Second in a 2 part guest post by David Clark. Part 1 can be found here.
If I had to give one piece of advice to both those who struggle with LDS faith issues and those who are trying to help them it would be, “Consider Christianity.”
Those who struggle with LDS faith issues at least initially are looking for ways to maintain their faith in the LDS church. While this is a productive goal, it often becomes counter productive as the doubter pushes the limits of history, plausibility, meaning, and language itself to a breaking point. At some point the bubble bursts and the doubter is left with nothing but doubts, abandoning faith and God altogether.
In a similar manner, for those who help the doubters the only goal is to help the doubter preserve enough faith to salvage membership in the LDS church. In extreme cases the advisor offers advice which denudes LDS distinctives and faith claims to the point of absurdity, eliminating doubt by eliminating any possible beliefs. Often this accelerates the doubter’s journey towards the breaking point of complete abandonment of any kind of faith.
I think that both doubters and their advisors need to learn when to stop trying to salvage all of a person’s faith and learn how to salvage the most important parts. This may not be the ideal solution to the problem, but it is the wise solution.
Take an example from Christianity. Suppose there is a kid who grows up in a very conservative Christian home believing in a verbal plenary inerrantism and has always followed an “everything is literal” hermeneutic. The kid goes to college and now has doubts about both positions. Initially, I think it is fine if parents and pastors try to help the kid maintain his old beliefs. If that works, great!, problem solved. But if this does not work, a choice has to be made. The leaders can define verbal plenary inerrantism and a literal hermeneutic as being absolutely essential to the Christian faith. If they do this, they have likely just minted a new atheist. Or, they can focus on essentials and help the kid maintain faith in Jesus, albeit not in the form the leaders like best. I view the former approach as foolish, the latter as the wise approach.
The problem as I see it comes down to this: Mormons have for many years now absolutely insisted that they are Christians, and during this time Mormons and Christians have been arguing about this. The only aspect of this debate that I really care about is in how Mormons treat doubters. If Mormons are Christians, then for the most part they are taking the foolish approach in the previous paragraph, because they are insisting that Mormon distinctives are essential to the Christian faith. If they are not Christians, then of course one needs to maintain Mormon distinctives, and their approach to getting people to stay in the LDS faith is wise. This is a real issue, with lives and souls on the line, thus it won’t do any good to pretend that this is a false dichotomy or that you can have your cake and eat it too.
My hope is that Mormons are Christians, and that they will be wise Christians. Thus when dealing with doubts, both the doubters and their advisors need to learn to wisely preserve essentials when it has become obvious that the distinctives have been lost. I hope that seeing Jesus as Lord, worthy of worship, is one of those essentials that gets preserved. Unfortunately, I have seen little, if any, of this. Sure, on the blogs and message boards when no real souls are on the line, the Christianity of Mormons is debated and fought for tenaciously. But when souls are on the line, keeping a Mormon inside Christianity (that’s not LDS) is usually seen as not important at best or a complete failure at worst. If Mormons really are Christians, this has to change. If Mormons are really Christians, there has to be some efficacy in being a Christian. Unfortunately, my experience is that a devout Christian and a well-behaved atheist are seen as pretty much equivalent in Mormons’ eyes. It’s no mystery why so many ex-Mormons opt out of Christianity and become atheists, well-behaved or otherwise.
To understand your position, if Mormons want the title Christian they should look at people who leave the Mormon church for Protestantism the same as a Protestant would view a change in denomination?
That would be one way of going about it. Protestants are fairly liberal about denomination changes, so I doubt that can be expected from the LDS church anytime soon.
But even in the most exclusive of Christian organizations there is a sense that even though they are Brand-X Christians, there still is some merit/salvific power in being Christian of Brand-Y. Maybe not for all other brands. For example a Southern Baptist might consider Catholicism beyond the pale, but they are not going to consider every variety of Brand-Y Christianity to be without merit.
So then a Baptist who exits to join the Mormon Church, bringing with him his “essential” faith in Christ, but morphing it into the Godhead of 3 distinct beings…is still a “Christian” in the Baptist’s eyes? His new LDS faith after all, doesn’t change his belief in the atonement of Christ. Nor in the reality of the resurrection. It just adds a belief in the B of M, temples, priesthood, apostasy and restoration and the clarification of the Godhead. Right? Good to go still as a “saved” Christian right? I sense the scenario posed in this posting is very one-sided and would hardly bear up if the table was reversed. So, in reality–evangelicals would mourn the loss of the corrupted ex-baptist now in the clutches of the Mormons (without even considering that his faith in Christ is potentially the same or stronger), but would simultaneously proclaim that a Mormon leaving their faith would be served best if the Mormons found some magical hybrid position, which the Baptists themselves don’t claim as possible. In my opinion, a Mormon who leaves the faith largely doesn’t embrace “orthodox christianity” simply because it solves NONE of the mysteries they couldn’t figure out among the Mormons, and adds a whole slew of new conundrums to the mix. If they can’t accept the Mormon Godhead, why would you presume that makes the Catholic-based Trinity more logical. Hardly. Some Mormons simply realize that if LDS theology isn’t right, why is the born-again theology any better. Frankly, it’s even less logical a belief system than where they are coming from.
Well the tables can’t be turned with that scenario. Baptist don’t view LDS as Christian.
I would agree with Tim. For instance someone would have to explain how the atonement works outside of a trinitarian framework.
David, I need you to clarify: Are you suggesting that the essentials of Christian faith can be found in Mormonism? Is the Trinity a deal breaker for you personally?
It doesn’t really matter if I think that the essentials of Christian faith can be found in Mormonism. The real question is: Do Mormons, who claim to be Christians, think that there is any salvific power in being a Christian, while not also being a Mormon (which includes any proxy posthumous Mormon making in the temple)? If yes, why not help people towards Christianity when faith in Mormon essentials are lost? If no, why claim to be Christians? Please, no answers to the effect that mainstream Christianity is a good consolation prize for those not able to hack Mormonism, that’s not what I mean by salvific power.
As for the essentials of Christian faith, they can be found in the Book of Mormon. But this also means that any offshoot from Joseph Smith’s church has access to these essentials. I also think that given current organizational teachings and structure, some Smith inspired churches have easier access to these essentials and freer ability to live them publicly. For example the members of the LDS church have it better than the FLDS church. In turn members of the Community of Christ are better off than the members of the LDS church. As for the Trinity, the Book of Mormon teaches a version of modalism/Sabellianism. While this is a heresy, it’s much closer to the Trinity than is tri-theism or multitudes of gods approach in the modern LDS church.
David said, “As for the essentials of Christian faith, they can be found in the Book of Mormon.”
Yes! You got it, David.
Since you know that’s true, why don’t you classify the LDS as Christian? Do you think LDS falsehoods cancel out those essentials somehow? If so, how?
David, your post suggests a charitable/liberal view of a Mormons potential to know Jesus. I’m just clarifying it. You should know by now that my queries are sincere most of the time – not an attempt to theologically trap you.
Now that I’m clear, I can say that I appreciate your post and think its a good model for Protestants to follow – essentially ditching the “other Jesus” nonsense.
Or, they can focus on essentials and help the kid maintain faith in Jesus, albeit not in the form the leaders like best. I view the former approach as foolish, the latter as the wise approach.
Which is precisely the opposite of the choice evangelicals did in fact make. Evangelical Christianity came from the groups were expelled or left the seven sisters churchs. I wrote a post on the history of this break Gresham Machen.
Take Gundek, if he is willing to answer, whom I consider a very knowledgeable conservative Christian. I don’t think he sees Adolf von Harnack / Rudolf Bultmann style Christianity as a legitimate Christian faith. My guess is that he would believe that a liberal Christian is likely in need of salvation and that Liberalism is not Christianity but another religion. Many wouldn’t go that far. But the reason Evangelical churches don’t join the NCC is because they reject liberal Christianity. There are evangelicals in the seven sister churches but they are in a constant rear guard action.
The differences between Mormonism and Evangelical Christianity are far greater than the differences between Liberal Protestantism and Evangelical Protestantism.
So getting back to main point, as the other thread pointed out, the historical problems in Mormonism are not helped by evangelical Christianity, it is just as bad. A vibrant Liberal Christianity conversely might help those problems. That might be worth talking about.
I was someone who did in fact try that switch from being an evangelical to being a liberal and it was not so easy. For me after having been brought to faith in Baptist evangelical style Christianity, liberals suck at preaching, and that killed all but the high church experience. And more than that, the people in liberal churches aren’t struggling. It isn’t 1940 anymore., Rudolf Bultmann is out of fashion even in liberal congregations. I caught Liberalism when it was at the bottom of the trough but at least then there was no vibrant liberal theology. Mainline churches are experiencing a rebirth so it might be better now and … well Mormons aren’t known for great sermons either so I doubt my issues are applicable.
But of course the most obvious liberal congregation for Mormons I would think would be Church of Christ. My somewhat ignorant opinion is that if the LDS and the CoC made peace, that is where I think your program could be best implemented.
Do Mormons, who claim to be Christians, think that there is any salvific power in being a Christian, while not also being a Mormon (which includes any proxy posthumous Mormon making in the temple)?
