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Blogger Matt Walsh has been taking some heat these days. Or, to be more accurate, Matt takes heat every day. Matt stands strong on important issues, and Matt does not mince words. In response to the sorts of comments he gets on his blog, he has written a provocatively-titled article: “Jesus didn’t care about being nice or tolerant, and neither should you.” He begins,
“There is no shortage of heresies these days.
“If you want to adopt some blasphemous, perverted, fun house mirror reflection of Christianity, you will find a veritable buffet of options. You can sift through all the variants and build your own little pet version of the Faith. It’s Ice Cream Social Christianity: make your own sundae! (Or Sunday, as it were.)
“And, of all the heretical choices, probably the most common — and possibly the most damaging — is what I’ve come to call the Nice Doctrine.
“The propagators of the Nice Doctrine can be seen and heard from anytime any Christian takes any bold stance on any cultural issue, or uses harsh language of any kind, or condemns any sinful act, or fights against evil with any force or conviction at all. As soon as he or she stands and says ‘This is wrong, and I will not compromise,’ the heretics swoop in with their trusty mantras.
“They insist that Jesus was a nice man, and that He never would have done anything to upset people. They say that He came down from Heaven to preach tolerance and acceptance, and He wouldn’t have used words that might lead to hurt feelings. They confidently sermonize about a meek and mild Messiah who was born into this Earthly realm on a mission to spark a constructive dialogue.
“The believers in Nice Jesus are usually ignorant of Scripture, but they do know that He was ‘friends with prostitutes,’ and once said something about how, like, we shouldn’t get too ticked off about stuff, or whatever. In their minds, he’s essentially a supernatural Cheech Marin.”
While The Matt Walsh Blog and Mormon Coffee differ significantly on topics discussed, we share common exposure to propagators of the Nice Doctrine. That’s why I think Matt’s comments in this particular article would be of interest to the Mormon Coffee community. That, and the fact that later this week Christians all over the world remember and contemplate the crucifixion of Jesus, which was preceded by some of His less-than-nice behavior.
Matt Walsh writes about the Jesus he finds in the Bible:
“I read of a strong, manly, stern, and bold Savior. Compassionate, yes. Forgiving, of course. Loving, always loving. But not particularly nice.
“He condemned. He denounced. He caused trouble. He disrupted the established order.
“On one occasion — or at least one recorded occasion — He used violence. This Jesus saw the money changers in the temple and how did He respond? He wasn’t polite about it. I’d even say He was downright intolerant. He fashioned a whip (this is what the lawyers would call ‘premeditation’) and physically drove the merchants away. He turned over tables and shouted. He caused a scene. [John 2:15]
“Assault with a deadly weapon. Vandalism. Disturbing the peace. Worse still, intolerance.
“In two words: not nice…
“Jesus deliberately did and said things that He knew would upset people. He stirred up division and controversy. He provoked. He didn’t have to break from established customs, but He did. He didn’t have to heal that man’s hand on the Sabbath, knowing how it would disturb others and cause them immense irritation, but He did, and He did so with ‘anger’ [Mark 3:5]. He could have gone with the flow a little bit. He could have chilled out and let bygones be bygones, but He didn’t. He could have been diplomatic, but He wasn’t.
“He could have told everyone to relax, but instead He made them uncomfortable. He could have put them at ease, but He chose to put them on edge.”
And by putting them on edge, He made enemies. Yet He didn’t flinch, even though He knew His enemies would put Him to death. Death on a cross. For them. For the sake of – and because of love for — His enemies.
Now, as Matt Walsh notes, Jesus is God and we are not. Jesus has more street cred than we do. So shouldn’t we be nicer than Jesus was? Shouldn’t we avoid confrontation and dispute, and be willing to just agree to disagree? In Matt’s words,
“[W]e are called to be like Christ, which begs the question: what is Christ like?
“Well, He is, among other things, uncompromising. He is intolerant of evil. He is disruptive. He is sometimes harsh. He is sometimes impolite. He is sometimes angry.
“He is always loving.”
So must we be always loving.
Love has many faces. It is loving to comfort; it is also loving to challenge. It is loving to encourage; and it is loving to pull the rug out from under someone who is complacently living a lie while heading for a Christ-less eternity.
