In our discussion about the LDS temple ritual. I mentioned that I do not believe the endowment is for everyone, nor was it meant to be. It is only for those who desire it.
While this seems to be a somewhat technical/semantic point. I think it is important in the context of the “Mormonism-seems-to-be-a-cult-because-it-has-secret-Rituals” discussion. By saying that endowment is ONLY for those that really want it, I underscore how different this position is from any sort of cult-like view of the ritual. Mormons are not forcing people to do weird things against their will. This seems akin to the same fallacious argument that Mormons are somehow disrespectful for performing rituals for the dead or that they disrespect holocaust victims by baptizing them. It makes no sense in context of Mormon thought and doctrine. It seems that among the pervasive misunderstandings and/or misrepresentations regarding the religion are that Mormons are a cult that pushes people or brainwashes them into making crazy commitments and weird secret rituals against their will. This is unsupportable by the doctrine or the scriptures.
Within Mormonism salvation is offered to everyone–the only people that are not saved are those who desire not to be. (see Alma 41:5.) But the church is on a mission to gather the “elect.” The elect are those that hear the voice of God and want to follow it. Desire is absolutely critical, it is what “qualifies you for the work”, i.e. qualifies you for exaltation (Doctrine & Covenants (“D&C”) 4.) If you don’t want to do it, you are not qualified, and the endowment or baptism will be ineffective, whether you are alive or dead when it is offered. Desire is an extremely important theme within Mormonism that is generally left out in order to paint them as a cult. But if you leave it out you buy in to a fundamental distortion. I think this element is often deliberately left out to perpetuate the distortion.
The church leadership will encourage everyone to be faithful and to go to the temple, but temple attendance is never forced. Mormons cannot, while assuming the authority of their own scriptures, compel or cajole people into taking serious covenants like the endowment or baptism. There really is no place for coercion because it is ineffective in the end. (see D&C 121 .)
Of course coercion and undue pressure happens, and there are those in the leadership that endorse these views, but the scriptures do not support this behavior. Just as the scriptures do not support all kinds of Protestant methods of gaining converts and saving people [TBN anyone?]. Mormons are more perhaps more worldly these days, just like Evangelicals are, and they compromise certain values for the sake of boosting baptism and endowment numbers. They engage in PR campaigns, advertising, and engage in defensive public discussions, they hide unpleasant history. Much of this is to boost numbers and it is done with the “noble purpose” of bringing the Gospel to more lives, but lines are crossed because the ends seem to justify the means. But that is not a hit on Mormonism specifically–that ends/means disconnect is endemic to nearly all institutions who think that they have the truth and have something ultimately good to offer.
Mormons, like other Christians, inevitably fall short of their own principles when zealously prosecuting or defending what they think is the good. It is a part of a condition of worldliness and a lack of faith that Jesus obviously did not have. If God is on your side you why would you seek to protect against failure in your mission by using un-godly means. However getting Mormons to come to terms with their own lack of faith in their mission is generally irrelevant to any solid criticism of Mormonism vis-a-vis other forms of Christianity.
[Disclaimer/note: as I have mentioned earlier, I can no longer be reasonably described as a believing Mormon. Although I was raised a Mormon and was a practicing Mormon through my early 30s, I have essentially left the church. I am not trying to promote the Church or gain converts for it, but I respect the Church and think those interested in it should see it clearly. My agenda, if I have one, is not aligned with Tim’s, who owns this blog.]