Every year Mormon Research Ministries leads a team of missionaries to Manti, Utah to discuss faith with people attending the Mormon Miracle Pageant. This is a training video from this year in which Bill McKeever outlines his ministy’s basic approach to presenting Evangelicalism to Mormons.
His approach of using Book of Mormon passages to emphasize and validate non-Mormon doctrines is somewhat controversial among Christian groups reaching out to Mormons, but it’s becoming the accepted standard.
Oh. So those are the a*holes that wave gigantic signs and yell at families every year as they try to enjoy a quiet celebration of their cultural and religious heritage. CLASSY! (
(*RANT WARNING* Feel free to skip to last paragraph)
I find their tactics utterly reprehensible. How effective do they think their preaching can be? Do they honestly think they are going to change anyone’s minds in such a setting? Do they really intend to change anyone’s mind, or are they just trying to make themselves feel better through a dramatic gesture? I have seen and talked to those guys at the pageant in person, and they didn’t really seem to want to “discuss” the finer points of theology. They usually just want to start a fight. You can disagree without being disagreeable
Many of them justify their actions by saying that the LDS church sends missionaries to “witness” to people who already have a Christian faith and that they are doing the exact same thing. It is NOT the same thing. How often do you hear of the LDS church targeting the community events of specific Christian denominations so that they can go shout at families with megaphones and litter their grounds with leaflets? LDS missionaries are sent to general geographic regions to talk to anyone who will listen to them, regardless of their prior faith (you can’t usually tell what someone’s religious background is by just looking at them). If someone doesn’t want to talk to the missionaries, they can politely tell the missionaries they are not interested and the missionaries generally leave them alone. The LDS missionaries don’t respond by setting up camp on people’s lawns to wave signs and shout at them with a megaphone. And while going door to door or contacting random people on the street is by far the least effective method of sharing just about any information, it at least contains a much greater degree of dignity than what these ministries do.
If evangelical ministries REALLY want to reach out to the lost LDS sheep, they would do well to follow the example of Tim (and many others, I’m sure) by respectfully interacting in productive dialogue through individual conversations or blogs. Or try to get them drunk. That might work too. Thanks for indulging my rant.
As to the main issue of the post. Using passages from the Book of Mormon to show the supposed internal fallacies/contradictions of LDS doctrine is by far more effective than cherry picking quotes from the Journal of discourses or other obscure archival addresses that the garden variety Latter-day saint has never heard of. I find it ironic that this Bill McKeever spends so much time giving the background and context of Paul’s passages, but does not really give any context to the Book of Mormon verses he quotes ( i.e. 1 Ne 3:7 that Nephi made this statement after exercising his faith and miraculously obtaining the brass plates from King Laban, that Alma 11:37 was made by Amulek to Zeezrom, a cunning lawyer who, ironically, was trying to take Amulek’s own words out of context.) Very often this approach leads to “one-spoke wheels,” or making conclusions based on a single source(or verse) rather than judicious comparison of surrounding verses or other related verses. While Bill McKeever does a slightly better job than most at trying to relate multiple verses to build up his argument, (which appears to be that Mormons aren’t perfect like their scriptures say they should be, so their scriptures must be false,) it still appears that he is cherry picking to support an a priori conclusion rather than using inductive reasoning from a wider body of evidence.
You can see the big list of Manti training videos here.
Regarding the above-noted controversy on using the Book of Mormon in evangelism to Mormons, there are a few outspoken evangelical detractors who say we shouldn’t use it at all, but the sweeping majority of Christian ministries to Mormons I know accept the method as valid.
well said badger. I have had so many conversations over the last decade with Christians (?) who take the same approach as McKeever, that I have reached the conclusion they have nothing Christian to share with me.
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I think McKeever does no better and no worse with the Book of Mormon than the average LDS missionary does with the Bible. I also think he does no better and no worse than Paul did with Greek poets.
It’s a “here’s a nugget I like, let me tell you more” approach.
badgerdude ~ Regarding your rant, I just want to raise a few considerations.
I agree that for evangelical ministers to target specific Mormon events is not the same as Mormons engaging in general proselyting. I do not and never have felt particularly warm about this method as employed by my evangelical brothers and sisters.
However, the gospel preached by Mormons is geared towards Christians of other faiths. Moroni’s challenge for praying about the Book of Mormon (Moroni 10:3-5) assumes that the subject already has faith in Christ, while Joseph Smith’s First Vision focuses on the wrongness of other Christian faiths rather than the wrongness of all world religions at large. This emphasis on the wrongness of other Christian faiths continues today and regularly manifests itself in general church curriculum. For example, see this page in the current D&C Reader’s Manual for children. It’s also true that Mormon missionaries generally only preach in areas where missionaries from other Christian faiths has been at work for some time. The LDS church does not create its own translations of the Bible and venture into new territories with its message. And this approach makes sense. There isn’t much point in preaching a “restored” gospel if someone else hasn’t already preached an “incomplete” gospel that needs fixing.
For evangelicals, the wrongness of Mormonism is an ancillary issue that has to be focused on and given special attention. You won’t find a general manual put out by my church with a page depicting Mormon missionaries and LDS temples and explaining why the Mormons are wrong; in fact, I don’t know that my denomination has any current publications on Mormons, period. The normal general evangelism techniques do not work well on Mormons, and Mormonism can be a difficult religion for the average evangelical minister to grasp, so special missionaries need to be trained. I think part of the reason such missionaries target LDS community events like pageants is because it’s one place where they can be sure to run into devout, believing Mormons.
As I said above, I’m not a big fan of evangelicals using aggressive evangelism techniques at LDS events. I don’t think there’s anything Mormons do that is comparable. But I think Latter-day Saints don’t have to work very hard to find other Christians because we’re so much more common than they are, and I think there are plenty of things Latter-day Saints do and have done for which evangelicals have no comparison. I generally try to avoid the game of “whose behavior has been worse?” and instead move forward to the kind of behavior that I would like to see.
Jack: Not sure what you mean by
…because while that applies (I suppose) to my mission in Brazil—a country of mostly Roman Catholics—it is incongruous with my sister’s mission in Japan, where almost none of her investigators even had a clue who Jesus was.
As a former Ex-Mormon, I actually can say I had seeds of doubt planted by these individuals years ago. Someone had held up a sign “josephlied.com.” I looked it up and the information stuck in my brain. It took years, but I eventually left my former life as a “Smithjian” behind and took up the cross as an evangelical. I praise God these folks are so willing to go out and share the truth.
Badger mentioned that the LDS Church doesn’t send elders into evangelical events— that’s baloney. I was encouraged to do so when I was an LDS missionary in South America. Several times we went after Evangelicals outside of their own meeting halls. I was praised by my mission President. I now severely regret teaching a “second gospel.”
BFF ~ You’re right, there are nations where Mormons proselyte wherein other types of Christians have not made deep inroads and Mormons can encounter plenty of people who haven’t heard of Christianity.
What I was getting at was that, because they don’t create their own translations of the Bible, Mormons are sort of limited to proselyting in areas where other types of Christians have already been in at least some capacity. If there hadn’t been Christian missionaries in Japan for over 400 years—if Protestants and Catholics hadn’t created Japanese translations of the Bible—I doubt your sister would have been in Japan at all.
Let me just throw this out, that in general Evangelicals use specialized evangelism with most groups. There is nothing really unique about them doing this with Mormons.
For example missionaries to Jews have to argue the case that the messiah is not going to be a military leader, who brings peace to the world by force. While Christians read in their bible stuff like, “the ancient Jews expected a military leader,” except for the ones that engage Jews, they’ve never met anyone who holds that opinion. To have someone in all seriousness believe that Napoleon is far closer to the messiah than the gospel Jesus, “yeah so even if the gospel stories are true, he preached some nice stuff did miracles and got killed, what does that have to do with messianic prophecy?” is a counter argument they are generally not ready to deal with.
One can argue that evangelical apologetics are structurally dishonest in they construct a straw man and then argue against that. I do think its worth pointing there is nothing in Mormon evangelism that is essentially different than what they have to do with other groups that have definitive opinions about God contrary to Evangelical theology. This isn’t them being unfair or specifically bigoted.
I agree with, badgerdude that this is, “cherry picking to support an a priori conclusion rather than using inductive reasoning from a wider body of evidence” and agree with you in terms of rudeness regarding screaming. I think screamers should be cited for disturbing the peace. Free speech should be absolutely protected, but not unlimited volume.
I’ll make a couple of general comments and then speak to the content of the video itself.
First of all, I have no objection to non-LDS Christians proselytizing Mormons, and if they go to where LDS congregate (such as pageants and such), then so be it. In this country, they have the constitutional right to do so, and wherever they may be, they have the God-given human right to practice their faith as they see it even when that right is unrecognized by law. Of course, there may some tactics that are offensive, misguided and/or immoral, but in general it’s clear to me that Mormons are fair game.
In a related matter, I have no reason to question McKeever’s faith nor his sincerity. I don’t know what tactics he personally endorses, but I assume that he honestly believes he is doing Mormons an eternal favor by sharing his version of the gospel with them.
And, frankly, as long as non-LDS “missionaries” aren’t behaving in an offensive manner, I don’t think we Mormons are in any position to object to proselytizing efforts directed against us. We actually go to people’s homes uninvited, which is a lot more intrusive than standing in a public place waving some silly sign around.
The following is based on my personal experiences. I do not claim that all have had the same experience. In fact, I know many who haven’t.
But what McKeever says is the LDS gospel isn’t the gospel I have been consistently taught for more than a dozen years, nor is it the LDS gospel I believe in, nor is it the LDS gospel that I myself have taught. As far as I’m concerned, he’s doing nothing more than erecting a straw man.
I’m not going to say I listened to McKeever’s video hanging on his every word, as I was doing other things at the time, so if I missed something I’ll stand corrected, but I did not hear McKeever mention once the LDS belief in the Atonement. And that’s the central doctrine of the Church! Yes, we are called to be perfect, to be completed, to be free of sin, and, no, I don’t know any Mormons who claim to have attained that in this lifetime. But as almost any Mormon I know will tell you, that’s why we have the Atonement. That’s why Jesus suffered in Gethsemane and died a cruel death at Golgotha. Jesus was there and is here to do what we can’t, and in the total scheme of things that’s basically everything. That’s why we have the Holy Spirit. Yes, McKeever’s right that we are expected to be obedient, and he’s right that none of us are, at least not totally. And that’s exactly why Jesus died for us, and why he, through his Spirit, will be with us for as long as it takes.
The irony of McKeever’s sermon is that almost every time — maybe even every time — he quoted a verse he said he agreed with it. He agreed that we must be perfect to receive God’s eternal glory, he agreed that God doesn’t tolerate sin in our lives. This is definitely part of the LDS gospel.
But it’s not the entire gospel. What McKeever left out (or, if I missed it, certainly downplayed) is the Atonement. That’s what makes it possible to be free of sin — if not in this life, then in the next. God didn’t give us an impossible task — or at least he didn’t give us an impossible task without making it possible, through giving us the life, suffering and death of his Son.
McKeever wasn’t talking about the Gospel I know, believe and love (and, unfortunately, don’t always practice) as an LDS Christian. He just doesn’t get it, missing the mark entirely.
There are plenty of things that are constitutional, legal, and maybe even God-given to which I staunchly object.
The fact that a behavior is protected by law doesn’t mean it’s right or I have to encourage or even tolerate it. It just means there can’t be laws against it, full-stop. It’s a serious mistake to imagine that because a freedom to engage in behavior is protected by law, that therefore all protected behavior should be encouraged, approved, and immune to criticism.
For example, freedom of speech is protected, but if you mock and cuss at my little kids, I will not hesitate to break your teeth in.
I don’t disagree with that either, except I’m less prone to violence.
