German Technology: Making the LDS Church Even Truer

I have to admit, President Dieter Uchtdorf’s talk “The Gift of Grace” surprised me. But as I think about it, it was the logical move. When I was converted to a grace-based Gospel, I had the idea myself that the LDS church could vastly improve its teaching by simply adding Evangelical-style grace to the formula, and as Tim has proven, it barely produced a ripple. If the Church leadership doesn’t jump on this opportunity to make the church a more powerful force in the world by moving toward orthodoxy, I will know they have no hope.  If they do preach grace and salvation, they just might make themselves the true Church they claim to be.

If Uchtdorf pushed his neo-Mormon-Lutheranism down the throats of the correlation committee, the church will be in a great position to boost its power to spread to the third world.  Given how theologically wacky Brigham Young was, there should be no objection at all from the membership if the First Presidency started transforming into a full-blown Evangelical mega-megachurch. It has the media resources to put the pseudo-Christians at TBN to shame, and the organizational resources and financial support that should inflict most megachurches with a heathen lust. Whether or not move toward orthodoxy was accepted by the rest of the body of Christ, the LDS church could actually adopt the cutting edge of Protestant theologies, whatever would propagate faster in each individual culture.

Mormonism already has a competitive advantage over many Christian churches because its religious structure is much more akin to post-Christian paganism than Protestant churches.  They have the catholic capacity to mint new authoritative doctrine and tradition, and the nimble doctrine of modern-day prophecy to maximize their theological impact. This has got to play better in tribal societies that need a strong church structure within unstable nation-states.  For example, the Congo needs Mormonism badly, for social reasons as much as religious ones.  If Evangelicals got serious about teaching the Apostles how the preach the Gospel better, the Church could be a powerful force to spread hope to Africa.

The reason why Uchtdorf’s talk didn’t raise eyebrows is because grace-based theology is simply superior religious technology. From a religious perspective was as if this German airline pilot showed up with an iPhone 8 in a room full of flip phones.  Uchtdorf and other right-thinking church leaders could revise the entire church curriculum, most of the membership who has heard of the Evangelical gospel are all-too-happy to jump ship on Brigham Young and Co.’s archaic theology. Because the King Follet discourse has been kept from the canon, there is almost no need to even minimize it, simply allow people to believe what they want and preach the real McCoy in the correlated literature.  Any rift within the church could be countered with a form of Gamaliel’s counsel coming from the First Presidency.   The missionaries can integrate a grace-based message into the first discussion, and you will immediately dramatically increase the conversion rate.

The reason I think this is a good idea, is that the semi-pagan structure of the church, and allowance for further prophecy is a very important step toward bringing the Gospel to Islamic countries and pagan Europe.  The only evidence I have is a curious up-tick in Iranian-American baptisms in Southern California. (Muslims becoming anything like Christians is a very important phenomena in my book.)  By coming out with the truth behind Joseph Smith’s sex life, the church could distance itself from his later teachings yet maintain the “secret sauce” that is the Book of Mormon. Thus it could maintain its well-ordered authoritarian structure and true-church status all while moving to a more orthodox — and therefore more appealing — Gospel without jeopardizing unity.  I think they could become a force to be reckoned with in spreading the actual Gospel if they went this route.

I propose the Christian world act like Alma the Elder and push toward this new path in policy and doctrine.

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21 thoughts on “German Technology: Making the LDS Church Even Truer

  1. Some friends were visited by Mormon missionaries yesterday (their first visit). The missionaries had them watch Uchtdorf’s talk. Not a bad strategy when it comes to meeting with Evangelicals.

  2. If I was a missionary I would lead with the talk for sure. Half of the missionary effort is to get a person to understand that God exists and loves them, the other half is to have them commit to follow the rules and be baptized. I served up a grace-based gospel my entire mission (based on my own interpretations). This talk allows missionaries to do it more explicitly. I think that Uchtdorf is showing the power of modern-day prophecy to re-engineer the church however the leadership wants. I see how Evangelicals could step in and attempt to lead them to a fuller “brightness of hope” if they could gain influence over how the LDS Gospel is taught.

  3. It should set off a Protestant RADAR when grace is defined as “divine assistance and endowment of strength by which we grow…”

  4. It should set off a Protestant RADAR when grace is defined as “divine assistance and endowment of strength by which we grow…”

    Yep. That’s not the grace alone of the Reformation (or the Bible).

