You are SAVED (from Hell)!! – What Evangelicals have that Mormons don’t: Part II

One thing that strikes me as a key difference in how Mormons and Evangelicals view being “saved” is what they believe they are saved from.  For Mormons, the flip-side of not feeling the joy of being COMPLETELY forgiven like Evangelicals do, is the comfort of never having to worry about hell in the least, for me or anybody else.  I think this difference may shape how Mormons and Evangelicals differ in they way they see God, their purpose in life, and, to some degree, what life is about. I offer my own experience as a way for Evangelicals to gain some insight on how not believing in Hell can shape your thoughts and behavior.

To somebody raised in the LDS church in the late twentieth century, there is no hell.  A fiery place where souls are sent by God to burn forever? As a Mormon growing up, I took that as seriously as the idea that the devil had horns and pitchfork. The only thing close to “hell” that I was taught about was not anywhere God would send me, It was merely the pain and disappointment of not being with our Father again, who wanted us to be there and provided a way for us to do it. I was taught that if we even got a glimpse of the Telestial kingdom, we would want to kill ourselves just to go their.  The absolute worst part if it was that I couldn’t be with my family forever. This sounded crappy enough, so I couldn’t imagine my Father in Heaven, who loved me more than my real parents did, wanted any of us to go through anything worse.

Even though I very literally believed that God, an actual physical glorified man came to earth to speak to a farm boy, and fully believed that God would be so awesome as to let his children be glorified like Him,  hell, as most fervent Christians have conceived of it, was just a silly myth.  When I was a teenager, I simply could not take the traditional view seriously. My reaction to my first Evangelical literature I ever read, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Johnathan Edwards was an a chuckle and a head shake. I thought it was laughable that there were people who actually believed that God would send people to Hell for eternity. It was like believing that God would literally make the thunder by clapping his hands.  Unsophisticated, childish, hyper literal reading of the text, nearly moronic.  Of course this is ironic, because the God that I believed in would have been characterized the same way by traditional Christian theologians.

I never had the fear of hell and it shaped how I lived my religion and why. God was feared in the way I feared my parents, not the way I would fear a god. When I was a kid, I didn’t swear or drink or have sex because I thought it would be disappointing to my mom and I loved her so much, that I didn’t want her to feel sad. As I became more devout, I began to see God the same way.  I loved him so much that I was more worried about the pain and disappointment I would cause Him, than what he would do to me for messing up. I would beat myself up a bit for my mistakes and weaknesses, because I thought that I could have done better.  However, possibly because my parents never (effectively) used guilt as a parenting tool, I would quickly accept that He would forget what I did and still love me.  I felt that no matter how bad I screwed up and rebelled against him, God loved me and would always take me back. I wanted to be worthy of that sort of love, so I tried to keep the rules. I idolized Jesus because he was perfect in following the Father, and the Father was well pleased with him, and He was allowing me gain the same sort of favor with God.

The absence of Hell affected how I saw missionary work. If I had actually believed that my friends and neighbors were going to HELL for not believing in the Church, I would have flipped. I think I would have become obsessively urgent about trying to save their souls.  I would have been like those kids in Jesus Camp that walk around telling strangers about the Gospel.

Instead, I saw missionary work as an opportunity to experience the Spirit working in my life and in others at the same time.  It was confirmation of my own beliefs to see others embrace the Gospel and feel the spirit.  I wanted to be a part of changing people’s lives and Gods opening amazing spiritual possibilities for them in this life, but I never worried that people would end up in hell if they didn’t hear or rejected my message.  Missionary work was about showing God that we loved him by bringing his children closer to him.

I am going out on a limb, but this may also explain why Mormons, when they fall away, are more likely than Evangelicals to be atheists.  If you have ever believed in a fiery hell you might think more than twice in falling into disbelief and blasphemy. When I stopped being a “active” Mormon I did not have to get past a fear of fire and brimstone. Even as I have stopped believing that the Church was what it claimed to be, the Mormonism stuck in me prevents me from worrying about a terrible fate.  Even if I am wrong in not believing in the Church, I will end up in a pretty damn good place despite my apostasy.

This difference may also explain why Mormons are not  prone to jump and sing as much at church.  It may also explain why Mormons may not be prone to accept traditional christian views.  I have some more thoughts on this so I will put them in a Part 3.