I had a very interesting discussion the other week with some hard-core Christians from the Reformed tradition (they’ve been dialoguing with the sister missionaries, and the missionaries asked me to come to one of their meetings since they knew I have some experience in interfaith discussions — imagine everyone’s surprise when I pulled out some of my favorite talking points, such as, “There are very few things that could be reasonably classified as ‘official’ Mormon doctrine.” Hahaha.). I told them they probably wouldn’t find all that much to object to in the Book of Mormon; it was the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price that would really get them exercised. They didn’t believe me, but that’s okay. 🙂 Maybe I should send them this link and say, “See? You can totally read the Book of Mormon as ammunition for your next encounters with LDS folks.” 😉
Although I will say, cherry-picking verses from anyone’s scripture without taking into account the context of the whole tradition is kind of a lousy thing to do in general.
So why is their constitutional right to picket LDS meetings even relevant? The fact that they can’t be arrested for it doesn’t mean it’s an okay thing to do or that you should support it.
Being a good citizen means defending them from being thrown in jail for exercising their free speech in a crappy way, not defending them in general for being crappy.
The reason I even brought it up is because it irks me when I hear Mormons criticizing non-LDS evangelists in general for doing what they do — as if somehow it’s not right for them to be targeted simply because they’re Mormon. And just because someone tries to get us (meaning LDS) to convert doesn’t automatically make the person anti-Mormon — not any more than Mormons are anti-Catholic or anti-Protestant.
I don’t like double standards, and it doesn’t matter whether they come from my side or the other side.
If it’s fair for us to target other Christians — and we do it all the time — it’s no less fair for them to target us. That’s my main point.
Katie wrote, “cherry-picking verses from anyone’s scripture without taking into account the context of the whole tradition is kind of a lousy thing to do in general.”
In the case of Book of Mormon passages like 2 Nephi 25:23, Mormon interpretative tradition is precisely the problem, not so much the original (likely more evangelical-ish) meaning. Last time I checked, Spencer Kimball’s Miracle of Forgiveness was still sold at Church Distribution stores. Mormons who cherry-pick Millet-esque or Robinson-esque theology while turning a blind eye to Kimball-esque theology, and Mormons who are turning a blind eye to the disconnect between the original meaning of the Book of Mormon and the institutionally-fostered interpretative traditions of Mormonism, are cherry-picking in a way that shows a failure of compassion… a failure of compassion toward all the Mormons out there who feel burdened by a strain of perfectionism.
As for whether the atonement solves your problem, Eric, it depends on whether an unrealistic standard is smuggled into the very means by which one is supposed to appropriate the important benefits of the atonement, especially forgiveness. Most lay Mormons I talk don’t believe complete forgiveness is something that is realistic for this life — they hope to achieve it in the afterlife. Many hope to be good enough someday. Many assume, as Kimball taught, that the only forgiven sins are permanently, successfully conquered sins. The atonement is seen as an enabler to someday be good enough to earn and merit and prove worthy of forgiveness and eternal life.
Heck, one of the main books we use (besides the scriptures) in evangelism on the streets is Kimball’s Miracle of Forgiveness. We read lengthy passages from it to Mormons, and then contrast it to the New Testament.
Let me put the hamster-wheel LDS “impossible gospel” problem this way:
“It’s OK that we can’t live up the requirements for receiving the blessings of the savior, because we have the savior.”
“It’s ok that we can’t fulfill the requirements of the six steps of repentance, because we have repentance.”
“It’s OK that we can’t live up to the requirements for receiving the atonement, because we have the atonement.”
It’s like saying, “It’s OK that I’m not good enough yet, because I have help to someday be good enough.”
The meaning of Romans 4:5 is essentially, “get off the hamster wheel and start drinking freely.”
I wish Mormons would be more realistic and honest about the whole Kimball vs. Robinson/Millet issue over grace, then discussions like this wouldn’t be so hard. I have a lot of respect for the few Mormons who have the courage and integrity to openly say, “On the issue of what it takes to be forgiven, Spencer Kimball was wrong, and his false teachings have damaged a lot of genuine people. They run contrary to the heart of the gospel, and even many original teachings of early LDS scripture.”
“If it’s fair for us to target other Christians — and we do it all the time — it’s no less fair for them to target us.”
I appreciate this thought, Eric (really).
Are you able to be exalted based on the Atonement or does the blood of Christ “merely” save you from separation from God?
Aaron just kind of spoke to it. But I have no doubts that McKeever is presenting a straw man compared to what you teach, but how does it compare to “The Miracle of Forgiveness”? McKeever has been at this a long time, I’m sure one of the reasons he presents this “straw man” is because it resonates with so many Mormons that he encounters.
As far as shouting and screaming go, I’m not for sure, but I don’t think that’s something MRM really endorses. I know I’ve heard Aaron condemn the street “screechers” and their antics. From what I can tell, they always try to engage in respectful and individual conversations.
As far as showing up at the Manti pageant with signs, is it really any different than LDS missionaries showing up on Broadway outside the “Book of Mormon Musical”. Is it really any different than the LDS church buying ad space on Times Square?
Both groups feel there is a large group of people who are about to hear what they consider to be a distorted message. So they are there to counter act that message.
I personally don’t engage in street evangelism. I’m not gifted at it and I’m skeptical of its effectiveness compared to its aggressiveness. Aaron could probably spend hours telling us stories of the great things he’s seen out of it.
THAT anyone does it is not as important to me as HOW they might do it.
I do some street preaching when there are crowds (sometimes to even actively gather crowds), but the bulk of evangelism is just one-on-one conversation.
One problem is that most people don’t have a good sense of what street evangelism normally is — people’s eyes usually gravitate toward the dramatic or the loud or to the provocative. In reality, 99% of street evangelism is pretty low-key conversational interaction. Not the kind of exciting or crazy stuff that ends up on YouTube. I think if more Christians understood this they probably would participate more. Most of the evangelicals that come to Manti are high school and young college-aged mission teams. Some of the sweetest people in the world.
In my presentation this past June I asked my listeners:
“When you think about evangelism, what picture comes to mind? Evangelism probably doesn’t have to look like that. It takes on many forms, but when done at length it should probably incorporate the following:
LDSCEQ (in no particular order)
– Hearing with silence, offering non-verbal acknowledgement
– Processing another’s story, worldview, arguments, thoughts, and feelings
– Boldly asserting the truth
– Warning of bad news and joyfully announcing good news
– Offering direct evidence for consideration
– Suggesting the truth as being at least a possibility
– Repudiating bad theology and false information
– Calling to repentance
– Commending what is noble and good
– Supporting moves in the right direction
– Actively probing the heart and mind
– Asking questions to provoke thought and introspection
I also explained two different kinds of evangelism:
Relational evangelism: Long-term, slow communication with people you have likely future contract with.
Stranger evangelism: Direct, short-term communication with people whom you have no probable future contact with.
– There are pros and cons to each.
– Be realistic about the need for both and don’t self-righteously tout one over the other.
– People with varying personalities, backgrounds, and heart-conditions are uniquely reached and benefited by each approach.
– People who are good at doing one often have a lot to offer in the other. Sensitivity and boldness.
– Do both! The two approaches are complementary and symbiotic: each benefits from the other.
Whatever will you people do once the Miracle of Forgiveness loses its popularity?
I honestly don’t know how your ministry will survive the wrench.
Aaron — I don’t question that there are many LDS who believe and/or practice the “hamster-wheel LDS ‘impossible gospel,'” and I believe that’s a distortion of what not only the Bible but also nonbiblical scriptures and even Joseph Smith taught or teach. How widespread that is, I honestly don’t know, but I certainly agree that there’s a strain of legalism/perfectionism that keeps many in the Church from experiencing the joy that the gospel is intended to provide.
But I don’t think it’s fair to suggest that those of us who have a more Robinsonesque framework of salvation are failing to show compassion toward such people simply because we don’t take a more confrontational approach to the more legalistic aspects of Church culture. There’s more than one way of showing compassion.
Tim asked me:
Of course, there’s no exaltation without the Atonement. I assume you’re asking whether there’s exaltation based on the Atonement alone. This may be a nonanswer, but I’ll answer with a question: Does sanctification come through grace alone? I suspect that the answers to the two questions are the same.
He also asked me:
I’ve never read “The Miracle of Forgiveness,” and nobody has ever recommended it to me. In contrast, Robinson’s and Millet’s books have been recommended to me numerous times. For me with my set of experiences, what those two teach is “normal” Mormonism, and that’s the part of the LDS subculture in which I have found myself most of the time.
Just to vouch here I’ve seen Aaron’s technique on video and audio from the last year or so he is rather respectful and certainly knowledgeable.
When it comes to sales techniques to get people to consider your product, I think everyone knows that the initial line is a throwaway and usually forgotten. As long as it’s not a lie, I couldn’t care less what any religious group uses as an initial hook.
What would make the technique effective in my opinion is to use the Book of Mormon after the initial contact. Using the Book of Mormon to proof text a few passages is not as powerful as showing that the person using the book has had a sustained engagement with the book and can read it in an orthodox Christian context. I understand the inclination to move onto the Bible as fast as possible, but I think there’s a lot in the Book of Mormon with which a Christian can work.
Eric, I challenge you to read it and write a public review on it.
Just to be clear here: I am challenging you to read a book written by a relatively recent LDS apostle (later prophet), which is sold at many Church Distribution Centers.
What’s the point?
Eric, I recommend you read the Miracle of Forgiveness. Perhaps I’ll read it with you.
What’s the point?
of the video or of Aaron’s suggestion that Eric read “The Miracle of Forgiveness” or of life in general?
I read the Miracle of Forgiveness when I was a teenager. . . but for some reason I can only remember its condemnation of petting. . . after that I must have lost heart and stopped reading.
I might have actually looked that passage up from the index.
My dad sent me the Miracle of Forgiveness on my mission.
The book gets a bad rap I think.
That’s because it’s unfortunately structured. The first half of the book focuses on all the bad things you and your friends are doing, and how it’s most certainly NOT OK, and how you shouldn’t make light of it, and what serious business all this sin stuff is.
Unfortunately, that’s often the only half most of the readers read. Then they get too depressed to read more of it.
Which is unfortunate, because the second half is a lot more upbeat. In the second half – Kimball drops the other shoe and talks about forgiveness and all that happy stuff. But half the readers never get there.
My suspicion is that McKeever (and his followers – like Aaron) are selectively only quoting from the first half of the book, and pretending that the second half doesn’t exist. I also think they may be exploiting the fact that few Mormons that participate in online theological debate have the inclination to read the book as much as they have. So very few of their opponents will be in a position to call them out on the distortion (a distortion I very much suspect is happening to this book).
Does he? Go back and check more closely.
Tim: the point of Aaron’s challenge. I won’t speak for Eric, but if I were in his shoes then at this point I’d find Aaron’s challenge a waste of my time.
Seth, if the problem of the MoF was a problem of mere tone or emphasis, then the way the book ended is perhaps mitigated it.
But the problem is more fundamental than tone or emphasis. The problem is what it specifically affirms as a necessary prerequisite for receiving forgiveness. Specifically, that the only forgiven sinful habits are permanently, successfully conquered habits (reaching the absolute point of no return, of not even having an urge to do it again).
This turns obtaining complete forgiveness into a matter of achieving perfection, and it is especially bad news when one considers that the sins we most need forgiveness for are forms of addiction, deep, heart-wired, serious heart-issues, habits, dispositions, etc.
I hope you can understand a little bit how personal/close this is to me, as my conversion to Jesus happened in the context of me having read the MoF (given to me by my high school girlfriend’s mother), and then later having read Romans. The most stark passage in the Bible on grace for me is Romans 4:5. Paul teaches that God only forgives/justifies the ungodly(!), and he only does it if they stop working for it(!) and instead “trust him who justifies the ungodly.” It’s a beautiful thing for broken people with secret sins and shameful addictions and crushing heart-issues.