The problem is, I don’t think that Mormonism holds that there is “salvific” power in the rest of Christianity. At least, not more so than what could be found in any other religion.
Gundek asked: “For instance someone would have to explain how the atonement works outside of a trinitarian framework.” It works just fine. In “the beginning” Christ, as a divine member of the Godhead, under the direction of his Father created all things. Christ was the Jehovah of the O.T. and all His attributes and claims carry cleanly into LDS theology. Christ, then left his divine realm, came to earth via Mary, atoned for our sins, died on the cross, and took back up his immortal life as the first fruits of the resurrection. The LDS concept doesn’t require–and is cleaner in logic–without the trinitarian framework. In fact, to the LDS it avoids all the conundrums of the trinity notion. (How was God running the world while he was an embryo in the womb? How is Christ his own Father? Why did Christ show subordinate deference to His Father if he was the Father simultaneously? His enigmatic answer to Mary in the garden tomb that he had “not yet ascended to my God and your God, my father and your father? His dying words on the cross, “Father into thy hands I commend my spirit”?, etc.) Voila. No trinitarian framework required. The Godhead model fits seamlessly.
And I think Tim misses my point that it is precisely BECAUSE of the inability of “Christians” to extend the title of “fellow-Christians” to Mormons, that this entire line of argument is weak. I pointed out that a baptist who joins the Mormon Church, in theory brings all his Christology with him, with no diminishment of the divinity, omnipotence, or reliance on the atonement of Christ, as a new Mormon. At most, one could claim nuanced changes in what some of those terms mean, but not in the terms themselves. He believed in the saving and divine nature of Christ as a baptist and he believes still as a new Mormon. Yet, the baptists would NOT view him as a valid “Christian” anymore. Should they soften their interpretation to his “Christianity”? Mormons certainly don’t view our defectors entering other denominations as “non-Christians.” On the other point of this thread that an ex-Mormon could and should embrace something, rather than atheism, I agree that would be ideal. But I find it a bit hypocritical that you strain at the gnat of an ex-Mormon becoming “nothing”, (tragic as that is I agree) yet embrace the swallowing of the camel without a question that an ex-“Christian” becomes “nothing” (read non-Christian cult member) if he joins the Mormons. Or at least many would view him as “lost”. Some at this blog would accept his continued Christianity as a Mormon, but they’re in the minority. I get the point of the thread, but I’m showing the backside of this argument, which exposes the condescension and hypocrisy and arrogance of attributing “real” Christianity only to ones-self, while denying it to Mormons. That is an intellectually empty presumption in my opinion.
The problem is, I don’t think that Mormonism holds that there is “salvific” power in the rest of Christianity. At least, not more so than what could be found in any other religion.
I think that is true, because Mormons believe the salvific power is in Jesus . . . and he loves you regardless of your religious affiliation. He’ll do right by everybody, no matter what.
I don’t want to derail with this, but Garth it appears you believe that we believe in Modalism rather than Trinitarianism. I can understand the confusion but we’ve never thought that the Son was simultaneously the Father. We believe that the Son and the Father (2 persons) are both simultaneously God (1 shared essence).
I don’t think it is hypocritical. Traditional Christians consistently expect the unorthodox (no matter how that is defined) will end up in hell. Without the right brand of Christianity, you truly do become “nothing”. This is not by preference or bias, but by theological necessity.
Mormons don’t really believe it works that way, so they can consistently believe that you can still maintain some connection to God outside the Church, or even outside Christianity. To the traditional Christian, there is no connection to God, but through a true belief in the correct view of Jesus. Everybody else is fallen, lost and rebellious.
I think that is true, because Mormons believe the salvific power is in Jesus . . . and he loves you regardless of your religious affiliation. He’ll do right by everybody, no matter what.
I would have said that it’s because Mormons believe salvific power is found in the priesthood, and only the LDS church has that.
I don’t see that. Mormons that I am close to don’t mourn the dis-affection of those close to them as if they are going to hell. This is because there is no consternation that the salvation Christ brought is not going to cover everybody to the extent they want. Excommunication from the church doesn’t condemn you to hell, it is seen as an opportunity to re-start on the journey to exaltation, not as a denial of salvation.
An LDS person leaving the fold is sad in the same way that it is sad when you can’t be at your child’s wedding. It seems that when an orthodox Christian leaves the fold, it should be sad like it is sad when your kid gets hit by a car.
What Mormons get wrong or uptight about is perfectionism, they screw up the grace issue, not by relying on the priesthood and church to save them, but by relying on themselves to be perfect. The Priesthood and the Church allow for the delusion that you can be perfect now without grace. However, salvation from hell is pretty much sorted out by being a good person.
However, few LDS strongly believe that the priesthood is arbiter of salvation, only a tool to bring society closer to God and to to fulfill a specific mission. The priesthood is an obligation and opportunity to become godlike, not a way to avoid hell. As a brand of universalists, the LDS believe the salvific power of Christ applies far more widely than the Church.
Jared’s great point is not just a contrast to the OP, but also one of the leading reasons that ex-Mos don’t go running to Traditional Christianity in the first place. I’ve never heard anyone say, “the Mormon afterlife is too generous! I need more hellfire in my theology!”
Mormonism is demi-universalist in that it affirms that virtually everyone regardless of religion will obtain one of the levels of heaven. In that sense, there is no “hell” in Mormonism. However, both the Bible and the LDS scriptures talk about “hell” or “punishment” or “damnation.” Mormons alternatively interpret this as (1) getting sent to outer darkness (which is nigh impossible for the average human being to do); (2) being assigned to one of the lower kingdoms; primarily telestial, but any reward lower than exaltation may be regarded as “hell”; (3) being assigned to spirit prison, which is a temporary state. So in this sense, there is a “hell” in Mormonism.
Just as “hell” has multiple natures and uses in Mormonism, so does “salvation.” Salvation can mean: (1) being resurrected and assigned to any of the heavenly kingdoms, which was pretty much guaranteed for everyone regardless of religion via the atonement of Jesus Christ; (2) obtaining exaltation.
A person can obtain (1) without the priesthood because it was effected by a priesthood holder (Jesus Christ) on their behalf. (2) is 100% unobtainable without the priesthood. Thus mainstream Christianity possesses salvific merit in neither sense. It does not effect (2) because it lacks the priesthood, and it does not effect (1) any more than any other religion in the world. Christianity can certainly refine a person and make them better people, but so can any other religion.
Hence Bruce McConkie can write:
“A pertaining to man’s existence on this earth, priesthood is the power and authority of God delegated to man on earth to act in all things for the salvation of men. It is the power by which the gospel is preached; by which the ordinances of salvation are performed so that they will be binding on earth and in heaven; by which men are sealed up unto eternal life, being assured of the fulness of the Father’s kingdom hereafter; and by which in due course the Lord wil govern the nations of the earth and all that pertains to them. (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine [Salt Lake City, Ut.: Bookcraft, 1979], p. 594; citing Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., pp. 136-200.)”
I know of plenty of ex-Mormons whose families were absolutely distraught and heartbroken over their loss of faith, and plenty of unbelieving current members who are too afraid to break the news to their families for that reason.
Jared, thanks for your wonderful proof by demonstration.
I don’t want to get into a discussion that my Jesus is bigger than your Jesus, but as Tim pointed out the issues you equate to trinitarianism simply are not reflected in orthodox theology. You should also understand that a Baptist joining the LDS would also be abandoning a significant amount of orthodox Christology, the incarnation and hypostatic union jump off the page.
I will admit that Mormon Christology confuses me, but people generally don’t want to explain it.
As we all know, there is a wide range of opinions on these issues in Mormonism (as with most things). I have been there, watching some of my siblings lose faith, and seeing my parents reaction. But, like I said, in principle there is an order of magnitude of difference in the pain over not being able to go to the temple with your family member, then believing that they will be condemned to hell for eternity.
Also, The Priesthood that McConkie is talking about is larger than the church, and its ultimately synonymous with the power of Christ delegated to man. Mormons believe that God created the worlds by power of the priesthood. So in that sense the Priesthood writ large is the power of salvation. But the priesthood on earth, held by men, is only a small and elementary part of that Priesthood which is held by God.
I certainly believe that Christ’s priesthood is the sole arbiter of salvation.
You should read the letter Salt Lake sends to people who have their names removed from the rolls if you need more hell fire.
I agree Harnack and Bultmann’s theology doesn’t preach well.
One of the benefits in believing in the sufficiency of the atoning work of Christ is that I don’t have to judge the souls of other people. The conservative view is that Christ is sufficient to atone for all sins including bad theology. There is of course promised benefit to hearing the Word preached and having the sacraments administered.
David, I am not sure what you think I am exemplifying, but am interested to know.
I am not advising people on how to remain faithful, nor have I abandoned all faith in the face of historical problems with Mormonism.
David or anybody,
Still trying to wrap my head around the thesis. How would the separation of the apostate forever play into dealing with doubter. It seems that the stakes are different, hell and eternal banishment. Mormon eternal families of banished people, presumably are affected by the decisions of apostate. Having your son, daughter, husband banished must effect your eternal happiness?