Jesus’ love compelled Him to both tenderness and aggressive confrontation. So too, as the Bible says, Christ’s love compels us (2 Corinthians 5:14), His people:
“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20)
Why? Because the day of God’s wrath is coming. We’ve seen Jesus angry, and we’ve seen the earth quake at His death; but honestly, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
When Jesus returns He will have a sickle in His hand to reap grapes of wrath. A sharp sword will proceed out of His mouth to strike the nations. And when the winepress of the wrath of God is trampled, blood will flow from it for miles. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire (see Revelation chapters 14, 19 and 20).
When Jesus returns, He’s not going to be nice.
Does it offend you, Mormon friends, to be shown that you are following a false prophet? Does it upset you when we demonstrate that your church is not the kingdom of God on earth as it claims? Does it hurt your feelings when we point out that the Bible says all your so-called works of righteousness are but filthy rags before our holy God? Or when we warn you that the Christ of Mormonism is a “different Jesus”? Or when we proclaim that your only eternal hope is to trust in the true Christ, and to trust in Him alone? So be it. It may not sound especially nice, but we implore you on behalf of Christ: Be reconciled to God.
2:00-2:45pm Sandra Tanner – “Apostasy in Sweden: An Example of a Larger Crisis”
3:00-3:45pm Bill McKeever – “The new ‘Gospel Topics’ essays: When transparency is, at best, opaque.”
4:00-4:45pm Rob Bowman – “From Mormonism to Skepticism: Answers for Mormons Who Are Losing Their Faith”
|Practical Mormon Atheism||The Contraries|
|1||Even if Mormonism is false, it is still worth believing and ought not be refuted.||Mormonism, if false, ought not be “left alone”, but ought to be refuted and engaged and deconstructed.|
|2||Faith is ultimately irrational.||Faith is partly but vitally rooted in evidence that can be publicly scrutinized.|
|3||Even if you don’t believe in God, you should still stay on the membership rolls and consider yourself a Mormon.||Those who turn atheist can keep attending as welcomed guests, but ought not attend as members, and ought not self-identify as a member of any religion they no longer believe in.|
|4||If the LDS Church isn’t true, there is no God.||There are plenty of reasons to believe in a first, Most High, absolutely ultimate God outside of Mormonism.|
|5||How you live your life is more important than what you believe.||Beliefs are primary and behavior is secondary, because the only behavior that matters is that which flows from true and right belief.|
|6||I can’t believe in a God who demands worship.||God is a jealous God who demands that he be praised and worshipped as the best of all beings, and will harshly punish those who refuse to worship him.|
|7||It doesn’t matter if it’s true. What matters is whether it is official.||“Non-official” teachings of our tradition, culture, literature, and institution ought to be scrutinized.|
|8||I proudly mentally disassociate from the content and implications of my belief system.||We love systematic, integrated theology, and thinking through the implications of our worldview.|
|9||The Church is true. Even if I don’t believe this or basically understand it, I can bear testimony of it.||We insist that neither we nor our children bear such testimony until we basically understand and believe what this means.|
|10||There was a conspiracy to fundamentally corrupt the Bible. It is untrustworthy and we look elsewhere for truth.||We trust the Bible to not have been fundamentally corrupted, we encourage the study of original Biblical languages, and we value exegesis and examine the teachings of our leaders against the most probable original meaning of the text.|
|11||Apart from Mormonism, I have no good reasons to believe that Jesus rose from the dead.||Outside of Mormonism there are good reasons to believe in the resurrection of Jesus.|
|12||The existence of my personhood is not owing to any god.||My personhood is not co-eternal with God or any other intelligences, rather God himself created my essential personhood at a point in time.|
|13||Everything is matter and nothing is immaterial.||Not everything is composed of matter. Some things are immaterial spirit.|
|14||There is no ultimate personal being who is the ground of all other being.||There is an ultimate being from whom absolutely all other things (not to be relativized to one generation of the gods) come.|
|15||There is no first cause.||There is a first cause.|
|16||There are impersonal eternal laws that govern everything.||All eternal laws come from an ultimate personal being.|
Back in 2005 Robert Velarde and Eric Johnson co-wrote an article for the CRI Journal comparing Mormons and Muslims. The authors looked at four areas of differences (i.e., views of Creation, God, Jesus, and humankind’s final state) and four areas of similarities (i.e., origins, scripture, restoration, and the human condition).
In 2008 the Los Angeles Times reported on a growing bond between Muslims and Mormons. The article noted a statement made by a BYU professor to the effect that positive Mormon attitudes toward Islam had resulted in (among other things) “Mormonism’s being called the Islam of America.”