Jesus loves me, this I know.
Here is a downloadable copy of Miracle of Forgiveness for those interested.
Aaron, your subjective inability to match up Kimball’s book with your subjective reading of Romans does not interest me much.
But a little context here about who Kimball’s book was directed towards – it was directed towards those in the LDS Church who are living in sin and haven’t even yet gotten to the point where they even acknowledge that they ARE sinning. People who tend to trivialize their problems – sexually mess around with a few girls and then think their bishop should just give them a slap on the wrist and get on with sending them off on a mission.
Tell me Aaron – do you think such a guy is really on the road to repentance? Do you really think that “Jesus took care of all this for you” is the FIRST thing he needs to hear? Do you think an 18 year old guy who was just last month having sex with his 16 year old girlfriend and hoping to “get off easy” is in any ready state to even comprehend the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, let alone grasp hold of it?
Are you denying the need for each of us to understand the evil of sin before accepting Jesus? Do you think that forgiveness in Jesus can even be grasped without feeling responsible for what you did, or even the least bit sorry?
And if we want to talk about selective quote-mining:
“be ye therefore perfect, even as your father in heaven is perfect”
You can’t set a much higher bar than that Mr. McKeever.
Bingo. There’s no Miracle in the Miracle of Forgiveness.
By the way Aaron, don’t think this book is a purely academic exercise for me either. Just because I don’t publicly brag about my sins like Sean McCraney does doesn’t mean I haven’t had any. I’ve had my own personal run-ins with this book myself. But I consider that stuff a deeply personal matter, and not material for winning Internet debates with.
I don’t see McCraney bragging on his sins. He’s just refusing to play the game of “you must have been sinning” by acknowledging his sinfulness. I think it’s a great response to the Pharisees.
I beg to differ.
The guy acts like his marital screw-ups were a fortunate occurrence to help him work better as radio host. The tone with which he touts them says it all.
One of those “shall we sin that grace may abound” types.
I think Aaron could have found a better way to suggest it, but I think it’s relevant. Miracle of Forgiveness is at the heart of McKeever’s critique. It’s influence on Mormonism is likely undisputed. Just out of curiousity, Eric should think about reading it. It’d be a bit like a Methodist having little knowledge of Calvinism.
I for one would be praising Jesus for it. It’s really at the heart of the faith/works debate.
I’m sure Aaron, McKeever, et. al. would still have plenty of fodder with replicas of the golden plates, reenactments of the face in a hat and polygamous wife costume parades.
Good, I’m covered. Now I don’t have to go drag out my wife’s copy of Miracle of Forgiveness.
Can I just take a moment to thank you for being such a prominent and outspoken defender of the LDS faith? Really, thank you!
David you should probably elaborate on that so that Seth doesn’t think you’re being sarcastic. Your recent interactions with each other won’t lead him to believe you’re being sincere.
I took it sincerely. It’s appreciated.
I just don’t think I deserve too much praise for something that largely consists of me being dragged around by my own obsessive nature.
There is no question that the Miracle of Forgiveness explains a very popular strain of Mormon thought and practice when it comes to sin and forgiveness. Looking through it reminds me of many lessons learned as a kid. Some of its specific advice and opinions have been generally rejected, e.g. advising teenage parents to marry. But it reflects the LDS view that people have the capacity to strive to be better and God requires them to seek perfection in this life. Forgiveness is a miracle because it erases past sins, but this way of thinking rejects the notion that we are not still responsible for pushing ourselves to be good and purifying ourselves through correct choices in line with commandments.
It is a very concrete ethical philosophy that seems to be derived from the LDS view that life is a test and trial and that you can only be happy if you are keeping the commandments.
I think LDS have moved away a bit from the hard edge of Kimball’s philosophy, but there is no question that it is alive and well.
It seems to me that the concept of life as a trial and test may be the seed of much of the separation between the LDS view of works and grace and Protestantism.
Because life is a test, being saved becomes a bit irrelevant for Mormons. Life is not about securing salvation from hell, (as Evangelicals believe) that has been bought and paid for. Most Mormons consider that life involves a daily effort to work hard to improve, to learn and to grow. God is seen as the Father who provides encouragement as we face life’s trials, sort of a coach and a support. He is not going to give us the answers to the test, we have to work those out through experience. His grace in perfecting us comes as we open ourselves to accept the purification and through experiencing the trials of mortality.
Although my own views have strayed from this concept of life, the core of Kimball’s view does provide a way to experience life in a meaningful way that pushes people to excellence and love, even though it does not provide the relief that seems to drive Protestantism.
First, as far as “the challenge” goes, I personally don’ take kindly to challenges of this sort; they strike me as manipulative and a bit condescending. So I will take it as a friendly suggestion. I do intend to read the book at some point; when I do, then I will be able to comment intelligently on it when it is discussed.
That said, I don’t think it’s entirely unbiblical, as McKeever and Aaron seem to think (correct me if I’m wrong), to believe that there’s some connection between our behavior and whether we’re forgiven. In his first epistle, John seems to be saying as much: “But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. … But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.” (NET Bible, emphasis added)
I think it’s important to remember that in the LDS paradigm that we aren’t being called simply to declare Jesus as our savior merely as a means of fire insurance (to not go to hell), as was the case of much of the evangelicalism I grew up with (I’m not saying all evangelicals, or even most, think this way). In the LDS paradigm, we don’t even have to acknowledge Jesus to stay out of hell; freedom from everlasting punishment is a gift of grace even for the nonbeliever. Instead, we are called to living like Jesus lived, to becoming like him. To suggest that some action on our part is required as part of a genuine Christian life doesn’t deny grace any more than John does in his epistle.
It also needs to be emphasized that Kimball was often assigned to deal with the “hard cases” in his tenure. People committing really grave sins and not even at the point of feeling sorry for them. That colors his writings in his book – and also suggests who the real useful target readers of the book are.
Hard cases make bad law.
Maybe, but I’ve heard from one or two bishops who claim this book is an invaluable part of the repentance and healing process for the “hard cases” they deal with. Perhaps that’s why the book still enjoys such wide circulation.
Overall, i think the approach is very wrongheaded, but most Mormons would not think so.
Eric: excellent comment.
The book has been given multiple accolades in General Conference. There is a whole chapter essentially dedicated to quotations from it in the relatively recent LDS manual on Spencer Kimball. Thomas Monson gives it a nod in On the Lord’s Errand (p. 342). In the latest edition of Gospel Principles (2009), references to McConkie’s works are largely taken out, yet the Miracle of Forgiveness is still quoted. As previously noted, it is still sold in Church Distribution Centers.
And it’s not something to glibly dismiss or reduce by falsely narrowing the intended audience/scope/purview. That Kimball focuses on sexual sin does not imply that the book is excluded to sexual sin (or to people with lack of sorrowful heart). Kimball’s own intended scope of relevance is explicitly much broader. His purview goes as far as:
Kimball sees his own stated principles and teachings on repentance as universally relevant:
(Note: I agree in principle at least that repentance is relevant to our entire mortal lives, I am not disputing that.)
But let us grant, for the sake of argument, that the book is exclusively and narrowly intended for those with gross sexual sin who have no sorrow or acknowledgment or confession over their sin. There are at least two problems with this:
1. The solution to such a problem should not be falsehood or a form of perfectionism. That’s like saying, “in order for you to feel *really* sorry about your sin, I’m going to trick you into thinking that you must successfully and permanently and perfectly conquer a particular sinful habit in order for it to then be forgiven. And that is the gospel. But after you’ve been sufficiently jolted, I’ll alleviate your burdens of perfectionism with some books by Stephen Robinson and Robert Millet, who essentially refute some of Kimball’s fundamental claims.” Using falsehood (and calling it gospel!) to induce feelings of guilt is disgusting and manipulative. That anyone would think it justifiable should do some serious gospel-guided introspection.
2. Often this book is given by bishops to people who already feel significant degree of guilt and feelings of helplessness over their own addictions and sexual sin. Kimball just piles the guilt on. I actually don’t have much of a problem with that when he uses truth (pointing to, for example, the inherent wretchedness of the sin). Pile it on, Kimball. Pile it on. Paul does that in Romans 3. My problem with the book is how Kimball teaches people to solve the problem of guilt before God. (Note: Kimball does attempt to induce feelings of guilt within rape-victims. That I find extremely non-pastoral, sick, and over-the-top. But to put things in perspective, preaching a false gospel is even worse than that.)
Don’t forget the whole God-perhaps-sinned and we-can-be-worshiped-Gods-someday stuff. As long as Mormonism situates its worldview within the meta-narrative of becoming Gods, salvation/exaltation will be, at bottom, oriented toward personal merit. Kimball’s Miracle of Forgiveness was, I believe, an extension of this, not so much a cause of it. Indeed, for Kimball, repentance is important precisely because it helps us march toward godhood:
The problem is not in establishing some sort of eventual, necessary, inevitable correlation between forgiveness and behavior (indeed, I argue that the only way to become truly holy is to have your sins first freely forgiven). Rather, the problem is how Kimball perfectionistically defines the repentance that is prerequisite to forgiveness. I think people like Robert Millet have come to share many of these evangelical criticisms of the book, yet they won’t, for obvious reasons, make such explicit criticism public (so far that I can tell).
Grace and peace in Him who justifies the ungodly by faith, not by works (Romans 4:4-8),
None of which addresses the points I raised about guilt and acknowledgment of sin being a vital part of the repentance process – and accepting Christ – Aaron.
How do you get a saving relationship with Christ Aaron? How is such a process even available for a person who feels he has no need for it? How can a person who doesn’t feel guilty even come to Christ in the first place?
A relationship is TWO people (or more). It simply follows that there is something we ourselves have to do to be in the relationships.
By the way, McKeever’s prop gold plates at Manti have become something of a running joke in Mormon apologetics.
Everyone knows he got his weight measurements off of how much a SOLID BLOCK of pure gold of that size would weigh.
I know he’s aware of the problems with his weight measurements. I assume he’s still trotting them out in the hopes of duping the uneducated. It’s merely a dishonest bit of theater.
You’re still massively conflating the need to convict a person with sin, and the redeeming message of forgiveness and salvation.
I promise you, Aaron agrees 100% with the necessity to be convicted by the magnitude of your sinfulness before you can repent and turn to Jesus Christ. Nobody is arguing that the “first half” of the MoF is off-base.
The problem is the second half: there’s no good news to Kimball’s gospel. The atonement is mentioned only in one paragraph of the whole book, and then (if I recall), not even in the context of a mechanism for being washed clean of sin. It’s ridiculous. Where is the miracle? Is the good news of the gospel really that “if you work hard, master yourself, and never sin again, that you will no longer be a sinner”? That’s not good news at all. That’s not a miracle; that’s the letter of law that killeth.
I think Seth is making a good point here that’s getting lost. There are essentially 2 very different definitions of sin in common usage:
sin1 — a willful or deliberate violation of some religious principle. That is stuff my church lists as bad.
sin2 — any reprehensible or regrettable action, behavior, lapse, etc.; great fault or offense, i.e. stuff that I think is bad and that I shouldn’t do.
The problem is sin1 and sin2 for most people don’t match. When the Mormon church was forming evangelical Christianity was tearing itself apart because slave rebellion and assisting slaves in escaping and rebelling was often on the sin1 list, but most people of the time in the North considered it a morally praiseworthy action, an act of righteousness the opposite of the sin2 list. Recently we are having this debate on homosexual sex where for most people its clearly on the sin1 list and the same as marital sexuality on the sin2 list.