Gundek, not sure where you’re getting the “banishment” concept out of LDS theology. That’s really not a part of LDS theology, and in fact exalted beings can hardly be seen as limited at all. They conceptually can go where they want and visit whomever they want, as the gulf affixed between the kingdoms is a one-way gulf only. (No upward mobility, but plenty of downward mobility.) So if a kid “blows it” and for whatever reason is less than he/she could have been, they’re still not damned or burning in hell. They still can come to Christmas dinner, but maybe the folks will just have to have it at their place instead of the mansion on the celestial cloud.
And you mentioned; “I will admit that Mormon Christology confuses me, but people generally don’t want to explain it.” Where were you that you met Mormons who don’t want to explain their religion? Wink wink nudge nudge. Most people can’t shut them up on explaining their Christology/religion.
To Jared; You must have an Alpha-based, over-achieving ward where you live when you comment; “What Mormons get wrong or uptight about is perfectionism, they screw up the grace issue, not by relying on the priesthood and church to save them, but by relying on themselves to be perfect. The Priesthood and the Church allow for the delusion that you can be perfect now without grace.” Really? I’ve not seen that so much in my 56 years in the Church. Perfectionism is not the goal of the members I associate with, nor myself. You’re surely aware of the hundreds of GA quotes and commentaries clarifying that perfection cannot be achieved in this world. I do agree that I know “people” (some of whom are coincidentally Mormon), who may have anal-retentive, or perfectionist personalities, but seems to be more because their Mom made them eat all their vegetables before dessert, more than because of religious theology. I admit the Mormons stress our “actions” more than evangelicals but that’s a very low bar to measure up to. Since “grace alone” theology is the evangelicals watch-word, it doesn’t take much to make the Mormons appear more practically “action” focused by comparison. But that’s hardly what I’ve ever perceived as striving for some phobic or literal “perfection” without needing grace too.
If leaving the LDS church “cancels the effects of baptism and confirmation, withdraws the priesthood held by a male member and revokes temple blessings” and “the temple endowment blessings are as essential for each of us as was …. children born in the covenant to become part of an eternal family.”
How is that not banishment? I’m fine with using any another word expelled, exiled, cast out etc. What ever you find acceptable.
My question stands, what are the consequences for the eternal happiness of someone that has a eternally revoked family member and would these consequences influence the advise they give with respect to another religion?
Mormon eternal families of banished people, presumably are affected by the decisions of apostate. Having your son, daughter, husband banished must effect your eternal happiness?
Again, there is no clear answer here. Some believe that righteous parents will be with their children, but the children will not be with the rest of the family. But, tere is no set way these questions are answered.
However, the doctrine I have heard is that parents who are faithful, will not be without their children in eternity, regardless of their children’s rebellion, and even if the children rebel.
See: Boyd K. Packer Conference address:
Packer, quoting Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and Orson Whitney explains that
Garth, to be honest, in my years in the church I have rarely seen Mormons beat themselves up over imperfection. However, I have met people that felt that church involvement drives them to question all of their actions. This is not necessarily a bad thing, self evaluation can be a very good thing, but it leads to an oppressive worry about life. I know many who have felt an enormous relief when they leave the church for this reason. I think this is a cultural thing rather than a doctrinal thing, but it does exist. I am sure the same phenomenon occurs among the devout of all stripes, not just Mormonism.
Also, Mormons don’t generally or talk about the liberation that Evangelicals do. I think this may be the most striking difference between Mormon worship and Evangelical worship that I have seen. Mormons are not constantly rejoicing in salvation in a way that Evangelicals are. The concern for being a “good member of the Church” puts a damper on the realization that sin is no more through Christ. Grace is the bedrock of the gospel in both cases, but Evangelicals believe it is handed out with a lot less “red tape”.
maybe its analogous to an “in store” rebate and one where you have to fill out the form to get your money. It always feels more like a gift when you don’t have to jump through the hoops of filling out the form and sending it in.
Jared; My experience as to your “rejoicing” observation is similar, but I rather prefer the LDS version as I find it jives with the Bible better. I’ve never been able to rationalize jettisoning all the obedience and endurance and righteous living verses embedded in the N.T.. In my opinion, evangelicals only emphasize the “justification” part of salvation, in which Christ’s grace justifies us to his Father. But they de-emphasize or even skip all together the “sanctification” part of salvation, in which we mold ourselves into His image by our will and choices, learn obedience, and endure to the end thus becoming sanctified beings and true disciples of the Master. Mormons put their emphasis perhaps more on the latter, simply because it’s the one part that only we can do. Therefore, you correctly observe that we don’t spend every Sunday in a euphoric jubilee of celebration. Mormons have an equation that would read “Justification + Sanctification = Salvation.” Evangelicals math would read; “Justification = Salvation”. Believing that you have “nothing we can bring to the table”, or that “God would view our efforts like we would view the cat who brings its master a dead mouse” is all just sophistry and nonsense in my opinion. So if that means we don’t swoon in spiritual zeal when patting ourselves on the back for being saved, so be it. We should emphasize it more perhaps. But not so much more that we lose sight of the dual parts of true salvation.
I used to think that, but having met Evangelicals like Tim, I see that Mormons may be missing something important by not really emphasizing the joy of salvation. How I read the book of Mormon, we don’t ” mold ourselves into His image by our will and choices, learn obedience, and endure to the end thus becoming sanctified beings and true disciples of the Master. We should be submitting to his will and allowing God to mold us, using what we bring to the table. Evangelicals don’t pat themselves on the back, quite the opposite, joy is not the same as self-congratulation.
Even if they overstate the insignificance of human efforts toward sanctification, there is no reason to downplay the joy of salvation like Mormons often do. There is nothing in the scriptures that says Mormons should not enjoy the euphoric jubilee of celebration every day, and every Sunday, just like Evangelicals do.
I don’t see why Mormons should ignore the spirit of Paul’s message. In that they have a lot to learn from Evangelicals. Joy is good all around, especially when you have scriptural justification. Isn’t the “Good news” that you can be happy and rejoice, even while you remain an imperfect creature?
I can grant most of that. I may be a bit tainted because so many of the evangelical services I’ve attended are 90% “interlude”–i.e. music with very trite lyrics, generic hands-in-the-air swaying–and yet very little substance. I’ve been to others with a great sermon and some meat that feeds the mind too. But the praise for praise-sake alone has seemed kinda superficial and is not my personal cup of tea. To the degree one likes style A, vs. style B is maybe more personal preference. I grant that may ring someone else’s bells, but I want a message, with some doctrine, and some education, and not an Amway convention. Personal preferences.
Thanks for the link Jared,
Once you get past “families are forever” the eternal family seems to create more questions than it answers.
This is such a boorish stereotype, it’s not even mildy amusing.
Unfortunately, I think its pretty standard amongst LDS
I think it works fine if you take the whole Mormon gospel into account.
a) You have the possibility of multiple mortal probations.
b) You have the possibility for progress in the various spiritual kingdoms.
c) You have greater degrees of punishment for more serious crimes but with a reasonable cap.
d) You have proxy baptism for the dead which ties into the sealing rituals that allow families to live forever together.
In the end that whole system allows for a God that is both just and merciful. a-c allow for both justice and mercy and (d) allows for the good news for all people not a small subset.
Honestly I have far bigger problems with the Protestant systems. Your system has a God that essentially flips a coin: tails you go to hell, heads you get your will over powered and are saved. (Yes I know the arguments on double predestination…. but I find them totally illogical). That God is random, justice is essentially irrelevant on earth or in heaven.
Now Tim’s God is neither just nor merciful. There is no justice because essentially all crimes have the same punishment and the only way to avoid the punishment is to play the get out of jail free card in time. So that God is not just and semi-merciful.
I don’t see how the Mormon doctrine of salvation is problematic at all.
I think think the reasonableness and fairness of the Mormon plan of salvation vis-a-vis the black and white view found in Protestantism underlies some of the reason people leaving Mormonism do not “Consider [Protestant] Christianity”.
This, coupled with typical Mormon stereotypes of Protestantism, and bad Christian models found in Protestantism– including televangelism –seems to be a bigger barrier than the way Mormons attempt to alleviate doubts regarding faith in Jesus and the Church.
Protestantism is harder to swallow coming from the Mormon perspective because the inerrancy/infallibity of the Bible is already in question. Its hard to support Protestantism if you cannot fall back on a deep faith in the Bible alone as a basis of faith. And once you start questioning the validity of prophets/apostles and their authority to speak for God, Paul starts looking a lot like Joseph Smith– a guy with a vision who has a lot to say about Jesus.
Faith in the Bible as authority seems to be the key here. It seems that David’s position boils down as a practical matter to a call for Mormons to rehabilitate the Bible as a source of truth. i.e. If Mormons are Christians they should push doubters to the Bible. Doubting Mormons have invariably had spiritual experiences connected to Jesus and the Church. But without a strong belief in the Bible, its hard to translate a faith in Jesus into a conversion to Protestant Christianity.
