Is the Protestant Doctrine of Salvation Incommensurate with the Mormon View?

I am always harping about how Mormons are allowed to believe a lot more things than traditional Christians and still be Mormons. I don’t think the Mormons that run the Church care about truth per se, but its usefulness in the cause, and it is eminently useful not to engage in debates about what you have to believe to be LDS.  I think most sane people believe this— it is generally not wise to declare how stupid you think others are within their earshot, and most people are apt to say stupid things when they are cutting down another cause.

From my point of view, this reality presents those who make massive truth claims, such as Evangelical Protestants, an interesting test: Here is a group of people who ostensibly believe a lot of the same things you Evangelicals believe; they are going to hell, forever, because of their confusion; it seems that the power of your message should be able to convert these people.  For me, it’s as if the Mormons are laying ready on Mount Carmel and Evangelicals can’t make so much as a spark to ignite what is dry kindling. I thought a good place to put my pet theory to the test is to determine whether a Mormon can fully believe the Protestant view of Salvation and remain LDS.  Is there some logical necessity of rejecting the message of the Restoration?  If they are not now, Mormons even become saved Christians and remain in the Church?

The question seems important. If the answer is “no,” Protestants should joyfully want Mormons to believe in their view of the Gospel whether or not the Mormons remain faithful to their LDS covenants or attend LDS church or believe the Book of Mormon is the word of God, or even continue to gather converts.  The entire approach to LDS missionary work would not be to show them where they are wrong theologically (which is extremely boring), but to teach them the truth in spirit and in power like Paul advocated (manifestly less boring). I recognize that many Mormons do not, and never will, understand or believe the theology behind the Evangelical view of salvation from original sin. But most Mormons are new Mormons without set theologies, and LDS Missionary efforts require a wide tolerance for strange beliefs. (I learned this acutely while eating dinner with a Jet Propulsion Laboratory physicist and my missionary companion, who was convinced that the earth was hollow.)  

And if they can get away with believing the strange things that they do, and remain in full fellowship, what’s to keep them from truly believing the strange Protestant confession of fantastic redemption from original sin. Nothing, right? After studying the matter out for quite some time, I don’t think there is anything essentially offensive to a Mormon’s covenants to believe nearly the same theology as a Protestant—even if he would find himself in contradiction if he actually thought his belief systems through.  (Since when was holding contradictory beliefs not ubiquitous?) Mormons may be a silly church compared to say, [reminder before posting: research name of church without silliness], but at least they would be safe in love and grace of Christ in spite of silliness.

I am willing to accept that I may be wrong on this point.  There may be something about grace that you won’t get if you wear a CTR ring (or have learned the song), and the Mormon believer must actually renounce all of it to be saved. There may also be some scriptural clause that prevents reconciliation of strong group loyalty with traditional Christian belief in salvation.  Something like that could apply to a believing Mormon. But I think it would be hard show who God singles out Mormon covenantal devotion to the Church without forcing a patriotic American, Russian, or Japanese, to renounce their national fielty for grace to hold them. (Maybe those that believe this sort of view are correct.) But if I am correct, and a believing Mormon can believe in Jesus in an Evangelical way, it seems that Evangelicals continue to fail the test I posit.  Undoubtedly Protestants believe Mormons might need the pill of understanding how much grace Jesus offers to heal their illness, Evangelicals often share their religion as a theological suppository.

Tolstoy’s reaction to this sort of approach:

“Never shall I forge the painful feeling I experienced the day I received the Eucharist for the first time after many years. The service, confession, and prayers were quite intelligible and produced in me a glad consciousness that the meaning of life was being revealed to me. The Communion itself I explained as an act performed in remembrance of Christ, and indicating a purification from sin and the full acceptance of Christ’s teaching. If that explanation was artificial I did not notice its artificiality: so happy was I at humbling and abasing myself before the priest — a simple, timid country clergyman — turning all the dirt out of my soul and confessing my vices, so glad was I to merge in thought with the humility of the fathers who wrote the prayers of the office, so glad was I of union with all who have believed and now believe, that I did not notice the artificiality of my explanation. But when I approached the altar gates, and the priest made me say that I believed that what I was about to swallow was truly flesh and blood, I felt a pain in my heart: it was not merely a false note, it was a cruel demand made by someone or other who evidently had never known what faith is.

I now permit myself to say that it was a cruel demand, but I did not then think so: only it was indescribably painful to me. I was no longer in the position in which I had been in youth when I thought all in life was clear; I had indeed come to faith because, apart from faith, I had found nothing, certainly nothing, except destruction; therefore to throw away that faith was impossible and I submitted. And I found in my soul a feeling which helped me to endure it. This was the feeling of self-abasement and humility. I humbled myself, swallowed that flesh and blood without any blasphemous feelings and with a wish to believe. But the blow had been struck and, knowing what awaited me, I could not go a second time.”

Is it possible to offer the Eucharist to Mormons without posing such questions?

15 thoughts on “Is the Protestant Doctrine of Salvation Incommensurate with the Mormon View?

  1. I don’t know many Protestants who would make the claim that the power of the message converts and I may be reading this wrong, but you seem to be operating under the mistaken that belief is some type of meritorious act.

  2. We do believe that it is the power of the message (the gospel) that saves (creates faith in those who hear it (who really hear it) ). Romans 1:16

    We also believe that we are not saved by our doctrine. Although good doctrine is important, the Bible tells us that, it is the Holy Spirit who creates faith…when and where He wills.

    I do remember a class our pastor gave (some 15 years ago) on cults. Someone asked the question, “Can a Mormon be a Christian?” My pastor answered, “Sure. And there might even be some (Christians) here.”