The first question is how do to address the problem with these lists not matching. Churches struggle with this, first by arguing that people should add stuff to their sin2 lists and then if that doesn’t work arguing the bible doesn’t really teach what is clearly did a generation earlier and changing the sin1 list. So for example miscegenation moved from being a sin1, to racism being a sin1; bring sin1 and sin2 into alignment a few decades back.
Now after having defended Seth’s point, I agree with Aaron about the problem that the book from an evangelical perspective:
Which sounds a heck of a lot like the Catholic position that
faith + works -> justification.
rather than Luther’s:
faith -> justification and works
So I don’t think the Kimball is saying anything totally outside the realm of Christian thought. He is unequivocally denying Luther and expressing an opinion that 80% of the Christians on the planet would agree with. So yes that’s a denial of the solas and for the vast majority of Christians all over the world throughout the last 2000 years the 4 of the 5 solas were/are wrong.
Its funny on your blog I’m having to argue with a Protestant that Luther was saying anything at all different than Catholics, while here I’m having to argue that the Catholic position is not so far outside the mainstream as to be a denial of the bible.
Yeah, The Miracle of Forgiveness is bad, bad news and the sooner it can be done away with in Mormon discourse, the better. I will never own a copy in my home, and I am actually outspoken about this with my LDS family and friends.
It has seriously damaged people — myself included — and our making excuses for it is kind of gross.
I don’t usually speak in such strong terms, but on this issue, I feel pretty strongly that we have serious need to repent.
Seth, I hear you about strong words being necessary for people who are “past feeling” — and I know several people whose lives were changed for the better by MOF, so I know it can be effective in stirring people to repentance — but so can hell houses. I still object to the methodology, even if God is good and gracious enough to use it to His advantage.
It should be pointed out that Kimball was not President of the church when he wrote the book, nor did he ever move to canonize it while president. Nor is the book part of the approved missionary library.
Seth, if Aaron wants all of the people out of Mormonism who aren’t willing to repent of their egregious sins, let him have them. If Aaron wants those stupid enough to be duped by him, let him have them too. The book was a niche-market book. It was way over-publicized. It was not meant to be “the definitive work” on repentance.
if Aaron wants all of the people out of Mormonism who aren’t willing to repent of their egregious sins, let him have them. If Aaron wants those stupid enough to be duped by him, let him have them too.
yeah that pretty much sums up the parable of the lost sheep.
Depending on your viewpoint, the parable of wolf in sheeps clothing Tim. Misleading people to convert them isn’t really something I picture Jesus doing. Maybe you think differently, without Biblical support.
BTW, what’s up with disemvoweling Cal?
Preach on Seth! You da man!
I know, seriously! What kind of idiot would believe the words of an apostle of Jesus Christ? Next thing you know people will start believing what the prophet of Jesus Christ says as well. Can’t let that happen.
David Clark, sad times. 😦 I wasn’t being sarcastic in my comment, I didn’t call anyone an idiot, and I spoke about something very personal to me. I don’t believe my response deserves that kind of vitriol.
Tim, the Bible itself does a much better job of confusing the grace/works issue than Kimball ever did.
Which is ironic when you see the cherry picking of BoM versus to witness to Mormons. Its just as easy to cherry pick the NT as a way to point out the inconsistencies in Evangelical Christianity.
FWIW – as a Mormon who sees a lot of appeal in Protestantism and much to celebrate and learn from, my heart was softened, not by street preachers or intrusive pastors taking versus out of context and propping up straw men. It was only when a good Evangelical friend sat down with me, validated my spiritual witness of Jesus in a Mormon context, listened to my views and beliefs and offered his own in a respectful/loving way. That’s when I started to listen. Make a note.
I’m sorry the book caused you harm. My comment was not to make fun or light of your pain. I’m with you, the book is a stinker and almost every single idea inside of it needs to purged out of Mormon culture.
But that’s the problem. The book is both a product of and a contributor to Mormon culture. It was written my someone who is supposed to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, someone to whom people are supposed to be able to turn to for inspiration, or at least advice that is not harmful. The object of my derision is the idea that Kimball and his book can cleanly and neatly be excised from Mormon culture, it is Mormon culture.
If I caused you pain or if you took my comment to be an attack on you, my apologies.
psycho: “The book was a niche-market book. It was not meant to be “the definitive work” on repentance.”
Can you back that up with a source? How do you know what Kimball meant the book to be?
Seth: “But a little context here about who Kimball’s book was directed towards – it was directed towards those in the LDS Church who are living in sin and haven’t even yet gotten to the point where they even acknowledge that they ARE sinning. People who tend to trivialize their problems…”
Same question: how do you know to whom Kimball directed his book?
“…the idea that his book can cleanly and neatly be excised from Mormon culture, it is Mormon culture.”
But it’s not Mormon doctrine—oh wait, that’s another book!
Why he wrote:
Yeah, but SWK’s intent is not dispositive. The book is seen, understood and used in certain ways by Mormons, and that is far more relevant than nonsense about its “official” status which only matters from an internal perspective that believes such a statement is meaningful with reference to the object (as opposed to as a statement about Mormon belief about the object).
I’m talking about the difference between a Mormon theological viewpoint and a religious studies viewpoint. The former is only interesting to outsiders to the extent it sheds light on the latter.
Katie, not that my respect carries much currency in this venue, or that you need it from me, but not only do I have much respect for you and your honesty, I have an empathetic hug for you. Sorry if that sounds superficial, but I mean it.
The irony of the gospel that I want my LDS neighbors to know and celebrate is that restoration does not lead to forgiveness. Rather, forgiveness leads to restoration. “He who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47)
You mean *not* used? The book is a relic man and disparaged more than MoDoc every was. And I’m not talking about the derided “Internet Mormons” either. (I recently attended a Stake Conference recently where the speaker talked abut forgiveness – that is – forgiving SWK for his statements about homosexuals of all things! Hard nosed Stake President sitting close by without refuting any of it)
At a piano recital Connie Raddon spoke a bit on how the Miracle of Forgiveness played a part in her story of coming out of Mormonism. Some here might be interested in hearing her out:
(Beginning at 8m12s)
Jared: so I don’t see anything to support psycho’s or Seth’s statements. Thanks for looking that up.
Kullervo: I think you make an excellent point, and I don’t want my questions about Kimball’s intent to appear to be in contrast. There are two questions: 1) What did Kimball intend when he wrote the book, and 2) What does someone else intend when they give the book to another to read.
And 3) what does the receiving person think and understand when they read it, all of which adds up to 4) what role(s) does MoF play in descriptive Mormonism and what relationship do Mormons actually have with the text.
The questions approached descriptively are fundamentally different than when approached prescriptively (or when approached in a hybrid fashion, looking descriptively and then evaluating the data based on one or another set of prescriptive norms, which is what most of us are doing).
“When needed, full repentance will require action on your part. If you are not familiar with the classic steps to repentance, such as confession and abandonment of sin, restitution, obedience, and seeking forgiveness, talk to a bishop or study a source such as President Spencer W. Kimball’s masterly work The Miracle of Forgiveness.” (Richard G. Scott, “Peace of Conscience and Peace of Mind,” October 2004 General Conference; Ensign, Nov 2004)
We’ve never been in greater agreement.
I’m not familiar with that parable. Can you direct me to it? I certainly aware of the metaphor but I’ve never read the parable.
Christian J said
I think I acknowledged that LDS missionaries are just as apt to do this as McKeever.
I think your personal experience certainly is the more preferable method of evangelism and Aaron granted it’s totally different that approaching a stranger on the street.
WTF, Brian, you need to revisit some reading comprehension skills.
I wrote, “The book was a niche-market book. It was not meant to be “the definitive work” on repentance.”
Maybe you should re-read this part: “[MoF] has the serious purpose of presenting scriptures, experiences and exhortations with the hope that thereby many will be enticed to repent of their sins and indiscretions and set out to purify and perfect their lives.”
Sorry to be condescending here, but Brian, your absolute lack of an ability to connect the dots demands it.
Niche-market book: “many will be enticed to repent of their sins and indiscretions and set out to purify and perfect their lives.” That is the very definition of niche, a subset of people who need something. The book focuses on sexual sin. Now I know that “internet Mormons” such as yourself, see nothing wrong with sexual sin. Maybe the book was written for you. I don’t know. I just know that it never claimed to be the end all, it wasn’t written by President Kimball when he was President of the Church, and it was never canonized. It was an attempt to do good.
And no where in the quote does it claim to be the definitive work on repentance.
Wow, funny Tim, I can’t find Jesus splitting hairs about metaphors or parables either. Would you like to plug your nose while you swallow the camel too?
Seth is telling us that MoF is intended for people who have no interest in repenting (stopping their sin). I certainly acknowledge that repentance is the first step towards faith in Jesus. Without repentance there is no faith.
But even if that’s the audience, telling someone they have to cure themselves before they can see the doctor is not the message of the Bible. I’m all for confronting people with the consequences of sin and leading them to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. But I don’t know how someone’s laissez faire attitude toward their own sin justifies corrupting the message of grace.
I’ll admit I haven’t read the book, only selected passages, but I intend to read it so I can say more about it.
I’m not sure why this needs to be stated at all. Even if he were the President of the church when he wrote it, even if was part of the approved missionary library, even if it had been canonized at one point; it seems modern Mormons don’t need those caveats to reject something that was once influential to the flavor of the faith.
It needs to be stated, Tim, because it shows it’s limited nature and usefulness. E.i., that fact that it IS a NICHE book. Returned missionaries, the majority of active males in today’s church, have read the missionary library. Talmages classic, Jesus the Christ, Our Search for Happiness, True to the Faith, Our Heritage. A much higher percentage of church members have read the BoM. The missionary library has a much larger overlap and usefulness. The BoM, along with the New Testament, have universal importance and impact on all those humble enough to be affected by them. The MoF has limited scope and impact…
psychochemiker: “Now I know that “internet Mormons” such as yourself, see nothing wrong with sexual sin.”
That statement makes me think you’re not for real; that you’re a joke personality someone created to troll blogs. I’ve never thought that of you before, but there it is.
You are usually an intelligent commenter, which is what makes your recent comment even more surprising than it is embarrassing. Let’s look at jsut how ridiculous your claims are:
You stand by your claim that it’s a “niche-market book.” And to back that up you quote that “many will be enticed to repent…” Normally, the word “many” is not associated with “niche.” “A select few,” “some,” specific,” etc. would be more obvious choices. But perhaps Kimball’s thesaurus was mixed up?
You also ignore Kimball’s implication that his book is for everyone:
If “everyone,” “usually,” “normally,” and “all” aren’t the antithesis of “niche” then nothing is. The closest Kimball comes to saying he wrote a niche book is: “This book is only for people with sexual sin; i.e., pretty much everybody.”
But even that tenuous claim is undermined by Kimball’s own extensive list of sins (which Aaron so lovingly quoted above). Incidentally, I didn’t see “making unsubstantiated and unsupportable claims” on his list, so it looks like you’re safe.
“I just know that it never claimed to be the end all…And no where in the quote does it claim to be the definitive work on repentance.”
I see your “reading comprehension skills” lesson and raise you one “elementary logic” lesson. You first made the assertion about Kimball’s intent—that the book “was not meant to be the definitive work”. You now reveal that you based this assertion on the absence of evidence. Which means you have no idea whether Kimball viewed this as a comprehensive guide to repentance or not—a book that sinners of all stripes could and should benefit from. Not niche. Not limited.
I gave you the benefit of the doubt by simply asking where you got those ideas—I thought, “maybe psycho read such and such in the preface, or in a Kimball biography.” And I thought it’d be really interesting to read actual statements that expressed Kimball’s thoughts. Instead, you come back with an empty void of imaginative nothingness. So you can go WTF yourself.