Tim, before you level the boorish charge, the second part of that quote you skipped about “we bring nothing to the table” in our salvation, and the “cat bringing a dead mouse to its master” were not from me. Those were direct quotes from an evangelical pastor explaining the concept to me of “grace alone”. Was he “boorish”? Or is it my fault to believe what I’m told by devout evangelical pastors with PhD degrees in divinity? I am aware that most evangelicals view sanctification as an after effect of grace, and the LDS view it as a building condition towards grace. That was my point and is I believe accurate. That hardly requires a rebuke to simply state the differences in how we view the sanctification process and if I err, please help me understand. Otherwise, I think my comment was accurate and fair and did not merit a rebuke. I am pointing out the differences in our equations. Perhaps I should have corrected the evangelical to state “Justification = Salvation + Sanctification”. But even with that “correction” it still places sanctification on the wrong side of the equation in my opinion. You can dislike the equation, but it doesn’t make it inaccurate that I’m aware of.
I think the problem Tim had was when you alleged that Evangelicals [jettison] all the obedience and endurance and righteous living verses embedded in the N.T..
This isn’t the case.
Jared — B I N G O
That’s perhaps a fair point and I can accept the phrasing was poor. I was referring however to the concept of salvation among the LDS as requiring BOTH Christ’s “justification”, AND man’s “sanctification”. Both in fact on the front end of the equation. And in that context, since grace-alone theology only requires Christ–and justification alone on the front end of the equation–then I think the point is valid, even if the word “jettison” sounds too dismissive. Of course, they agree that once achieving grace it would be appropriate to reflect that grace via the evidence of a Godly walk…after the fact. Then, on the back end, they would add in the concepts of “obedience, endurance and righteous living.” But truth be told, the difference in our salvation theology is really just about that simple. I should have added that “obedience, endurance and righteous living” are…hmmm, what’s a better word…”non-essential” as regards achieving salvation in evangelical theology. I should have acknowledged that they would view them as subsequent fruits perhaps, but even then, non-essential fruits. Is that a valid summary then? Since the purpose of my commentary though was to explain why the LDS are less “celebratory” and more “roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-to-work”, then my point should have made that clear. Evangelicals need only celebrate. The “work” is done for them. To Mormons it’s a “partnership”, with the joyous part yet somewhat in the future, after we do our part too. Mormons view it more as a work in progress. I think both concepts are found in the Bible. I’m not concerned with which version one prefers, but it better explains the reasons why we have different “celebration” expressions in our theologies.
I think Evangelicals view it just as much as a partnership.
We’ve been called to be ambassadors to Christ’s ministry of reconciliation. We’ve been saved by grace through faith SO THAT we can do many great works.
If you want to say Mormons believe sanctification comes before salvation, have at it. I don’t disagree. But you can quit trying to describe yourself in terms of what Evangelicals don’t do. We do the same things you do, our motivations are different. Say that.
Still trying to see how your suggestion would work. When would the Mormon adviser point know when it is time to cut bait and point a doubter to another Church?
Thank you for saving me the time with the pretense that you wanted a serious dialog, it normally takes longer for the sovereign God to turn into a coin flip.
Heck, always feel free to save time with me by skipping opening rounds. And you are absolutely right this is where the objection tends to go. And there is a good reason it tends to go there, because it is far and away the biggest problem with TULIP. Sure, Dort can assert things like, “The cause or blame for this unbelief, as well as for all other sins, is not at all in God, but in man”. But they can’t successfully argue for them, because the entire theology points in the opposite direction. Arguments like, quoting Frame, “a mere privation of rectitude; consequently, being itself a thing purely negative, it can have no positive or efficient cause” don’t make any sense. So they end up getting rejected. If there is a hole in my tire that is spoken of as the cause my tire is flat. Even though I fully admit entropy is the positive cause and in a universe where entropy ran backwards my tire, even with the hole, would remain inflated. Dort’s argument on this, an assertion by trying to separate cause and ordination is nonsense.
This charge against unconditional election has remained unanswered since Calvin, and arguably since Anselm of Canterbury, in any sort of meaningful way for good reason, it is true. I’ll grant that Calvin’s interpretation is most faithful to Paul, but even within the bible there are different stands that make for a far less convoluted theology. So most Christians sects draw from those standards and the Calvinist view remains a minority one because it completely divorces human morality from salvation. So what is there to discuss that hasn’t been beaten to death 500 years ago?
The Catholic (and also sorta Mormon position) that faith plus works provides justification rather than faith provides justification and works (per Luther), ends up fitting far better with the notion of a just God. Luther was wrong, and Joseph Smith was right to break with Luther on this. I think it would help Mormons like Garth to embrace the critique of Protestantism at Trent, that unequivocally rejects sola fide, for exactly the reasons Garth originally mentioned. Yet again another area where Mormons hold a Catholic view, but don’t seem to be aware of it.
Based on my experience as member of LDS Church and my experience with my wife’s Evangelical family, I have to say I agree completely with you on all points. As an outsider looking in, I view Evangelical theology and culture precisely as you do; however, I should stress that I am an outsider looking in and so most of my understanding on Evangelical believe is derived from preconceived notions and speculative reasoning. Tim’s last response to you raises a few questions that I am honestly curious about:
1) From Tim’s response it sounds like God calls individuals to be saved and does so selectively. How does God determine who will be saved and who will not?
2) If God calls people to Christianity so that they will do great works, why does God not call all to Christianity so that all do great works?
Chris, I’m a bit confused.
But in response, I believe God is calling all people to be saved and that God is calling everyone into Christianity.
This is one of those situation where wisdom will have to take priority. There is no checklist or easy answer to your question. This is the same situation other Christians are in, and they struggle with it and make foolish decisions all the time. I’d simply be happy if people at least considered Christianity, right now anything other than the LDS church is considered a loss and a failure. I’m also under no delusions, this almost certainly will not happen. For all of the push for Mormonism to be identified as something Christian, there is very little meaning in that term for most Mormons. It’s just another category that is convenient for PR and missionary work.
The cynic in my says we need to set up a hotline to CD-Host who will give the exact right answer, every single time. He has assured me his expertise is beyond reproach in relativity, the creation of the New Testament, bass fishing, arctic survival, open heart surgery, topology, chiropractic, MMA fighting, golfing, and intergalactic space exploration. Adding advising Mormons on when to cut bait seems like a simple skill to add to his tool set.
Hmmm… trying to figure out if it’s even worth responding to the comment above from David: ” For all of the push for Mormonism to be identified as something Christian, there is very little meaning in that term for most Mormons. It’s just another category that is convenient for PR and missionary work.”
Possibly the silliest statement I’ve read on line for quite some time. Are you serious? Do you even read our literature? Have you read the B of M, where frankly the common criticism from anti’s is that it is TOO rich in Christology specifics to reflect Jewish literature? Have you ever watched a General Conference session? Do you really think we’re “feigning” a belief in Christ so we can “play” you? I’m aghast but again, find the condescension and beam within the eye is so blinding that I can only invite you to improve your perspective. Here’s a challenge for you: Go to lds.org, click on any of our publications, from the B of M, to any months edition of the Ensign, and simply do a word search for “Christ”, or “Jesus”. Then tell me that “there is very little meaning in the term Christ for most Mormons.” And that is simply a surface word search and the least effective way to understand the rich and profound depth of Christ in our theology. Just because you don’t agree with aspects of our Christ-centered theology, is no excuse to claim it doesn’t exist. Do you somehow think our rejection of “creeds” equals our rejection of Christ? Christ at our core exists in every bit as real, profound and interwoven a way for us as it does for you. I’d invite you to inform yourself first, then see if the dismissive and trite comment you expressed is fair.
So you agree with David’s original premise that it would be okay for a disaffected and struggling Mormon to leave the LDS church and join with another Christian church?
p.s. that’s exactly what David did. he converted from Mormonism to Methodism.
Well, first, that has nothing…NOTHING to do with the comment I just made. It’s not me, a latter-day saint, impugning your or David’s “christianity.” Of course David can join any thing he wants. And no Mormon would ever say he’s a “non-Christian” if he joins the Methodists. My mother was Methodist and a very Christian woman. Her father was a circuit rider for the Methodists and totally Christian. David’s belief in Christ is in tact whether he joins the Catholics, Baptists, or Evangelicals and anyone who knows Mormon theology knows that we don’t consider other denominations “non”-Christian. Such an attitude would be arrogant, condescending, and presumptuous, wouldn’t it. “Let them worship, how, where or what they may.” For someone who thought my unintentionally dismissive comment earlier was “boorish”, I would think you’d know it for real when you see it. I recall this website is dedicated to bridging gaps, not rationalizing them.
Try reading more.
Given my 35 years as an LDS member and my studious habits, I would lay down serious money I’m more familiar with it than you are.
At least 25 times.
No, the criticism is that it reflects a 19th century Protestantism with a matching Christology. That it doesn’t match Hebrew (not Jewish) religious practices circa 600 BCE is just a freebie.
Very faithfully when I was a Mormon. I will always remember with fondness being taught to not wear earrings and not play penny poker.
There is meaning in the term Christ for most Mormons. And, that’s not what I said, so allow me to explain it one more time. There is very little content in the term “Christian” for most Mormons. By that I mean there is very little in the way of Mormons identifying in any way with other people who do believe in Christ. And, there is very little meaning for Mormons in believing in Christ outside of the Mormon matrix. Salvation/Exaltation/Eternal Life/Whatever you want to call it, is found inside Mormonism and is inseparable from Mormon authority and Mormon ordinances, full stop. Any use of the term “Christian” apart from that fact is little more than a categorization for most Mormons. In Mormonism, Christian has no more salvific content or meaning than does Muslim, Buddist, Hindu, Atheist, Republican, Democrat, Trotskyite, Anarcho-Syndicalist, Housewife, Jainist, etc. In short, there is no more advantage to being any one of those things than any other, because they all carry the same possibility for Exaltation out side of Mormonism: none.