  5. Right, I am sure many Evangelicals will call the effort simply donning sheep’s clothing.

    Here is the interesting comment of a former-Evangelical-now-Mormon:

    “Uctdorf’s talk on grace opened my eyes to the reality of eternal exaltation like never before….It’s not that I didn’t believe it before now; it just never resonated with me like it does now”

    I think this is good evidence of improved religious technology.

  6. I’m not saying Uchtdorf is donning sheeps clothes, I am not sure what to make of the comment by a former-Evangelical-now-Mormon and I fully recognize I am pretty conservative/traditional Protestant.

    So from my traditional Protestant perspective where there is “no intermediate between being justified by faith and justified by works”, there is a natural revulsion to the idea that our works are meritorious in a salvific sense. A grace based message built on the foundation of “divine assistance” and “endowment of strength” misses the point. It all sounded like the Easter version of the parable of the bicycle to me.

    At the same time I recognize this was a talk not a theological lecture and that Mormons don’t have the same theology about the nature of preaching and the sermon, so Uchtdorf could be a revolution in religious affairs and I just cannot recognize it.

  7. “It should set off a Protestant RADAR when grace is defined as “divine assistance and endowment of strength by which we grow…”

    I understand Protestants use Romans/Galatians as a lens in which to view the rest of the Bible and that you have a very specific understanding of Paul’s words in those letters. But there is a wide net of usage for that word in the Bible. Particularly in the OT, grace is described as something that follows a person, assists them, helps them. Being pronounced right with God already happened by virtue of being born into Israel.(one way God assigns grace to Israel) or through divine assistance throughout a persons life. (another way).

  8. I guess its obvious that any use of the word grace in the OT would be a translators choice either from the LXX or the Hebrew, but I am still not sure divine favor is only resigned to the Pauline books of Romans/Galatians.

    χάρις — grace; favor (166×) +NT +AF

    Hebrew Alignment

    חֵן—favor; grace (59): Gen 6:8; 18:3; 30:27; 32:5; 33:8, 10, 15; 34:11; 39:4, 21; 47:25, 29; 50:4; Ex 3:21; 11:3; 12:36; 33:12, 13, 16, 17; 34:9; Nu 11:11; 32:5; Dt 24:1; Ruth 2:2, 10, 13; 1 Kgdms 1:18; 16:22; 20:3, 29; 25:8; 27:5; 2 Kgdms 14:22; 15:25; 16:4; 3 Kgdms 11:19; Es 2:15, 17; 5:8; 7:3; 8:5;
    Ps 44:3; 83:12; Prov 1:9; 3:3, 22, 34; 4:9; 5:19; 13:15; 17:8; 22:1; 28:23; Ec 9:11; 10:12; Zech 4:7; 6:14; 12:10

    רָצוֹן—favor; acceptance; pleasure (3): Pr 10:32; 11:27; 12:2

    רַחֲמִים—compassion (2): Ge 43:14; Dan 1:9

    (2012). The Lexham Analytical Lexicon to the Septuagint. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

  9. @Gundek,

    I am with you on being very conservative about assigning any merit to our works at all. I am convinced that only actually hearing and acknowledging the Gospel can save us.

    I agree also that Mormons do not understand preaching. In many ways only the missionaries do any preaching in the Protestant sense. Mormons don’t generally think the word of God is coming from the pulpit.

  10. Particularly in the OT, grace is described as something that follows a person, assists them, helps them.

    Where in the OT.

  11. Exodus 13:

    “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle. . . And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.”

    1Corinthians 10:

    “For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.”

  12. Like the Exodus narrative, I was thinking of people like Joseph, Ruth, Samuel, David and Daniel who find daily/incremental grace/favor/goodness from God.

    I’m guessing the objection, is using this description of grace/favor to describe eternal salvation opposed to temporal “help” with daily life (outside of Justification).

  13. I still maintain that the how/when/why of God’s good grace/favor is a wide net throughout most of the Bible. The Protestant tradition lives and dies by Romans/Galatians.

  14. Christian J,

    I think the reason Protestants do that is that Jesus proposed a very different interpretation of the scriptures, and they believe that Paul’s interpretation gave intellectual wings to what Jesus said.

    God’s favor — in the form of temporal health, wealth, and power — is dished out upon the righteous and the wicked alike, without regard for what humans would call love and justice. He lets Satan run things and sacrifices to demons are as effective as sacrifices to God. But in Christ God proves his faithfulness to his promise to love and redeem the world, and that is an absolutely free gift, otherwise it would be hard to call it love. It is a gift the world might not even recognize as valuable, or understand, but it seems like it could change everything if people opened their eyes to it.

