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.

Grace for Gays?

To me, the rejection of the Christianity of gay people is similar to the rejection of the Christianity of Mormons.  Traditional Christians reject Mormons Christians for their rejection of orthodox formulations of Christian doctrine/dogma, they reject gay Christians for rejection of traditional behavioral norms.

Being new to traditional Christianity, I have some serious questions about how the Christian community currently rejects/embrace Christians who live non-traditional lifestyles such as gay marriage. If you have some time, let me know your best thoughts on these:

(1) What is the most compelling Christian theological justification for classifying sin such as homosexuality as more or less abominable in the eyes of God?

(2) Is requiring heterosexual practice in order to accept a person into a Christian fold any different in principle than requiring circumcision?

For The Love of God

In John Piper’s second edition of Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist he shares this story:
Supposing I come home to my wife on our wedding anniversary with a big bunch of red roses. When she opens the door flinging her arms around me and thanks me for the gift, I could make one of two responses . If I say to her, ‘I had to buy these for you – it is my duty. At Wedding Anniversaries these are the things husbands are supposed to do’ she would probably not be very impressed! If however, I respond by saying ‘Darling I love you, and it gives me great pleasure to give you flowers’ she will not turn to me and say: ‘How selfish you are talking about YOUR pleasure’. But rather will respond positively seeing that the pleasure I gain from giving her flowers dignifies both the act and the action!

Piper gives a challenging and liberating message that God wants us to serve him, not out of obligation but out of joy and passion. I hope this might explain why Evangelicals are so enamored with the idea of salvation by grace alone.

In our teaching, a man’s works can not bring him salvation. Only the perfect sacrifice of Christ is enough. No amount of work will add or subtract to what is already perfectly given. Since our works are meaningless toward our salvation there must be some other reason we perform them. It can be out of obligation and duty or it can be out of love and passion for the God’s Kingdom.

Merely doing good works out of duty doesn’t express gratitude to God the same way doing them out of love does. Since we aren’t earning our salvation, we can be confident that leaving something out will not affect our eternal status. We don’t have a check-list to fulfill on our road to heaven. This gives us great freedom to serve out of our own gifts and passions. We serve out of joy and delight. With gratitude we build God’s kingdom because of the what it has done for us. Never are our works an effort to prove we deserve God’s love, instead they are an effort to prove that we love God.

I hope this helps explain why we lhold the idea of salvation by grace alone so dearly.

AIDS, Bono and a Confession

Recently I watched a documentary on the African AIDS crisis. In the documentary they spent some time focusing on Bono and his efforts to reform the American Church’s response to AIDS. He basically confronted evangelical leaders and politicians with Jesus’s own words on helping the suffering. It was quite powerful and convicting.

It made me reevaluate my own attitude towards those with AIDS. Basically I was of the opionion that a death sentence was pretty much a just punishment for sexual promiscuity. To be sure, what God wants for our sex lives is fidelity within the bounds of marriage. But AIDS is not a judgment from God, it is a result of the fall. The punishment in no way fits the crime. God grieves for those who must die as a result of their sin, why don’t I?

What a sad way for us to respond to those who are in pain and facing death because of sexual sin. Instead of offering love and grace we do our best to prevent policy for funding a cure because we already have the answer. Yes, abstinence is the best way to stop AIDS, but no one will listen to what we have to say if we are content to let people die because they weren’t righteous. If we aren’t righteous in our response to a death causing disease, then our sexual righteousness is filth in the eyes of the lost. (and since when is our example to only offer compassion to the righteous)

There is a ongoing debate about giving every 12 year old girl a vaccine against cervical cancer. There are some who oppose this vaccine because they think it will encourage 12 year olds to have sex. I get it, they don’t want teenagers having sex. But if the threat of cervical cancer is the only reason we can give young girls for purity, then I’m afraid purity doesn’t hold much allure for the next generation.

Our priorities are messed up if we think it’s more important that someone remain a virgin than if they die from preventable cancer.

I’m considering participating in the local AIDS walk this year. I think the Christian silence on AIDS has been deafening for far too long.

Mercy and Justice

This is a parable that really helped me understand God’s use of justice and mercy in my ongoing salvation. The Kingdom of God is like a smoothie store. . . .

I love smoothies. I’d like to drink a smoothie everyday. I have a favorite smoothie shop that’s within walking distance of work that I frequent often. The same guy is working there every day, his name is Josh and we’ve gotten to know one another quite well. The problem is, in the past I have frequently forgotten my wallet. When this happened I would beg and plead with Josh to give me a free smoothie. He sometimes gave me a free smoothie, he would justify it by saying “Ah, you’ve bought so many smoothies you probably deserve a free one.” Well this arrangement worked out great until one week I forgot my wallet everyday. On Monday he gave in, no problem. Tuesday he was hesitant. Wednesday took a lot of begging on my part (it got embarrassing). On Thursday he finally said “ENOUGH! I can’t keep giving you free smoothies. If I keep giving you free smoothies I’m going to lose my job.” He was right of course and I left without my smoothie. Amazingly on Friday I forgot my wallet again and didn’t even bother visiting Josh.

Well, my wife heard about all of this and devised a plan. On her own time she visited Josh at the Smoothie store. She and Josh had a good laugh about what a dope I am. Then she asked Josh if they sold gift cards. Sure enough, they did. So she paid for a $100 gift card and asked Josh to keep it. She told him, “Next time Tim forgets his wallet, I want you to just charge this gift card for his smoothie. Don’t tell him about it and let me know when it’s almost empty and I’ll recharge the card.”

So sure enough, the next time I forgot my wallet, I sheepishly asked Josh if I could have a free smoothie and he said “No problem, would you like a sandwich too!”

Before my wife bought the gift card I was relying on Josh’s mercy for a smoothie. Eventually I exhausted his mercy, I had to pay. But after he had the gift card, my smoothies had been paid for. Justice required Josh to give me a smoothie any time I asked for one.

Christianity teaches that forgiveness is offered by God in the same way. The first time we ask for forgiveness from God, in mercy he gives us his Son and forgives our debt. But after we accept this gift, when we again ask for forgiveness (because we will fail again), justice demands that we receive it because the price has been paid, now and forever more.