This is what I would like to see change.
David. Then using the desire you state for the LDS to extend their concept of salvation to the universal umbrella of all Christendom, are the LDS likewise saved in the view of that very Christendom you think we exclude? It seems if you feel that the Mormons exclude all but ourselves from salvific acceptance in our theology,–a charge which I would dispute– then how does evangelical Christianity usually say that Mormons are “unsaved” without blushing? Isn’t evangelical theology the pot calling the kettle black? “Accept us Baptists as saved, you Mormons, but oh, by the way you’re going to hell.” On one hand you would wish that Mormons extended salvation (though obviously you mean exaltation) to other Christian denominations, with no strings attached, while telling the LDS to use the servants entrance in the back simultaneously. Though you make no distinction between salvation and exaltation in your own theology, yet evangelicals are upset that our celestial distinction can only include those who eventually receive ordinances you reject in the first place. And since we believe that is offered to all mankind, it’s hardly fair to say we view that as excluding anyone. If you’re just looking for the salvation of eternal rest and peace in a Godly state of paradise, our theology already gives that freely to all who believe in Christ.
For all the study you claim, you seem to miss the real heart of the LDS message of salvation, which is that God is no respector of persons. You seem to think that because LDS theology allows everyone to encounter Christ–(including Anarcho-Syndicalist, whatever that is)–either in their mortal or post-mortal state, that this negates the advantage of those denominational Christians who leave this life already bonafide Christians. Not at all. Their relationship with Christ is valid and grants advantages, regardless of whether they were LDS. Their hearts are their own and the souls they forged in life are not brightened or diminished by what LDS ordinance was or wasn’t on their checklist. The real scenario-flip is not so much who the LDS exclude from heaven, (which includes even the unenlightened) but rather who we include in Hell (which includes only the enlightened). To say that we feel we have more to offer to fellow Christians of other denominations is nothing different that what you say to the Mormons. For us to be “accepted” of you would require we abandon all that is “Mormon”, and far more completely, than for you to be “accepted” of the Mormons. I’m not really seeing our message of “this is the Gospel” as being any more “excluding” than is your message of “No, this is the Gospel.” In fact it has never been the Mormons who say things like “Evangelicals worship “another” Jesus.” So your protest that Mormons see “very little meaning…in believing in Christ outside of the Mormon matrix” is an odd statement. Do you see lots of meaning in believing in Christ outside of the evangelical matrix? Were you as a Mormon convinced that your Lutheran friends worshipped the “wrong” Jesus or were damned souls, or isn’t that more likely your view of the LDS now that you’ve accepted the creedal beliefs? I just get the sense that you want the LDS to become inclusive, without realizing what that really means and being unable to come anywhere near it yourself in your own theology.
Well Evangelicals aren’t claiming Christian-inclusivism with Mormons. So Evangelicals are clearly opting themselves out of the question of whether or not the LDS church is a legitimate place to worship and find salvation. Where Evangelicals are Christian-inclusivist they are generally more than comfortable if people find worship more satisfying within another denomination.
I’m really curious about your response to the original post. Let’s assume you’re a bishop and one of your members expresses his doubts and misgivings about Joseph Smith’s claim as prophet. Could you recommend he pursue Christ in a Protestant, Orthodox or Catholic church? If your son told you that was the plan of action, would you be comfortable with his decision?
I think the main point is well-reasoned and useful: if Mormons want to be included in Christianity then they in turn must be more inclusive as well.
But I don’t agree that the desire to be labeled as “Christian” is inseparable from that question; i.e., it can be and often is a completely different issue.
I also believe, fwiw, that trying to build acceptance between our faiths that would allow me to feel fine about a friend leaving Mormonism for Methodist, Evangelical, etc. is untenable. Your beliefs are wrong and misleading and I see no reason to train myself to become comfortable with that.
Opting-out of a questions means one chooses to remain neutral. We both know that is not true on this question. So you’re asking for the LDS to be inclusive to you while your side “opts-out” of being inclusive to us. Reminds me of the saying “Everyone has the right to believe what I believe.”
I’ve actually been in a bishopric for 11 years, the last 5 as bishop. If someone has lost any aspect of their faith then of course we try to build upon what remains. In this new age where cynicism is “cool” and boundaries are viewed as archaic, some people let go of the rod and wander off on strange paths. Especially young folks searching for “themselves”. For one to “question” is a good thing if they couple it with humility and seeking answers honestly. Hopefully the questioning makes them stronger. Sure some members choose to leave, as in any denomination. They are welcome to become whatever they want and if you know LDS theology you should know that we do not view them as damned or lost. We do not even presume they are leaving celestial potential, since God will judge in a level of fairness that we cannot perceive.
For those who go further than Joseph Smith doubts, to accepting Darwinism, rejecting the Bible, or any other -ism, one would first try to answer their questions and address their doubts. Often misconceptions can be intellectually resolved. If the doubt springs more from a life-choice, like shacking up or partying is more alluring than pesky morals, sometimes that can be addressed too. But if, for whatever reason, someone wants to leave or join denomination X–and they are not able or willing to be convinced, then I wish them well, pat them on the back and help them exit the LDS Church with the best feelings possible. Only someone with a burning, unquestionable “knowledge” cross over into unredeemable, as Peter discusses, and thankfully, most of us will never have the opportunity to be a Judas.
The LDS are built upon a doctrine of free agency, even including it as the major principle of the war in heaven, the pre-existence, and the reason for the plan of salvation in the first place. How can we make free will the underlying tenet of so much and then quibble when it is exercised in a way that we would not choose for ourselves. That’s not our call. I would rather someone find a comfort-zone they CAN live with, than have none at all. I live in MI and 95% of the people I deal with are not LDS, with all the joy and love in my relationships with them as anyone else. Their great achievements and character are not contingent on whether they hold the same theology I do. I do not view them as lost or damned or “lesser” people, assuming that they are honest in their convictions. For “ex”-LDS who leave, more power to them and I hope they find happiness. I still view them as my “brother/sister”. I don’t judge their eternal destiny since that’s impossible to know. I certainly accept that their choice may have a consequence, as most of our choices do. But even God in LDS theology seems quite magnanimous towards those who choose what I would view as a lesser path; (D&C 88:17-33) If my child left the church formally, or just apathetically drifted away, I would certainly regret their decision “because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.” But if they find happiness and purpose as a Baptist, or whatever, I would accept that as their choice and enjoy their progress on that alternate path. The ideology of leaving the church equating to damnation and ruin is not an LDS concept, though if you reverse the scenario, your theology would have to struggle with that if they enter the LDS faith, not mine.
Garth let me be clear so you don’t think I’m being coy. Evangelicals are not inclusive of Mormons. We don’t opt out of the question because we’re being neutral. We opt out because it does apply to non-inclusivist.
If you really want an Evangelical answer it is obviously a “no”.
Simple question: Given a well behaved atheist and a well behaved Christian (not LDS), what advantage does the Christian have in the afterlife?
I don’t self identify as an evangelical. So, yes, I see meaning in believing in Christ outside of the Evangelical matrix. I also see meaning in believing in Christ in an Evangelical matrix.
As an LDS my central problem with other Christians was that they did not have authority to administer the necessary ordinances for salvation. A secondary concern was that they did not believe in the correct LDS doctrines.
Of course my view of the LDS has changed, that’s why I left.
Be as exclusive as you want. As I said in the original post, my main concern is for those who are doubting the LDS church. They are never pointed towards anything other than Mormonism. Since I think that for most people LDS apologetics are atrociously bad, this means that the LDS church is largely an atheist manufacturing plant vis-a-vis doubters. I’ll say that again because I’m sure someone is going to have a cow, this is with respect to doubters, not the unquestioning Mormon. If LDS are Christian and it means something to believe in Christ, then I would hope doubting Mormons are pointed in that direction once their belief in LDS distinctives are lost.
The LDS message is generally that only the LDS church has the authority to perform ordinances and those ordinances are absolutely necessary for salvation/exaltation (please no semantic games).
Mormons rarely formulate criticisms in terms of worshipping Jesus, it’s not LDS vocabulary. LDS are more likely to say, “their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” (JSH 1:19)
Or things like this: “What! Are Christians ignorant? Yes, as ignorant of the things of God as the brute best.” (John Taylor, JD 13:225)
Or like this: “Believers in the doctrines of modern Christendom will reap damnation to their souls (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p.177)
I think David Clark’s critique is correct that Mormons would regard a well-behaved atheist and a well-behaved Christian on pretty much equal grounds in the hereafter because what’s important to Mormons here is the concept of “well-behaved.” Mormons just do not put as high a value on believing the correct theological axioms in this life. It would appear that God doesn’t either, otherwise He has done a pretty crap job of disseminating His “salvific” principles to about 99.9% of all the people who have ever lived and died. Of course it means something to believe in Christ. But given the numbers it can’t mean that much unless God is a douchebag.