I would be interested to know from you Evangelicals and other traditional christians out there how a belief in Hell may have shaped your life or belief.  Do you see as big a difference as I do? Does your belief in Hell motivate or instruct your discipleship differently?

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43 thoughts on “You are SAVED (from Hell)!! – What Evangelicals have that Mormons don’t: Part II

  1. I think my belief in hell (Jesus spoke of it many times) motivates me to want to share the gospel with people.

    It’s tough, though. I just don’t run up to someone and blurt out, ‘You know, all your sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake.’ I like to get to know someone and find out how they are being had by this world, how and where life is getting them down, before I share with them God’s law of sin and death…and then what God has done about it in Christ Jesus.

    But, every once in a while, when someone has been really beaten up (usually), someone will actually hear what I have said (the Spirit says it, actually) and come to faith. Once in a while.

  2. I think you are downplaying one aspect of the LDS afterlife. LDS do believe you will be forcibly removed from your sealing covenants if you are not faithful. Your spouse will be given to at least one other person with whom they will live and breed in the celestial kingdom. This is a major source of angst to spouses who remain faithful LDS and a source of fear to those who are undergoing an LDS faith crisis. This is equivalent to Christians who don’t worry about hell when they feel saved, but worry about the unsaved.

    Having said that, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that this aspect of LDS belief is dying. The LDS church has been publicly downplaying aspects of LDS afterlife for some time now. Think of Hinckley’s interviews with the press where parts of the traditional LDS afterlife were ignored/denied or the latest Mormonism 101 where they are downplayed. This downplaying of “Lorenzo Snow couplet theology” or “King Follet theology” will lead to marriage in the LDS afterlife not making much sense because there simply won’t be much to do, meaning marriage in the afterlife won’t be any different than non-marriage in the LDS afterlife.

    My point is that I think your post leaves out a major aspect of LDS afterlife which does cause angst to most LDS. But, I also think that the church may be moving in the direction of an angst free universalism which you describe in your post. The problem with this is that it also usually leads to a religious nihilism, as shown by the attendance figures for Unitarian-Universalists.

  3. I don’t think the fear of Hell plays much part in the life of the average Evangelical in regards to sin. Once you are “saved” or “born again” you don’t worry much about Hell. I think younger, teenage believers go through a phase of worrying about “the unpardonable sin”.

    It for sure motivates many to be evangelistic, and it for sure has inspired some awkward attempts to share the Gospel.

    I also don’t think it plays a big part in the joy we exhibit in our worship. I think for most, the joy of salvation is an expression about the freedom from the life of sin rather than exuberance about not going to Hell.

    My own understanding of Hell is that God is not sending people there to be tortured forever. Rather, people make the choice to not be with God. As the source of all that is good, a place without God’s presence is isolated, lonely, and tortuous.

  4. Tim said:

    I don’t think the fear of Hell plays much part in the life of the average Evangelical in regards to sin. Once you are “saved” or “born again” you don’t worry much about Hell.

    At the risk of overgeneralizing, I’d say there has been a huge cultural shift in evangelicalism since the days of my youth (we’re talking about before some of you were born).

    Based on what I’ve seen, I’d agree with Tim on what the prevailing attitude is today. But I remember in my teen and college years (I attended an evangelical college) that it wasn’t unusual for those with an Arminian background to be concerned that their sins might result in them losing their salvation. And those of a Calvinistic background weren’t much better off: They wondered whether they had ever been truly saved to begin with. In other words, on a feeling level, there were plenty of evangelicals who didn’t have much of an assurance of eternal life.

    I suspect, but I don’t know, that similar attitudes may still be common among Christian fundamentalists, who emphasize hell today more than mainstream evangelicals do.

    Such an outlook certainly shaped my spiritual life, and evangelical views toward hell helped make Mormonism appealing to me.

    By the way, although I’m not persuaded, an excellent defense of the evangelical doctrine can be found here.

  5. David~ LDS do believe you will be forcibly removed from your sealing covenants if you are not faithful. Your spouse will be given to at least one other person with whom they will live and breed in the celestial kingdom.

    This is true in theory, not sure if many worry about this, I have never heard it expressed by any member. I think the concern my family felt for my brother who married outside the church or for other’s whose spouse had fallen away was that they would simply not get to the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom. I think the thought was that failure to have a celestial marriage would disqualify the person for eternal marriage. I could be wrong, but I doubt members are expecting to be married off to people other than their temporal spouses just to make it to the highest degree of glory.