In 2010 Aaron Shafovaloff explained to Mormon Coffee readers that LDS apologist and leading scholar on Islam, Daniel Peterson, was unwilling or unable to take a position on whether Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, was a false prophet or “a genuine prophet of some sort.”
In 2012 Huffington Post contributor Eliza Wood asked “Are Mormons Closer to Muslims or Christians?” Before providing readers with a list of 19 similarities between Islam and Mormonism, Ms. Wood wrote, “While in some ways neither Islam nor Mormonism is very much like Christianity, the two faiths actually have a lot of similarities.”
And that brings us to today as yet another similarity between Mormons and Muslims has appeared – this in the area of public relations. The Christian Post reports that controversial billboards are showing up around Columbus, Ohio that state, “Jesus is Muslim,” “Muhammad is in the Bible,” and “Muslims love Jesus too,” The organization responsible for the billboards is ask-a-muslim.com. This organization insists, “When you have questions about Islam, ask a Muslim.” On the website, under the heading “Jesus was Muslim,” is this declaration:
“Muslims are Christians
“For starters, Muslims are Christians – if ‘Christian’ means someone following the teachings of Christ, so by learning about Islam you are not disobeying Jesus…
“Muslims are following the teachings of Jesus, while most Christians have began to follow the Church – this is why the Quran needed to be revealed. (Holy Quran 9:31)…
“Please remember Islam = following Jesus. Muhammad confirmed Jesus.”
Ask-a-muslim.com is a group of Muslims who live in Ohio. They are
“dedicated to educating you about Islam, giving you a chance to hear about Islam from practicing Muslims… We invite people to have an open discourse with us. All we ask you to do, is ask us whatever questions you have about Islam, and we’ll gladly and honestly answer them. We believe that clearing up the many misconceptions about Islam will make this world a better place. A place with less violence and hatred, filled with mutual respect and understanding.”
According to Velarde and Johnson,
“Muslims do acknowledge Jesus as a great prophet and accept His virgin birth,sinlessness,and miracles, but they adamantly reject His deity as well as His death by crucifixion. Some Muslims argue that someone else died in the place of Jesus.Because Muslims often interpret in a literal fashion the Christian doctrine of God ‘begetting’ a Son, they hold that Christians add another being to the nature of God. This is blasphemous to the Islamic mindset, since Allah is the only God and can therefore have no companions.”
Likewise, when Mormons talk about Jesus there is a theological disconnect between what Mormonism teaches and the biblical Christ:
“Latter-day Saints affirm the divinity of Christ and His virgin birth, miracles, and bodily resurrection. This may seem orthodox, but a closer look at LDS teaching reveals significant points of disagreement with Christian positions on these doctrines. For instance, while LDS leaders say Jesus is the ‘Son of God’ and ‘the Only Begotten Son in the flesh,’ they do not hold that He is God in the flesh or the second person of the Trinity. In Mormon theology, Jesus is one god among many. Also, Mormons have claimed that the virgin birth involved a physical union between God the Father and Mary.” (Velarde and Johnson)
“‘Although we support the Islamic community’s right to free speech, as well as their right to post messages on billboards, we do not support the hi-jacking of the name of Jesus Christ in their attempt to lure uninformed Christians into their religion,’ Coach Dave Daubenmire said.
“Daubenmire continued, ‘Jesus Christ was crucified, died, and resurrected over 600 years before the birth of Mohammed. Although Islam honors Jesus as a prophet, they do not believe that He is the risen Son of God. During this most Holy Lenten Season we find the messages on the billboards to be insensitive, dishonest and deserving of a response from concerned Christians. We will be on the streets to proclaim Jesus is NOT Muslim but Jesus is Lord!!’”
This is something I never saw coming. Mormons and Muslims now share an effort to be identified as Christians. They share the desire to have their respective religions recognized as the true religion of Jesus Christ. They share a willingness to spin and blur the truth in order to achieve their proselytizing goals. And because of all this, there is one more thing they share: Challenges to these misleading claims by Christians who are committed to stand firm for the truth, stand firm for the cause of Christ.
Breaking news as reported by Peggy Fletcher Stuck:
Over the past few months, there have been essays published on LDS.org concerning the First Vision, Race and the Priesthood, plural marriage, the Book of Mormon translation, and Becoming Like God. Now, in a paper that appears to top the others, the sixth essay was published yesterday that is causing shock waves around the world. Titled “Distancing the Church from Joseph Smith,” church authorities indicate that the LDS Church wants nothing more to do with the legacy of Joseph Smith.