I’m open to being convinced otherwise, Tim. I don’t see any other way around it.
So based on your logic, becoming a Mormon must be even less significant than becoming a Christian, right?
I think your math is off, but if you’ve taken your thinking this far, there is little I could say that would convince you otherwise short of “100% are on the narrow road.”
In this life, yes. But compared to the numbers of people who have lived and died without a knowledge of either, there’s hardly a difference.
It can’t be that far off. I think there’s somewhere around 30 billion homo sapiens that have lived and died since they emerged in the last ~100,000 years of earth’s history. So what are you saying? 3%? 5%? Even the most generous estimates leave you with a worldview where the vast majority of humanity is left in “salvific” darkness.
I think David is correct that Mormons view a good atheist in the same way as a good Christian, mainly because they believe God judges people based on the works and intentions of hearts and that people will be punished for only their own sins, and not the original sin of Adam.
This does not mean that Mormons don’t care if people continue to believe in Christ. But they generally believe that other Christian denominations are apostate, misguided and corrupt, and generally anti-mormon. So I can’t see any shift toward encouraging disaffected Mormons to go to another church happening any time soon. I think at least part of this is due to competition that exists between Mormons and other churches for converts and the antagonistic stance other Christian churches have against Mormonism. Mormons make massive efforts to convert people from other denominations of Christianity. Its hard to accept the situation when one of your team wants to play for the other side. If the two groups were more in harmony on anything, I think you might have a different story.
Also, I don’t understand what you mean by this.
If I don’t say “Every person born at every time is on the narrow road to the Kingdom of God” you will say that God is a d-bag.
Oh. Well in that case you would be mistaken. Got anything else?
So what would be the minimal acceptable answer?
my guess is the threshold on the d-bag label is somewhere between 45-65%.
David Clark: “…the LDS church is largely an atheist manufacturing plant vis-a-vis doubters. I’ll say that again because I’m sure someone is going to have a cow, this is with respect to doubters, not the unquestioning Mormon.”
Do you have any data on that—showing that people who leave Mormonism are more likely to become atheist than people leaving other religions? I asked Tim a similar question recently. My recollection of the Pew Forum’s study (and one other that I can’t recall right now) is that LDS, RC, and Protestant are all on about equal as far as “atheist manufacturing.”
On your question about well-behaved atheists vs Christians, I’d agree with what others have said more or less. I would say, however, that I’d be surprised to find a Mormon who would prefer that a loved one leaving the LDS Church became atheist as opposed to remaining religious. Anything but LDS would be seen as a step down, but atheism would be several steps down. Isn’t this somewhat similar to how Christians view conversion within Christianity: i.e., a range of acceptability within Christianity where, for example, an Evangelical may be slightly disappointed when his son prefers Protestantism but would not be at all thrilled when his son converts to Catholicism (or vice versa)?
I’m curious how you (and Tim) would answer a version of your question: “Given a well behaved atheist and a well behaved Mormon, what advantage does the Mormon have in the afterlife?” Tim has said in the past that he believes that people who die without a chance of hearing the Gospel will be judged according to their hearts/intents (maybe not his exact words, but anyway….).
Hehe, I’m not sure that you have to put a number on it. For example, if 100% of the human population sent themselves to hell by conscious choice it would be difficult to implicate God in such a scenario.
Here is a formal proof of my argument:
1) Anyone who would set up a system you can only be saved from an eternity of hell by being a Christian in a world where most people haven’t been/aren’t/won’t be through no fault of their own, is a douchebag.
2) God is not a douchebag.
3) Therefore, God did not set up the system in 1)
My argument fails if you can dispute any part of 1). It seems like you want to dispute the number part but you could just as easily dispute the part about being a Christian (which is what I do) or the fault part, or whatever. I’m open to being corrected.
So this is the kind of thing I was looking for. If this is true, then we agreed and I’m not sure why he responded to my earlier comment with his one-word non-answer of “wow.”
the LDS church is largely an atheist manufacturing plant vis-a-vis doubters.
It would help if traditional Christianity was a more attractive belief system. Mormonism pokes very important holes in traditional Christianity. What David Clark seems to be asking is for the LDS to go easier on the traditional Christian position, at least when doubters are involved. That is a tall order because many of the Mormon criticisms of traditional Christianity make a lot of sense.
well I didn’t really understand your comments as pertaining to those who’ve never heard the gospel, rather than those who didn’t hear enough of the gospel. Evangelicals also have a strong view of God’s simultaneous righteousness and sovereignty. So we can easily assume a scenario where only 1% of the human population accepts God via their own free will and it would never occur to us to call God a d-bag for not making sure more were saved.
I don’t believe being well-behaved provides anyone any advantage. So if the Mormon goes about life thinking that it’s his own behavior that offers him salvation I don’t think he has any advantage over the atheist. His sins might garner him a more terrible punishment in hell but his “Mormonness” offers him nothing. I’d say the same about a well-behaved Evangelical and a well-behaved atheist. My only concern for them is the level of trust they put in Jesus.
Jesus didn’t die on a cross so well-behaved people could point to their own efforts.
Are my efforts to understand the Trinity in vain?
Tim: At first I thought you didn’t answer my question. Then I realized that you didn’t answer my question and that that was in fact an answer to my question. Thanks!
“So we can easily assume a scenario where only 1% of the human population accepts God via their own free will….”
You’re speaking only on behalf of Christians who believe in free will though. What do you have to say for those who don’t? (And yes, I am asking you to speak for them because, well, in the spirit of this post you claim them.)
Calvinist are chiefly interested in expressing the sovereignty of God. They recognize that God is good whether or not he created us and he is good whether or not he saves us. He’s not required to save us any more than he’s required to save dairy cows. (where’s Meph’s moral outrage that there is no salvation for mosquitoes?)
His choice to save us is an expression of His mercy not an expression of His lack of justice. Mercy can not be demanded.
Why not word that like this: “His choice to save
usonly some of us is an expression of His mercy—and favoritism—for only some of us, not an expression of His lack of justice”?
I will say, either way, that you’re using a very different definition of justice than I would. I would also totally disagree with the idea that God is not required to save us (or dairy cows). (Even godless scientists who use animals in experiments have a sense of ethics.)
Absolutely agree (except with calling Evangelical Protestantism with is a 19th century religion “traditional Christianity”). We are two threads and like 200 messages into this and we still haven’t seen a single response which addresses:
a) A decent response to the Mormon critiques of evangelical Christianity.
b) How the arguments that apply to the LDS church founders and their literature don’t apply equally to the founders of evangelical Christianity and their literature.
Neither counter is addressed at all.
As I’ve said before Mormons are Hermetic Christians. Other hermetic Christian sects don’t see their closest cousins as being evangelical Christianity. Other Hermetic Christian sects, Christian spiritualism, Thelema, Theosophy, Anthroposophy, Rosicrucianism…. strike me as meeting what Mormons seem to want:
1) Drop the parts of Catholicism / Protestantism they don’t like, like the trinity and eternal damnation.
2) Get to keep ideas like eternal progression, heavenly mother, Mormon materialism… they do like.
3) Incorporate and encourage rather than reject their embrace of historical study.
The issues I see it with Hermetic sects are:
i) Their membership tend to be Democrats not Republicans.
ii) All these sects combined are way smaller than the LDS church.
which seems like much less to overcome than the problems with evangelical Christianity.
Your real problem is simply faith. Faith is a single piece. You cannot have part of faith.
If the Book of Mormon is not true, then the Bible is not true.
If Joseph Smith was not a prophet of God, the Jesus is not the Christ.
This assumption is the very thing I’m questioning though. My hang-up is not so much about the proportion of souls that end up in a saved condition, but whether or not any significant proportion is in a position to make an informed decision to accept God in the first place. If you’re saying that it’s a mystery how a just God can be the architect of such an (ostensibly) unjust plan, I can accept that. But then surely you can understand why Mormons, doubting or otherwise, wouldn’t.
Brian, Don’t get after me for explaining a position I don’t agree with that I only assumed at your request.
Tim: I apologize if I came across as getting after you. Try to see it from my perspective: you accept Calvinism’s Christian bona fides, even though they believe in a God that is (again, from my perspective) radically different from your own; i.e., the very reason you reject Mormonism. Your claim to kinship—no, that’s not strong enough—your claim to fellowship with Calvinists makes you at least somewhat responsible for explaining their point of view—or, explaining it in a way that makes it acceptable enough for you. No? Christians who deny free will are not, in your mind, the embarrassing uncle that you wish you could un-relate yourself to. You choose to be related to them.
So if I’m getting after you it’s because I don’t understand your perspective, or I don’t understand Calvinists to see how their God is not more offensive to your beliefs, or…something.
I should point out that I can’t confidently dissect the parts of your answer that are of the forcibly-assumed Calvinist position from the parts that are your own Evangelical beliefs. Maybe you disagree with every bit of it as much as I do, but I can’t tell. So again, please excuse my persistence, but I’m trying to understand not accuse.
I am going off my experience in talking with and observing people who leave the LDS faith. In my experience these persons overwhelmingly become atheists.