    I do agree that the LDS church is downplaying the doctrine of separation. The biggest worry I saw amongst faithful parents was that their children would be lost to them in eternity. (i.e. those who are in heaven taste this bit of hell). Boyd K. Packer attempts to dispel this beliefe here: http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1992/04/our-moral-environment. Packer affirms that children who fall away will, in fact, be with the faithful parents for eternity, even if they are stuck in a lower kingdom.

  6. The problem with this is that it also usually leads to a religious nihilism, as shown by the attendance figures for Unitarian-Universalists.

    What Mormonism may have “going for it” in this area is the trend toward perfection
    the constant worry about being worthy and being directed by the Spirit. Some Mormons create what strikes me as hell by worrying too much about falling short. There is enough worry about both temporal consequences of not enduring to the end and remaining obedient and faithful to keep many pushing themselves to remain active. Activity in the Church becomes a ritual in itself, to be endured if not enjoyed.

    That said, there is a zen-like peace that comes from being really involved in the Church. You don’t consciously worry about how dull it may be or how you may be falling short. You feel that what you are doing in life matters. It brings comfort and joy to feel like God is directing your life, and that he cares about your decisions and is there to help you improve.

  7. You don’t “breed” in heaven David. God doesn’t “breed” – it’s pro-creation, and doesn’t even need to involve sex.

  8. And I don’t see the threat of loss of family as much different than what other devout traditional Christians believe. If I’m an Evangelical and go apostate – aren’t I going to lose my wife and kids under that scenario as well?

  9. You don’t “breed” in heaven David. God doesn’t “breed” – it’s pro-creation, and doesn’t even need to involve sex.

    That’s not official doctrine.

    In any case, it’s a reasonable use of the word “breed”, since two people of the opposite sex are making children. But feel free to use a more descriptive term like whatever-God-is-doing-with-his-wive(s)-that-makes-spirit-kids-but-is-definitely-not-sex-because-we-modern-Mormons-like-to-pretend-it-was-never-taught-and-that-having-two-people-of-the-opposite-sex-making-children-should-never-be-called-or-construed-as-sex-you-foul-depraved-mudsliging-baby-eating-anti-Mormon.

  10. Neither is the “breeding” remark. Neither is your insinuation that it’s all Celestial sex up there.

  11. What people don’t realize is that no amount of theology is going to prevent people from hating on themselves like this.

    It’s an ingrained human trait we’ll never be rid of as a race. This isn’t a theological problem in the first place. It’s just people being people.

  12. No Katie, in your experience how you USED the theology made a big difference.

    Plenty of people – in fact most people who don’t frequent theological debate blogs – don’t make full use of the theology (at least, not knowingly).

  13. I don’t know that you are making a useful distinction. If a problem can be solved using theology, wasn’t the problem itself somehow theological?

    All believing Mormons and Evangelicals make use of some sort of theology. Their theology may be rudimentary or naive and it may lead them to self-condemnation or self-congratulation, but its a theological thing at some level at least. The mythology/theology of life shapes how you feel about life.

    Feeling guilty for letting down your family, your children, your tribe, etc. etc. may be ingrained, but I would suggest that the tendency of falling int this hell of judgment/worry/condemnation is excited by the belief that you are letting down a super-natural being who knows everything you do.

  14. Yes, but the thing is – Mormonism has just as many tools to cope with self-hatred as Evangelicalism does, as far as I’ve been able to determine. I really don’t think there’s any real evidentiary basis for saying that Mormons have higher depression, self-loathing, guilt, or whatever else than any other population. Evangelicals included.

    People with poor self-esteem are going to find a way to keep having it – whatever religious mixture you put them in. Likewise, they can find ways to rise out of it the same way.

  15. I don’t think my particular patterns would have developed under less rigid theology (it wasn’t garden variety self-hatred I had going on but full-blown scrupulosity). That is not to say I blame the theology. There were other factors at play, including some nature stuff and some family stuff. But theology was a really important factor. Without it, I’m not sure my problems would have developed.

    I’m not angry about it. No one meant me harm. But what we teach, and how we teach it, really matters.

  16. so, if I had to sum up this post, the difference between Evangelicalism (at least in Jared’s description) and Mormonism on the hell from is that Evangelicals are afraid of angering their parents (e.g., “sinners in the hands of an angry God”), but Mormons are afraid of disappointing their parents.