Tim: you said, “Without repentance there is no faith.” Now, I don’t want to reveal my incorrigibly rudimentary reading comprehension skills—perhaps that is an exact quote from Paul himself—but could you elaborate on that. I ask because I would typically think of that the other way around: faith enables and compels one toward repentance.
I think it’s safe to say that repentance is both a one time act and an on going process. Yes, I just contradicted myself.
Few, if any Christians are free from sin once they accept the gift of grace. All must travel a road of discipleship and sanctification, “throwing off everything that ensnares us.”
But at the beginning of that journey there is an act of repentance for living a life apart from God. If a man doesn’t recognize his own sinfulness I’m not sure how or why he would need the salvation offered by Jesus. So I think that initial, one-time act of repentance is obligatory.
This post will help explain the two different types of repentance that Christians submit to. One, the first, is for mercy. The other is for justice
psychochemiker claimed, “Nor is the book part of the approved missionary library.”
As noted by Tim above, “modern Mormons don’t need those caveats to reject something that was once influential to the flavor of the faith.” Heck, the book’s fundamental teachings could be a part of the temple ceremony itself, and it still wouldn’t be “official” enough.
I should add a note responding to psychochemiker’s claim anyway. Mission presidents can add a number of books to the standard missionary library. I need to start asking around more, but the last time I specifically checked (2006), the sister missionaries at Temple Square specifically had the Miracle of Forgiveness on their list of encouraged reading. It really just depends on the mission president. I have even talked to a few return missionaries who say they were specifically told by their mission president not to read the book, as it had been known to wreak havoc on some missionaries. One guy I know who (recently!) got saved on his mission (yes, you read that right) after reading the Miracle of Forgiveness multiple times (having been advised by mission leaders to read it) and then being exposed to the gospel of grace by evangelicals.
It’s a tender spot for many people. Dismissing it because of a disclaimer, or because it isn’t “official” enough, shows not only a failure of compassion, but a failure to understand Paul the Apostle’s intensity in Galatians:
“If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed, but only if it is voted upon and canonized and recently emphasized as official doctrine.” (Galatians 1:9, FAIR translation)
Tim wrote, “I think it’s safe to say that repentance is both a one time act and an on going process.” Yes! I wrote a piece on this here.
Tim: thanks for elaborating. I don’t see any major* disagreements between our views on faith/repentance (or repentance/faith?) now.
* I qualify that with “major” because I worry that I may assuming too much about your view. For example, you say “If a man doesn’t recognize his own sinfulness I’m not sure how or why he would need the salvation offered by Jesus.” And yet, I assume you would also agree that “if a man doesn’t even believe that a God exists (the most rudimentary form of faith), then he won’t feel the need to repent of a life apart from Him—and he wouldn’t trust (faith again) in this non-existent being to forgive him anyway.”
faith in God and belief in God are two different things.
The demons have perfect belief in God. Trust is a better modern English word to use than faith.
I agree with you about Kimball, there is not much there that couldn’t be found in the preaching of most Christians from many other denominations. I.e. don’t sin, if you do, feel bad about it,confess it, make amends, (penance anyone?) and don’t do it again . . . and if you wantonly sin, you are not fit for forgiveness.
” Trust is a better modern English word “
which is why I said “…he wouldn’t trust (faith again)…”
It still seems to me that we aren’t seeing this all that differently (if there is any difference at all).
Exactly and that’s not the only area where I’m finding Mormonism agrees with either Western or Eastern rite Catholicism. Except for vocabulary a lot of the controversial doctrines aren’t that controversial, they agree 80% of the planet’s Christians.
For example Morman ordinances aren’t ordinances in the Protestant/Catholic sense. But a Mormon ordinance maps pretty well to a Catholic sacrament, and once you do that Mormon theology of ordinances is orthodox. So Mormons aren’t Protestants but the theory by which the church grants rites aren’t even all that controversial. They conflict with Baptists and Reformed and agree with most everyone else.
Don’t get me wrong there are still some biggies but I think part of the problem is the comparisons with evangelical Christianity, but Evangelical Christianity doesn’t have a focus on ecclesiology.
Brian J, you wanted some support of my remarks that this book arose from Kimball’s own ministry in dealing with the “tough cases.” A friend pointed me to the following LONG excerpt from “Spencer W. Kimball,” the biography by Edward and Andrew Kimball of his whole life and not just his presidency. The book talks about Kimball’s ministry leading up to his writing of the Miracle of Forgiveness starting on page 378.
In 1969, just before October Conference, Spencer W. Kimball’s book The Miracle of Forgiveness was published. The author meant it as a call to repentance and a guide on the road back from sin.
For years he had said he intended to write no book, that there were books enough by others who had more talent. And for fifteen years he stuck by that resolve, despite the urgings of many who wanted him to write. Numerous addresses at general conference and at BYU had been reprinted, sometimes in thousands of copies, but they had been written as speeches and not as books.
The experience which impelled him finally to write a book was the day-by-day counseling of people in trouble, the week-by-week interviewing of members being considered for responsible Church positions, the interviewing of missionaries as he toured the missions.
He often carried home more weight than he could shoulder and tossed sleepless with what he had heard. It seemed that no sin or human weakness existed which had not affected some or many of those he consoled or challenged. A man faithful in the Church had before his baptism killed a friend in a drunken stupor. Elder Kimball visited an arsonist in one prison, a rapist in another. Alcoholics who had beaten their wives and abandoned their families wanted help. Others struggled with adultery and fornication and incest and homosexual acts and heavy petting and masturbation, a range of sins from those most grievous to those requiring simply a change of direction.
People varied greatly in their reactions. One boy came all the way from Idaho to confess, and the apostle learned that what troubled him was masturbation he had indulged in a year prior to his baptism. On the other hand, an older man expressed surprise that he might be excommunicated for having committed nearly every sin in the book many times over.
A couple from Phoenix came about their seventeen-year-old son, who had gotten a sixteen-year-old girl pregnant. The stake president had insisted that the boy should marry the girl, but his parents had pressured him to reject this because he did not love her and his schooling would be interrupted. Elder Kimball pointed out that for the girl there were these same factors as well as her having the child. If she were willing, the boy should marry her. The father seemed to understand; the mother went out bitter and weeping and castigating Elder Kimball, having come for different advice.
The repentant came for help, the unrepentant for justification. Elder Kimball telephoned a young bishop one day and explained that a couple with him in his office were complaining that because they had slept together just once before their wedding their bishop had refused them a temple recommend. They wanted to be sealed in the temple before the child they had conceived was born, so that it would be “born under the covenant.” They were incensed at the bishop and appealed to Elder Kimball to set him straight.
Over the phone the bishop confirmed the facts, uncertain what would follow. Elder Kimball then went on, speaking to the bishop in the hearing of the couple, to say he thought that excommunication proceedings should be commenced against the two because they were in a state of rebellion, being angered at their bishop instead of contrite at their sin. The startled couple were shaken by what they heard and quickly began to reconsider their position.
Elder Kimball repeatedly noted in his journal the load of counseling he bore:
A brother came in to see me in the morning and spent about two hours with me. His wife had filed for divorce… because of continued conflict arising out of his immorality …. [At 8:30 P.M.] the distressed man of the morning returned, and his wife also, and spent the evening until 1:30 in the morning. I was trying to help him to find his way to repentance so that eventually he might possibly receive his family back.
The entire day was spent with unpleasant interviews: A missionary who was in dishonor; a woman whose husband had deserted her and was in sin; another woman who with her five children had left her husband because of his confessed iniquities; and many other problems. I went home late in the evening greatly distressed and almost ill because of the many problems. I had dinner at noon with ______ who seemed so appreciative of a little moral support, he is going through serious times.
I think I have not for years had so many cases of immorality come to me as in the past few days-broken homes because of infidelity of husbands and wives. I have struggled for hours and hours for the past few days trying to get people to see their situation and to repent. I have come to realize how powerful and subtle is that evil one who makes them think that “black is white” and helps them to rationalize away all their errors and call them virtues when they are base vices.
Moral problems were revealed in other places besides his office. Ordaining and setting apart a long series of men called to positions in a stake, Elder Kimball assumed that all had been interviewed. But when he came to a bishop’s counselor he set his hands upon his head and then quickly asked, “Did I interview you for this position?” When the man said no, the apostle interrupted the procedures and took the bishopric members aside for interview. The bishop, whom he had already ordained, was worthy and delightful. The counselor who had given him pause proved to have been guilty of repeated and gross adultery.
Missionaries in the missionary home, prepared to leave for their assignments, sometimes came to Elder Kimball to confess things they had not had the courage to tell their bishop or stake president. Sometimes they had already changed their lives and needed primarily to make confession and clear their conscience; sometimes they still had to make adjustment. In any event their having lied to those who interviewed them constituted a black mark. Elder Kimball often volunteered to fast with those who needed to humble themselves.
Though he had no patience with sin, he had almost infinite patience with sinners. At one time a new, tougher standard for interviewing missionaries had been proposed for consideration by the First Presidency and the Twelve. Elder Kimball noted, “I made a very desperate effort to try to keep some latitude in our interviews and not let the door be shut too tightly upon repentant young men and women.”
A few times he went into flophouses and bars and gambling casinos in order to help those who wanted him, uneasy though he was at the possibility that people seeing him there might misunderstand.
A woman came up to him in the temple and grasped his hand. She asked, “Elder Kimball, do you remember me?” He was abashed. He could not make any connection. Embarrassed, he admitted, “I’m sorry, I do not remember.” Instead of disappointment, relief lighted her face. “You worked and prayed with my husband and me until three o’clock in the morning. If after these nineteen years of repentance you do not remember me or my sins, perhaps the Lord will also remember them no more.” She pressed his hand again and said, “Thank you. Goodbye.”
A man from the Midwest came to visit, having just been sealed in the temple to his wife and their sons. Spencer recalled the early days of the man’s membership in the Church. His wife had been so bitter, as had both sets of parents, that he had asked several times whether h would be permissible to divorce his wife and move away to escape the intolerable situation. Elder Kimball’s advice was for him to remain and do all in his power to be conciliatory and to convert his wife by being the perfect father. Eventually she had been converted and had become active in the Church, her husband had been named branch president, and now they had come to the Salt Lake Temple to seal their bond.
Although heterosexual sex offenses provided a constant stream of distressing interviews over the years, a changing pattern emerged from homosexuality. In the early years of Elder Kimball’s ministry these problems rarely surfaced, if they existed. But in the 1960s a growing number of cases carne to his attention, partly because he, along with Mark E. Petersen, had received special assignment in 1959 to counsel homosexuals.
Despite the frequent claim by homosexuals that they bad no control over their sexual orientation, Spencer believed that this problem, like all others, would yield to consistent prayerful exercise of self-restraint. He pointed out that homosexuals rarely were excommunicated for their past acts but usually only for their unwillingness to make the effort to change.
Young men with this problem who had been attending BYU had to meet with Elder Kimball for clearance before they could reregister. Some he admitted on probation; others he excluded.
On one occasion Elder Kimball spent four hours with two homosexual boys who left determined to stop their homosexual practices. He interviewed three repentant boys; the one who was not a Church member seemed ready for baptism. One boy to whom he refused readmission to BYU reacted angrily and his father threatened to sue the university for defamation. Several years later the boy wrote Elder Kimball a letter of gratitude from the mission field, expressing appreciation for the apostle’s firmness coupled with love.
At 10:30 came a young man deep in sin who had resisted my helping him. He had ignored two of my letters. I finally called him and he was very curt and almost insulting. He said he had nothing to talk to me about. I told him positively that he had a great deal we had to talk about and that he had better be coming, and so this morning, I had the interview.