According to the article:
“Joseph Smith was a farm boy with a fifth grade education. While he certainly was gifted in many ways by God, it has never been claimed that Smith was responsible for ending the Great Apostasy that started in the third century. In fact, there could have been no such event as a ‘great’ apostasy if the apostle John and the Three Nephites are still alive and never lost their priesthood. Thus, while Joseph was indeed responsible for starting the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, some of our people place too much emphasis upon this man who is just like you and me, a human with many frailties just like ours.”
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, a member of the First Presidency, likened the move to his days as a pilot for a German airline. He claimed that “just as I flew for many years, Joseph Smith is like an eagle soaring above the plains. He’s a good eagle, no doubt, but to give too much prominence to one man would be irresponsible since our church is centered on Jesus Christ. Just consider the name of our church and you’ll know what I mean.”
Among other issues, the article cited Smith’s polygamous ways with 34 women as “irresponsible, especially when it is considered that a third of his wives were teenagers and another third married to other men’s wives.” Also specifically cited as “blasphemous” was Smith’s infamous “King Follett Discourse,” a speech given by Smith claiming that people could become gods.
As far as the death of Joseph Smith, the article states that Smith did not die as a martyr. It admitted that because Joseph Smith had a smuggled gun and used it to shoot several of his attackers, the title “martyr” is not an appropriate description. The article stated,
“It is not true that Joseph ever said that he was like a lamb led to the slaughter. Instead, what he said was ‘I am thirsty like a ram led to the water.’ Apparently George G. Watt, the stenographer who later compiled the Journal of Discourses, had a head cold that day and did not fully understand what Smith was trying to say.”
Probably most shocking of all is that statues of Joseph Smith as well as his brother Hyrum will be immediately removed from Salt Lake City’s Temple Square area. No indication was given about what would replace these statues.
It’s one thing for the church to lay the blame for the banning of blacks at the feet of Brigham Young or to admit that “some” plural marriages in the LDS Church continued after the Manifesto of 1890. But this move to relegate Joseph Smith to nothing more than a person who spoke his personal opinion seems to be a step unexpected by everyone, including LDS Church president Thomas S. Monson.
President Monson, who made a guest appearance on NBC’s “Nightline with Hugh Downs” and was quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune (“LDS President unclear about the legacy of Smith,” Salt Lake Tribune, 3/31/14), said,
“I think Smith had good intentions, but then I think he really had good intentions. He probably intended to have these good intentions, but regardless, Smith’s intentions can’t be faulted.”
While critics of the church hailed the decision, many speculated what this move will mean to the LDS Church. When asked about the paper printed on the LDS website, one BYU professor who asked not to be named merely shook his head and stated, “Not official, not official, not official.”
We’ll keep our ears to the ground and inform you of any updates. Until then, Happy April Fools Day!
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the Hindu Holi Festival in Spanish Fork, Utah, “draws tens of thousands of Latter-day Saints and others to Krishna Temple.” The 2014 Festival was held this past weekend. The Washington Post reported,
“’It’s an opportunity for young LDS (Mormon) kids to come and celebrate their spirituality without alcohol or drugs,’ said Caru Das, the temple’s priest.”
Listen as Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson discuss the Holi Festival and its spiritual significance on Viewpoint on Mormonism.
The Mormon Church appears to be updating its FAQ section at Mormon.org. I’ve received several Google Alerts highlighting specific Frequently Asked Questions and their official answers. One recent Alert pointed me to the FAQ section on the Bible, to the question, “Do Mormons regard the Bible as Holy Scripture and the word of God?” Another FAQ in this section is very much the same: “What do Mormons believe about the Bible? Do they regard it as Holy Scripture and the word of God?” The answers provided for these questions, though different, communicate basically the same thing:
“Mormons believe, revere and love the Holy Bible. We see it as a powerful, important, and sacred holy record which serves as the bedrock of all Christianity. The Bible is rich in history, doctrine, stories, sermons and testimonies, all of which witness that Jesus Christ is the Divine Son of our Heavenly Father. The Bible is the word of God and came from the writings of holy men of God as they were moved upon by the Holy Ghost (see 2 Peter 1:20-21). Through the same process we have additional Holy Scripture, including the Book of Mormon, which supports and exalts the Bible.” (“Do Mormons regard the Bible as Holy Scripture and the word of God?”)