  3. I’m not sure if it’s the frame of mind I was reading this with or not but I had a hard time following your thoughts and understanding what you’re trying to resolve here. I think abstractly Evangelicals might be able to accept that some Mormons might be saved.

    But I think reducing Christianity down to salvation rather than the call to discipleship is a fundamental misunderstanding of the ministry of Jesus.

  4. I don’t think Christianity can be reduced to salvation. The underlying question is, what has to be believed in order to be a disciple of Jesus? When “core doctrines” are disbelieved, what, if anything does that do to a person’s discipleship from the Protestant perspective.

  5. I used to ask the same question, what must be believed? To be honest trying to ends up in a reductive exercise turning Christian faith into little more than a trivia exam of a person’s favorite doctrines.

    If a part of discipleship is in fact being a students, practical experience tells us that students will fail to understand and grasp the most basic of lessons. The New Testament writers show us that even proximity to the Lord did not keep his earliest disciples from believing wrongly.

    I don’t think the New Testament teaches us to even attempt to minimize Christian doctrine into a couple of essentials, but it does show us that disciples are willing to learn.

    From the experience of the first half of my life in multiple Protestant churches and the second half as Mormon, I have always found it incongruous that doctrine doesn’t figure into salvation. As far as Protestants go, you have thousands of churches that demand (inconsistently between them) that doctrine is the foundation and frame of the house while it sits on the Rock of revelation in Christ.

    You begin with an irrational Premise….that being “Is the Protestant Doctrine of Salvation Incommensurate with the Mormon View?” You have thousands and thousands of Independent Protestant churches with ministers carrying personal doctrines in each at personal whim…..for starters. So to answer the question this High Priest answers for the Mormon Church with a certain Yes. Our Lord demands there is one church organization, one faith, and one baptism (paraphrasing the Bible). Preaching a disregard for doctrine is inviting real sheep into the fold..
    As for healing in the LDS Church, the Lord dictated what the person being healed must possess first. No amount of grace from the Lord can heal an unbeliever with a closed heart, though they may find healing in any case.

  7. paraphrasing the Bible

    No kidding.

    Preaching a disregard for doctrine is inviting real sheep into the fold.

    Who preaches a disregard for doctrine?

  8. The mention of terms like “core doctrines”, “core beliefs”, without any doctrines in particular is a meaningless exercise. It brings to nothing that one particular doctrine is true and another is not.
    Second, someone earlier made reference to the “writers of the Bible”. There are no writers of the Bible. In fact, those writings assembled making up the New Testament of the Bible, were not written with that end in mind, that their writings together would become a closed canon. Those leaders in that day would vehemently object to the exclusion of other writers that they greatly admired and in Nicaea 500 years later with the assembling of the Bible, they did.
    Third, the primary source the New Testament are letters from Paul. Paul made it quite clear to wayward churches that he established, that true doctrine was vital to salvation. He made it perfectly clear that you can’t go off willy-nilly and create your own baptisms and incorporate pagan philosophies that by their nature departed from what he had already taught.

    So, yes, true doctrine establishes the path to salvation.

  9. I just found this blog. I believe I did as an answer to a few very fervent prayers over the last few days. I recently went through a trial of my own faith that started on a premise that main stream scientists have been right this whole time and the Earth is really billions of years old. I found it very strange that my faith should have been so thoroughly shaken that not one stone was left on another. In other words, I had to start from scratch. It was very frightening.

    I started to do some looking and found that whether you are an Old-World Creationist or a New-World Creationist, there are explanations out there that can stand against scientific theory, some with more weight than others. I won’t go into my conclusions. I will say that I found my faith in Jesus Christ again, but that left me wondering if the faith I had embraced was the correct faith because ask anyone who knows me, I hate to be wrong. I think that it was this pride that caused me to fall away. You know what they say about pride.

    My conclusion. I believe in a God that is full of compassion and love for us and I can not believe that God, in his great love for his children, would condemn any one of them based on their acceptance of mistaken doctrine. My definition of a Christian is this: Someone who believes in Jesus Christ as the divine Son of God and who does their best to follow his teachings and example. In this definition action is as important as faith. I could have bucket loads of faith but if I do not do my best to serve my fellow man with compassion and Christ-like energy, then it profits me nothing at all. I found that I can accept that I might be wrong in which doctrine I believe, but that doesn’t mean I am condemned for it if I am wrong. I feel great peace.

    There is something I want to ask based on a reply given by robinobishop. Can you expand on your statement “No amount of grace from the Lord can heal an unbeliever with a closed heart, though they may find healing in any case.” One of the things that brought me back to my faith was remembering instances where I was healed or one of my children were healed based on faith. In two specific instances the circumstances of the healing were taken with confusion by doctors who said that what they were witnessing was frankly amazing. I take this as proof that no matter what doctrine I believe, if I have had faith enough to receive these wonderful miracles, then I am not truly lost even if it turns out the doctrine I believe in is wrong. Thoughts on this?

  10. robinobishop,

    Is it a common Mormon belief that there were no writers of the Bible?

    I understand the Mormon’s theological incongruity when it comes to the canon of the New Testament makes it much easier to make up some kind of Constantinian conspiracy than to deal with the historical transmission of the Bible. By necessity you must be oppose to a closed canon, while at the same time Salt Lake accepts the Protestants canon, going so far as to canonize a particular Protestant translation.

    I think Mormons like the idea of an open canon more than they like the practice, otherwise why haven’t they added any of the intertestamental books to the Protestant canon?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s