I’ve had mixed reactions to my conversion, some people think it’s a good thing to be a Christian, others have reacted even more negatively when I said I had joined another church, more negatively than they reacted when I just shared that I had lost my faith in the LDS church. In any case, that’s beside my point. My point is that I never once had a person encourage me to remain a theist and a Christian outside of the LDS church.
Like Tim, I don’t find the concept “well-behaved” as being the proper criteria for membership in heaven. None of us is well-behaved.
Only fellow Mormons think that Mormon arguments against Christianity are at all convincing. Ironically, many doubting Mormons irrationally cling to these same arguments after they have jettisoned just about everything else in the Mormon belief system.
Non-Mormons tend to find secular arguments against Christianity much more convincing. But, I’d like to point out two things. First, I have rarely heard ex-Mormons cite these as reasons for not investigating Christianity. Second, the secular arguments against Christianity are even more effective against Mormonism than they are against Christianity. For example, arguments against the reliability of the Bible make utter mincemeat of the Book of Abraham.
Murdoch and Mephi, might I suggest a class in basic logic?
Only fellow Mormons think that Mormon arguments against Christianity are at all convincing.
I disagree, I think only traditional Christians find Mormon arguments against traditional Christianity unconvincing.
As a missionary it was always easy to convince people of a pre-earth life, a complexity in the afterlife based on our works and desires, the reasonableness of not requiring all people that don’t hear of Jesus to go to hell for eternity, a God that was a personal literal father rather than something ultimately indescribable, the reasonableness of God delivering revelation to more than one small group of people, etc. In fact, MANY adherents to traditional Christian sects believe many of these things even when their official theology denies them. These were convincing positions even when people ultimately reject Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.
I would have said the same thing to Murdock. My “formal proof” was kind of a joke, but I’ve repeatedly said I’m open to being corrected and have gotten little in the way of substantive responses, this one included.
On the flipside, I would venture to say that whatever magic you use to justify a place for obvious forgeries like the pastoral epistles in scripture would apply equally to the Book of Abraham.
My experience parallels Jared’s. And I would add that most people, though devoutly “Trinitarian” in technical alleigance, still agree it’s in the mumbo-jumbo camp of theology. When you actually talk to them about Christ and God, they do not tend to combine them into one essence in their actual mental image. When you then study the Trinity, vs. what’s in the actual bible, it’s certainly not hard to see why an “ex-Mormon” doesn’t suddenly run to an even more confusing definition of God found in Christendom.
Kudos by the way to the 3-point logical “fail” earlier of Mephibosheth. No one in this thread has even tried to punch a hole in that, other than the lame attempt to say that how dare we question God’s right to be unfair and unjust. I’ve heard that argument before and it made me laugh then too. To claim that God can do something blatantly UNfair or UNjust is hardly logical if we also in the next breath affirm that as God he “just is” fair and just. And no, I don’t buy that one can pretend a mysterious new definition applies to “just and fair” that escapes our comprehension on earth. If I go further and say that not only does traditional Christian theology NOT save 99% (or 97%, whatever), but that He further brags about torturing them for all eternity in a lake of fire and brimstone–I suddenly become even less disposed to worship a God who dares call that “justice”. This single LDS doctrine of salvation for all who accept Christ on earth or in the afterlife, is the balm of Gilead to me, and the main doctrine that keeps me from pitching Christianity in the trash bin of nonsense with Odin and Zeus. No,… there are plenty of reasons to not buy into the traditional Calvinist or Catholic version of Christianity. Rather than blaming the Mormons for an “atheist factory” for our immigrants, why not blame yourselves for having no acceptable raft to keep them afloat?
Data on “religious disaffiliation” published in the Journal for the Social Scientific Study of Religion does show that Mormons who disaffiliate overwhelmingly become atheists. Most of those who do not become atheists become Catholic. Also, Mormons have almost the lowest rate of disaffiliation of large denominations. Data is for the USA only. Data is for adults only.
Well it seems David has his answer. Christianity is a vile, insipid and demonstratively false belief system that can not stand without the witness and testimony of Joseph Smith. The connection Mormonism has to orthodox Christianity is tenuous at best and not by any means a favorable one. It’s a wonder that Mormons would be so insistent that they be labeled in conjunction with such a vapid worldview.
. . . and when people ask me where I see poor fruit in Mormonism I’m always left speechless.
Accept the mystery 🙂
Indeed I do fellowship with Calvinist. Part of the reason I fellowship with them is that it is reciprocal. They accept my baptism and will break bread with me. The LDS church won’t fellowship with me even if I or Cal desire it.
The other part of it is that the predestination/free will debates are completely unresolved in the Bible. I can make my own case for both sides. Neither side really takes on the nature of God as clearly expressed in the Bible the way Mormonism does. The Calvinist position may challenge what we view as the character of God but not his nature. I can understand justice and mercy as two things completely different than one another. I also think that Jesus himself challenged the notion of “fairness” and pointed toward justice and mercy in the parable of the workers (Matthew 20:1-16). So if I were to be convinced of Calvinism I wouldn’t think that my definition of justice or mercy would be changed.
Justice is getting what you deserve (we all deserve death because of sin)
Mercy is not getting what you deserve (God in his mercy delivers us)
Whether or not God makes his mercy available to all people doesn’t change the definition of justice. Mercy by its very definition isn’t “fair”.
Well that’s the one place where Christianity stands apart from all the other world religions. So I’m not at all surprised to hear you were able to find agreement with that. It’s the one thing I expect everyone to reject on passing reflection.
Tim is partially right. I would urge Tim however not to take the LDS desire to be largely disassociated with historical Christianity as if it equates to being disassociated with Christ. When you state: “It’s a wonder that Mormons would be so insistent that they be labeled in conjunction with such a vapid worldview (as Christianity)” I think you’re missing the point. We claim to be associated with “Christ”. Hence we claim to be “Christian.” Has nothing to do with claiming to be another branch of “Christendom” as a historical lineage. At no point has the LDS church ever made an attempt to claim Christian derivation via Catholicism or Protestantism. We have never sought permission from others to exist. We can be fully “Christian”, without being granted that claim via “historical Christendom.” If you own the title of “Christian” and have the franchise rights to dole it out to others, I must have missed the memo. (Truth be told the Catholics would own it anyway, not the Protestants if you insist on historical approbation.) What part of claiming our “Christianity” requires that we associate ourselves to “Christendom”? (Other than in the most generic sense.) Since the LDS view the post-apostolic era as rank with corruption and apostasy, what is our motivation to have more than a tenuous connection, in the context you’re using? Granted we use the same term “Christian”, since English gives us no alternative. And I would hasten to add that the LDS don’t ostracize the other Christian denominations, as we acknowledge your complete right to claim the title too. No skin off our teeth. We even share many of the exact same scriptural and social views derived from our common roots in Christ’s teachings. I agree therefore, that “the connection Mormonism has to orthodox Christianity is tenuous at best and not by any means a favorable one.” But we’re still happy to call you fellow Christians, in that you worship Christ as you understand him. Nor do I understand when you allege the LDS would not; “break bread with me. The LDS church won’t fellowship with me even if I or Cal desire it.” Huh? Not sure I follow you there. I’m not sure what you mean by the lack of fellowship, as I don’t think you’re meaning that as literally as you state it. We accept your right to be and believe whatever you want. Come on over any time, and we would love to sup with your side too. The more the merrier. You’re a Christian. So are we. You worship Jesus. So do we. We accept you as you wish to be seen. You do not grant us the same right….and yet you claim WE are the ones ostracizing you? Earlier I pointed out that we grant you your “christianity”, and you concurred you do not grant us ours. I mentioned you’re stating “Accept us as Christians with no strings attached you Mormons, but oh, by the way you’re going to hell.” You didn’t disagree. Whatever.
I know you’re upset that Mormonism doesn’t prepare our defectors to slip into your pews with more ease, but I think it’s a bit naive to think the title “Christian” is just a change of clothes you can slip on and off interchangeably. We claim to be more than that and so when our members lose their faith–often by the purposeful efforts of anti-Mormons–they are perhaps stripped naked more than you realize. One can debate if their nakedness is our fault for only having one set of clothes available, or yours for preferring them naked than wearing clothes you deem as counterfeit. (And I’m using “you” in the generic sense of our detractors in general, not YOU as an individual.) I would argue that when a traditional Christian accepts Mormonism they are not abandoning their core beliefs. There are new things they are asked to accept, like the B of M, modern day prophets, temple work, etc. But for the most part these ADD to their current beliefs or at most redefine an already held belief (like Trinity to Godhead). But what are they asked to abandon? What are they stripped of? Contrast that with a Mormon, whom you would strip naked of their core beliefs. They must reject their B of M. Reject the restoration theology. Reject their priesthood. Reject their eternal family concept. So much must be killed first that you wonder why they don’t just slip on the new baptist clothes with ease. It’s not just changing out of baptist’s clothes to evangelical garb, and ex-Mormons find nothing to fill the void. Historical christianity is not the panacea that you see it to be. Ideally, they retain their belief in Christ, and if they do, I’ve always said I’d rather they transition to any faith rather than no faith. But am I surprised the void is deeper for us than just a lateral move in Christendom is for you? No. Not at all.