    And as a practical matter, yeah, it sucks to anger your parents, but it feels a lot worse when they are “disappointed”.

  17. Theology, it seems to me, is one of the unfortunate consequences of having an overly large brain. We develop it naturally, and naturally it drives us all nuts (even if we are atheists: being atheist doesn’t make us immune from drawing improper generalizations from our particular experiences with the world and using those to make maps of our existence that are rationally more or less coherent and empirically nonsense).

  18. Seth, I think a better way to say what you’re trying to say is “the cure for bad theology is good theology” rather than “theology doesn’t matter”.

  19. I think Seth meant what he said, theology doesn’t matter. If people are going to argue that the LDS church has little to no doctrine, I don’t suppose they want theology either.

  20. The absence of Hell affected how I saw missionary work. If I had actually believed that my friends and neighbors were going to HELL for not believing in the Church, I would have flipped

    This statement actually ends up proving Seth’s point. Because the missionary efforts of EV’s *don’t* really reflect a theology that sends their neighbors to Hell. Likewise, the great many Mormons view anything less than exaltation as Hell – especially if someone falls away from among the ranks – in spite of the theology.

    In this way, theology really isn’t that important, not because Seth thinks it shouldn’t be, but because the lives of EV’s and Mormons reflect that it isn’t.

  21. I think EVs have learned from experience what kind of effort is most effective. Pleading people out of Hell rarely works, so because of our theology, we abandon that technique.

  22. Christian -Your observation doesn’t prove that theology (i.e. the way people understand God, life and the world) does not affect people’s lives, it simply proves that many people don’t really believe and act on the doctrines or theology of their churches.

  23. Yes to Jared I agree. But the specific example I used of yours, has to do with acting on theology.

    Yes to Tim, or rather – about as evangelistic at Mormons or less. Its only my opinion that a believed theology of Hell to the unsaved should merit greater zealotry. Of course, you’re absolutely right that standing on the corner crying Jesus should not be nec. seen as the most effective method.

  24. Again, this only proves that traditional Christian theology is not important because it is not believed, not that it would be important if it was believed.

    This line of thought was part of Nietzsche’s attach on Christianity in Human, All Too Human

    Nietzsche points out how pathetic the “everyday Christian” is in taking the tenants of Christianity to heart. He is either a stupid, shortsighted pathetic believer or a actual disbeliever. (section 116)

    He also argues that Christians “come to feel self-contempt through certain errors, through a false, unscientific interpretation of his actions and feelings” (section 134)

    and that Christian theology is an error that creates the need for Christian religion: “,Thus a certain false psychology, a certain kind of fantasy in interpreting motives and experiences, is the necessary prerequisite for becoming a Christian and experiencing the need for redemption. With the insight into this aberration of reason and imagination, one ceases to be a Christian.” (section 135)

    He explains that the”problem” Christianity has with engendering inordinate guilt will be its downfall.
    “Fate of Christianity. Christianity came into existence in order to lighten the heart; but now it has to burden the heart first, in order to be able to lighten it afterward. Consequently it will perish.”
    (Section 118)

    Seth argues against Nietzsche’s position by saying that the problem of burdening the heart is not theologically rooted and we shouldn’t blame theology that people are sad because they sin.

    I am not convinced that an individuals view of themselves and sin are necessarily derived from theology, but I can’t agree that their theology plays a big part in formation of guilt and blame. At the very least it harnesses and amplifies natural tendencies, or, as Nietzsche would characterize them, mistakes.

  25. Tim said in response to someone else:

    Unless you just mean that Evangelicals just aren’t very evangelistic.

    I think to Mormons it might seem that way, and there’s little doubt (at least to me) that evangelicals are less evangelism-oriented than they were a generation ago.

    On the other hand, the growth of megachurches among evangelicals has been in part a conscious effort to make faith and church participation more attractive to nonmembers. And evangelicals spend scads of money on radio and TV to spread the word. (Even where I live in the Salt Lake City area, you’ll find more evangelical-oriented radio stations than LDS-oriented ones.)

    It also may be worth noting that what the Christian Post called possibly the largest-ever evangelistic event was held this past weekend at Angels Stadium near Los Angeles. Organizers said they had more than 8,000 people make professions of faith at the stadium — I’d be shocked if LDS missionaries in the L.A. area had anywhere near that number of baptisms during the past week. Evangelicals are evangelistic — they’re just not as visible (nor countercultural) about it as Mormons are.