  15. “God’s favor — in the form of temporal health, wealth, and power — is dished out upon the righteous and the wicked alike, without regard for what humans would call love and justice. He lets Satan run things and sacrifices to demons are as effective as sacrifices to God. But in Christ God proves his faithfulness to his promise to love and redeem the world, and that is an absolutely free gift, otherwise it would be hard to call it love. It is a gift the world might not even recognize as valuable, or understand, but it seems like it could change everything if people opened their eyes to it.”

    Well said.

    Its an interesting discussion here, though. Christians don’t have to do anything to merit God’s favor because they can do nothing to merit God’s favor apart from accepting Christ. The daily striving, toiling, and worry about having to please God should be taken away when we accept Christ. That’s the grace: we need to not worry any more about finding favor with God, because only in Christ and when we are in Christ is that fully satisfied.

    Does that not mean that we shouldn’t live righteously (not that we can ever fully be righteous)? Of course we should try to live kind, gentle lives and honor God. But doing that means nothing towards our salvation. I am trying to remember a place in the Bible where someone is praised by God for following the commandments alone. To the contrary, only those who show true faith are praised. Those who say, “Look what I did” are condemned. It is those who show faith in God who are praised, whether or not they were perfect in following the commandments. Faith matters, not obedience to the law. (If someone knows of someone praised for following the commandments alone, please let me know.)

    And Jesus simply brings this out for us to see: faith matters, not following the law. It will be tough. It will be work, but it this difficulty and this work matter only if we believe. I am not one to condemn a Christian who feels he has to work, but the moment he feels that work is what saves I will correct him. There are reasons a Christian might feel the need to work apart from grace, such as a feeling that working helps keep him focused on Christ. But again, that work does nothing to improve the chances of salvation and ought not be relied upon for such.

    Do we get rewards for our work? We are told we do, but we have no idea what those are, and I don’t think they should be a motivating factor.

    But the idea of everyday needing to work out our salvation by diligently doing x, y, and z is not a part of the Christian life. We are to trust in Christ, and live our lives as Christ wills.

  16. Jared, as usual, I’m looking for an acknowledgement of theological diversity in the Bible. Specifically in God’s dealings with Israel, but even in the 4 Gospels. There’s a curious reluctance I see, to admit a theological elevation of some verses/narratives/books of the Bible over others. To do so, I think, is perfectly legit within a theological framework. Just own up to it.

  17. Chrisian,

    I think we may be talking past each other and I want to answer you more fully when I am off my phone, but there is nothing in historic Protestant theology that uses God’s grace/favor exclusively to describe eternal salvation ignoring material and spiritual blessings.

    Recognizing that God’s grace as unmerited favor plays out in temporal, spiritual, and salvific aspects isn’t controversial.

  18. Gundek, my point that it isn’t controversial. I got the impression that you thought it was. Glad i was wrong.

  19. Jared, as usual, I’m looking for an acknowledgement of theological diversity in the Bible. Specifically in God’s dealings with Israel, but even in the 4 Gospels. There’s a curious reluctance I see, to admit a theological elevation of some verses/narratives/books of the Bible over others. To do so, I think, is perfectly legit within a theological framework. Just own up to it.

    I agree that Protestantism is based on the elevation of a narrow view of the New Testament. Based on what the Gospels say, I think it makes sense to keep things narrow. Literature tells us that there are always more than one reasonable view, but every reasonable view is not equally valuable. Focus is the heart of any clear message.

  20. Christian,

    No, I don’t think it is controversial, I really think that conversations between Mormons and Protestants simply focus on topics where Paul is most clear.

    I don’t think this means Protestants ignore the rest of the NT or even the OT. I don’t know why Paul is the high Christology and rejection of false teachers in James, Peter’s call to holiness and freedom because of the hope we have in Christ and rejection of false prophets, John emphasis on the adopting love of the Father and rejection of false prophets, Jude’s trinitarian working of salvation and rejection of false prophets are all themes Protestants should feel very comfortable with.

    Personally if I seem to avoid the OT it is because I don’t want to accidentally bring up a topic that would lead to a discussion of dispensationalism and the tendency of some to venerate the OT Patriarchs, Judges, Kings, and Prophets as if they were not cowardly, liars, murderers, adulterers etc.

  21. . . . the tendency of some to venerate the OT Patriarchs, Judges, Kings, and Prophets as if they were not cowardly, liars, murderers, adulterers etc.

    This.

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