David Clark, Tim: I am too busy to respond now but I wanted to thank you for your answers. Both threw me for a bit of a loop—Tim’s especially. It will be a while before I can get back to them and formulate additional questions….
Do you accept the baptisms, communion and other ordinances/sacraments that my church performs as valid? If no, then you don’t join us in Christian fellowship. You reject our deepest expressions of Christian worship.
Come on Tim. Strawman. We both accept that each others sacraments and ordinances are only valid within our own denominations. Your stance on that towards us is EXACTLY the same as ours is towards you, yet I don’t hear you planning on becoming inclusive of the Mormons any time soon. You and the Catholics would share the same differences too, so are you saying the Catholics are not Christian either? And since Protestants broke off from the Catholics, what else does that potentially say? We have different views of authority. That makes relying on “sacraments and ordinances” as possibly the least valid area to demonstrate inclusion. You totally skipped over all the areas of acceptance, fellowship and inclusion I mentioned and jumped to the one that is inherently non-inclusive as if it’s the sole watershed litmus test. I also can’t let you use my drivers license to drive your car. It doesn’t mean I refuse to accept you as a valid driver in your own right. We can even share the same highway. Pretty hard to play the victim card of bemoaning your lack of LDS inclusion when you’re insisting it be a one way street. Bottom line: you are a Christian. You worship Christ as your theology understands him. Us too. You don’t have ANY sacraments or ordinances that are required for salvation, yet because we do and we put them on a different authority-requiring level, you point to that difference as if it must evaporate to demonstrate “inclusion”. I think you are asking the wrong question.
Not in the least Garth. The Catholic church accepts my baptism. I accept theirs. The Catholic church accepts my sacraments. I accept theirs.
Almost all of the Christian sects accept the sacraments of the others. I wouldn’t flinch at taking communion in a Methodist, Anglican, Pentecostal or Catholic church.
Of course I’m in the same boat as the LDS church on this. THAT’S MY POINT. We don’t treat each other as brothers in fellowship. The difference is that Mormons want to claim that they treat us as brothers, but it’s in name only. It doesn’t actually mean anything (and when you push them on what they think of their “brother” it turns out they don’t think their brother should be around at all).
I can asure you that Tim would be welcome at the Lord’s table at my church.
I don’t think that there is a question that Mormons and Evangelicals, are equally exclusive of each others beliefs. Mormons are happy to bring you to church, and be your friend, and they believe you worship the same Jesus, but they pretty much believe that the distinguishing characteristics of traditional Christianity are silly and wrong.
I’ve already granted that the question of authority is an area where inclusion is not possible. We believe in an apostasy and distinct restoration of priesthood authority. We are best defined as restorational Christians. Not traditional creed-based Christians. Point granted. As protestants, your ancestors also believed in an apostasy. Hence the “reformation.” We only differ in the degree, effect and resolution of the apostasy. I’ve also already granted, and in fact emphasized, that we do not claim to be historical or “creed-based” Christians. So what? Since when does the “species” come before the “kingdom”? Your trying to win a point already ceded. But, my attempt has been to clarify that rejecting the historical lineage of creedal–Christendom, does not equate to rejecting the worship of the Lord, Jesus Christ. You seem stuck on defining Christianity ONLY as a historical inheritance. That’s a subset, not the top of the order. Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species, as an example of biological classification. From biggest to smallest, first to last. Creed-based Christianity is a Phylum or even a Class. Belief in Jesus Christ’s divinity and mission is the “Kingdom”. We don’t claim to be a derivative of historical creed-based Christianity as a pre-requisite for being Christian. I don’t know how to make that point any clearer than my earlier post. The problem is you are insisting that Mormons must be a subset of creed-based Christendom or we can’t be considered Christian at all. And as I said, you don’t own the franchise. Try this. What would you think if I said “all my relatives are human beings. You are not one of my relatives. Therefore, you are not a human being.” In that same logic you are saying “All Christians accept historical creeds. Mormons do not accept historical creeds. Therefore Mormons are not Christians.” You’re putting your subset ahead of the primary category. Belief in Jesus Christ as the Messiah, Redeemer, Atoner, and divine son of God is the actual “set/kingdom.” Just like Muslims would be the “kingdom” and Sunni or Shia would be the subset. Or Judaism would be the “kingdom” and Orthodox or Reform would be the subset. To the degree you attempt to claim that Mormons don’t worship Jesus Christ, you’re just blatantly ignoring the concept of religious classification. Are their real differences? Of course. Some areas we will always agree to disagree, but your attitude that we must be essentially interchangeable, to be valid members of the “Christian” family, is a false premise in the first place.
Garth. I think you are making David’s point that the title “Christian” is a category for Mormons. For Protestants, the term identifies a specific identity that relates to the person’s state of salvation.
Protestants define “Christian” roughly as “those that have a saving faith in Christ”
Mormons define Christian as “those who believe that Christ is the Savior”
by the standard Protestant definition, the faith that many Mormons have in Jesus doesn’t make the cut.
Your point is that its more than reasonable to consider “Christian” simply a category. I think most non-Christians would agree with this. I think its reasonable.
However Mormon do use the term exclusively as well. Even LDS will not acknowledge other denominations as being part of the “true and living Christianity” because only the Church is “truly” led by Jesus. Everything else is an apostate bastardization.
“the True Christian Faith” to a Mormon is equivalent to “Christianity” to a traditional Christian.
My larger point is that Tim at least is asserting that to be in the Christian “kingdom”, we must be essentially interchangeable with all other historical Christian denominations–requiring no unique “disqualifying” doctrines, like Godhead vs. Trinity, authority, temples etc.. Until someone can consider the LDS just a lateral shift, like any other denomination, then we cannot be acceptable valid Christians. I reject that entire premise because the correct definition of a Christian comes BEFORE the definition of creedal-Christian. He’s therefore requesting elevation of a sub-set, as if it were the entire category. Parsing out minutia of how Christ saves is a.} not correct (LDS require a saving faith in Christ too) b.} not the starting point for who gets to be “Christian”. Requiring that we make an accommodation so our defectors can’t tell a big difference between Mormon and Creed-based faith is the definition of apostasy and not a valid argument in my opinion. That’s what brought about apostasy from the original church in the first place, as men decided who to banish and who to make Pope.
The Catholic church accepts my baptism. I accept theirs. The Catholic church accepts my sacraments. I accept theirs.
No they don’t. You don’t have apostolic succession. When you offer communion you claim it is an imitation of the rite in the gospels, and the Catholic church thinks you are absolutely right. Conversely, they believe that when they offer communion a supernatural event occurs. They don’t believe you can do the sacrament of penance that is the forgiveness of sins either, and thus your followers are far more likely to die with unforgiven sins than theirs. Of course they don’t believe your leadership can perform the sacrifice of holy orders so they don’t recognize you as anything other than laity who went off and setup a rogue church.
And as for baptism, Baptists much assuredly reject paedobaptism, which is the majority Protestant and exclusive catholic form of baptism. That is one of their absolutely defining doctrines.
I accept theirs….. I wouldn’t flinch at taking communion in a Methodist, Anglican, Pentecostal or Catholic church.
And let me just point out the Catholic church doesn’t accept you as worthy to partake of their communion either. They would consider you partaking to be stealing the host. And BTW Lutheran churches quite often have a similar policy.
Gundek: I can asure you that Tim would be welcome at the Lord’s table at my church.
Let me just add that Gundek’s denomination is split on the issue of closed communion. While that may be true of his church, it is not true of all the churches in the denomination. Quite a few churches (though I suspect a minority) in his denomination require examination by the session prior to partaking.
As for the use of the term Christian the Catholic church has an explicit definition. Anyone who has been validly baptized who has not renounced their baptism is Christian. They wouldn’t consider a Mormon Christian because a Mormon baptism is a non-trinitarian baptism, but many liberal Christians would consider a Mormon baptism valid.
Evangelical theology is terribly confused on the issue of who is a Christian because of the entire invisible church dichotomy. They have ended up picking up a hodge podge of magisterial reformation, Catholic and Baptist theology on the nature of the church and the result is a doctrine that is nonsensical. So the evangelical masses more and more they are defining Christian as “people I agree with”.
The most obvious example not connected to Mormons, is that we have a substantial percentage of the country, especially evangelicals that believes that Obama is a secret Muslim. That despite the fact that there is no such thing as a secret Muslim, Islam is a religion of practice. They generally define liberal Christians as non Christians. They quite often (though less so recently) define Catholics as non Christians.
I didn’t say there were no disagreements about baptism or communion.
I didn’t say there were no disagreements about baptism or communion.
Your claim was that Catholics accepted your sacraments and you accept theirs. You don’t. They have sacraments you reject as ordinances and you have ordinances they reject as sacraments. Not even including the fact that you don’t even have the same theology of sacraments hence your rejection of the term “sacrament”, for these activities.
Baptism being the most important for this conversation since for many sects it is the definition of Christian. The reason that Catholics reject Mormons is because they reject their baptism. On the other hand, baptists reject the baptisms of Catholics. Catholics consider Baptist rebaptism to be sinful, Baptists consider paedobaptism to be sinful. Considering each others sacraments/ordinaces to be sins is a rather strong rejection.