  26. And when Mormons come back from their missions their evangelistic efforts typically drop way off. My impression is that most feel like they paid their dues and now it’s someone else’s turn.

    Street preaching and making cold contacts is for sure something 98% of Evangelicals have no interest in. But that’s not the beginning nor the end of evangelistic outreach.

  27. And when Mormons come back from their missions their evangelistic efforts typically drop way off. My impression is that most feel like they paid their dues and now it’s someone else’s turn.

    It would help if Mormons could organize massive concerts with charismatic speakers rather than 3-hour meeting blocks to invite potential converts. 😉

  28. Tim

    Seth, I think a better way to say what you’re trying to say is “the cure for bad theology is good theology” rather than “theology doesn’t matter”.

    The funniest part about this is how much it mirrors language Seth makes elsewhere. In arguing against gay marriage (and particularly, the idea that gay folks can’t degrade marriage any more than straight folks already have), he often says, “then we should work on improving marriage, rather than saying it doesn’t matter what marriage is.”

    (grossly paraphrased.)

  29. Just to be clear, Methods and results are not what I’m interested in. Evangelicals most likely do it all better – considering the grass roots nature of Protestantism (diversity of methods) and the relative ease it is to “get saved” compared to a Mormon baptism.

    I’m just throwing up the two different theologies and gauging them against the degree of evangelism. For a quasi universalist soteriology, Mormons seem to have a much higher *margin* of intent.

    Also Jared, your experience of not feeling that Mormon conversion was not a heaven and hell proposition is an attitude I have not experienced very much in the Church. I wish I had.

  30. Also Jared, your experience of not feeling that Mormon conversion was not a heaven and hell proposition is an attitude I have not experienced very much in the Church. I wish I had.

    The attitudes within the Church are shaped by the folk-theology of the membership, there seems to be a lot of variation. I think this is true of Evangelicals as well. I am happy not to have been taught the fear of hell.

  31. David – I didn’t say theology doesn’t matter.

    I said it doesn’t matter for certain purposes.

    Namely for comparing whose group is more screwed up than whose. And Andrew, you’ll note I’ve tried to stay away in those other arguments from saying who is more evil than whom.

  32. Arriving late, but didn’t see anyone make this observation to the premise that launched this thread. If Jared’s main point is that as a Mormon, he didn’t worry about going to hell because that fear was off-the-table. (Though LDS do believe in hell– or the son of perdition concept. Which granted is hard to earn, but it’s been skipped in this thread, since technically for Mormons that would be the parallel to the orthodox hell.) But I digress…If Jared thinks the Mormons are somehow unique among believers of Christ for not really worrying about hell, and therefore evangelicals are more exuberant to escape hell than Mormons, I must sorta disagree with the premise for one reason: A saved Christian, doesn’t worry about hell either. Oh yeah, sure in the abstract. But not really, since a good Christian knows (or they wouldn’t be Christian) that hell was only meant for everyone else. Like the people in China or Bangladesh. Hell is sure a scary place!! But as a born-againer, it’s not all that scary since I CAN’T go there. Mormons say they won’t go there. (Cuz it doesn’t exist.) Evangelicals say they can’t go there. (Cuz they’re evangelicals! duh!) Once saved, always saved. Eternal security for some. Predestination for others. But they cannot be “plucked” from God’s hand once saved either. So in my mind, I’m not seeing the difference in “won’t” and “can’t.” The net result is identical.

    So while I’m sure evangelical may be grateful on paper, that they’re not burning with fire and being eaten by worms once that moment of salvation was achieved, that’s a pretty small window of fear they had to peer through, as I understand evangelical theology.

    It seems to me if you’re saying that Mormons are and must be “less grateful” because LDS doctrine teaches that even if we miss the celestial kingdom, it’s really unlikely that our failure dooms us to literally burning for all eternity. Granted. But how does that engender “less” gratitude in a Mormon, than an evangelical, who also knows they are never going to burn for all eternity either with their doctrine of meritless salvation? They didn’t really have to work for their assurance either. So Mormons won’t burn because they view it as false doctrine, Evangelicals won’t burn because they have a guarantee escape clause. Other than the shared theoretical caliber of the “bullet-we-dodged”, Is there a difference I’m missing?