This response pointedly addresses both parts of the question. And while the general answers provided in the FAQ section appear to be designed to be short and to the point, this answer goes beyond the question and provides the additional information that Mormons also accept other books as Holy Scripture. The answer to the similar FAQ question (noted above) does the same thing, and includes a list of these additional scriptures with a short explanation of what they are.
So this leaves me with a question of my own: Why do these official responses to questions about the Mormon view of the Bible fail to include the doctrine so clearly spelled out in the Articles of Faith; that is, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly” (Articles of Faith 1:8; emphasis added)? It is true that the Articles of Faith can be found elsewhere on the Mormon.org website, yet failing to mention that particular canonized doctrinal caveat renders the response provided by the Mormon Church incomplete at best.
The following quotes from faithful Mormon sources will allow the reader to reach a better-informed conclusion about Mormonism’s regard for the Bible.
“There are many things in the Bible which do not, as they now stand, accord with the revelations of the Holy Ghost to me.” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 310)
“The Bible, as it has been transmitted over the centuries, has suffered the loss of many plain and precious parts.” (Presidents Ezra Taft Benson, Gordon B. Hinckley, and Thomas Monson, “Letter Reaffirms Use of King James Version of Bible,” Church News, 6/20/1992, 3)
“The words contained in this Bible are merely a history of what is gone by; it was never given to guide the servant of God in the course he should pursue…” (Orson Hyde, Journal of Discourses 2:75)
“What shall we say then, concerning the Bible’s being a sufficient guide? Can we rely upon it in its present known corrupted state, as being a faithful record of God’s word?… Add all this imperfection [i.e., lost books and “mutilated, changed and corrupted” text] to the uncertainly of the translation, and who, in his right mind, could, for one moment suppose the Bible in its present form to be a perfect guide? Who knows that even one verse of the Bible has escaped pollution, so as to convey the same sense now that it did in the original?” (Orson Pratt, Divine Authenticity of Book of Mormon, No. 3, “The Bible and tradition, without further revelation, an insufficient guide,” 47)
“The Book of Mormon is translated correctly because an unlearned man did it by the gift and power of God. It took him less than sixty translating days. The Bible abounds in errors and mistranslations, in spite of the fact that the most learned scholars and translators of the ages labored years on end over the manuscripts of antiquity to bring it forth.” (Bruce R. McConkie, “The Bible: A Sealed Book,” a BYU speech given to LDS Seminary and Institute teachers, August 1984)
“The fragmentary nature of the biblical record and the errors in it, resulting from multiple transcriptions, translations, and interpretations, do not diminish our belief in it as the word of God ‘as far as it is translated correctly.’” (Joseph Wirthlin, “Christians in Belief and Action,” Ensign, General Conference edition, 11/1996, 71)
“Unlike the Bible, which passed through generations of copyists, translators, and corrupt religionists who tampered with the text, the Book of Mormon came from writer to reader in just one inspired step of translation.” (Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon – Keystone of Our Religion,” Ensign, 10/2011, 55)
“From these statements of the Prophet we can ascertain more clearly the meaning of the eighth article of faith, part of which reads, ‘We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly’ (Articles of Faith 1:8). Here the word translated appears to be used in a broader sense to mean transmitted, which would include not only translation of languages but also copying, editing, deleting from, and adding to documents. The Bible has undergone a much more serious change than merely translation from one language to another.” (BYU Professor Robert J. Matthews, A Bible! A Bible!, 72. Italics in original)
“In a vision of the future, Nephi sees the Bible going ‘forth from the Jews in purity, unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God.’ But the Gentile church takes away ‘from the Gospel of the Lamb, many parts which are plain and most precious.’ The Book of Mormon, in other words, declares the Bible to be deficient.” (Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, 100)
Many critics of Mormonism know how frustrating it can be to try to pin down the truth while talking with Latter-day Saints about Mormon doctrine and history. This video by ldsvideoencyclopedia demonstrates the sorts of difficulties critics encounter while trying to discuss troubling Mormon issues with LDS defenders. In this 36-minute video ldsvideoencyclopedia takes a look at a previously recorded interview with Mormon apologist Martin Tanner, pausing along the way to fact- and logic-check Dr. Tanner’s assertions.