult leaders and con mans.

    For me, the issue with Joseph Smith is that there is no reliability when it comes to the words spoken by LDS Prophets from the pulpit. They already have a terrible record and credibility problem in just the short time the Mormon church has been on earth. Failed prophecies, dismissed or changed doctrines….

    IOW, whether Joseph Smith slept with a 14 year old girl is irrelevant to the restoration. However, claiming GOD commanded him to take your 14 year old daughter via. the doctrine in section 132
    IS.

    If Mormon Prophets can so grossly error on such foundational issues as polygamy, Adam, evolution, blacks, etc. what else could be incorrect in the restoration? The church has already fallen into the apostacy it was supposed to restore. The heavens were supposed to be open again, but the modern day leaders are now silent-always trying to wiggle out of defining doctrine. After having to cover up all the mistakes from previous leaders they’ve learned their lesson.

  284. Well, there is one place in the Bible where an apostle pretty clearly says “This is just my opinion.”

    1 Cor. 7:12 ~ To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. (ESV)

    And again later in the passage:

    1 Cor. 7:25 ~ Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. (ESV)

    I have to admit, even as a believer in inerrancy, I’ve always thought these passages don’t exactly sit well for the inerrancy position.

  285. Jack, I recently learned that is not the way to read that passage. Paul is not giving his opinion. Rather he is speaking authoritatively and adding to what Jesus says about divorce in the Sermon on the Mount. He’s saying the Lord (Jesus) says X and I’m adding Y to it.

    Something akin to:
    Jesus (the Lord) says don’t divorce and I say stay unmarried if you get a divorce. (compare this to I Corinthians 7:10)

    Paul knew well the authority he had over the believers in Corinth and wasn’t giving it up, but spoke from it throughout the whole letter.

  286. I am sure we would think Paul had some wing-nut opinions on most things outside of religion, I think we should probably be thankful that we only have his epistles and not his private journal.

  287. Amen Jared,

    Take a time machine back to when Jeremiah lived. “He did what?”, “he said what?”

    Go hang out with Paul and tell me you’re not underwhelmed by the little man who talks like Urkel.

    God calls prophets in their own time and context. And he often calls them – not because they’re great – but because they’re weak.

    We should be flexible in how we perceive a prophet should be. Biblically, they’re all over the map.

  288. All we really know about the youngest marriages was that Joseph married them. I don’t think there’s much reason to conclude that Joseph actually slept with them aside from pure conjecture (unless you are already predisposed to think the worst of him). There actually is evidence that the marriages were purely dynastic in nature and were never consumated.

  289. If Joseph’s polygamous marriages were only dynastic in nature, then he was violating the command given to him in section 132 to raise seed with these young brides.
    There is also very strong evidence he DID have sexual relations with many of his teenage wives. They gave testimony of it when his Joseph Smith’s son set out to prove his father was not a polygamist.

    Frankly, it makes little difference to me whether the girl was 14 or 17. We are talking about a MARRIED man claiming God told him to have sex with a teenager and coercing emotionally vulnerable girls who idolized this man. That’s the disturbing part for me.
    I don’t believe Helen MarKimball was a pre pubescent girl so I think people who claim Joseph was a pedophile are only doing so for shock value. There were girls in my grammar school having sex at age 10-12 and they were fully developed. There is no evidence to suggest Helen was physically not able to have children.

    There is also no evidence that Joseph DIDN’T have sex with her.

    There was one wife (I’ll have to look it up later) who knew she was going to marry Joseph when she was around 12 years old, and he waited to have himself sealed to her until she was older. If these marriages were only dynastic, Joseph would have married her at 12.

    For me, the strongest evidence that Joseph consumated his marriage to Helen Mar Kimball, was the heart wrenching emotion and pain her parents went through at the command to give their daughter to him.

    If it was only dynastic Seth, then why all the fuss?

    And the Helen Mar Kimball story is one of many I could have used in the example. Replace her with any of the other 16 and 17 year old wives that we do have strong evidence of sexual relations and it’s still a very tough issue for many.

    A Prophet speaking for God and commanding you to sacrifice your wife, or teenage daughter via. 132 of the scriptures that may or may not be Joseph “acting as a Prophet ” and could just “be his opinion” was my point.

    If a Prophets fallibility extends into what he reveals or preaches to the church as God’s mouthpiece from the pulpit, how do you know which claims of the LDS church are to be obeyed and which ones are from man or Satan? Most LDS don’t believe there is such a thing as error and opinion coming from the Lord’s mouthpiece at General Conference. Only apologists understand that because they know the unvarnished church history.