    Here’s a parallel. If a U.N. diplomat parks his car in a no-parking zone, he has no worry or concern because he has diplomatic immunity even if a cop writes him a ticket. He can ignore the ticket because it doesn’t apply to him. (That is the evangelical.) If I don’t own a car in the first place, so I know I can never get a parking ticket since the option doesn’t exist for me, I also wouldn’t care. I know a punishment cannot apply to someone who doesn’t own a car in the first place. (That’s the Mormon.) I’m not sure I’m seeing a tangible difference here.

    And if you jump to say; “oh but the evangelical narrowly escaped his theological concept of TERRIBLE eternal torture and burning”, I would counter that there again there’s no real difference. Evangelicals are saved in a moment. The job is done once, and the disciple walk that hopefully follows has NO bearing on their escape from hell. Sanctification to most born again Christians is just the benefits program, not the salvation program. So really, other than in the abstract, their “escape” is actually pretty darn easy. Likewise, a Mormon will hopefully adopt a disciple walk after their conversion. They’ll even sweat their sanctification probably harder, since it’s NOT just the benefit perks, but actually part of the determining factor of where they end up–Celestial glory. And the Mormon sees that outcome as far more substantial than some in this thread portray. It is the entire purpose of our existence–the actual chance to be exalted and live with God. That entails a lot, which most Mormons fear its loss, as much as hell would be to evangelicals. Do you really think therefore that the Mormon will be “less” exuberant, earnest, striving, grateful, than his once-saved-and-done evangelical cousin? I don’t think I buy the premise. I get the theoretical mental abstract that the evangelical will be oh so so thankful to not be tortured with fire and worms, by an angry God for all eternity. I guess that’s something to be grateful for, (though frankly I personally have a hard time figuring out why I’d want to worship that kind of God anyway.) But that just seems theoretical, since a guaranteed “get-out-of-jail-free” card, or never needing the card in the first place is a pretty equal outcome it seems to me. Escaping the evangelical “hell”, seems almost more like a wink-wink-nudge-nudge piece of theology, since the unspoken theology is that it never really applied to “me” anyway. Unless I’m Chinese or from Bangladesh, so to speak.

  33. No, I get that point. I acknowledged that point. If Christ atonement had not happened it would apply still to us all, including in LDS theology. But Christ didn’t fail. So the “cost” for your salvation was not paid by you or me, but by Christ. The LDS acknowledges the same debt to Christ as do evangelical since salvation OF ANY STRIPE, is impossible without Him. He is everything and descended to hell, so we don’t have to. Therefore, the reality of the fear factor we mortals face–which is the principle of this thread which is claimed to quantify the volume of “thankfulness” we have for Christ is my point. A Mormon is just as thankful for a chance at exaltation (a positive motivation) as an evangelical is thankful for escaping hell fire (a negative motivation.) THAT is the principle I think the alleged advantage of Jared’s comments misses.

  34. Garth,
    If there is no chance of hell, why tell people about your religion? It seems that rather than offering them salvation, you are offering the chance to reject the Mormon faith at some point and become a son of perdition. In other words, if they never heard they would be better off! Isn’t a person who rejects Mormonism (after having converted) and turns away a son of perdition? They would never be in that position if they had not heard. So keep it to yourself, it’s the safest bet – this would be my conclusion. Am I wrong in my assessment of those who turn away from Mormonism and how they are viewed by other Mormons?
    It is true we are under God’s judgement and wrath (and destined for hell -Jesus spoke about it often) and it is a fearful thing to be under God’s law, under His wrath due to our sinful rebellious natures, however Christ’s atonement is made for every sin ever committed. Jesus has perfectly atoned for all sin (objective justification), and when we hear of his sacrifice for our sins, and we are baptized into Him – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – we are washed clean and receive subjective atonement – Christ’s sacrifice applied specifically to us. God creates faith in us to believe His promises, we are dead to the law in Christ, it has no power over us. We pray for forgiveness and remember our baptism into Christ daily, and as we go to the altar to receive His body and blood in communion for the forgiveness of our sins. We participate in the eating of the sacrifice just as they did in the temple. And there is life in the blood! The Lutheran faith teaches that is is possible to fall away. Why do we believe this? Because the Bible talks about ship wrecking your faith, losing your faith (in more than one place) – if this were not possible, why the warnings? Even though faith in Christ and salvation is a free gift apart from anything we ever say or do – we can say “no” at any time, despise our baptism, and intentionally reject Christ. I am not talking about sin that is forgiven, or going through a season of doubt and confusion, I am talking about a willful rejection, turning away, saying no to God. Scripture also speaks of how we are secure in Christ, nothing can steal us away from Christ once we are secure in Him. These things may seem to be contradictory, but I accept both as true because both are presented in Holy Scripture.