He began in a long explanation, stating that I was not qualified to handle his case or to understand it or to help him, and that it was his problem and that he did not wish to be pressed or hurried or pressured. I told him as long as he was a returned missionary and held the priesthood and was a member of the Church that we did have jurisdiction and that we did not intend to let him continue on with his sin; unless he was willing to cooperate, he would need to be immediately excommunicated from the Church. He finally began to yield and was willing to cooperate to some degree.
Elder Kimball met with four Church members in the Northwest, three of them returned missionaries and two of them college teachers. He put his best efforts into the interviews. After two hours “they claim they see no sin in the matter, but that it is merely a new way of life. … I was weary. I had worked so hard and put so much of myself into it trying to persuade them in the very few moments they gave me.” But three months later he noted with delight that two of the men showed “tremendous progress.”
A boy he had helped, and who expressed determination to straighten out his life, sent to Elder Kimball each month a crystal tumbler as a message that he had remained clean. For a number of months the tumblers came, but they finally stopped.
In Los Angeles Spencer met with an engineer who had been excommunicated for homosexual conduct. “I was happy when he was willing to come to see me. When I phoned him, it was dubious, but when he came, I made a soft approach, told him that he was excommunicated and therefore I had no jurisdiction but I had come to be helpful to him-that we loved him, the Lord loved him; we knew that basically he was a good man; and his eyes dimmed with tears and he said, ‘This is the first time anyone from the Church has ever been kind to me in connection with this.'” He was not happy out of the Church. He bore his testimony. After an hour Elder Kimball had real hopes for his recovery.
Even though the total number of such cases was small in comparison to the thousands of devout and faithful people Spencer dealt with, it worried him. In 1968 he personally reported on the situation to President McKay, who agreed to an enlarged committee.
“We have lost some who did not cooperate and were belligerent and went to the large cities to hide,” wrote Spencer, “but I feel there are many happy people today because of the work that Brother Petersen and I have done through the years.”
While his special assignment from the Quorum channeled into his office many people with sexual sins, he continued to face the whole field of human weaknesses in his interviews. There was intolerance or vindictiveness. He dealt with white parents who railed against their daughter’s engagement to a Mexican boy and refused to be present when the apostle married the young couple in the temple anyway. He worked with a husband embittered because the man who had committed adultery with his wife had been only disfellowshipped, ignoring the fact that the wife, whom he had forgiven, was not excommunicated either.
Over the years certain interviews seemed cumulatively a storm of “ignorance, superstition, skepticism, apostasy, immorality.” He spent two hours with a man angrily insistent that the Church should allow prospective missionaries to be examined by chiropractors instead of doctors. He talked in seeming circles with a nonmember boy intent on distributing anti-Mormon literature among college students. He had a long interview with a returned missionary whose fragile faith had shattered over the withholding of priesthood from blacks; Elder Kimball felt “disturbed greatly for his future” and depressed, “feeling that I had done him little good.” With a bishop who was asking to be released because he could not reconcile science and his understanding of the gospel Elder Kimball struggled and pleaded for hours; at the end he “had a feeling that perhaps we had helped to bolster his courage.” One of the apostle’s cousins delivered to him “revelations” which she had received for him, which indicated that upon fasting and praying for three days his voice would be restored and by great manifestations he would bring millions into the Church through her move-merit, called the Mission of Holiness. He spent much time trying to persuade her that the revelations she received were not from God.
All these experiences with people in great need of repentance and forgiveness led ultimately to a book. He had started with jotting down scriptures for people to study, then he developed some lists for recurring problems. By 1959 he had finally decided that there was need in the Church for “an extensive treatise on repentance.” He spent untold hours over the next ten years, primarily during the time in the summer and at Christmas when the General Authorities had no regular assignments and were expected to rest. He never stinted his regular work to write; writing was an extra.
He soon found he had too much material, enough for two volumes. He liked to vacation where he could spread out his papers over several tables. After seven years he had all the chapters roughed out, out the manuscript was still unwieldy.
Finally, by the fall of 1967, the book had been set in type and Elder Kimball had galley proofs to read. But in conference with Marvin Wallin of Bookcraft, the publisher, and Bookcraft’s editor George Bickerstaff it was decided that the book would have to be reduced in size. The author insisted that the price be low enough for the people to afford it for whom it had been written, and the editor felt that the book would be more readable if compressed somewhat. With the advice of he editor, Elder Kimball struggled for another two years to convey the original message in fewer words.
Elder Kimball passed the manuscript to Harold B. Lee, who pleased and embarrassed him by praising it in a meeting of the Twelve. Elder Lee said that on the basis of the half he had read “it was factual and heavily documented and adequate and covered the field beautifully.” Delbert L. Stapley, who had read the manuscript, echoed those sentiments.
Finally, in 1969, the book came from the press. Spencer gave copies to all the Church leaders, to relatives and friends by the hundreds, and to troubled people he counseled-something like twelve hundred copies. He had no expectation of selling a great number. But o his amazement the book quickly sold out the first printing. Less than a year after publication twenty-eight thousand copies had nearly been exhausted and the publisher arranged for a fifth printing. The book became a best-seller. By 1977 more than 250,000 copies had been distributed.
In the thousands of letters from readers a few were negative; one couple who had found a copy in their apartment when they moved in denounced as sick the “sin-fixated, anti-sex author.” But the response was overwhelmingly positive. As a result of the book the stream of people coming to see Elder Kimball about their moral transgressions grew greater still. A woman, repentant for forty-five years of a single adulterous act, came now and cleared her conscience by confessing. A sixty-five-year-old man had been carrying his sins, heavy on his conscience, for twenty-three years. He had read the book three times when be came in to ask Elder Kimball to guide him on the way to repentance. A man who had been excommunicated seven years earlier pointed to the book and said: “That’s what brought me in. You called me a culprit and a sinner and transgressor and that brought me to my senses and I began to really repent and prepare myself for the restoration of my blessings. That book did it!”
For years a mail delivery rarely came without bringing letters of appreciation for the inspiration of The Miracle of Forgiveness.
Seth: Excellent. Thank you! That supports your statement that the book was written for Church members who are sinning but do not accept the gravity of their sin (whatever their sin may be).
(I hope you were able to copy/paste that rather than transcribing it all!!)
If it’s any comfort Kullervo, I made sure to read the whole thing in detail before cutting and pasting.
Yes, it is a little bit of comfort.
Ok, Brian. good to see that you will accept that MOF “was written for Church members who are sinning but do not accept the gravity of their sin.”
Are you willing, yet, to recognize that that subset of the population constitutes a niche (e.i. a specialized market)?
Are you willing to recognize that Kimball never claimed it was the definitive LDS work on repentance?
I don’t think any General Authority in the LDS Church goes so far as to say that one of his books is “the definitive treatment of X”
You never see that happen.
But I don’t think that’s what anyone was asserting here.
Seth, I think they were.
I asserted “The book was a niche-market book. It was way over-publicized. It was not meant to be “the definitive work” on repentance.”
To which Brian said: “If “everyone,” “usually,” “normally,” and “all” aren’t the antithesis of “niche” then nothing is. The closest Kimball comes to saying he wrote a niche book is: “This book is only for people with sexual sin; i.e., pretty much everybody.” ”
Brian’s definition certainly sounds like “definitive”. it’s like he’s buying Aaron’s caricature wholesale for twice the price. I think the tome-like quote you provided characterizes and contextualizes your point quite nicely. And I think it also get’s to mine. While Kimball certainly listed a lot of sins, so many, that every person on the planet probably has claim to a listing in the book, doesn’t mean the book was written for them. Aaron’s out there claiming it is. I’ve pointed out the church doesn’t use it like such. I’ve claimed it has a niche market, Brian says it doesn’t. Then Seth quotes the limited circumstances for which Kimball intended the book.
A book that lists every sin, and says every sin needs repentance is not the same as implying that the book was written for everyone. Hence the niche.
PC- its a bit weird how long you are holding on to this point. Don’t you believe that most all members of the Church sin without recognizing the gravity of their sins?do you disagree with President Kimball on repentance or something? I admit that he takes some really bad stands on how to deal with certain sins, but his analysis of the repentance process in principle is very much in line with current church practice and teaching.
Over 1.6 million copies were sold before 1998, probably at least one copy per Mormon household.
The only niche market he was addressing was Mormons.
Maybe you just want to to be on record that you disagree with everything that Aaron says. . .
psycho: yeah…it’s funny how I accepted Seth’s defense of his statement because, well, he actually defended it. I know I’m kind of a trendsetter in that regard: asking for evidence to back up a claim and then accepting that evidence.
psycho said, “I’ve claimed it has a niche market, Brian says it doesn’t.”
To which I respond: Nonsense! You have a pathetic ability to follow your own griping advice on reading comprehension. Go back and read what I wrote to you. Here’s a little study guide to help you on your way:
1. Psycho makes an unsubstantiated claim.
2. Brian asks for documentation to support the claim (but does not refute it).
3. Jared provides a little excerpt.
4. Brian recognizes that nothing in the excerpt supports pyscho’s claim.
5. Psycho responds with lots of vitriol but still no support.
6. Brian critiques psycho’s fluff response, showing that psycho has yet to back up his claim.
The real issue is whether the chief set of affirmations and principles that Kimball taught are true or not. Sorrow is only one of six repentance-elements/steps that Kimball lists. The rub is element/step five: permanent, successful abandonment of the sinful habit, reaching the point of no return, of not even having an urge to do it again. Kimball teaches that this step is absolutely necessary as a precondition for forgiveness. If someone has a sorrow, he makes it quite clear: that is good, but sorrow is not sufficient for forgiveness. If one is trying to abandon the sinful habit, he makes is crystal clear: that is good, but it is not sufficient for forgiveness. One must complete—successfully and permanently—all six steps/elements of the process in order to then be forgiven.
3. Confession to God (and to wronged parties, and to a bishop if necessary)
4. Restitution (inasmuch as is possible)
5. Successful, permanent abandonment of the sin; reaching the point of no return; not even having the urge to do it again
6. Keeping the commandments (particularly the commandment associated with the sinful habit in question)
According to Kimball, if and only if these preconditions are completed can a person be forgiven. Regardless of any chief target audience, or focus on sexual sin, Kimball never, ever makes this repentance-paradigm limited to people who lack sorrow, or to any subset of people. He teaches this paradigm as universally true, universally applicable, and universally necessary. Kimball makes no exceptions here. There is not a sinful habit to be forgiven for that escapes the above paradigm.
I want to be on the record of disagreeing with everything Aaron says too!
Aaron, the step number 5 isn’t really a problem theologically.
Sure, if you sin again, the former sins return according to Kimball.
But doesn’t that just mean you repent again?
Then you’re all good – right?
Seth, according to Kimball’s paradigm, have you yet to ever be forgiven for pride? (That is a serious question.) I’m probing here to see if you really understand Kimball.
(I won’t be at a computer again until late tonight)
You take the sacrament every week sincerely and you’re pretty much covered.
That’s one of the things it’s for.
I should clarify, the full MoF Kimball paradigm only applies to the most serious sins. Kimball makes it clear those are the only ones that require intervention from Priesthood leaders.