  290. Funny story tangentially related to the topic: Last night we were visited by Bob, an old friend of my husband’s who hasn’t seen us since before our daughter was born. Our daughter is 3 now. She took a liking to Bob immediately, grabbed his hand and dragged him out to the car when we went out to eat. Bob joked about her having a crush on him, and I said, “Yeah, and in 11 more years, you could even marry her.” They didn’t get it, so I pointed out that Smith’s youngest wives were 14.

    Bob and Paul were not amused. Maybe you guys will be.

  291. For me, the strongest evidence that Joseph consumated his marriage to Helen Mar Kimball, was the heart wrenching emotion and pain her parents went through at the command to give their daughter to him.

    If it was only dynastic Seth, then why all the fuss?

    I think that’s a good point.

    Jack, I’m only cringing inside at that story because I know EXACTLY how my husband would have reacted had I made a joke like that. Yikes.

  292. My understanding was that Helen Mar Kimball’s marriage to Joseph was her FATHER’S idea and not Joseph’s. So it seems odd for you to talk of the anguish of her parents at JOSEPH’S command to give her up.

  293. Seth, don’t try and use logic and historical fact with someone so bent on being able to prove negatives thru logical fallacy.

    Negative Proof refers to the fallacy of using an argument, about a phenomenon P, of the form:

    1.P has not been observed
    2.Therefore P does not exist
    An argument of this form is most convincing when the existence of P seems implausible.

    source.

    Seven wrote:

    There is also no evidence that Joseph DIDN’T have sex with her.

    Seven, there is also no evidence that you haven’t molested young children. That’s use of the same logical fallacy you’ve just used. Does it feel good to be on the receiving end?

    Usually, those who are Americans believe someone is innocent until proven guilty. At least, that’s what our legal code says. This is the opposite of some fascist dictatorships or early puritan/Evangelical Christians who burned people (or hanged them) for being witches, because they couldn’t prove their innocence. Not a very elite group to be a member of Seven.

  294. Psychochemiker,

    Joseph Smith had commanded in the name of God by revelation that members of the Mormon church were to sacrifice their wives and daughters in the higher order of Celestial/plural marriage to raise up seed with him. There is strong evidence that he DID have sexual relations with many of his plural wives, even some who gave signed testimony of it. You are taking my statement OUT OF CONTEXT.

    Seth,
    Yes, Helen’s father was the one to approach and teach her about polygamy and encouraged the marriage to Joseph Smith. There is nothing unusual about this and you will find fathers giving their teenage virgin daughters to polygamist leaders in the Mormon fundamentalist communities today for dynastic ties. What does that have to do with the sexual nature of the marriage? You can have a dynastic reason for the marriage along with sexual relations in the raising of “righteous seed.”
    All of Joseph Smith’s plural marriages were dynastic. All wives were promised exaltation for their kindred by entering the principle and becoming part of Joseph’s eternal kingdom.

    There is nothing to suggest Helen Mar Kimball’s marriage to Joseph Smith was platonic. In fact, her writings indicate the exact opposite.

    Here was Helen’s reaction after her father taught her the principle of plural marriage:

    “The first impulse was anger…My sensibilities were painfully touched. I felt such a sense of personal injury and displeasure; for to mention such a thing to me thought altogether unworthy of my father, and as quick as he spoke, I replied to him, short and emphatically, NO I WOULDN’T!…This was the first time that I ever openly manifested anger towards him.”

    In her 1881 reminiscence Helen wrote: Having a great desire to be connected with the Prophet, Joseph, he offered me to him; this I afterwards learned from the Prophet’s own mouth. My father had but one ewe lamb, but willingly laid her upon the alter: how cruel this seamed to the mother whose heartstrings were already stretched until they were ready to snap asunder, for he had taken Sarah Noon to wife & she thought she had made sufficient sacrifice but the Lord required more.”

    The only person still reluctant to see the marriage performed, after Helen had accepted the proposal, was Vilate. (her mother)

    Helen wrote: “None but God & his angels could see my mother’s bleeding heart-when Joseph asked her if she was willing, she replied ‘If Helen is willing I have nothing more to say.’ ” “She had witnessed the sufferings of others, who were older & who better understood the step they were taking, & to see her child, who had scarcely seen her fifteenth [sic] summer, following in the same thorny path, in her mind she saw the misery which was as sure to come as the sun was to rise and set; but it was all hidden from me.”

    Seth, if this marriage was non sexual and only a platonic sealing, then why all the anguish and heartache from the mother over it? Why was Helen so repulsed when her father explained what she would be consenting to? Why all the fuss over it?????

    If Joseph didn’t consummate the marriage, then he was violating the command given to him in section 132. Unless someone has conclusive evidence he didn’t have sex with her, it’s assumed that when a person becomes a plural WIFE that they intend to have sexual relations in that marriage. Just as most people should assume I have had sex with my spouse.

  295. Pingback: How Should Evangelicals Approach Mormon Missionaries? « Summa Theologica – Interfaith Dialogue

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