  35. @ 4fivesolas: Well, first, it ain’t that easy to become a son of perdition, since you have to deny the Holy Ghost and reject God from a position of knowing, perhaps like Judas since Christ said it would be better for him if he’d never been born. Just leaving the church isn’t even close! Mormons do not believe that jack-Mormons, or quitters for any reason, are sons of perdition. And second of all, if you’re just talking logical conundrums, why not claim Mormons should just kill their children before they reach 8, so they go to the celestial kingdom? Of course that would be ridiculous, but from a strictly logical, all-else-be-forgotten standpoint, one could claim that would be technically true.

    Thanks for the review of your Lutheran theology. I agree that not all traditional Christians believe in eternal security. Perhaps, if I try to distill my point of disagreement alleged by Jared that Mormons are “less” grateful without the threat of hellfire, into a simple thought, which would encompass whatever version of evangelical theology one picks it would be this: Gratitude for being saved from hell is a worthy and deep gratitude. Both evangelicals who believe in a literal burning hell of torture, and Mormons who believe hell is being eternally separated from God should be equally grateful. Pain of a literally burning body, or pain of denied communion with God are both something we cannot fully understand so I’d submit that BOTH our theologies teach an unfathomable gratitude to Jesus Christ for our salvation by grace. The difference then is not our gratitude but our MOTIVATION for that gratitude. Though born-again theology won’t phrase it this way, they are grateful to not be punished, which is a motivation from a “negative” perspective. Like an abused wife, who is grateful her husband chooses not to beat her tonight. She surely is grateful to be spared the torture! This angry-God with fire and brimstone is very much a hold-over from the middle ages and the Catholic/Dante’s inferno conception of God. The Mormons believe God also can be an angry God, but He expresses it by what we are “denied”, not by what He does to us. Therefore the LDS paradigm is a “rewarding/withholding-God.” This I would term a “positive” perspective. Like a disciple who chooses to serve, not because of fear but because of love and a desire for the promised reward. Hence we also see the difference in evangelical theology vs. LDS theology that God’s grace is a gift, vs. a covenant. Evangelical theology is based solely on God’s choice to save or damn, like a pardon–, LDS theology acknowledges that God allows our choices to also determine our outcome, like a covenant.

    So now the issue that Jared poses–who is more grateful for grace?–can be seen in a better light. Is the abused wife MORE grateful to not be beaten? Or is the disciple more grateful for their promised reward? That depends I suppose on ones perspective. I like the LDS version and I find it is the only version that combines justification with sanctification, God’s sovereignty with mans agency. Evangelical theology, in my opinion, has to largely see that an a contradiction. LDS theology has no such conundrum, in my opinion.

  36. Garth said:

    So now the issue that Jared poses–who is more grateful for grace?

    This is not the issue that I posed. The post was an attempt to explain one Mormon’s view of how the lack of belief in the Evangelical doctrine of hell plays out in Mormon practice and belief. My conclusions about how Hell effects Evangelicals is admittedly speculative. My goal was to explain my motivations regarding spreading the gospel and being a “good Mormon” in the absence of the doctrine.

    It seems that most of your comments are stuck in my last post.

  37. I am glad you posted this article. I was surfing for information for an article of my own that I was writing. I read the entire thing holding my breathe because I was waiting for the big BUT to come as you explained your cultural heritage and psychological experience as a Mormon. I hear often of people who come out of the Faith how wrong they had been to believe. You, however, accept the cultural aspects of your upbringing and apply it to your life as a well adjusted person–at least by this article. Bravo for that. You have won my attention.

  38. Thanks Rodric… the jury is very much out on whether I am well-adjusted on any other front (it is 2:30 a.m. after all.), but I do appreciate your vote of support. Since leaving one faith, I like don’t like big BUTs any more (no pun intended.) Its no longer appealing rhetoric. Being honest about beliefs that caused me to leave Mormonism also requires being honest about the compelling things about the faith. The great thing about leaving Mormonism for me was letting go of having to judge different kinds of spirituality by their compatibility with LDS beliefs. . .and I am not rushing to figure out some other standard. It makes it much easier to see the beauty in the way faith leads people to worship, pray, work, and better themselves.

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