Here’s that list again of only the most serious sins:
Murder, adultery, theft, cursing, unholiness in masters, disobedience in servants, unfaithfulness, improvidence, hatred of God, disobedience to husbands, lack of natural affection, high-mindedness, flattery, lustfulness, infidelity, indiscretion, backbiting, whispering, lack of truth, striking, brawling, quarrelsomeness, unthankfulness, inhospitality, deceitfulness, irreverence, boasting, arrogance, pride, double-tongued talk, profanity, slander, corruptness, thievery, embezzlement, despoiling, covenant-breaking, incontinence, filthiness, ignobleness, filthy communications, impurity, foolishness, slothfulness, impatience, lack of understanding, unmercifulness, idolatry, blasphemy, denial of the Holy Ghost, Sabbath breaking, envy, jealousy, malice, maligning, vengefulness, implacability, bitterness, clamor, spite, defiling, reviling, evil speaking, provoking, greediness for filthy lucre, disobedience to parents, anger, hate, covetousness, bearing false witness, inventing evil things, fleshliness, heresy, presumptuousness, abomination, insatiable appetite, instability, ignorance, self-will, speaking evil of dignitaries, becoming a stumbling block; and in our modern language, masturbation, petting, fornication, adultery, homosexuality; and every sex perversion, every hidden and secret sin and all unholy and impure practices.” (25)
Interesting that heresy makes the list. I hear so frequently that there is no such thing in Mormonism.
Evangelicals believe that those who believe in the salvation of Jesus are forgiven of all sins without any effort. . . but i have heard that they believe those that are not transformed and wantonly sin after accepting Jesus never really accepted him in the first place. Is this accurate? Can wanton sin ever disqualify people from forgiveness of Jesus?
Is this accurate? Can wanton sin ever disqualify people from forgiveness of Jesus?
It shows the bad fruit of a lack of faith or no faith in Jesus. But it can never disqualify anyone. People can always be forgiven, of anything. People can be true believers and fall into wanton sin. Sin is frequently a complex issue. Freedom from sin can only be be accomplished by grace, trying harder will rarely help someone in the long run.
I, like Kimball want people to experience a life free of sin. We disagree on the path to the grace of Jesus and we disagree on the most effective way to experience freedom.
Tim, are you pulling that list from Kimball?
Or from Paul?
At any rate, the prime focus of Kimball’s book are sins that require more than simply private repentance. Mostly, although he mentions a variety of other sins, he focuses on those that require Priesthood leadership to be involved.
And wanton sin is not a bar from repentance in Mormonism either Tim – even according to Kimball. He himself gives repeated examples of people who felt they had simply sunk too low to ever climb out. He delights in telling how he shared the scriptures with them, how he made it clear they could repent, and how happy they were to discover this. The excerpt I shared even mentioned a few such instances.
Are Brian and I the only ones who read it?
I think it’s fairly instructive to say that God will cleanse people from their sins, but not when they are un-apologetically IN their sins.
Interesting that heresy makes the list. I hear so frequently that there is no such thing in Mormonism.
We just had a discussion about this on my blog. Denial of the historicity of the BoM seems to be seen a clear cut Mormon heresy. We are kinda discussing this back in the early 3rd century the Apostle’s creed was a baptismal interrogation. The current Mormon baptismal interrogation seems to be playing the role of the a creed, though the actual idea of a creed is strongly rejected for essentially the same reasons JS gave.
I see nowhere, absolutely nowhere, in the book where Kimball limits his paradigm to any subset of sins. Again, he teaches his six-element/step paradigm as universally true, universally applicable, and universally necessary. Kimball makes no exceptions here. If you want to be forgiven for sinful pride, according to Kimball’s paradigm you need to first permanently and completely and successfully abandon the habit. I also see nowhere where Kimball views the sacrament as something that circumvents his six-step repentance-unto-forgiveness paradigm.
“Your Heavenly Father has promised forgiveness upon total repentance and meeting all the requirements, but that forgiveness is not granted merely for the asking. There must be works-many works-and an all-out, total surrender, with a great humility and ‘a broken heart and a contrite spirit’ It depends upon you whether or not you are forgiven, and when. It could he weeks, it could he years, it could be centuries before that happy day when you have the positive assurance that the Lord has forgiven you. That depends on your humility your sincerity, your works, your attitudes” (MoF, 324-325).
Why such cold, cruel, pedantic attempts here at dismissing Kimball’s book? Where is the compassion for those crushed by it? Where is the passion for the gospel of free forgiveness for the brokenhearted who simply ask Jesus for it? Where is the love for the addicts and the alcoholics and the moral failures and the overwhelmed perfectionists and the thief on the cross?
“No one can repent on the cross, nor in prison, nor in custody.” (MoF, p. 83)
“He who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Jesus)
Yeah sure Aaron.
Kimball’s book made bunnies cry. And makes three new people per Thursday suddenly realize their mommy didn’t love them. Got it.
But really Aaron, what’s so different from what Kimball is offering than what you are offering? How on earth would I know I had been forgiven under your paradigm anyway?
xcpt rplce Mchgn wth Brn.
Here’s that list again of only the most serious sins:
I love how “disobedience to husbands,” “disobedience in servants” and “disobedience to parents” are all specified on the list, but there’s nothing on there about how husbands should treat their wives or masters should treat their servants or parents should treat their children. I won’t fault Kimball for being the patriarchal type, but I will always fault the patriarchal types for only reading the parts of Ephesians 5-6 that they want to hear.
Tim, are you pulling that list from Kimball?
Or from Paul?
There are several things on that list which Paul never mentions or even alludes to, let alone calls a sin.
When discussing sin, my husband will sometimes say to me that “the church” teaches that, when you sin and then repent and commit the same sin and then repent and then sin again, the guilt of the earlier instances of that sin comes back on you and it’s as if you’d never been forgiven in the first place. The only way to be fully and completely forgiven is to leave a sin altogether for the rest of your life. That’s what he honestly believes about sin and repentance and forgiveness.
It bothers me that he believes that. There are some sins that I’ve struggled with for years and may very well struggle with for the rest of my life. I’m glad I don’t think that the only way I can be forgiven is if I, through the force of my own willpower, never do it again.
I don’t understand why some here are trivializing MoF, its message, its intended scope, and its actual influence in the church. If you think its theology of sin is being misclassified by the participants here, then show it with examples from the book itself. If you agree with what it teaches, then just say so and stand by what you believe.
Otherwise, there are clearly some people here who feel that the book has problems. Either agree with them or get out of their way.
Well let’s see. . .
Kimball says you have to work under your own power, for perhaps centuries, and then you’ll finally taste forgiveness.
Aaron says that you receive forgiveness immediately and in addition you gain the Holy Spirit who is the only one with the actual power to help you leave your sins behind. In addition you’re no longer saddled with guilt or shame, which more often than not will drive you straight back to your old demons.
I think Kimball is in direct opposition to Paul
4 Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. 5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.
You simply trust God that he is, and does, what he says he is. Many people experience an immediate freedom from addictive behavior. Others do not. But I believe all of them have a peace about their sin that only comes from God.
I don’t care if the list is verbatim from Paul. Paul doesn’t classify them as serious sins and non-serious sins. All sin is serious for Paul. The difference is that Paul doesn’t think you have to be free from “serious” sin before you can be forgiven. He says he’s the worst of sinners and yet still forgiven.
And despite everything else being said, we all agree with you that someone unapologetically remaining in sin will not experience forgiveness. The issues is how and when can people experience forgiveness when they do wish to repent?
I think this is really callous. As Katie has indicated, the book has done her and others great harm. Your defense to this critique seems to be “So what? We’re Mormons, Damn it.” You, your church and your fellow Mormons deserve better than “suck it up.” You’ve indicated in the past that you think Robinson is on the right track. It seems the proper defense against McKeever on this point is to take hold of your scriptures and reject Kimball.
Lets take the book of Exodus with Exodus 22:18. That set off a witch panic in Europe 1450-1750 that killed, 100,000 people. Another 5,000 roughly in the early roman republic among Jews. In Gambia right now there is a witch panic where about 1,000 people have died or been tortured.
Are you really willing to apply the any book that does harm standard when it comes to your own faith?
I support Robinson because I’ve read him more than Kimball.
I’ve always been cautious about Kimball because I never felt that I had a firm grasp on his ministry. But I’m also highly suspicious that Aaron/McKeever and co. are distorting what he (and the generation he represents) actually said.
The reason for my callous remark is because Aaron’s being emotionally manipulative, and I don’t respond well to drama llamas. Never have. If you want to have a serious theological discussion with me – can the manipulative sob stories. They prove nothing.
I’m one of the “damaged Mormons” targeted by Kimball’s book, as it so happens. But whatever….
Kimball does not boil the Atonement down to “your own power” “for centuries.” The more I’m reading his narrative (mostly in response to this discussion), the more I’m seeing what he’s saying as a part of a broader Mormon tradition of acknowledging that the Atonement is a TWO-WAY relationship. And we – as one of the parties in that relationship – have something to DO on our end. You do have to do something to be a part of that relationship. That saving relationship.
I’ve never heard a Mormon prophet – Kimball included deny that it is Jesus and the Atonement that saves, and that the key to salvation is being in that Atoning relationship.
So really, all we are dickering about here is what our role in things is. What is it we have to DO to be in the saving relationship.
To be honest, Aaron’s critique only works if you are a Calvinist. And a hard Calvinist at that. You have to believe that there is NOTHING that a human being can freely do to be saved – including freely accepting Jesus. You have to believe that the whole thing is predestined, predetermined, and set in stone, with human beings as helpless non-entities being swept along in God’s big plan.
Of course, this has a lot of advantages to some people. Predestination means you don’t have to be accountable. It means that your own actions don’t mean much – so you don’t have to trouble yourself about them. And it means that nothing you do has anything to do with your heavenly status.
Aaron may deny it – but that is the logical conclusion of his stance. And it is that stance from which he attacks Kimball. Because nothing pisses off the “easy-Jesus therapy group” more than the suggestion that maybe what you DO actually matters. Maybe it is possible to reject the Atonement, fall out of saved status once you’ve entered it, or deny your own humanity which is found in God.
But if you aren’t a Calvinist, then this discussion of Kimball merely becomes one of degree, not kind.
That brings up another good point. I wonder how the Bible would fare if someone were to cherry-pick verses from it the way McKeever cherry-picks from the corpus of LDS writings.
Oh wait, we already have that kind of thing – you can find it under the atheist section at your local bookstore under the names Hitchens, and Dawkins.
I’m not a Calvinist and I haven’t seen anything in Aaron’s critique that I would disagree with.
Whether its of degree or kind, I think Kimball recklessly distorted the good news . . . that Jesus came to save the lost, that you don’t have to be clean before presenting yourself to the High Priest.
You do if you want to be sanctified by the spirit.
Which is what the Restored Gospel is about.
Jesus is the High Priest. He makes you clean. You don’t have to make yourself clean to come to Jesus (in fact you can’t)
All Protestants (excepting maybe some Anabaptists) will be in the justification by faith and grace camp. Your singling out of Calvinists is as predictable as it is ignorant.
Good to see the admission that you are talking out of your backside on one hand in defense of your side, while simultaneously being biased against the opposition out of an equal level of ignorance.
Preach on Seth!
So… How do you come to Jesus then? And once you have come to him, how do you stay there?
David, your comment would be more on target if you were making any distinction between justification and sanctification.
As for the rest, I suppose I should retract the part earlier in the thread about you being sincere, correct?
So, CD-Host, what you’re saying is that Exodus 22:18 made some bunnies cry and a few people realize that their mommies didn’t love them?
You don’t have to draw a logical conclusion its explicit doctrine. Calvin (Dordt) wanted to make sure there was no human glory:
The doctrine of Irresistible Grace means you can’t reject atonement.
The doctrine of Perseverance of the Saint means you can’t choose to leave.
Salvation is in effect more than a bingo card you are given at birth (well actually prior to the creation of the world). If the right sequence of balls comes up “bingo” you go to heaven if not you go to hell. And because of Total Depravity agency doesn’t come into play. This doctrine is fairly consistent with what is taught in the bible as read by evangelicals, so I’ll grant that Calvin is logically consistent and his view have biblical support. But wow is it a bleak view of God and humanity.
I do. As far as I understand Mormon doctrine they actually go a bit further than Catholic theology on the notion of sin that is that it must involve a willful violation of conscience at the stage at which it occurs.
Mormon: A man sins when he violates his conscience, going contrary to light and knowledge — not the light and knowledge that has come to his neighbor, but that which has come to himself. He sins when he does the opposite of what he knows to be right. Up to that point he only blunders.
Catholic: Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods… Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.
Evangelical: sin as wrongdoing or transgression of God’s law or will.
So in evangelical Christianity there is this list of stuff, commanded by God and one needs to avoid doing stuff on that list; and if you do fail to avoid doing it Jesus pays the price. The whole system is based on forgiveness.
While in Mormonism there is a process of advancement with respect to sin:
a) Inability to commit the sin / Ignorance of the sin. Not understanding the sinful nature. Which is why in their view young children can’t sin.
“Where there is no law given there is no punishment; and where there is no punishment there is no condemnation.” (2 Ne. 9:25.) “He that knoweth not good from evil is blameless.” (Alma 29:5.)
b) Understanding of the sinful nature but an inconsistency in action. (This is sin)
c) Understanding of the sinful nature and a consistency in action.
d) A full understanding of the sinful nature which creates consistency in desire.
The focus of Mormonism is to advance to (d). Being in a state where you are mostly on (c) sometimes on (b), is having not overcome the sin. But this is taking place in an advancement model (education) not a punishment model. Evangelical Christianity would agree with the 4 steps but the focus there is on the punishment model. Remember the goal in Mormonism is exaltation not salvation. The goal is not to avoid being punished for a sin but to become the sort of being for which that sort of sin would never occur to them to commit.
I don’t think it makes sense to treat a doctrine of atonement and repentance in the Mormon system as if it were being applied to the Evangelical system.
Kimball is arguing from the reality that human beings can and should try to do better.
Aaron/Mckeever are arguing from the concept that human beings can do no good at all.
I think both are a bit out of touch with the actual phenomena of sin and repentance and the consequences of feeling forgiven. Kimball is the hard-edge of Mormon thought, soften it up and it work quite well for the average person. Granted you don’t get the joy and relief that Evangelical doctrine given you.
Kimball is arguing from the reality that human beings can and should try to do better.
Aaron/Mckeever are arguing from the concept that human beings can do no good at all.
I think both are a bit out of touch with the actual phenomena of sin and repentance and the consequences of feeling forgiven. Kimball is the hard-edge of Mormon thought, soften it up and it work quite well for the average person. Granted you don’t get the joy and relief that Evangelical doctrine give you.
Exodus 22:18 made my bunny cry, she loved Harry Potter.
Are you seriously dismissing the horrible torture and death of scads of people in Africa right now at the hands of Pentecostal exorcists and comparing it with “making bunnies cry?”
I’m floored by how callous that is.
At least those Pentecostals are happy in the faith that they are forgiven, even if they are wrong, when they are burning the witches at the stake.
Jared, I think you aptly describe two extremes in thought that can both be called fully “Christian”, but both overemphasize one aspect of it.
And for the record, if I had to compare Kimball’s approach to McKeever’s approach, I honestly wouldn’t be able to tell you which one is ultimately more harmful.
Yeah, because talking solely about justification by faith and grace is proof positive that I can’t make a distinction between justification with sanctification.
Whatever gives you warm fuzzies and pleasant dreams.
Remember the goal in Mormonism is exaltation not salvation. The goal is not to avoid being punished for a sin but to become the sort of being for which that sort of sin would never occur to them to commit.
I think this is accurate. Mormons are not afraid of hell, or that sin will send them to hell. They are worried about overcoming the sin to progress. The belief is that even if you are forgiven, if you don’t continue to chose the right on your own, you are not being sanctified. Mormons focus on the fact that people always have a choice and that God will not allow temptation beyond their ability to bear it.
I appreciate the description as well. But I don’t think it gives a complete picture.
Robert Millet specifically stated that Mormons don’t view exaltation and salvation as separate things. https://ldstalk.wordpress.com/2010/09/17/the-greg-bob-show-hits-santa-barbara/
In addition Mormons frequently explain that failure to reach exaltation would be like going to hell for them.
I would LOVE for Mormons to view their efforts as a sanctifying event but that’s not the case. Kimball’s exhortation that perfection must be reached through hard work BEFORE forgiveness is found doesn’t help.
Seth, I think if McKeever claimed that snow was white you might go out of your way to prove him wrong. That’s having an unfortunate affect on this conversation.
There are some Christians who think McKeever is in the wrong to find anything in agreement with in the Book of Mormon. Their hatred of Mormonism has made them blindly bigoted. They can’t even accept the words of Jesus if a 2 Nephi reference is used.
Don’t take that same path.
Tim, this is a case where familiarity really hasn’t improved the image.
I’ve had repeated run-ins with the “impossible gospel” commandos from the McKeever school.
Maybe privately these folks really do believe in righteous works and that grace isn’t “easy.”
But that is not the face they put forward. I meant every word of it when I characterized the McKeever groupies as the “easy-Jesus therapy group.” And I do consider THAT particular viewpoint as being just as harmful as anything Kimball wrote. That is the repeated message I get from them – a sort of hard-Calvinist annihilation of ANY human element from the Gospel.
I got my fill of this kind of garbage over at MarkCare’s weblog Tim. I also got it from a good deal of the “I Love Mormons” crowd. And I got it over at Mormon Coffee. The overwhelming message that I got – loud and clear – was one of misanthropy, resignation, and futility. But in a warm and comforting sort of way I guess. Like being slowly drugged to death.
I’ve had my fill of this viewpoint Tim. I’ve listened to it for several years now. I think I’ve got a pretty good idea exactly what this faction is trying to say.
And I find it profoundly un-compelling.
Tim, I agree that Mormons often equate salvation and exaltation.
I think it’s because forever-hell isn’t really even on the table for a lot of Mormons. So they’ve moved beyond that (often prematurely), and are fixated on exaltation so much that they forget the whole problem justification was trying to solve in the first place.
Well, what is considered “hell” is relative. Mormon hell is kindler and gentler. Excruciating disappointment is a bit different than eternal torture. Even the unforgiven are only punished to the extent of their sins, which are often considered punishment in themselves.
The problems is not that Mormons see sanctification and justification as the same thing, its that they are only really focused on sanctification. I never had a clear picture of those concepts as a Mormon.
Mormons don’t believe people are saved by our works, only that work is necessary in order to pass the test of mortality.
Right. I don’t even think most Mormons are talking about salvation in the first place.
What I’ve heard is that Mormons consider salvation to mean 3 different things in their theology. Please any of the Mormons out there, correct me if I’m wrong:
1) Unconditional or general salvation, that which comes by grace alone without obedience to gospel law, consists in the mere fact of being resurrected / immortality. This is just a property of the connection between body and spirit.
2) Conditional or individual salvation which is grace plus obedience which is to gain eventual entry into the Celestial Kingdom though usually as a ministering servent.
3) Full salvation which is grace plus obedience plus the restored gospel, the priesthood, and the sealing power, the ministering of angels, the working of miracles, the prevalence of gifts of the spirit; which is exaltation.
So in sense (1) you are saved by grace, in sense (2) you are saved by faith plus work (like a Catholic) and in sense (3) you are saved by Jesus through his instrument the church (again not too different from the Catholic view). Given that they see 3 levels of salvation and Evangelicals see only (1) it probably makes sense to use m-salvation (salvation as defined by Mormons) and p-salvation (Salvation as defined by Protestants) to denote which one you are talking about. The words just aren’t defined to mean the same thing.
IMHO as I learn more about modern Mormonism it seems to have a lot in common with Orthodox Christianity using words from Protestant Christianity. A lot of the disagreement seems to be on vocabulary and stuff that Protestant wouldn’t agree with Catholics on. Dante’s levels of heaven
I bet a lot of Orthodox Christians would disagree with you vehemently.
I always like NT Wright’s take on… well…. just about anything:
Are you seriously dismissing the horrible torture and death of scads of people in Africa right now at the hands of Pentecostal exorcists and comparing it with “making bunnies cry?”
Nope. That’s not what I’m doing.
But you’re right, dismissing anyone’s heartfelt pain and suffering by comparing it to “making bunnies cry” really is callous. Who would do a thing like that?
Someone who is burnt-out and tired of people using our popular victimhood culture as a tool for scoring theological points.
I’ve had my fill of this viewpoint Tim. I’ve listened to it for several years now. I think I’ve got a pretty good idea exactly what this faction is trying to say.
And I find it profoundly un-compelling.
I’m not asking you to find their message compelling. I’m suggesting that you avoid disagreeing with everything they say just because they say it.
If it’s any comfort, I did listen to McKeever’s lecture series on Christian apologetics and found it informative and interesting.
love the video by the way.
So I could somewhat legitimately discuss the book that has become such a hot topic here, I read the first few pages of Kimball’s book and skimmed the rest (I don’t expect to do more than a skim, as I didn’t find the book particularly uplifting and I also feel that portions of it are out of date).
While I agree with many of the criticisms that have been raised, I also agree with Seth to some extent that the book has received a bum rap.
My complaint with the book has more to do with the tone of the book than it does with most of the specifics of content (and, based on what I read, I’d say that the critics have cherry-picked what Kimball says, even though the excerpts are accurate, to exaggerate the tone that I find bothersome). At its heart, what the book does is lay out the proposition that for us to fully discover the peace and joy that God offers us we must turn from sin. That’s not a radical concept. (Well, really, it is a radical concept in light of what it took for Jesus to do this for us. But it’s not radical in the sense of being much different from Christians of nearly all stripes believe.)
But the way that Kimball goes about explaining his views is unfortunate at best. He’s totally right about the destructiveness of sin. And he’s totally right that those who believe in Jesus Christ are called upon to turn away from sin, to repent. But in this book, by placing so much emphasis on the personal effort involved in true repentance (and there indeed is personal effort even though the burden is light), Kimball leaves almost no room for grace. He leaves almost no room for the work of the Atonement and how it can affect how we live our lives. He leaves almost no room for the work of the Holy Spirit. He leaves almost no room for the possibility that true repentance and God’s forgiveness can be simultaneous events, nor that repentance and experiencing God’s forgiveness can be simultaneous processes.
Kimball’s book makes it seem like true repentance is all but impossible, because he says almost nothing about the grace, about the Atonement, that makes it possible. I can easily understand why people could read this book and feel defeated, or why they could become more tempted to turn to some sort of legalism. I don’t think that was Kimball’s intent, but I can see why that would be some of the fruit of his book.
That said, I’m not convinced that Kimball’s central thesis as I understand it — God demands those who trust in him to reject sin — is wrong. But how do we do that — by our self-directed efforts, or though trust in the work of Jesus? At the last General Conference, Elder C. Scott Grow of the Seventy echoed some of Kimball’s themes but put them in the context of the Atonement in a way that Kimball did not. An excerpt (emphasis added):
For what it’s worth, Grow’s talk was well-received in the bloggernacle, and it was one of my favorite talks of the conference. I’m not sure he said anything all that much different than Kimball did, but the tone was completely different. Reading Kimball makes me want to give up, but listening to Grow helped make me want to do what Jesus has asked of me.
To back up my statement that the central thesis of Kimball’s book as I understand it isn’t particularly radical within Christianity, I offer you this (emphasis added):
Source: Billy Graham, “You must repent to be forgiven.”
That repentance is necessary isn’t at all radical.
John Murray, in his delightful little book Redemption Accomplished and Applied said, “Repentance is the twin sister of faith we cannot think of the one without the other, and so repentance would be conjoined with faith.” Latter in the book, commenting on Acts 5:31, he says “Could anything certify more clearly that the gospel is the gospel of repentance than the fact that Jesus’ heavenly ministry as Saviour is one of dispensing repentance unto the forgiveness of sins.”